Anime Review: Dragon Ball GT (1996 – 1997)

Though highly contested by it’s fans, Dragon Ball Grand Tour was originally the final installment in Akira Toriyama’s long-running Dragon Ball series. It’s unique, as it didn’t actually have a manga to use as source material and was therefore completed far sooner than both Dragon Ball Z and the original Dragon Ball, as well as the currently running Dragon Ball Super (which now serves as a complete replacement for the series). Akira Toriyama designed the original logo as a well as few of the characters for the series and still considers it an anime that he quite enjoys. He loved working with the staff and respects them. In fact, there is absolutely nothing to be found in any of the information that I’ve been able to pull up regarding the series that involves Toriyama’s dissatisfaction with any aspect of it, even though it is considered the least successful of the three (now four) by fans. There are some thoughts regarding it being a sort of “grand side-story” and I think that is also suitable. Though we have to keep in mind that this series brought what I would consider to be one of the most unique, horrfying and downright pulse-pounding villains in the series since Broli/Brolly. I’m talking about Bebi/Baby, which though oddly named is the literal essence and crowning achievement of this installment to the franchise. I strongly doubt that Goku will ever face a villain who is so consumed by hatred and madness on this scale ever again – such a thing cannot just be redone and even if it was, it would not be done justice. I thought the Baby Saga something of poetry in the way that it was so finely executed, digging deep into the source material to finally bring a Tuffle into a state where he could enact revenge on all the Saiyans, and by a means which borrows so well from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers that it’s almost scary.

Think of it like this folks. Every single goody two-shoes character that you know and love from the series becomes a mound of seething hatred for Goku. They’re heartless. Absolutely fucking heartless. For a series that has such a fun loving and cheery nature, this saga which is closer to that of a horror movie, plays on your heart-strings for what seems like an eternity. They drag the battle out, but in a way that I feel is right now much better than the currently running Beerus saga in Super. I tuned in this week to basically see two characters yelling and powering up for about fifteen or twenty minutes, while the fight between Baby and Goku felt much more interesting. Not only was Baby constantly looking for ways to win the fight in a dirtier method, he also kept finding ways to accumulate more power and to further turn the rest of the characters against him. Maybe the character of Beerus in general just doesn’t feel serious to me. He wants to blow up the earth because “that is what he does” rather than having a legitimate reason for his vengeance, in the way that Baby does. It’s also the first time that the people of Earth actually kind of feel threatened, and the planet is actually destroyed in the end anyway. They’re all slaves to Baby, but he doesn’t mind outright killing them or anyone else and has a reason for it. Nothing like this had ever been done with the series and it’s arguably the darkest of the sagas thus far, which makes it a must.

Super Commentary: (I always felt that Beerus as a whole was a ridiculously underdeveloped joke character and was quite upset that the lazy animators couldn’t come up with something better than what was already captured in a film of significant length. The adaptation is only a mere fourteen episodes, with the Resurrection F saga being just one less. After that, we get nineteen for the Universe 6 and a whopping thirty for the Future Trunks saga. As For the Universe Survival saga, it is still ongoing. But as far as I’m concerned, the Super series probably should have begun with Universe 6. Obviously, it seems like they’re playing with multiverses now and I have no idea how I feel about that in the world of Dragon Ball. But that is neither here nor there.)

In any case, Dragon Ball GT begins a bit more lighthearted than the roughnecked nature of Dragon Ball Z. Obviously the series features more of Kid Goku, the result of Goku having been transformed into a kid again due to Garlic Jr’s spell. The only way to reverse the effects of this involved seeking out the elusive black star Dragon Balls, which were spread throughout the universe. Hence, Kid Goku along with Trunks and a stowaway Pan (Goku’s great grand-daughter) hop aboard for an adventure that involved several obscure elements for the series, some even feeling more at home in the world of Dragon Quest, rather than Dragon Ball. There’s a planet where people are subject to financial oppression and have to be liberated as well as a planet where a monstrous beast seeks a woman from a small village every so often to be it’s bride. There’s also a planet where a huge cult gathers to worship a bizarre being by the name of Lord Lude. The battle with Lude’s protector is far more interesting than the battle with Lude itself, even though it shows a portent of what will later come in Baby’s ability to assimilate bodies into itself. This makes sense, because Baby’s pseudo-creator, Dr. Myu is behind it. It also entails a very creepy little man who takes Pan’s doll form and does all sorts of very cringe-inducing things to it, in addition to what he says.

Funimation edited much of the series audio dialogue and no doubt some portions were far worse than what you may have heard in the dubbing. The sub-titles are at some points vastly different and I kind of wish that I’d had them on much earlier in the series, as I noticed there were several sections in which lines were completely improvised that had nothing to do with what was actually being said. Yes, that’s a butchering if I’ve ever seen one. Thankfully, Funimation got it’s shit together with Super. So if you do choose to go back and watch this one, watch with the sub-titles on, because their scripts were not completely accurate. Even at the very end of the series when Goku does NOT actually tell Piccolo that he’ll find a way out of hell eventually. That isn’t even hinted in the actual script, but Funimation felt it a nice sentiment.

Shortly after the Baby saga, there is a very short one called The Super 17 or Hellfighter 17 Saga, which is nearly trash. The series was meant to end after the Baby Saga, but it didn’t and we were subject to an easily defeated Super 17 that although had a unique idea, had little else going for him. Kururin died and Piccolo was sent to hell more or less indefinitely because of this small seven-episode Saga, being the worst part of GT. I suppose the only interesting thing about it was the fact that like in the twelfth Dragon Ball Z film Fusion Reborn, several dead enemies find their way out of hell to challenge the Z-Fighters again, and end up beaten pretty easily. Pan takes out the entire Red Ribbon Army by herself! Though there is one other qualm I have for this small saga and that is the inaccuracy of General Rildo. Why, you ask? He’s not dead. If we go back to the planet M3 during the introductory Black Star Saga, we find that (what I’d consider to be one of the most unique enemies in the series, and still one that has not been propely defeated) Rildo was literally the entire planet, which was not destroyed. He could mold anything on the planet, because he was the planet! Goku has never fought a being like this before, and the only way that he could have defeated Rildo would have been to destroy the entire planet and therefore Rildo himself. Hence, the team settles with escaping. Rildo’s arms try to grab the ship as it leaves, but Goku destroys the arms with a blast. The thing is, Rildo is like the T-1000. He can simply just turn into liquid metal and recreate his body again. So in no way was Rildo ever killed, nor would he be in hell. As interesting as a portal to hell over the earth sounded, these seven episodes caused more trouble than they were worth.

The final saga in GT is the Shadow Dragon Saga, which is decent. I found some of the dragons to be interesting, as well as some of their powers. The first three were defeated in only one episode’s time, but the fourth one took two and the fifth and sixth dragons took two essentially, before the final dragon Syn/Omega Shenron finished out the series. What can I say here? They tried. Haze Shenron was more of a comedy episode, while Rage Shenron was a bit more interesting, yet with a comedic ending. Oceanus Shenron played on the attractive woman trope, though she wasn’t all that powerful. However, she was birthed from Oolong’s wish for women’s panties and I thought that was a bit funny. Naturon Shenron was only interesting after he absobed Pan (seriously Goku, why is your grand-daughter tagging along in every fight?) and Nuova and Eis Shenron arguably had the greatest episodes out of all the others. When Syn finally came along, he almost felt generic. Goku SSJ4 and Vegeta SSJ4 couldn’t really stop him until they fused into Gogeta which lasted ten minutes until he eventually forced Goku to revert back into Kid form and later kills Vegeta. The only way Goku defeated him is with a spirit bomb from the entire universe. It was a very cliché end, which didn’t even hold a candle to the greatness of the Baby conclusion, which involved sending the villain directly into the Sun.

