Bit by bit you’ll be falling under its spell – my attempt at recommending Dragon Ball GT to the fans who may have missed one of the best parts of the series.
In a bit of a break from the serious topics such as handling marriage challenges, vaccines, great baby products as a new-ish dad, and difficulties in friendships, I should remind you that I’m a total nerd. I have First Class Honours in Games Technology, I have 15 games consoles, and I also love a lot of different types of sci fi shows.
In addition, I have a lot of animes that I enjoy. As per my list Amazing Shows From Japan: 15 of the Best Anime… Ever, my favourite anime is still Gundam SEED/SEED Destiny. What an epic adventure and a great story through and through.
However, Dragon Ball would be an absolutely firm number two. I have watched it all, from Dragon Ball to Z to Super to Heroes to some of the random fan projects.
And amidst it all is also the Toei produced, non-manga based Dragon Ball GT. It had a lot of detractors even today and there were a lot of reasons why people either skipped it or didn’t enjoy it.
That said, Dragon Ball Super became mega popular despite some larger violations of some of the big complaints against GT – too much focus on Goku, animation quality dropped from Z (Super animation is still horrendous in 100~ of its episodes compared to any contemporary anime though), and a slower pace.
Rewatching GT again at the moment though, it’s occurred to me that maybe the issue has been in how it was sold to people, as well as its original English run all the way back around 2004. So I thought I would go about recommending Dragon Ball GT, because if you’re keen for more antics with Goku, Vegeta and all the gang, it doesn’t get much better than the Grand Tour.
Here are some of the many reasons you should give it a serious revisit, and you might just end up enjoying it as much as I do.
Watch the Remastered edition!!!
This is the point I have to absolutely hammer before saying anything else in recommending Dragon Ball GT. The remastered sales of Dragon Ball Z, the success of Kai and even the soundtrack decisions of Dragon Ball Super (and Kai Final Chapters) all show how much the Western and International audiences preferred the Japanese soundtrack for these shows.
Too bad that many people never revisited the Remastered version of GT and only ever watched it in its original form with an English rock soundtrack that, let’s be honest, was really targeted to a young audience only.
While Step Into The Grand Tour and some of the electric guitar riffs have their fans, the tone of the soundtrack overwhelmingly clashes with the spirit of adventure and exploration that GT was all about throughout its various sagas. It does fit well in some of the big fights but it drains all the life out of the many character moments which is a real shame.
If you’ve only watched Dragon Ball GT with the American 2004 soundtrack, you haven’t watched Dragon Ball GT. Give it another go and see how much more you enjoy it in your older years with a soundtrack perfectly suited to both the fun and the action on screen.
The sense of adventure is real
If Dragon Ball Z is a high action shonen prime time sort of show, Dragon Ball GT carries the magic of a Saturday Morning cartoon, at least for the first 20 or so episodes.
I have always struggled to revisit the whole first half of the original Dragon Ball. It just hasn’t aged as well as the rest of the series. It absolutely crawls along, which was a great pace in the 80s, but nowadays its a rough watch.
Usually if I revisit the series I watch the movie versions like Path To Power to catch up on the early story beats and then get started from the Tienshinhan Saga (Tien is awesome).
And to be honest for a long time I did struggle with the early start of GT in a similar way… until I watched it with its original adventourous soundtrack. It is a much better paced, better acted, and more enjoyable revisit to the original hunt for the seven magical orbs. And something about the Goku, Trunks and Pan dynamic is more interesting than Goku, Yamcha and Bulma (although they are classic characters).
And even when the tone does become more serious after Lord Luud is introduced, there still is a sense of wonder and adventure about all the rest of the series. Whether it’s to a foreign planet where everything is giant, back on Earth hunting the Shadow Dragons (love that Irish episode heh), a Super Saiyan fight in a wind farm, or between dimensions playing in the Game of Life, it’s all whimsy and sheer fun.
One of the reasons why Kai and Super were popular was that they had a much, much faster pace than Dragon Ball Z which is like a slow space spaghetti Western. Very slow in a lot of places to be frank, especially in the filler sections. GT had this much faster pace over a decade before any of these recuts or new series were even a thought.
Your favourite characters all grown up – even Goku
We all know that GT stands for Goku Time, and even I’ll admit that. Dragon Ball Z/Kai you could really make the argument is about Gohan, although there was a broader brush of characters introduced or shown living their life over the course of a few decades. It’s hard to dispute the Goku-centric story telling with him being the main source of every single victory across the 64 episodes, but there’s actually still a lot of great featuring from the wider cast.
Dragon Ball GT is 15 years after Majin Buu, and all the relationships are fully developed. Vegeta is a true family man who is portrayed as someone taking his daughter shopping and even coming over for dinner with family friends. Gohan and Videl are successful and are doing well as parents. Goten has shed his fighting ways to be a bit of a player, and Trunks has reached CEO level at a young age.
It’s just really, really fun watching all these characters we know and love in their later years, and some of the interactions are just priceless. Vegeta has always been my favourite character, and watching how the once ruthless Saiyan prince interacts with his kids, wife, and even his rival Goku as he’s gotten older is absolutely priceless and regularly funny. A really memorable episode is when he is confronting the realities of aging and his interactions with Bulma about it are the cutest thing you’ll see in an anime. Oh yeah, and his best one liners are in GT (and I… admire your ability to die!).
And yes, Goku is a kid again, but he’s still the childish adult he’s always been. But there is actually a sense of maturity about him that isn’t in any other series, especially Super which took his childish behaviour to the point of making him look like an idiot for the whole run (so far). They really needed to hit the reset button on his power level somewhat to make the threats and the adventures more interesting, and I always find it fascinating to see how he handles his family and fighting interactions when his mental age at least is closer to 60.
Super gets so much praise for focusing on some of these moments, and there are a lot of great ones in Super. But it’s there in GT as well, and if you’re looking for more, we already did have a series that featured this at great length.
Great animation and colour (mostly)
There are definitely a number of scenes and episodes that you likely already have had people tell you about in GT that aren’t as strong as they were in DBZ. However, there are plenty of moments that may even look better, particularly during the Machine Mutant/Baby Sagas.
I also really love the colour palette of GT. I’m not really an expert in colour or art but the deeper and more vibrant colour scheme give it a unique look that to me stands up more than the rest of the series (except maybe Fusion Reborn, which is probably the highlight of the series in terms of animation).
And yes, Cell and Frieza look a bit weird, and some of the dragons and fights aren’t animated as well, but GT’s worst is still way better than Super’s best, and the majority of the series actually looks pretty spectacular.
I’ve gotta give a special mention to a lot of super memorable set pieces and character designs. Lord Luud, the Para Para Brothers, M2, that awesome machine lion Leon that looks amazing even though Goku destroys him in 4 seconds, that pirate statue in the final fight in a theme park, Sugoro and his son based on the Japanese myth about the tanooki… so many good things.
Paying off all major Dragon Ball threads
This is one of the most rewarding parts for me on this series and makes recommending Dragon Ball GT really easy for me. It pays off so many of the stories introduced along the years in very meaningful ways, including:
- Goku finally has a new finishing move, instead of Kamehameha every 5 minutes, he’s full on leveraging the Dragon Fist from Wrath of the Dragon, and every time it’s used is awesome
- The Old Kai’s hate for the use of the Dragon Balls and how they upset the natural order is completely paid off in the Shadow Dragons arc, which greatly expands and fulfils the whole mythos of the wish granting orbs (this is absolutely spectacular)
- Like I said, the characters all grown up – Gohan became the scholar he wanted to become, Goku and Vegeta’s quest for strength (and almost even a role reversal in terms of passions), Uub all trained up (wish we had more of him), Granddaughter Pan (should have had Super Saiyan but minor gripe)
- The revenge of the Tuffles on the Saiyans – more on that later
- Piccolo and his relationship with Goku and Gohan
- References to things that only happened in the DBZ movies
- Android 17 and 18
Even small things get a meaningful revisit, like the Sacred Water from the Garlic Jr saga, Emperor Pilaf, and all the old Dragon Ball characters that make an appearance when they’re transporting people off the earth like Upa and Korin. It’s a fan’s dream. If I listed everything I would be recommending GT in minute details all evening.
