Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Discussion regarding the entirety of the franchise in a general (meta) sense, including such aspects as: production, trends, merchandise, fan culture, and more.

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Izanagi
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Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Izanagi » Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:03 pm

Dragon Ball hit mainstream like a train, it is at a level unrivaled by any anime/manga series aside from Pokemon or Doraemon, however it's hard to pinpoint exactly why Akira Toriyama's magnum opus had such a profound impact. I believe what made Dragon Ball a phenomenon, in Japan particularly, is because of Toriyama's art. That's what made Toriyama's manga revolutionary. He was the first mangaka who used to be a graphic artist, and his art style was overwhelmingly stylish at the time that it stranded out from other classical shonen styled artists. Osamu Akimoto, the author of Kochikame, said that over half of the works that amateurs sent to the editorial department of Shonen Jump had a very Toriyama-esque art to them. Incidentally, even so called "SD" is one of his inventions. He put Masked Rider and Gundam in SD style in Dr. Slump and it strongly inspired other artists, then the SD Gundam series was officially born thanks to Toriyama.

What also makes Dragon Ball a phenomenon is that it is one of the founding shonen manga series that set the ground rules and became a launch pad for modern shonen followed by it along with Fist of the North Star, JJBA and Saint Seiya. Although, I'd say Fist of the North Star was pretty much the big one that kicked off the Shonen Jump style and tropes that almost every subsequent shonen series afterwards has used to some extent.

Another reason why Dragon Ball is universally loved is the cast of characters, which I believe is Dragon Ball's greatest strength. I've always loved the cast of characters in Dragon Ball, every single character brought something new to the table (for the most part) and each were likable and memorable in their own way, especially the villains. For all it's flaws such as the staring contests, the bad guy suppressing his true powers instead of downright landing the killing blow, and the characters conveniently getting just the right power-ups at the right time, Dragon Ball got villains you can cheer on, they got a combination of quirks, brutality and creepiness that makes them endearing. I'd say this, 20 years from now, I'd still fondly remember villains like Tao Pai Pai who hasn't been making an appearance for almost 30 years by now, meanwhile, I'd probably forget the vast majority of other shonen villains except for a select few.

Third reason why Dragon Ball is universally loved? Son Goku. Son Goku was the trendsetter of the character archetype that is common in modern day shonen. In comparison to the majority of the shonen protagonists back in the early days ('cept for maybe Kinnikuman and Kochikame), Son Goku was more lighter and cartoonish as opposed to Kenshiro, the Joestars and Seiya who were all hot-blooded and serious up to eleven. Son Goku can also be hot-blooded occassionally, but with Son Goku himself being light-hearted, innocent and naive, he stood out amongst them. Son Goku is also one of the first shonen heroes who grew up from a child to an adult, got married almost immediately, and has a son by the very next story arc, which the editors initially disapproved because back in the days, changing the hero's look in a shonen manga was a big no-no.

Other than his behavior, Son Goku's design also influenced the majority of the shonen heroes in contemporary times, back in the old days, the vast majority of the shonen protagonists were designed in muscular, semi-realistic style (Hokuto no Ken, JJBA, Saint Seiya, etc). Son Goku's funky looking hair and the blue and orange colour scheme of his outfit stood out amongst them and inspired an entire generation of shonen protagonists in their choice of wardrobe and hairstyle (Gon, Yugi, Naruto, Toriko, etc.).

Now onto the main question, what do you think caused Dragon Ball to become a huge phenomenon?

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Bullza » Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:17 pm

It has mass appeal because it's not overly Japanese. It's main concept of Super Powered Fighters, Aliens, Androids, Monsters, Space Travel etc appeals to anybody. The same thing is true for Star Wars which has all of that too.

It's got a good story but not an overly complex one so you can jump in and figure out what is going on without having to see it from the start. The characters are likable, it's action packed, exciting, funny and colourful.

It's not dark or violent enough that kids can't enjoy it but not then light or childish enough that aren't adults can't enjoy it.

It's a very universal property, more so than most other anime that exist. It also helps that it became at a good time when this was mostly a new experience to people. Also helps that it's been so successful in the first place that it's been able to keep producing content that keeps it popular too.

