Thursday, 18 September 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 11: The Legendary Super Saiyan Review (Akira Toriyama)

Awwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah!


Looking back at the scale of the fights in the first Dragon Ball series, like the Strongest Under the Heavens Tournaments, look insignificant compared to the massive canvas Akira Toriyama’s working with here. Once upon a time a boy and an old man fought one another on a raised concrete platform in front of spectators. Now, two gods are hitting each other so damn hard, they are literally punching holes into a planet!!

At the end of the last book, Son Goku tried an all-or-nothing Kamehameha (fireball for the uninitiated or hadoken if you’re a gamer) against Freeza – but the evil summabitch survived it. Now Goku’s chi is all but depleted and Freeza looks barely fazed. And then Freeza goes too far and kills someone near and dear to Goku. That’s the last straw. Goku goes nuts, his power levels surge, and then PWSSH! Enter: the SUPER SAIYAN!

Just like that, I understood why Toriyama had introduced Goku a couple books ago only to take him away again, damaged, to recover. The more you hit the Hulk, the angrier he gets, and the more invincible he becomes; the Saiyans have a similar attribute – the more you beat them, and they survive, the more powerful they become once they return back to health. Goku’s gone through so many beatings - even death! – and done so much training, that’s he’s punched through multiple levels of power to a whole new one only he occupies: the level of Super Saiyan.

If you’re gonna hit the king, you better kill the king!

Not that once Goku goes Super Saiyan, Freeza becomes a pushover. Freeza himself pushes up to 100% full power and the two have a gloriously over-the-top fight even by Toriyama’s standards! Huge chunks of Namek are literally destroyed, giant holes in the sea appear, and the whole planet becomes a ticking timebomb, with only minutes left before it explodes and takes everyone with it – except Freeza, who can survive the vacuum of space!

Uh… and then.

The pacing of the story becomes uneven once Toriyama tries juggling the other storyline. He can handle the Goku/Freeza fight perfectly, but he also tries to balance out this overly-complex plan involving the Dragon Balls and things get shaky.

So: now there are Dragon Balls on Earth, they can wish to bring back everyone Freeza killed on Namek, which includes the Great Elder, which means the Dragon God returns with the one wish left, meaning they can use that wish to save everyone on Namek and take them to Earth before it explodes! But there are limits: Shenlong can only bring back Freeza’s victims going back a year (for some reason) rather than the millions (billions?) he’s killed during his lifetime.

It’s clunky trying to explain it here, and it’s even clunkier to read in the midst of the exciting final battle! The flow of the book goes from blindingly fast to shudderingly slow! That said, once all of the exposition is dealt with and you know what’s happening, it adds to the excitement of the story to make it – impossibly - even more tense.

You guys, volume 11’s an amazing book but it still hasn’t wrapped up the Freeza arc! While I loved it, I really wished Toriyama had completed this here – that final page is no way to end a book (unless you have the next one directly to hand)!

The Dragon Ball saga is like the world’s best roller-coaster. It takes you up for a massive rush down, then takes you up again, higher, for an even more exciting drop, then takes you up again still higher, etc. Volume 11 is the most exciting book in the 27 books I’ve read so far, yes, even with the awkward, making-it-up-as-he-goes info-dumps amidst the action. Goku the Super Saiyan makes his first appearance in this super book!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 11: The Legendary Super Saiyan

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