Tag Archives: goku

S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Event Exclusive Color Edition Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku Kaio-Ken

He’s ready to rumble.

My isn’t that title a mouthful? This version of the classic character Goku comes to you from Bandai via New York Comic Con. If I were to simplify that title, I’d call it shiny Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken Goku, which is still pretty wordy. I guess blame Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama for the obsession of stacking different power-ups in what I feel is an intentional bit of word play that he likely finds amusing. And I do too! At any rate, this is the last of the convention exclusives I ordered in 2021. All of the other ones, including other Dragon Ball related figures in Nappa, Goku, and Beerus, came from the world famous San Diego Comic Con. Well, that con didn’t actually happen in 2021 as it was virtual due to COVID once again. One of the few big cons to actually take place ended up being New York Comic Con, and while that one tends to be smaller than San Diego, some companies still like to issue event exclusives for it and that’s where this figure comes from. Bandai, in partnership with Bluefin Brands, made this version of Goku available at the event, but also made it available online for folks like me who weren’t going to journey to New York just to get a Goku. It meant a longer wait, but all things considered, this is one of the shorter waits I’ve have to endure in recent memory.

This box feels gigantic relative to other figures in the line, and with good reason.

This version of Goku hails from Dragon Ball Super and one of its first, major, arcs. The first two arcs of the show were adaptations of Dragon Ball Z movies, so this era is where Super really felt like its own thing to me. And it was just some tournament that was a bit of a friendly organized by two gods who happen to be brothers and share a rivalry. It introduced some new characters, most notably Hit, and it was during a fight with Hit that Goku dusted off his old Kaio-Ken technique. You remember that one, right? Kaio-Ken was all the rage for about five minutes when Goku took on Vegeta, but it was basically dropped after that. Yeah, technically, Goku used it against Frieza later on, but it was basically as a means to dismiss the technique which would essentially be replaced with the Super Saiyan transformation. It made Kaio-Ken one of those things fans had fun speculating on, “What would using Kaio-Ken as a Super Saiyan do for Goku?!” but the show was done with it.

Pissed off Goku.

If you need a primer on the form, it’s basically a technique that temporarily heightens Goku’s speed and power as a multiplier. He did it multiples of 2 and 3 against Vegeta, but would go up to 10 later. In Super, Goku turns to it after his Super Saiyan Blue transformation as the ultimate showing of his power at that moment in the series, though it’s not referenced much after. It does look cool though as Kaio-Ken by itself has a red aura, and combine that with the Blue transformation and you get a blue-purple look. It certainly made sense to explore the mode in figure form, and that’s what Bandai and Tamashii Nations did. And this being an event exclusive, they added some shine as well.

I love that shade of blue used for the eyebrows, so much so that I’d like to see other versions of Super Saiyan Blue Goku (and Vegeta) just go with that for all of the hair.

This version of Goku is obviously similar to other versions of Goku in the SHF line. He stands at about 5.5″ to the top of his forehead and roughly 6.75″ to the top of the hair when at his tallest. He’s basically in-line with my Super Saiyan Blue Goku, but this is actually mostly a differently sculpt. I don’t have it, but if I had to guess, this figure shares most of its parts with the Ultra Instinct Sign Goku which depicted Goku from his battle with Jiren. His gi is rather tattered so it needed its own sculpt to capture that. The only pieces this figure can share with the other blue Goku is the head, neck, and arms, though even some of that needed modification. I don’t have either version of Ultra Instinct Goku so this figure has more of a “new” feeling to me than it would others. It was honestly something I hadn’t thought much about until I had the figure in-hand.

The paint is rather lively on this guy and you can see the almost glitter quality in the shirt here.

What’s going to sell this guy beyond the sculpt is the paint job. The sculpt is fairly nice and I like the rips in the pants and shirt. The finish on the paint is of a pearl quality. The navy shirt takes on a metallic purple as a result and it’s pretty cool to handle and see how the light plays on it. The hair is a semi-translucent plastic with a touch of purple air-brushing, by the looks of it, which gives it a nice effect. The flesh is more saturated than we’re used to seeing due to trying to emulate the Kaio-Ken red effect. Bandai did have to do a lot more color-matching than usual though because of all of the rips in the clothing. The results are a tad mixed. The exposed portion of the chest could stand to be a touch more saturated as I feel like some of the navy color is showing through. The left knee is colored plastic, but the upper and lower portions of the leg surrounding it are painted and it’s not a perfect match. It probably won’t bother most on a shelf, but in-hand it’s pretty noticeable especially when the knee is bent all the way. This finish is also very glossy and gives the figure almost an enamel finish. It also has a different feel than most figures in the line. The plastic feels thicker and since almost everything has this finish applied it has a slippery feeling. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. Aside from the color-matching issues, my only real criticism for the paint is that I wish there was something applied to the torn parts such as a darkening to the interior parts of his pants. I just think it would help that part “pop” a bit more.

I can’t really complain because we get the aura effect with this figure, but we’ll never have enough Kamehameha effects.

The sculpt for this guy is overall pretty good. I already mentioned how the torn pieces of the gi look nice, and we get the usual musculature for Goku that other figures have. This one changes things up with some battle damage in the form of scuffs sculpted into portions of the arms, legs, and chest. I’m torn on if I think Bandai should have added some black linework to those scuffs to bring them out more as they’re not going to show from the shelf. This figure is going for a glowing aura look, so perhaps it would not have made as much sense, though I feel like in those moments Goku’s battle damage becomes even more noticeable in the anime. I could be wrong, I haven’t watched any of these episodes in years. One thing that did surprise me a little is there’s more evidence of mold release on this figure than usual. That’s those rough portions of the figure where it was removed from the actual tools used to create it. There’s basically a full tab on the underside of my figure’s right shoulder that makes it look like it was from a model kit no one bothered to snip. This figure also has those sleeves that peg into the shoulder which I really don’t like. Almost every Goku has that so it’s nothing new, but I’ll continue to complain until they find a better solution. Another common complaint is Goku also could be beefier. From the front, he looks okay. I’d probably widen the chest a little, but it’s mostly a nitpick. From the side though he looks thin. His chest doesn’t push out at all. It’s odd and almost comical. It’s also more pronounced because he doesn’t have the vest to add a little bulk, but this is something all of the figures in this line could stand to improve on. Goku, especially a powered-up Goku, should be thick and buff.

My lingering piece of criticism for this line is that nearly every character could stand to have some added girth. Goku should have a more pronounced chest when viewing him from the side.

There was a lot of new for me to take-in with the sculpt and paint of this figure, but articulation? That’s pretty much standard. His head is on a tiny, double-ball peg with another ball in the base of the neck. Despite that, he can’t really look up, but can look down. His head feels a little loose, but it seems to be holding a pose all right. The shoulders are on the peg and hinge system with a butterfly joint. The butterfly is really limited, but they at least colored it properly so it’s not ugly, just not particularly functional. There’s a biceps swivel and double-jointed elbow which bends past 90 degrees. The hands are on the usual ball pegs. In the diaphragm, we have the ball-hinge system so you can pull up on the figure if need be. It doesn’t really do a lot though as the figure can’t really crunch forward no matter what you do with the hinge, but he can bend back a little. Mostly, this joint just gives you some swivel and a little tilt, but you have to be mindful of paint rub. At the waist, you can swivel and the belt and rags is a floating piece. At the hips, Goku can almost do a split, kick forward, and kick backwards because he doesn’t have sculpted buns. There’s a little twist there too, and then your usual double-jointed knees below. The knee on the right has a bit more range backwards because it’s a standard, clothed, joint while the exposed left knee has reduced range, but still goes beyond 90 degrees. The ankles are on ball pegs and have the usual range for Goku’s boot design. It goes forward a little, back a fair amount, decent ankle rocker, and a lousy toe hinge. All of the joints are fairly smooth and required no break-in period, so that is always appreciated.

I can see people being against translucent plastic for Super Saiyan hair, but I do think this figure draws attention to how bland the approach to the hair was for the standard release. Granted, the figure on the left retails for only 30 bucks.

The other unique aspect to this release comes with the accessories and packaging. The optional hands and expressions are fairly standard. We get a stern look, scream, smirk, and a teeth-gritting expression. All of the faces are well painted and I love the shade of blue used for the eyebrows. I wish that was the standard shade of blue for this form of Goku. For hands, we get a set of fists, martial arts pose hands, Kamehameha hands, and wide open “Solar Flare” hands. For a box, he comes in this oversized standard box with the usual event exclusive coloring. It’s oversized because this Goku comes with an aura effect! That’s certainly unusual, and also why this guy cost $60 instead of $50, but it’s worth it. I love effect pieces and for this particular form it’s needed. It’s the standard aura piece, of which I have a yellow version already, and it comes in three pieces: a rear blast and two side pieces. It’s cast in translucent plastic with red at the edge and blue on the inside. The plastic is soft and and partially hollow. The only thing I don’t like is the translucent nature of the plastic means more of the seems are visible, especially towards the bottom of the center piece. It’ll get the job done though, and I hope it doesn’t get that sticky residue my other aura piece has acquired over the years.

If you like what you see then this figure is a worthy addition to the Super collection. If you’re someone who never cared about this version of Goku then you’ll probably be content to skip it.

