I’ve recently been inspired to do a watchthrough of Dragon Ball through Z, GT, and finally the English-language dub of Super. This will be my first time watching much of Dragon Ball and even several sagas of Z, and is an experience I’ve been putting off for years due to the immensity of it all.
As much as I’m more interested in the subbed version (largely because that informs the dub), there is no way I am binge-watching anything with subtitles unless I am completely forgoing all other responsibilities. As a result, this entire series will be of the dubbed version. I’m not entirely ignorant of many differences between the two versions, and will take these into account while I’m watching, but the only show that I’m going to fully watch both is Super.
We start with the so-called “Emperor Pilaf” Safa, the only full saga that I was able to not only obtain the manga for from my local library, but also to watch when it aired on Toonami years ago. Of course, the biggest thing that tells me is that only in the English dub is willing to go through an entire saga of panty jokes and then back out when it comes time to deliver the final punchline and act like Shenron accidentally gave him a pair of women’s panties.
I say “so-called” because Pilaf is barely in this saga. For the first two-thirds of this saga, the Pilaf gang have very scant appearances, mostly serving as “don’t forget about us.” It’s only in the last few episodes of the saga that they become a major presence.
It’s already clear in this saga that Toriyama isn’t huge on planning ahead. Like I said above, there’s very little Pilaf presence in the Pilaf Saga; he doesn’t act at all against the heroes until the end of his saga. This implies either no interest or ignorance of traditionally effective plotting processes. Beyond that, there’s the fact that this saga is so different from what’s to come. Over the years, Dragon Ball (and what became known on television as Dragon Ball Z) began to use less puerile humor and fewer anthropomorphic animals. Especially in the first saga, this largely comes off as Toriyama throwing things at the wall to see what stuck.
This saga is truly about introducing the first set of main characters. Goku and Bulma are the first introduced, and their influence will remain strong all the way through the present day. Bulma bounces on and off screen depending on when there is a place for a noncombatant, but she’s never completely forgotten. Goku, of course, is the main character of the entire show. Over the remainder of this saga Oolong, Yamcha, Puar, the Ox King, Chichi, Turtle, and Master Roshi are introduced. Most of these remain fairly important, though each has a larger presence in Dragon Ball than anything that comes after.