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Forte224 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:30 pm

I've given this question a lot of thought. I've determined that it has to be the art style/character designs. I can pick a Toriyama design or drawing out of a crowd and so can just about anyone else that's even remotely familiar with his work. That can't be said about many other anime. And, of course, that unique art style actually looking great exemplifies that even more. This is further driven home by how popular it is regardless of the version people see. Whether it's Japanese Kikuchi, American Faulconer, the manga, or anything in between, people just absolutely love this franchise.

Also, the fact that Goku constantly focuses on improving himself I think is a message that people subtlety connect with and want to incorporate into their own lives. And it's told in such a simple way: Work hard at what you love and have fun doing it=a better "You".
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Kunzait_83 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:12 am

Bullza wrote:It has mass appeal because it's not overly Japanese.


No, but it damn sure is very, VERY overtly Chinese. It certainly isn't something that exudes a great deal much that's the least bit especially Western (other than the odd 17 and 18-esque character designs here or there). Its unmistakably manga/anime in its art (which certainly is plenty Japanese enough all by itself), but in most ALL other respects, its pretty overwhelmingly Chinese primarily, with plenty of misc. scraps from other assorted pop culture throughout the world mixed in.

I think that Forte224 nailed it the most just now: its the art style and the visuals primarily. That's the main consistent throughline that runs the most deeply throughout ALL versions, regardless of (sometimes MASSIVELY fundamental) alterations made. And it resonates even with me personally, because the visual style was damn sure an immediate attention-grabber for me from the very outset when I first saw it.

Especially in a realm and era where visual styles have been becoming ever increasingly indistinct and and homogeneous, Dragon Ball being a work that has such an immediately and innately distinct and identifiable visual identity does a LOT all by itself to make the series stand out immediately and starkly from both its anime/manga brethren and apart from other general media overall. That its unique and distinctive visual identity also happens to look overall downright fantastic (when its done properly anyway) only seals it as something that's almost ALWAYS going to continue to draw a crowd, no matter what else you may do with it otherwise.

And also many times, even in spite of the best efforts of other interfering parties, the core "self-improvement" themes still managed to shine through and resonate with people in ways that you just won't find with most other Western mainstream nerd properties. For all the efforts made over the years to turn Dragon Ball into something more resembling a dimestore Justice League or X-Men knockoff, you won't see gym rats rocking tank tops featuring Superman or Iron Man or Cyclops lifting weights, doing pushups, and training to better themselves physically. They're going to have Goku and Vegeta and the like on them more times than not. You ultimately can't COMPLETELY hide away or obscure that aspect, and its going to make the series even further stand out well far apart from your Harry Potters and Pokemon and Star Wars and Avengers and suchlike.
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Zephyr wrote:And that's to say nothing of how pretty much impossible it is to capture what made the original run of the series so great. I'm in the generation of fans that started with Toonami, so I totally empathize with the feeling of having "missed the party", experiencing disappointment, and wanting to experience it myself. But I can't, that's how life is. Time is a bitch. The party is over. Kageyama, Kikuchi, and Maeda are off the sauce now; Yanami almost OD'd; Yamamoto got arrested; Toriyama's not going to light trash cans on fire and hang from the chandelier anymore. We can't get the band back together, and even if we could, everyone's either old, in poor health, or calmed way the fuck down. Best we're going to get, and are getting, is a party that's almost entirely devoid of the magic that made the original one so awesome that we even want more.


Kamiccolo9 wrote:It grinds my gears that people get "outraged" over any of this stuff. It's a fucking cartoon. If you are that determined to be angry about something, get off the internet and make a stand for something that actually matters.

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Super Saiyan Swagger » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:33 am

Kunzait_83 wrote:And also many times, even in spite of the best efforts of other interfering parties, the core "self-improvement" themes still managed to shine through and resonate with people in ways that you just won't find with most other Western mainstream nerd properties. For all the efforts made over the years to turn Dragon Ball into something more resembling a dimestore Justice League or X-Men knockoff, you won't see gym rats rocking tank tops featuring Superman or Iron Man or Cyclops lifting weights, doing pushups, and training to better themselves physically. They're going to have Goku and Vegeta and the like on them more times than not. You ultimately can't COMPLETELY hide away or obscure that aspect, and its going to make the series even further stand out well far apart from your Harry Potters and Pokemon and Star Wars and Avengers and suchlike.

