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S.H. Figuarts – Dragon Ball Kid Klilyn (Krillin)

When Dragon Ball became Dragon Ball Z, many of the old heroes and villains got left in the dust as Goku ascended to a level of power far beyond anything anyone would have comprehended. One of the last holdouts though was Krillin (Klilyn in Japan). Krillin was never on Goku’s level in DBZ, but he always managed to hang around nonetheless. It wasn’t really until the Majin Buu Saga that Krillin finally dropped off and gave up the whole fighting thing, which is more than I can say for the likes of Tien and Yamcha.

In Dragon Ball Z, Krillin basically was there to play the role of Goku’s best friend. In the original Dragon Ball, he had a different role at the start. Krillin was Goku’s rival, a cunning, dastardly, trickster willing to do whatever was necessary to gain an edge. Goku was good-natured and naive, and Krillin was always willing to exploit those qualities in Goku during their training with Master Roshi. The two would eventually become friends and Krillin would, for the first time, see his existence reduced to tragic catalyst for a Goku arc foreshadowing perhaps his most famous role as the motivating factor for Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan. What an existence – everyone just remembers you for dying!

No Dragon Ball action figure collection would be complete without Krillin. The bald, diminutive, monk, is a fan favorite from Dragon Ball as he’s almost a constant source of entertainment. He’s one of the many go-to characters for comedy on the show, but when the need arises he can also throw down and even masters the legendary Kamehameha wave just like his more famous rival. It’s no surprise then that Bandai and Tamashii Nations decided to do a figure for its S.H. Figuarts line based on the young version of Krillin from the early days of Dragon Ball.

With how muscular the characters become in DBZ, it’s easy to forget just how round they are as kids.

Krillin is depicted in his fighting, Turtle School, gi. And since the only distinguishing features between he and Goku in the anime when both wear this uniform is their head and Goku’s tail, it should be no surprise that the two share the same traits in figure form. Krillin is essentially the same figure as the Kid Goku from before, so he possesses all of the good qualities of that figure, plus all of the lesser qualities. For starters, Krillin is probably a tick taller than he should be when placed next to some of the other characters like Bulma. This is likely a result of the scale in place as going any smaller on this action figure would probably mess up Bandai’s pricing structure. When your figures retail for $55, you can only go so small. It’s not a big deal, though I do find a little fault in the proportions. In particular, both Goku and Krillin are a bit too lean and muscular. In the anime their bodies are more egg-shaped than they are in action figure form. These figures mostly look the part when in fighting poses as they’re more spread out, but if they’re just standing around then it becomes more noticeable. Krillin also has those same, spherical, elbow joints that look a bit funny when the arm is straight, but fine when bent. The knees also lack kneecaps and look a bit off from certain angles. This is the result of the character being so short and it’s a shortcoming that basically comes with the territory. Aside from the head, the only other difference between he and Goku is Krillin has no need for a peg hole on his bottom for a tail, so one isn’t present.

Aside from those gripes, the figure is actually rather nice to behold. The folds in Krillin’s gi are integrated well into the articulation and all of the little details one would expect are here. The Turtle School logo looks sharp and clean and where paint is required the lines are sharp and defined. There’s little in the way of paint embellishments, which is true of all of the figures I’ve reviewed in this line, but the figure also isn’t really crying out for much. The head sculpts are also a spot-on likeness for Krillin. He looks great and this figure presents a dilemma as it’s hard to settle on any one expression. Krillin has a basic smile expression that’s more than serviceable, but also this smug expression that really gets at the heart of this more juvenile Krillin. And then of course there’s the open-mouthed yelling face which is perfect for battle poses. The determining factor will likely be what accessory you choose to highlight in your display, which is also a tough call.

For a little figure, Krillin is packed to the gills with articulation. He has a ball joint at the head with good side-to-side motion, but very little up motion. Unlike the larger figures in this line, there’s no additional neck articulation, but it’s also not something really needed. There’s a ball-joint at the shoulders as well as a butterfly joint which is crucial for achieving a proper Kamehameha pose. There’s a swivel at the bicep just under the shoulder and those kind of wonky elbow joints. They’re not double-jointed so Krillin can only go to 90 degrees when bending his elbows. There’s full rotation at the wrists and hinge joints as well. At the torso, Krillin has articulation in his diaphragm plus a waist swivel. There’s an additional abdominal hinge in there as well, but Krillin can’t bend very far back without exposing the joint in the middle of his torso. The legs are on ball joints and can swivel below that ball joint. Knees are single-jointed and the ankles are on balls that provide for full rotation, a hinge, and side-to-side. His tiny, little, feet even have a toe hinge.

The figure is rather top heavy, since Krillin has such a massive melon, so standing and positioning the figure can be a bit tricky. With just a little patience though, several poses are achievable without a stand, which is a good thing since unlike Kid Goku, Krillin does not come with a stand for the sole purpose of positioning him. He does come with an action stand for his Kamehameha effect which is probably to make up for the fact that Goku came with his Flying Nimbus cloud. Bandai included optional parts to turn it into a posing stand for Krillin, but why would you want to use it for that when you have a Kamehameha wave? He also comes with 11 different hands which include the following: a pair of fists, a pair of Kamehameha hands, a pair of wide open hands, a pair of peace sign hands, a set of martial arts posing hands, and a special gripping right hand for grabbing Goku’s tail. Beyond that, he has a six-star dragon ball and a Kame rock from when Master Roshi gives he and Goku a task of finding a particular rock.

Probably my favorite expression for Krillin.

The dragon ball accessory is basically the same as what is included with the other figures, and the rock is a nice touch, but the real star is obviously that effects piece. The Kamehameha wave has some nice shading on it to achieve that desired look of a blue energy blast. I do wish the paint was a little less heavy though to expose what I assume is translucent plastic underneath. The stand allows you to position the blast out in front of Krillin to simulate him firing the Kamehameha. It’s a fun thing to play around with and the articulated stand means you can angle the blast any way you want. If you have a extra figure stand, you could even position Krillin in the air firing the blast towards the ground. With Krillin being such a small figure, it was imperative that Bandai include something fun like this with the figure, and they made the right choice by going in this direction. And as stated before, there is an optional “grabber” piece that can be installed on the stand should you wish to use it for the purpose of posing Krillin or another figure.

Krillin is an outstanding addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball action figures. While it is an easier figure to nitpick when compared with some of the others, at the end of the day this is still a great representation of the character from Dragon Ball. He looks right at home on my shelf with the others and I think the likeness here is even better than it was with Goku. He’s an essential character from the show, and I’m definitely glad I’ve added him to my collection. Hopefully, I can add a few more characters before all is said and done.


S.H. Figuarts Tao Pai Pai (Mercenary Tao)

This is the story of a man and his flying, pink, pillar.

We’re back with another Dragon Ball review and this one is another bad guy, maybe THE bad guy: Tao Pai Pai. Known to English-speaking audiences as Mercenary Tao, and for the rest of this review as simply Tao, Tao is a martial arts expert who has perfected the dreaded Dodonpa, or Dodon Ray, and is an adept killing machine. He’s even been known to kill people with his tongue, folks. Tao is quite possibly the most hated enemy from Dragon Ball since he’s a ruthless killer and also one of the few to defeat Goku in hand-to-hand combat.

The S.H. Figuarts version of Tao depicts the character in his most familiar form. He’s clad in a navy and pink martial arts uniform with the phrase “Kill You!” emblazoned on the rear of his tunic in a blood red font. He has a single braid coming off of the back of his head tied off with a cute little, red, bow. He’s not particularly intimidating to look at, but in the source material he projects an aura of confidence that’s a bit unnerving.

Tao stands a tick under 6″ making him taller than the likes of Bulma, but much shorter than someone like King Piccolo. He features a lot of the same articulation one would expect from this line. His braid is on a ball joint so it can lay on his back or be positioned in a wind swept pose. A ball-jointed head gives him some nice range of motion and additional neck articulation adds some side-to-side pivot and allows him to look at his feet. The shoulders are on ball-joints with butterfly joints that allow him to reach across his chest a bit, though the bulk of his sleeves hinders a bit. There’s bicep swivels and double-jointed elbows. The hands are on ball-pegs and hinges and can rotate and point in and out. The waist is on a ball-peg and there’s diaphragm articulation as well. Bend his upper body too far back and you will see an exposed gap in the chest, but you’re not likely to have need to bend him that far. The crotch area is the 2.0 Figuarts joint so it works well, but is quite busy to look at. Tao minimizes this with the skirt of his tunic which covers the front and back. His legs are on ball-joints with rotation in the thigh as well. His knees are double-jointed, but the bulkiness of his pants hinders some of the articulation gained by the additional joint. The ankles are on ball-pegs and can rotate and rock side to side. There’s also a toe hinge for good measure.

Unlike most Figuarts figures I have, Tao wasn’t quite ready to go out of the package. I’m used to dealing with stuck joints with figures from other companies, but not usually Bandai. My Tao’s right thigh was stuck at the hip so when I tried to bend the leg out, like a split, the leg popped right off. I had to grab the peg and really give it a good tug to get the joint in the inner thigh to start working. My Tao’s left food also didn’t have much side-to-side motion. The peg is a dumbbell peg in the foot, and I think what was happening is the ball at the top was moving, but the one in the foot was stuck. I popped the foot off and immersed it in hot water and was then able to rock the peg back and forth a bit. It’s still not great, but better than before.

