While most of the Dragon Ball series is beloved, Dragon Ball GT is much-maligned and often considered non-canon, despite technically being just as legitimate as any of the arcs. GT is in essence the Tiffany Trump of the Dragon Ball family. We don't talk about her. We don't put her in the pictures. We've got Baron/Dragon Ball Super now and whatever happened immediately before that should be considered overwritten.
But while I can't speak to anything about Tiffany, I do think that GT gets a bad rap. In fact, I think GT had some great ideas and if those ideas were executed properly, then GT could have possibly been the best chapter in the series.
Any conversation about what GT did well has to begin with Super Saiyan 4. I mean just look how badass this is and then compare it to the transformations in Dragon Ball Super.
If Goku's Super Saiyan 3 evolution has him grow his hair and broadens his brow, then it would only make sense that Super Saiyan 4 is an extension of that. He gets hairier and beefier and grows back his tail. It incorporates the Great Apes from his Saiyan heritage, thematically tying the story together. Meanwhile, Dragon Ball Super's next form just changes his hair color to red and then later to blue. There's nothing about this that feels like an evolution. It just feels like Goku went to the hair salon with Marge Simpson.
In fact, what GT did so well was to tie together past threads within the story and give them consequence. The entire series of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z we watch our fighters use the Dragon Balls to resurrect themselves. The battles lost stakes because we knew if anyone died they could always be brought back. Beating Buu wasn't a matter of life and death. It was playing Mario with 100 lives and just throwing yourself at the level until you won.
But not only did GT put an end to this, they retroactively made these speed runs have weight. The big bad of this arc was the dragons themselves turned evil from overuse of the dragon balls. Suddenly we're forced to reexamine the decisions of the past. Maybe reviving Krillin 4 times wasn't worth it after all.
There are so many other examples of GT's brilliance with the villains. The Baby arc flips the script on whether Saiyans are heroes or villains. The Android 17 arc is like a mini-shot of Westworld in the middle of your Dragon Ball show. General Rildo is an entire planet unto himself, which not only wonderfully reimagines what a villain can be on this show, but also adds a layer of world-building unlike we've seen from the franchise.
I could go on and on. The locations were unique. The team-up of Goku, Pan, and Trunks had so much potential. The characters aging gave a sense of growth we've yet to see from Dragon Ball Super. Heck, I could argue this premise from Vegeta's mustache alone.
But ultimately, for all of GT's good ideas, it was still doomed from the start. You see, there's a reason why Dragon Ball Z is so beloved. Dragon Ball Z boiled down all of the quintessential elements of shonen anime into their purest of forms and did so with the precision of Walter White cooking up some blue meth. You like high stakes? The stakes are the fate of the planet/universe almost every time. You like epic fight scenes? Our combatants move at light speed and shoot mountain-destroying lasers out of their fingertips. You like power scaling? Each character's power is assigned a numerical value and then frequently chronicled, and then color-coded or given a transformation to mark their progress. It's like watching an RPG unfold in real-time and for young kids (or even adults) that's like a drug in TV form.
It's that drug/RPG element that is so important, and GT started itself off by trying to kick us off cold turkey. They turned Goku into a child and made his level of power ambiguous. Now, there are a lot of elements of GT, from the animation style to the story pacing, that you can criticize, but I think it's this that was the biggest blow. It was deleting the save file from our playthrough in Dragon Ball Z and once you do that, it's hard to get on board with anything else.
So RIP Dragon Ball GT. You could have been wonderful, if not for starting off so horribly, horribly wrong.
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Top Image: Toei Animation