This version of Goku is another good selection by Bandai when it comes to event exclusives. Not everyone needs a version of Goku so specific to one look from the show that doesn’t show up much, and the paint application is something that will appeal to some more than others. I thought this figure looked great in the promotional shots, so when Bandai made it available online I said “Why not?” The actual figure in hand pretty much lives up to my expectations. It’s eye-catching and fun and I love adding another aura, even if this one is really specific to this version of Goku. My guess is that most people who bought this are happy with it. I don’t think it’s good enough to win anybody over who didn’t see a spot for this in their collection, but those who want it should be content. Since it was an event exclusive, it’s currently sold out at MSRP so only secondary options are available. This strikes me as the type of release that might be high right now, but could come down in time as it is a bit niche. If you missed out and are having second thoughts, just keep an eye out. Who knows? Maybe a good deal will come around sooner or later.


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Event Exclusive Color Edition Super Saiyan God Son Goku

Goku has officially ascended to godhood.

The last of my San Diego Comic Con 2021 exclusives has finally arrived and it’s the event exclusive version of the Bandai/Tamashii Nations Super Saiyan God Goku. Now, Dragon Ball fans might quibble with my title for this article as I called it Dragon Ball Super when this form technically debuted in a Dragon Ball Z film, Battle of Gods, which would then be adapted into the anime series Dragon Ball Super. I’m just going with what’s on the packaging, folks, but if I had to place a label on this version of Goku I would say it does feel more like a Dragon Ball Super thing. At any rate, it’s the same film that featured the debut of Lord Beerus, who we looked at last week and it was my desire to add Beerus to my collection that prompted me to just get Goku too. The two clash in that film, and this figure felt like a good one to pair with Beerus. I’m not actually too keen on the Super Saiyan God transformation, but maybe this figure will change my mind.

Super Saiyan God is characterized by Goku getting reddish-pink hair and remaining rather lean. Not quite early DBZ lean, but certainly leaner than Buu Saga Goku.

Super Saiyan God was the latest power-up introduced in Battle of Gods and it would be quickly eclipsed by the Super Saiyan version of that, the mouthful Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. Or, Super Saiyan Blue for short. I don’t really understand the specifics of the whole thing, but basically, in order for a Saiyan to attain this form, he needs to have five other Saiyans lend them their energy which somehow becomes divine and leads to this transformation. The actual transformation gives the Saiyan a firey red aura, turns their hair a red-pink, and actually causes them to slim down as opposed to bulk up. Since the shape of the hair remains the same, they don’t necessarily look like a Super Saiyan, which is this form can then go Super Saiyan and become the blue version. How Goku (and later Vegeta) learn how to use this form without the added step of having other Saiyans lend them energy is either not explained or not explained well. Either way, it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball if there wasn’t some element of things being made up as they go along, would it?

You do have to fiddly with angles and those damn sleeves to get the best look. Here I failed as you can see the flesh colored piece inside the joint, which should be orange.

This version of Goku should feel pretty familiar to anyone who has handled one of the many recent Goku figures that Bandai has released. It’s the same body as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I’ve already reviewed and Bandai has been able to get a lot of use out of this buck. The only difference I can see with that figure is the arms are actually smaller and leaner, which is appropriate for this form. I’m not sure if they’re the same as the Saiyan Raised on Earth Son Goku figure, since I don’t have that one, but it is nice to see a subtle difference between the two godly Goku figures since it makes sense. Outside of the biceps and forearms, the other difference really is just in the paint job and belt. This figure has a lighter orange to the gi likely to account for the aura and because it’s the event exclusive color edition. The belt is the Cell Saga era belt too which doesn’t feature a knot and the boots are a much brighter shade of blue. The laces are also painted red like the piping as opposed to brown. The choice of colors, combined with the translucent, pink, hair, does really help to create the illusion that Goku is glowing. It’s neat, and I think it works well for this form.

The paint flaw on Goku’s left sleeve might seem like a minor thing to someone reading this, but for a figure with very little paint on it, it’s a bit ridiculous they can’t get it right. This is also the best pic for seeing how the vest and crotch are a different shade of orange.

Beyond those changes, a lot of the figure feels the same. There’s some shading on the front of the pants and abdomen, but that’s basically it. The other painted areas are the flesh color on the chest and the blue trim on the sleeves. Unfortunately, the left sleeve on mine was not painted particularly cleanly. The plastic on the face also doesn’t match the neck and chest as well as it could, otherwise, the painted details on the face look good. The plastic inside the butterfly joint is also cast in the proper color, orange, as opposed to flesh colored like my previous Goku figure so that’s a plus. There is no shading on the crotch area though, or on the upper torso, which will probably irritate some. I get their reluctance to shade the crotch because if it goes too heavy he might look like he pissed himself, but more shading would have been nice. It seems to be something the original release of this figure has over this one, as just looking up images of that reveals a more vibrant release.

He can assume the position, but the lack of energy parts is a bummer.

The figure also feels the same because the accessories are pretty much the same. You get four faces with this guy: stoic, smiling, teeth grit, and yelling. They all look fine, though I’m kind of partial to the stoic face for this form. As far as hands go, you get the fisted hands in the box plus flat palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and wide open hands. Pretty much the only hand you don’t get is an instant transmission hand, but we have plenty of those in other sets so I don’t think it’s a loss. There’s no effects part though, which is always a bummer. Being an event exclusive, I wish Bandai had added an aura effect since this guy did retail for $50, but that’s how it goes.

Look! It’s the battle of the gods we were promised!

The articulation for Goku is, stop me if you heard me say it already, the same as past Goku releases. He has the floaty pieces in his hips to cover up the joint and the sleeves which peg into the shoulders that I’ve never really liked. He can look up and down no problem and the butterfly joints in the shoulders allow Goku to do his signature energy blast poses. His head is on the old ball-hinge the original release had, and not the updated ball peg which is much better. It works, but sometimes you have to fight it to get it to bend where you want it to. At least it works better on Goku than it did on Beerus since his entire head swaps and you can accidentally get that hinge facing in a direction you don’t want. The hips don’t go out very far to the side, but he can kick forward and back because has those floating pieces instead of a sculpted butt. The knees and elbows will get you better than 90 degrees while the ball-peg ankles are just okay. The toe hinge is bad. Most of the joints are nice and smooth, with the lone exception being the right thigh twist on my figure. This is a first for me, but that thing is stuck. I have never had this issue with a Figuarts release before, but one twist caused the leg to pop off. Thankfully, it’s just a ball and socket connection so no damage was done, but it is a bummer.

IS Beerus too tall or Goku too short? Considering one of these guys is the main character for the series from which all other figures should be compared to for scaling purposes, I’m going to say it’s the cat that is too tall.

Does this figure make me a fan of Super Saiyan God? Yes and no. I think the translucent effect with the hair and the brighter approach to the color palette work really well, and it’s essentially what you’re paying for if you get this exclusive. I think that approach to the hair is an improvement over the standard release from a few years back, but probably not enough of one to warrant an upgrade if you already have it. Otherwise, he’s a Figuarts Goku. It’s a good figure, I wish mine didn’t have that paint error on one sleeve, but aside from that it feels like a quality figure. I don’t regret my purchase, but I’m also not doing backflips. If you’re at all familiar with this line, then you should probably know if you want this figure or not. And if you do, and you have yet to purchase one, well you’re in trouble because the secondary market is essentially all that remains. The prices I’m seeing aren’t terrible, but they’re obviously more than the $50 it would have cost you last summer.

To close this out, will end with the gathering of the Gokus. You can see the different approach in color when comparing him to SSB Goku, and the leaner proportions. Goku Black is really an all-together different figure, but we’ll let him stand here anyway.

S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball GT Super Saiyan 4 Goku

Step into the (not so) grand tour!

In the world of Dragon Ball, there are varying opinions on which version of the anime is superior. Dragon Ball Z is unquestionably the most popular, but there are people (like me) out there who swear by the original Dragon Ball that came before it. More recently, Dragon Ball Super has entered the fray and it’s a worthy successor to DBZ that may or may not be finished. Really, what few debate is what occupies the lowest rung of the Dragon Ball ladder: Dragon Ball GT.

Dragon Ball GT first premiered in 1996 after the conclusion of DBZ. Series creator, artist, writer Akira Toriyama was finished with Goku and the gang, but he was more than willing to let Toei continue the story because presumably it was easy money for him. Over the years, a level of trust had been established between the two as Toei produced numerous Dragon Ball movies which were created in-house with Toriyama still on-hand to design new characters. The films were all non-canon, but GT would represent a chance for Toei to truly broaden the scope of Dragon Ball.

If the goal was to create something demonstrably different from the other Super Saiyan forms, well, then mission accomplished.

The results were mixed at best. Toei, seemingly recognizing that Goku had long surpassed his peers by the end of DBZ, redesigned everyone and gave Goku some new traveling buddies in his granddaughter Pan and the now adult Trunks. And perhaps to capture the adventuring spirit of the original Dragon Ball, Goku was turned back into a child and set out on a quest to collect the Black Star Dragon Balls. During his journey, he would unlock a new ability: Super Saiyan 4.

I like the painted details on the face, but I don’t know that we need the “butt” in the center of the forehead on a stoic expression like this one.

