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 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?
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.
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.”