Monday, September 27, 2010

Manga Monday: A monkey-tailed boy, a turtle master, and a kid with no nose

For many people in the US, their first exposure to anime was badly cut and censored Dragon Ball Z.  Even now, with the proliferation of Japanese culture into many areas of the American airwaves, many people don’t know that Dragon Ball Z is only the second chapter of the story.  It all began with Dragon Ball.

Shonen Jump is finally giving the anime and manga fans what they want.  They’re releasing large-size versions of many of their more popular (and longer) series as three-in-one sets for $17.99.  Besides being much more affordable, the larger size lets the detail of the art come through better.  Admittedly, there’s not all that much subtlety to most shonen titles, but it makes some of the in-joke text to be a little easier to read.

Son Goku is a little monkey-tailed boy who’s living all alone in the backwoods.  When Bulma comes across him, he explains that his grandfather, Son Gohan, has died, and left him an orange and red glowing ball.  This glowing ball causes more trouble than either of them could have imagined.

Bulma, you see, is quite smart.  She was going through some of the old folklore, and discovered a story about the Dragon Balls.  It seems that if you can collect all seven and recite the right incantation, a dragon appears and will grant any one wish.  So she invented the Dragon Radar, and has set off on her summer vacation to find the dragon balls.

Of course, the #4 Dragon Ball is all that Goku has left of the man who raised him. He’s certainly not going to let Bulma take it from him, but he’s perfectly amenable to going on an adventure with Bulma to find the rest of them.  It’d be pretty cool to see the dragon, too.  So off they go, Bulma armed with her capsules and Goku with his magic staff, to see the world.

For the person who has only ever been exposed to Dragon Ball Z, or it’s more recent incarnation Dragon Ball Z Kai, the reader is quickly introduced to many of the main characters from that series.  Mugen Roshi, Yamcha, Pu’er, Kuririn, The Ox King and Chi-Chi are all introduced within the first half of the book.

What might also be interesting to American readers is the strong Teen rating of the manga.  There’s nothing really inappropriate in these books, but when compared to a show like Pokemon, there’s certainly some differences.  Being raised by an old man in an isolated area, Goku sees nothing wrong with running around naked, and is also not quite sure how tell boys and girls apart without...well...checking.  Also, Mugen Roshi rather likes the women, and isn’t terribly shy about it.  Nosebleeds abound.

The new format of the manga is a great way to draw buyers in to the series.  Seeing 26 volumes staring back from the shelf at a bookstore can be fairly daunting, but seeing nine nice volumes in a row is much more approachable.  The quality of printing is nice enough, with a few full-color additions, and the fact that it’s not censored is refreshing.

Highs:  Uncensored version of the story, the character Lunch

Lows:  A little heavy on the panty humor, but it’s a boy’s comic

Verdict:  A must-read for any Dragon Ball Z fan, or a fan of any shonen series

Further Reading:  One Piece, Dragon Ball Z

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