Back in Dragon Ball Z (or just Dragon Ball for the manga purists), Toriyama conceived a new level of power for Goku that caused a minor transformation in that his hair would turn blond and his eyes teal. This was the Super Saiyan transformation, and really, the series could have ended with Goku’s unlocking of this ability and toppling Frieza, but it didn’t. Goku needed to keep getting stronger, so what’s stronger than a Super Saiyan? Super Saiyan 2! By the time the story was concluded, Goku had advanced to Super Saiyan 3. All three levels were fundamentally the same, except the shape of Goku’s hair changed with the third level being the most dramatic in that his hair was several feet long. Also, he lost his eyebrows for some reason. It’s not surprising there wasn’t a ton of imagination in these transformations. With the original, Toriyama has joked that he mostly designed it the way that he did so that he no longer had to color in Goku’s hair since the manga was in black and white and yellow hair would just be white.

For Super Saiyan 4, Toriyama decided to get creative. I’m not sure if Toei requested something different, or if this was Toriyama’s will, but Super Saiyan 4 definitely breaks the mold of other transformations. And being that most people aren’t really into Dragon Ball GT, it’s become the show’s only lasting legacy as the look does seem to have its fans. There’s certainly enough fans that Bandai and Tamashii Nations decided to bring the look to the S.H.Figuarts line in time for the show’s 25th anniversary.

A McFarlane approved side eye portrait.

If you’ve never seen Super Saiyan 4 before, well, it’s certainly a trip. In an effort to bring the Saiyan race back to its primal roots, Super Saiyan 4 mixes the look of the classic Great Ape transformation with that of a humanoid Saiyan. For Goku, this means his body becomes coated in a hot pink fur (why that color, I have no idea) and his tail returns. His hair still gets demonstrably more wild, but remains black. The hallmark of the look from a hair perspective is the tufts of hair that rest on the character’s chest. His eyes are also rimmed with red and the iris becomes gold with black pupils. His disposition seems to shift as well with Goku becoming cocky, and even a touch sadistic. Goku loves fighting in the same manner as a kid loves playing any competitive sport, but Super Saiyan 4 Goku might actually enjoy dishing out pain. As a design, it’s certainly garish, but it’s so outlandish that it kind of works. I know when I first saw images of this form back in the 90s I found it shocking and absurd, but over time I have come to appreciate it for its uniqueness.

They were able to ditch the sloppy look of the butterfly joints on past Goku releases, but this could still use some fine-tuning.

Despite that, I’ve never considered myself a true fan of Super Saiyan 4. I wouldn’t say I’m indifferent, but it doesn’t bother me that the look has basically been rendered non-canon by Dragon Ball Super. It is interesting though and that’s why I’m hear to talk about the action figure. The Tamashii Nations take on the look is largely as expected. It does some things well, and some things not so well. It’s also the first figure in the line that I’ve purchased that was made at Bandai’s new factory in Vietnam. What does that mean for the figure? Well, anytime you have someone completely new to something get added to a process there’s going to be some growing pains, and this figure certainly seems to suffer a bit from such.

I guess the one on the right s now the true Super Saiyan 4? Or is it actually 5?

This primal take on Goku stands at about 5.25″ to the top of his visage and a tick over 6″ to the top of the hair putting him right in line with other Goku figures in the line. He comes in the same, familiar, window box with an assortment of parts and effects to make the figure feel complete. The default expression for Goku is a stoic one. There’s a little bit of paint on the face to highlight the creases in his brow and under his eye which is all applied cleanly and does add a lot to the figure’s expression. I’m not sure we need the center line in the forehead, as it’s not something that appears frequently in the artwork. It kind of gives him a “butthead,” but it’s something I’m getting used. It certainly isn’t needed on a stoic expression. The hair looks appropriately wild to the point where it can be hard to manipulate the head on this guy without pricking your finger.

Flight stand not included, but definitely useful.

Below the head we have a mix of colored plastic and painted parts. The neck is flesh-colored plastic, while the chest is painted. There is a slight different in the color of the flesh which is always a bummer. His chest also sticks way out, consistent with the character’s look in the show, but it makes his neck appear to sit pretty far inside the figure. It also doesn’t help that there’s a noticeable gap between neck and chest. The pink portions are colored plastic save for the little bit on the hands. There’s sculpted texture, and it looks fine. The paint around the flesh-colored portions of the chest is not the cleanest, but it’s not so bad that I’m convinced Bandai’s standard factory in China would have done any better. The belt is a floating piece of plastic and the mustard pants feature a hint of a wash on the front of the figure, nothing on the rear. The colored components seem to match just fine, and on the rear of the figure is the tail which features the same sculpted fur as the arms and torso.

Screaming head or smirking head? Tough call, but it’s one largely dependent on what you want to do with the neat effect piece.

Bandai did a good enough job here with the look of the figure that I think any Super Saiyan 4 fan out there will be pleased. The colors and proportions look right to me, and the mix of portraits are also quite suitable for this version of Goku. In addition to the default expression, we have three more: smirk, side-eyed teeth gritting, and yelling. All feature the same clean paint apps and the selection is so good that it’s hard to settle on one. The bangs on Goku pop off to access the face plate, and one of my nitpicks with this guy is the hair doesn’t sit flush on the top of the head cleanly. I find myself constantly fiddling with it to get it to look as best it can. It’s not something that will be noticeable on a shelf, but in-hand it does become apparent. The fit is also loose, and I had the face or hair fall off when swapping hands. Goku also has an assortment of hands to utilize including fists, martial arts pose hands, wide open palms, two finger hands, Kamehameha hands, and Kamehameha hands with pegs. The pegged hands are for use with the energy effect, something we rarely get. It’s a translucent pink ball with 6 rods that can be inserted into it. It then pegs into one of Goku’s hands and looks pretty rad. I can’t imagine many collectors declining to utilize it in their display. Uncharacteristic of this line, I found the hands actually difficult to swap. Pulling them off of the figure is easy enough, but getting them on is a pain. Is this just a result of the new factory not being used to this sort of thing? It feels like it because I’ve never had to heat a figure from this line before, but for some of these hands I opted to.

A nice touch here is that the figure features a sculpted rip in his pants for the newly sprouted tail.

The other area where things feel a little off is with the articulation. This edition of Goku has basically all of the points of articulation one expects, but the engineering could have used a little more quality control in a few places. Most notably, it starts at the head. The figure really can’t look up, but that’s because of the hair. To make up for this, the two large strands on the back of his head are actually articulated, as are the two that hang over the chest. He can look down and that’s easy because his head is pretty floppy. It’s not so bad that he can’t hold a pose, but just a little pressure on the back of the head will send his chin diving into his throat. The base of the neck is articulated, but I can’t really get it to do anything which is unfortunate since it has that gap in it. At the shoulders, we have a modified butterfly joint with a newer ball peg and hinge setup. This gets rid of some of those floating pieces, but also leads to more gapping issues. I think this joint would look great on a standard Goku, but a shirtless one isn’t optimal. There’s also that flesh-colored paint to be mindful of as you don’t want the paint to rub off. He also has a biceps swivel, a double-jointed elbow that bends past 90 degrees, and ball-pegs at the hands. In the torso, we have ball joints in the abdomen and waist so he can rotate and pivot with a decent crunch forward and back. Again, watch the paint on the abs as you don’t want that to scratch. At the hips, he has legs that can do full splits and kick forward, but the sculpted butt cheeks prevent him from kicking backwards. There’s a thigh twist, double-jointed knees, and the standard ankle ball-joint. The range at the ankle is poor, and the toe hinge is too loose to really add anything. The ankle itself is also loose and standing him can be more tricky than typical of this line. The knee joints are fine, but in a first for me with this line, I had the knee cap pop off when bending it. It just tabs on, but it’s going to be annoying if it keeps doing that. He also has a ball joint where his tail meets his body. There are no other joints in the tail so it’s posing is limited, but I’d rather that than a bunch of ugly ball joints throughout.

“Don’t you dare talk shit about me and my series!”

The articulation, overall, is fine it’s not the usual “feel” I’m used to with this line. Some parts feel a little rougher than usual (the shoulders) and others are too loose for my liking. It’s understandable given the circumstances, and the move to the factory probably helped keep the price down as he’s $60, but a part of me wishes they handed them some lesser characters first before going right into such a unique look. Aside from that, the weight and overall feel is still excellent and this is certainly worthy of the S.H.Figuarts branding. Just the added paint on the face makes him look a lot nicer than the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I have and I do like the removal of some of the floating pieces in the shoulders and hips. If they didn’t stamp it right on the box where this thing was made few would likely question it. And I think this factory will get better, in time. Supposedly, the final form Cooler came out of the Vietnam factory and turned out great, so maybe they already have things mostly figured out.

As for Super Saiyan 4 Goku, this is a rather bizarre and unique look for character made even more so by the dismissal of Dragon Ball GT in favor of Dragon Ball Super. The series was never really canon to begin with, but since Toriyama designed the Super Saiyan 4 look most treated that part as canon. And maybe it will be again some day, or some variation on it, but for now we have the various Super Saiyan God forms. I don’t expect Bandai to go to the GT well too frequently in the future, though I suspect we’ll be seeing Vegeta in his Super Saiyan 4 form eventually and maybe even Gogeta. It helps that some of these parts can be reused for both figures, namely the arms, and it’s a subline that can trickle out and won’t command a ton of resources. As a weird little footnote in my Dragon Ball collection, I like this guy. I was going to pass on it eventually, but decided to give-in to curiosity. And it turned out to be $60 well spent.


