Harajuku-based Streetwear brand A Bathing Ape has come a long way since it was founded in 1993. With its strong hip-hop influences and easily recognizable mascots and patterns, the company known colloquially as “BAPE” has become a favorite of loud dressers across the world. Flagship stores are regularly packed, and the company’s signature shark hoodies show up in music videos as often as they do on the streets.
With its distinctly Japanese designs and global appeal, BAPE is the perfect brand to celebrate another set of cultural icons from the same region. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Akira Toriyama’s legendary anime television series “Dragon Ball,” as well as the 35th anniversary of his earlier, but similarly beloved series, “Dr. Slump.” The latter chronicles the lighthearted misadventures of a young robot and retains a cult following to this day. “Dragon Ball,” on the other hand, tells the story of a young boy from another planet who grows into a heroic superhuman and swears to defend Earth from extraterrestrial threats. Easily one of the most well-known anime series of all time, “Dragon Ball” established types and tropes that have been repackaged, parodied, and honored in countless other series since it first aired.
To pay homage to the two animations, BAPE turned to what it does best: playful graphics. Using one of its popular caricature styles, the brand transforms “Dragon Ball” protagonist Goku and “Dr. Slump” main character Arale into images of its own mascot. The characters, as well as members of the shows’ supporting casts, appear on a whole host of tees, hoodies, and accessories. A particular piece in the collection stands out: a black tee featuring a large BAPE logo, filled in with multiple “Dragon Ball” characters and BAPE’s beloved Baby Milo stuck in between.
BAPE puts out an incredible number of collaborations each year, so at first glance this capsule might not seem so exciting. On a larger scale, though, it is a celebration of something truly incredible. The fact that BAPE, “Dr. Slump” and “Dragon Ball” are still so prevalent and beloved in the West is a model of how much the relationship between Western and Eastern popular cultures has developed in the past few decades. BAPE grew out of hip-hop, a distinctly American culture, and in turn has become a phenomenon in the USA. Likewise, both Toriyama series play off Western pop culture references and are still watched here today by an unbelievable number of viewers.
Are you a fan of “Dr. Slump” or “Dragon Ball”? Let me know here or on Twitter @BillChangNY