Fun fact about me, I’m the kind of person who can get really in to anime openings, for some reason. Occasionally I think about them a bit too much. So I thought I’d do a series of pieces where I just write garbage about particular anime theme songs. This first one relates to the very first Dragon Ball Z opening theme.
The first thing we see in this opening is, appropriately enough, a Dragon Ball. Makes sense.
The second thing we see is the logo. Now, one thing that I always found slightly unusual as a kid watching this on my imported subtitled dragon ball Z dvds (yes I was THAT kid) (yes I probably still am THAT kid) was the weird way the text is kinda moving down into position, starting off not quite lining up with the rest of the logo. Then one day it made sense to me… sort of. OK, so in that first shot we’ve got the letter Z being reflected in the dragonball. If you think about it, it kinda makes sense as a reverse shot of moments before the logo shot, where like the Z would have been passing in front of the dragonball as the text moves into position. Kinda.
Am I crazy? Quite possibly. Did the creators of the show have this in mind? Who knows.
Also, I’ve gotta mention that goofy blue dragon next to the logo. Who is that, and what does it have to do with Dragon Ball? Aside from being a dragon, but this show HAS a dragon and it looks nothing like that. Much mysteries and confusion.
Now, in general most anime openings tend to follow some sort of internal logic, like “let’s introduce each character” or “let’s keep a consistent thematic thing going on” or “let’s depict a little mini story”. Not this one though. What it seems to do is cut between various surreal scenes. We’ve got the bits where Goku and Gohan are frolicking in the sky or on the hills, the bits where it’s all dark and firey and Goku and other people are freaking out, random dragonballs flying around, I guess it’s supposed to be kind of more setting a mood rather than illustrating the plot. Oh and of course close-up of Bulma’s chest, because anime. I feel like the contrast between angry/fighty and happy/upbeat is perhaps a deliberate thing since that’s basically what the feel of the show is. And it also seems like it fits the mood of how the music goes.
Other interesting thing is that this opening sequence was updated throughout its life. The one I’ve linked above is essentially the original, used for about the first 20ish episodes. Once we’d established the whole Vegeta/Nappa thing there were some shots inserted/modified/replaced of like Vegeta’s face, and their capsules falling to earth and whatnot. Then much later, when it was android time, we got shots of people being all super saiyan, and this shot of an artifical hand being formed. I guess it was trying to reflect the changes in the show while still being a stylised mood type thing rather than a plot type thing.
I haven’t mentioned the actual song yet. It’s Cha-La Head-Cha-La by Hironobu Kageyama, and it’s super upbeat and happy and energetic. Which is kinda what this show is. Although the original English version seemed to want it to be more hardcore (while paradoxically avoiding anything too violent for US syndication) which is perhaps why they replaced this song with speed metal and some dude yelling “dragon dragon rock the dragon” over the top. But English dub replacement songs are another matter altogether.
So yeah, that’s the first DBZ opening. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s more about evoking the right mood to start the show off.
I’ll probably write more stuff about opening themes in the future, so let me know what you think of this.