Another weekend sick meant missing a week of news. Whatever is going around really sucks. My whole department at work was coughing and sneezing all week. Hopefully this post will make up for my absence. We’ve got new licenses, movie plans, the return of aggregators, “big” changes, more NYCC/NYAF, and some trick or treating from around the mangasphere.
Over the last year, One Piece has been burning up the book charts in Japan. Every succeeding volume has not only out sold the previous, they have been breaking sales records, and hitting print runs in millions for the first edition. This is pretty amazing for any book series, but it’s even more amazing since One Piece is a manga written for teenage boys. This means more than just the kids are buying these books. A recent discussion of shonen manga brought up influences, and of course, Dragon Ball was mentioned. First published in 1984, most of the creators working today would have read it, if not been influenced by it. Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto have stated that their popular titles, One Piece and Naruto were inspired by Dragon Ball’s protagonist, Son Goku, as well as series structure. So why is One Piece selling so much more than Naruto now?
I think the key to One Piece‘s success can be found in the way Eiichiro Oda utilized his inspiration from Dragon Ball to create a series that similar in feel, but still very much stands on its own. First, look at the protagonists in both titles. Son Goku of Dragon Ball is portrayed as a nice guy, not too bright, but knows right from wrong and isn’t afraid to fight for it. He has a small group of close friends that he will fight to protect, and has a way of making friends of enemies. One Piece‘s Luffy has many of these same traits. He’s the same kind of happy, go lucky guy, and you certainly wouldn’t call him smart. He spends half of the “Water Seven” arc with Usopp in an obvious disguise, and never realizes it is him. He has a definite sense of right and wrong, and would gladly die fighting to save those he considers his friend.
But Luffy is no clone of Goku. Goku has a kind of cluelessness that borders on innocence. It’s a trait that makes him cute. Luffy is just dense. Nothing he does is cute. He’s much more about the comedy, especially the frustration he caused his shipmates. Goku was all about the fight. It was about the only thing he could do really well. When he got serious, it was always about the fight. He didn’t have a lot of emotional range. Goku was either confused or angry. Luffy has a much wider emotional range. He cries when he’s happy and/or sad. He fights with his own crew, though more often than not they support him in the end. It’s a range better suited for the longer adventure story that One Piece is, compared to the more comedy-centric story Dragon Ball was.
The most important trait that both Goku and Luffy share, and that you don’t see in some of the other shonen protagonists such as Naruto or Ichigo of Bleach is that they never sink into self-doubt. No matter how tough things get, or how big the enemy is, both Goku and Luffy would face that enemy head-on and keep fighting until they won. And even if they would lose, it would only be temporary, as they work and train to become stronger and get past that defeat. If you look at Naruto and Ichigo, they get weighed down by their self-doubt, becoming very emo. Now, this might make them more popular among female fans, who seem to like a character the more emo they are, but it ends up hurting the story. This might be fine in shojo stories, where the conflicts tend to be more internal than external. But in an action story, it slows things down, as parts or even whole chapters get become about the protagonist’s internal conflict. They end up going in circles, much like their fights and never really moving forward. They might get stronger as per the Shonen fighting formula, but their characters get stuck in a rut emotionally, and that gets real tiring real fast.
What I really love about both Goku and Luffy is that they never lose sight of what’s important. They know who they are and are confident in the decisions they make, for good or for ill. They don’t try to hide their feelings from their friends, and they don’t try to do everything by themselves. They may be the first in a fight because of their diving into things head first, but there is never any doubt that their friends will come to support them. They are always moving forward, taking on the next big bad, and not constantly looking over their shoulder and worrying about the past.
In the end, while One Piece does owe a lot to Dragon Ball, it’s Oda’s strong story and characters that really carry the title. Seven years after the story was supposed to end (Oda envisioned it as a 5 year story), One Piece is not only going on strong, it just keeps getting stronger. He can do emotional and poignant scenes with the characters without having them dwell on their dark and difficult pasts. A meeting with Luffy means finding a path for going forward, and with so many dark and stagnant stories out there, it’s refreshing to have one that keeps things positive. That’s what Goku always did, and that’s what Luffy does now.
I have mixed feelings about this. Dragon Ball is being reviewed for it’s content in a Maryland school district because a 9-year-old checked it out of a elementary and middle school library. I think people are oversensitive in general and especially towards manga. I’ll agree that Dragon Ball doesn’t really belong in the hands of a fourth grader, but I think it’s fine for a middle school student.
