“Episode of Bardock” (Manga)
In the July 2011 issue of Shueisha’s video game-focused magazine V-Jump, a vague reference was made to an upcoming Dragon Ball Heroes-related feature in the next month’s issue, stating:
In addition to the popular Dragon Hero Newspaper, manga will be published too!!
Details were sparse. What would this be? Mistranslations and assumptions flooded fandom, but it was eventually revealed via the official V-Jump website that spin-off author Naho Ooishi would actually be taking on yet another “special project”.
As part of a new update for Dragon Ball Heroes (the latest card-based arcade game for the franchise in Japan), Bardock would be receiving a new Super Saiyan transformation. What made this update more interesting than anything that had come in recent years was the all-out media assault that it was a part of. New cards with Super Saiyan Bardock were produced for Heroes which were promoted on television. The original Bardock TV special (along with the Trunks TV special) would receive a budget-priced (¥1000) DVD, allowing newer fans to experience the character’s origin for the first time, and long-time fans who did not own the expensive Dragon Box sets to pick it up, as well.
Finally, the “special project” from Naho Ooishi would be a spin-off manga entitled “Episode of Bardock“, a new story created as a “sequel” to the original TV special. The story would be released in three parts over the course of August, September, and October 2011’s V-Jump issues.
|Originally Published:||V-Jump (August, September, October 2011)|
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Review By: Mike LaBrie (VegettoEX)
Naho Ooishi is not exactly a stranger to the Dragon Ball franchise. She made her debut back in early 2009 with a two-part manga adaptation of the 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special (“Heya! Son Goku and Friends Return“) in V-Jump. In December 2010, Shueisha launched a new quarterly magazine called Saikyô Jump where spin-off manga would tell new stories based on current and old-favorite franchises to a newer and younger audience. While not included as one of the initial announcements for the magazine, it was later revealed that Ooishi would contribute a new spin-off entitled Dragon Ball SD, where she would retell some of the more fun and exciting stories from the original manga in her own way.
While her Jump Super Anime Tour Special adaptation was received warmly enough, Dragon Ball SD (as of this review’s publication with its three chapters thus far) has always been met with as loud as an apathetic shrug can possibly sound — we constantly ask why it even exists when it does not take advantage of its moderately-“chibi” style in any way and does not add anything new to the stories being told. With an entirely new story all to her own in Episode of Bardock, would Ooishi be able to cut it?
Episode of Bardock was originally published in three parts, with one chapter each included in the August, September, and October 2011 issues of V-Jump. A main chapter title page was only included with the first chapter.
(originally published in V-Jump, August 2011 issue)
The new story begins where the original ended: Bardock’s insubordinate attack on Freeza. Bardock calls for Freeza to come out, who responds by stating that he should be referred to as “Freeza-sama“, and asking what he wants. Bardock screams that they are allies, but Dodoria and Zarbon laugh this off — the Saiyans were just being used all along. Freeza states that the race has become an eyesore and must be eradicated… along with their entire Planet Vegeta. As Freeza’s blast engulfs both Bardock and the planet, he thinks to himself how annoying it would be on the off-chance that the “Super Saiyan” from the ridiculous legend ever actually appeared…
Bardock awakens to find himself in a strange place, convinced that he was caught in the explosion of Planet Vegeta. Where is he? The landscape and the color of the sky remind him of Planet Vegeta, but something is different. Two creatures, Ipana and Beri, approach Bardock (who has never seen this race before in his life). Ipana is the village doctor, and along with his shy son, heal Bardock a bit with their village’s secret medicine. Whatever the liquid is, it seems to be healing Bardock, who recognizes it as somewhat like the liquid from their own medical machines. Ipana says that with injuries as harsh as Bardock’s, it will likely take him half a month to fully recover. Ipana found him collapsed on the outskirts of town, and dragged him all the way back. Bardock is not from Planet Plant, is he? Much like how Bardock does not recognize Ipana’s race, Ipana is equally puzzled about Bardock. “Planet Plant”… Bardock thinks to himself that this was supposed to have been Planet Vegeta’s original name, but this cannot be the past…! Ipana gives Bardock something to eat, but the noise from a spaceship steals their attention.
