A Year of Anniversaries Part 3: 15 Years of Dragon Ball Z

For my third and final anniversary post of the year, I want to talk about Dragon Ball Z!

Around the same time I was discovering blink-182 fifteen years ago, I also made a startling discovery that would shape my taste in comics and cartoons for the rest of my life (well, so far anyway). It was fall of 1998 and for the first time ever my family had satellite TV. Life was good, and I think the whole family was enjoying the new satellite. Among the plethora of new channels was Cartoon Network. Being thirteen, I had largely outgrown cartoons and was beginning to enjoy more “mature” entertainment as well as sports. But I was still in the habit of checking Cartoon Network occasionally to see if there might be anything interesting to watch.

The main cast of DBZ. From the left, Gohan, Bulma, Krillin (Kuririn), Chi-Chi, Goku, and Piccolo.

The main cast of DBZ. From the left, Gohan, Bulma, Krillin (Kuririn), Chi-Chi, Goku, and Piccolo.

One day after school had started, I was using the “guide” feature on our satellite to see what was on the various stations when I saw a title that caught my eye on Cartoon Network. It was called Dragon Ball Z (DBZ). Curious to see what kind of show it was, I started watching. I was really lucky. The first episode of DBZ that I ever saw is episode four where Goku and Piccolo team up to fight Goku’s evil older brother, Raditz. I was shocked. I had never seen anything like it. The ferocity of the action, the power behind the punches, the fluidity of the animation. All of these were far and away different from any cartoon I had ever seen. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was hooked. I mean instantly hooked. I remember going to football practice afterward completely distracted by what I had just seen. I was back downstairs and in front of the TV waiting for it to start again the next day after school. Not only was I still in awe of the animation, but I couldn’t believe it when the main character, Goku, dies at the end of episode five! I had no clue what to expect, but for the next five years until the series ended in the U.S., I would be at the TV to witness the battles of the Z fighters. In 2001, the original Dragon Ball (DB)series debuted on the Toonami block, and I followed Goku’s childhood adventures with the same fervor. By the time Dragon Ball GT (DBGT) aired in the U.S., I had already seen most of the series through other means so I didn’t follow it very closely (that and I didn’t like the dub all that much). I also watched all thirteen DBZ movies that were out at the time even though I only like a few of them.

But simply enjoying DBZ and the other DB series and movies wasn’t enough. My curiosity for anime grew and grew, and Cartoon Network’s ridiculously awesome promos didn’t help any:

When I couldn’t watch DBZ, I wanted to watch something, anything that was even remotely similar. And I began watching other shows on Cartoon Network like Cowboy Bebop, InuYasha, Full Metal Alchemist, YuYu Hakusho, a few of the Gundam series, and any other anime that I could get via satellite. While trolling for anime one night I discovered Princess Mononoke and was introduced for the first time to the works of Hayao Miyazaki. If it was anime, I was there, but all of it was ancillary to DBZ until 2003.

I already wrote of my introduction to Rurouni Kenshin in 2003. And though it is my favorite series, I would never have discovered it hadn’t it been for DBZ. But little did I know that 2003 would be a pretty momentous year for my love of anime, and for the anime/manga industry in the U.S.

I remember it vividly. I was working in a small town in South Dakota during the summer of 2003 and was at the grocery store when something on the magazine rack caught my eye. It was Goku gracing the cover of the fairly new U.S. version of Shonen Jump magazine. I knew enough by this time that DB and RuroKen had started as weekly series in the Japanese magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, so I unhesitatingly purchased the magazine. That night in the motel room that was my home for the summer I sat down and read manga for the first time in my life. Here were the comics that had inspired some of my favorite anime plus a few that I had never seen or heard of before. I was immediately impressed by one series in particular. It was a little known series at the time featuring a young ninja in training named Naruto. A few years later Naruto along with Bleach and One Piece (all of which made their first official U.S. debuts in Shonen Jump magazine) would become international media juggernauts, and I followed them closely through the pages of Shonen Jump and would later watch the anime. And none of this would have happened without DBZ.

The August 2003 issue of the U.S. version of Shonen Jump magazine. My very first issue!

The August 2003 issue of the U.S. version of Shonen Jump magazine. My very first issue!

DBZ continues to be popular. Recently the anime was recut to follow the original manga series more closely. This recut edition was renamed Dragon Ball Z Kai (DBZ Kai) and currently airs in the U.S. on The CW‘s Saturday morning block, Vortexx. And it’s funny, after all these years, I’m still excited to watch it every Saturday. There was also a brand new movie released in Japan earlier this year, and it will be coming to the U.S. soon (though I don’t think an official release date has been set). It’s called Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods and takes place shortly after the end of the DBZ anime series. Toriyama Akira, the creator of Dragon Ball, was directly involved in the production, and it sounds like it was pretty successful. There are even rumors floating about of a new TV series and more movies to come! Naturally, if and when that happens, I’ll be there!

