Saturday, 11 October 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 20: Birth of a New Hero!! Review (Akira Toriyama)


I’ve noticed since the start of the series how little there is in the way of placing the characters within the semi-real world environment, seeing what their everyday lives are like when they’re not saving the world. For the most part the series has been our hero Goku and his friends fighting the latest villain. It’s never bothered me because the stories are so good and you don’t really need to see how Goku or whoever will interact with ordinary civilians. Well, Akira Toriyama decides to address that with Son Gohan in this volume and I hope he doesn’t do it again!

It’s been years since Cell was defeated and Son Goku died, and Son Gohan has grown up and become a young man, going to high school (he always wanted to be a scholar, not a fighter). Because, for contrived reasons, the world thinks Hercule saved them from Cell, they’ve renamed his home city Herculopolis (in the original manga, Hercule is called Mr Satan - does that mean Herculopolis was originally called Satan City or something?). Goku, Gohan and everyone have to remain hidden because of Superman reasons but Gohan still does some light superheroing as the secret Golden Warrior (his guise when he turns Super Saiyan). 

The first half of the book has an Ultimate Spider-Man vibe to it as teen Gohan has to juggle school life with his duties as the Golden Warrior and then later as Saiyaman, his other alter ego. There’s also some weird Amazing Spider-Man movie moments like when he plays baseball for the first time and jumps 30 feet into the air, hovering while holding the ball, and then later gets a baseball thrown in his face at full force and it doesn’t even faze him in the least, and no-one says anything. Oh and the Golden Warrior looks identical to Gohan, wearing the same clothes, except he has yellow hair. Did no-one put any of this together? New kid Gohan shows up the same time as the Golden Warrior does AND Gohan can fly and is invincible - duh, maybe they’re the same person?

I didn’t hate the Gohan half the book, I just thought it was dull. I can see Toriyama was aiming for comedy in some parts but it was a total flatliner. And mixing in real world people with superheroes like Gohan really didn’t work - that’s why he’s never done it before, because it doesn’t make any sense that the real world people would be that stupid. Except for Videl, Hercule’s daughter and obvious love interest for Gohan, who figures it out and demands Gohan teach her how to fly, etc. Well, at least Toriyama’s trying to include some strong female characters in the series. 

The second half of the book is taken up with training for another Strongest Under the Heavens tournament. If I didn’t know Buu was on the way, I’d say this series should just end - Toriyama really hasn’t got anything left and is running on fumes at this point. New characters abound: apparently Goku left behind another son, that he didn’t see before he died, called Goten, who looks identical to Son Goku as a kid. Also, Kuririn hooked up with #18, the android/cyborg/whatever chick (the guy’s options are limited, he has no nose!) and they had a kid: no name, because who cares? No idea how they accomplished that either. Kuririn also grew his hair out which is just weird to see. 

I suppose it’s cool that Goku’s back from the dead for the tournament and Goten and Trunks’ inevitable match will be fun but when the group arrive at the tournament, Piccolo says something that sums up how I feel about Dragon Ball Z at this point. Goku says “The stage is bigger than before” and Piccolo says “but the soul is smaller”. By this volume, DBZ is hugely popular but nowhere near as good as the earlier books as if becoming bigger has taken something intrinsic away from it. 

This volume is a slow read because so much of it is boring and it’s hard to get excited about seeing our heroes fight one another for the umpteenth time for nothing other than money (maybe again Toriyama’s commenting on the popularity of the series as a money-making machine rather than art?). Volume 20 is definitely one of the weakest DBZ books.

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 20: Birth of a New Hero!!

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