The History of Bardock
Most of the material in the Dragon Ball Z TV series is based on the original manga. Material that is new to the series is called “filler” — it “fills” up time between events that were present in the original manga. Sometimes this filler can create inconsistencies, however; Toei Animation (the company responsible for the anime) would sometimes create new stories and characters that would contradict the original story or plot-points that original author Akira Toriyama would introduce later on in the series.
Generally, Toriyama would ignore this filler and continue on with his story. There is one example of “filler,” however, that became (ever so slightly) incorporated into the manga storyline. What would this be? A guy named “Bardock”.
Toriyama was consulted for character designs for a great deal of movie and TV special characters. Villains such as Coola and Broli were actually originally designed by Akira Toriyama, despite only appearing in the theatrical features. When consulted on the first Dragon Ball Z TV special, Toriyama threw in his ideas and designs, and even offered suggestions on to what the color of Saiyan hair should be and the names of the characters in the feature.
This is not where Bardock’s story begins, however.
Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru is one of Akira Toriyama’s highly-regarded “right-hand-men”, so to speak, responsible for a great deal of character designs during the TV series’ run, as well as commissioned to do an astonishing amount of official merchandise artwork (both in the past and present). In fact, there have been instances where Toriyama himself has not been sure whether a particular drawing was his or Nakatsuru’s!
Nakatsuru was initially given the task of designing Bardock and his crew for the upcoming TV special in the summer of 1990. His initial Bardock design remained relatively unchanged, but the designs and names for Bardock’s crew vastly differed from the final versions (click for larger version).
While Jaga (who would become Totapo) remained relatively close to the design and name pun (jagaimo meaning “potato”), Tomah (Toma) received a haircut and a different syllable emphasis, Pumbkin (Panbukin) received a slightly rearranged name and much more width, and Korn (Selypa) received an entire overhaul.
What happened, here? Toriyama happened! Toriyama came to Nakatsuru’s designs and made some minor additions here and there (anything from the character designs to the names, themselves). Here are some examples of Toriyama’s designs and notes for each of the characters:
Interestingly enough, the eyecatches (and final shot that concludes the ending theme) to the TV special showcase some of the original Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru character designs! They are in the very far background behind their corresponding “updated” versions, but it was certainly a nice easter-egg to toss into the production… and one we did not fully understand until so many years later!
Incorporating the Character
Up until this point, there had been no mention of Goku’s “father” in the manga, save for a minor comment Raditz made about Goku looking like their father. The TV special would be produced brand-new, exclusively for television. Amazingly, Toriyama was so enthralled with the feature, that he actually incorporated the character of Bardock into the manga.
Dragon Ball Z episode 86 (aired 10 April 1991) contains the events corresponding to the above chapter’s events. In the episode, scenes from the TV special (which had aired earlier on 17 October 1990) are shown in place of Toriyama’s own “flashback” (which technically does “flash back” to the events of the TV special).
As reprinted in Animerica volume 6, number 3:
On the other hand, when Toriyama is asked to pick out his favorite original story for the Dragon Ball animation, he passes over the lighter tales and selects the story with Goku’s father, Bardock. “It’s a pretty dramatic story that I’d never draw myself. I got to see a different kind of Dragon Ball in a good way.”
Personally approved by Akira Toriyama himself, Bardock became incorporated in the manga storyline as an actual character… if only for two panels!
Beyond the 1990s
For years upon years upon years, that is where the story stood: Bardock was a seemingly well-loved character, popping up in video games and receiving figures where appropriate.
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 “Dragon Ball Heroes” which were even 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.
For a full breakdown of the storyline in “Episode of Bardock”, see our full review!
Soon afterward in November 2011, it was announced through the pages of V-Jump that “Episode of Bardock” would be receiving an animated adaptation. Details were sparse at the time, but an advance screening would be available at Jump Festa the following month, scheduled for December 17th and 18th.
The new anime was attributed to the “Dragon Ball Force Project”, also alongside (what may be a prior or working code name for one or more of the projects) the title “Saikyō Super Saiyan Secret Project”:
As Jump Festa came and went, it became apparent that the new special would be animated and debuted all in one shot, running approximately 20 minutes in length. Surprisingly, the special became available for free (albeit region-locked) streaming on the “Bandai Channel” website. The special was later made available also via free streaming, although this time not region-locked, on Toei Animation’s “Anime Jan” website.
