Roger Gus Townson here, once again. In between getting turned down for every job I apply to, I’ve been watching the DBZ remake known as Dragon Ball Z Kai on Nickelodeon. Short version, it’s actually starting to grow on me. Granted, the writing’s a little shady and lacking at times, but fortunately much of the original cast has returned. The new actors do an okay job. The frame rate seems to have improved, and the pacing is light-years better.
For all I’ve said in the past about how this show is dated, poorly plotted, inconsistent, repetitive, and nonsensical, that doesn’t change how downright freaking awesome it is. For those of you that mistake it for shallow, it really isn’t.
To prove that, I am here to showcase what I believe are ten of the most powerful relationships that developed throughout the series. Keep in mind that when I say “relationships” I don’t simply mean romance (In fact, at least 90% of the greatest bonds in the show had nothing to do with that). I am simply speaking of a codependence between two characters throughout the course of the show. Why do I think this is important? Because for an anime who’s major focus was on the combat scenes, it worked really hard to develop these characters and give them connections and emotional depth.
As Moviebob once said, “Action sense gets better when people you care about are in the fight, and you know why they’re fighting.”
So for those of you ready for a DBZ article from a new point of view, here we go.
10. Jeice and Burter (Partners)
Okay I know I’m not making the best impression by putting them first, but please, hear me out. Jeice and Burter are co-members of the Ginyu Force, an elite team of Frieza’s most feared and deadly assassins (more deadly than feared, for sure). Jeice and Burter immediately make my list because with the exception of the fusion technique that comes into play hundreds of episodes later, these happen to be the only two characters in the entire series with a special attack that requires both of their support. Yeah that’s right, they team up to create I giant PURPLE energy blast! Um…what was it called again, Chris? The purple…torpedo? (Pranger’s Note: I believe it was called the Purple Flash Attack in the version I watched the most.)
Anyway, the chemistry between these two is classic evil minion thugery to its finest. And when Burter goes down for the count, Jeice does what any respecting evil minion would do: he runs away and leaves his buddy to die, lest he die himself. But in the end, those who fight together die by Vegeta’s hand together.
And then they go to the after life to get pwned at the same time by Tien.
9. Kami and Mr. Popo (Co-Guardians)
Here we have one of the oldest relationships in the DBZ Universe. Kami and Mr. Popo work together overseeing the planet Earth. They are the sole keeper and creator of the Dragon Balls, (in essence, the show’s namesake) and as such, the planet’s last shred of hope when our greatest fighters are lost in battle. The relationship itself, while not that domineering to the plot, has always been touching. Kami was left by his parents on Earth during the Great Drought plaguing his home planet, Namek. Popo became Kami’s first and only companion after years spent all alone, waiting for his parents that never came. They’re pretty much the only family they’ve ever known.
Can I just say something though? So ‘Kami’ mean’s ‘God’ right? WTF! Everyone else in this show has names that mean food, clothing, animals and stuff, and he’s God? Seriously, not even the guardian of Namek is that pretentious. I don’t even want to know what Popo means. (Pranger’s note: Akira Toriyama doesn’t work by the same rules we do. Any godly character would be named Kami in any anime setting, there just happen to be multiple godly characters here. Also, as I said, Akira Toriyama doesn’t work by the same rules we do.)
8. Goku and Krillin (Childhood Friends)
What more can I say? The protagonist and his best friend. Doesn’t get much better than that. So why do they rank so low? Well, it’s because I felt this was a far more developed relationship in Dragon Ball than Dragon Ball Z. Goku’s off on his own a lot training, leaving his bud to watch out for his son on Earth, then Namek, but I’ll get to that later. Despite that, I like how much their characters clashed in Dragon Ball, yet in Z, they actually do seem to share in eachother’s humor more often. Also, it’s very important to point out that it is Krillin’s death (the second time) by Frieza that ultimately triggers Goku’s rage, leading to the very first appearance of the Super Saiyan. So that’s definitely worth something.
7. Goku and Bulma (Courage and Wisdom)
Here again is another relationship that is far more relevant in Dragon Ball rather than Z, yet I still think it’s worth mentioning. One of the reasons this relationship feels like it held up in Z was that despite how much these characters have absolutely nothing in common and inevitably slipped away from each other throughout the story, there was an obvious hint their chemistry was still present. Goku’s passing away from the heart virus was a serious motivator for Bulma to continue her father’s work at Capsule Corporation and develop the time machine. (Any of you seen the movie “The History of Trunks,” might know what I’m talking about). It wouldn’t even change the fate of her own world, but saving Goku in a completely alternate timeframe was enough to her, and what inevitably saved them all.
What’s unique about the Goku/Bulma dynamic is how it’s vastly inspired by characters from a very old tale from Chinese mythology. (Pranger’s Note: Gus is referencing Journey To The West). I haven’t read it, but I do know it’s the exact same mythology that inspired Ninja Theory’s new video game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. (Coming soon to Xbox 360 and PS3 this October), like Goku, Monkey (the protagonist of Enslaved) has a monkey tail, super-human strength, fights with an extendable bow staff, and is forced to assist a young girl (like Bulma) who relies more on intellect to get out of feisty situations. Yet both stories dove enough away from the original source material to make it their own. All I know is Goku and Bulma were the seeds that began this whole story, and for that they disserve some recognition. (Pranger’s Note: For a good retelling of Journey to the West, read American Born Chinese, available at your local library).
Come back Wednesday for part 2!
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