I am not an otaku. However, growing up watching Japanese animation and actually working at an anime magazine for a while has given me a strong appreciation for anime and manga, and I still try to keep up with what's going on in that world. So when I found out they were making a live-action adaptation of the popular anime Dragon Ball, which comes out this weekend, I paid close attention to what anime fans -- meaning my bitter, frequently drunk otaku friends -- were saying about this movie. Now that it's here, I figured I'd run down some of the biggest complaints from fans of the original cartoon and comics, just so non-fans can see why they should hate this movie so much. ...Although I'm sure the non-fans will have their own reasons to hate it.
1. A live-action movie is a terrible idea in the first place.
The Dragon Ball saga is a sprawling affair, covering some 20 years and numerous fictional locales on an imaginary world. Most of the characters have superhuman abilities, half of them are talking animals and the technology they use verges on magic. It was an ambitious comic book and a massive cartoon series, and to translate it to a real-world setting seems impossible at the very least. Who would want to try, especially considering that the series has been over in America for years, and in Japan for even longer? Apparently, crazy people.
2. Goku is in high school.
It may seem like nit-picking, but all of the action in Dragonball: Evolution is taken from the original Dragonball comic book arc, where Goku was a little kid, who had crashed on Earth as a baby and was raised by a martial arts instructor. He's never had any normal social interactions like school, which is where his childlike innocence and lack of self-awareness about his insane powers come from, and it's where a lot of the story's appeal comes through. While it would need to be a very talented child actor that could make me sit through a Goku-as-kid Dragonball movie, making him into a surly teenager for his origin story was definitely the easy way out.
3. Nobody looks like anybody.
The characters of Dragonball are so linked to the writing and drawing style of creator Akira Toriyama that any other rendition would immediately seem wrong. So you can imagine how fans felt as leaked images from the set made their way onto the Interwebs. Justin Chatwin's hair was appropriately spiky, but debates immediately ensued over how green James Marsters' Piccolo was, since green skin would be the lone connection between his character design and the comic book's. Chow Yun Fat, while arguably the finest actor in the film, looks nothing like the short, bearded, sunglasses-wearing Master Roshi of memory. And the fact that Goku's best friend and fellow trainee Krillin isn't even in the movie -- and the less-important Yamcha is -- is a kick in the pants to fans.
4. No giant monkey.
In the comics and cartoon, Goku has a tail, and when the moon is full (not when it's cut off -- how did my DBZ-expert editor miss that?), he becomes the Oozaru, which is a giant freaking monkey. Now, I haven't seen a tail on Justin Chatwin's butt in any of the trailers, but Goku still manages to undergo a transformation at the end of the film, and... it's not a giant monkey. I won't spoil it for you by telling you what it is (I'll let the movie do that), but it's not a giant monkey, and that makes me and others S-A-D sad.
5. There's gonna be another one.
True, the movie hasn't even opened in the U.S. yet, but it opened in its native Japan and China in mid-March, and has so far made $22 million, estimated to be half of the film's budget. They're apparently assuming it will turn a profit in America, since the sequel has already been green-lit. Believe it or not, some fans believe this will be a good thing, since it will get deeper into Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z lore, but these people are all misguided lunatics. Although, if the studio manages to include the assassin Tao, who sometimes wears a shirt that says "Kill You" on the back, then I will gladly give them my $6 for a matinee showing.
What do you think of the Dragonball Evolution trailer? If you've seen the entire movie, give us the skinny!