The comparison shot.

As is the case with the other figures in this line, the paint application is minimal, but the sculpt work is otherwise damn near flawless. Tao comes with a neutral facial expression that’s perhaps a bit of a scowl. The paint on his tunic is sharp and clear and there’s no mess on the red detailing. The skirt piece is a soft, pliable, plastic that really doesn’t hinder the articulation much. I know some people want to see more elaborate paint applications with this line, but at this point it is what it is and I personally think the sculpt work looks great in natural light. The only aspect of the sculpt that doesn’t look great are the knee joints, but only from the back so it’s not really an issue.

He’s a master tactician when it comes to psychological warfare.

Tao comes with an assortment of extra hands and heads. He has a screaming head for when he’s getting serious as well as a tongue-sticking out head for when he needs to kill. The tongue is definitely a funny inclusion, though if I had to choose I would have preferred a cocky grin. Tao comes packaged with fists, like basically all of the figures in this line, and has two additional sets of hands: open palms and Kung Fu, forked, hands. The other additional hand is a pointing right hand for the Dodon Ray. He also comes with a seven star dragon ball. I know some wish he came with his cybernetic parts from Dragon Ball Z, but I wouldn’t display him in that form so I’m not really sweating it. That version of the character is better reserved for a stand-alone release.

The major accessory for Tao though is his big, pink, pillar. In the source material, Tao couldn’t fly so he’d just smash a nearby pillar or tree and throw it through the sky. He’d then jump on it to ride it to wherever he needed to go. It’s ridiculous, but definitely something that’s memorable. Bandai deemed it so memorable that it was essential, so Tao comes with a plastic pillar and a unique flight stand to position it on. This thing is perhaps needlessly complicated because Bandai is so committed to the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it decided exposed peg holes could not be tolerated. Instead, there’s an included set of plugs to place in the pillar when it’s not in use that conceal any and all holes. There are six holes in total so that Tao can ride it akin to a surfboard or stand with his feet together at the back or center of the pillar. The pillar is hollow and can split apart which is how you remove the installed pegs. It’s also handy for storing any plugs that in use, so long as you don’t mind the rattle.

To attach Tao to the pillar, Bandai included swap-able feet plates. I’ve never seen anything like this. Basically, you pop off the soles of Tao’s shoes and replace them with a set that have pegs on the bottom. There’s a set with pegs that go straight down and a set that are pointing out. The pointing out set is meant for when Tao is standing with his feet together on the pillar and will go straight into it when his feet are angled towards each other. And to add a little more pizzazz to the set, the flight stand comes in three pieces: a base, the piece that attaches to the pillar, and an optional joiner piece. The optional piece adjusts the pitch of the pillar so Tao is either flying at a horizontal angle or one with the front pointing up at a slight angle.

The best I could do with the angled foot pegs. Only the right foot is in.

The pillar is very ambitious and quite an idea, but it’s far better on paper than in reality. For one, as neat as it is to hide the peg holes on the pillar, it should be pointed out that it kind of looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk. It’s funny such care was taken to hide the holes when what was really needed was some shading or just additional paint to help sell this better as a chunk of rock. Tao’s foot plates also have a tendency to pop out, especially the angled ones with my set. I’d insert the right one and it would literally shoot out of the pegs. Perhaps they’re too tight? I’m not sure, because they also come out very easily when trying to position him on the pillar. I had a hell of a time trying to get the angled ones to work right. I think part of it was due to my Tao’s left foot being limited due to the stuck ankle joint, while some of it is likely just poor engineering. I got him onto the pillar in that position, but only if I just attached one foot and let the other float. It didn’t inspire much confidence. The “surfing” position works much better. It’s still finicky, but I at least achieved the desired position. I’m still a little disappointed though as I really wanted to display him in that more confident, nonchalant, pose of standing with his feet together, but oh well.

To better sell the flight stand, Tao also comes with optional skirts for his tunic. He’s meant to pull apart at the waist which allows you to lift off the pieces that he comes wearing by default. The tunic skirts are in two pieces, a rear and a front, and the peg holes were engineered in a way to prevent you from mixing the two up. Getting them onto Tao is easy and really does add to the figure’s presentation. They may not have hit a home run with this figure, but when you get it right it sure does look impressive.

I can think of a few more characters I’d like to add to this display.

Tao is an ambitious addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball figures. He does stumble in some ways, but the overall package is still impressive. He’s a great villain in the series and a welcomed addition to the roster of characters. My Dragon Ball collection is rounding into form and there are only a handful of characters that I’d like to add to it. If you have one of your own, it’s hard not to want to add Tao Pai Pai to the ranks.


S.H. Figuarts Bulma – Adventure Begins

Toy collecting is something that will probably always appeal to me. I just love getting a new toy, even as an adult even though I basically pose it and forget it. It’s just one of those things that makes me happy, so I don’t question it. It can be an expensive hobby though, so I try to stay in my lane, so to speak. For the past few years I’ve largely just stuck with collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bucky O’Hare. Then 2020 came and COVID forced everyone to stay home. I even found myself saving money as a result since my family and I couldn’t go anywhere and working from home meant I was saving money that was normally spent commuting to and from work. As a result, I’ve found myself behaving in a less disciplined manner when it comes to my hobby, which is why 2020 is now the year I’ve decided to expand upon my Dragon Ball collection!

A couple of years ago, I came across some S.H. Figuarts products in a local GameStop. I had never seen this line in person and I felt compelled to grab a Vegeta and soon after a Kid Goku. I’ve enjoyed Dragon Ball since I was a teen, first falling for Dragon Ball Z before discovering the series that preceded it. As a teen, I definitely strayed towards DBZ, but now I find I prefer the more whimsical Dragon Ball. As a result of my positive experience with the Kid Goku action figure I almost immediately wanted to add more, but these toys tend to run a bit high when it comes to cost. Because of that, I pushed it aside and mostly hoped to catch a sale eventually. I especially hoped to see Master Roshi go on sale, the hope being there aren’t as many Dragon Ball fans out there as there are DBZ ones. I never did see him go on sale though, so for the past two years my collection has consisted of one, lonely, figure.

The summer of 2020 has been much kinder to me as far as Dragon Ball toys are concerned. A recent sale has allowed me to expand upon that collection, and up first is Bulma! This is the second S.H. Figuarts of Bulma with the first being based on the artwork in the closing credits of the show where she looks like some Mad Max character. It’s a look that only exists in that one moment, which is odd because that’s the look Irwin chose when it made Dragon Ball toys back in the early 2000s. It was an easy pass for me, but more recently a new Bulma was released. Dubbed Adventure Begins, this is essentially a first appearance Bulma from when she meets Goku and runs him over with her car. She has her pink dress and her blue-green hair is held in a ponytail by a big, red, bow. She even has panties which is a bit pervy, but this is Dragon Ball after all.

Bulma stands at about 5″ in height with an extra half inch if you include her bow. She comes packaged in a nice window box display, as do all Figuarts action figures, and has numerous accessories. The goal of this line is to make a figure that both perfectly captures the source material while also providing for a ton of articulation. This is meant to be an expressive figure capable of capturing the spirit of the character. And Bandai/Tamashii Nations are pretty damn successful at doing just that.

Bulma is packed with articulation, even though she’s not a “fighter” who needs to be capable of getting into and out of numerous, dynamic, poses. Bulma’s head is on a ball-joint capable of full, rotational, movement. She can look down rather well, but not up. Her pony tail is also on a ball-joint so you can do a lot with that if you desire. Bulma’s shoulders are ball-jointed with a swivel joint in there as well for maximum rotation. She can reach forward and back and even over her head. Her bicep has an additional swivel at the sleeve and her elbows are simple hinges. They’re single-jointed but on a wheel so she can achieve the same range of motion a double-jointed elbow can, but that wheel is a bit ugly when her arm is straight. The hands are on ball and sockets and there is a single hinge in each. Bulma has a ball-joint in her mid-torso just below her bust to give her full upper body motion to go along with a waist swivel. Her belt is non-removable, but it’s also not glue down so you can slide it around. The skirt is soft plastic and her panties are even a separate piece of plastic. Bulma has ball-joints at the hips and her thighs can rotate in and out as well. She has single-jointed knees on those wheel joints again, though it’s hidden well from the front. Her ankles can swivel and she has hinges and can rock side-to-side at the ankle.

Bulma’s sculpt is fantastic and really captures the look of the character. She’s a bit slight, but that mixes well with the bigger characters. The paint detail is minimal, but clean. She’s also sturdy and easy to pose and stand. She can even balance on one foot, though it’s a bit tricky. The only thing missing from her articulation is a butterfly joint at the shoulders so she can properly aim the sidearm she comes with. Inserting one probably would have harmed the look of the figure too much, but having her grip her gun with two hands was the only pose I couldn’t quite get to work.