This is so spot on. I think that's Dragon Ball's biggest appeal for most people. Memorable characters we love bettering themselves, overcoming huge obstacles and the satisfaction that comes with it. The amount of influence that has on its audience, to the point of wearing a nerdy Vegeta tank top and pumping iron at the gym is actually kinda awesome. It's crazy how much this silly series can have an impact on people.

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Michsi » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:43 am

Izanagi wrote:Dragon Ball hit mainstream like a train, it is at a level unrivaled by any anime/manga series aside from Pokemon or Doraemon, however it's hard to pinpoint exactly why Akira Toriyama's magnum opus had such a profound impact. I believe what made Dragon Ball a phenomenon, in Japan particularly, is because of Toriyama's art. That's what made Toriyama's manga revolutionary. He



I always believed that too, but it seems there's more to it than "it looks good", It's crisp and clear and clean, and very importantly, easy to follow.

Here are two videos that I highly recommend:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFFru4q_4H8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFFru4q_4H8

(If memory serves, I didn't agree with absolutely everything in here, but most of it is pretty great)

Toriyama's stories stood out during that time because back then shonen manga was tended to be more "mature" looking and a bit darker. I think Torishima himself noted that one of the things that he liked about Toriyama's style was that it was simple (also something about him using English words for sound effects ).

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby ABED » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:12 am

I can't add much more than what everyone else has already said. I didn't even think of "self improvement" as a reason, but it is definitely a good one. The art definitely catches the eye. The quality of the fights and the simplicity of the story also helps a lot, especially when it comes to reaching people from different cultures. I think it's a case of come for the art, stay for the story and the characters.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby DBZAOTA482 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:51 am

It believe it's because in both the east and west, there was simply nothing like it before it's release. The 'battle shonen' stories have been done before but Dragon Ball took many of the pre-existed tropes then turned them on their heads and redefined them. Aside from the over-the-top fight scenes and distinctive art style, we have Son Goku who plays the "Idiot Hero" protagonist role but is a wild and uncultured monkey boy turned world's greatest savior and family man that's really just a simple person (with a heart of gold) who wants nothing more than to fight strong opponents. Not to mention we regularly got to see characters grow both physically and emotionally throughout the story.

There's a bunch of other things DB did for the shonen genre ('strong' female characters, the unmitigated badass 'rival' character, etc.) but we'd be here all day.

It's also significant to the west because it was the first to truly show the masses how different anime truly was aesthetically thus leading to a much greater interest in the medium and the anime boom then was started (early-2000's). It was extremely violent for a kid's show (even with all the censorship), had plot-driven stories (which was practically unheard of with western television), and like I mentioned before the stylistic art and animation style.
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DBZGTKOSDH wrote:... Haven't we already gotten these in GT? Goku dies, the DBs go away, and the Namekian DBs most likely won't be used again because of the Evil Dragons.


Goku didn't die in GT. The show sucked him off so much, it was impossible to keep him in the world of the living, so he ascended beyond mortality.


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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Kid Buu » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:07 pm

Surprised no one said Goky himself. Many protagonists like Naruto and Gon are inspired by him.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Lord Beerus » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:45 pm

I feel there are three reasons:

1. It's aesthetically unique and very much striking most of time when it comes to battles, even compared to most shonen anime in general.

2. It's a story that is very much embraces and indulges on the kind of charm and whimsy that most manga or animated TV often shy away from, while making the most of simple premises to deliver satisfying character moments.

3. The core theme of striving to achieve the greatest power possible, while think of ways to break past that barrier. All the more made better by the fact it features a rotating cast of quirky characters.

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby sintzu » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:07 am

I think the main thing that helped it was its overall look as that's what caught my eye 13 years ago. There was something very different and interesting about it that made me want to know more and experience it.

The writing and themes aren't limited to one place so the majority of people around the world can relate to good vs evil and wanting to be the best. You've also got the stories being structured in a way that doesn't lose anyone or require countless backlog or content to watch before getting into it as it's not too long or complicated.

