Today marks the 20th anniversary of the end of Dragon Ball GT in Japan, and I think it’s time we talked. I’ve long been a defender of the Grand Touring portion of Goku’s adventure. I acknowledge that it wasn’t as good as Dragon Ball Z but at the time it was the only Dragon Ball I had, there was no Super, no Battle of Gods or Resurrection F, no Yo! Son Goku and his Friends Return!!, so it was my sole means of spending more time with Z-Fighters. The root of my positive perception perhaps lies in the fact that here in the UK, DBGT aired on CNX (which later rebranded as Toonami) in 2003. I was 13 years old and generally speaking,13-year-olds don’t know any better. Many people smarter than me will tell you the show was generally trash. IGN’s Jeffrey Harris called the anime “downright repellent”, and Zac Bertschy of ANN labelled it “a very simple childish exercise”. I also reached out to our Facebook community, to the IGN Anime Club Facebook group, and to r/anime on Reddit for feedback, it was largely negative.
Except for Arti, he couldn’t get enough
All I know is that SSJ4 was the sh*t to me, an absolute game-changer.
So to mark the anniversary of the passing of my much-maligned friend, I’m going to go back. I’m going to watch Dragon Ball GT from front to back, 4 episodes a week. I’m not going to recount the episodes in full, I’m simply going to watch the show and chronicle my experience, joys, grievances etc and finally settle the debate of whether it’s as good as I remember, or as bad as you keep telling me it is.
Part One: Good Times?
I figure the easiest way to approach this is to go “what I liked”, “what I didn’t” and then a kind of general thoughts summary. With that in mind, can I say, first of all, as much as I enjoy Rock The Dragon from Z, I have so much more love for the GT theme. The lyrics on the version I’m watching are different to what I’m used to, the DVDs have the Funimation Dub, the version of GT we got on TV here was the Canadian Blue Water dub, but the tune is the same and it takes me right back. The music is fun, upbeat, and just makes me think of better, simpler times. It does become immediately obvious to me at this point that I may struggle to separate what is actually good and what is nostalgia when judging this endeavour, so I’m going to try and keep a critical eye, but damn this song is good.
The first episode opens with Goku sparring with Uub, who you may remember from the tail end of Z (the reincarnation of Kid Buu who King Yemma brought back at Goku’s request). I always had a soft spot for Uub, just because he’s the first anime character I’d ever seen that looked like me, so this is a good start for me.
Out the gate, the animation is fairly solid. Seems Toei hadn’t missed a beat between the end of Z and starting this new series. So visually, we’re good and that first fight feels like Z!
Tonally, the show does shift somewhat after this point. Goku is wished back to his childhood form by the Pilaf gang (who actually look the age they should, unlike in Super), and from then on the show does become a lot more jokey. I see why this change of pace may have put some people off, there’s not an abundance of action in these early instalments. But what these early episodes do, do is show us what has happened with the core characters in the years following Z, and introduce some new characters, and you know what? The whole affair is just good fun. It seems they were trying to recapture the magic and whimsy of the original Dragon Ball series and for the most part, they don’t do a bad job.
All this said the humour doesn’t land 100% of the time. A fair number of jokes did fall flat across these 4 episodes. The delivery and voice acting are okay but a few of the lines are just bad. Also, Pan is irritating, plain and simple, there’s no denying it. I can’t really recall if she really grows as a character, I can only hope.
One further gripe I have is that there is really no sense of peril in anything so far. There’s a part where our three space tourists are hurtling towards Planet Imecka in their ship. I think at this point I’m supposed to be concerned for their safety, but these are three Saiyans, Goku has taken much worse, and just a few episodes back Pan was dodging bullets, so why would I be worried. Then in the 4th episode, Pan cries when an empty tin can falls on her head… I mean, I’m by no means a tough guy, but I could handle that, so for someone with the blood of a proud warrior race coursing through their veins, this really makes no sense.
Other quick observations. As I mentioned earlier, the voice acting isn’t bad, but I’m at a loss as to what sort of accent the Imeckans were supposed to have. I don’t like the narrator, purely because of how long he lingers on the letters when he says “Stay tuned for scenes from the next episode Dragon Ball Geeeeee Teeeeeee”. Oh and Vegeta’s moustache, yeah, that’s… that’s a moustache alright
4 episodes down I can see why fans of Z might be sceptical, to say the least, but I reckon it’s enjoyable enough so far. I have always felt that if GT didn’t have the name Dragon Ball and had instead been an entirely new IP that it might not be so widely derided, and so far I maintain that opinion. Would I have liked a bit more combat? Perhaps. Looking back at Z, by episode 4 Goku and Piccolo were going toe-to-toe with Raditz. That said, some geezer called Ledgic was revealed in the 4th part of this session, he seemed kinda powerful so maybe we’re about to get into it. I look forward to seeing what episodes 5-8 bring.