The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha
What's It About?When a high school student is on his way to a Dragon Ball themed event, he chases after a cute girl and falls and knocks himself out. When he comes to, he's no longer a normal high schooler, but Dragon Ball character Yamcha!
Now as Yamcha, this super fan begins to rewrite Yamcha's story in order to make himself an asset to the saiyan team. He trains, helps his teammates get the upper hand against enemies, and ultimately kicks ass! Working hard to make Yamcha a beloved character, will he succeed?
Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha came out on November 6th, 2018 and is available to purchase at all major retailers. Online, it is $9.99 on both the Viz site and Amazon and can be purchased through Comixology and Viz digitally for $6.99.
Is It Worth Reading?
With the isekai genre hotter than ever, it was only a matter of time before a mangka or publisher took it into their heads to reincarnate an everyman into the world of a beloved title. Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha! is exactly that. There's no time to establish the nameless school-age protagonist as a developed character before he's fallen down stairs and woken up in Yamcha's body. However, for the purposes of this one-volume jaunt into fanfiction-esque territory, all the audience needs to know is he's a Dragon Ball superfan with a slightly perverted edge. Armed with encyclopedic knowledge, he's able to change how the character acted in the original manga in order to make Yamcha a stronger, more integral character to the story long after his initial introduction. It's interesting that despite his best efforts to stay in a relationship with Bulma, the superfan struggles to change events of the manga too much, to defeat characters his real-world self was a fan of, even if it's the only way to achieve his goal. In the end, because of that, there's little point to the story as the protagonist does succeed in making Yamcha a stronger fighter—over a period of ten years skipped over in a matter of pages—but there are no jaw-dropping changes to impress the reader with by volume's end. Perhaps that's the point—that true fans wouldn't want things to go too differently. However, it still feels like a rushed, superficial exercise in “what if?” possibilities.
Lee's art does a marvelous job of recapturing Toriyama's trademark style, juxtaposed by a more realistic style in the “real world” segments endcapping the volume. True to Toriyama's art, the backgrounds are limited and cartoony (other than in the “real world” segments), but the action pops off the page.
Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha! is a fun, quick excursion for fans of the Dragon Ball franchise that unapologetically leaves no room for newcomers to figure out what's going on. However, even the most casual of Dragon Ball fans should understand the references well enough to enjoy it. By rushing the Dragon Ball timeline so much, the manga doesn't quite live up to its potential, but it's a fun concept that's executed satisfyingly in its limited number of pages.
Depending on your familiarity with/fondness for the overall Dragonball franchise, That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha is either kind of fun or a ton of fun. The synopsis in the front does a decent job of reminding you what the basic storyline as pertains to Yamcha is, and our reincarnated hero himself also makes a lot of comments about how things went wrong for the character, so it isn't hard to follow along. The chief attraction here (assuming you aren't a Yamcha fan) is the way that the entire premise plays with the popular light novel and manga trope of someone dying in our world and being reincarnated in another. The twist that a Dragonball superfan ends up as one of the arguably lamest characters in the franchise just gives it an extra bit of kick.
That said, there isn't much that can be done with the premise beyond, well, the premise. Essentially the new Yamcha uses his knowledge of all things Dragonball to make sure that Yamcha doesn't screw everything up, resulting in him becoming Goku's equal, despite being human. There are plenty of cameos from other characters, but given the single volume length (and relatively low page count), only a few major series highlights are covered in terms of plot. Both of these things also keep creator dragongarow LEE from expanding too much on the base premise; while we don't necessarily need (or want) this to become an in-depth character study of Yamcha or the kind of guy who would be reincarnated as him, things really do stay pretty shallow.
The fact that Lee is good at mimicking Akira Toriyama's art does make up for a lot, and the contrast between the real world and the DB world is visually pretty great. That this isn't a four-panel manga (my initial assumption before opening the cover) also becomes a nice surprise, because it allows the jokes to play out a little longer. In the case of the third chapter, that's definitely a good thing. Ultimately this is silly and pretty harmless, but it does do a good enough job playing in Toriyama's world that it is elevated beyond feeling like a goofy cash-grab. Fans of the franchise will get more out of it, but it's a fun read nonetheless.
I've never read Dragon Ball. My entire experience with the franchise is through cultural osmosis and kids in middle school screaming 'It's over 9000!!'. So suffice it to say it was interesting coming into That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha, a manga where half of any potential enjoyment is predicated on knowing series trivia, as someone with only the barest-bones, meme-adjacent notion of who Yamcha even is. It wasn't unreadable, not at all. The art is actually really good, and from everything I'm to understand a borderline perfect replication of Toriyama's original style. But I definitely wasn't getting everything out of it I was maybe supposed to.
I even had a friend on call to help me with the particulars of Dragon Ball minutiae while reading this, and, yeah, it helped some. Knowing why Chiaotzu's mathematical ineptitude impairs his ability to use his powers made that story beat a little more fun. But that's still not my internalized knowledge born of a love for Dragon Ball. It's the isekai equivalent of listening to your friends talk about something you're just not interested in, educating yourself somewhat but mostly just waiting for it to be over so you can actually join in on the conversation.
And aside from that, I just didn't think it was very funny. The fact that the inciting incident for our protagonist being reincarnated was him tripping as he was skeeving on a girl was...not all that pleasant, honestly. And since most of the humor is in-jokes, shifted plot-points and references to characterization I'm just not familiar with, it was almost impossible to immerse myself in to begin with.
This a manga for Dragon Ball fans and not for me. It has a lot of real, impassioned love for the franchise, referencing everything from obscure plot-points to video games, and even making its core themes about respecting the sanctity and beauty of the original material. But as someone without much of a real connection to that original material, Reincarnated as Yamcha just slid off of me. There are definite chuckles here for fans of the franchise, but for someone like me who barely even remembers watching DBZ Abridged, it exists and not much else.
As a high school boy is walking to a Dragon Ball event with his friend, he spies a cute girl walking down the street. Running to hopefully get a better look at her, he falls and hits his head. Knocking himself out, when he wakes up, he's no longer a high school boy but Yamcha from Dragon Ball. Using his superfan knowledge to play the roll of Yamcha, he can't help but rewrite the character's story a little bit. From going out to train instead of traveling with Bulma to taking a spaceship to Namek to train in anticipation for the Saiyan arrival, this boy works hard to make Yamcha fans proud. With rewriting Yamcha's story, will this cause some suspicion to the other Dragon Ball characters?
Even if you're not familiar with the Dragon Ball franchise, Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha is still a pretty fun read! My knowledge of the series is pretty much limited to about the first 100 episodes of the original series and whatever information my friends decide to fill me in on, and I was still able to follow everything! I may be a little biased because Yamcha is my favorite DBZ character, and I know he's not the most popular, but I was happy Akira Toriyama and dragongarow LEE had the opportunity to show him in a different way than the guy who got totally demolished in five seconds flat.
Not much is really said to say about the art or characters. Everything is pretty typical of a Dragon Ball manga or anime, and it's nothing unique. Yamcha is clearly for fans and is a total poke at the broken mechanics of the universe, and includes a very meta ending.
discuss this in the forum (50 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history