This is my cut n'paste intro for my end of month indulgence (if I feel like it) as I make my way through all forty-two collected volumes of the enduringly popular and influential manga Dragonball. The series used to be split into the fantasy and whimsy filled Dragonball and the more serious, sci-fi orientated strip it became after sixteen volumes known as Dragonball Z, but now the series is being released under the one "Dragonball" title again; uncut and with a spiffy new translation. The series first ran in the famous anthology magazine "Shonen Jump" from 1984 to 1995 and was written and drawn by Akira Toriyama (It has been translated here by Mari Morimoto and adapted into English by Gerard Jones, the western publisher is Viz Media) and pretty much set the standard for the similar shonen manga and anime that came after like Bleach and Naruto. It follows the adventures of the kindly if somewhat sheltered and simple "Son Goku" as he trains, goes on adventures and enters competitions all with the aim of making himself a stronger and better fighter. Along the way he accrues a colourful cast of friends and rivals in a world where humans live alongside anthropomorphised animals, dinosaurs never died out and tiny capsules can contain vehicles and houses to be easily carried around.
[Note: This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left]
Previously On Dragonball: After the hunt for the dragonballs was over, Goku parted from his new friends to go and train to become a better martial artist under the tutelage of the perverted old Kamesen'nin (Kame for short). Joining him was a young buddist monk called Kururin and they initially had an antagonistic relationship before bonding through nearly a years worth of training. Kame entered them in the Tenka'ichi Budokai or Strongest Under the Heavens tournament to finish their training on a high note and they easily fought their way through the qualifiers to the final eight and fought in front of the crowd which includes their friends Bulma, Puar and Oolong who are also there supporting Yamucha who has made the final eight as well. Kame himself has also entered in disguise as "Jackie Chun" because he doesn't actually want his students to win in case it stops them wanting to improve their skills. In book three everyone was knocked out of the competition except for Kame and Goku, and during the competition Goku's tail which got snipped off in an earlier volume, suddenly grew back. This will be important later. Thus began the final and an epic fight between them that we return in the middle of. And now the continuation.
|Kame's lullaby attack.|
Goku knocks Kame down using his "Janken" (Rock, Paper, Scissors) attack, so Kame gets up apologises to him saying he is about to lose. He's going to use a move that only Goku's adoptive grandfather had experienced. He puts his hands together, draws power up until he glows then fires a stream of light at Goku and it envelops and starts to crush him with it. It is the "Bankoku Bikkuri Shou!!!!" attack.
He demands Goku say "mercy" and he'll let him down. Goku refuses, and gets squeezed harder. Yamucha (another friend) shouts that "you fought well!!! Now give it up!!" Goku listens and starts to stammer out "M... Mer..." when he looks up and sees the full moon in the sky. And now he's got his tail back that's bad news, because if he sees a full moon now he'll transform into a mindless, destructive, giant, raging ape. Which is indeed what happens.
|A surprise ape!|
When the smoke clears, the giant Goku ape is gone. Everyone accuses Kame of killing him, but actually he blew up the moon and Goku's is back to normal though stark naked. Goku has no memory of what happens when he transforms, a little confused he borrows Kururin's uniform so he can fight on. Goku goes back out into the ring and says he's so hungry he can't fight. Kame says he'll be vulnerable to his last Kamehameha, but only manages a little poof of energy. He's much weaker now.
Goku cheers, fires a kamehameha at Kame, followed by a kick which knocks him flying. Thinking he's knocked him out of the ring he starts to celebrate but Kame managed to jam one foot into the stone edge of the ring and is still a few inches about the ground. He climbs back in noting Goku's attacks are weaker now as well and they both size each other up for the final attack.
They then run at each other and deliver a flying kick to each other's heads. They both sail through the air and land hard. The announcer starts the countdown but neither of them manage to stand when the ten is reached. But there can't be two winners, so the first one to climb to his feet, smile and say "I did so win" takes the glory of first place.
|The final strikes.|
Kame: "My legs are longer dear boy. And so in the end my kick struck deeper than yours. And that is the long and short of it. But you made me proud... No one has ever pushed the invicible old master this far before."
Goku wakes up and doesn't seem to bothered by losing "oh well" he says, then asks if he can fight Jackie Chun again when he's trained and gotten stronger. "S.. sure" says Kame.
Kame gets his prize money of 500,000 zeni and goes into the combatant's waiting area where Kururin and Goku are wondering if Kame watched the matches like he said he would. As they leave Goku groans at how hungry he is. In the bushes, Kame rips off the wig he was wearing and puts on his shades and hat and meets up with the others. He tells Kururin and Goku they fought "magnificently". He's very proud of them. Kururin wonders if Goku might have won if he'd been less hungry. Goka says "nah" the old guy was great.
Kame: "That's right! As great as you may be, there will always be someone better! There are many more warriors more powerful still!! The way of the warrior is not so easy that you can now be satisfied with today's performance! Your true training is only now beginning!"
