It’s the show we’ll never, ever get over. We might be over 15 years away from the last episode's air-date, and , but we still love to talk about DRAGON BALL. Why is that? What is it about this deceptively-simple shonen fighter that’s kept such a unshakeable grip on our collective imaginations?
For my money, it comes down to three central ingredients which I can handily illustrate in the clip-supported list below. Do you think I’ve hit all the nails on their proverbial heads, or am I missing something major? Do you figure there are clips more representative of DRAGON BALL?
Well, go on and offer your take, with the proper supporting evidence, in the talkback below. Just do me a favor and actually read this list before you get to that, OK?
3. PICCOLO BLOWS UP THE MOON
See, it’s not just the absurdity of this feat… it’s the matter-of-factness of it. A whole universe of other ideas should’ve run through Piccolo’s head as he was scrambling for a solution to this “simian situation.” But no - - here’s the conclusion he immediately jumps to.
Any discussion of the catastrophic environmental consequences it would’ve wrought are so far beside the point that they aren’t even worth mentioning. The shift in tides? The lack of light at nighttime? Flagrantly neglecting all of that really pales in comparison to how, in this universe, it’s the most obvious course of action for a given problem. That's how much 'preposterone' is pumping into DRAGON BALL.
We might also bring up how this moment strums the conceptual lineage linking the show to ancient heroic epics - - Piccolo ‘sploding the Moon like it’s no big deal plays rather like the incidental sentence in THE RAMAYANA about Prince Rama shooting an arrow through seven separate universes - - but let’s not get too highfalutin here.
2. GOKU ISN’T INTERESTED IN BULMA’S “FAN SERVICE”
T&A gets used so often in shows like this, a code word is necessitated (yes, that’s what ‘fan service’ is. It’s double speak), so any eschewal of that must have a pointed motivation or two behind it. Just like how Toriyama meant to “take the piss” out of the Martial side of anime (more on that below), he clearly wanted to poke fun at the Venusian side, as well.
Hence, Goku is a battlin’ hero so boyish, his aversion to cooties more-or-less keeps up even after he gets married and has children.
So, from the start, you have all these… uh… ‘cheeky’ spots that might titillate a viewer or induce another character to nosebleeds (or whatever), basically getting wasted on a hero with no interest in them. Contrast that with the womanizing ways of previous generations’ heroes (like, say, Lupin III), and the innocent simplicity that’s endeared Goku to fans well past his shelf life seems that much more total. Not only is he the warrior who’d rather forgive a mortal enemy than destroy him, he’s also the anime character who nobody could ever shout “Hentai!” at.
1. SUPER SAIYAN LEVEL 3 IS ATTAINED
As mentioned above, Toriyama aimed to skewer shonen heroics a bit with this series and even flat out admitted that he thought power levels - - those mainstays of any otaku forum - - were fundamentally silly. When he introduced the scanners in the “Saiyan Saga,” he even had characters state outright that they were so unreliable as to be irrelevant in any given battle.
The joke flew over the heads of most of the audience, though.
I can even speak from personal experience. When I was young fan living in Asia, any discussion of DBZ with friends on the bus ride home inevitability got bogged down into bean counting over character stats. Just… without fail. Toriyama obviously picked up on this and slyly opted to keep playing it up in order to amuse the section of his audience that got the joke, while still baiting the segment that didn’t.
As a result, you have the characters themselves pointing out how absurd and contradictory it is for Goku to ascend any further past what’s supposed to be total ascendancy; and then take further steps beyond that. He even trolled viewers by making the SSJ transformations look increasingly more ridiculous... and everybody still ate it up.
No other scene demonstrates how brilliantly DBZ got to have its cake and eat it, too - - relishing its own tropes while ridiculing them at the same time - - as the absurdly epic transformation above.
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|