About a month ago, Gus Townsen, one of Toy-TMA’s regular guest writers, sent me, Chris Pranger, an e-mail with an article attached to it saying that he wanted to do a DBZ top 10 list but figured he’d try doing something different than usual. He succeeded in that, giving us a list of the top 10 Dragonball Z relationships. However, the article turned out to be a lot longer than a single post can handle, thus why this has become our Week of Gus. I don’t mind, it gives me a chance to work on what we’ve got coming next week and beyond. But enough about me, let’s get back to Gus. To see where we last left off take a look here.
3. Trunks and Goten (Bros.)
Yeah, I know. We go from the intensity of Krillin and Gohan on Namek to these two horsing around at the world-fighting tournament. Trunks and Goten make it to #3 simply because it’s funny to see what Goku and Vegeta would be like if they grew up together in a world of peace and were mutual friends since childhood. I think this is a pretty good representation. Trunks is the spoiled, hotheaded troublemaker. Goten is the naïve, funny troublemaker. Both are evenly matched as far as strength and fighting skill goes, but Trunks is more willing to play dirty, which eventually wins him the Junior League fighting championship. Oh, and they both have feisty mothers.
What’s crazy is just how quickly the tables turn on them. One minute they are committing identity theft so they can fight in the big leagues because they’re tired of being treated like kids while all the main characters get to do the exciting stuff. The next they’re battling Buu, the most powerful adversary in DBZ history, right on the front lines. Believe it or not, it was this pair of kids that were the first of the Z Warriors to master the fusion technique. That in and of itself shows their commitment to their art and to each other.
Can I just say something though? I still think it’s funny how we see Future Trunks in the previous season, and he’s such a kind hearted sensible guy, and then we move to the actual future and we see the real Trunks, and he’s this spoiled little brat. I guess the father really does make the son.
Speaking of fathers figures…
2. Piccolo and Gohan (Master and Student)
Half way through Dragon Ball, if you told me Goku would have a son named Gohan whom he named after his Grandpa, and then Goku would die, and Gohan, at four years old, would be kidnapped by Piccolo (at the time, the most evil being on the planet), who forces him through intensive training so they can fight an upcoming alien race, a race that technically looks more human than Piccolo, but then as they begin training, Gohan is the one that ends up teaching Piccolo about compassion and humility, eventually breaking his stone cold generic urge to take over the world, and then leading to him sacrificing his own life for the son of his sworn rival, I’d call you an optimistic fool, Pinky.
I think we all saw DBZ before the prequel series anyway, so in all actuality, that shock wasn’t really there. Still, the buildup of Gohan and Piccolo’s chemistry was pulled off extremely well, beginning with wilderness survival in Jurassic Park, followed by intense sparing matches that I could have sworn were less sparing and more Piccolo actually trying to kill the poor kid. Not to mention the carefree campfire talks, in which Gohan confesses his father’s belief that Piccolo was capable of good all along. Goku may have been right about that, but I doubt he ever thought it would be his son that would be the one to break it out of him.
Since the Saiyan saga, all Gohan talks about is the Namekian that lived a paradox life of trying to kill him while vowing to protect him every day for practically a year. Gohan even dresses like Piccolo more than he does his own father. That’s how much he respects him. As for Piccolo, he has a sense of self discovery that DBZ can, at times, be a kids show, and that caring for someone else gives you something to fight for and makes you stronger.
Fast forward to the Cell saga and guess what? The so-called hard-ass Piccolo is the one telling soft-hearted Goku that he’s expecting too much of his son, as it is killing him to watch his former student get crushed to death by this monster, Cell. Inconsistent? No. It’s called being Three-Dimensional. Yay!
1. Kakarot and Vegeta (Rivals)
Oh yeah. These are the moments DBZ fans live for. The climactic faceoff between the Saiyan Prince and the Saiyan Outcast. A rivalry fueled not by the end result but rather the thrill of fighting a worthy opponent. Two warriors whose contrasts are only matched by their dedication to the art, as well as the amount of unconditional respect they give one another.
There were two quintessential battles between these two great warriors. The first time was to decide the fate of the Earth. It was about Kakarot’s commitment to the world that fathered him and gave him his true name, Goku, a name that we the viewer identify as the true hero of this tale. It showed us just how far Goku was willing to push his body to save the Earth and defeat the last of his own kind. It was also the fight that sparked their rivalry for the whole continuation of the series. A spark that laid dormant for a long time.
Until of course their inevitable rematch. This time it became far more personal. This time it was about Vegeta and the traumatic past forever clouding any chance he had of moving on and accepting his new life on Earth. If only he could finish that one bit of business, defeating Kakarot, than maybe his past would stop haunting him, unaware that it could cost him the peaceful life his wife and son have tried so hard to offer him.
There’s just so much going on in that one scene. A lot of it has to do with Frieza’s reign. Vegeta’s lifelong desire to defeat Frieza was a completely self-fulfilling one. It was about restoring his honor by being the one to avenge the death of his people. It was dashed from him in an instant, by whom else than Kakarot, who in complete contrast to Vegeta was driven by entirely selfless notions. For Goku, defeating Frieza was more about justice and the security of all innocent life in the universe, not proving anything to himself.
Frieza was just the cherry on top of a milestone of nightmares Vegeta didn’t know how to escape from. Vegeta felt he lost his honor and that somehow, defeating Kakarot would bring it back. But as a great prince of the Fire Nation once learned, “Nothing can redeem your honor. It’s something you give yourself, by choosing to do what’s right.” A realization that leads to Vegeta’s self-destructive attack in his battle against Majin Buu.
Goku and Vegeta is just one instance of the righteous hero and dark antihero rivalry that is preeminent all over media, today and forever. To name a few others:
Jason the Red Ranger and Tommy the Green Ranger
Sonic and Shadow
Kirby and Metanight
Fox McCloud and Wolf O’Donnell
Yugi Moto and Seto Kiba
Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy
Spiderman and Venom
Kamina and Viral
Peter Patrelli and Syler
Mew and Mewtwo
Does this mean the Goku/Vegeta relationship, as compelling as it is, is a clichéd one? Maybe a little. But unlike many of the others listed above, it was made a dominant theme of the story and was given far greater weight. Even in between moments that were far greater than the two of them, (The Androids, Cell, Majin Buu) it never let up.
So what do we learn from this? Well, I swear this wasn’t coincidental, but notice how none of the relationships listed above are actually blood-related. No mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Only one of them is a husband/wife pair, and even then, the most compelling part of their relationship was before they officially hooked up.
Before anyone jumps on me, I’m not trying to say that family connections in DBZ like Goku/Chichi/Gohan/Goten aren’t important. They are. But for some reason, the series didn’t make them seem as interesting as two people who really had to work for their chemistry. For instance, I felt that Future Trunks and Vegeta came close, but there just seems to be only so many people that can make Vegeta develop. He’s picky that way.
The Dragon Ball Z universe is enormous, and I am certain there are many great bonds that I completely glossed over. Anyone angry at me for not putting Tien and Chiaotzu on the list? What about Goz and Mez? And I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s ready to fight me that Vegeta and Bulma are a waaaaay hotter couple than Krillin and 18. Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I have more Dragonball Z Kai to watch.
For move of Gus’ articles, take a look at these: