Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Dragon Ball Fanboy vs. Akira Toriyama part 2: Exploring Concepts and Characters More Deeply



Okay, so they say that the devil is in the details (no not Dabura, or King Piccolo or even Spike the Devilman or Mr. Satan or...sigh Broly.)  Details essentially help us understand something better and make sense of the world.  In manga and anime, these details are often vital for understanding complex powers or situations.  People often complain about the exposition in anime and manga, but for shonen anime and manga, I find such exposition to be a part of the spectacle. It's enjoyable to learn the conditions and limitations of someone's abilities and how they cleverly use those abilities versus others.  The reveal is often a huge event worthy of weeks of hype.

So, what's up with the lack of details in Dragon Ball?  If you watch any other shonen anime, you get tons of details but not DB.  I believe that has to do with Toriyama's simplistic style.  He writes his stories on the fly and when you don't work with notes and carefully laid out plans then details simply become inconvenient.  I'm not trashing his style, because it's that same style that kept me glued to my T.V. every week waiting for a new episode.  But that style does have it's flaws.


Take Yu Yu Hakusho for instance.  It's a show very similar to DBZ in terms of action, but YYH takes its time to flesh out its character motivations, powers, and even world.  Overall I find YYH more enjoyable to watch than DBZ even though I'm a bigger DBZ fanboy.  YYH has multiple types of energy or ki for it's warriors to fight with and each warrior specializes in his/her own uses for it.  It's not all beams and fisticuffs there even though there's plenty of that too.  Sub characters are also given ample spotlight thanks to distinct motivations and abilities.  All the top shonen anime/manga nowadays delve fully into concepts that they've introduced and diversify and classify powers and abilities.  It keeps those shows fresh.  Look at One Piece, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, Fairy Tail, Law of Ueki, and even *shudders* Bleach.


What does Ki do in the Dragon Ball universe? 


After watching the brilliant explanation and applications of Nen in HxH, I find the vagueness of Ki in the Dragon Ball universe more than a little disappointing.  Being a Dragon Ball fanboy, I know what it does.  It makes you stronger if you have more of it, but at this stage I think they should have someone break down ki and its uses in Dragon Ball Super.

Okay, so as I lifelong Dragon Ball fan, I know that ki:
  1. Raises your physical strength.
  2. Raises your speed.
  3. Raises your durability.
  4. Allows you to fire beams and other ki based projectiles.
  5. Allows you to fly.
  6. Allows you to detect other ki signatures.
  7. Allows you to feel the depth of a person's ki and positive or evil intent.
  8. Improves your vision or ki sensing.
  9. Allows you to mask your presence.
I only know this because I've watched every episode of mostly all the english dubs of DB and DBZ and the Japanese Dragon Ball Kai.  Coming in fresh, it's impossible to know that ki is the sole reason for all this.  I used to think that it was simply the characters doing all this because their bodies were strong, like Superman.  Even for us who've seen the show a million times, there's enough vagueness to allow us to interpret all of this how we choose.  In the show nowadays, if a person has more ki, they are simply better than everyone else.  No one specializes anymore, it's all about that vague concept of "strength" in Dragon Ball.  For instance, on Namek after Vegeta gets blasted by Krillin and gets his Zenkai boost, it's implied that he's become a great deal stronger simply because he can see Frieza's movements.  But the Zenkai boost only improved the amount of ki he could generate or did it improve his vision as well.  Did he train his senses as Krillin was blasting that huge hole in his stomach?  No, none of that is true.  The Zenkai boost simply made Vegeta strong, and if you're stronger in Dragon Ball that means you get better at almost all those categories above without any sort of specialization.


Specialization

Super can incorporate fighter stats instead of power levels similar to Xenoverse.


I think having characters specialize in certain aspects of ki application is what can balance the show again.  Instead of having ki granting more of everything, how about we have characters choose to specialize in speed or power, or ki generation, or ki manipulation?  It's probably too late for the guys at the top to be affected by this, but if there's ever a show about a new generation then they should have specializations.  Otherwise the show will simply always be about "I'm stronger than you so I win."  That will get stale after a while unless the action and fight choreography improves in DBS.  If we're watching a straight up combat show then I need the action to match up.