The first Dragon Ball series is a comedy that does contain some sexual innuendo. The first volume does have a few questionable scenes, but I wouldn’t go so far and the Councilman from Wicomico did to describe them. I might be able to see the “sexual innuendo between an adult and child”, with Master Roshi wanting to seen Bulma’s panties, but there is in no way anything sexual between Goku and Bulma. Bulma is more like a big sister to Goku. And Goku is too dense to get any kind of innuendo.
So I can see a parent getting upset at their 9-year-old bringing it home to read. So that doesn’t bother me so much. What does is the way it was presented. The mother of the offending 9-year-old didn’t go to the school library to complain or challenge the book, and let the school’s review committee take over the matter as it is designed to. Nooooo, she asked to be anonymous and went to her Councilman and let him publicly decry the book with the moral indignation that only a politician can. And the Principal, who just happened to be at the meeting for another matter, jumped in to say the book would be removed ASAP.
Why was this necessary? Books are challenged all the time. Why did this particular book have to get the attention of a Councilman and be publicized at a County meeting? Does the mother and Councilman not trust the system put in place by the school to review offending books? Review committees were created to handle these issues. They are there to make sure the whole community is served, and not just a small, vocal minority. Let the system do it’s job.
Dragonball: Evolution Junior Novel
Adapted by Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: All Ages (9-12)
Goku thought he was a normal high school student until he found out he’s actually a martial-arts whiz with all kinds of powers. Now he and his fellow teen warriors are on a quest to find all the Dragon Balls before they fall into the wrong hands. But they may already have! Goku must battle the evil madman Piccolo with all he’s got to save the planet Earth!
Taking the title and character names from a manga does not make it “based on”, as it says on the front cover of this book (in very small letters). Not even the description from the back cover has much to do with the story inside. This story takes only the barest of elements from Akira Toriyama’s original manga and weaves them into a generic and boring story that has none of the charm or fun of the source material.
I guess Viz has faith in their chapter books line. In the Naruto line, they already have 4 books out with more scheduled for release. And honestly, as reading material for young ages 5-8, the books haven’t been bad. They have stayed true to the manga, adding embellishments that are appropriate for young ages and uses panels from the manga for illustrations. I know this probably irks older readers who don’t like to see their favorite stories “dumbed down”, but with Naruto, and now this new series I’ve found, I don’t think it’s bad, especially as a parent.
As I was searching Amazon for links for my previous post, I found this listing. Dragon Ball (the first, actually good, half of the series) is getting made into Chapter books. It’s not scheduled until August 2009, and there were at least 3 more set to follow this one. Those didn’t have any cover pictures though.
While Dragon Ball Z got all the hype, Dragon Ball, the part of the series that made it popular in the first place hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves. The manga started here in the US when Viz was publishing floppy comics, before the graphic novels became popular. This last year Dragon Ball has returned through the VizBIG compilations, but it’s got a Teen rating. A little overly conservative in my opinion. So I think it’s good to see it coming out for the audience that should read it most; young kids. Dragon Ball follows Goku’s adventures when he’s young, and I think will appeal to the young audiences much more. And there’s an actual story to follow in Dragon Ball, so the pages wouldn’t be filled with POW! BAM! SPLURT! as Dragon Ball Z would, no doubt.
Dragon Ball is a classic in every since of the word, and I applaud Viz for making this one available to the proper audience, even if it has to be in an altered form.
“On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Seven Dragon Balls,”
Goku is a strange boy with a tail and super strength living by himself in the mountains. One day, a girl named Bulma finds him while she is searching for a legendary object: a dragon ball. If you collect all seven and call forth the dragon, he will grant you one wish. Goku has one of the balls, left to him by his Grandfather. He agrees to let Bulma borrow it, but wants to go along with her on her journey to make sure the dragon ball remains safe. The pair then embark on a strange and exciting journey to collect the rest of the dragon balls, but they seem to have some competition.
Dragon Ball (the original series, not Z) has the distinction of being the first manga I ever bought, in English or Japanese. I was into Dragon Ball well before it became the phenomenon it did here. And I never like Z. I stopped picking up the manga when they started heading off into space. The first 16 volumes are all I need. Goku was cute and fun, with his clueless innocence. I’ll always like him best small and with his tail. I liked Dragon Ball when it was an action comedy. It still had the typical shonen issues of Goku having to fight bigger and stronger foes, but Toriyama did it in a way that it didn’t get boring or repetitive. The fights didn’t drag on in the beginning, and there was more going on than just fights. Dragon Ball is another classic that everyone should check out, but feel free to stop after volume 16.