Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dragon Ball, Volume 15: The Titanic Tournament Review (Akira Toriyama)


It might sound really boring to someone who hasn’t read this series to keep describing more or less the same things happening in this series: Son Goku fights bad guys and wins, then goes to a Strongest Under the Heavens tournament where he and his pals fight others. They have done exactly this three times now. But I can assure you, it’s anything but boring. 

If a writer has done their job well, then by the 15th volume in a series you’re fully invested in the characters and will read any story they’re in with delight, so long as you can see those characters - and Akira Toriyama has done a very, very good job with Son Goku and co.! 

This book is the third Strongest Under the Heavens tournament featuring grown up versions of Goku and Kuririn, and it’s one match after another. Tenshinhan vs. Cyborg Taopaipai (the world’s greatest assassin who fought - and lost - to Goku during the Red Ribbon storyline), Goku vs. Chi-Chi, Kuririn vs. Piccolo Jr, and Yamcha vs. “Shen”. 

The setup might sound stale but because everyone’s more superpowered than ever - Goku’s fights in particular are fascinating, if only to see what he’s learned in Heaven for three years - the fights are far more imaginative, more energised, faster and exciting than ever to read. Throw in some romance - Chi-Chi makes Goku keep his innocent childhood promise to marry her! - a throwback to the series (Taopaipai) and a surprise in the form of “Shen”, and you’ve got one helluva Dragon Ball book! 

What I’m in awe of is how Toriyama can go from end of the world storylines like the conclusion of the Piccolo saga in the last book and immediately recapture that sense of urgency in a smaller storyline, like this third tournament arc. The fluidity with which he switches gears between volumes and never loses the reader’s attention or storytelling pace is extraordinary. You rarely see this in serialised comics - the best western example I can think of is Jason Aaron/RM Guera’s Scalped which was a flawless 10 volume series. But Dragon Ball is 42 volumes total!!

If you’ve made it this far into the series, you’re absolutely gonna love it. The characters continue to develop well, the stories are as enthralling as ever, and the action keeps getting more compelling. For an all-fighting volume, it’s never brainlessly dumb and the characters and story don’t suffer from the action focus - if anything, they’re enhanced! A martial arts comic is in its element when its got good martial arts, and Dragon Ball has that in bundles. 

Dragon Ball is perfection in a comic book and volume 15 is just that - onto the final book in the series!

Dragon Ball, Volume 15: The Titanic Tournament

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