Another thing that's popular with most people is action which DB has and then some.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Ripper 30 » Fri May 18, 2018 1:23 pm

it's a simplistic Story about the adventure of an innocent boy with a unique hair style called Son Goku. the main character is really charming and is really interesting character and despite the show not being the biggest deconstruction of Shounen genre, Goku the Character is really unique and a very original character in terms of his personality, actions and his mindset. the setting is really wacky but likeable. the cast is charming and full of charming characters and the ones from different races as well. the comedy is great, the story is pretty good and the fights are great as well. the villains have a solid presence and the build-up to the final fight is well done. also, even though it's a Wuxia-themed show it still manages to have elements from different genres like Space fighting, time travel, demons and genie, etc. and its a cross cultural show which is really easy to get into for anyone from any ethnicity so if we put all these take all these factors into account, we can easily see why it's so popular.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby TheBigBoy » Fri May 18, 2018 1:32 pm

"Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?"

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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby samuraix123 » Fri May 18, 2018 5:24 pm

Kunzait_83 I have always gotten more of a Chinese vibe from the series as well and I always wanted to make a topic about it but just never got around to it.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby OhHiRenan » Fri May 18, 2018 5:30 pm

It's a well told story that's simple to understand and follow with a more than a few layers for an attentive reader/viewer. Each arc is also very accessible and easy to jump into. I'd never recommend someone experience the series out of order, but, as evidenced by the series' popularity in the States, it's totally possible to jump in at just about any point and enjoy the ride. The characters are very likable, their dynamics are fun to watch or read, and the action is great.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby samuraix123 » Fri May 18, 2018 5:39 pm

So is it okay to say that Dragonball is still kinda the gateway to Japanese animation? Most folks I know originally started with Dragonball.
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Kunzait_83 » Sat May 19, 2018 3:36 pm

samuraix123 wrote:So is it okay to say that Dragonball is still kinda the gateway to Japanese animation? Most folks I know originally started with Dragonball.


Dragon Ball never seemed to take on any kind of central role in being most Westerners' "gateway to Japanese animation" until the U.S. dub circa the late 90s or so. Prior to that, common "gateway titles" tended to be stuff along the lines of Robotech/Macross, Speed Racer, Akira, the various works of Leiji Matsumoto (Galaxy Express, Harlock, Yamato, etc), Go Nagai (Devilman, Mazinger, Cutey Honey, Getter Robo, etc), Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Dominion Tank Police, Black Magic, Appleseed, etc), Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D, Lupin III, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, Gundam, etc.

Hell, even titles like Battle Angel, Fist of the North Star (post-Streamline dub at least), and Guyver probably brought relatively more U.S. fans into the broader anime fold prior to Dragon Ball's North American FUNimation dub. Sailor Moon (both the dub and even the fansubs) also acted in a gateway capacity for awhile. Lone Wolf and Cub, Crying Freeman, and various other Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami series also acted in that capacity on more the manga-centric end of things (my how times changed in THAT regard).

Dragon Ball was typically a title that fans back in the old days would get more into upon first setting foot just a hair bit more deeply into fansub waters: you were typically apt to get sucked down a Dragon Ball rabbit hole upon collecting fansubs for a relatively short period of time; generally after one of the above mentioned titles had already initially sucked you in prior.

DBZ Movies 5-12 (8 in particular), various early/mid Jinzoningen/Cell arc episodes (Trunks vs Cyber Freeza or Goku vs Cell in the Cell Games being a few popular go-to's) or various random Boo episodes, the Trunks and Bardock specials, and even the "Plan to Eradicate the Saiya-jin" OVA were all commonly encountered "first contact with Dragon Ball" fansub titles during the pre-FUNimation years: but even then, few of those were hardly most people's first-ever foray into Japanese anime as a whole... at most, possibly/maybe their first foray into fansubs (or wider fansubs beyond that of their initial gateway titles) at most.

I'm sure there were SOME people out there in Western territories back in those earlier pre-dub days for whom DB/Z was their very first ever gateway into anime as a whole... but that was hardly the norm back then is my point. It definitely DID however act in a more gateway-ish capacity in more Latin-American circles though back then: Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya both.

Once the Saban/Ocean version of the dub debuted in syndication, DBZ SORT OF started to become some younger folks' first gateway into anime in North America... and then that status REALLY got shifted into the omnipresence it's become now when those episodes debuted on Cartoon Network a bit later on.

