(Note: This post was written on July 6th, 2015, the day after Dragon Ball Super episode 1 aired)
Alright, I know I implied that I was going to talk about why American audiences began importing Japanese culture this week, but we’ve got to address something else instead. It’s time to talk Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball Super premiered in Japan on the 5th of July, and like any good enormous nerd I was on that shit like a fat kid on a Twinkie. More Dragon Ball? Are you fucking kidding me? The scientific community could have announced a cure for cancer on Sunday and I wouldn’t have given a shit. You know why? Because I wouldn’t have known it happened. Because I would have spent all day watching fucking Dragon Ball over and over and over.
And I have no doubt in my mind that this series is going to be amazing. Even when you take into account the sheer volume of sub-par Dragon Ball content throughout the years (and don’t pretend like anyone was excited about that Garlic Junior bullshit) it was all still pretty good. Dragon Ball, much like pizza, is still pretty okay even when it’s at its absolute worst, which is why I’m super pumped for this series because I’ll be honest, the first episode didn’t really ‘wow’ me.
Let me take you back to my childhood for a second. I still remember the first episode of Dragon Ball Z pretty clearly – Goku and the gang are at the Kame House to (I think) celebrate Gohan’s fourth birthday. Everything’s great, everyone’s buds, life’s good, we’re all happy in that boring sort of “Let’s show how great things are before shit gets fucked up” sense. And then, of course, shit gets fucked up.
Raditz lands in a farmer’s field, calls him a girl scout, catches some bullets, and blows up a city block’s worth of livestock. Sweet. Now there’s aliens with tails that look like Goku and can shoot beams like it’s no big fucking deal.
It’s easy to forget after 5XX episodes of Dragon Ball Z how scary Raditz really was at the outset. We forget, given how grossly powerful everyone gets by the end of Z, that it took Goku fucking forever to learn how to throw the Kamehameha the first time. (Sidebar, my word processor accepts ‘Kamehameha’ as a word but not ‘Goku’. Weird.) Anybody remember all that training he and Krillin did with Master Roshi on the island? How they had to run around with 90 pound turtle shells on their backs? For like a year’s worth of episodes.
So the fact that Raditz can drop an explosion like he’s ordering takeout is a pretty serious deal. And even though Goku and Raditz and Piccolo don’t necessarily have their enormous confrontation in the first episode, you know shit’s gonna get real pretty quick. Dragon Ball Super’s first episode has none of this.
So, just as a quick recap for where we’re standing at the start of Dragon Ball Super following the aftermath of Z, Battle of the Gods, and Resurrection F (which I admittedly have not seen). After Majin Buu destroyed most of the world at the end of Z, the Z Fighters gathered the Dragon Balls and wished that everyone be brought back to life, and with no memory of Buu or any of his nefarious dealings with Earth. People are, however, aware that the Earth was saved, however the entire thing was pinned on Mr. Satan, better known in the English dub as Hercule. He now lives in a city called Satan City and is fabulously wealthy.
Meanwhile, Goku has taken a break from training to raise his second son Goten, and his firstborn Gohan is marrying Mr. Satan’s daughter Videl. We also learn in Battle of the Gods that Videl is pregnant with Gohan’s child.
Vegeta and the Briefs family (Bulma et al) are also living happily raising Vegeta’s son Trunks in the fabulous opulence of the Capsule Corporation. There, now you’re up to speed.
The first episode of Dragon Ball Super answers a question that nobody in the fanbase ever really found themselves asking: How does Goku have time to do all this training while still supporting a family?
The answer is, it turns out, that he doesn’t. Goku has become a farmer. For this episode, Goku farms. In between bouts of farming he goes Super Saiyan and punches the air a little bit. That’s what we see of Goku at the beginning of the episode, and by the end that’s where he is. In a field. Farming.
Meanwhile, Goten and Trunks realize that they haven’t gotten Videl a wedding present yet. They’re also poor because they’re like six and their fathers are a farmer and a retired warlord, respectively. They overhear from a man that there’s hotsprings nearby that are amazing for a person’s skin, so they go to the springs, get some of the water, and briefly fight a giant snake, which appears much more threatening to a pair of Super Saiyans than it ever should have. The explanation in the episode is that the Z Fighters have to hold back on their combat skills because nobody remembers they exist, as per the wish at the end of Z.
Anyway, they give Videl a bottle of water and she puts it on her face to make them happy. That’s them out of the way.
Vegeta doesn’t appear in the episode. Nor do Tien, Krillin, Yamcha, or any other minor characters.
Off in space, Lord Beerus (the God of destruction, first introduced in Battle of the Gods) is eating a feast prepared by a planet which is apparently teeming with master chefs. Beerus says that the food is delicious but greasy, and one should never eat too much greasy food. As such, he is somewhat satisfied with their offering and opts to only blow up half their planet instead of the whole thing. Then he does. It’s awesome. It’s the best part of the episode.
A significant part of the episode is devoted to Mr. Satan, everyone’s fifth or sixth favorite comic relief character. As the savior of the Earth he’s receiving a significant chunk of change – 100 million Zeni – because everyone thinks he’s so great. Mr. Satan decides to give this money to Goku in exchange for Goku keeping quiet about the whole ‘fraud’ thing. Goku is initially hesitant to accept the money until his son Goten points out that with that money he could retire from being a farmer and instead go train with King Kai. Goku accepts and does just that, with his wife Chi Chi weeping with joy about being able to send Goten to the best schools on the planet.
And that’s it. The episode ends with kind of a fizzle. Nothing of value really happens. It serves as a set-up for some sort of conflict escalation in the second episode. Don’t get me wrong, it nicely ties up a loose end that we as fans have been sort of ignoring since the 80s, but given how deeply entrenched in denial I was it feels almost unnecessary. I don’t give a shit that Goku has never had a paying job. None of the Z Fighters have ever had paying jobs. I always just sort of assumed they were subsidized by Capsule Corp.
On the plus side I was thrilled to see a television adaptation of Dragon Ball in glorious HD, so I’m incredibly stoked for what the future has to hold. But I just get the feeling that in twenty years I’m probably not going to be able to recite the plot of this episode of Dragon Ball. But you bet your ass I’ll still remember Raditz catching that bullet.