S.H.Figuarts Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku

That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.

Do you like your Goku stoic?

The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.

Or do you prefer him smug? I like smug.

This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.

Of course, there’s also pissed off Goku.

Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.

And when Goku gets mad, he starts working on something…

As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.

Like the good old Kamehameha attack!
In case you prefer a side view of the destruction.

Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.

Since I don’t have a proper Dragon Ball Super villain, King Piccolo is just going to have to take one for the team.

People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.

“Keep you low power, Super Saiyan, stink away from me, Vegeta.”

The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.

Just a couple of cocky Saiyans.

And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.

“Bye!”

S.H.Figuarts Juckie-Chun/Jackie Chun

It was about a week ago in my write-up on the Dragon Stars World Martial Arts playset that I bemoaned my decision to pass on the S.H.Figuarts release of Jackie Chun and I hypothesized I might rectify that. Well, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind as here I am to tell you all about Jackie Chun! The martial arts master and winner of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament has been cast in plastic and is ready to join my humble Dragon Ball collection. What motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this guy was largely my completist nature. The Dragon Ball set from Bandai is pretty small when compared with the assortment of Dragon Ball Z figures, so why not get them all? I have the first Bulma Bandai released in my Pile of Loot at Big Bad Toy Store so the only one I’m missing now is kid Chi-Chi. I can’t get past her costume though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever pickup that particular figure.

“Boy, you sure do look familiar!”

The reason I initially passed on Jackie is because he’s very similar to Master Roshi. Not only do they look strikingly similar, they’re literally the same figure. For the most part. The only difference in terms of sculpting is the head and lower leg area, but the torso is the same. Jackie just dresses all in a deep navy blue, almost black, as opposed to Master Roshi’s much more colorful attire. And if you didn’t notice right away that they’re essentially the same, the give away rests on the back of the figure where Bandai just glued in the plug piece intended to seal the peg hole for Master Roshi’s turtle shell accessory. It’s a minor eyesore on Jackie, but the figure is helped out by the fact that we’re dealing in dark colors here and it is on the back of the shirt. At the same time, it’s a bit annoying since the shirt is in three separate pieces and one has to wonder how much money was really saved by not redoing it. At least he has a peg hole if you want to utilize a more dynamic stand.

He can pose.

Being that he’s essentially the same figure as Roshi, the articulation is also the same. That figure had some good and bad to him, and a lot that has to do with the clothing. The shoulders flare out and the wrist area is surrounded by large cuffs so it all limits the articulation a bit. The shirt is also intended to be a long martial arts uniform, and since Bandai doesn’t utilize cloth goods, the only way to properly articulate that is to “scallop” the sculpt and insert a series of ball-pegs into the torso. It’s not the cleanest sculpt in the torso as a result, but it’s not truly an eyesore either. Again, the dark color of Jackie works to the figure’s advantage in hiding this somewhat, but I do wonder how he’d have come out with a cloth robe.

He can siiiiiiiiing!

Bandai doesn’t use much paint with its S.H.Figuarts line, and it is a common complaint I hear from other collectors. Jackie is no except as he’s mostly just colored plastic. The only paint on the body of the figure is the white stripe and black fasteners down the center of the shirt and the gray soles of the shoes. The rest is reserved for the head and face where the eyes and eyebrows are well-painted. There may be a touch of a wash in the hair and beard as well which helps bring out the sculpted details and looks pretty sharp. His hair color has a gray to it, unlike Master Roshi’s all-white beard, which helps distinguish him further. The choice of doing the figure in a very dark blue as opposed to black is a little curious. As far as I can tell, his outfit is sheer black in the anime. And unlike many comic books, there’s no blue shading to speak of. I don’t know if this was based on information from Toei, or if Bandai just made an artistic decision not to go full black. As a result, under some light he looks a little blue and others a little gray, but always pretty dark. It’s not something that bothers me, I just find it curious. The finish is at least fairly matte which cuts down on the plastic sheen some figures in this line feature. Ultimately, the likeness is pretty on point and the sacrifices the figure makes in the sculpt to accommodate the articulation are worth it in the end.

“Ka…”

If you wish to know precisely how he’s articulated, I’ll run it down for you here. If you’re familiar with the Master Roshi figure, then skip ahead. Jackie has a ball peg at the head and base of the neck and he has some pretty solid range. Surprisingly, he can look down quite well despite the presence of the beard, it’s looking up that he’s not great at. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges with a butterfly joint. He can raise his arms out to the side better than expected and the butterfly joint allows him to achieve his Kamehameha pose fairly convincingly. There’s a biceps swivel below that and single-hinged elbows. The elbow is probably the least impressive part of this figure as they’re on these big ball-hinges that look funny from some angles. They also can’t achieve a 90 degree bend due to the way the sleeves flare out. It’s close, but not quite there. At the wrist are ball-joints which is a good choice since the sleeve works to conceal the ball-hinge which can be unsightly on other figures. In the diaphragm is a ball-hinge mechanism that mostly affords tilt and twist. Twist too far though and you end up with some ugly gapping. The hinge allows the upper body to lift up and crunch forward, but the shirt doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. A lot of rubbing occurs and I worry about smudging if utilized too much. Below that is another ball-peg at the waist allowing him to rotate and tilt. At the hips he can kick forward about 90 degrees and spread his legs out to the side almost into a split. He kicks back a little bit and the double-hinged knees basically give him 90 at the knee. There are thigh swivels and the feet are on ball-pegs. They’re not great, but the cuffs at the end of the pants were going to limit him anyway. There is a toe hinge as well.

“…ha!”

Jackie-Chun should be able to get into the poses he needs to be able to get into. Martial arts posing and energy blasting all are achievable. Helping him to do all of that are the loads of extra parts Bandai tossed in. Probably as a make-up for him containing a ton of parts reuse, Bandai made sure to give him an array of hands and facial expressions. He has the one head, but three separate faces. And like Master Roshi, you can swap the mouth and beard piece between the faces to mix and match expressions. You basically get angry eyes, serious eyes, and excited eyes to go along with a closed mouth, an angry yell, and a surprising, or singing, open mouth. That last one pairs with a microphone stick, as is the case with many Dragon Ball characters, there’s a serious side and a playful side to Jackie which this figure seeks to capture. As far as hands go, he comes with two crane pose hands which are unique as the peg basically goes into the underside of them to achieve the proper the shape. He also has two Kamehameha hands which are essentially the opposite as they peg into what I would call the top of the hands. He also has a set of peace sign hands, some chop hands, fists, martial arts pose hands, splayed open hands, and one gripping, right, hand for the microphone. Unique to Jackie are also swappable forearms. These are present so that he can roll up his sleeves. The arms separate below the elbow and the new ones just peg in. They don’t appear to be designated as left or right so either side works. They allow for more freedom with the hand articulation since this eliminates the cuffs from play, though another point of the figure that can come apart means there will be times you pull the arm off when you don’t intend to. A minor annoyance for an interesting feature. Lastly, there’s a 3 star Dragon Ball. This one has a pearl finish to it as I believe Bandai has already released seven standard balls so this new finish is being applied to the line going forward.

“No, Goku!”

Posing and utilizing these parts is all pretty painless. The hands pop on and off with minimal fuss, though the left arm of mine features a loose forearm connection so often the whole thing comes off when I’m just trying to swap the hand. The extra forearm doesn’t seem to peg in snug either so it becomes a balancing act posing him with the sleeves up. Unlike with Master Roshi, I don’t feel like we’re missing any expressions as far as the hands go, though a “drunken master” face would have been excellent. What’s really missing though is an energy effect. A charging one would have been nice, or just a Kamehameha attack since this guy is the master of that technique. I am guessing Bandai wants to do a Kamehameha Master Roshi that’s all bulked up and that’s why we don’t have that here. At least this time we have the hands.

Jackie Chun looks pretty good opposite the kid figures when placed on the World Martial Arts Tournament set. He is, more or less, in scale with them. It’s not perfect, but that’s more of a critique of the kid characters which were sized-up for the figure release. Bandai seemed to prioritize scaling Master Roshi, and Jackie Chun as a result, with Kid Goku and Krillin so he looks kind of silly next to Bulma, who is just way too small. King Piccolo towers over him well enough, though that figure should probably be bigger than he actually is. Scale is a limitation of this line in general and Bandai just seems to approximate it as opposed to trying to make it totally accurate.

I couldn’t quite get them into the double kick pose from the anime.

Adding Jackie Chun to my collection allows for me to pose him opposite Goku or Krillin, leaving Master Roshi to be more of a goof off to the side. I like that Jackie has the singing face and microphone for when I don’t want him on the battlefield, or I could just let him be the stern, wise, old, master watching silently. I liked the Master Roshi figure so it stands to reason I like this one. Is he essential for a Dragon Ball collection? Probably not, but it’s not as-if the character isn’t memorable. I hope Bandai continues to release more dedicated Dragon Ball figures so my display can continue to grow. They have Lunch/Launch coming this summer, but nothing has been announced beyond her. There’s still Pilaf and his gang, end of Dragon Ball Goku and Chi-Chi, Tien, and plenty more. I’d be interested in basically all of them, so hopefully Bandai comes through. Right now though, I have a fun little collection that’s pretty nice to have all on its own.