I know for turn-of-the-millennium kids, both Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon are the two "defacto" gateway titles into anime (Yu Gi Oh even weirdly, to a lesser extent): I'm genuinely not at all sure how much farther down the generational lines that that still applies though. Does DBZ still commonly act as the first thing that ropes in new kids even in todays day? Hell, even in the late 2000s? Honest, sincere question for those younger than I who might know and have a better grasp on this.
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Zephyr wrote:And that's to say nothing of how pretty much impossible it is to capture what made the original run of the series so great. I'm in the generation of fans that started with Toonami, so I totally empathize with the feeling of having "missed the party", experiencing disappointment, and wanting to experience it myself. But I can't, that's how life is. Time is a bitch. The party is over. Kageyama, Kikuchi, and Maeda are off the sauce now; Yanami almost OD'd; Yamamoto got arrested; Toriyama's not going to light trash cans on fire and hang from the chandelier anymore. We can't get the band back together, and even if we could, everyone's either old, in poor health, or calmed way the fuck down. Best we're going to get, and are getting, is a party that's almost entirely devoid of the magic that made the original one so awesome that we even want more.


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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby emperior » Sat May 19, 2018 4:08 pm

In my opinion, Dragon Ball is popular because of the following:
- Distinctive and very good looking art-style
- Over the top battles with muscular men and aliens throwing hands and ki blasts at super high speed battles, which makes the battles and their outcomes super interesting
- The Dragon Balls, which are a very interesting concept
- A likeable pure-hearted protagonist who does stupid things, but is also very proud and brave, never gives up and is never demotivated throughout the serie. Goku is always positive, and that’s something I always loved of him
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Yuli Ban » Sat May 26, 2018 10:23 pm

Because of three basic reasons.

1: It is fundamentally easy to get into because it strikes a balance (most of the time).
2: Combining loads of pre-existing tropes while also creating new ones to create something unique.
3: Right place, right time.

In another thread, I compared it to heavy metal band Black Sabbath for the same reasons, just to show how hitting all three can essentially allow you to take over the world. This time, I'll use Nirvana.
How did Nirvana get so huge considering there were other alt-rock and punk bands who did what they did many times better? Because they hit it off at the perfect possible time by combing loads of different worlds and weren't poppy and jangly like most post-C86 indie bands nor were they inaccessibly heavy and challenging like the Melvins. They were poppy themselves, but they were also heavy. REM and Jane's Addiction did the fuzzy guitars before them, but that was in the '80s. We were still into hair metal party anthems and love ballads, so we weren't yet tired of the status quo and looking for something new. Something like Nirvana could never have taken off in 1986. And they were able to work by combining alt-rock, punk rock, heavy metal, and pop into one package while selling it as punk and playing it with more energy than most metal bands. And through that method, they were able to get on pop radio. Interestingly, they first broke through on Headbanger's Ball, but that was enough to infect the airwaves. Metalheads who would never have gotten caught dead listening to punk were now listening to Nirvana. Punks and hipsters who thought metal was all caveman guitar pop or thrashing nonsense suddenly found themselves enthralled by the heavy guitars and thrashing drums. Because they didn't sound like anyone else and record labels loved them, they quickly earned many copy-cats. They didn't follow trends— they started them, and thus fundamentally altered the direction of rock and pop music for the next 27 years going.

If I scrubbed away most of the nouns here, wouldn't it sound a bit like the story of Dragon Ball's rise? Dragon Ball is popular because of the kids, first and foremost. The kids got into it and grew up, remembering what a great show it was. But it wasn't just the kids— teens and adults also liked it. Many of them were shocked that they liked a cartoon, because you have to remember what culture was like back in the '90s. This was a time when cartoons were still seen as squarely kid's shlock, 30-minute toy commercials. Swat Kats was pulled from television back in '94 because Ted Turner thought it was too violent and dark. Freaking Swat Kats!
In fact, if you watch action cartoons from the '70s, '80s, and early '90s today, you'll notice that they very, very rarely feature actual violence. The characters always have to use non-violent means of solving their problems, which ironically made throwing a punch an exciting thing because you didn't often see it. Characters never died. They merely ran or fell off screen while shaking their fists, yelling "You'll pay for this" only to return next episode as if nothing had happened. Power was also mostly stated directly or implied. You rarely saw the direct consequences of having great power outside of a halo of dark clouds swirling around or beams of light. It was cheesy fun and we loved it, but actual violence was always left to our imaginations.
Then, out of nowhere, comes along this weird cartoon from Japan that features a guy in orange actually hitting people, other people getting their limbs beaten off, characters (even children) dying on screen, and these tiny humans somehow putting out more damage than you'd expect from Godzilla.

