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.