Since this is a Figuarts toy, Bulma comes with a whole bunch of additional hands and other accessories. She comes packaged with fist hands which are really easy to remove. They’re on little pegs and look kind of scary, but they seem rather durable as they’re the same pegs Kid Goku has. Getting another hand on requires some finesse as the peg wants to move on you, but it can be done. Bulma’s additional right hands include: a trigger finger, pointing, cupped hand (for holding a Dragon Ball), open hand with peg hole (for the Dragon Radar), and a hand holding a capsule. For left hands (the non gloved hand) she has a pointing hand and an open hand. The accessories to go with those hands include a Dragon Radar, a 2-star Dragon Ball, a gun, gun holster, and holster with a gun inside it. She comes packaged with the holstered gun on her belt, but it pops off easily and can be replaced with the empty holster. The gun cannot be inserted into the holster, but it’s pretty cool that both were included.

Scary!

Rounding things out are the extra faceplates. Bulma comes with a smiling expression as her default look and can switch to a more exhuberant happy face and a shocked or scared face. Obviously, the biggest omission is an angry face since Bulma is known for losing her temper, especially with Goku who’s ignorance in those early episodes frustrates her and crosses some boundaries as well. To change her expression you simply pull her hair off, which is really easy to do. The face then pops off as it’s on two, thick, pegs so there’s little chance of anything breaking. Seating a new one is painless and there you go! I like all of the included faces, though I don’t know if I’ll ever pose her with something other than her happy face. The scared face definitely lends itself well to photography and I do plan on snapping more pictures with that one eventually.

When thinking about the important characters of Dragon Ball, Bulma certainly qualifies. Even so, I wasn’t sure that I needed a Bulma since all she is going to do is stand on my shelf, maybe holding her Dragon Radar, and not much else. Now that I have her though I’m very glad I took the plunge. This is a fun figure and she looks great. I’m very happy with the articulation and accessories, and really the only thing missing from this figure is an angry facial expression. It would have been fun to have Bulma perpetually screaming at Goku on my shelf, but in the end I guess she deserves to be happy.


Dec. 23 – Missing in Action Christmas Specials

disney afternoon christmas

The closest the original DuckTales got to Christmas was this TV spot.

When you do an annual advent calendar-styled countdown of Christmas programming, you start to realize the brands you can rely on and what you cannot. It can be a challenge to find 25 worthy topics, so in order to prevent a time crunch every fall I keep a list of specials I can source from. Throughout the year if I stumble across one I’ll add it to the list. Sometimes I’ll think I’ve found something only to find out it was a misleading title such as the episode “It’s a Thunderful Life” of the not well-remembered The Terrible Thunder Lizards program. And then there are times when I’ll find a special and I’ll view it, only to find there’s nothing to talk about. It’s not good, nor is it really bad, it’s just bland and forgettable.

Inevitably, I’ll take a look at my list at various times throughout the year and I’ll be surprised at an absence. I’ll then seek out the special I think I’m looking for only to be reminded that, “Oh yeah, that show never had a Christmas episode.” One of my top offenders each year was DuckTales. The original run for that show ran for over 100 episodes and never broached the subject of Christmas, even though Scrooge McDuck debuted in a Christmas comic book! Disney was new to television with that series and also new to syndication. Television stations typically don’t like syndicated programs to feature seasonal episodes since they don’t want to have to worry about when the episode airs. Who wants to see a Christmas episode in May? It’s an overblown issue though, which is probably why many syndicated shows would toss that aside and go with whatever stories they wanted to tell. The new version of DuckTales rectified this problem, as we saw way back on December first, which is why I’ve decided not to include the 87 version in this post.

In the spirit of this phenomenon, as it were, I want to highlight the cartoons that decided against doing a Christmas episode. These are the shows I’m most surprised by, and some of them have tripped me up more than once. I’ve looked through the episode list for these programs repeatedly looking for key words like Santa, Christmas, presents, or even snow. Alas, I guess when it came to Christmas and these shows, it just wasn’t meant to be.

rescue rangers

Despite their numerous rescues, the Rescue Rangers never saved Christmas.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Hot on the heels of DuckTales came Chip ‘n Dale:  Rescue Rangers. This show took the comedic duo who harassed Donald Duck and Pluto on numerous occasions and gave them their own show where they solved crimes a d helped those in need – quite a turn for the former mischief makers. They were paired with some newcomers in the inventor mouse Gadget and the cheese-obsessed Monterey Jack. Zipper the fly completed the group and they were often tasked with solving crimes or rescuing someone. The show was another direct-to-syndication affair with a 65 episode order that premiered in the fall of 1989. And like DuckTales, there was no Christmas episode for these adventurers even though one practically would have wrote itself. The diminutive heroes often found themselves helping kids, so helping a kid get on Santa’s good side could have been a plot. Or having the Rescue Rangers just plain save Christmas from a Grinch-like villain would have worked fine. Seeing the Rangers ride around in Santa’s sleigh would have been a great and festive way to end an episode. Pretty much all of the Disney Afternoon programs that followed would get a Christmas special. The only one off the top of my head I think did not is Gargoyles. I also don’t think many of the shows based on film properties (e.g. – Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Timon and Pumba) had Christmas episodes either. Alas, we’ll just have to make due with the classic Disney shorts Toy Tinkers and Pluto’s Christmas Tree if we want to see the chipmunks in action around the holidays.

cowabunga christmas

There is a ton of TMNT Christmas merch out there, but surprisingly no television special to go with it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a marketing bonanza in the late 80s and into the early 90s. The show basically existed because Playmates needed it to in order to sell toys, which is how many cartoons from that era came about. And it was a great vehicle to do so as the Turtles often had new vehicles and inventions to make use of and there was always a new mutant to battle who could quickly become an action figure. That merchandizing tie-in aspect of the show makes it a bit of a surprise it didn’t bring along Christmas, the time of year when more toys are sold than at any other point. Playmates could have been handed holiday versions of the Turtles and other characters in which they’re wearing festive sweaters or are even decked out like Santa and his elves. There could have been a mutated reindeer friend for the Turtles, maybe one with a radioactive, glowing, red, nose! A sleigh that is rocket-propelled and drops bombs or a gnarly snowboard for Mikey to hit the slopes with. Plus, there was a Christmas story all ready to go in the comics in the form of the Michaelangelo one-shot issue from Mirage in which Mikey busts up an illegal toy-smuggling ring. That episode would be adapted for the 2003 cartoon and titled “The Christmas Aliens,” but it amazes me it took over 15 years for that to happen.

dragon ball christmas

Yes, it would be silly and possibly stupid to have Goku face-off with Santa, but I bet it would be a lot of fun!

Dragon Ball

One of the longest running anime ever has produced hundred of hours of television, and not once has Christmas been relied upon to drive an episode. Dragon Ball and its many iterations has been entertaining kids and adults since the mid 1980s. It’s known as much for its action as it is for its silly and sometimes juvenile sense of humor. It’s that aspect of it that seems to make it ripe for a Christmas special. An ignorant Goku could have been introduced to the concept of Christmas by one of his friends and found the custom confusing. He could have ended up giving weird gifts, or doing something selfless and noble, either would be in-character. I think a somewhat comedically dark ending with Goku out in the wilderness seeing Santa and blasting him with a Kamehameha could have been entertaining too. Maybe the episode ends with him roasting a reindeer after Santa fled in panic with Goku clueless over what he had just done. These are all more Dragon Ball-styled plots. A Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super plot would obviously involve Goku challenging Santa to a fight. Santa would either be super powerful, or super not with Goku accidentally really hurting him in a slapstick kind of way. Maybe following such an injury, Goku has to take over as Santa for a night which has comedic potential as well, so much so that I’ve basically talked myself into wanting this. And it all ends with Oolong getting a stocking full of women’s underwear on Christmas morning. Now that’s a sentimental sort of ending.

Goofy-Art-of-Skiing

Goofy has experienced Christmas via Mickey and Goof Troop, but he never got to star in a holiday short of his very own.

Goofy

In the 90s, Goofy received his own show. It was basically an animated sitcom, and it put Goofy in the role of a single father. Goof Troop was a surprisingly poignant show and a different take on the character than what we were used to seeing. Goofy had shown a domesticated side on occasion in his old shorts, but nothing really like this. Goof Troop received it’s own Christmas special, and the characters returned in the same role for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas years later with a different Christmas outing. That’s good that Goofy got multiple looks at it because he was the lone holdout back in the days of the cartoon short to not have a Christmas episode. Donald Duck received Toy Tinkers, while Mickey and Pluto both got to star in Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but Goofy got nothing. That’s why when packages of cartoons were shown with Mickey’s Christmas Carol on television the Goofy short often shown was The Art of Skiing, a quality short for sure, but not a Christmas one. Goofy comically trying to setup a tree or decorate a house seems like a great way to use his brand of physical comedy. It could have even been in the form of one of his classic “How to” shorts such as “How to Prepare for the Holidays.” Goofy playing Santa, Goofy cooking a turkey, Goofy wrapping gifts – it’s almost too easy! Maybe that’s why it never happened?

captain n link

This show was just a commercial for Nintendo products so it’s surprising that they didn’t add in the wonder of Christmas at any point.

Captain N: The Game Master

Captain N was possibly the only show more cynical than Masters of the Universe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came to hawking merchandise. It was basically an animated commercial for Nintendo as the main character, Kevin, sported a Nintendo controller as a belt buckle and armed himself with a zapper. His allies in the show were all stars of their own video games like Kid Icarus and Simon Belmont and they even made the Game Boy a character later on. Maybe the showrunners felt that doing a Christmas episode would be too on the nose, but I think it would have fit the mold just fine. Imagine all of the Nintendo products that could have been piled under that cartoon tree. I’m not saying it would have been good, as this show is pretty terrible to revisit, but it may have at least featured some ironic humor. At the very least, we could have seen Dracula’s castle covered in snow or found out if a Game Boy can function during a blizzard.


Sunshine Blogger Post

 

sunshineYou may have heard of or seen this Sunshine Blogger thing going around. It’s essentially a chain post, not unlike a chain letter or those chain posts that used to (still do?) circulate through social media. I was tagged by Jay Friz over at RJ Writing Ink for such a post in which most of the participants appear to be anime-centered blogs. While The Nostalgia Spot is not an anime blog, it has certainly touched upon the subject from time to time mostly via several posts on the Dragon Ball franchise. I am a lover of animation though, so naturally I do enjoy anime and this presents an opportunity to touch upon it, so thank you for such, Jay.

All chains have rules, and these are the rules for this particular chain:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in your post and link it back to them.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write 11 new questions for them.

4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your first post.

Once again, thanks go out to Jay for the acknowledgement. If you have not visited his blog, he does a lot of animation-related posts of old and new properties and is currently doing a daily Halloween post (and if you read this regularly you know about my affinity for that format) and it is certainly worth checking out.

What got you into blogging?

My journey into blogging began nearly 9 years ago. I had always wanted to write and pursued a writing degree while in college. It eventually struck me as something impractical, and rather than reach for a dream I went with a different major. It has financially worked out, but I missed writing. After being out of school for many years and finding myself with a lot of spare time, I decided to start a blog for my own benefit. The theme of nostalgia came naturally, and it’s something I’ve had fun writing about. I do it for the enjoyment of writing, not for publicity. If people read and enjoy it then that’s great, but if no one read it I’d still consider it a worthwhile endeavor.

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I love me some Christmas, and here’s a little teaser for a future Christmas Spot post. Recognize it?

What’s been your favorite thing to blog about?

Nostalgia seems like too broad a topic for the purpose of answering this question. I have greatly enjoyed revisiting Batman: The Animated Series. Not only does it provide me with something to write about, but I also re-watched every episode along the way. It spanned more than two years of my blogging life, and I’m actually a little sad it’s over (final post scheduled for the end of November). I have also enjoyed doing the same for the much smaller Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars. Bucky O’Hare being a smaller, often forgotten, subject makes it rewarding for different reasons, even though the quality of that series is not on par with the likes of Batman. Without question though, my favorite posts are the Christmas ones. After dabbling with Christmas for years, I finaly went all-in on doing an advent calendar of posts a few years ago. When you blog for sheer enjoyment it can be hard to find time to make posts. Plus my own tend to total 3000 words no matter what I do, so doing 25 days of posts is hard. That’s why I spread them out and make use of the scheduler function to make sure they post when I need them to. It gives me a reason to stay tapped into Christmas all year round.

If you could date one fictional character, who’d it be?

Let’s go with Sara Valestein from the Trails of Cold Steel video games. She can kick ass and loves a good brew – what’s not to like?

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Sara (left) was likely created with the whole “Hot for Teacher” vibe in mind.

What’s your all time favorite show? Or video game?

My favorite show is probably either Futurama or The Venture Bros. Those are the two I’ve revisited the most. From a more nostalgic perspective, my favorite as a kid was X-Men. As for video game, it’s a lot harder since I play a lot of RPGs, but rarely revisit them. I’ll just stick with the same answer I usually give and go with Xenogears. It has its problems, but I love the aesthetic of it and the battle system is unique enough to separate it form other JRPGs.

What’s your favorite show from the 2010s?

It’s hardly much fun to say this is my favorite show from the past decade, but it’s Game of Thrones. The showrunners may not have stuck the landing, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.

What are you looking forward to the most in 2020?

Whatever NECA releases in its line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, and the same for Boss Fight Studio and its Bucky O’Hare line. Looking forward to new toys is supremely exciting for me, likely because it allows me to feel like a kid again. That and I rarely have time for video games so looking forward to them feels like a waste of energy.

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Bruiser will hopefully arrive in 2019, but could slip to 2020. Either way, I look forward to whatever is next in this toyline.

If you could have any fictional power, what would you want?

Let’s keep it simple and just go with flight. I live in Boston and traffic is brutal, flying would solve so many problems.

What’s been your favorite anime recently? For non-anime fans, you can say cartoon

Recently it’s been Dragon Ball Super, which just wrapped up a week ago for the English dub. I never really wanted a proper sequel to Dragon Ball Z, so I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoyed the new series. I’ve also really enjoyed My Hero Academia and Devil Man Crybaby, as the Devil Man OVA was one of the first DVDs I ever purchased.

If you could travel to a fictional universe, which one would you want to go to?

Duckberg. I’d stand out, but it would be fun trying to break into Scrooge’s Money Bin.

What was your favorite cartoon/anime growing up?

My favorite cartoon was X-Men, my favorite anime was Dragon Ball Z.

X-Men (FOX) [1992-1997]Shown from left: Wolverine, Morph, Beast

I lived for Saturday morning as a kid.

Beef or chicken?

Chicken, always chicken.

 

Thanks again to Jay for the chance to do something different. He made his questions fairly broad and not applicable to anime, which probably worked better for me since most of my anime related responses would just refer to Dragon Ball or Cowboy Bebop, fine shows certainly, but also shows that have been talked about a lot. My insulated nature means I have no blogs to tag for future responses as the few I follow have already done this post. I don’t normally spread chains too, but I wanted to play along with this one especially since I’ve been buried in Batman and Christmas-related writings lately. If this is something you want to do, feel free to consider yourself “tagged” and answer the same set of questions I already have, and as always, thanks for reading.


SH Figuarts Kid Goku

IMG_2167I was so happy with my Super Saiyan Vegeta from SH Figuarts that the very next day I purchased a second figure:  Kid Goku. Now I’ve mentioned more than once here that I prefer Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. It’s just a tighter and more fun series with better action sequences. The characters become so overpowered in Dragon Ball Z that the fight scenes became a series of dashing lines as characters move faster than sight and lots and lots of posturing. Dragon Ball has some of that too, but not nearly as much. And shining like a beacon through out it is young Goku. His ignorance of virtually all of society is what drives much of the show’s humor (as well as the perversions of one Master Roshi) and it’s a personality trait that suits the youthful version of our hero better than the adult version. This isn’t to say the adult Goku of DBZ isn’t charming, he’s just less believable.

I initially bought Vegeta instead of Goku for the simple fact that he was five dollars cheaper. I assume he runs a little less because Goku comes with more accessories. His little box is packed to the gills with extra hands, face plates, and power poles and even boasts a Flying Nimbus with an extravagant action stand. A stand is what’s really missing from the Vegeta figure and seems like something that should be included for all of the flying characters so I’m happy to see it here. So while Goku is certainly smaller than Vegeta, I’d wager this set has more plastic in it (and that Nimbus is quite dense) than most of the SHF figures.

For this figure, Kid Goku comes depicted in his orange gi that he first started wearing following his training with Master Roshi. Prior to that he sported a blue attire, and while I would have probably preferred that to the orange one, it’s not really a big deal to me. Goku is about 4″ tall from head to toe and nearly 5″ when you factor in his hair. Height-wise, he seems to be pretty much in scale with Vegeta, though the proportions aren’t quite perfect with Goku being a little chunky. Like most of the kids in Dragon Ball, he has an oversized head which also looks a little funny next to Vegeta, though in all honesty Vegeta’s head could probably have been a little bigger upon reflection. Either way, Goku feels like he’s at about the right size and I’m more curious to see how he compares with the upcoming Master Roshi when that drops.

Young Goku has tremendous articulation, which is to be expected of any toy in this line. The giant melon atop his shoulders doesn’t appear to hinder his ability to stand much too, which is nice. If anything, the smallness of his feet can make it a bit of a challenge to get him to stand in more dynamic poses, but you always have the stand if need be. His articulation is good enough to that he can handle a Kamehameha pose or event sit slightly cross-legged upon the Nimbus. I’ve had a lot of fun moving him around and seeing what I could get out of the stand. The stand has to be partially assembled and it has movable grabbing parts so it’s really easy to fit it onto Goku. I was initially skeptical that it would do the trick, but it’s plenty sturdy and even the additional legs for the Nimbus have no trouble supporting both the weight of the Nimbus and Goku. The stand also isn’t necessarily needed to position Goku on his trusty flying cloud, but it helps and provides peace of mind for standing poses while a seated Goku probably doesn’t need it.

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Look at all this stuff!

Goku has a vast assortment of hands and extra little bits, enough so that it was easier to just take a picture. In addition to his smiling, but determined expression he also has a happy open mouthed face and a giddy, squinty-eyed face. All are very appropriate for Goku and they are all easy to swap in and out. Goku’s bangs pop off and from there the face plate can be removed which does a great job of hiding the seams and keeping things nice and neat. His head pops off as well to allow his power pole sling to be worn (otherwise you won’t get it over his dome) which features the handle of the infamous pole sticking out. For when you want Goku to hold his weapon he has a separate extended pole he can wield, and to make sure everything is consistent, the handle on the holstered pole is removable preserving the illusion of an empty sling. His hands pop off and on just like Vegeta’s, though here I’m a little more concerned about eventual damage. Goku has some skinny arms, and the pegs his hands snap onto are even skinnier. Thus far, I’ve had no issues, but I probably won’t be switching poses too often with this one, at least with hand placement. Goku also has a pair of swappable tails, one that’s more natural and another that’s running up his back for when he’s seated. Rounding things out is Goku’s prized “Grandpa,” the 4 star Dragon Ball, which appears to be in perfect scale with the character and apparently can be fitted onto a base for the Shenlong/Eternal Dragon action figure.

IMG_2180Kid Goku is a damn fine piece of plastic. I think I like him more than the Vegeta figure, but that’s mostly due to my fondness for the IP. He looks great, moves great, and has enough accessories to keep you entertained if you’re the sort that likes to re-pose your display constantly. If you’ve been aching for a good Dragon Ball accurate Goku, it’s hard to imagine a better one than this will come along anytime soon (unless there’s a blue gi repaint, then maybe).


SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta

IMG_2172He’s the Prince of all Saiyans. The last survivor to have laid eyes on Planet Vegeta, home world of the mighty warriors and birthplace of the legendary Goku. And he’s also a pretty fine toy. Vegeta, arguably the most popular character to emerge from Dragon Ball Z, has seen his likeness cast in numerous forms of plastic over the years. The Dragon Ball franchise is probably the most recognizable anime franchise around the globe and probably the most beloved. Despite concluding over 20 years ago, Dragon Ball Z remains insanely popular. It has experienced a renaissance over the past few years due in large part to the launch of Dragon Ball Super, the Akira Toriyama blessed true sequel to Dragon Ball Z which basically erases the lackluster Dragon Ball GT from canon. It’s thanks to that series, as well as Giant Bomb’s new Dragon Ball Kai podcast All Systems Goku, that I’m feeling awash in Dragon Ball related nostalgia. And when I get nostalgic, I often turn to toys.

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Final Flash, sort of?

SH Figuarts, a division of Bandai, has been releasing high quality action figures for a few years now. I reviewed each figure in its aborted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line and came away really impressed with the build quality of those figures. That license was reportedly rather expensive for SHF, so I should not be surprised that their Dragon Ball products actually seem more substantial and are even a bit cheaper in price. They’ve been dabbling in the franchise for a few years now, but it’s only just now that I finally bit the bullet on my first DBZ figure and who else was I going to pick other than Vegeta? Truth be told, my options were rather slim at my local comic shop as these figures aren’t stocked like a typical action figure line or the much cheaper Dragon Ball Super figures. I had my choice between Vegeta, Tien, and Kid Goku from Dragon Ball and opted for Vegeta because he was always one of my favorite characters and at $50 he was also the cheapest. That price point is substantial for a lone action figure and it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a DBZ figure, but after having a couple of days to mess around with him, it’s hard not to come away impressed.

Super Saiyan Vegeta comes in at roughly 6″ in height and is depicted in his iconic Cell Saga blue armor attire. He has more points of articulation than is worth mentioning and loads of optional parts. His parts list includes 4 interchangeable face plates, nine different hands, and a set of crossed arms. His wide range in articulation means he’s capable of numerous dynamic poses, though the lack of a display stand of some kind is a bit disappointing (they’re sold separately) as he can’t truly assume his classic Gallic Gun pose or Final Flash. His joints are nice and tight so there’s no flopping around. The paint apps on my figure are all really clean. His face has few paint accents, but his expressions work really well and it kind of plays off of the yellow in his hair this way. His bodysuit has some shading and the armor does as well so it’s not just stark white. There’s no battle damage or anything like that and nothing is removable, but the armor itself is part of the sculpt providing maximum articulation at the slight cost of true likeness.

The SHF line is composed of numerous smaller pieces and the figures can practically be deconstructed if you so desire. This means you can get a little rough with them without fear of breaking anything as it’s more likely the piece will just pop out instead. The hands all popped out rather easily for me. They’re seated on a small peg which is attached to a ball joint. Snapping on a new hand can be a little tricky as that ball behind the pegs wants to move, but it’s still fairly simple. The cross arms piece is a little more tricky as you have to remove Vegeta’s arms just above the bicep. They come apart easy enough, but getting the crossed arms to fit means inserting one side then kind of bending the other arm to make it work. Still, I never felt like I was endangering my figure when putting it on. The end result is a classic Vegeta pose, though it looks slightly unnatural. That may just be due to me knowing it’s one solid piece and overthinking it, so judge for yourself in the picture below. As you can see, SHF did a great job of making sure the blue of the sleeves matches Vegeta’s shoulders.

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Vegeta is not impressed with your fighting ability.

Veneta’s face plates are all relatively easy to remove and re-apply. His “bangs” are attached to his face and including that as part of each face plate helps add depth to his hair and also hide the seem. After struggling with the face plates of the recently released Bucky O’Hare from Boss Fight Studio, it was nice to have no similar issues with the faces here. He comes capable of four different expression: a serious face, a cocky grin, an angry scream, and an angry scream while looking off to the left. I’m not really sure why that last one is included, but I’m not complaining as it’s not like anything is missing (unless you enjoy horrified Vegeta). His screaming faces even have that little vein that shows up in the show whenever Vegeta gets pissed which is a nice touch. The only challenge to the faces is finding a spot to place your fingers as you push another face on – that hair is pretty damn spiky!

Between the numerous hands and the various expressions it’s relatively easy to recreate any scene you wish from the show or manga. The only thing missing is a true Big Bang Attack hand gesture, which if I’m being honest actually is a pretty disappointing omission. He can handle the Final Flash with ease though and it’s possible to kind of contort him into a Gallic Gun, but that one always was a bit odd and a pose more appropriate for a Saiyan Saga Vegeta. It would have also been nice to get a a non-super head, though I personally wouldn’t display him with black hair so I guess I shouldn’t complain. Now if they had wanted to go the extra mile and include removable shoulder pads, tail, and armor “skirts” then that would have been great – basically creating an ultimate Vegeta figure. That would have also added considerable cost to the figure and already being at $50 I can understand why SHF would rather not. If you love all forms of Vegeta though SHF has you covered as they’ve done a Saiyan Saga Vegeta, Majin Vegeta, and a Super Saiyan Blue version as well.

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Hug me!!!

Considering prior to purchasing this Vegeta action figure the only ones I had were made by Bandai, Irwin, and Unifive, it probably comes as no surprise that this is the best Vegeta I’ve ever purchased. Since it’s the most expensive, I guess that makes sense. It’s also given me a bit of an itch to acquire a few more of the Dragon Ball figures released by SHF. I can’t see myself going nuts and trying to collect the whole line, but a few choice figures is not out of the question and I may or may not have already bought a second figure (spoiler alert, I did and you can expect a review of that one in the not too distant future). The only danger is with companion figures. If I decide I really want a Saiyan Saga Vegeta will I then feel the need to pair him with a Nappa which runs around $75? It’s a dangerous game. For now at least I can feel pretty happy with this figure.

The optional power blasts can add a bit of excitement to your display (sold separately).


Dragon Ball – Season 5

images-237What?! I’m actually finishing my look back at the entire series of Dragon Ball AND two entries are being made within a week of one another?! If you’re just stumbling upon this, I started looking back at Dragon Ball back in 2011 and it’s taken me until 2018 to finish it. Not because I needed all of that time to watch the show or go into exhaustive detail, I just plain didn’t do it. Now it’s done though, and we’re upon the final volume as released by FUNimation on DVD, which they chose to refer to as Season 5.

When we left off with Season 4, King Piccolo had just been defeated by the plucky young Goku in sort of gruesome, yet satisfying, fashion. Just before Piccolo truly died though he was able to spit an egg halfway across the world. Referring to it as his son as it traveled through the air, he encouraged it to continue his work and above all, seek revenge for his death. The whole scene was unnoticed by Goku, Tien, and Yajirobe who all were there to witness Goku’s triumph. Goku was beaten up pretty badly though and was in need of some immediate attention so Yajirobe scooped him up and tossed him in his hover car presumably to take to Korin. Meanwhile, Yamcha and Bulma were arriving on the scene with their other friends in tow and were prepared to render aid to Tien, who also took a pretty good beating during the confrontation with Piccolo.

Kami

Season 5 marks the debut of Kami, who will play an important role in the episodes (and series) to come.

The first several episodes continue to deal with the fall-out. Goku, needing to revive the Eternal Dragon in order to restore his friends to life, journeys to the tallest point of the world, beyond even Korin’s tower, to the lookout. There he meets Mr. Popo, the djinn-like attendant up there. Poor Mr. Popo would later be viewed by network broadcasters as a racial stereotype when Dragon Ball Z Kai started airing in the US and be re-colored a garish neon blue. Here he is presented in his traditional black with red lips. Honestly, I see a genie when I look at him so I don’t really know what Toriyama was going for, but if you see him as racist that’s your right too. Anyways, Goku has to prove himself before Popo in order to meet the guardian of the earth, Kami. When he does he’s stunned to see that Kami looks just like the elder version of Piccolo!

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Mr. Popo’s appearance was deemed controversial enough to edit when airing on the CW as part of Dragon Ball Z Kai.

