Dragonball Evolution: Over 9000

A note from the author: This was the 2009 April Fools’ column for Anime Diet.  While many of the facts mentioned in here are true, mixed in with them are many wildly erroneous citations.  The concept was that as a positive review of Dragonball Evolution, it would be naturally viewed with disbelief by the international otaku community. However, this was not the case for many readers.

Anime Diet first brought you news of the Dragonball live-action adaptation months ago. Thanks to the liberal application of sake, reporter moritheil was able to sneak an early look at the film, not due to open in American theaters until April 10.

Dragonball Evolution.

Dragonball Evolution is the story of the young warrior Son Goku, who races against time and the vengeful King Piccolo to collect a set of seven magical orbs that will grant their wielder a power level in excess of nine thousands.  Side-effects of this ultimate power include the ability to induce repetitive dialogue and spontaneous destruction of sensitive scientific equipment – a seemingly random quirk which becomes surprisingly relevant in the movie’s original plot.

The very name of Dragonball Evolution has become a hissing and a byword.  Critics all over the globe and within this very publication have decried the affair as a stain on the careers of James Marsters, who plays Piccolo, and Chow-Yun Fat, who plays the turtle sage sans shell. But contrary to all expectations, the film thrilled this reporter with its nuanced approach to characterization and unexpected hints of social awareness.

The social commentary begins early, as Bulma remarks to her daughter in a panoramic opening scene, “Remember, Bra . . . we sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty.”  In the superpowered world of Dragonball, the exaggerated physicality of males throws the plight of women into sharp relief.  Is it any wonder, then, that the physically outmatched women turn to their wits, trading on male illusions to survive?

Bulma, scientist-assassin.

Fans have lambasted the inclusion of a brief sequence wherein Son Goku’s humble roots as a hermit and radish farmer are rewritten to make him a rank-and-file student at a public high school.  However, to this reviewer, such a move is understandably calculated to make him easier to identify with.  Goku puts up with bullies, lusts after the class beauty, and struggles to understand why he is different and doesn’t fit in.  Though Goku never was a high school student in the anime, Gohan did indeed enroll at Orange Star High School.  This and other clues suggest that viewers would be best served by thinking of Dragonball Evolution’s Goku not as a literal interpretation of the Son Goku from anime and manga, but rather a composite that incorporates aspects of characters from across the Dragonball mythos in an effort to stay relevant.

All this social commentary, while excellent, is far from the only pearl Dragonball Evolution has to offer.  Who can fail to be moved by Vegeta‘s parting monologue?  “Come close,” he whispers mournfully, “and heed my exploded words.”  With the masterstroke that follows, the entire metaphysical grounding of the Dragonball universe is laid bare.

Dragonball poster for Korea.

Seasoned otakusphere viewers will appreciate the relevance of Dragonball Evolution to the saiyan-rhombus.  In particular, it has a strange resonance with the much-discussed habits of highly effective bloggers, both on the literal level (training and repetition being no match for sheer inborn power) and the metaphorical.  Ultimately, Dragonball Evolution’s answer to the questions it raises is that we must each accept and embrace our differences to realize our potential.

Though this reviewer has no doubt that some skepticism will accompany such an unabashedly positive review, early statistics from Korea, where Dragonball Evolution has been out since March 12, suggest that the movie was well-received there as well.  Dragonball Evolution is a movie that challenges its viewers to get past their preconceptions, and “take it to the next level.”

11 thoughts on “Dragonball Evolution: Over 9000”

  1. I don’t think being “relevant” really matters in a movie where people are shooting fireballs out of their hands, and green guys are trying to take over the world.

    What really cheesed me off was that Hollywood “adaptations” of classics like Dragon Ball and even Old Boy cannot stick to the roots.

    Why do they need to incorporate high school?  Why not make him a radish farmer?  Is that any different than ridiculous SciFi plots that involve a languages, weapons, and planets that don’t even exist? 