My take: With Super, I'd introduce specializations into the mix to add strategy to it.  Like advantages and disadvantages.  I'd classify the different fighters.  Goku and Vegeta would be balanced types but you'd have others who specialized in beam attacks, others ball attacks, others fist fighting, others defensive fighting, power, speed, etc.  Certain types would be better at fighting other types.  Even balanced types like Goku and Vegeta would have specialties like Goku's beams or Vegeta's ball or kick attacks.  It would be the same fights DB is known for, but with an added strategic edge.


Kaioken


We need a definite reason for why the humans and Piccolo didn't learn this or we need to know if they did learn it at some point.  I mean, crap, why wouldn't they?  Same goes for the other techniques like instant transmission.  I know we want to keep everyone original, especially Goku, but why wouldn't these career martial artists seek out these powers?  IT I understand, but Kaioken was right at their fingertips.  Kaioken does nothing at this point of the show anyhow (unless you can raise it's level something crazy)

My take: Just give it to the humans.  After hearing of Frieza's imminent return, the Z humans return to Kaio-sama to gain techniques to stave off this pending invasion.  After a quick day long cram session they master the technique, showing that they are still capable fighters despite being so weak in comparison to current threats.  There's really no need to continue shitting on these characters.  Show them being useful and smart for once.  Afterwards have Piccolo train on Namek to learn some ancient Namekian powerup similar to Kaio-ken, but with fewer drawbacks.  Bam, now he and the humans are somewhat relevant again.  All Gohan has to do to keep his relevance is some pushups then he's back at his Buu Saga level which is damn impressive.

The Mystic Powerup


Just what the hell is it?  And why does Gohan keep losing it so often?  What is it in comparison to the god ki?  Can other people have this power drawn out of them?  Does the power have some divine nature to it.  Or is it just a pointless, ineffective plot device?

The Three Eyed Clan


Can we just put this one to rest?  Toei and Toriyama can let us know if they exist in canon or they can make a throwaway joke about it letting the fandom know that they never existed and Tien's power comes from his crazy genius potential for creating new techniques.  Tien has always been very interesting and his potential seemed to be on par with Goku's at the beginning.  What a shame that he suffered such character decay and with so many mysteries about him unanswered.


Dabura's Demon Realm


I would say more about this, but it appears that Xenoverse and (probably to a greater degree) Dragon Ball Online has made mention of and used characters from the demon realm.  Dragon Ball Online is canon as far as I know.  I'll just say that there's infinite potential to be explored here especially if some demons as strong as Dabura, if not stronger, reside here.  It'd be a great test for the non-saiyan Z-fighters.  Hell, even Gohan could possibly find a challenge here, or maybe a new cool ally for Goku and Vegeta or a demonic rival vying to be the Demon God of Destruction.  Ooh, maybe Piccolo trains here, the Makaioshin are direct rivals to the gods (Kais/Kaioshin) after all.


Those are just a few of the questions plaguing the minds of DB fans.  DB is strangely one of those shows with the largest amount of fan theories and speculation.  While this is fun to some degree, it's also painful because many of these curiosities can be easily put to rest with simple explanations.  The frustrating part in all this is when stuff like this is disregarded, thrown away, or simply forgotten about and no explanation was given to why it existed or its applications.  Kaioken, for instance, could've stuck around for a while thanks to its utility for characters without transformations.  It especially fit Tien, a character who already fights with heavy strain life or death techniques.  And considering that he trained with Kaio-sama longer than anyone else, it just doesn't make much sense for him not to know the technique.

Then there's stuff like why did Vegeta never go SSJ3, why his rage power boost as a SSJ2 put him over SSJ3 Goku against Beerus, this new Namekian Book of Legends, what happens to the Nameks absorbed by Piccolo.  There's also curious stuff that has no chance of getting mentioned in Super, like why was Piccolo able to make such crazy gains in the Frieza and Android arcs, but seemingly hit a ceiling in the Cell arc and beyond?  To their credit, Toei and Toriyama did at least go into why Vegeta has been inferior to Goku for so long.  That's important to know as a DBZ fan.  So I hope they continue this and start taking a magnifying glass to other parts of the show that could be easily expanded upon to the show of many lifelong fans.

If you guys have more of these, let me know so I can comment on them in the future.  So let's now move on.


Next post will be about the new transformations and the usefulness and cool factor of them all especially the new ones.  Til next time, peace!

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