Yes, this’ll do nicely.

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.


Dragon Ball Super: Broly

db super broly poster

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

The first movie under the Dragon Ball Super umbrella is one that sets out to take what was previously non-canon and adapt it into the main series. The most recent two Dragon Ball Z films; Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’, ended up being the start of Dragon Ball Super which is now well over 100 episodes into its own series and several volumes of manga as well. It was last year that the series took a pause, seemingly coming to an end, only for this feature to be announced soon afterwards. Over the summer it was revealed that the subject of the film would be the infamous Broly, a character created for the prior Dragon Ball Z films that is either a fan-favorite or fan-hated character, depending on who you ask. In that universe, Broly was the featured villain of three separate films, and according to this humble blogger only one of those three films was any good. Broly is simply an all style and no substance villain. He’s big, mean, and powerful, but he has no real motivations beyond wanting to annihilate the hero of the series, Goku, whom he despises because he made him cry when the two were infants. Yup, you read that correctly.

Finding out that Broly would soon be adapted for his fourth film and presumably brought into canon left me with mixed feelings. Those feelings quickly shifted to positive ones though as what reason did I have to really doubt series creator Akira Toriyama? Broly already had the look, and aside from the reason for hating Goku being quite lame, the rest of his origin was fine. There was enough of a skeleton there that could be fleshed out into something worthwhile. And after doubting that there was anything left in this franchise, I’ve been proven wrong time and again by the last two features and basically the entirety of Dragon Ball Super. Toriyama, and those working with him, seem to have a handle on what sets this world apart from others. It’s the humor, as well as the action, that makes it go. The series can’t stop to take itself too seriously, or else it will betray what it is. Anchoring the series on the Goku and Vegeta characters is also fan-service at its best. It’s their differences as characters that works so well. It meant taking away most of what once made Vegeta a villain, but Dragon Ball Super has managed to make him likable and understandable without also softening him too much.

dbs broly normal

Broly is re-introduced in this one as canon with a tweak to his base design.

Before I go any further, it is worth pointing out just where this film follows in the grand scheme of things. If you’re like me and have been following Dragon Ball Super via the dub that airs weekly on Toonami then you’re going to have some things spoiled for you. This film takes place after the events of Dragon Ball Super so far, so it’s after the Tournament of Power which has yet to officially begin. If you watch the Japanese dub of the show, then no problem as you saw the finale almost a year ago. For us just watching on a standard cable package, it means having the events of that tournament some-what spoiled. And I mean that very loosely as the setup for that tournament is that all of the universes who lose are destroyed. I don’t think any viewer expects the universe inhabited by Goku and his friends to be wiped out and have the story end there, so the fact that this film even exists is only the most mild of spoilers. The film doesn’t go into any detail about how that crisis was resolved, so I didn’t feel particularly spoiled by anything. Only the fate of one character would really count there, so if you want absolutely nothing else spoiled you may want to stop here as I can’t really discuss this film without mentioning that character at least in passing. There’s your final warning.

king vegetas court

King Vegeta’s court where Paragus is informed on the fate of his son.

Okay, with that out of the way we can freely talk about Dragon Ball Super: Broly! This is a review, not a synopsis like I did with my DBZ movie feature from last summer, so I don’t aim to spoil anything pertinent to the film beyond just going over the general plot and setup. If you’re a longtime fan, you’re probably most curious about how this new Broly (Vic Mignogna) equates with the old. He’s a different character, but it is also largely the same. The film begins several years before the present day when planet Vegeta was still a thing. In addition to seeing the early days of Broly, we’re also treated to something previously untouched upon and that’s the transfer of power over the universe from King Cold (Jason Douglas) to his son, Frieza (Christopher Ayers). It’s fun seeing that acknowledged, though it’s not particularly thrilling. Broly himself though is soon introduced as a baby, and like the prior Broly, he seems to have incredible untapped power. King Vegeta (Christopher Sabat) appears jealous that this child rivals his own infant son, also Vegeta (Sabat), and it may explain what he does next.

dbs kid goku

The flashback also contains a brief look at young Goku in a somewhat touching scene.

Like the prior Broly, this one will find himself banished from planet Vegeta. His father, Paragus (Dameon Clarke), suspects the king did it out of jealousy, but the king claims he did it out of fear over what Broly is capable of. A power so terrible cannot be controlled and he could destroy them all. It’s hard to say what the truth is, but Paragus refuses to see his son exiled to a barren world alone. He steals a spaceship and chases after him all while swearing revenge on the king who did this to him and his son. We also get another peek at Goku’s father, Bardok (Sonny Strait), and even meet his mother, Gine (Emily Neves). It retcons the events of Bardock’s solo film a bit, and also shows us a softer side to the character which provides some context for how Goku (Sean Schemmel) came to be so different from other Saiyans. We also get to check in on a toddler Vegeta and Radditz, which is amusing, and see the destruction of planet Vegeta from another angle. There’s even a mention of a brother to Prince Vegeta that I was not aware of. I don’t know if that’s mentioned at all in the episodes I have not seen, or it could be a hint at something to come in a future movie or series.

dbs paragus

The design for Broly’s father, Paragus, is also still in-line with his old portrayal only now he’s aged up. He’s also still a dick.

After the lengthy setup, the film jumps to the present day and finds Goku and Vegeta sparring. They’ll soon find out that Frieza is up to not good, and his stealing of the Dragon Balls from Bulma’s (Monica Rial) lab is what sets the plot in motion. That will get all of our main players to Earth, including a now fully grown Broly and his father, where the action takes place.

snow clothes goku and vegeta

Goku and Vegeta showing off their trendy new winter duds.

To no one’s surprise, the majority of this film is action as the two heroic saiyans take on Broly. Broly is depicted as actually kind-natured this time around, but his power drives him mad. It’s a subtle change from the previous version we’ve seen, but it’s handled far better and this character actually has meaning. He’s a sympathetic character, much more so than before, and one the audience isn’t necessarily instructed to root against. His design is only a little different from his old one, but he has a slightly more refined look. There’s some grit there as well and he actually looks like someone who has lived his whole life in exile. He’ll find some sympathetic characters which help add to his story, and overall I think he’s a fine addition to the cast this time.

dbs god vegeta

Vegeta demonstrating his mastery of the Super Saiyan God form.

The action is the main attraction, and after the slow-paced opening I am happy to report that no action was spared as a result. This is a meaty film, and by its end you may even start to feel exhausted. It keeps upping the visual ante along the way though, so it never gets boring. New tricks are unleashed, some more abstract than others. My favorite was a first-person camera in the middle of the fight that really pulled me in. It sounds like a gimmick, but it worked really well to see the lightning-quick action unfold from such a perspective. It was also tastefully utilized, so it didn’t overstay its welcome. There’s plenty of big spots, and also some rather brutal ones. Nothing is gratuitous though, and overall if you’re a fan of action this is one satisfying and spectacular film. There is also less emphasis on fan-service this time around when compared with the last two films. There’s no effort to get all of the old gang back together and the cast is actually fairly trim. This one simply has a story to tell and a battle to feature.

dbs goku blue

The film is visually stunning, but there are moments where I felt like I was watching a cut scene from Dragon Ball FighterZ.

The film is still mostly done in 2D with digital hand-drawn animation, the design of which was handled by Naohiro Shintani instead of Tadayoshi Yamamuro who has done virtually all of Dragon Ball previously so all of the characters have a slightly altered look to them, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say they appear off-model. Those hand-drawn parts are delicious for the eyes and Dragon Ball has never looked better. The movements of the characters are so fluid and sharp, and the slightly muted color palette is reminiscent of the manga more so than the actual anime. Vegeta’s battle suit, in particular, uses a more navy color than a bright blue and Goku’s orange gi is just slightly pale. This being Dragon Ball, there’s also lots of bright greens and blacks and some cute character designs amongst the villains. There are instances of obvious CG, most noticeably when space ships are shown. It’s also still used in battles, but it’s less of a distraction than in past films. There are still times though when I felt like I was viewing a cut scene from a video game as opposed to an anime. I wouldn’t go so far as to say those moments were jarring, but the hand-drawn stuff is just so flawless that I wish they just tried to stick with that as much as possible.

broly vegeta snow

Arctic settings are among my favorites in Dragon Ball. The brightly colored characters just look great against a cool backdrop.

The music composed by Norihito Sumitomo is also quite bombastic and in-time with the visuals. Some of the main themes, in particular Broly’s and a character I won’t mention by name as it would constitute a spoiler, include a chant in the song where the name of the character is spoken. It further adds to the fighting video game feel of some of the visuals and I’d consider it ludicrous if this were any other property save for maybe Mortal Kombat. It manages to add to the spectacle of everything. Also, some old favorites return though it’s worth mentioning this movie doesn’t feature an opening credits scene like the old ones. I kept waiting for it to pop-in, until I realized it wasn’t coming. It’s probably for the best, though I did kind of miss it.

dbs full power broly

If you’re looking for some of the old Broly you know (and love?) you’ll get that here as well.

