Thursday, January 1, 2004

Dragon Ball GT Special

Genre: Action / Fantasy
General Audience
Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Fuji TV

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MarkPoa's Description:
Many, many years after the events in Dragonball GT, Son Goku faces the daunting challenge of living up to his grandmother Pan's expectations and his great-great-grandfather (and namesake) Son Goku's legacy. But a sudden sickness that caused his grandmother to collapse started young Goku on a quest to find the fabled Dragonball, which is his only hope of curing Pan. Can this timid boy find the courage inside of him to face his fears? Can he save his grandmother Pan's life?

NOTE: Some of the reviews were written sometime in 2004 and was recorded in the classic Otaku Fridge as ??.??.2004. Unfortunately the database would not accept non-numerical values, so this review is now dated January 01, 2004 by default.

Dragonball for a new generation. >>> by MarkPoa
Surprisingly, this is the only "special" that was produced for the Dragonball GT series. When you think about it, though, it's not that surprising since the animators were given pretty much free reign on the TV series itself. It could also be a sign of Dragonball's waning popularity as it entered its last years. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, as this feature was quite good, but a lot of them could very well bring the franchise even lower.

The special episode focuses on a new, yet visually familiar, character. Son Goku looks and sounds every bit like his namesake predecessor (of course, he had the same voice actress as the other Son males). What's different about Goku is that he has lived his life in times of relative peace (after Goku and co. wiped out every evil...). He's naughty, lazy about training, and afraid to fight. In short, a regular kid. This is certainly a departure from the gung-ho adrenaline-filled protagonists of Dragonball Z and GT.

The only familiar character is Pan, Goku's granddaughter by Gohan, whose role in this special is the "aging master who imparts great wisdom and sends student on quest" archetype familiar to kung-fu movie fans. Her sickness leads Goku to embark on a quest for his great-great-grandfather's memento (ah, I hear old-school Dragonball fans nodding their heads), which he believes could help his grandmother.

For an old-time Dragonball fan like myself, Goku's quest is very reminiscent of the old Dragonball stories with Son Goku as a kid. The story is very straightforward, plot-wise, and is very light-hearted and hopeful, even with the pall of Pan's sickness over it.

In short, very good fare to show any young person. I did not have qualms about letting my six-year old sister watch this. And, even though my copy was in Japanese, she had no problems picking up the plot through the visuals. And she enjoyed it as well.

Dragonball Z fans might be disappointed by the relative lack of action here. I found it a good stroke as this was more like a "quest" and coming-of-age story than a Slam-wham-bash special effects extravaganza. The story's strength lies in the growth and struggle of its protagonist. Fact is, I know a few of us, as kids, could relate to his fears and desire to be stronger. Add to that the daunting aspect of living up to your namesake's heroic image and you can imagine how hard it must be for the little guy. It was fun watching Goku grow from a person who was bullied by his schoolmates to someone who could stand up to his fears and protect others.

I was disappointed by how much Dragonball anime recycle their sound effects, though. Would it hurt them to come up with some new tunes and background music? The stuff here are very familiar to a regular Dragonball watcher. Dragonball GT fans might get a good kick out of hearing the familiar opening and ending themes, though.

Overall, as a standalone story, the Dragonball GT special has a simple, heartwarming plot that's pretty good to show young viewers. Casual viewers who have never seen Dragonball or Dragonball Z before could still pick the story up quite easily, but their enjoyment may vary.

As for me, I'm wondering if I should buy my sister another copy before she ruins my DVD with constant replays.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 8; Characters 8; Sounds 6

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