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I tried watching Dragon Ball. It was cool. I tried watching Dragon Ball Z. Didn't appeal to me. Then I saw the first episode of this. I was hooked from the get-go. There is humor, action is intense, may Vegeta forever be awesome, may these guys forever spite Can't Catch Up Synrome, and praise be to General Ivan for voicing in the offcial dub of One Piece. And you know what? They implemented Grey and Grey Morality. The Ginyu Squad? True Companions. Gohan fighting Goku as Ginyu? The thought of it being Goku is what motivates him, not demotivate. And you know what? Piccolo goes from being a standard villain to being the most morally sound member of the team. And Team Four Star refrences the original Dragon Ball. Lastly, there's Cell. He. Is. Creepy...
So go check out Dragon Ball Z Abridged out now.
Look, from a technical perspective, Team Four Star's 2017 Christmas episode is clearly one of the most ambitious things they've ever done. It features hefty editing, brings together a bunch of the old voice talent from previous stories and movies, includes a bunch of brand new animation made just for this episode, and even has pretty good music and sound mixing. I'm not here to call them lazy or anything like that. And while I'm a bit sad that it's not the fleshing-out of a good idea badly served by the narrative I really wanted out of it, I'm man enough to admit that the plot they came up with to replace it has loads of promise.
But... well, bluntly, the storytelling and writing just aren't up to snuff. A few bits, like Bulma showing up to disperse the miasma partway through the battle, are just part of the source material, but even most of the jokes are misses rather than hits. The vast majority of them are just lame Christmas puns, mis-fired off like machine-gun cartridges in a jammed weapon, and the viewer fatigue they cause ends up dragging down the few really good ones. It just doesn't come across as ultimately satisfying.
I won't say it's all bad. The writing for the Warriors of Christmas Past segment was inspired, even if the way Bulma cuts into it is kind of lame. Again, I do like many of the core ideas, even if certain elements of them are ultimately handled badly. And, as per usual, Team Four Star and their guests all turn in strong performances that manage to elevate the very weak material a bit. But, at the end of the day, I guess the gag dub can only go so far from the source material: it too ends up being a strong central premise poorly executed, sans a few bright spots.
When this show started, it looked just like a parody with funny jokes from time to time, but Team Four Star evolved, and created their own style.
The characters are great, because their personalities manage to combine three things at the same time: parody, novelty, and nostalgia. Goku, for example, is still the Idiot Hero who loves to fight and eat, yet some aspects of his character are much more developed: he is a neglectful dad and REALLY dumb, but still fairly likable because he is an adult with the mind of a child who doesn’t know better, and despite his antics, he can still be a hero when needed to be.
The same is done with most of the characters. Vegeta is an arrogant, angry and massive Jerk Ass, but still badass. Krillin is an eternal Butt Monkey doing his best to catch up. Piccolo is a violent Large Ham with Hidden Depths. Gohan is a nerdy adorkable kid with daddy issues. All these traits are played for laughs, and turn the original awesome yet flat characters of the manga into a mix of comedy and awesome. Other characters are completely reinvented, such as Nappa (a Psychotic Man Child) Dende (a Creepy Child) and the Guru (a Large Ham Jerk Ass).
The voices? Excellent. If the English dubbing cast from the original series praised their work, this HAS to mean Team Four Stars are doing great. Special mention goes to Lanipator (Vegeta, Piccolo and Krillin) and LittleKuriboh, who does an awesome job as the hilariously cruel Frieza.
With all its Running Gags, Brick Jokes, cultural references and overall crazy humor, DBZA is by far one of the funniest web series of the moment. What I love the most about it is that, while most abridged series are simply parodies that make fun of the original, Team Four Stars seldom do so. They do point out lots of plot holes, but they do so cleverly and still make us appreciate how awesome this show is. In fact, they completely rewrite the show! They change the dialogues not only to make fun of it, but to give the characters the colors they lacked in the original. Even the fights are improved by the dialogues, which is something since this is Dragon Ball.
To sum up, this isn’t a mere parody. This is a whole new version of one of our favorite shows, different and similar to the original in good ways. I love it, and I deeply hope they’ll go at least till the end of the Cell Saga.
Go Team Four Stars! You’re awesome!
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