Ultimately, I was left feeling like seeing Dragon Ball Super: Broly on the big screen was very much a worthwhile experience. This film was designed for that setting, and I really enjoyed my time with it. I was surprised to find it actually showing at quite a few theaters in my area, and further surprised to find many shows sold out. Thankfully, I was planning on seeing this alone as I couldn’t find two seats side-by-side anywhere. The machinations of the plot are pretty contained so if you haven’t bothered to watch Dragon Ball Super you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into this and and figuring out what’s going on, so don’t let that be an obstacle. If you ever cared about Dragon Ball, then you owe it to yourself to catch it on the big screen.


Dragon Ball Z – Budokai HD Collection

budokai hdOh, you thought we were done with DBZ?! Oh no, I have some more Dragon Ball related material to share with you and even though we’re done with the movies, I thought now was as good a time as any to talk about some video games. If you’re a usual reader, you may recall I did a post earlier this year on Super Dragon Ball Z, the Street Fighter inspired fighter for the PS2. It was the upcoming release of Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ that inspired me to revisit that old game, and the same can be said of the Budokai series.

In case you need a refresher, Dragon Ball Z – Budokai was the Infogrames fighting game franchise of the early 2000’s and it was also the first real entry point for DBZ into global gaming. Prior to Budokai, the only Dragon Ball video games to make it out of Japan were the NES platformer, renamed Dragon Power in the US, based on Dragon Ball and the PSX fighting game Dragon Ball GT – Final Bout. Yes, somehow a game based on Dragon Ball GT made it to American soil before a Dragon Ball Z game. That early Dragon Ball game for the NES was simply a case of anything being available in Japan was brought over to other markets. It was altered so that it barely resembled Dragon Ball and there’s a chance that gamers who owned the abysmal title and went on to become fans of the franchise likely needed to read about it later in life to make the connection. Final Bout was likely released outside of Japan because it coincided with the 3D fighting game craze and the first real attempt at bringing the anime to America as well. It was a truly abysmal game that sold poorly. The anime was a flop initially so it kind of went away, but once the show became popular via Cartoon Network the after market price on Final Bout went crazy as it was the only video game released in the territory and fans wanted something, even if it was terrible.

dragon power

Technically, this was the first Dragon Ball game released outside of Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the cover.

Of course, if you were living in Japan you had plenty of options when it came to DBZ fighters. The Super Famicom especially had a bunch of them and the PSX had an additional 2 and all were based on Dragon Ball Z as opposed to the far less popular Dragon Ball GT. Fans desperate for some DBZ content for their video game machines, like myself, turned to imports and emulation to get their fix, but in truth few of these games were worth playing. The only ones I can recommend half-heartedly were Dragon Ball Z – Hyper Dimension, a 16-bit fighter that didn’t control particularly well, but the visuals were impressive. On the PSX, Dragon Ball Z – Legends was a pretty ugly looking early PSX game, but it’s 3 on 3 simultaneous combat was really interesting and the simple, timing based, combat was actually pretty satisfying. It was just a shallow experience and once you saw everything the game offered there was little reason to return.

Once the show finally became popular around the turn of the millennium, there was a substantial rush to get content to the newly created global audience. Irwin Toys started cranking out new action figures and accessories while clothing and posters started popping up everywhere. The games took some time, and Bandai was awarded distribution for Japan while Infogrames, and later Atari, received the North American license. Dimps was selected as the developer and they got set to creating Budokai. Simultaneously, a Game Boy Advance game was also developed and released as The Legacy of Goku, an action-RPG that was at least interesting though not particularly fun. Because there was such an appetite for DBZ anything, Budokai really didn’t need to be a good game to sell well. It also didn’t need to be particularly good to immediately become the best DBZ fighting game ever released. Review-wise, it received a somewhat ho-hum reaction from critics, but fans seemed relatively pleased. It sold well enough to spawn two sequels, and 10 years after its initial 2002 release it received a high-definition makeover alongside Dragon Ball Z – Budokai 3.

hyper dimension

If you absolutely need to import a DBZ game, I’d suggest Hyper Dimension.

If you have never played a Budokai game, then let me tell you how it works. At its cores, it’s a simple 3D fighter. Characters can move in the foreground and background and are capable of attacking, blocking, firing ki blasts, and charging up their power meter. Each character typically has multiple health bars so stronger fighters will have additional health over weaker ones that’s clearly illustrated. Characters can also fly, but not at will. Instead, if a combo attack sends a fighter into the air they’ll kind of just hover in place once they recover from the attack. Simply pushing the directional pad towards an airborne fighter will cause the player-character to take to the air in pursuit.

final bout

Before Budokai, this was the best American fans had.

The main criticism of the original Budokai was the lack of beam attacks. Rather than simply ordering Goku to unleash a Kamehameha wave, the move was affixed to the end of a combo. A series of punches would end in Goku performing his signature attack, but at very close range so it was hardly spectacular looking. Instead, the eye-catching attacks were left to the super moves which are the moves that are designed to be difficult to pull off, but when successfully deployed, unleash devastating amounts of damage via a cinematic. These moves include Vegeta’s Final Flash and the like.

goku vs vegeta

The original Budokai does a decent job of laying the groundwork, though the visuals were never considered great even for the time.

Dimps seemed to target two important factors when creating the game:  make it look authentic and make it easy to play. As a result, all of the fighters essentially feel the same and have the same move-set, just with different results. In order to make the game feel authentic though, Dimps made sure to include various transformations in its games. Once advancing passed the Freiza arc, Goku could unlock his Super Saiyan transformation and use that in battle. Prior to getting it, he also had his Kaio-ken technique. Dimps even gave Piccolo his fusions from the series with Nail and Kame as transformations. The game featured a story mode that went up through the Cell Games and featured a roster of 23 characters. Later games would focus on expanding upon the roster to include practically anyone who ever partook in a fight during the series.

budokai story

The first game does at least boast better presentation in terms of its story mode, though these visuals are kind of “yuck.”

Budokai was a success, and it soon became an annual franchise. Budokai 2, released the following year and not included in this collection, corrected a lot of what people disliked about the original. Ki blasts and flying were now more manual than before and the story mode received more cinematics and was overall more rewarding (though it featured a weird board game interface). The roster was also greatly expanded upon due in large part to the game featuring the Buu Saga. More transformations were available and the game was largely just more fun. Budokai 3 arrived the following year with even more characters and moves and yet another revamped story mode. Instead of playing through the events of the show, players could select specific characters and experience the story from their perspective. And doing so also allowed the player to simply fly around the world looking for the next event as well as hidden ones. It felt less restrictive, and was thus pretty exciting.

budokai 3 story

Budokai 3’s story mode was more engaging, if lacking in the presentation department. It makes up for it though with much improved graphics and styling.

So how do these games hold up in 2018? Well, not surprisingly the original Budokai is showing its age. The visuals have been upgraded to HD, but the textures were so bland and basic to start-off that there’s virtually no improvement. It makes everyone look like vinyl dolls and the empty battle maps are even more boring than before. The simple combat is easy to grasp, but also not particularly engaging. This game is basically here as a nostalgia trip and to illustrate how the series began. Fire it up if you either never played it or just want to relive it, but after that you probably won’t play it again.

Budokai 3 is the main attraction of this set. There’s still a section of the fandom that considers it the best DBZ fighter ever released. It was the last main Budokai title as the many sequels saw the series move in a different direction, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. There was a PSP edition of the franchise called Shin Budokai and some place the 2006 title Infinite World in the Budokai series, but this was the last numbered entry. It’s quite easy to see how refined the game is in comparison with its predecessor. The visuals took on a more cell-shaded approach with additional detail and the move to HD doesn’t highlight the imperfections like it does with the first game. DBZ has a pretty simple, yet distinct, look and it doesn’t require incredible processing power to do it justice.

dragon rush 2

Dragon Rush adds some chaos to battles, but at the cost of skill.

From a gameplay perspective, the game is not quite as fast as I remembered. You will still spend most fights dashing at your opponent to unleash combos attacks and build towards bigger moves. I had forgotten how odd the gameplay structure was. Much of the fights hinge on your ability to pull off super moves and Dragon Rush attacks. The Dragon Rush is a bit convoluted, but it’s essentially a follow-up attack from a teleporting move. There’s a lengthy tutorial section in the game that’s not particularly helpful. It’s one of those things you just have to perform for yourself to get a feel for how it works. When connecting with one of these maneuvers, a quick-time event is enabled that’s basically a version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. The attacker selects a face button and the defender does as well. If the defender guesses right, the attack is thwarted. If not, it continues with both players now having only 3 face buttons to choose from. If the attacker is able to string together three successful attacks via this encounter, then a big move is unleashed and the opponent’s stamina (as well as some health) is knocked away leaving them more susceptible to damage. Actual super moves are done fairly easily by holding a shoulder button, but it starts a slow animation that can be tricky to connect with. And if you miss, you lose all of the energy stored for the attack. Connect and you get treated to another cinematic while also doling out some big damage. There’s always another QTE spot, this time with a meter rapidly filling and decreasing that you have to time properly, that determines how much damage the attack does.

gogeta fusion

There are lots of power-ups that take the form of transformations including fusion.