Again, this is another moment in the series spoiled by the popularity of DBZ. Having seen that series, I know all about Kami and how he and Piccolo used to be one person. Kami, needing to prove himself worthy of being the earth’s guardian, purged himself of any and all malice. That lead to the creation of Piccolo, a collection of every bad aspect of Kami’s personality. Kami is also aware of the existence of Piccolo Jr., and rather than commit infanticide, wants Goku to train with him to face that challenge someday. In exchange for reviving the dragon, Goku agrees to train with Kami for 3 years (apparently, Kami’s race grows up fast). For Goku, the length of the commitment seems daunting, but he’s always eager to get stronger and training under Kami is viewed as a worthwhile opportunity.

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Yeah, this is going to happen.

The next half-dozen episodes or so comprise Goku’s training. He’ll enter the Spirit Room, do some fishing, and even journey back in time. Meanwhile, Tien, Yamcha, and the newly resurrected Krillin and Chiaotzu seek out Master Korin to take part in some of the training that worked out so well for Goku. These episodes seek, in some respect, to go back to the more whimsical tone of the show. Even though the main characters are largely training, they end up going on small adventures with fairly low stakes. There’s an emphasis on comedy, particularly with Goku’s time-traveling, but they do suffer from the usual training fatigue this series and the ones to come fall victim to.

At episode 133, we get a three year time jump. This was likely done to accomplish two things:  gloss over Goku’s training with Kami and age-up Piccolo Jr. This leaves us at the latest edition of The World Martial Arts Tournament which will not only showcase the world’s finest but also serve as a reunion for the majority of our cast. The reunion doesn’t just cover the usual gang, but even reaches back to older acquaintances and even some we never saw play out, like Tien and the brutal Mercenary Tao. This is also a re-debut for many of our children characters who now find themselves aged-up into young adulthood. It’s fun to see how the characters, who apparently haven’t seen much or any of each other over the years, react to seeing one another again, but it’s also a little sad for us the viewer as it means we’ve now said goodbye to kid Goku. I’m going to miss that sweet little boy.

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Piccolo Jr as a bit of an evil look to him that will soften in DBZ.

In his place, naturally, is adult Goku. I must say, it’s pretty cool for a manga and now an anime series to do something as permanent as age-up its child protagonist into an adult. It’s pretty risky, since there’s a chance the young audience that comprises the fanbase will no longer identify with Goku. And there’s also the risk that they just won’t want to see Goku as an adult and prefer he remain a boy. From the creator’s perspective, Toriyama must have felt there was nothing left for a young Goku to accomplish. After all, having adults underestimate a child over and over again gets old and his last major act as a kid was basically saving the world. It’s hard to accomplish something bigger than that. Goku, as a child, even had to deal with trauma in the form of watching his friends and mentor die as well as face the burden of taking a life himself. That’s a pretty full childhood.

Thankfully, as an adult Goku hasn’t lost what made him so endearing as a boy, only his tail (so the moon could come back). He’s still kind-hearted and trusting to a fault and pretty ignorant of the world around him. Age has brought him little wisdom, and he still approaches every challenge with the same youthful eagerness and excitement he always has. Meanwhile, Krillin has grown into a more well-rounded individual who is less devious and less assure of himself, without actually growing much physically. He was over-confident as a boy at times, but now has a more realistic outlook, though we’re still a long way from him being totally outclassed by his peers so this is a Krillin who still feels like he can hang with anyone in a fight. Also re-debuting, is Chi-Chi, who we haven’t seen in quite some time. Chi-Chi, daughter of the Ox King, took a liking to Goku once upon a time and he even agreed to marry her one day. Chi-Chi apparently has not forgotten that promise.

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Tao is back, and he’s had some enhancements.

And then there’s Junior. Piccolo Junior, that is, makes his presence known by also entering the contest. He’s not so much there to win as he is to defeat, and then kill, Goku to avenge the death of his “father.” Piccolo Jr. is more of a clone than a true son, from what I gather, though we’ll learn way, way, down the road that he’s part of a race that actually reproduces asexually so maybe it’s a bit murkier than that. Whatever he is, he knows all about the encounter between his father and Goku even though he wasn’t there and had no one to raise him. He mostly looks like his father, though he’s a bit more slight and takes to wearing a cape and turban with giant shoulder pads. He’s convincingly evil, like his dear old dad, which is a far-cry from where he’ll be when DBZ picks up.

The tournament is going to take around 15 episodes to complete, making a pretty long competition. Like most of the tournaments featured in this show, the final match-up feels pre-ordained which does suck some of the suspense out of it all. To add some spice, there’s the new and improved Mercenary Tao who’s now part machine after being nearly killed by Goku in Season 3. He gets put on a collision course with Tien, who apparently doesn’t have fond memories of the brute dating back to his time with Tao’s brother, Master Shen, who would spar with Tien. Tien and Goku also need to have a rematch following Goku’s defeat the last time the two met in competition, and a mysterious fighter named Hero enters the tournament and his identity is in question, until it’s not.

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The eventual confrontation between Goku and Piccolo is a pretty satisfying battle.

Of course, the two fighters destine to meet in the finals are none other than Goku and Piccolo Jr. It may not come as a surprise, but it wouldn’t make sense for it to be any other pairing. For Piccolo, it’s an opportunity to not only best Goku in a fight, but to also embarrass him in front of a large audience. For Goku, this is his third trip to the finals of this tournament and a chance to finally win one having fallen to Master Roshi (disguised as Jackie Chun) and Tien previously. Their battle will encompass parts of six episodes, which feels like a make-up for the relatively brief battle between Goku and King Piccolo. To heighten the stakes, Piccolo essentially promises to destroy the world after he finishes off Goku. Goku likely can’t just settle for winning this match as a ring-out or some other technicality likely won’t prevent Piccolo from going on a rampage. He needs to beat him down and make sure he can’t accomplish his goal of total annihilation for earth.

This fight is essentially the grand finale for Dragon Ball. It’s going to rely on some old staples of past fights while also attempting to up the stakes as high as possible. Think huge energy attacks and a literal huge adversary when Piccolo demonstrates his growing abilities. When all is said and done, the show feels almost as if it’s been creatively exhausted. The fighters are so beyond what they were when this show started and it feels impossible to ponder where they go from here. Of course, Toriyama and TOEI weren’t quite there yet as DBZ will prove there’s still something left in the tank, but for now, this conclusion feels complete.

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Goku and Chi-Chi are going to need some time to get reacquainted with each other.

It doesn’t end there though. The last five episodes detail Goku and Chi-Chi’s quest for marriage. They have to embark on some minor adventures for a dress and other wedding planning activities that try to recapture a bit of that old Dragon Ball magic, but sadly come up short. That’s not to say these episodes are bad, but they lack some of the whimsy of the old ones and feel like padding to draw out the season. I’m not really sure why anyone felt the show needed to be 153 episodes instead of 150, but it is what it is. In the end, Goku and Chi-Chi are married and they display as little chemistry together here as they will in DBZ. I’ve always been some-what dissatisfied with their pairing as Goku is almost too child-like to imagine getting married, let alone procreating eventually. Chi-Chi at least gets to be an interesting character, albeit briefly, before becoming a nagging shrew in DBZ. She’ll rarely be in the wrong from here on out, but she’ll often be made to feel like an adversary of sorts for Goku. That’s sort of a problem with the series as a whole though, as the women often feel more like stereotypes than anything.

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In a bit of a surprise, the series ends with a wedding.

Dragon Ball has a some-what muted end, but in a way it’s also satisfying. The World Martial Arts Tournament is a chance for Goku to shine for a final time doing what he does best:  fighting. There’s also a nice send-off for him that hints at a more stable life by having him marry Chi-Chi. The reunion feel of the tournament also allows for basically every one of the secondary characters to have some screen time to not only see what they’re up to, but say goodbye. Of course, the manga continued on after this while the anime would be rebranded as Dragon Ball Z and run for over 200 episodes by itself. I personally like that the two anime properties are separated, albeit slightly, in their naming as Dragon Ball has always had a very different feel than Dragon Ball Z. It’s the more charming of the two and the series more concerned with character creation. Watched separately, Dragon Ball Z lacks that, but it’s largely due to the characters being established by this series, although that’s no excuse for the cookie-cutter villains added in DBZ. In light of that, I suppose it goes without saying that I view Dragon Ball more favorably than I do Dragon Ball Z, even though DBZ is the series I consumed first. Dragon Ball just holds up better on repeated viewings as its humorous tone and smaller stakes are easier to digest rather than every fight being a battle to save the universe. This final volume of episodes is definitely not the best, and in some ways just feels like a lot of fan service, but it is at least fan service done well as if you’ve been along for the ride you’ll likely find yourself smiling a lot while watching these final episodes. It probably wouldn’t make sense to view it without having seen the previous 122 episodes, but for those who have it would make even less sense to skip this final batch of 31. All in all, a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series.

