Sunday, November 6, 2016

Palette Problems

The Briefs family is the victim of a colorful identity crisis.

I'm talking about the characters from Dragon Ball, of course.

In an attempt to unravel the relatively complicated story behind the hue of their hair, let's look at the problem backwards. The most recent Briefs character to appear in the series is Future Trunks in Dragon Ball Super. Super Trunks (not to be confused with Super Saiyan Trunks) is the same character from the original run of the Dragon Ball Z anime and the Dragon Ball manga, now in his 30's. Aside from looking a lot thinner than his previous appearances, as all characters in Super do, there's one glaring difference that has been throwing people for a loop.

His hair is blue, as opposed to lavender. I mean, it looks cool enough, but why change such an iconic piece of his character? His bright purple hair was his most prominent physical trait. And to make things even more confusing, his kid self - the Trunks from the present timeline - still has his original hair color, with the characters even standing right next to each other at times!

Toei, the animation company behind Dragon Ball Super, even went the extra mile to tell us that this was a deliberate change in the story. Bulma identifies Trunks by his blue hair, and the flashbacks we see of Trunks from Z are either in black and white, or recolored to match his newer head of hair.

The flashback originally seen in History of Trunks and Trunks: The Story was reanimated in Dragon Ball Super to show our future warrior with a blue, as opposed to purple, head of hair.
So what's the deal? Why the sudden and inconsistent change? Let's break it down piece by piece.

All lines lead back to Akira Toriyama himself, the man who designed the character in the first place. For the uninitiated, Toriyama was only directly involved with the manga run of the original Dragon Ball, and was only a supervisor in regards to the Dragon Ball Z anime and its related movies. There's one key difference between the manga and the anime: the manga is black and white. We may identify Trunks by his lavender hair, and Toriyama may have colored it that way himself at one point in the past, but for Toriyama, the hair color was less ingrained in his mind than one would be led to think. This is fairly common in the manga industry - JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the most extreme example of characters being colored in all sorts of different ways, a trend that was even carried over into its modern anime adaptation. This was the original drawing of Trunks Toriyama handed over to Toei for Battle of Gods, which Toei later corrected to his trademark purple for the movies and in Super.

However, when Toriyama came to Toei with the design for Future Trunks' appearance in Dragon Ball Super, his hair was once again blue.

This time, Toei went with Toriyama's rendition of the character, without changing his appearance. However, they had already decided to run with purple for the other version of Trunks, leading to a conflicting sense of continuity between the characters. It could be that Toei did not want to argue with Toriyama's input, or simply did not care about the discrepancy between the two characters - a different hair color would be easier to classify as a new character and to sell toys with, after all, so the decision may have had a business-oriented element to it as well.

That's not all - there's another layer to the character's change in design. Trunks' hair has always been colored to match his mother, Bulma. But wait, didn't they have different colored hair in Dragon Ball Z...?

I love this picture. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because Trunks' facial expression is the very definition of "screaming Internally."

This is where the rabbit hole extends even further. In the original run of the manga, Bulma's hair was most frequently shown as purple - it was colored green for her first appearance, which was likely the reason behind its coloration in the anime, but for most of her manga-related appearances, her official hair color was purple.

It was even changed back its purple color for the TV special, Path to Power.

However, her hair color had already been established as green in the mainline show, so it remained as such in all of her future appearances. However, her father and her son retained their "correct" manga coloration of purple. This persisted until over a decade later, when the series was rebooted with Battle of Gods, where it changed to a different color altogether. Blue.

The light blue hue seen here was made a bit darker in Dragon Ball Super, showing a gradual change from her Z colors to her Super colors. A much less drastic change than with Trunks.
Perhaps it was because the change was less noticeable than it was with Trunks, as blue and green are closer together on the color wheel, but Toei stuck with Bulma's blue haired design, while still reverting Kid Trunks back to his usual purple color. However, when Future Trunks appeared, it was clear that his hair had been designed to match his mother's, and Toei decided to go with it, leaving us with two inconsistent versions of Trunks.

There you have it. The blue hair dilemma is a multi-layered issue with roots in how manga is adapted to anime, and a lack of consistent communication between the animation team and the manga author. It wouldn't bother me as much as it does if they had decided to make both Trunks have blue hair, but as it is, it's a bit jarring. However, the change got at least one thing right; mother and son finally have the matching color hair that they were originally intended to have.

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