Manga recently announced that the
original Dragon Ball series is to be released on DVD in the UK, so we can
finally see how Goku's journey began. However, if you can't wait that long
there's a fair few flashbacks to it in Dragon Ball GT Part 2, which hits
the shelves first despite being the series that brings the saga to a close.
So the Dragon Ball franchise comes to a close (well, barring the numerous films, the rebooted series and a couple of OVAs anyway), and the stakes are raised to their highest point with the fate of the galaxy in the balance. An army of pretty much every enemy Goku and co have every faced, including a couple that have been powered up well beyond their original level, and a host of new enemies are arrayed before our heroes as the series looks to go out with a bang. This volume starts well, with the conclusion of Goku's battle with Baby before Doctor Gero and Doctor Myuu unleash the hordes of hell onto the recovering planet. The
scene is set for plenty of action, and this is pretty much what we get - Goku is pushed to the brink by Baby and all of the Z Warriors have to chip in to fight off the hordes of villains who descend on the planet, especially as this time they can't rely on Goku's help. It's an promising setup, even if it is pretty lazy - it almost feels like the end of an old school beat-em-up, where you have to fight all of the previous bosses in a row before you face the final boss - but it's the final boss in this case that's the series' strongest hand. The final storyline, focusing on the overuse of the Dragon Balls, is actually quite a good one and is the first original premise Dragon Ball GT has really had. The Dragon Balls got massively overused as a plot device as the franchise went on, with their limitations being systematically removed to the point where they could pretty much do anything the story required. To show that there was a consequence to this overuse was a great idea, and several of the dark dragons that arise make for interesting villains that bring a new challenge to the franchise.
It's a shame then that this volume suffers from many of the same issues that the
first one did, in particular its over-reliance on old ideas which far outweigh
any originality it has. In many ways this one is even worse for it than
season 1, resurrecting pretty much every enemy the Dragon Ball universe
has ever spawned and re-using plot devices from earlier storylines such as the
holy water from the Garlick Jr saga. Bringing back all of the villains
potentially sets up a series of good battles but in practice ends up as little
more than a nostalgia-fest. All of the main characters have powered up to
a point where pretty much anyone prior to Cell provides little challenge, a fact
that's painfully obvious when Pan defeats the Red Ribbon Army offscreen and
Vegeta annihilates a resurrected Nappa in seconds. Even Freiza and Cell,
two of the most dangerous villains from Dragon Ball Z, are defeated with
ease by Goku despite having trained constantly in Hell, an environment that
effectively renders them immortal. Their fight with Goku is nonetheless
embarrassing, being played mainly for laughs with plenty of slapstick hijinks as
Goku easily fends both of them off without even transforming into a Super
The overpowering of the characters remains a problem for the series as a whole. In Dragon Ball Z the most powerful abilities had a drawback, often they took time to power up, were hard to control or couldn't be used at full power without risking destroying the planet. Goku's Super Saiyan 3 transformation made him the most powerful fighter in the galaxy - even topping Kid Buu's strength - but could only be used for very short periods due to the amount of energy it used. However, this time Super Saiyan 4 doesn't seem to have any drawbacks, and Goku uses it all the time through the rest of the series. With nothing
to mitigate its power the series instead just neuters it by introducing even more powerful enemies, thus rendering it - and the rest of the cast who can't come close to Goku's power - utterly redundant. Once again everything falls to Goku, and that's something that got old a fair while ago. To be honest though 'old' is this series' fall back option. These final story arcs are a shameless nostalgia-fest, not only do all of the past enemies return but we get numerous flashbacks to both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, something which does little but remind us of how inferior this new series is in comparison.
Dragon Ball GT continues in much the same manner as it started - stretching its original premise past breaking point and plundering its past in the hope of reliving former glories. Is it bad in its own right? No, there's plenty of action and the animation is decent (although there is a strangely childish style to all the characters that makes them look younger than they should be), and fans looking for more of the same will get that. Unfortunately though the series fails on two counts - firstly it's for fans, it makes far too much reference to past events and characters for new viewers to really get what's going on, but secondly, the existing fans it's aimed at will find nothing in Dragon Ball GT that hasn't already been done better in the previous series. It ends on a relatively strong note, with a decent idea that at least gives some consequences to the repeated use of the Dragon Balls, and even with a liberal sprinkling of flashbacks this is still an original note to end on. It's a shame that the series couldn't find anything new until right at the end, and it's a shame that it has squandered some quite good ideas which could have been expanded on. It's also a shame that it not only had to plunder the past so much, but do it selectively to avoid things that would get in the way of the story (King Kai's absence is explained in a half-assed manner by saying he has a cold, and senzu beans seem to be conspicuously absent). However, whilst Dragon Ball GT is frustrating and often lazy, it's still an enjoyable enough action romp which provides an opportunity to see the Z Warriors in action one last time. Well, until the films and Dragon Ball Z Kai get released anyway.
The final disc includes the short film 'A Hero's Legacy' set
decades after the events of Dragon Ball GT. This episode features
Pan - now around 100 years old - as she looks after Goku's great-great-grandson
and helps the timid young boy gain the confidence to stand up for himself.
It's a bit throwaway to be honest, but it's a nice side story that brings the
story full circle.