Friday, 12 September 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 5: Go For It! The Planet Namek Review (Akira Toriyama)


It’s the aftermath of the epic battle between Vegeta and Goku, Gohan, Kuririn and Yajirobe (the latter playing a minor, but pivotal, role), and all are severely hurt. Vegeta slinks off back to the Saiyan’s off-world base to recover (those guys seem more and more like the Green Lantern Corps but evil) while the others go off to hospital. Goku’s injuries are so bad - broken legs/arms/ribs and more - he’s in a bed for the entire book! 

But with the Dragon Balls destroyed, Piccolo and God both dead, along with Shenlong the Dragon God, will the characters who died remain dead? Nope, because Kuririn remembers hearing that Piccolo was a Namekian - not a demon but an alien from another world. And if there are more aliens like him, there are more who can create more Dragon Balls! 

Bulma, Kuririn and Gohan take an alien ship to Namek on a mission to bring their friends back to life. But Vegeta’s boss, Freeza, has found out about the Dragon Balls himself and is after them to gain immortal life - and so in Vegeta. As all points converge on Namek, will Bulma, Kuririn and Gohan have what it takes to get the Dragon Balls before Freeza and the other Saiyans? 

For a book that’s very light on Son Goku, it holds up really well. Akira Toriyama’s done a great job of building up the other characters so you care about them, and not just the series hero. That said, the book does suffer without Goku and I wasn’t as invested in Bulma’s journey or the other subplots as I would had Goku been a part of them. 

But here’s an unexpected surprise - the more we learn about Vegeta, the more interesting he becomes! Up til now he’s basically been a very bare-bones character, being the villain and nothing else. Once he returns to the Saiyan base, we start to learn more about their culture, about his rivalry with a character called Kiwi, and his attempted rebellion against Freeza, his commander. His storyline of trying to get the Dragon Balls before Freeza is quite exciting not least because it inadvertently puts him on the side of Bulma and co. I also like that it’s another thread in this story that makes it harder to predict what’s going to happen to them all. 

It’s also worth noting that though we’ve had the Saiyans in the Dragon Ball Z books since the series began, this is the first real step towards introducing a sci-fi angle to the formerly martial arts/mythological fantasy flavour of the title. It’s a bold move by Toriyama but I think it’s working so far and certainly broadens the scope of where the series can go from here on out. 

So volume 5 is essentially a coda to the first Saiyan storyline and the setup of the next one. It’s still a lot of fun to read though it’s not as urgent as the other volumes have been. And with Goku now on his way to Namek, I’ve a feeling the next couple books are really going to ramp up the awesomeness!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 5: Go For It! The Planet Namek

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