Monday, May 30, 2011

Manga Madness Monday

As is often the case with Dragon Ball, the
cover has naught to do with the content.
This week I get to take a look at one of my favourite instalments of one of my favourite Manga series ever. Now if you've seen the anime series of dragon Ball Z an think the whole thing is just a bunch of guys yelling at each other for 25 minutes an episode, let me tell you right now: the manga has rapid plot progression. Now yes this volume picks up mid-arc, and yes it finishes on a bit of a cliff hanger, but that's the nature of Dragon Ball. The bonus is that Akira Toriyama's best known work is very cheap to acquire (this volume goes for less than $8 US on Amazon), so while it may take a little bit of time to get up to speed, you won't be deeply out of pocket.

This volume is number 16 out of 26 (if you for some reason view DBZ as separate from DB), or more accurately volume 32 out of 42. The story picks up (as summarised at the start of the book) with Tenshinhan pushing himself to the limit to delay Cell from absorbing Android 18 (and destroying Android 16), and goes on to include Goku saving Tenshinhan and Piccolo, Vegeta and Trunks exiting the Room of Time and Space to fight Cell, Krillin passing up the opportunity to deactivate Android 18 (thus rendering Cell unable to become perfect) due to his attraction to her, Vegeta outclassing imperfect Cell, and finally Vegeta's folly of allowing Cell to become perfect, leading to a complete reversal of fortunes.

As for why this is a personal favourite, this volume is all about one key fight, Vegeta vs 2nd form Cell. In my opinion Vegeta stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast of Dragon Ball, so any time he hits the top of the pile I'm happy. The bonus here is that he's not actually top of the pile (he never is for long) in strength, but his dominant personality lets him over-rule Trunks, and allows Cell to become perfect. It's a frustrating thing to a logical person like myself, but the sheer arrogance is something I can occasionally identify with, and it's one of the things that the manga does far better than the anime: allow the characters personalities to outshine the fighting. Many people like to knock DBZ and it's easy to side with them and the criticism that it's a "meat head" comic for "young boys", however it's also criticism that doesn't ring true if you take the time to read the series. While a lot of page space is dedicated to the action, a lot of reading time is not, and it's the ongoing development of characters that makes the series one to keep reading. The fights are really just flashy (and very addictive) window dressing.

Another regular criticism is that the art doesn't meet the perceived aesthetic of manga (for some people). Which, to me, is a wonderful way of saying that the art is unique, contains more detail in a panel than many people would expect in a page of manga art, and that the person making that comment is happy to pigeon hole an entire genre. I personally love the art, it's not about anatomical correctness (you'd be made to think it was), it's about showing empathy and emotion, it's about showing brutal violence, it's about entertaining people. If you don't understand that, you've likely missed the point of the whole book.

All said and done, this was never going to be a balanced review. The key question is would I recommend purchasing this. My answer is actually no. The reason for that is that jumping in at volume 32 out of 42 is ridiculous. The thing you really need to do is buy this and then buy this. It might cost you a bit, but you'll miss nothing, and have some glorious box art to boot. Also, you get to read a pivotal series in the breakout of manga and anime in the Western mind set.

Next week I'll go back to some DC and review.... this.
Someone said there was another Crisis after this,
but I'm pretty sure this was the last one.

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