Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Garlic Jr. Arc is Okay (So I'm a Gohan Fanboy. Deal With It)

You know, an offhand comment I made a few days ago is rolling around in my head and I can't shake it. The Garlic Jr. Saga isn't half as bad as the DBZ fandom thinks it is. And to explain why I have to explain the essence of Gohan, Goku and Garlic Jr.  Let's go.

First off I may rip on it but well Dragon Ball Z for its nearly 300 episodes and 14 17 movies/specials was my childhood. I watched that show from the 7th grade nearly into college and when they started airing GT I watched that too.  Damn it. Though I stopped as did everyone else. Nobody likes baby.  Oh the allowances I've blown on VHS tapes so I could see stuff before it aired on TV.

I love me some Dragon Ball Z. It was the first anime I recognized as anime and not just another cartoon. That doesn't make it "good" anime but it does give it a special place in my ... cockles.

There are a lot of things that separate Dragon Ball Z from its beloved but slightly less popular predecessor. A whole mess of retcons and a tonal shift  makes the two hard to consolidate but in the manga at least they were the same series. No joke All the stuff from Dragon Ball Z is in the Dragon Ball comic. They sort of separated it out in the states to capitalize on Dragon Ball Z's growing brand recognition here, but in Japan. Dragon Ball just kept going and became Dragon Ball Z.

While there were a lot of  things that could have been the reason for the shift the going fan theory is that Gohan was originally supposed to be the protagonist.

Let me explain. Dragon Ball is the coming of age story of Goku a loose interpretation of the Monkey King. Oooooohh Son Goku. You want to know why Saiyans turn into giant rampaging apes? That's why.

I'm a ashamed to say I've never read Journey to the West. It's on my list!

His story (in theory) ends with Goku's attainment of adulthood and his marriage to his wife Chi Chi.

 Dragon Ball Z is SUPPOSED to be about the coming of age of his son Gohan.

The thing about it though is that Goku was just too popular and the story could never pass the torch. This is why Goku dies so many times. But it could never stick as fans and publishers demanded he come back.

The early Dragon Ball Z episodes have so many parallels with early Dragon Ball it's kind of nuts. I'm not just talking subtle hey this is a show based off another show either. I mean subtle visual nods that signal Gohan is the new Goku on the block.

 Except the two have radically different personalities. Gohan is kind of a reverse Korra.

Goku is kind of an idiot. Does he save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys? Yes but he never does what he does to save the world and beat a bunch of bad guys. Goku loves a challenge and even as a kid isn't afraid to go to the most powerful guy on the block, who is normally marshaling an army and kick their ass for the hell of it.

No seriously.  One of the main groups of villains are the Red Ribbon Army.

Gohan by contrast generally hates fighting and would much rather read a book or something but since he hangs out with the strongest dudes in the world keeps finding himself entangled in alien invasions and World Martial Arts Tournements.  Evidently both shows run on authority equals ass kicking. And in almost every case it comes down to a mano a mono brawl between Goku and the despot of the w... month.

Despite their personality differences. Gohan isn't weak. A lot of the fans think he's weak because of his personality and the fact that since he's not going to relentlessly train like his Dad he's "relatively" weak but he's not.

Coward's another story, at first anyway,  but come on things start when he's five. Of course there is going to be a lot of crying. It's what 5-year-olds do, damn it.  But from the start its clear that Gohan has the potential to be stronger than his Dad and by the end of the series he is.

Look we're going to be here all day if I have to recount each and every one of Gohan's moments of badassary. And I would be lying if I didn't say I related to his anger issues under his pacifist veneer. He doesn't like hurting people but also hates it when people get hurt.

Almost every villian's downfall in the series has been in some way due writing him off as just a kid and then pissing him off.

"Sorry. I snapped there for a second."

"No stay snapped! Stay snapped! Goddamn it!"

By the way that's his entire arc in the Cell saga. Learning to control and harness and control and control and control (Gohan you're starting to scare everybody) his anger. Kid's got issues. When he goes he goes hard.

As far as I know Gohan's only beaten two (Three if you count Vegeta. I do but it's a bit of a stretch.) villains in his own right though. Cell.  Which was a beat down of epic proportions. And Garlic Jr.

The Garlic Jr. arc is Gohan's. It's all about him figuring out how to save the day on his own. Not only that but in a lot of ways Garlic Jr. is his villain. Let's talk about Dead Zone, the first Dragon Ball Z movie, airing only 2 months after the start of the show. Arguably its more of a Dragon Ball movie than a Dragon Ball Z movie.

It's been awhile and its one of the weaker movies/specials. It's plot serves as an excuse to have a couple admittedly impressive for the time (1989) fight scenes. There is a reason why the series intro recycled a lot of the animation from the movies. Still, I'm not going in detail, but its the ending that's important. Garlic Jr. wins. Yeah in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z most of the villains are trying to use the eponymous dragon balls which can grant any wish to gain immortality and Garlic Jr. is the only villain to succeed. Vegeta didn't get there. Frieza didn't get there. Pilaf didn't there. But Garlic Jr. did.

In early episodes Gohan wears the 4-star dragon ball on his hat as a commemoration of his adoptive great-grandfather whom he is named after. So he gets kidnapped for the ball and the race is off to get him back. Because giving a kid a one-of-a-kind well seven-of-a-kind, highly recognizable object that it's been known unscrupulous fellows want to steal is a good idea.  RENT A SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX GOKU! And that jokes already been made by Team Four Star.

Anyway, the only reason why our guys survived the fight is because realizing his Dad is about to die Gohan loses his shit and flings Garlic's ass into the titular dead zone. Think the phantom zone but kind of creepier.

Of course Gohan was like three, and Piccolo was still evil so nobody remembers that part. Fans or characters... Except Garlic Jr.

That's part of why I like it. Garlic Jr. is clearly Gohan's villain He's not some blast from Goku's past like Raditz or Dr. Gero.

Or even a direct foil to a pre-existing character (You do realize he's basically a more evil Pilaf. Miles. Shut up.) Even his connections to Kami are thin at this point.

At this point in the timeline Goku is... somewhere. Point is it's up to everyone else to save the day and this arc feels like the closest the show has come save maybe the high school arc, which everybody also hates to having Gohan be the main character.

And since Goku isn't around the show feels a lot like old school Dragon Ball. With adult Goku around it's hard to remember that Gohan is voiced by the same voice actor as kid Goku at least in the Funi dub but yeah he is.

Also it's fun that show actually does something with Chi Chi's martial arts skills even if it's as a brainwashed foe. Most of the time she plays schoolmarm so well that fans forget that she's a 3rd place world martial arts champion. And everyone's fear if ticking her off is justified. Shy of all the aliens running around she's probably the strongest human character. Using her powers of intimidation to make everybody back off and give Gohan some time to study doesn't seem all that bad anymore now does it.

But Chi Chi we need to take the 6-year-old with us to defend the planet from alien invaders. No my baby has a earth science test in the morning. Screw yo aliens.

Same goes for Yamcha and Master Roshi who kept getting nerfed by the "good" aliens in the cast that by this point it's hard to remember that Master Roshi is the guy who trained Goku and kicked his ass numerous times.

The entire arc gives those guys something to do before they more or less fall into series obscurity for good.

Look I'll admit it's one of the weaker arcs but there is a lot to like and it shouldn't be as reviled as it is. That said Maron is kind of annoying. Bulma without the brains or the dignity.  You know maybe she was a character designed to make mainstay Bulma look better. For me Dragon Ball just wouldn't be Dragon Ball without Bulma but fans were divided whenever she called Goku on his idiocy.

Also Garlic Jr. as a choice of villain is interesting. They had built up Frieza a lot. I'm mean after you have a guy who can and does blow up planets WITH HIS FINGER for jollies where do you go?

The entire series has a problem of making things bigger and bigger until they lose all meaning. This show is the poster child for power creep. As Team Four Star Vegeta said, "Power levels are bullshit!" but the Garlic Jr saga was an attempt to pull things back and make them smaller. Goku is out of the picture so he can't act as his usual deus ex machina self and the problem is sized right so that these guys can win but not without effort.

The arc is Ginyu sized.

That might be the problem; all of the super mega powerful characters i.e. the saiyans are MIA.

It's up to Gohan and Krilin, let's be honest Gohan to win this one.

Also since this is a filler arc there are some continuity inconsistencies. But it's Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z who the hell can keep all this stuff straight anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.