Though Dragon Ball GT does feature the Golden Oozaru and Super Saiyan 4 transformations, it doesn’t feature anything else. Super Saiyan one and two are utilized, while the third form is used only sparingly at the beginning of the series. Goku just goes from kid to Super Saiyan 4 as a full-grown adult and that’s what the majority of battles consist of. He also overuses the Kamehameha blast wave, and his strongest move is that of Kamehameha Times Ten. That’s more or less what he uses in many of the later fights and it does become a bit boring to see much of the same during every saga post-Baby. GT felt like it started with the best of intentions, but after Baby it just sort of crumbled and went to hell. I do honestly think that it should have ended right where it meant to, with Baby being destroyed and a nice World Martial Arts Tournament episode to end everything on a good note. You really can, if you want to – end it right there. I think you’ll be satisfied with the series at that point, which delivers pretty much all that it was meant to.

The series eventual end shows an aged Pan watching her great grandson Goku Jr. taking on another relative, Vegeta Jr. Both boys look like the spitting images of their fathers and put up a fight reminiscent of those classic Dragon Ball Z battles. In “The Heart Of The Prince” (a weird flashback episode that finds itself sandwiched right in the middle of the Shadow Dragon Saga for some unknown reason) we are actually shown those classic battles again, reminded of how iconic a series that Dragon Ball Z was and how lackluster GT has been at this point. I guess it’s pretty bad when they have to make you reminisce, because they can’t create a show that is actually on par with it’s precursor. But who can? So far, not even Dragon Ball Super has shown me anything noteworthy, sans the ritual to transform Goku into a Super Saiyan God. I’ll keep watching and maybe you should give this old series a watch as well, before you jump headfirst into Super.

But wait, there’s more. After the series, there was a final film created that I have very mixed feelings about. It’s called A Hero’s Legacy and could almost be forgotten. Let’s think, how could we possibly destroy this series for all time’s sake? Oh, yeah. Well, we could make Goku’s great-great-great-great (you know what, it’s not important) grandson Goku Jr, a spineless weakling who cries and complains as much as Shinji in Evangelion. Quite possibly the worst fucking trope in the anime universe and we make a Goku that doesn’t want to “get in the fucking robot.” Seriously, go fuck yourselves with this one. He cries, he whines, he complains, he nearly gets a boy who has hope in him killed and it takes a lot for him to finally man-up and be a fighter like his grandpa. As for the villains here? Well, I did like the idea of horror elements and found the whole “running from a witch with a cleaver” idea to be really satisfying. All three of these enemies look like they came right out of the Dragon Quest world, as well as the monster that lives on the mountain that they were trying to reach. That being said, this barely felt like Dragon Ball. It had elements, but felt like some kind of bizarre afterthought that never should have been comitted to animation. The whole story revolves around Goku Jr basically being a little piss ant that can’t stand up for himself. He cries and whines when he learns that his Grandmother (an aged Pan) is dying, and vows to journey to a mysterious mountain by which to retrieve the Dragon Ball and wish for her to be well. After being a complete baby and crawling up into a ball on the wooden bridge, he watches with horror as a his newfound friend and former bully Puck seemingly falls to his death at the bottom of a gorge. He even meets a trucker who pretty much steals all of his food and throws him out on the road in the middle of nowhere. If he hadn’t met Puck there, he’d have probably died. I’m not making this up folks, what the hell were they thinking? It isn’t until the strongest of the four villains nearly strangles a full grown bear to death, that Goku Jr powers up to Super Saiyan and beats the tar out of him. He also manages to cut the witch’s hair, but that’s not really what you’re waiting for. Again, he spends most of the film running and crying. We do see Goku Sr. for a bit, who pretty much assures the boy that he’s brave and not a complete wimp. I’m really glad that none of this is part of canon and will forever be cast as some sort of sidestory.

But as for GT as a whole, I feel that the Black Star Saga and Baby Saga are both canonical. I will personally count them as canon and think that they are both essential and build upon the mythos in new and interesting ways. After that, I consider the rest of it, even the Shadow Dragon Saga, to be a large afterthought. GT is not horrible, it is not a complete plague upon the series and certainly worth watching for fans of the original Dragon Ball and Z. You just need to know where to stop watching, and you’ll have a great time with it. Once again, I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top the Baby Saga for me, as that was sheer magnificence and worth the price of admission alone.

(64 Episodes & 1 Film, Approx 21 hrs)

7/10

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