Fights have a tendency to be very reliant on those two moves. Whoever is better at pulling them off usually wins. The QTE spot injects some chaos as it’s entirely random, unless you’re playing against a human opponent and look at their controller. It’s not the most rewarding system, or perhaps it’s more appropriate to call it frustrating if you’re on the losing side. If you’re on the winning end then at least the cinematics are typically fun to see. The interesting change for the third game though was mostly in the stored energy each character has. Energy will gradually accumulate up to a certain point so you really need only charge your ki if you want to go for the biggest moves possible. This was a smart addition as the constant need to charge in other games was always the least enjoyable aspect. Transformations also aren’t the energy hogs they were in prior games so there’s more incentive to use the best ones.

The story mode felt revolutionary in 2004, though now it does feel more limited. Basically, you pick a character and fly around the world. Your character has a map and can also find a Dragon Radar to look for Dragon Balls. Activating your “senses” can sometimes turn-up hidden spots on the world that usually contain an item but sometimes contain a small story event – an easter egg, if you will. Various cities and popular landmarks appear on as well but you can’t really interact with them. If the name of the place displayed when flying over it then you can enter, but it just leads to a brief exchange with another character who may or may not provide an item. These are all done with still images and text – there are no cinematics in story mode which is rather bizarre. The most interesting aspect of the mode is that it can change depending on how many playthroughs you have done and if you have finished another character’s. Goku’s is the most robust, and if you play it a second time after getting through some of the other character’s stories you’ll take on some GT villains and even unlock Super Saiyan 4.

budokai 3 cooler

Budokai 3 expands upon the roster by drawing from the movies and Dragon Ball GT.

The goal of story mode is obviously to see it through, but it also features some RPG elements in the form of experience and stats. Leveling up a character gives you an ability point to place in various offensive and defensive categories. Each character also can equip a set number of items, with stronger items taking up multiple slots. This has been a feature in most DBZ games and allows for some level of customization. Frustratingly though, transformations always have a prerequisite that includes the prior transformation so if you want to use SS4 Goku you’ll need to devote 5 slots to transformations. If you want to fuse into Vegito then you’ll have to give up something. Characters can unlock a special Breakthrough capsule which contains all of their unique moves and abilities at the cost of taking up all of the ability slots. For a character like Goku who has the most unique capsules, it won’t include everything though which is kind of a bummer. The other short-coming of story mode is that it doesn’t include everyone. A lot of characters are playable including surprises like Tien and Yamcha, but only one villain has a story mode (and it kind of sucks) and characters you would expect to have one (namely Trunks) do not. There’s enough here to keep you busy for awhile, at least.

After getting caught up with these games, my main take-away was that anyone who thinks Budokai 3 is the best DBZ fighting game released has not spent enough time with newer entries. It’s not a bad game, but I’d rather play the Tenkaichi Budokai games over it. This game wants to capture the unique combat of the anime and sacrifices skill and control to do so. The Tenkaichi games were not difficult games to play, but their arena fighter approach made the games even more authentic and the super moves weren’t huge factors. With that out of the way, I will say I still had fun with Budokai 3. It took me a little while to get back into the flow of combat, but once I did I had a good enough time. There is a shallowness to the gameplay present so it doesn’t have the staying power of a more robust fighting game, and I wish they had dropped the Dragon Rush, but it does right by its license. I do wish the story mode featured actual moving images to tell its story, and the rewards for summoning the dragon are kind of lame. Considering I didn’t have to pay much to get this collection, I’d say it was money well spent. As for the original Budokai, it didn’t need to be included on this collection and I’m surprised it is. I would have much preferred Budokai 2, even if that game is pretty similar to 3. At least it featured a different story mode while including most of the gameplay enhancements featured in the third entry.


Dragon Ball Z Movie Wrap-up – The Rankings

teaser gokuWell I hope you’ve enjoyed the summer feature this year at The Nostalgia Spot – Dragon Ball Z Movie Monday. We’ve taken a look at all 13 original Dragon Ball Z films in chronological order, run-through their plots, dissected what they did well and not so well, and now we’re going to rank them. It should be noted that this ranking is going to be rendered obsolete in just a few short months as on the way is the first Dragon Ball Super movie:  Broly! Yes, Broly. He’s coming back for a fourth movie appearance, but this time it’s different. Those Dragon Ball Z films he was in are technically not canon. Yes, series creator Akira Toriyama designed the character of Broly and the general back story, but he was never intended to be a “real” character, so to speak. With the 14th and 15th DBZ films, things started to change. Both Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ are now canon and were adapted for Dragon Ball Super. Since Toriyama is involved with Broly, it stands to reason that this will be an all new version of the Legendary Super Saiyan and for the first time ever he’ll be an actual part of the overall Dragon Ball plot.

db super broly

Broly’s coming back, whether you like it or not.

That’s all well and good, but before we can even think about that movie we need to sort out these other 15, of which 3 feature Broly. The core 13 are what we covered this summer, but I had taken a look at the two most recent films previously and made entries about them. Even though their plots are now part of Dragon Ball Super, they were released as Dragon Ball Z films so it feels right to include them in the rankings. Hopefully the first Dragon Ball Super movie will challenge the best of these, but for now, this is what I think of the fine fifteen:

Goten urinating

Lets kick this one off properly!

15. Broly – Second Coming – It’s kind of funny the first film on my list just so happens to feature the character of Broly. If this version of Broly were returning for a fourth feature, then I would be disappointed. Broly was fine in his film debut, but his return engagements saw the warrior reduced to an even more mindless fighting machine. Broly – Second Coming also stars Trunks and Goten, and it feels like maybe they weren’t ready to anchor a feature. Gohan makes his presence felt in the film’s third act, but he can’t rescue this one. Broly – Second Coming is perhaps the most dull, with the biggest rule-breaking ending, and is thus my least favorite. It’s not without some charm, so I hesitate to call it flat-out bad, but it will be a long while before I revisit this one again.

cooler surprised

Maybe this was a bad idea.

14. Cooler’s Revenge – You will probably notice a trend amongst these bottom entries. The movies that just feel like one long fight do little to entertain me, and Cooler’s Revenge commits the sin of having Goku get taken out immediately only to sit on the sidelines for a large chunk of the film’s duration. No one wants to sit and wait for Goku to show up – not Cooler, and certainly not the fans. And the fights that do occur in this picture aren’t very engaging, but we do get some fireworks from Super Saiyan Goku and the transformed Cooler. It’s also his connection to Frieza that helps move this one past Broly – Second Coming.

Slug ears.png

Not the best?! I don’t want to hear it!

13. Lord Slug – Similar to Cooler’s Revenge, this one also has Goku get taken out for a large portion of the film. Unlike with that film though, there’s not a great reason for that to happen. Yeah, he gets hurt a bit, but it doesn’t seem like the type of injury that should knock Goku out of commission for such a long time. Anyways, Lord Slug gets to move past Cooler because at least there’s some interesting visuals here. A lot of fun backgrounds and the enemy designs for Slug’s henchmen are interesting as well. I also think the fight between Slug and Goku is a bit better than the one with Cooler, even if it features that goofy half Super Saiyan thing from Goku. This is also a film I look at and can envision it being better than it is with just a few tweaks here and there.

Bio Broly trunks goten

Swamp Thing got nothing on Broly.

12. Bio-Broly – It seems like this film is most often cited as the worst DBZ film and I can see why, on the surface, that would be the case. It returns Broly, but in an even weirder form than before that’s somehow even more mindless. There’s no Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, or Gohan, and overall the stakes are possibly the smallest they’ve ever been. On the other hand, Goten and Trunks get another crack at being the stars and they’re more entertaining here than previously. There’s a good balance of nuanced humor with the childish brand that sometimes rears its head and we also get a good dose of both Mr. Satan and Android 18. Perhaps best of all, there’s no silly rule-breaking ending involving the dead Goku this time and in the end we get a film that’s perhaps not super engaging, but it makes up for it to some degree with humor and charm.

13 trucker hat

Trucker hats rule.

11. Super Android 13! – Another extended battle movie, but this one ups the excitement by adding yet another Super Saiyan to the mix – Future Trunks. We also get more androids, which at this point in time felt a little like overkill since we already had five in the main series, plus Cell. Still, the android villains kind of work and given how secretive Dr. Gero was it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he’d have even more waiting to awaken. It’s just too bad they all have the same general programming of needing to kill Goku. For the English dub, Funimation actually took some liberties and gave Android 13 a little personality. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The fights are generally satisfying, though the resolution kind of “meh.” More than most, this one is all about spectacle.

Goku Vegeta Cooler.jpg

Dragon Ball Z Movie 6 – The Mega Powers Explode!

10. The Return of Cooler – Cooler gets to improve upon his debut by pairing up with a super computer and gaining a shiny, new metallic body. Vegeta also gets to debut in a DBZ film as a Super Saiyan, and for the first time ever, he and Goku team-up to take on Cooler. There’s actually some semblance of a plot here and it’s not bad. There’s a little mystery, and if Funimation didn’t decide to go with such an obvious title the actual re-debut of Cooler would have come as a surprise. The film just kind of loses me in the final act. It’s no Spirit Bomb attack at least, but it is kind of odd.

Tree_of_Might

In this one, Goku fights a tree.

