It’s time for some exposition! After all these months of fighting, a little change of pace is welcome. To be truthful though, I’m not sure I would have ever guessed where this story would end up going. Flashing us back to the past and revealing that all of our heroes and villains are much more connected to one another than we first thought.
But hey, Bardock gets his very own chapter in the manga. The old guy has been a fan favourite for so long, nice to see him get some love in an official source. Well, outside of the briefest of snippets he got in the Broly movie. Although not everyone might be too pleased with the direction this one is going with his character.
We start 40 years in the past. Being shown a planet Cereal moments before the Saiyans attack. Cerealians and Namekians living together in peace and harmony. Then the Freeza Force shows up and puts an end to all of that. As we learned about them all the way back in the original manga, Saiyans would often attack worlds during a full moon in order to transform and devastate the world as quickly as possible.
It’s pretty horrible to be honest. The force gather all living sentients on the planet and execute them. All of them.
In a desperate final moment, the Namekian elder gives Monaito the position of elder, thus allowing the Dragon Balls to continue working and orders him to flee into the mountains. Meanwhile, we see a giant ape Bardock spotting a fleeing child Granolah in the distance and gives pursuit.
During the closing moments of the battle, one of the Cerealian warriors manages to destroy the moon, although it’s not enough to put a stop to the Saiyan’s savage attack. A reverted to normal form Bardock discovers an unconscious Granolah and his mother Muezli inside a church. Seeing the mother cradling her son gives Bardock a flashback, to when he first saw his second son and gave him the name Kakarot.
I guess it goes to show that Bardock is a pretty atypical Saiyan at the end of the day. Something many fans are taking exception to given the discourse following this chapter.
This chapter shares the same name with the T.V. special from 1990 that first invented and introduced us to Bardock. I know a lot of people liked that special because is showed Bardock as a true Saiyan, bloodthirsty, uncaring and with a simple drive for battle. In the time since then Akira Toriyama liked the character so much that he adopted him into the true canon of the series. And cleaned him up a little.
While the original Bardock was not a nice guy, only pushed into battling Freeza because of a Deus Ex Machina ability to see the future, thus the fate of his people. Toriyama’s Bardock changed that and showed us that the apple didn’t fall all that far from the tree, and that like Goku after him, Bardock had something of a softer heart than the rest of his people. Although nowhere near as soft as Goku’s ended up being. Both his heart and his head…
Spurned on by the memory of Gine and his sons, Bardock makes the uncharacteristic move to rescue the final two remaining Cerealians and whisk them away to the only other power level his scouter can detect: Monaito. Leaving the three and telling them to survive as long as they can.
It’s here we cut back to the present day. So here it is, the moment Goku finally learns the identity of his father. Not that it matters remotely to him. I was almost sceptical of Vegeta knowing Bardock’s identity, and not just because he was a brilliant scientist. But then I remembered, oh yeah, he hung around with Raditz for a couple of decades, it probably goes without saying that Raditz would have mentioned his father at some point.
That isn’t the end of the story though.
Before he can leave, Monaito offers to heal a minor wound on Bardock’s arm. That momentary delay allows Bardock’s scouter to ping and realise there are more people nearby: The Heeters. A 40 years younger Elec, Oil, Macki and Gas stand on a cliffside and look pretty good for their ages. They boast about how they’re going to rip off Freeza after selling the planet to the Sugarians for an inflated price.
They continue to boast how that one day, they’ll rule over even Freeza. Not with raw power, but with “wits, wealth and intel”. Yeah, well good luck with that guys. The moment Bardock realises the Heeters’s are eventually planning on betraying Freeza, a little Granolah wakes up and betrays all of their presences to the Heeters. Rather than cut and run, Bardock strangely decides to continue protecting the trio.
Putting on a cloak to make himself look very Turles and pretend he’s about execute them as they’re discovered. If you ask me, it’s a pretty bad plan. The major flaw of which is revealed when an inpatient Elec guns down Granolah’s mother in cold blood. To which Bardock reacts violently and blasts the Heeters. A blast Gas seems easily able to block. Using the distraction, Bardock takes the trio and runs for the hills. Actions that even he is confused he is still undertaking.
I guess, when you invest enough time into something, as ill advised as it may be, you just need to see it through to the end. The T.V. special Bardock would have most definitely cut and run at this point. But manga Bardock’s own link to his own family must just be in his brain enough to want to save this new one he just met.
Which pretty much ends the chapter. Gas goes after Bardock to eliminate him, but we cut to the present again and see a fast conversation between Elec and Gas that seems to imply that the last time they were on this planet, the diminutive Heeter got embarrassed by the Saiyan he battled there. Which means we can fill in the gaps ourselves.
I had it in my head that this arc would leave planet Cereal before long and we’d see some kind of battle between Granolah and Freeza in some form. The events of this episode are beginning to make me think things are going to end up taking a much different direction. While se don’t see his reaction, Granolah just learned that Elec, the man he’s been working for as a bounty hunter for the past few decades is the man that murdered his mother.
I’m guessing, as desperately thirsty for vengeance as Granolah is, all of his rage and attention is going to be focused purely on the Heeters now. With the Saiyans and Freeza having to wait their turn. A turn I don’t see them ever getting if I’m honest. Because the Heeters are on the verge of collecting their second Dragon Ball and making their wish. And if I had to guess, it’s going to be a wish very similar to the one Granolah himself made earlier in the chapter.
Leading to a big old brawl between the newest strongest fighter in the universe: Gas and the collection of Granolah with Goku and Vegeta in tow. I’d be surprised if we even get to see Freeza at all in this arc now, outside of a final page cheeky cameo. I’m sure he’d get a real kick out of hearing about all these people fighting over little old him.
If I’m really honest here, I’m not sure how I feel about how Toriyama is retroactively altering Bardock’s character here to make it seem like Goku got his “goodness” from Bardock, rather than it being a case of his upbringing. It’s a real sign of Goku’s character being one of nature, not nurture. Which kind of makes no sense considering how Raditz turned out. Here’s the thing, I liked Goku a lot better when his being on Earth was just dumb luck rather than a clear Superman metaphor. Additionally, I don’t mind Bardock being a “gooder” Saiyan, but it feels like the entire characterisation is an unnecessary piece of reasoning as to why Goku turned out the way he did.
It’s totally not needed. Goku turned out good because he banged his head and then was raised by good people… and Master Roshi. I feel like it kind of undermines Goku’s uniqueness as a Saiyan, that he’s the oddball out of his entire race. Which felt like the entire point of his character since it was revealed that he was a space alien and not a monkey boy.
Oh well, what you going to do…
From here, I feel like have a pretty good idea of where things are going now in this arc. But this chapter alone was a big surprise for me, one that really did take me off guard. So maybe things will twist and turn again before they’re over. If there’s one thing Toriyama is good at, it’s pulling the rug from under you. It’s just too bad it’s not always a welcome rug pulling.
I just want to end this review by paying my respects to Chris Ayres; a long time voice actor most well known for being the english voice of Freeza. From all the people talking about him; he was the sweetest man who loved his fans and loved his work. He had been battling with lung disease for the past 4 years. He was only 56 years old.
Rest in Piece Chris Ayres.