What the fuck was this? This is Dragon Ball Z!
We were already into darker, edgier things in the 90s, so the camp of 80s action shows had already worn off and we wanted children's programming that was more hardcore. Dragon Ball Z filled that niche perfectly. It was a hit from day one, though it was plagued by bad executive decisions all throughout the mid-90s (like the fact that only the first twenty episodes were being aired over and over again) and it was horrendously mismarketed.

Actually, the mismarketing of Dragon Ball Z should be its own thread (and probably is) because I can't think of many shows more mismarketed than Dragon Ball in the 90s. You see, when anime was first becoming a "thing" back in the '80s, the American companies overseeing this had this extremely bizarre fascination with turning them all into young children's programming. Dragon Ball Z, for example, was intended to be watched by children ages 3 and up— even younger than its Japanese audience! American shows weren't held to this same standard, for the most part. You could aim some shows at older audiences (not even getting into the early "adult primetime cartoon" market that was born that decade, think of Ren and Stimpy or the aforementioned Swat Kats or even Batman: The Animated Series), but all anime had to be watchable for preschoolers.

This failed.

It failed because one of the first big hit shows they attempted to give this treatment was Dragon Ball Z, and I can only imagine the nightmares the censors still have trying to turn it into something appropriate for preschoolers and still have it make sense. So that's how we got the Saban cut that Team Four Star was able to derive all their memes from. All that weirdness of double episodes, buildings being empty on Sunday, HFIL, next dimension, Tenshinhan claiming his arm could grow back, even Goku claiming Vegeta killed Grandpa Gohan— all because we USicans didn't know what to do with Japanese cartoons and decided to try to make them baby shows.
Do I even need to talk about Dragon Ball? Like holy hell, that poor show was murdered by Funimation's marketing department. To this day, the perception that it's the lesser, inferior, nonessential comedic "prequel" to Dragon Ball Z is almost unshakable in the West.

Yet despite these attempts to sabotage their own property (I'm hoping by accident), viewers still loved it because it wasn't like the present day where we're so used to violence and sex in cartoons— back then, even this neutered version of Dragon Ball Z was far beyond anything else we had ever seen. One reason why the Goku vs. Superman debates even exist now is because Superman before the 2000s had so few amazing feats like Goku (even though Goku himself had few amazing on-screen feats). Many of the things he's famous for were either only found in the comics or only implied as being possible, but we simply saw Superman and said "Yep, he's strong" because we were told he's strong. "More powerful than a locomotive."
Whereas we actually saw Goku being strong. We saw him and Vegeta shaking the entire planet just by screaming. We saw Vegeta blow up a planet with a tiny beam from his fingers. We saw Freeza tear a hole in the atmosphere with his power. All of which, it turns out, are far below anything Superman could accomplish (even today, when Goku is stronger than he's ever been, Superman Prime One Million is still several orders of magnitude beyond him because SPOM is flat out overpowered for the sake of being overpowered, and he's still not even the strongest character in DC canon).

So it blew our little minds as well as the minds of our parents. This show was ultraviolent and crazy. But it wasn't so childish that people older than 10 couldn't watch it without being embarrassed— though Saban/Funimation tried for a while there. And because it was censored, parents would let their children watch it without much pause (perhaps the only time I'll forgive censorship). Because it was moving so slowly, you could miss a bunch of episodes and still generally know what's going on.