An alien named Tobi cannot believe that “Chilled-sama” has his eyes on such a pathetic planet… but regardless, he declares that from here out out, they are the new rulers! Along with Cavira, Tobi notes that Bardock appears different from the others (who thinks to himself that these guys do not look like Freeza’s underlings). Cavira goes to make an example of Bardock but is made quick work of by the brutal Saiyan. Bardock strains himself due to his prior injuries, but still manages to take out Tobi… making him the village’s savior in the process! The mayor thanks him, but Bardock wants nothing to do with them, saying it makes no difference to him whether they live or die. Bardock camps out by himself, still wondering where he is. He was just fighting Freeza, but cannot remember anything after the explosion. Beri sneaks up toward Bardock with some food, but Bardock threatens to kill him if he does not scram. Ultimately, however, Bardock eats the free food.
Ten days after losing contact with Tobi and Cavira, Chilled decides to check up on Planet Plant. One of his henchman states that they have completely lost sight of the two, and have no idea where they might be. Even though the henchman promises to continue searching, Chilled decides to go have a look for himself. It is hard to believe that there might be anyone out there foolish enough to oppose him, but he is starting to look forward to his visit to Planet Plant! Just who is this “Chilled” who looks like Freeza, and will Bardock finally…?!
(originally published in V-Jump, September 2011 issue)
Chilled’s henchman states that they will be arriving on Planet Plant any moment. Chilled laughs to himself about potentially getting to play along with whomever it was that killed his minions. One of the minions is in Chilled’s way, so he stabs him through the chest, mentioning not to stand in front of him. As the now-dead-minion collapses, Chilled notes how this place looks like a crummy planet, and how useless his minions were to be killed here. Chilled has a great idea, though, and the group heads off.
Chilled and the henchman approach Ipana’s village, saying they are members of the “Space Police”, protectors of peace throughout the entire universe! Evildoers have come to ransack the planet for its abundant resources, and they have arrived to stop them — if a pair of aliens have come recently, they were probably the ones. One of the Plantiens notes that the two are no more thanks to a guy named Bardock who took care of them and flew off. Chilled offers a reward to anyone who tells him where Bardock went, but Beri is concerned about this new guy…
Beri runs off to find Bardock, telling him about the new aliens that arrived and how he has a bad feeling about them. Off in the distance, Chilled is destroying the village! Bardock says it has nothing to do with him, but Beri pleads for his help in saving everyone. Chilled laughs to himself about the “Space Police” lie, bestowing death upon all for not finding Bardock. Chilled asks for some of the healing liquid from Ipana, who refuses. Chilled will make him suffer, though not kill him, just to prove a point about going against him. Bardock suddenly shows up; as Ipana states his name, Chilled realizes that this is the guy who took out Tobi and Cavira.
Bardock screams Freeza’s name and attacks Chilled, who cannot believe a shrimp like this just came after him. Chilled grabs Bardock saying how he keeps going on and on about this “Freeza”, but he is Chilled, the mightiest pirate in the universe! Bardock is in a huge pinch now courtesy of Chilled’s overwhelming power, but will he finally… in the next issue…?!
(originally published in V-Jump, October 2011 issue)
Beri runs back to his father asking what is going on and what happened to Bardock. Chilled says that he was curious how strong Bardock actually was since he took out his henchman, but this is all somewhat anticlimactic. He perhaps would have even allowed Bardock to join him, but he is too weak for even that! Beri comes to stop Chilled, but it is no use. Beri is wounded as Ipana looks on, but Chilled simply wonders to himself who the trash was.
Bardock starts muttering to himself about being pathetic, and that if he only had more power he would not have lost back there. As Bardock screams out Freeza’s name yet again, he transforms into a Super Saiyan! Chilled laughs to himself, saying that Bardock should not get cocky just because he has gold hair now. Chilled fires a series of blasts and continues laughing, saying that the hair apparently did not change a thing, since all of the blasts hit him head-on! When the dust clears, however, Bardock is still there. Chilled gasps, wondering who this guy is. Bardock is just a Saiyan (probably, anyway)! Is Chilled, the great space pirate and strongest in the world, ready for this?! Chilled forms a giant blast to destroy the whole planet, but his ki is pushed back by Bardock’s own blast, which continues pushing through to envelop Chilled. Bardock has done it! He has defeated Chilled and saved both the village and the planet!
Chilled can barely speak, unable to believe these turn of events. A henchman finds him and brings him back, wondering what just happened. Chilled, still laughing in pain, mutters that they should tell his clan about these people called “Saiyans” who can become gold.
As Chilled falls down, the narrator explains how the legend of the Super Saiyans, mightiest of warriors, would be passed down through Freeza’s clan…!
Ooishi has an art style that is reminiscent enough of Akira Toriyama’s distinctive style to work in its universe, but enough of her own flair to separate it a bit. It is tough to pinpoint it without resorting to the gender card, but her style does seem a bit more feminine overall. When Toriyama describes Bardock, the phrase “hardened warrior” has been used. Compare Toriyama’s sketch of the character from chapter 307 with a similar shot from Ooishi:
In Toriyama’s work, Bardock has a larger frame that conveys a bit more power. This one panel in particular feels as if a gentle breeze is about to carry a trash bag full of rose petals across the screen at any moment:
It is definitely Bardock, but with a new spin. The same goes for just about everything else over the three chapters of material.
In terms of new characters with the most “screen time”, Chilled is the star of the show. Interestingly, promotional material in V-Jump alongside the first chapter in August 2011’s issue reveals the fact that Chilled was designed by Akira Toriyama! With all the new designs popping out left and right courtesy of Dragon Ball Heroes, it is nice to know that the original author himself had a chance to contribute something new to the universe.
Chilled’s design is different than what many of us likely expected — the slight pot-belly is the main eye-draw. The design does not evoke any type of fear the same way that even first-form Freeza did, so to some degree Chilled is not as overwhelming a foe in the readers’ eyes as he perhaps should be. He also does not speak as demeaningly-politely as Freeza did, so it all ends up as just a round dude that kinda looks like he might be related to Freeza. That all being said, perhaps the fact that Chilled was designed by Toriyama is what brings that familiarity to the character, and while he does not exude anything resembling the terror and might of his descendent, he has just enough of an air of his own to feel at home in this past timeline.
The minions are a strange bunch, too. Our good friend Herms has already coined the playful description “Totally Not Appule With Horns” to describe one of them, but he is thankfully one of the only ones that truly feels like a copy/paste from Toriyama’s own bunch. Tobi feels like he might have some slight design relations with the creatures from Planet Kanasa in the original Bardock TV special with a more reptilian head, while Cavira (whose name might be a play on キャビア kyabia or “caviar”) seems even more fish-like — coincidentally or not, “Kanasa” comes from 魚 sakana (“fish”), so the resemblance and inspiration is possible.
The residents of Planet Plant are a strange bunch, somewhat reminiscent of Tarble’s alien wife Gure from the 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special. The design was necessary to separate them from the brutal designs of Bardock and Chilled’s entourage, so it works quite well in that sense — you clearly understand how peaceful and somewhat naive to the universe these cute little aliens actually are.
Much like with her manga adaptation of the 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special, Ooishi’s art — mostly — feels at home in the grander collection of manga artwork for the franchise. Part of what makes Toriyama’s art so stunning and iconic is how cleanly he draws with flat colors and little in the way of shading. On the other hand, Ooishi incorporates some standard gradient shading into her designs which does clash with the classic idea of Dragon Ball manga artwork, but it is done in a subtle-enough way that it does not completely (and literally!) overshadow everything else in the frame.
Whereas Dragon Ball SD‘s entire point is to re-tell stories from the original manga series, Episode of Bardock was an opportunity for Ooishi to stand apart and tell her own tale. That being said, she took plenty of opportunities to draw parallels to the old stories, and even slip in a few homages to specific panels. These homages become more prevalent with each subsequent chapter, and some are more obvious than others, but they are definitely there. In this example, the mirrored image of Goku (immediately after Freeza kills Vegeta) is used with Bardock walking toward Chilled:
It might be easy to dismiss this as a standard pose, but the context surrounding it solidifies in — the rest of the page is an almost-dead-on play of the classic scene where Freeza shoots a ton of blasts at the newly-Super Saiyan Goku, cannot believe it did not damage, and asks who he is: he is the Super Saiyan, Son Goku! In this case, he’s Bardock! Just a Saiyan! Well, probably.
Not all of the homages are to the original manga, though. In this example, Ooishi clearly channels the anime-only scene where, right after Trunks takes out the minions, Mecha Freeza decides he longer needs this last one. Were it not for Chilled looking at the minion and smiling, the drawings would be identical:
There are countless examples, but none of them stick out as misplaced. They all work incredibly well as if they were always meant to be drawn that way, and only add to the experience and celebration if you recognize what they hearken back to.
Plenty of fans have described it this way, but it truly is the best way to sum it up: Episode of Bardock is almost painfully “safe”.
Over the span of the three chapters, nothing is truly advanced or altered in any significant way. The setup for Super Saiyan Bardock was clear from the beginning, and things had to be left open just enough for the rest of the franchise to make sense as-is… and that is exactly what we got.
That might be OK, though. With reasonable expectations going in to the short story, you will probably get exactly what you thought you would get out of it. Ooishi likely had to follow a very strict set of guidelines to fall in with the marketing surrounding the character, and wrote an acceptable story to fit in with said marketing machine.