The animated adaptation’s story stayed essentially the same from its manga incarnation, with a few extra bits of dialog where necessary, and a well-animated fight between Bardock and Chilled to wrap things up.
All the meanwhile, Bardock was being used in a completely different story!
Dragon Ball Online launched in beta for the Korean market in 2010. The massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) allowed players to create their own characters, explore the Dragon World, and save the timeline from interference by new villains. The game’s back-story picks up with the end of the manga and continues onward over the course of a few hundred years:
Mira, an Earthling from the future, is an artificial being created by condensing the DNA harvested from various “star seekers”. In Age 851, Mira and his army invade and destroy New Namek, forcing hundreds of Namekians to emigrate to Earth once again. In Age 999, Piccolo returns from an investigation to warn Dende and the others about Mira’s arrival on and threat to Earth, but no warrior exists to protect and save them should Mira take action. Dende creates new sets of lower-powered Dragon Balls to encourage up-and-coming warriors to rise to the challenge, leading directly into the events of the actual Dragon Ball Online game in Age 1000.
Meanwhile, Mira has stolen a Time Passport from the Time God and is wreaking havoc throughout history by creating paradoxes that strain the fabric of space and time itself. The Trunks from the future timeline has been assigned the role of a Time Patrolman in exchange for not being punished for using his mother’s time machine. Alongside other missions, Trunks and the patrol force return to Age 762 during Goku’s fight against Vegeta where they do battle with a masked man (whom they have encountered before) as well as Mira himself. The masked man is revealed to be Bardock, who turns on Mira when his mind-control device is broken during the fight. Trunks and the others return to Age 1000, but when the smoke clears it is shown that Mira is still alive.
International gamers and fans may recognize some of the characters and events from this Dragon Ball Online scenario. Indeed, while Dragon Ball Online closed for good in 2013, it wound up as a sort of asset graveyard for future productions.
Alongside newcomer Demigra, Mira and Towa eventually found themselves as the main antagonists in 2015’s Dragon Ball XENOVERSE (released on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC). While XENOVERSE did incorporate other Dragon Ball Online elements (such as Time Patrol Trunks and user-generated avatar characters), it primarily told its own, original story.
“Time Breaker Bardock” from Dragon Ball Online was not done terrorizing the timeline, but the character took yet another detour in 2014, this time courtesy of original manga author Akira Toriyama himself.
Though Toriyama had shown Bardock in the manga and hinted at his ultimate fate, the actual story surrounding these events was, however, not shown! Fans had — logically enough — assumed that the events in the original TV special “happened” in the manga. After all, if Toriyama went so far as to not only draw a portion of these events but consistently praise them over a period of decades, why would that assumption ever change?
A special “Akira Toriyama Super Q&A” in the March 2014 issue of Saikyo Jump teased a massive bombshell: Goku’s mother would be revealed in the collected edition of Dragon Ball Minus” — indeed revealed Gine as the mother of “Kakarrot” and wife of Bardock. Most shocking is that the Bardock showcased in “Minus” appears to be an entirely different “Bardock” than we had known for so long. Removed even further from the source material as Naho Ooishi’s “sequel” version in Episode of Bardock, while Toriyama’s Bardock certainly still had the raw concepts of “figured out Freeza’s plan” and “wants to do something about it”… nearly everything else was different. Gone was Bardock’s team, gone was Bardock’s unrepentant nature, and gone was Bardock’s apathy toward Kakarrot.
It was a new Bardock for a new era from yet another new author… though, in this case, the “new” author was the original author himself.
Despite Toriyama’s new take on the character, Bandai Namco was not done with “Time Breaker Bardock” in terms of video game appearances. In 2015, for the fourth string of major updates to their card-based arcade game, Dragon Ball Heroes, the company dove back in to the remnants of Dragon Ball Online. “Time Breaker Bardock” once again fought for Mira, this time in the card battle arena.
Perhaps more so than any other character, Bardock is one that authors and game designers feel can be resurrected and re-imagined again and again.