Monday, October 12, 2009

Manga Monday: Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball (Volume 1)
Akira Toriyama
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Since there was so much media circulating about the title this past week, I thought I would take a look at the controversial book in question. Apparently, an elementary and middle school library in Maryland had this book on its shelf available for kids to check out until a mother made a big stink about her nine-year-old getting his/her hands on it, since the book contains some sexually suggestive scenes and cartoon nudity. Calling it "disgusting" as councilman Holloway said was going a bit far. Perhaps they should not have put a book labeled "ages 13 and up" on the shelves of a library where no student was within its age restrictions. The blame here is completely on the school board who, in an attempt not to look completely embarrassed by what is entirely their fault, focused feigned outrage on how terribly offensive the images in this book are.
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Admittedly, I was a little surprised at how far this manga pushed the envelope. I was expecting an utter overreaction to what they would call sexually suggestive, but this volume contains peeping toms and removing girls' panties amid all of the harmless sexual jokes (and there are a lot of them). A little risque for a nine-year-old, but anyone over thirteen, as it's labeled for everyone to see on the manga, should be able to handle this or they shouldn't be teaching sex education in high schools.
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Anyways, I was happy that this gave me the excuse to read a classic manga, as this is one that's been on my list for quite some time. And it didn't disappoint. This book is a lot of fun. The story follows a boy who hasn't had any connection with other people since his grandfather died. The boy, Goku, has a monkey tail, is ridiculously strong, and naive as any hero could ever be. His world changes however, when one day he meets Bulma, a girl who is on a quest to track down all seven of the legendary dragon balls to summon forth a great dragon who will supposedly grant anyone who calls it one wish. Bulma enlists the aid of Goku on her quest (mostly because he isn't willing to part with his dragon ball), and he gladly follows along, as he's up for an adventure and loves to fight, so long as he gets enough food. Several other characters join them on their journey, which is full of magic and battles, shape-shifters and Bulma half-nude in as many scenes as possible. The world Goku lives in is a fully-realized one too, full of your standard fantasy elements, but sci-fi as well, with Bulma using pills to make a lodge or some form of transportation. The different locations of the dragon balls give the protagonists an excuse to explore the world presented here and travel to all sorts of odd places, full of hidden dangers. And amid all of this is Toriyama's stunning artwork. He's really a fantastic cartoonist, blending rubbery exaggerated characters seamlessly with detailed backgrounds, and getting every ounce of emotion and suggestion across the page with master strokes. This first volume only hints at a greater, epic story, but it's a great way to start out a series that's already cherished by the masses.

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