Christmas is over and the end of the year festivities are about to hit, meaning everyone else is going to be covering the Best Of and Worst Of 2010 lists like they just remembered they had a final paper to write. Me, I decided I haven’t talked about Dragonball Z in quite a while and that therefore I’d spit out a list that really gets to the heart of my feelings about the show. I love it to death, but it has a lot of shortcomings. And I mean a lot. More than it should. Despite all the cool moments that happened, here are Five Things From DBZ I Wanted To See But Didn’t.
5. A Conclusion to Goku vs Vegeta’s Rivalry:
The very first big fight of the series proper involved Goku, the low-level Saiyan outcast, versus Vegeta, the prince of all Saiyans, in an all-out slugfest, the likes of which the series would rarely ever see. Their fight delivered us with more than enough iconic images to fawn over, but the fight’s resolution just wasn’t satisfying. Sure, we can say round one went to Goku, but really, Gohan, Krillin, and even Yajirobi helped team up and fight Vegeta.
We’d have to wait over 200 episodes before the long-awaited rematch between these two, first getting teased as a match during the Tenkaichi Budokai but eventually switching to what we really wanted to see: Goku and Vegeta both as Super Saiyan 2’s going at each other’s throats with everything they could come up with.
Except the fight didn’t exactly, um, end. It became apparent that neither really wanted to keep fighting all-out as both fighters had made their respective points (Vegeta that he’s angry and Goku that he’s stupidly powerful), and the threat of Majin Buu was a little too great to ignore. If you can basically stop your opponent by holding up a hand and saying, “Wait,” the fight sort of petered out. While Vegeta did technically win the fight by knocking Goku out when his back was turned (cool but so lame), there was no resolution to the fight at that moment. And there never was. We deserved one last good fight between these two as it was the driving force behind both Goku’s and Vegeta’s motivations throughout most of the series i.e. “I must be stronger than the other one.” Having the rematch called on account of Vegeta finally come to his senses and realize that Goku’s the main character isn’t as satisfying as say, I don’t know, finishing a fight you started.
4. Future Trunks’ World:
The strange timeline paradoxes aside, Future Trunks was one of my favorite characters of the series. Knowing that he only had a short time with us was a sad feeling to deal with, more so when I realized that once he left the show he’d never have a reason to reappear again, and even worse, the Trunks from the present timeline was a total Chaunce.
I began to wonder what Future Trunks was going through. There were a number of questions I wanted to answer other than the whole “Wouldn’t Majin Buu absolutely mangle his world?” question. For one, I wanted to know if Trunks and Bulma were smart enough to consider going to New Namek and bringing Dende to Earth to restore the Dragon Balls. It could entirely work as Trunks saw Goku do this with Dende in the present timeline, meaning Dende could show up on Earth and recreate Shenron, or maybe an even better dragon considering how much older and more learned he’d be, allowing the main characters to be wished back again. Everyone but Goku could be back within a few year’s time, essentially reinstating the status quo and permit the future timeline to continue flowing in a completely alternate way. Naturally, as you know, the series never showed this alternate future play out in favor of having the Z Fighters battle a pink rubber-monster. Oh well.
3. A Real Fight in a Crowded City:
For one reason or another, the fights began to bore me as the series plugged on. A lot of this had to do with the lack of innovation within a fight, but even worse, every fight had to take place in locations completely separate from the rest of the world, meaning either a wasteland, or a…actually always a wasteland. We hardly even had a fight in the forest, didn’t we? We got a few in the ice and snow thanks to the movies, but those don’t count.
Of all the places a fight could have taken place, I was rooting for “City” most of all. Why? Because I wanted to see the true scope of these fights rather than the same old rock formation getting smashed. If the fight between Goku and Kid Buu was placed within a city with thousands of people running around, suddenly things get more intense. Goku’s need to perform better becomes more desperate, and even better, as an audience we’re allowed to have a stronger emotional reaction to the fight.
The reason behind this has to do with the rarity we encounter a total wasteland in our lives. DBZ completely forgoes the human element extremely early on and does very little to ever regain it. Consider a scary movie for a moment. Are you more scared during a scene that takes place in a desert, or a scene that takes place in a house that looks just like yours? Were we to see Goku and Cell tossing each other through skyscrapers, there’d be that underlying feeling of, “Whoa, what if I were in that building? Or what if someone I knew was in that building?” Without consciously realizing it, Cell would look like a more vicious villain every time he crumbled a building and Goku would look like a more courageous hero whenever he sacrificed his body to a punch or blast just to save a city bus or hospital. The closest we got was a scene at the World Martial Arts stadium so that Vegeta could blow up a few people and a filler fight between Goku and Majin Buu where Goku leads the villain away from the city that he sort of already wrecked by transforming into a Super Saiyan 3. I’d have preferred a fight happening at a lightening pace within the middle of a city where no innocent bystander can really escape. Tension!
2. Seeing Earthlings Regain Some Credibility:
The longer the series went on, the more apparent it was all about the Saiyans and no one else. Krillin, Yamcha, and Tien were still around, but they couldn’t do anything of value within the series. Even Android 18, technically a human as well, was relegated to a filler plot (albeit a pretty hilarious one) in the final plot arc of the series.
At best we had Hercule, AKA Mr. Satan, the bumbling fool of a World Champion who knew martial arts but not the kind that meant anything in the world of DBZ. His crowning achievement came in the form of befriending Majin Buu, thus accomplishing what none of the other characters ever could: ask a super villain to stop being evil and have him go “Okay.” This victory is extremely short-lived though as we’re reminded that no DBZ plot can be resolved without someone punching harderest.
Once again the problem here rests with a lack of relate-ability. The main characters are all members of an alien race and can fly, crush rocks, and shoot hand beams like that’s just what happens at puberty. And don’t try and tell me that we’re expected to relate on a basic level similar to E.T. E.T. was a vulnerable alien who just wanted to go home. Goku is a super-powered alien who wants to fight this pink rubber dude and Vegeta is super pissed that he’s not as super-powerful as the other super-powered guy from his same race. Gohan doesn’t display any deeper emotion, nor does Goten or Trunks, and least of all Piccolo (different super-powered race but whatever). We can’t even relate to the bad guys as they’re just one-dimensional “kill all humans” bad guys. Even Bowser has more motivation behind his schemes.
Krillin was a great foil for human achievements in the earlier stages of the series as he wasn’t the most powerful character but he played an integral part in at least half of the show’s run. He helped to beat Vegeta on Earth and to delay Frieza on Namek, plus he began to have some interesting character developments in the Cell Saga when he fell in love with an android. But humans still only seemed to find use in the series within the “Women in Refrigerators” role. Think about it. Krillin’s greatest moment involved him getting blown up so that Goku could transform into a Super Saiyan. Yamcha got a hand through the stomach so that everyone knew when the androids appeared. Tien stalled Cell so that Vegeta could show up to the fight a little late, and then again to stall Super Buu just long enough for Goku to not be dead anymore. At best we have Hercule convincing every single human on Earth not to be an idiot. Being in the DBZ universe would suck.
1. Any Actual Character Development:
Yes, this is a bold request, one that many hardcore fans will argue I don’t need to ask for as there is more than enough character development to satisfy anyone’s needs. If you believe that, you probably also think dropping an ice cream cone, crying, then being happy when your brother buys you a new ice cream cone is a completely amazing form of character development.
I’m a writer, specifically a dialogue writer, so I have a huge affinity toward characters sounding real and acting real. Showing Goku fight increasingly stronger opponent is about as deep as Spongebob eating another Krabby Patty. Having Goku come to grips with his utter uselessness as a husband and provider for his family, now that’s something worth an award. The Incredibles is amazing for this. Ironman is amazing for this. Dragonball Z doesn’t give a crap about character development.
Your main argument is going to involve Vegeta. Yeah, I get that he has a character arc that takes him from prideful prince to reluctant hero to fallen angel to Earth’s savior. Sure, his arc is there, but it’s not really that deep. We get hints of depth, such as when he says goodbye to his son before he kills himself, and when he openly weeps about how Frieza raped his entire people, but we don’t have a chance to enjoy any of these moments and let them sink in, mostly because these changes don’t mean anything in the long run. As soon as Vegeta comes back from a serious case of the deads, he’s right back to acting exactly how he did before revealing that Frieza made him who he is. When he returns from the spiritual world to assist with the final fight against Kid Buu, he doesn’t seem to mention his son more than a few casual, “I can’t believe you let my son get blown up, Kakarot.” Having his entire character arc consisting of “Needing to accept that Goku is way superior to him” falls flat when Goku’s response is essentially just, “Oh, yeah, I’m sort of busy right now so can I give a crap later?”
Krillin also hints at some deeper character opportunities as he struggles with an inferiority complex throughout the series, plus it becomes apparent that he’s pretty lonely and just wants to find true love. Giving him the chance to love Android 18 is great, but there’s a whole seven years left blank where all the good stuff happens in terms of their relationship. When we leave Krillin and Android 18 at the end of the Cell Saga, Android 18 is freaked out by his selfless acts of kindness towards her, and Krillin has sort of resigned himself to the fact that they’ll never work out. Next time we see them they have a child together. Alright then? Sure, it’s not something action junkies want to deal with, but is sure as hell makes for more interesting characters.
Dragonball Z is already 291 episodes long and adding more to that is unreasonable. I get that. But there is a lot of wasted space, dead air, and needless fighting happening all over the place. If they had to cut the entire Buu Saga just to make space for the characters to take an episode to talk, it’d be entirely worth it.
As DBZ currently stands, it’s still one of my favorite shows ever. But I wanted so much more from it. I’m sure I can’t be the only one though. Anyone else have something from DBZ they wanted to see but didn’t? Leave a comment and let me know. If we get a dialogue going, we might even succeed in some character development here.
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