One question that many fans have brought up is whether or not Bardock is “in-character” for what one might expect from his original TV special, especially when this is being marketing as a direct sequel. The main concern is the lack of any future premonitions from Bardock in Ooishi‘s three-part story, which was a somewhat important part of the original TV special. It could be argued that perhaps a giant explosion knocking him back through time would kick that pesky curse out of him, but the more likely reason is that there was just not enough time or an appropriate enough place to include it. With such a cramped schedule and page availability, Bardock was reduced to his most important aspects, which I would pinpoint as his ruthlessness (such as cracking the neck of the random henchman) right there alongside his reluctant camaraderie (such as his “It’s not like I actually care whether you live or die!” style of comments). Without those couple of hints, Bardock might not actually be “Bardock” in this story, but just enough was written into him to solidify the character.
Some may also argue whether or not Episode of Bardock actually “happens” — before getting into the “canonical or not” discussion, what I mean by that is whether or not this is all simply in Bardock’s head. Was he truly swept back through time? Was his curse of premonition playing tricks on him during the moments of his ultimate demise?
To me, it is pretty clear that with some of the focus of the story being the introduction of Chilled and how the legend of the Super Saiyan was passed down through his race, this truly does “happen” at some undetermined point in the history of the Dragon World.
Whether you choose to accept it as “official” or fitting in with some self-created “canon” for the franchise is another issue entirely. It is a fully personal choice, and one that has no backing from any non-existent, non-officially-declared, “Look upon ye’ official canonicalness” from the original author or any rights holders. It fits well enough for me that I have no problem considering Bardock as possibly the original Super Saiyan of legend.
Perhaps the biggest question is: so what happens to Bardock now? He has become a Super Saiyan, possibly made some friends (which he may or may not turn on at any point just to get his slaughter on)… and… so what does he do? Where does he go? Does he simply live out his life on what may or may not be the ancient Planet Plant? Does he ever meet up with any ancient versions of his race out in the vast universe? Does he (re-?)populate the planet, or will the Saiyans eventually show up on a spaceship at some point?
Speaking of which, those folks do not look like the Tsufruians we see elsewhere in the series. Despite their creation for the purpose of filler in the Z TV series, extra material such as Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans, and later in GT, the Tsufruians had always been shown with a consistent appearance (short, curly hair, technology, etc.). Who are these dinky aliens? As noted earlier, they look more like Tarble’s alien wife Gure from the Jump Super Anime Tour Special than Tsufruians.
The story does not leave any truly gaping plot holes, but it does bring about a few extra questions that would have been fine had the story not been written in the first place. There are also a couple minor inconsistencies (such as the placement of Bardock in space against Freeza and the conversations that take place) that prevent it from being a “perfect” (not in a quality sense, but in a self-consistent sense) sequel to the original TV special. Was it worth it to get a little extra Bardock action, though? Sure. Why not?
Episode of Bardock could have used a little more breathing room. All of the events are there and make sense together, but it cruises along at such a frantic pace to fit within the three chapters that it all feels a little too rushed. Bardock’s transformation in the third chapter is perhaps the best example, hitting at a point that made no more sense than any other time. It was reminiscent of Goku Jr.’s Super Saiyan transformation from the Dragon Ball GT TV special (bear friend gets hurt, TV special almost over = transformation GO!).
The three chapters do what they can to fit in with the rest of the universe in a non-offensive way, and do that job admirably. The art, while having its own flair and modern styling, gives plenty of respectable nods to its inspiration and original source material.
Right before going live with this review, it was announced that Episode of Bardock would be receiving an anime adaptation in 2012. Especially when looking at the Trunks TV special and how that was expanded and tweaked for its animated debut, there is a strong possibility that some of our criticisms with Ooishi‘s work could be addressed. If there is one thing animated Dragon Ball does well, it is adding drawn-out suspense. Until this new adaptation comes our way, though, we have these three manga chapters to fall back on.
Episode of Bardock: it was a thing.
Episode of Bardock was written and drawn by Naho Ooishi, published in the August, September, and October 2011 V-Jump issues, published by Shueisha for release on the 21st of each prior month. MSRP ¥500 each magazine issue.
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Episode of Bardock was originally printed in the August, September, and October 2011 issues of Shueisha’s Japanese video game-focused magazine V-Jump. Due to its monthly publication, back-issues can be difficult to track down (and are, indeed, sold-out via most online retailers). For reference purposes, the respective monthly covers are shown below: