Saturday, 23 August 2014

Dragon Ball, Volume 10: Return to the Tournament Review (Akira Toriyama)

10 volumes in and, if I didn’t know better, I’d say Dragon Ball is starting to feel alarmingly repetitive. Reich Pilaf returns to make another ham-fisted attempt at stealing the Dragon Balls from Goku, Shenlong the Dragon God appears for the second time to grant a wish, the Dragon Balls scatter again, and then it’s time for another Strongest Under the Heavens tournament! 

Is this all Dragon Ball is, or are we going to get any variations on the winning formula before Dragon Ball Z? I think I’ve answered my own question with “winning formula” because why fix something if it ain’t broke? And, even though I’d kind of like to go after Akira Toriyama for double-dipping, the Strongest Under the Heavens tournament was the best part of the series so far, and, despite returning to it again, it’s still awesome with a new set of fighters. Because, really, what else do you need in a martial arts comic? 

I liked that Upa’s dad came back from the dead and, this not being a Stephen King novel, he didn’t come back as a zombie or anything and resumed life as if he’d only been sleeping in a grave. And I liked that Goku was smart enough to grab his grandpa’s Dragon Ball before they scattered so he wouldn’t have to go on another Dragon Ball quest to get it back. 

I was surprised that Goku’s training was skipped entirely. From one page to the next, 3 years conveniently pass and then the gang are reunited for the tournament (which comes around every 3 years). I would’ve liked to have seen Goku’s adventures rather than another Strongest Under the Heavens tournament, especially as he’s in the crucial stages of becoming a better fighter. But maybe that 3 year gap is to be explored in later volumes or maybe Toriyama left himself some space for if he ever wanted to go back and do some more kid Son Goku adventures?

The Turtle Master is given a rival in the Crane Master because this time around it’s not about Goku fighting Jackie Chun (aka the Turtle Master in disguise) but about giving him a different narrative: the good guys (Turtles) against the bad guys (Cranes). The Crane Master’s even revealed to be the brother of that psycho assassin Taopaipai who died fighting Goku a couple books ago! 

So even if I was wary going in, “here we go again”, once it got going, it was still super-exciting and fun. Goku, Kuririn, Yamcha, and Jackie Chun go up against a couple of disposable baddies and the evil Crane Master’s students, Tenshinhan (who has a third eye in his forehead), and Chaozu (who looks like a living doll with psychic powers). As always, Toriyama does action superbly and the first fights between Yamcha and Tenshinhan, and Jackie Chun and Man-Wolf are brilliant. This volume ends in the middle of Kuririn and Chaozu’s fight so make sure you’ve got the next volume to hand so you don’t miss a beat! 

Toriyama takes us back to the Strongest Under the Heavens tournament once again with a few notable tweaks in the form of new characters, yet still manages to pull off a highly entertaining volume. That said, I’m hoping he tries some different plotlines in the remaining six volumes.

Dragon Ball, Volume 10: Return to the Tournament

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