I thought I could create a bit of a guide to what is available as I did with my previous RuroKen post, but quite frankly there is just too much out there. There is the original manga series, Dragon Ball, which is still in print in various formats in the U.S., as well as being available digitally through the Viz Media app. There are three animated series that I listed previously, and they are also readily available in various formats. DBZ Kai, currently airs on Saturday mornings on The CW. There are thirteen movies, a couple of TV specials (both of which are excellent), plus the new movie, Battle of the Gods. On top of that there are numerous video games, a collectible card game, and probably a lot more out there that I don’t even know about. There’s even a terrible live-action movie! That’s a lot, and if you haven’t read or seen anything Dragon Ball related before I’d highly recommend checking out the manga (be warned though that the manga does have some mature content), or watching an episode of DBZ Kai on Saturday morning. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

It has been fifteen years since I discovered DBZ on Cartoon Network, and here’s the craziest thing about it all: I still read the manga, and I watch DBZ Kai on Saturday morning on The CW. On top of that, the American edition of Shonen Jump that I subscribed to back in summer of 2003, well I’m still a subscriber. The print edition of the magazine was discontinued April 2012 and the magazine was moved to the digital medium with weekly releases. I do kind of miss the print magazine. It was something I looked forward to receiving every month, but with the digital releases I can keep up with my favorite series, continue to experience my favorite manga, as well as find new series. The publisher, Viz Media, has also released a lot of their backlist of translated manga volumes digitally, including all of Dragon Ball. It’s one of my favorite apps on my phone, and all of this because I wondered what the heck Dragon Ball Z was and watched an episode.

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DBZ truly expanded my horizons as far as animation, comics, and storytelling are concerned. And for the last fifteen years I’ve enjoyed various anime and manga series, including my favorite comic book series American, Japanese, or otherwise, Rurouni Kenshin. So thanks Mr. Toriyama, Cartoon Network, FUNimation, and Viz Media for bringing DBZ stateside and affecting my life in the way it has.

A Year of Anniversaries Part 2: 15 Years of blink-182

Well, it has been almost three months since my last post in which I talked about my love of Rurouni Kenshin, so I’m a bit behind in this whole “anniversary” series of posts. Oh well, I’m onto the next right now!

As far as I can tell, it was fifteen years ago this year that I discovered what would become my favorite band, blink-182!

At the time, I was a thirteen year old teenager just beginning to develop my own musical tastes beyond the poppy stuff that I’d listened to as a younger child (Ace of Base anyone?). I didn’t quite know where those musical tastes were headed, and about all that I knew was that I really liked the few Green Day songs I’d heard on the radio. The first song that I heard and knew was a punk rock song was Green Day’s “When I Come Around.” I’d probably heard some Ramones and other bands by then, but didn’t know that it was punk. Back to the story, sometime in the late 90s, using the auto program function of my family’s old TV I discovered The Box. I remember thinking it was kind of a seedy looking channel of questionable origin and the fact that you had to call and pay for music videos made me even more suspicious. However, I don’t think my family had our first satellite dish service just yet, and so it was the only thing beyond radio that I had to experience pop culture music. The music video for “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion from the soundtrack for Titanic was a popular hit on The Box in 1997. Another popular video on The Box was “Wannabe,” by the Spice Girls, that would often play multiple times in a row. I also discovered “The Duel of the Fates” from the soundtrack of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace on The Box.

The band members of blink-182. From left to right, Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, and Tom Delonge.

The band members of blink-182. From the left, Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, and Tom DeLonge.

But the greatest discovery I had while watching The Box was my introduction to blink-182 through the music video for the song, “Josie.” My initial exposure was to a ten second clip (at best) that The Box would air when counting down its most popular videos. The catchy riffs, the vocals of Mark Hoppus, the brief humor I could see in the clip, made me immediately curious about the video. I began to troll The Box diligently as often as I could with the hope that some braver soul than I would call and order the video. My patience paid off, and I was immediately enamored by the hilarity of the video, the speed of the guitars, the poppy lyrics about the perfect girlfriend, and basically everything else. I also recognized Alyssa Milano as Mark’s cheerleading high school crush (though she was significantly hotter in the video than I’d ever seen her while watching Who’s the Boss?) I was so happy with the discovery, and thrilled by the new musical horizons that seeing the video opened to me.

At some point I also saw the movie Can’t Hardly Wait, and I recognized the voice of Mark Hoppus when the song “Dammit (Growing Up)” played when the cops came to break up the party. It was the second blink-182 song that I became familiar with, and it was this song that helped them gain mainstream attention. It remains one of their most popular songs to this day.