Super Saiyan 4
An additional thread worth calling out on its own is Dragon Ball GT’s main transformation. We have the Golden Oozaru (Golden Great Ape), which harkens back in an amazing tribute to the original legends of the Super Saiyans, and it’s “under control” form of SSJ4.
As Geekdom101 on YouTube points out, Toriyama actually had a great hand in the character designs for the start of GT, including Vegeta’s moustache (and it was his daughter who complained it should be shaved off as Bulla does in the series). SSJ4 wasn’t actually one of them though, but it was just as good as anything he came up with. Unlike Super’s Red/Blue/Grey/More Blue colour swaps, SSJ4 is exactly what the peak form of Saiyan biology should look like.
It’s just great. Looks cool, fits the colour palette super well, and was a great excuse to show Adult Goku’s full power if he hadn’t been turned into a kid.
Even if he does sound a bit too much like Batman at times.
On that note, I do really like Colleen as Gohan in Kai, but Stephanie will always be my Kid Goku.
The best villain of the series
There are many iconic villains in the Dragon Ball series – the ancient King Piccolo, Piccolo Jr (although not for long), the Saiyans, and then the big wigs for most fans – Frieza, Cell, and Buu.
But to me as the years have gone on, the best villain to me is squarely here in GT. It’s Baby, the Tuffle King’s revenge on the Saiyans.
There’s a big turn in GT when Goku, Trunks and Pan reach the Planet M2. Well, even before that, when they travel to Planet Luud and meet Lord Luud, a cultish figure who turns out to be one of the major Machine Mutants created by Dr Myuu. His big creation though turns out to be Baby, an organic machine who was created by Tuffle DNA.
Well done to Toei for taking a random but memorable episode from Dragon Ball Z (not in Kai unfortunately which was a misstep I think) where King Kai explains the history of the Planet Vegeta, and the Tuffles who originally lived there, and turning into a really well thought out, well designed saga.
The stakes are high, having all of the original gang having the evil flip is the first true test we see of Goku’s abilities, and all the characters eventually helping out to defeat him is great.
Goku vs. Vegeta is always a highlight, and Baby takes a familiar rivalry and puts an exciting, high stakes spin on it. It’s not overly drawn out, the fights are great, the transformations are memorable, the soundtrack is really good… so many good moments.
Oh yeah, and he doesn’t have regeneration like every other villain started to get, which did start to get old after a while. If you want a villain more interesting than Super’s three hundred tournaments and Zamasu (although I really like Zamasu), recommending GT for this villain alone is easy.
As mentioned in my Top 10 Dragon Ball Moments, I also love the Shadow Dragons a lot, but Baby is a capstone to the entire franchise IMO.
A proper closure to the whole saga
Even its detractors will admit that the end to the series featured here is fantastic. It properly ends the series with Goku sailing off into the sunset and a nice tribute to all the main characters over the years.
It’s just a good feeling when the final Spirit Bomb goes off and you see Goku fighting Krillin at Master Roshi’s house like the old days. It’s wholesome anime joy at its best.
I think I might be one of the only people out there who would be recommending Dragon Ball GT with so much fervour, but watching it again I really can’t understand how you can call yourself a fan and skip over this. It’s shorter than the Tournament of Power in Super, it’s better animated than that series (by a lot), it’s more interesting, and it represents the best of the franchise.
I would hate for you to be waiting like most people for the Dragon Ball Super Hero movie or the Cerealians/Moro from the manga to make it to anime form and be missing out on exactly the things that everyone is clamouring for from Super’s run – memorable moments with great characters, interesting developments, cool transformations, outstanding character design, and an adventure for the ages.
And at the very least, you have to admit that Dan Dan Kokoro/Bit By Bit is one of the best anime intros ever made.