While I’ve previously mused about how it’s funny watching this arc as an adult (knowing that it’ll end up being an over-used blueprint for subsequent storylines), I’m also coming to see how it was likely intended (and received?) as a horrific Apocalypse for the DRAGON BALL universe.
Not only was Goku dramatically killed, and not only were all his heroic allies reassembled to take on the foe he couldn’t vanquish, but now we’re seeing these friends valiantly perish, one by one. It really makes me think of the various end times crises in superhero comics - - DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, KINGDOM COME, et al - - and it’s not a way I ever saw this storyline when it just seemed like a lower-stakes set-up for all the dozen or so sagas that followed it.
I’m trying to put myself in the headspace of the kids who were watching this as it originally aired in the late 80’s. Every episode must’ve been a gut-wrenching horror, seeing their favorite characters die off. Hell, I don’t even feel a particular attachment to Chiaotzu (because I never got a proper intro to him in DRAGON BALL), but boy, my stomach’s in knots over his heroic kamikaze attack on Nappa.
Of course, there is always that recurring, reassuring notion about any dead Z-Fighter being easily returnable with the Dragon Balls. Weirdly, it seems to hold the tension at a moderate threshold - - mollifying the stakes lest they get too gloomy, but still coming across like tragically wishful thinking for a lot of the time. Roshi copping a feel whilst consoling Bulma actually seems like a smaller demonstration of this tension. It’s almost like DBZ's playing one viciously morbid prank on its viewers!
About the Author
|Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk|