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: Goku is still searching for the four star dragonball, one of seven which when gathered together summons a dragon who will grant a single wish. Goku doesn't care about that, the four star ball is a memento of his dead grandpa and so using the dragon radar which was invented by teenage girl genius Bulma he is able to locate the balls easily. However the evil Red Ribbon Army are also searching for the balls and they and Goku have butted heads several times now, including the wicked and closeted gay General Blue. The last volume ended with Goku arriving on his flying cloud Kinto'un to rescue the child of the Guardian of one of the balls and also the protector of "Karin's Sanctuary" a grove with a thick wooden pole stretching up into the heavens. Back at the Red Ribbon Army base, frustrated with all their failures the leader says it is time to deploy "Taopaipai". And now the continuation.
|Karin's tower. the Guardian and Upa his son.|
General Blue then arrives in the meeting room, the commander wants to know how he thinks he can show his face here after losing the dragonballs to Goku. A suddenly nervous and sweating Blue says he did manage to get the dragon radar, which the Commander admits was a "useful accomplishment". But unfortunately those who don't bring back dragonballs are to be executed. But if he fights Taopaipai and wins, his honour will be restored.
The pair square up to each other, Blue boasts of his fighting ability. Taopaipai says he'll just use his tongue to beat Blue. The fight begins and Blue is completely outclassed and is quickly knocked out , maybe even killed, by Taopaipai's super tongue skills (careful now) leaving him slumped on the floor.
He is then shown a photo of Goku and agrees to kill him and take the four dragonballs he has. Commander Red tells him to feel free to kill anyone else who gets in the way. Then Taopaipai breaks a pillar off, hurls it into the sky and jumps on it, flying off in the direction of the Karin Santuary. There Goku is told that if a person climbs the pole with his bare hands they'll find a hermit living at its summit and they will offer holy water that will multiply a person's strength many-fold. His clan have guarded the pole for generations. Goku looks up, contemplating climbing it, then Taopaipai lands.
Goku says it's OK, Taopaipai is his enemy, but the Guardian says the sacred land has been breached so he will fight Taopaipai. He jabs his spear at Taopaipai who just catches it and no matter how much pressure the Gaurdian exerts he can't move it. Then Taopaipai flips it and sends the Guardian flying off into the air. He lands, impaled on his side with his own spear which kills him..
This angers Goku who rushes Taopaipai who hits him in the face with a swift knee. Angry now, Goku fires a kamehameha at him which hits Taopaipai full on. He stays standing but the energy blast fries most of his clothes off. This pisses him off and he fires a "dodon-pa" energy blast from his finger which sends Goku flying, blood spurting from his wound. Taopaipai think he's completed his mission and he picks up the bag with the dragonballs in it.
We then cut to Upa in front on a pile of dirt, he's buried his father. He approaches Goku prone form and Goku' hand twitches. He's alive, huzzah! The dragonball he had stashed in his clothes absorbed some of the damage and saved him. Goku contemplates the ball thinking that his grandpa saved him. He then sees the grave and realises that he should now gather the dragonballs to wish Upa's dad back to life.
Upa asks if that can be done and Goku says you can have any wish so it should work. Goku realises Taopaipai will return for the four star ball, but Goku also realises he's too strong for Goku to beat. Upa suggest Goku climb the pillar or "Karin Tower" as he calls it. At the top is a medicine that is supposed to make you stronger. Goku realises he can't use kinto'un to fly up, he has to climb all the way. Goku tells Upa to hide somewhere and he begins climbing the tower.
|It is a VERY tall tower.|
The hermit is a cat with a wooden walking stick called Karin who congratulates Goku on making it this far. Goku is surprised to discover he's the hermit master.
Karin: "It's true. Perhaps I should calll myself a hermit meowster... ho ho ho..."
Karin realise Goku is there for the holy water. He shows Goku where it is, but also tells him to be quiet so he can read his mind. He discovers Goku must defeat Taopaipai and get the dragonballs to revive Upa's father.
He decides Goku's motives are pure. Goku goes to where the water is, Karin tells him "I'll be happy to give you some.. but do you think you'll be able to drink it?" Using his stick Karin knocks Goku away from the water and soon both are fighting. Karin says to be able to drink the water Goku must first prove himself in combat. Goku keeps trying to get to the water and Karin keeps knocking him away until Goku is exhausted.
|Goku vs Karin.|
But it's not enough, and Goku is soon struggling for breath again. He asks Karin if he is the first to climb up here but Karin said about 300 years ago there was another who climbed up. Goku is amazed at how old that makes Karin, "you should respect me!" responds the cat. Turns out the other person was Kame. This gobsmacks Goku. Karin says Goku should call him "Karin-sennin". Goku asks how long it took Kame to drink the water, when Karin says holds up a paw showing three fingers, Goku thinks he means three minutes but actually it was three years.
Goku says Karin must be joking but Karin shrugs and asks how many years does he think he'll take? Goku gets angry and uses hims illusion split move but Karin sees through it and kicks the real Goku. Thinking to himself though Karin realises Goku is good and this should be an interesting match-up. Goku wants to know why he keeps getting out of breath so fast and Karin tells him it's the altitude. He tells Goku he's over exerting his moves and costing himself breath.
He tells Goku that climbing the tower has been good for hims lungs but he needs "a little more conditioning than that." And he swipes the four star dragonball and tosses it over the edge of the little house. Goku speedily rushes down the pole after it and picks it up off the ground. With more speed than before, he races up the pole again and back to Karin's house.
|Need moar training Goku!|
Next day the fight carries on, and during it Karin's stick knocks the water bottle off the house, but Goku catches it anchoring himself with his tail. And he has the water! Karin is secretely amazed it only took three days. Goku drinks it, then says he doesn't feel any different.
Karin: "Of course not. The 'holy water' is just ordinary rainwater.... I didn't trick you. Your strength has already multiplied manyfold."
Everything was a training exercise, climbing the tower, fighting for the water it was all to make him stronger. Now he should go back to the world "... and test the fruits of your training". Goku tells Karin thankyou and sets off down the tower. As Karin watches him go, he thinks Goku's a jolly fellow who has already outstripped his mentor.
|Goku manages ro catch the water.|
He then arrives via hurled pillar to he bottom of Karin Tower. Goku still hasn't got back yet and Upa throws a small axe at him saying he must avange his father, which Taopaipai easily avoids. He picks Upa up and starts squeezing him demanding to know where the other dragonball is, but Upa refuses to say and Taopaipai hurls him aside.
Goku suddenly appears, hurtling down the tower and summons kinto'un to catch Upa. Taopaipai is shocked to see Goku alive. Goku tells Upa not to worry and stay on the cloud while he deals with Taopaipai. He wans to know how Goku survived his "dodon-pa" energy beam attack, Goku tells him it was blocked by the dragonball in his pocket.
Taopaipai: "What a lucky fellow you are. If you'd been hit by that blast you'd be as dead as that dragonball. But this is where your luck runs out. Nothing will save you now. You should have stayed in hiding, fool!"
Goku defiantly says he won't hand oner the dragonball or knock him around again either. Taopaipai declares Goku will be dead in three seconds and they begin combat, Goku rolling with the punches and landing hits of his own.
|A much fairer fight now.|
They fight hard, both taking vicious punches and kicks to themselves. Once again they break apart to catch their breath. Taopaipai's face is all bruised. He rips off his top in anger saying he's holding back because Goku is a child. Then he fires his dodon-pa at Goku who quickly counters it with a kamehama-ha, crashing the two energy waves into each other forcing them backwards.
Completely enraged, Taopaipai uses a capsule to manifest a sword. He swipes it madly and quickly at Goku, but Upa tosses Goku his nyoibo stick and uses it to snap Taopaipai's sword in half. Then he tosses the stick to one side, and grinning says he' going to "beat you bare-handed."
This outrages Taopaipai, Goku says to Upa he will avenge his dad then Taopaipai leaps at him yelling "Tsuach!!!!" This sends him into a vicious combo of attacks on Goku who doesn't seem to be fighting back. Taopaipai knocks Goku into the air then smashes him into the ground. Goku lies still...
.... then he leaps up saying "man! you are good! That really hurt!" Taopaipai can only babble that Goku is a "monster." Goku says he's seen all his moves now and knows how to counter them and he slams into Taopaipai's stomach. Before pounding him in the head with several vicious kicks. Before he can finish Taopaipai to the ground, Taopaipai drops to his knees and begs forviveness.
|Taopaipai killed by his own bomb.|
We cut to the HQ and the female Colonel Violet has returned with another dragonball, Commander Red says gleefully that once Taopaipai returns they'll have six of the seven. They pass the stolen dragonradar to General Copper so he can locate the final ball. They note that the four balls Taopaipai took from Goku are moving, so they assume Taopaipai is returning with the loot.
However it is actually Goku and as he flies a small remote control plane starts following him. It's an invention of Bulma's so she and Kame can see what he's up to. They note he's heading for the location of the other two balls. When Lunch tells them it means he's heading to Red Ribbon Army HQ, Bulma send the "recon mech" there ahead of him. When they confirm it, even Kame is surprised "d-don't tell me he's planning to invade that...?!"
Goku arrives, whips out his nyoibo and yells, "Ooo-kay!! Let's have some fun!!!!" Back at Kame's, they try and figure out how they can help Goku because they believe assaulting the base alone will be too much for him. Bulma calls up Yamcha and tells him what Goku is up to. Yamcha agrees, looking forward for a decent fight for a change.
|Goku filled with the love of the battle.|
When Commander Red refuses, Adjutant Black tells him this "brat" was able to beat Taopaipai. Commander Red just roars "The Red Ribbon Army is an invincible force!!!" But Goku is closing in on the tower the dragonballs are in and a furious Commander Red drags Adjutant Black with him to confront Goku themselves. Meanwhile Yamcha, Kame, Bulma, Lunch, Oolong and Puar are heading to the base in a small plane, no Kuririn as he had gone grocery shopping so they go and pick him up. They will arrive at the base in about forty minutes.
|Goku is unstoppable.|
Commander Red: "G-G-Grr...!! He's just a brat!!! Just a stupid little brat!!!"
But Black says they should abandon the two balls and retreat themselves as they massively underestimated Goku. Commander Red bangs his fists on the table and laments he was so close and that if things had been different he would have been "tall."
This makes Black do a great WTF face, then asks if they were going to all this trouble to gather the balls to wish Red taller? Red yells that they were and does Black have a problem with that? "I thought we were after world domination!!!" says Black disbelievingly. Red says they would have gotten to that, but world leaders have to be "charismatic... domineering... impressive... I mean what chick looks twice at a midget?"
Black is still stunned as he says they suffered and made such an effort for something so petty. Red says that tall people have no idea how short people feel, and rants about suffering ridicule since he was a kid for his lack of height. Black is angry now saying he slaved and risked his life for one reason only, "to advance the Red Ribbon Army's mission of world conquest."
This sends Red onto an even more apoplectic rant saying he is the commander and what he says goes. Black asks him about all the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives because he didn't want to be short? Red says how dare he speak to him like that and people need to shut their mouths and follow their commander's orders. Suddenly he is cut off courtesy of a bullet right in the centre of his forehead fired by Black, who says to Red's body "you are not competent to be commander." He declares himself the new leader.
|Red is dead, only Black can defeat Goku.|
Goku: "I told you I don't want to!! I don't even want to be friends with bad guys!!"
Black says then there is no option left but to battle and takes a couple of swings at Goku who dodges easily and thumps Black hard in the stomach. Realising he is totally outmatched, Black takes out a capsule and manifests a mechsuit and punches Goku in the face actually hurting him.
|Black thinks he's won.|
Goku jumps on the mechsuit's cockpit window much to Black's surprise. Black punches at him but Goku dodges and Black smashes the window and punches himself instead. Goku mocks him and an angry Black sends the mechsuit flying up higher. The back of the mechsuit opens up and a rocket slides out which he locks onto Goku. But Goku kicks it away from him and it explodes taking the top of a nearby mountain with it.
|But this results in a kaboom as well, and Goku defeated a whole army.|
Just thought I'd slip something confusing in for the end of the year. As per usual as a western woman in her forties I'm very much the periphery demographic for a 1980's shonen manga. But damn if I can't get enough of Akira Toriyama's joyful story of a superhuman boy who is something of an accidental hero. In that he doesn't deliberately try and be a hero, that's just his nature. Someone who'll think of nothing of training to beat the person who bested him, storming a military base and going on a fetch quest simply to restore the life of a man he only met briefly and whose son he instantly bonds with. The training session with Karin is the second major power-up he'll recieve as the series progresses. These come along fairly regularly. Goku will come up against an opponent he can't beat, he'll go away and train harder and come back and win the day. His commitment to his fighting "craft" is very inspiring. He never sulks or gives up, even as an adult, he'll just dust himself off, find a sensei who can teach him and returns to save the day. This also serves to add new characters to the series and other characters reach a ceiling they just can't break through, meaning they tend to end up becoming more background support as newer, more powerful friends and foes are added to the mix. The whole sequence with Karin is just great with the holy water, I mean what's not to love about a martial arts master who is also a cat? And it also sees the introduction of an item that will become a staple part of the later series, the magical "senzu beans". So with the Red Ribbon Army defeated, and just one dragonball left to collect, what will the next big challenge Goku will face? Well keep reading this blog and you'll find out. Anyway hope you all have a very good New Year. Join me in a few days time for more obscure Alan Moore, this time we're going back to his time at Rob Liefeld's company to wrap up the story of Supreme. See you in 2018!