Before Dragonball was a movie, it was a Japanese manga comic book created by Akira Toriyama, which later became an anime cartoon series. I was too young to read the manga in the 80’s but I first became aware of the anime around 1989, when a Dragonball Tv movie premiered on my local TV station.
My brother and I instantly shoved a tape in our VCR, trying to preserve this new awesomeness we were seeing. As fate would have it, that tape ran out just before the climatic final battle at a Martial Arts Tournament, and Dragonball was lost to us until the series’ next installment, Dragon Ball Z, premiered on American TV in the late 90s. Fate had given me a second chance and I snatched it up.
Most of my college years (1999-2003) involved hard-partying peppered with some light studying – but in all the chaos I carved a special place out for Dragon Ball Z. I never missed an episode, every afternoon on Cartoon Network, and failing that, I was surely there for the late-night repeat. I (and alot of my friends) stayed glued to the saga of Goku, an alien warrior raised on Earth who defends humanity from interstellar warriors bent on conquering and/or destroying the universe by using seven magical dragon balls which grant one wish to the one who collects them all.
Girls used to call it “a soap opera for boys.”
And it was just that: the Dragon Ball Z anime (as fans already know) was executed in soap opera fashion: episodes jumped between three or four main storylines and it could take weeks for ‘that big thing that was about to happen’ to actually happen, but the turtle-crawl pace didn’t matter: you stayed tuned in.
Heck, one half-hour episode could spend fifteen minutes on a character “charging up” his super powers for a fight, without ever getting to the fight! And we were somehow on the edge of our seats!
My obsession didn’t end with the show either: the only video games I ever had imported from Japan were (you guessed it) Dragon Ball Z games. I couldn’t read a word of the instructions, it could take me weeks to figure out how to play it, but again, I (and my bro) loved every minute of it, trading karate blows and massive energy blasts, battling it out with our favorite spikey-haired characters.
By the time I finished the fourth and final (and epic) installment of the Dragon Ball Z series post-college, I felt like I had completed an epic journey. One that had not only journeyed me through an action-packed story of warriors in battle, but also through a significant time in my life, out of high school, through college and into manhood. It’s a strange through-line to have, I know, but hey, it’s what I got.
Kamekameha, baby. Ka-me-ka-me-ha.
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