If you’re looking to enjoy Dragon Ball on your own, your options are unfortunately rather limited. Aside from streaming options, you basically only have the five season sets put out by FUNimation. Even in Japan, the series was only released as a made-to-order set as even there DBZ is more popular than Dragon Ball. The FUNimation sets are limited to strictly DVD and no Blu Ray release is currently planned. The sets themselves are solid, if unspectacular. The transfer is about as good as you would expect of a television program from the 1980s. FUNimation wisely left the aspect ratio alone, having faced some backlash for messing with it for its DBZ box sets. The original audio is also preserved and available. FUNimation obviously re-dubbed the character voices and narration but left the music alone. Dragon Ball benefitted greatly from being dubbed by FUNimation long after it started doing in-house dubs. Their initial dubs were pretty terrible, including Dragon Ball Z, but the Dragon Ball one is pretty fantastic. There’s no “warm-up” period for the actors as they all feel comfortable with their characters from the get-go. If you prefer to hear the characters and understand them as opposed to reading, then you’ll probably be happy with the dub. The sets are short on any sort of worthwhile bonus material, but they at least contain the essentials. These sets were once really cheap, which is how I got them, but now that they’re out of print they aren’t as friendly on the wallet but still reasonable ranging from $20 to $30 per set. I think it’s worth it, and if you’re into anime Dragon Ball almost feels like required viewing. If you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super and tend to like them for their large scale confrontations then maybe Dragon Ball isn’t for you, but I think it’s worth giving a try. On the other hand, if your favorite episodes of Dragon Ball Z are the early, pre-Frieza episodes then you’ll probably love Dragon Ball. If you do end up checking it out I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Dragon Ball: Season 4

dragon_ball_season_4_600x600_itunes_artwork_by_eddie09-d58sdkjIt sure is taking me a long time to post about the “seasons” of Dragon Ball. I place the word seasons in quotations because these aren’t actual seasons of television, but just how FUNimation chose to label them when releasing the show on DVD. As a result, Season 4 starts during the World Martial Arts Tournament as opposed to before it or at its conclusion, which is a pretty poor way to start a season (though it’s a better start for Season 4 than an ending for Season 3 which was quite abrupt). Thankfully, Season 4 will end at a better spot setting up for the fifth and final volume of Dragon Ball episodes.

Season 4 has a different feel than its predecessor. While Goku has dealt with loss before and even experienced a desire for vengeance, he’ll be pushed towards a darker path even more so in this volume, but first the tournament. When we left off, Goku and his friends were participating in yet another World Martial Arts Tournament with the plot very clearly setting up a showdown between Goku and his latest rival:  Tien Shinhan. Tien is a student of Master Crane, who is also the older brother of Mercenary Tao, who Goku dispatched in Season 3. As a result, Crane wants to see his brother avenged and is relying on his pupil to do so. In order for the two to meet though, they need to win their respective matches to meet in the finals.

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Some unfinished business from Season 3.

The first 9 episodes deal with the tournament, and throughout it both Goku and Tien will be tested. By its conclusion, they’ll gain a new understanding of each other and Master Roshi will gain some new students, but he’ll also lose one. Setting up what is the main arc of the season is a murder and one that will have a lasting impact on Goku. If you want zero spoilers, then skip ahead, but the murder of Goku’s best friend and one-time rival Krillen is perhaps the darkest moment in Dragon Ball history. Perhaps the only comparable moment is the death of Dende in Dragon Ball Z at the hands of Freeza. Krillen is still basically a child when he’s murdered in Dragon Ball. It happens off-screen, but when Krillen is taking an especially long time in returning to their group’s celebratory dinner Goku runs back to the training ground to retrieve him only to find his lifeless body. It’s an affecting scene to behold as the image is held for an uncomfortably long time. This moment moves Goku to tears, naturally, but it also gives rise to an anger inside of him that is also uncomfortable to see. Up until now, Goku has been our happy-go-lucky protagonist. He’s dealt with loss mostly with sadness and to some degree a lack of comprehension. He’s learned empathy over time, he’s bore witness to how unjust the world can be, and he’s fully equipped now to experience a wide range of emotions at the sight of his best friend’s corpse.

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He doesn’t look THAT scary.

This sets the stage for the evil King Piccolo to enter our story. Piccolo is an ancient evil that not even Master Roshi could handle. He’s often referred to as a demon, and it took a technique from Roshi’s master Mutaito that cost him his life to seal him away previously:  The Evil Containment Wave. Roshi naturally preaches caution to his young pupil, but Goku is too headstrong and determined to avenge his fallen friend. He will pay for his impatience, as Piccolo isn’t alone. Since he’s rather old and feeble looking, Piccolo has surrounded himself with some powerful adversaries. They’re all named after musical instruments just like their master, and all have a sort of reptilian or demonic appearance:  Piano, Cymbal, Tambourine, and Drum. In order to defeat them, Goku will need to get stronger and he’ll be forced to seek out Master Korin once again.

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King Piccolo likes his minions scaly and green.

Meanwhile, Master Roshi together with Tien and Chiaotzu, decide they’ll need the help of the Dragon Balls in order to essentially wish away the demon king. While they’re doing that, and Goku is off training, Piccolo’s minions are seeking out the strongest fighters in the world with the goal of killing them to pave the way for King Piccolo to take control over the world (he’s a rather conventional villain, in that respect). Roshi’s plan to assemble the Dragon Balls ends up backfiring and he’s unable (or unwilling) to master the Evil Containment Wave. As a result, Piccolo seizes control of the legendary artifacts and is able to restore his youth, and power. In the process he also kills the Eternal Dragon. Suddenly, death has real consequences in this world with no dragon able to restore life to those who have fallen or will fall.

With King Piccolo fully powered-up, all eyes turn to Goku. His training with Korin puts him into confrontation with the bulbous Yajirobe. Yajirobe is essentially a punch-line in DBZ, like a lot of the main characters from Dragon Ball unfortunately, but here he is not such a push-over. Still, he’s no Goku. There’s some humor to be found in Goku’s training with Korin, but it’s largely a bit of a slog as we’re more eager than usual to see Goku face-off with the evils that stand before him. Once his training is complete, he’s forced into conflict with Piccolo’s minions and eventually the demon king himself.

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If you’re a fan of Pilaf and his crew, don’t worry, they’re still hanging around.

Some drama is created in the meantime. Tien has mastered the Evil Containment Wave, and with Goku still missing in action, he’s resolved to use it as Piccolo has begun destroying the earth city by city. Using the wave against Piccolo would mean Tien’s death, so it becomes pretty important for Goku to hurry up and get there. Goku and King Piccolo are naturally destined to meet in combat, and surprisingly, their confrontation is pretty short spanning just three episodes, but as I mentioned in the lead-in it’s at least all contained on this set without bleeding over into the next. It does mean a some-what abrupt end to the season as the immediate fall-out is left for Season 5.

Dragon Ball Season 4 marks both a new story-telling device for the show, vengeance, as well as a doubling-down on the previous format. That format is essentially Goku encountering a new foe, getting beaten down, training, and then returning to face the enemy in a rematch now powered-up. It’s a formula that Dragon Ball Z will beat into the ground, but at least here it’s not quite so worn out. Still, the training moments between Goku and Korin are slow, and they’re made even more so because the story did give us an effective motivation earlier for Goku to face Piccolo. It’s both refreshing and sad to see Goku motivated by vengeance. It would be nice if Goku could remain unaffected by the evils of the world, but it’s also unrealistic for a show with such an expansive amount of episodes. Sort of forgotten is how the season begins, with Goku turning an adversary in Tien into a new ally. It’s handled well enough, with Tien’s sense of honor ultimately being the aspect of him that is won over by Goku and his friends. Of course, if you’re like me and you experienced Dragon Ball Z before Dragon Ball then you knew Tien was destined to be an ally, but it was still entertaining to watch.

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A powered-up Goku is ready to take on the king.

At this point, the show has also improved visually. It’s success likely lead to some increased production budgets by TOEI Animation so the special effects and animation are better than they’ve ever been. The aged King Piccolo is well illustrated and he’s actually a lot more interesting to look at than the youthful version. There’s a moment where he forces an egg out of his mouth to create a new minion and it’s both gross and strangely satisfying to watch the scene play out. The original soundtrack is kept, and while it’s certainly dated, it has a whimsical quality that works really well with Dragon Ball. The benefit of FUNimation dubbing the series after DBZ means these actors have had plenty of time to get a feeling for the roles and everyone sounds mostly great. They’re all familiar if you’ve watched the other dubs, and the continuity is nice and appreciated. If you prefer Japanese audio it’s there as well. The original aspect ratio is also preserved.

Season 1 is still my favorite Dragon Ball season, mostly because it’s just a lot of fun and the ignorant Goku of Season 1 is really entertaining. Season 4 might be my second favorite though. It has some filler, but not as much as Season 3, and the stakes feel high which is also an improvement over both Seasons 2 and 3 and helps to give the confrontation more weight. It’s also satisfying when taken as a whole, and though I wouldn’t recommend it, you could conceivably just jump-in at Season 4 and enjoy it without seeing the previous material. I don’t know that I would call it peak Dragon Ball, but there is a downward slide following it with Season 5 basically feeling like an encore for the show as well as a setup for what’s to come. I promise to not take over four years to get to that one.


Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Dragon Ball Z:  Battle of Gods (2013)

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013)

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find Dragon Ball Z to be a pretty overrated anime. Some of that sentiment stems from the fact that it’s considerably more popular than its predecessor, Dragon Ball, despite being the inferior product. Part of that also stems from the fact that Dragon Ball Z fans seem to regard it as the greatest anime of all time, rather than what it really is; the most popular anime of all time. This is not to say I find the show to be a bad one. For awhile during the 1990’s I found myself quite captivated by the show. I was incredibly disappointed that the dub, for many years, ended right in the middle of the Namek Saga with Goku preparing to take on The Ginyu Force (I was also really disappointed when the series finally returned with an all new and quite terrible dub). Little did I know, that I had basically seen the best of the show up to that point. While the Cell Games and Buu Saga have their moments, for the most part the show became almost a self-parody with extended filler sequences and familiar plot lines.

It’s the formula of Dragon Ball Z that makes it a rather pedestrian television program. The characters are all simply constructed and tend to embody one archetype. Each “season” consists of the gang being forced to take on the latest “Most Powerful Being in the Universe” with the same familiar pattern: dispatch weak enemy, hear latest prophecy of doom, be defeated by said enemy, train endlessly, power-up and defeat enemy. The stakes are always the same, and even though characters are killed off several times, they usually find their way back to the land of the living and there are few lasting repercussions on the show (aside from the novel concept that the characters do age over time). It was basically like watching an animated fighting video game: it just moves from one battle to the next with very little connecting tissue in-between. As such, it’s quite easy to take a cynical view towards the show but it still has its moments where it’s genuinely entertaining and even charming.

Beerus and Whis are the latest antagonists to threaten earth.

Beerus and Whis are the latest antagonists to threaten earth.

If one were to be jaded with the prospects of another extension of the Dragon Ball Universe, they’d likely be less interested in yet another Dragon Ball Z film. The show was so successful that it rather logically spawned feature films. These films were little more than cash-grabs and often contained less plot than the show and an even more obvious formula. Thirteen films in all were released based off of Dragon Ball Z with virtually none fitting into the canon of the show’s storyline. Aside from a select few that contained some genuine entertainment value, most are just mediocre with the only contribution they made being the superior animation when compared with the show. As a result, I was not all that enthused to hear that Toei Animation was returning to the series for a new film:  Battle of Gods. The only cause for optimism was that it was announced series creator Akira Toriyama, who had little involvement with the awful Dragon Ball GT, was handling the screenplay and character designs. Toriyama, unlike some of his fans, seems to understand what makes Dragon Ball special. It’s not some super sophisticated anime meant to challenge the likes of Neon Genesis or Cowboy Bebop, it’s strictly intended to entertain with humor and action.

Battle of Gods opens with some familiar characters pondering the awakening of The God of Destruction. Supreme Kai, along with Elder Kai, fear what this god may do now that he’s awoken early while King Kai gives Goku a quick lesson on who this guy is. It’s not a very promising open for the film as it’s pretty much in line with most of the movies and we know Goku and this god are going to have to have a showdown. We’re then taken to this god’s home world and are introduced to Beerus, The God of Destruction, and his attendant Whis. One of the themes of Dragon Ball is to never a judge a book by its cover, and Beerus embodies that concept quite well. He’s basically an anthropomorphized sphinx cat complete with tall ears and a wrinkly cat muzzle on his face. Not only does he look like a cat, but he also embodies one as well. When we first meet him he’s just waking up from a 39 year slumber much in the same way we’d expect any cat to awaken. He’s lethargic, hungry, and summons for Whis almost immediately. Later we’ll see him acting rather petulantly and impatiently while also toying with his prey, further driving home the point that he doesn’t just simply look like a cat, he is one. Whis gives him a refresher on what transpired during his slumber, and he’s quite pleased to learn that Frieza dealt with those insolent Saiyans by destroying their planet. He’s further surprised to learn that one dubbing himself a Super Saiyan defeated Frieza, which reminds him of a dream he had where he encountered a Super Saiyan God. Remembering this, Beerus decides to journey to earth to meet the one who defeated Frieza and to hopefully find out more of this Super Saiyan God.

Beerus and Goku reenacting the infamous WCW Finger Poke of Doom.

Beerus and Goku reenacting the infamous WCW Finger Poke of Doom.

When Beerus arrives he encounters Goku almost immediately, and in true DBZ movie fashion, they fight and Goku is easily outclassed. Unlike other films, Beerus is essentially neither friend nor foe. He isn’t a good guy, but he’s also not really a bad guy. Sure he’s The God of Destruction, but apparently someone has to be. He decides to seek out Vegeta to see if he knows anything of this Saiyan God, since he learned nothing from Goku, and finds the Saiyan prince at his wife’s birthday party. Beerus loses interest in his pursuit of a Super Saiyan God when it turns out Vegeta knows nothing, and not wanting to turn down an opportunity to feast, invites himself to the party. Some hijinks involving some familiar faces for Dragon Ball fans occur at the party and things seem to be going well until Buu hogs all of the pudding, sending Beerus into a rage. Only Vegeta knows just who Beerus is and what he’s capable of, which is why the other party-goers jump to their friend’s defense further irritating Beerus. This causes him to declare that it’s time he destroy earth, just as Goku shows up. The heroes are able to request Beerus give them five minutes to consult The Eternal Dragon on the matter of a Super Saiyan God, and when Shenron reveals the secret of how to produce one, Beerus gets his wish.

Of course, Goku is the one to step-up and challenge him as the very underwhelming Super Saiyan God. If you were expecting a fantastic new transformation then you’ll be let down to see that “God Mode” is essentially a skinny Goku with a bad dye-job giving his hair a reddish hue. He possesses a fiery aura, which looks kind of cool but is also visually distracting, but that’s about it. Goku and Beerus fight, and I won’t spoil the outcome but you can probably guess at the ultimate end result.

The gang's all here.

The gang’s all here.

The plot for the film is rather familiar, and judged solely on that, the film is a disappointment. However, how it navigates the plot is what helps to elevate it above the normal DBZ fare. For one, Toriyama’s humor is sharp, and while there are some in-jokes to be found for longtime fans, the majority of the humor is fairly natural. It’s also refreshing as Beerus is the source for much of it. He’s definitely one of the better villains Toriyama has conceived of and his ambiguous nature and ambivalence towards mortals makes him almost charming, in a way. He plays off of his attendant Whis fairly well, a character who also embodies a notable Toriyama trait in that he’s a supremely powerful male with obvious feminine features. Toriyama’s affinity for food-related humor shows up in both Whis and Beerus as they’re very interested in the different flavors present on earth. Thankfully, we’re spared the often repeated visual of Goku stuffing his face which stopped being funny somewhere around the character’s first visit to King Kai’s planet.

For fans of DBZ’s unique action sequences, the film may be a disappointment. A lot of the time is spent on Beerus interacting with the earthlings at the expense of the big fight scenes the show is known for. When the film does go there, the action is a bit restrained. Some of that is a plus. As the characters grew in power during the show there was basically no way to visually establish they were stronger and faster than they were 100 episodes prior making many fight scenes look visually lazy as the characters “moved too fast for the naked eye.” In Battle of Gods the action is slowed down and there’s a satisfying weight to the blows landed. There’s still a few instances of old standby DBZ staples, but they’re not overused. Despite that though, the action is underwhelming and some curious uses of CG effects didn’t help things.

Goku's "God" form is a bit underwhelming, but at least it's better than Super Saiyan 4.

Goku’s “God” form is a bit underwhelming, but at least it’s better than Super Saiyan 4.

Visually, DBZ never looked better. The animation is smooth and every scene pops with bright colors. Some may have thought the more muted color palette of the manga would be present since Toriyama was so heavily involved but that is not the case. The only criticism I have of the visuals is the just mentioned CG used in the fight scenes. While the characters fly through a city landscape, it’s rather obvious the backgrounds are being drawn by a computer. This is a fairly common effect going back to the 1980’s but I’ve always found it jarring. Less forgivable are the few instances in which the characters themselves are CG animated making them look like they’ve been ripped right out of the latest DBZ video game. It looks silly and something I would recommend they scrap for future features.

Dragon Ball Z has had an up and down relationship when it comes to the english dub. The original Ocean Group dub was a mixed bag, but was miles ahead of the original Funimation dub that followed. Funimation first starting dubbing DBZ over 15 years ago, and all of that time with the series has actually lead to a pretty wonderful english cast. The voice actors, most of whom have been on the series since the beginning, really know their characters. The writers handling the localization also know these characters and they’ve created a very lively and witty script. The language is probably of a PG nature though there’s very little in the way of graphic violence. If you’re a longtime fan of the series who prefers to watch it subtitled, then by all means, watch it subbed but you won’t be missing anything if you go the dub route.

Dragon Ball Z:  Battle of Gods managed to both meet my expectations and also exceed them. The general plot is typical for a DBZ movie and rather boring, but the presentation is excellent (aside from a few visual hiccups) and the film is genuinely entertaining. It’s probably too long by about fifteen minutes, but not long enough to feel like a drag. The way the film is written makes this feel more like Dragon Ball than Dragon Ball Z. For me, I consider that a good thing but those who enjoy DBZ for the over-the-top action may be disappointed. Lastly, the introduction of Beerus was a success as I’m actually interested to see more from him. Apparently, Toei and Toriyama were banking on that as he’s in the recently released Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F and is also a recurring character in the new television show, Dragon Ball Super.  I have no idea if more Dragon Ball Z is a good thing or not, but I do know that Battle of Gods was a fun nostalgia trip. Time will tell just how long that trip lasts.


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