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Dragon Ball. Volumes 2 and 3. By Akira Toriyama. Translated by Mari Morimoto. English adaptation by Gerard Jones. San Francisco, CA: Viz Communications, 1984, 2000. 189p (v.2); 177p (v.3). (Viz Graphic Novel). $14.95/v. ISBN 1-56931-496-9 (v.2); 1-56931-529-9 (v.3).




Science fantasy

Adults, teens, kids; very brief, mild scenes of curiosity about bodies, some PG-rated humor.

NOTE: Volume 2 collects issues #7-12 of Dragon Ball, plus half of issue #1 of Dragon Ball Part 2; volume 3 collects through #7 of Dragon Ball Part 2.

ANOTHER NOTE: These books are numbers 2 and 3 in a series of 42.

Volume 2 finishes off the original Dragon Ball quest. Having encountered the horrendous Ox King, Goku must fly back to Kame-Sen'nin, the lecherous old Turtle Master, to pick up a magic fan that will blow out the permanent fire around the Ox King's castle. Unfortuntately, the old man threw the fan out when it got stained with wonton soup; fortunately, he agrees to put the fire out himself; unfortunately, the blast he creates (aside from blowing the minds of the skeptical company) also blows down the castle. But the Ox King is pleased to see his old master, and he allows Bulma to pick through the rubble for the next Dragon Ball. He also gives the little company a new car, and they speed off, followed by Yamcha and Pu'ar, still trying to retrieve the Dragon Balls for Yamcha.

The two little groups must contend with the Rabbit Mob and their fearsome leader, the Carrot Master, and then are captured by the evil Lord Pilaf (of the Reich Pilaf), who wants the Dragon Balls for himself. The seven Dragon Balls are indeed brought together, with a result no one (except Oolong) wants. But the biggest threat to our heroes' safety comes from an entirely unexpected source.....

Volume 3 follows Goku's peculiar training under Kame-Sen'nin, along with his rival-then-friend Kuririn. Delivering milk, swimming shark-infested lakes, plowing fields with their hands, and dodging bees are just a few of the many activities in the old man's grueling regimen. Distractions include Lunch, a beautiful, sweet girl who changes personalities when she sneezes. But the boys persevere, because Kame-Sen'nin intends for them to enter the Tenka'ichi Budokai, the "Strongest Under the Heavens"--the ultimate martial arts tournament. Only eight individuals will qualify for the tournament; 137 are entered. Everyone laughs at the two small boys--until Kuririn knocks his first opponent through a wall. Both boys ultimately qualify, as does Yamcha (there's a friendly reunion scene), and the book ends with Kuririn's first tournament match: against the fearsome Bacterian, whose specialty is stench-fu (he has never bathed).

Like the first book, these two include title page galleries for the chapters that appeared in the original comic book issues.

The ordered insanity and hilarity of Toriyama continue in these two books. This series is addictive; I couldn't wait to read these books to see where the story went, and for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed what I read. Gotta love those sleazy puns and silly names (e.g., the Turtle Master's big zap is called the "Kamehama-ha")!

I really appreciate Toriyama's plotting skills. Elements that appear to exist just for laughs usually have a plot purpose, such as Bulma's rabbit outfit or the entire encounter with the Rabbit Mob (it serves to bring Yamcha into the heroes' camp). The characters are always interesting; I'm curious to see what part Lunch plays in the future books, and I loved the extreme prudishness of Lord Pilaf and his henchpeople. The evolution of the Goku-Kuririn relationship from rival to friend is nicely handled. One moment I really liked in book 3 was when, after they moved house to a larger island, Goku stands on his cloud, looking down at some of the other houses. For me, that panel signified the larger world behind the story, and that the world has a certain amount of consistency despite the many crazy things that happen.

Parts of book 2 seemed a bit rushed; I thought the Rabbit Mob episode could have been drawn out a bit, and I would have liked to have seen more of Pilaf and Co., specifically a bit of back story. But I thought book 3 was quite well paced, even the fight scenes; considering how so many manga fights are overlong and largely incomprehensible, Toriyama's are a model of brevity and clarity.

The farther I go in this series, the more impressed I am with the art. The lines are extremely clean, the pacing is almost always impeccable, and the things depicted are always appropriate. There are scenes in this book that I'm sure would have eluded lesser artists, like when Bulma's car is blown up and the three inhabitants go flying (along with pieces of the car) in awkward positions. Another thing I really like is the sound effects, especially in volume 3. I don't know whether they're the contribution of Gerard Jones or they're exact transliterations of the original Japanese, but they work extremely well to suggest the sounds of things. They remind me of the famous sound effects by the late Don Martin.

Everyone goes flying after the car is blasted


Goku contemplates his neighbors

 Copyright 1984, 2000, Akira Toriyama

At fifteen bucks a pop, this series is going to require a serious investment over the years, but so far it's worth it. Most highly recommended. Should be a first choice for a manga collection. Younger readers and fans of the anime will eat it up.


Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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