ANIME & MANGA - Review
16:00 - 27th June 2014, by Andrew Osmond

Dragon Ball: Season 1

And at long last, we've reached... the beginning. This is the first Dragon Ball anime series, based on the opening chapters of Akira Toriyama's manga, and screened on Japanese TV back in 1986. If you've never seen any Dragon Ball before, you can most certainly start here; in fact, you'd be in the same position as the original viewers, not 'spoiled' on developments to come. If, on the other hand, you've already seen the later shows (Dragon Ball Z and GT), then you'll find loads of characters whom you know well, but who are all meeting each other for the very first time.

The hero is Goku, of course - here a feisty little boy who lives alone in the wild and looks and acts about six (there's amusing confusion about his real age). He's enormously strong and cheerful, has a furry tail, was brought up by a martial arts master (now squished)... and that's about all we know about him. In part one, he encounters a rather greedy teen girl called Bulma, who seeks the seven Dragon Balls which can grant wishes when assembled... and off the two trot to adventure.

Very silly adventure, too. Through nearly all of the set, the tone is slapstick cartoon comedy, with no serious threats or worries - not an idyllic anime childhood, but certainly an idealised one. It's very goofy, from the dazed-looking monsters to the seemingly random storytelling where cars and houses pop out of tiny pills, and the adversaries include a mobster rabbit who can turn people into carrots. (If you're puzzled by the punchline to his story, there's a traditional Asian fable of a rabbit on the moon, pounding rice cakes.) Add in bathroom humour - there's an, ahem, running gag with diarrhoea - and support characters of all shades of zany, including a cute Jekyll-and-Hyde gal who deserves her own series now.

But the show's also full of lewd, ecchi humour, courtesy of dirty old man martial artist Kame-Sennin and pervy panty-loving pig Oolong. Quite honestly, this is funny for a while and then gets, well, embarrassing. (Watch the show alongside a British kids' contemporary, Dangermouse, and tell us honestly which has the more grown-up gags.)

Thank heavens for Goku himself, who's presented throughout as guileless, innocent, sweet and simple, wanting nothing more than food and fun, though his way of telling girls and boys apart needs a lot of work. The ecchi is mostly phased out by the fourth and best disc, Goku's first tournament championship, which is enormously rousing, cheesily epic fun.

Silly, smutty, goofy, this is no classic of anime; but it is inventive, infectious fun.
SCORE: 3.5/5
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