Why did the direct sequel to Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT fail? After you have enjoyed enough Manga and Anime you are able to read between the lines and can see a detail or two another may have missed. Through this and other detailed evidence you are able to piece together what really happened in a particular series. This results in an abstract idea, a thought which doesn’t have a physical existence but can be speculated. Welcome to Anime Abstract.
After Dragonball GT some people thought they were done with the franchise. They figured they had experienced enough of the adventures of Son Goku and his friends turned rivals and thought there was nothing left to enjoy from the characters. Then came the release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. These movies helped to kickstart the enthusiasm and soon fans were thrilled at the arrival of a new TV series, Dragon Ball Super and completely dismisses the idea everyone was tired of seeing these characters go on adventures.
This leads to an important question. If it wasn’t an overexposure of characters, then why did Dragon Ball GT not connect with the fans and seems to be the black sheep of the entire Dragon Ball franchise? One of the most damning factors for the lack of interest in the series was the fact it was abandoned. Specifically by the original creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama who walked away from the project insisting he didn’t want to work on Dragon Ball anymore. This resulted in the series essentially being filler as it had no previous source material and was just a studio made product.
Additionally the entire setup for the series lost the core formula of what it takes for a Shonen show to continue. Shonen shows rely on difficulty and power scaling to keep the audience invested.With Dragon Ball Super premise is interesting because it increases the difficulty. The shows introduces the realization of there being a God of destruction who purpose is to simply go around and destroy which opens a new level of understanding of what can come from the Dragon Ball universe. From there it’s revealed there are other universes from which to pull characters from and finally a dimensional tournament with the fate of all universes hanging in the balance occurs. This increase in challenge, difficulty, and storytelling is what has resulted in fans warming up to the idea of Dragon Ball Super being a true successor to Dragon Ball Z.
This formula is the exact opposite of what was happened with Dragon Ball GT. Instead of a power increase the studio decided to neuter the characters. At the end of Dragon Ball Z, Goku was at the top of his game and could basically take out any foe. GT begins by introducing the Black Star Dragon Balls, stripping Goku of his powers by turning him into a kid, and hinges on the looming threat of the Earth being destroyed if the balls weren’t found in a year. This results in the main cast having to search the universe in hopes of finding the Dragon Balls and at the same time eliminates all other potentially higher skilled warriors by leaving them on Earth. Vegeta and Piccolo, characters which were up on their training would have been easily able to dispatch any type of stronger opponent were left behind. Instead the cast focused on Goku (who wasn’t in possession of his full abilities after being turned into a kid), Trunks (who unlike his post-apocalyptic future counterpart was not at the top of his game) and Pan (a young girl who didn’t have nearly the experience other Fighters did) as they went around the universe to find the Dragon Balls so Earth wouldn’t be destroyed.
This return to formula of going around collecting Dragon Balls with a rag tag team just didn’t resonate with the audiences as everyone felt they had seen it before. They wanted stakes, they wanted characters they knew and cared about, and didn’t want to suffer through his new, less than entertaining premise. Even the attempt to increase the stakes by abandoning this premise came too late to the save the show.
Sure, later parts of the show were entertaining. After episode 22, the series introduced the villain known as Baby who was interesting enough because of its ties back to a race which was destroyed by the Saiyans but was never able to capture a sense of urgency. Baby succeeds in brainwashing all of Earth but in the end it wasn’t as threatening as studio had thought it would be.
Afterward, episodes would continue to attempt to recapture world shattering challenges to make the series feel more like Dragon Ball Z. This included the Super Android 17 story line and the idea of the Dragon Balls themselves becoming the final opponents the cast would face. Truth be told, these weren’t the worst arcs of the Dragon Ball franchise but a viewer would still have to get through over 30 episodes of uninteresting content to reach this point.
In the end, Dragon Ball GT just wasn’t a worthy successor to a beloved franchise and even now only thought of with tepid interest by those who are Dragon Ball completionists. Better material from the franchise came out and GT can be summed up as an attempt to keep a good thing going which didn’t pay off.
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