    The “Westernization” of Asian movie plots really undermine and underestimate the audience (the majority of whom actually love the old characters) and dumbs down the movie experience as a whole. 

    I say keep Goku with a monkey tail, let him be a radish farmer from a different planet.  MAKE HIM ASIAN for Christ’s sake.  Why is basically everyone else Caucasian EXCEPT for the token “master”?  I haven’t watched the movie, but I see that Yamuchi is Asian as well…yay.

    They could have had a much more sucessful movie had they just stayed true to what the people initially loved about the manga/anime.  How awesome would it have been to see Goku screaming like he did in the anime, how nostalgic would it have been to hear that high pitched KAME HAME HAAAAAAAA  in all it’s glory.   

    Let’s make the entire movie in Japanese, subtitles aren’t all that bad, look at Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Both earned Best Picture.  Lets try to stay above the learning curve people.

  2. dude, i feel you mr.jin, i cant beleive they didnt make him younger, i would have loved to see the story as it were when he was a young boy with his nimbus, and than flash to a time where he was older and first learned super saijan or some shit and than unfold to a different seen far more like and than they could have just gone from there like… shown the time chamer and the giant monkey…. i doubt the person who made this movie has even seen all the episodes or even knows the saga lines

    i havent seen the movie but from what ive seen it looks like some americanized version and being an american i want something that can fully relate to the origional series

    who would want spiderman fighting some new robot creature in a movie with actors, no its going to be mysterio you watch

  3. Why do people still go on about Goku not being asian?
    In the anime/manga Goku is NOT asian!! He is an alien!!! that makes him neither asian or Caucasian. He is white skinned in the anime and they have a white skinned actor in the movie. That’s how it should be, there’s nothing to argue about. So many of these “real” fans of the anime are either so picky its childish or just desperately wanna start arguments over nothing.

  4. I can’t believe what they did with this movie, most of the casting was okay, but the characters were totally wrong, the action was depressing, fights with 1 or 2 hits and its over, what happened to the 5 million hits?

    Its very depressing to see how much the threw out the original comics/movie information out and re-wrote it.

    I did like the cast for the most part and I don’t mind some alterations to make it more relatable to the average viewer but in a world where you have G.I.Joe the movie, Transformers, Aliens, marvel movies coming out the woodworks, why change this movie so much that you risk alienating the entire fan base. There are so many things that just left unanswered and the changes made seem to just not come from a requirement.

    Goku is what in this movie? he was found by his grandfather but where did he come from? What was this thing about 2000 years ago? How did Piccolo  escape? Goku isn’t meant to be the brightest around but when it came to martial arts he was a saiyan, a race of fighters. He turns in to a giant ape and his power increases ten fold if he has his tail and there is a full moon out. Now its a solar eclipse, he doesn’t grow and from his power it looks asif he doesn’t gain any power at all. The only thing about the transformation that stays true is that goku can’t control it but ooh wait, since when can Piccolo  control it then?

    Dragon ball the original series wasn’t fully aired here but I’ve seen all of DBZ/GT and about half of the original series and nearly all the movies. I am not the biggest fan but I enjoyed it and even though its been years since I’ve even thought of anything dragonball related, this is a travesty.

    Its using the name to attract the fans and then providing something completely different. Change the names, remove the dragon balls and instead make it parts of a key to this dragon temple and change the kame-hame-ha. Then nobody wouldn’t go ‘ooh this looks alot like a dragon ball movie’ when they went to the cinema, it really is that simple.

    Even when I watched it, I felt more asif this was a mix between a dragon ball movie (because of the character names), avatar: the last airbender (cause of the Ki abilities so to speak) and just a completely random sci-fi movie then thinking this is the first of a series of Dragonball movies, guarenteed I won’t watch it again and I won’t watch another life-action movie if this is the quality of the story line.

    I’m no critic but I would say this movie doesn’t deserve the name, rename it and rename the cast and attacks and go with a new movie cause this one was terrible. Millions of fans can’t be happy with this at all, anyways, thats just how I feel about the movie.

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