Another effect of censorship and dubbing was that a lot of characters were whitewashed (morally speaking). Most obviously: Son Goku, now just commonly known as Goku. Whereas he was originally more like a goofier manchild version of Sun Wukong, American Goku is Kung Fu Space Jesus. This is part of a big effort to de-Asianize a lot of anime that was going on back then (and continued with 4Kids in the 2000s). You know how a lot of people don't even know Dragon Ball is a Wuxia story? Or maybe you've met some hardcore anime fans who barely consider Dragon Ball Z an anime because it "feels so Western?" That's the dub's fault. Despite the fact that this is a story that is almost comedically, offensively Chinese, the Funi dub was somehow able to scrub all of it away. And it's helped by the fact that the most Chinese part of the story was effectively cast out and we start at the part of the story that begins taking up more and more from Western properties, like the Terminator and Star Wars. What's more, the 70s-esque kung fu soundtrack was replaced by a more '80s/'90s sounding electronic rock one, the kind of music you'd expect from a cheap gym.

(ADD moment: to think about how Chinese Dragon Ball is, imagine a Mexican writing a sci-fi tinged American Western based on the adventures of Billy the Kid).

It worked, however, because it still appealed to us. Some of the more obviously Chinese and Japanese-inspired morals of the story weirded us out a bit, but some human experiences are still universal, like improving yourself through rigorous training. Other changes were cheesy, but still sounded epic at the time (e.g. "THE SPEECH™").


If Dragon Ball Z came ten years earlier, it probably would have been too much for TV even in its already emaciated form (remember, we were giving the Simpsons crap just for using mild curse words and generic subversive rebelliousness to the point that even President Bush Sr. called it out). If it came ten years later, we would either have already found another anime to fill in the gap or we would have found it too corny if it was still so heavily censored. And after 2005 or so, when streaming hit it big, anime in America as a whole suffered because we could watch it directly without any censorship.


TLDR: It was a unique thing that came at the right place at the right time, was edited just right for what television was at the time, and persisted long enough to influence the childhoods of at least ten years' worth of Gen Xers and Millennials due to executive mismanagement.


I realize now I was focusing mostly on the Western reaction to Dragon Ball, but I think that helps my point. Dragon Ball is a global phenomenon because there was literally nothing else quite like it. There were many things like some of its individual parts, but as a whole, it was much better.
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Choujin Daizenshuu
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Re: Why is Dragon Ball so Popular?

Postby Choujin Daizenshuu » Mon May 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Yuli Ban wrote:In another thread, I compared it to heavy metal band Black Sabbath for the same reasons, just to show how hitting all three can essentially allow you to take over the world. This time, I'll use Nirvana.
How did Nirvana get so huge considering there were other alt-rock and punk bands who did what they did many times better? Because they hit it off at the perfect possible time by combing loads of different worlds and weren't poppy and jangly like most post-C86 indie bands nor were they inaccessibly heavy and challenging like the Melvins. They were poppy themselves, but they were also heavy. REM and Jane's Addiction did the fuzzy guitars before them, but that was in the '80s. We were still into hair metal party anthems and love ballads, so we weren't yet tired of the status quo and looking for something new. Something like Nirvana could never have taken off in 1986. And they were able to work by combining alt-rock, punk rock, heavy metal, and pop into one package while selling it as punk and playing it with more energy than most metal bands. And through that method, they were able to get on pop radio. Interestingly, they first broke through on Headbanger's Ball, but that was enough to infect the airwaves. Metalheads who would never have gotten caught dead listening to punk were now listening to Nirvana. Punks and hipsters who thought metal was all caveman guitar pop or thrashing nonsense suddenly found themselves enthralled by the heavy guitars and thrashing drums. Because they didn't sound like anyone else and record labels loved them, they quickly earned many copy-cats. They didn't follow trends— they started them, and thus fundamentally altered the direction of rock and pop music for the next 27 years going.

As someone who was forced to listen to Nirvana all throughout elementary to high school, I just never saw their appeal. I never saw Cobain's band as being a masterful mixer of alt-rock, punk rock, heavy metal and pop. I just saw them as incessant screamers that just lucked out on a record deal because the record companies wanted to shift direction in the industry and because of that, every last amateur felt they can succeed in getting a CD deal just by screaming into the mike and backing it up with drums and guitar rhythms. If you want to talk punk music, bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols had Nirvana beat by a good decade and they at least provided some catchy good rhythms and vocals that you one can recite in the open.


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