9. The Tree of Might – If this were a ranking of best looking Dragon Ball Z films then The Tree of Might would be a contender for the top spot. It hits the sweet spot between the very soft, round look of Dragon Ball and early Dragon Ball Z while also bringing in more definition. The characters are all muscled-up and impressive looking, the special effects mesmerizing, and the battles don’t move at a super-sonic pace. More interesting enemy designs, the debut of Icarus, and even a Giant Ape fight! The actual plot is just what holds everything back as a planet devouring tree hardly seems like an interesting adversary. And then there’s the confusing Turles and the lack of a really great fight involving him. If Goku and Turles were able to wage an all-out epic battle then that probably would have vaulted this one up the list, but instead it settles close to the mid-point of our list.

dead zone gif

Oh yes, that’s the good stuff!

8. Dead Zone – It’s rather appropriate that the debut film, Dead Zone, is right in the middle. I consider it a good measuring stick for all of the DBZ films. It has a simple, but effective plot revolving around the kidnapping of Gohan and a villain out for revenge and immortality via the Dragon Balls. That villain is Garlic Jr., who gets to follow a typical villain mold for this series in that he’s not imposing to look at, but he’s hiding a monstrous transformation. The fight choreography is top-notch and probably the best the series had. Watching Goku dodge the blade attacks of Garlic Jr’s minions is easily the film’s most fun visual. There’s also the odd drunk Gohan sequence that’s pretty amusing by itself, and we even get a pee joke. The film kind of falls apart in the final act, a common occurrence sadly for these films. We’re teased a Goku vs Piccolo fight that never gets going, and Garlic Jr. is defeated in a very anticlimactic fashion by Gohan. Basically, Gohan powering up alone pushed Garlic into the Dead Zone? I don’t know, it’s still a lot of fun though.

Bebi_Burori

Legendary Super Saiyan? More like Legendary Cry Baby.

7. Broly:  The Legendary Super Saiyan – Broly peeks on our list at number 7, which isn’t half-bad (literally). His debut film was the longest at the time totaling over 70 minutes and it utilizes its time well. It moves at a methodic pace teasing the emergence of Broly and then devotes a sizable portion of its run time to the actual fight. Where it stumbles is with its odd handling of Vegeta and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the resolution to the actual fight with Broly. His defeat just feels cheap. I don’t know what would have worked better since they kind of wrote themselves into a hole considering how powerful Broly is, but surely something better could have been utilized. Nonetheless, it’s still fine and this is how a Broly film should function where the plot revolves around him, but doesn’t necessarily require him to do much aside from just being there. The other characters move the narrative and provide the context. Oh, and his origin is great aside from why he hates Goku. I think that aspect of his origin was supposed to be funny, but it just doesn’t fit here.

vlcsnap-00003

You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!

6. The World’s Strongest – The second DBZ film still feels a bit like an odd duck. It is somewhat rooted in the spirit of the original Dragon Ball, and bringing Master Roshi back into the fold is certainly welcomed by me. The sci-fi nature of the plot is slightly out of place for Dragon Ball Z, but less so when you consider some of what was featured in Dragon Ball. If the villainous duo of Dr. Wheelo and Dr. Kochin were given ties to the Red Ribbon Army then they would have felt right at home. Like Dead Zone, it gets a lot out of its visuals. The fight choreography is again top-notch, and the big finish with the Spirit Bomb works since it hadn’t been done before. I love the arctic location and the humor infused into it. Even the whole premise of the film, a couple of long dormant scientists mistaking Master Roshi for the strongest fighter in the world, is pretty amusing and the Metal Gear-like Dr. Wheelo is certainly an interesting opponent from a visual perspective. This is just another fun DBZ movie that moves at a brisk pace and is able to squeeze everything that’s charming about early DBZ  into it in a satisfying manner.

pudding 1

When a god asks for pudding you give him pudding!

5. Battle of Gods – The return I had no idea I cared about. Battle of Gods both resurrected Dragon Ball Z as an anime brand and launched Dragon Ball Super. It introduced the God of Destruction, Beerus, and his godly attendant Whis who have become some of my favorite characters across all of Dragon Ball. Beerus is not only an all-powerful god, but a cat. We’ve seen cat creatures before, but Beerus is able to subtly weave in cat-like behavior into his mannerisms that’s so entertaining. The film also brings together basically everyone from DBZ as far as the earthlings go, and it’s heavily reliant on comedy. So much so that it comes at the expense of action, which is where some fans seemed to be let down. That and Goku’s Super Saiyan God form was fairly underwhelming. Still, what action is present is solid and the film looks fantastic when it’s not trying to use CG effects.

bjoack group shot

Some cool guys and Yamcha.

4. Bojack Unbound – The first movie that did not try to rely on Goku, Bojack Unbound put Gohan in the spotlight in a bit of rehash of his fight with Cell and the awakening of his Super Saiyan 2 powers. It could have been a bit lame, but it’s anchored by some character development that works and the introduction of one Mr. Satan who never fails to be amusing. The entire film takes place on an island as the Z fighters have entered a tournament for riches. There’s plenty of humor to be found at the expense of both Mr. Satan and Krillin, and also plenty of action. The part of the film I liked most was the little peak at a post-death Goku Vegeta, who is essentially depressed about the loss of his rival. The film maybe could have been better if that had been its primary focus, but instead it chose to just make that a small piece. The actual villain, Bojack, is kind of boring to be honest, but we get a good series of fights out of him and his minions. It’s also fun seeing the Super Saiyan 2 moment rehashed, and the film just looks fantastic.

vegeta cries

Tears in Hell.

3. Fusion Reborn – Probably not surprising, but a film that spends quite a bit of time devoted to exploring the relationship of Goku and Vegeta is going to rank high on my list. These films often don’t go for character development, instead choosing to just capture the essence of the main characters and sticking that on-screen. For Vegeta, that typically means you just get a cocky jerk who is only fighting because he wants to be the one to defeat Goku instead of the villain of the moment. In this one, both fighters are dead, and they need to not only team-up to stop the Buu-like Janemba, but literally become one fighter via fusion. Vegeta can’t stand the thought, but Goku proves persuasive. The two seem to develop an understanding of one another and have a bit of a quiet reckoning leading up to the big moment, and it’s very rewarding and very sweet. In addition to that, the movie combines impressive visual flair with a ton of funny bits including Goten and Trunks taking on a resurrected Hitler. This one distills the qualities of the Buu Saga that I actually like into a tidy 52 minutes and it’s arguably the most “fun” of all the Dragon Ball Z movies.

goku vegeta bicker

Play nice you two.

2. Resurrection ‘F’ – The most recent film may actually be the only one more fun than Fusion Reborn and that’s because it’s very much a fan-servicey kind of movie. It brings back Frieza, the most hate-able of all of the villains, for another round. Now he’s powered-up to a new form, but so are his chief rivals Goku and Vegeta. Debuting their new Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (Super Saiyan Blue, for short) forms, the two Saiyans are basically on equal footing for the first time since their inaugural fight way back on Earth during the Saiyan Saga. In addition to watching them pummel Frieza, we get to see the other, lesser, fighters square off against Frieza’s minions including Master Roshi! Krillin shaves his head, Gohan gets angry, it’s basically all here. Beerus and Whis also return and they’re just as amusing as before and the film’s visual style is truly stunning. This may be the best looking DBZ film so far as it dials back on the crude CG from Battle of Gods. I think I still prefer The Tree of Might’s look to this one, but it’s close. Ultimately, this one works because we get to see that jerk Frieza get bested once again, and Vegeta even gets a little revenge. It also further adds to the Goku/Vegeta dynamic in a worthwhile way, something that Dragon Ball Super will continue to explore.

tapiotrunks

This is a sweet one, right up until a child is asked to execute his buddy.

1. Wrath of the Dragon – I guess when it comes to these movies, I’m more of a “plot guy” than an “action guy.” Wrath of the Dragon doesn’t feature a ton of fighting, but it does spend a long time on the quieter things. I enjoyed the introduction of Tapion and his story, and seeing a different side of Trunks felt very rewarding. We’ve seen Goku take on all kinds of crazy beings, so it was nice for a change to just spend a lot of time looking at a character that’s mostly been underserved by both the films and the series. It gives the film a different mood. It’s a bit sad, but also endearing, and it still packs in some moments of triumph. Some of the early plot machinations are a bit silly, and the almost total absence of Vegeta felt puzzling, but Wrath of the Dragon still manages to tell the best story of all 15 films and that’s primarily why I placed it here.

In truth, the top 5 films felt pretty interchangeable for me. Bojack Unbound is really watchable because of the action pieces, while Battle of Gods feels the most dense because of all of the new lore introduced. Fusion Reborn and Resurrection ‘F’ bring a lot of humor and silliness to the table, making both very re-watchable, while Wrath of the Dragon just seemed to strike a nice balance for me. Hopefully, the upcoming Broly can match the best Dragon Ball Z put out. It’s basically guaranteed to look amazing, and I’m sure we’ll get some flashy action sequences no matter what. I’ve had fun revisiting these films. I never held a high opinion of them, but I think I had more fun with them now than I did when I was younger and a bit more cynical. They are what they are and they exist simply to entertain for 45 minutes or so (and make money) and as long as they don’t betray what the series stands for then that’s good enough for me.


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