I wasn’t able to pursue my interests much further than that back then. It would be at least another year before my family would get our own computer, so my exposure to the band was limited. At some point, probably for Thanksgiving or Christmas of 1998, my cousin and his family came to Utah from Oregon to spend the holiday with the family. The whole family took a trip to Temple Square and on the ride my cousin and I began to talk about music. I mentioned I liked blink-182 and, unsurprisingly as he and I had discovered a few years before we had similar tastes in music, he had with him the blink-182 album Cheshire Cat. We put the disc into his portable CD player, plugged in our headphones and I experienced my first blink-182 album. I was in heaven and even more curious about the band and their music.

Album cover for 1999's Enema of the State. Note that the Explicit Content label was added to the cover later. My copy does not have the Explicit Content label.

Album cover for 1999’s Enema of the State.

The following summer in 1999, blink-182 released their first hugely successful album, Enema of the State. (Also, this album marked the replacement of Scott Raynor at drums by Travis Barker. Raynor was fired from the band due to a drinking problem.) I was fifteen years old and summer was just starting when I saw the music video for the first single from the album, “What’s My Age Again?” on The Box. “Josie” had been dropped by The Box by then, so I was way excited to see the new video. I watched The Box and TRL on MTV everyday hoping to catch the video, or see the band in some shape or form even if I had to deal with N’Sync, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and etc. It was a great summer, and my musical horizons expanded immensely. I was introduced to the likes of Kid Rock, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Less Than Jake, The Offspring, Smash Mouth, Chevelle, Staind, and many other popular bands and groups over the summer, and that summer molded my musical tastes and helped shape them into what they are today. I learned that I apparently had a strong inclination toward punk rock and when the opportunity presented itself I bought a copy of Enema of the State with money I had earned mowing my Grandpa’s lawn. It wasn’t my first CD, but it is still one that I treasure dearly. I listened to it so much that I had every song memorized within a week, and I just kept on listening over and over again.

On the music video front, “All the Small Things” followed “What’s My Age Again.” It spoofed Britney Spears, N’Sync, the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and etc. It even climbed to the #1 spot on TRL! It wasn’t my favorite song from Enema of the State, but I was happy by its success, and the video was always fun to watch.

“All the Small Things” was followed by the slower, more introspective “Adam’s Song.” This single and its video showed that despite their self-presentation as irreverent SoCal punks, the guys of blink-182 were capable of producing far more serious material than anyone might have guessed, which came into play later in their career.

It was truly a great year for me musically, and while I liked other bands, most of my heart and soul were given over to blink-182. By the end of 1999, I had purchased Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch, Buddha, and Enema of the State. I had also found the songs “Man Overboard” and “Zulu” with the help of Napster (I’ve long since lost “Zulu” and haven’t really looked for it again, but was fortunately able to recover “Man Overboard” on iTunes).

Cover for 2000's The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back).

Cover for 2000’s The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back).

In 2000 I knew that it wasn’t likely that I’d be seeing much new as far as blink-182 was concerned, but they did surprise me with the limited release of The Mark, Tom and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back). But while I was waiting for the next blink-182 album, I sought out more of the poppy punk acts of the late 90s and early 2000s. Among those bands were The Offspring, MxPx, Fenix*TX, New Found Glory, and probably some others I’m forgetting. I also delved a little bit into the more hardcore punk bands that were out there. Namely Pennywise, NoFX, Anti-Flag, and Bad Religion. I even discovered some lesser known punk bands like H2O and Mest.

All of these bands held me over until 2001 when blink-182 released Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, starting with another hit single, “The Rock Show.” It was everything I expected from blink-182. Lots of more irreverent fun coupled with fast riffs, cool chords, and funny but oftentimes touching lyrics. My favorite band was back with a vengeance and I was happy. I didn’t follow the music videos as religiously as I had a few years prior in 1999. The Box had been purchased by MTV and I believe by that point it was defunct. I also had a job, and high school sports to contend with and that didn’t allow me to follow the band as closely as I had in the past. They remained my favorite band though, and I know that I irritated my high school cohorts because whenever anyone began to talk about music I would always bring up blink-182.

Cover for 2000's untitled album.

Cover for 2000’s untitled album.

By the time the band’s untitled album was released in 2003, a lot of things had changed. The pop punk era of the late 90s was dying out, screamo was gaining ground, and the post-punk movement was in full swing. The 2003 album was a lot more mature than its predecessors, and the tone of the songs, lyrics, and even music videos reflect these changes in the band’s maturity. Mostly gone were the silly jokes they had been known for up toTake Off Your Pants and Jacket. They were replaced by much more serious content as seen in songs like “Down,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Go,” “Here’s Your Letter,” and “I’m Lost Without You.” But even with their newfound maturity they were still very popular. They were growing up, and I was too. The songs began to take new meanings for me as my experience grew, and I found I wasn’t as inclined as I’d been in the past to listen to their albums anymore. I began searching for new bands at the time and this led to my discovery of Bodyjar, Rise Against, and my renewed interest in Green Day with the American Idiot album.