The boys smile in agreement. As a reward Kame will treat all of them, including Bulma, Yamucha, Oolong and Puar to a slap up meal. This proves to be his undoing because Goku has something else unnatural about him, his appetite. He can easily eat enough for thirty people and does so. The bill for the meal comes to 470,000 zeni. Alas all the prize money gone.
|It's a joke now, but his huge appetite is another clue he isn't quite of this planet.|
Sometime later Goku gets close to one of the balls on the radar and lands Kinto'un. However he is not the only one searching for the magic balls. An organisation called "The Red Ribbon Army" is also looking for them and they even have dragon radar of their own although their radars aren't as sophisticated as the Bulma built one and can only give a rough idea of a balls whereabouts so a ground search has to take place.
|Kinto'un and the Dragon Radar in action.|
He flies off, but one of the men calls Colonel Silver who rushes out with a bazooka and fires upon Goku. It hits Kinto'un and the cloud dissipates and Goku falls to the ground. Colonel Silver then demands to know how Goku can find the balls so easily and why. Goku refuses to tell him anything so Silver takes his jacket off and gets ready to kick Goku's ass.
He charges at Goku and snatches the bundle with the ball in it. But Goku grabs it back. He goes to attack Goku and Goku kicks him hard in the stomach which doubles Silver over in pain. Then Goku jumps up and kicks him in the head, knocking him out cold. Goku then goes to look in the nearby house for a capsule that might have something to fly in it (capsules are small cylinders that hold anything from a small house to a car to an aeroplane which pop into being when the tip of the capsule is pressed).
|Colonel Silver is no match for Goku.|
Commander Red yells at Colonel Silver over the phone when he finds out what happened and sentences Silver to death. Meanwhile in the plane, it's starting to get cold. Commander Red orders General White to take care of Goku and get the ball. The robot completely freezes up and the plane crashes into a snowy landscape. General White's forces go out to look but a young girl drags the unconcious Goku back to her home and mother.
They wrap Goku up by the fire and he gradually comes around. She tells him he is in Jingle Village, he explains he what happened, that he was looking for Dragonballs and the Red Ribon Army attacked him. Outside some of White's soldiers spot the drag marks in the snow and follow them. Inside the house Goku ponders what the Red Ribbon Army want the Dragonballs for.
|A quick summary of the Dragon Balls.|
Then some soldiers kick open the door, so he knocks them out. He races out to get the rest but is driven back by the cold. So he is given some warm weather clothes to wear, then runs off to Muscle Tower ready for a fight or two. The soldiers outside fire upon him but he uses his staff to reflect the bullets and knock them out.
White: "Ho! Not bad for a kid. Pity he'll never be able to conquer the top of the tower... heh heh heh".
Goku walks into a room full of men. They are no match for him though and he knocks them all out and moves up to the next floor of the tower.
That floor contains a huge man called "Full Metal Jacket". Now he is in the warm, Goku ditches his cold weather gear so he can move more freely. He and Goku set to, and although Goku keeps knocking him down he keeps getting back up. Goku hits him with all his strength but Full Metal Jacket takes it and punches Goku into a wall. Goku recovers and headbutts F.M.J and again knocks him down, but he gets up and then fires a rocket at Goku from his mouth.
|Versus Full Metal Jacket.|
This floor is a full on village, with grass and trees, houses and a pond. "There's an outside inside" says a confused Goku. Then some knives come flying at him which he dodges and the unseen Purple taunts him that he won't even see him before he dies and hurls shurikens at Goku who dodges them too.
Goku picks up a stone and throws it in the direction the shuriken came from and hits Purple in the face, knocking him from the tree. "Beginner's luck" says Purple, Goku says it was not luck. Purple says it must have been, a mere child couldn't have deduced his location. Then he drops some smoke bombs and hides again.
Goku walks up and picks him out rather easily as he is hiding behind a US flag. Purple tells him to count to thirty and then try and find him. Goku gets as far as nineteen before his lack of education causes him to turn and ask what comes next and he sees Purple about to hide under a fake rock. He tells him to count again and tells him what comes after nineteen.
Goku counts to thirty, wanders about and spots a bamboo pipe sticking out of the water. He runs into the nearby house and grabs a kettle and pours boiling water down the pipe and Purple comes flailing out of the water. He composes himself and says "now see what happens when you scald a ninja".
|A crap ninja.|
As per usual, this was a lot of fun. What's interesting about Dragonball is that so much of Goku's character is meant to represent the constant striving to be better than you have been before. Not so you can laud your achievements over others, but that you can be humble and proud of yourself for overcoming the obstacles in your way. Goku might have lost the Tournament but he doesn't treat it as a setback or as a failure, he knew he did the best he could and most crucially, he knows he can do better. He's the embodiment of the human need to always be the best you can be and if you aren't satisfied with that best, strive harder. That the manga always wraps these serious messages up in exciting tournaments and ever more difficult and colourful baddies is Toriyama's genius. Many mangas have done it since, but he blazed the original trail. The goofy sense of humour makes it a serious guilty pleasure for reading as an adult, but the art is always fantastic, full of energy, spirit and fun. No two Toriyama designed villains look the same, and as the story blooms into full on fantasy whimsy there are some real corkers to come. But for now it's mainly humans and the humanoid animal people of Toriyama's world versus Goku. Guns are useless, believe in yourself and if you're lucky you'll get to make a wish at the end of your quest. Volume six to come early next year.