Though I was still saddened to hear of the band going on an “indefinite hiatus” in early 2005, it didn’t bum me out all that much, and when details of what had caused the hiatus began to surface I let go of any hope I had that the band would reunite. It sounded to me like it was a done deal and that Mark, Travis and Tom had all gone their separate ways. This allowed me to continue exploring other bands. I once again sought out Less Than Jake, a band I hadn’t followed since that summer of 1999. I loved LTJ’s intensity, the raw power of their lyrics and music, and their own irreverent attitude. Most of 2005 I spent collecting and listening to LTJ’s backlist. I also renewed my interest in Chevelle with the release of This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), and they continue to be a favorite of mine. I’d forgotten about a lot of the other punk bands I’d discovered in 1999 until just recently when I came across Pennywise’s song “Alien” while browsing iTunes. I’d also completely forgot about Rise Against until I heard “Savior” on the radio in 2009 and they are also a favorite.

In the meantime, the members of blink-182 were developing their new bands. Tom DeLonge formed the band Angels and Airwaves. Mark and Travis formed the post-punk group +44 with Carol Heller from the band Get the Girl with the intent of doing something more electronic initially, but then switching to a more traditional punk approach as the band developed. I liked +44 quite a bit. I could definitely see their work as being something more similar to what the next blink-182 album would have been with it’s dark, apathetic, hopeful and hopeless, and even at times vengeful music, the track “Make You Smile” being a particular favorite of mine. I was not much of a fan of Angels and Airwaves. I won’t deny that some of that was probably due to the resentment I felt toward Tom as I saw him for being responsible for the end of blink-182. But I also found the lyrics to be very pretentious, as well as Tom’s intentions that the band would be the greatest musical revolution of our generation. The single, “The Adventure,” was pretty popular and played on the radio a lot, but I didn’t care much and I was happy when +44 released their first (and so far only) album, When Your Heart Stops Beating. I was looking forward to seeing what Mark and Travis would do next.

Picture of Mark Hoppus performing on the blink-182 reunion tour in Orem, Utah. Taken with my terrible cell phone camera, but you can still tell how close I was to the stage.

Picture of Mark Hoppus performing on the blink-182 reunion tour in Orem, Utah. Taken with my terrible cell phone camera, but you can still tell how close I was to the stage.

In 2008, Travis Barker was in a plane crash that killed the pilots, Barker’s friend and bodyguard, and one other person. Having their friend and band mate in peril brought the estranged Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge back together. The two reconciled, and along with a recovered Barker they announced at the 2009 Grammy Awards that blink-182 would be making a comeback. Later that year, they embarked on a reunion tour, and I bought my ticket for when that tour came to Orem, Utah and played at UVU‘s David O. McKay Center. I was only one row back from the stage at the concert, and twenty feet at most from Mark Hoppus. It was like a dream come true for my inner-teenager. It was great to have them back and performing their classic songs from a decade prior.

Album artwork for 2011's Neighborhoods.

Album artwork for 2011’s Neighborhoods.

I had to wait another two years until the reformed blink-182 released their first album since the untitled album of 2003, this one titled Neighborhoods. Their latest album was even more introspective than their last, and as darkly toned as +44’s When Your Heart Stops Beating. I admit there are a few songs that don’t blow me away, but for the most part I was very pleased with the album, particularly the songs “Ghost on the Dance Floor,” “After Midnight,” “Heart’s All Gone,” “This Is Home,” and “Even If She Falls.” Though it was released in 2011, well into the digital age of music, I felt nostalgic and purchased a physical copy of the deluxe edition of the album. It became a good friend while I was working on my master’s degree at Arizona State University, and like the title of the songs “Up All Night,” and “After Midnight,” I was frequently awake into the early hours of the morning studying or writing while also listening to the album.

Artwork for the 2012 EP, Dogs Eating Dogs.

Artwork for the 2012 EP, Dogs Eating Dogs.

Most recently, the band released a short EP called Dogs Eating Dogs that once again shows how much the band has matured. Perhaps the highlight of the EP is the song “Pretty Little Girl,” in which the band members are watching their children grow up and realizing that they aren’t children themselves any longer. And though their journey as individuals, as fathers, as husbands, as friends, and as a band is far from over, they recognize that their lives are beginning to give way to those of their posterity.

blink-182 was my favorite as a teenager, and, while I can no longer claim they are my favorite band, they do hold a special place in my life. Their lyrics have always spoken to me and I feel connected to their music through the fact that their maturity has grown with my own.

So here’s to my fifteen year anniversary of discovering blink-182! I’m looking forward to the next album guys!

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