Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

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Yuli Ban
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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by Yuli Ban » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:04 pm

Honestly, it's entirely because what I grew up with wasn't the reality of what it was.

When I was growing up, Dragon Ball was...
- First and foremost, Z. "Dragon Ball" was the optional comedic prequel with Japanese music
- Given an electro-metal soundtrack by Bruce Faulconer
- Led by Japanese Superman, who is basically Kung Fu Space Jesus
- Dark and serious, with comedic moments as well as having a contrast between the humorous character designs and grim actions
- Over the top, but still following a consistent narrative and not going out of its way to break immersion and established lore
- Inspired by the "Golden Warrior" myth and American action heroes, but with a distinct Asian flavor
- A surprisingly deep story at times but still largely a show about fighting
- Created by someone named Akira Toriyama
- Probably still an American show

Even though I've shaken off most of this (seriously, where did the "Golden Warrior" nonsense even come from? It's not even a real thing), nostalgia runs deep. What's more, since I've taken up writing seriously, I'm also receptive to narrative flaws. Dragon Ball has quite a few going back to the very start, but they're manageable right up to around the Boo arc. That's the point at which trying to create a proper story without limiting the characters becomes a struggle, and Dragon Ball decided to double down on power creep anyway.
Of course, Dragon Ball started out as a kung fu-themed gag manga for (Japanese) boys. It just happened to go through a period where it got fairly dark and heavy, and this is the period which attracted international fans. Once Toriyama regained full control of the thing, its gag roots came back and that's where it's been ever since, but Toei and Toriyama do still try to make it a more serious action story at times, such as what happened in GT and Super. And it doesn't work. Since there's little foundation to work with— no sense of power hierarchies, no sense of damage, no sense of impact, and whatnot— it makes the fights much harder to buy. In GT, the problem was more that they were so strong that no one else but the active fighters mattered. Super Baby, 17, and Omega Shenlong swatted away everyone other than SS4 Goku. Majuub tried to make a difference, but his name wasn't Son Goku, so he was tossed aside in his debut episode. SS4 Vegeta was fusion fodder. Everyone else? Couldn't keep up because they were so far behind. Roshi and Tenshinhan appeared maybe twice in the entire show and Piccolo was such a joke that they killed him off for good and no one cared. If Goten achieved SS2, it would have been an interesting development but it wouldn't have meant much unless that added power potentially made Gotenks that much stronger. But at the very least, it tried to stay within what was established— Krillin couldn't touch base Goku, and that's why the show is basically "Dragon Ball Goku Time".

In Super, it's the opposite problem— everyone is now able to keep up with godlike powers with no build-up. We can only speculate that it's because Super Saiyan Blue allows for "perfect ki control", but how telling is it that this is only speculation. Taking it at face value, Krillin and Roshi can now hold their own with forces trillions of times stronger than Super Boo. The U6 Saiyans had to be fast-tracked to Super Saiyan (and beyond) because of this, obliterating what little value there was in the transformation. The battle between Goku, Vegeta, Trunks, Goku Black, and Zamasu was literally "Good side fights, gets thrashed, comes back stronger, thrashes the other side, then gets thrashed again, repeat" over and over again. Why was Vegeta stronger the second time? How much stronger had he become? Hell if we know. He's just stronger. But it's not enough. So how strong is Merged Zamasu? Hell if anyone knows.

Power levels aren't very fun when there's so much nitpicking involved, but they serve a point in xianxia stories like Dragon Ball. At the very least, they help you get an idea of who is stronger than whom. You can still be surprised— remember, Goku and Piccolo combined were half as strong as Raditz was and they still won through the use of strategy and luck, and it's implied Nappa could have been defeated by the Senshi if Gohan assisted them more effectively and they worked more as a proper team— but it's still useful.






Agh, this went on too long.

TLDR: it's all flash and no substance.
May or may not be writing a Dragon Ball-inspired serial.

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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by Yuli Ban » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:17 pm

Yuli Ban wrote:Honestly, it's entirely because what I grew up with wasn't the reality of what it was.

When I was growing up, Dragon Ball was...
- First and foremost, Z. "Dragon Ball" was the optional comedic prequel with Japanese music
- Given an electro-metal soundtrack by Bruce Faulconer
- Led by Japanese Superman, who is basically Kung Fu Space Jesus
- Dark and serious, with comedic moments as well as having a contrast between the humorous character designs and grim actions
- Over the top, but still following a consistent narrative and not going out of its way to break immersion and established lore
- Inspired by the "Golden Warrior" myth and American action heroes, but with a distinct Asian flavor
- A surprisingly deep story at times but still largely a show about fighting
- Created by someone named Akira Toriyama
- Probably still an American show
Everything after this was a bunch of fuck that got off point.

To answer the thread topic in a slightly-more on topic ramble: I assume this is discussing the English/Funimation and Spanish dubs primarily since English and Spanish fans tend to be the ones who want a serious Dragon Ball the most while Japanese fans seem to be the ones who adore comedic Dragon Ball the most. The only relevant part of my post alluded to this: I became a fan to Dragon Ball because of the extreme ultraviolence and action, which was completely unlike any other cartoon I'd ever seen. I'm inevitably going to create a thread about this at some point just to ramble about it, but I used to compare other action shows to Dragon Ball Z. You have to remember, the '90s and '00s was an absolute golden age for action cartoons.

Try to imagine the mindset of a young American boy in the late '90s/early '00s. Action shows historically had a few punches and kicks, but they were fundamentally rooted in Western fantasy— in Judeo-Christian culture, no one can become very powerful on their own; they need something to give them great power. There's no legacy of cultivation. If you were born with superhuman abilities, the most you can do with them is control them. They only grow as you age; you can't train to improve your powers beyond an extreme level. You can certainly reach 120% of yourself, but never 9,001%. In European folklore, battles were between glorious characters clashing swords, shooting arrows, firing guns— using your own body to fight was the realm of lower-class tavern and bar-room brawls, a completely uncultured way to fight. The only fighters who used their fists were berserkers and drunkards. Boxing was cool, but in fiction it was still portrayed in a sort of post-Vaudeville way of two men squaring each other up and exchanging a few blows. When you used your fists, that meant shit just got serious and personal. Then came the kung fu-craze of the '70s, where individual men and women were taking down large groups of people. Still, that didn't translate into cartoons all that much. It could have, but the '80s happened— and anyone who remembers the '80s knows that it was the age of Toy Commercial Cartoons. Characters were more anatomically correct than ever, but there wasn't much action going on. This was the Reagan era: cartoons were made to sell toys and teach messages. Go back and watch one of those '80s shows and early '90s shows and take note of how often violence was actually used to solve problems. Whenever heroes came across an evildoer, they more than likely used their wits to get out of trouble. No one ever died. It was at its most absurd peak with G.I. Joe, a show fundamentally about two militaries clashing and yet you could count the number of on-screen deaths on one hand with several fingers missing.

Fast forward to the era of Dragon Ball Z, and this boy is now being bombarded with a show where some kung fu fighters are shaking entire planets with their own cultivated strength, where not only was violence shown but was shown graphically, and the consequences of violence weren't glossed over. He's given a curated dub that still makes it seem like some elements aren't what they are (the name 'Kami' is kept only so they don't use the word 'God'; 'Hell' became 'HFIL'; the afterlife in general became 'another dimension' or 'Other World'; Tenshinhan can suddenly regrow his arm like Piccolo apparently; etc. etc.), but everyone knew what was really going on. Sorta. Not only were people dying— even children were dying! On screen! It's showing exactly how brutal and twisted the world is, despite the cutesy art style (which in itself gets edgier and more anatomically consistent into the series). What the hell kind of a show is this?! It's beautiful! It's perfect for the era!

Another thing to remember about the late '90s and early '00s: EVERYTHING was darker and edgier during this time. This was the peak of nü metal and gangsta rap. This was post-Columbine and post-9/11. Everything was about being EXTREME and EDGY. And, on a fundamental level, some of the more moderated stuff holds up because darker stories that introduce some level of tension and drama can be appreciated by adults and be discussed in a non-tongue in cheek manner. If it veers too far into pure edginess or melodrama, that's a different story. Edginess and melodrama have their place, but you have to be careful with it. The more absurd the story, the less people will take it seriously on principle. Past a certain point, you HAVE to have a story take itself less seriously if you want it to be taken seriously, ironically. There is a point where seriousness and melodrama becomes its own form of absurdity. Look at 2005's Shadow the Hedgehog for a now classic example of how taking absurd elements completely seriously can spiral catastrophically out of control. There is no self-awareness in that story, no deconstruction being done— the action is just as cartoonish as ever but the setting is trying to dress it up as if it's edgy enough for post-nü metal age teenagers. It's no different than Tommy Wiseau's The Room, actually. In that case, nothing about the story itself is necessarily absurd on a technical level. It was the details of the writing, how everyone acted, and the things we were expected to take seriously that made it absurd.

Dragon Ball Z is absurd and knows it. That's why it works. And there is a deconstruction being done as well when you consider it compared to earlier cartoons and even itself from the early Dragon Ball era— in any other cartoon before DBZ, cutting someone's hand off would be a joke, something laughed at before they get their hand back a few scenes later with some bandages on their wrist. When Tenshinhan got his hand punched off by Nappa, was that a joke? No, it was taken seriously. Everything was taken seriously. It's a deconstruction of what would realistically happen if you apply cartoon logic in the real world. At the same time, it's just so over the top and it also works. It fits the situation and the established story. It's not trying to be edgy— Nappa didn't cut open Tenshinhan and make him choke on his own intestines while quoting the Satanic Bible and the Korn lyrics he cut into his wrists while Goku arrived and immediately did the same to Nappa. It's violence and the consequences of violence. To some, that in itself is edgy, but it's still how DBZ worked. It was edgy in a good way.

Then, many episodes later, Boo got shamed by a godlike piece of candy. To someone who initially grew up with the brutal story of the start of Z, that in itself seems to be absurd— it's like if a goofy clown visited children kept in concentration camps.
If you grew up with what you thought was an established setting, changing the tone doesn't just feel out of place— it feels wrong on a visceral level. It just happens that it goes both ways for the fandom of Dragon Ball.



See? Way too many words spent on what could easily be said in a paragraph.


TLDR: We started with Dragon Ball Z rather than Dragon Ball, so the established setting for many audiences was of the heaviest part of the series. There wasn't a previous culture of ultraviolence, sexual comedy, and realistic consequences of violence in Western shows like there was in Japan, so we knew it as that one cartoon where people (even kids) fucking died. Villains weren't evil because they were literally Skeletor, living in skull castles with legions of ogres with evil names. They were evil because they viciously brutalized others for selfish reasons. The good guys were still good, even righteous (or so we thought), and the dub made it out to be even more of a case of black-and-white morality. Now that this generation of viewers has grown up, many think Super's more saccharine take on things runs counter to the heavily altered and truncated version of Dragon Ball they knew.
May or may not be writing a Dragon Ball-inspired serial.

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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by Hulk10 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:45 pm

I'd say its a combination of passion and ideas about the show and the world in general. To be honest the DB franchise is pretty good despite its flaws, as the villians are evil because they do terrible things and the good guys are good because they do good things, to be simplistic. But I disagree with the idea of the dub making things black and white. The DBZ Kai one certainly didn't. In the Kai dub Goku didn't spout about doing all good by beating Frieza, in fact he ranted on about how he was going to make Frieza pay for killing Krillin. Of course I didn't watch the original dub as a child. But I watched DBZ kai as a young adult, so that's the one I'm familiar with.

As for Super being comedic, you only have to look at the Golden Frieza, Goku Black and Tournament of Power arcs to know that its not all sugar and spice and everything nice. I've also seen many American based kids shows that are quite edgy themselves so a lot of these generalizations are not true. Avatar: The Last Airbender is a perfect example of this, its an edgy but also kid based show that features real consequences. But I'm just being pedantic here. Anyway my point is the DB franchise is both serious and edgy and comedic.
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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by JohnnyCashKami » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:58 pm

zarmack wrote:Because people have standards and don't won't their intelligence insulted.
So they do want! :P Yes, I know. That's a typo.

Zarmack, if it ever gets to the point when it feels insulting then better to just leave it alone and move on without getting to an extreme level. It's not worth the hassle, headache or whatever drama's made out of it for no valid reason, it's not even like it's a real life issue.

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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by Yuli Ban » Wed Nov 28, 2018 5:04 pm

Hulk10 wrote:Of course I didn't watch the original dub as a child. But I watched DBZ kai as a young adult, so that's the one I'm familiar with.
In which case, you may not be familiar with how the original Saban/Funimation dub literally turned Goku into Kung Fu Space Jesus.
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Re: Why Does everyone Take Dragon Ball So Seriously?

Post by Hulk10 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 5:09 pm

Yuli Ban wrote:
Hulk10 wrote:Of course I didn't watch the original dub as a child. But I watched DBZ kai as a young adult, so that's the one I'm familiar with.
In which case, you may not be familiar with how the original Saban/Funimation dub literally turned Goku into Kung Fu Space Jesus.
Oh I eventually did watch the original, just a bit later than I did the Kai one. So yeah I am familiar with the original dub's portrayal of Goku.
Hulk is strongest one there is. -Incredible Hulk

In the name of the mighty Legions of Predacons who preceded me I will never again bow to your charge! But I will heed your previous advice and face my true enemy AS A BEAST! -Predaking to Unicron controlled Megatron.

The arrogance of man is thinking that we are in control of our destiny. Let them fight. -Dr. Ishiro Serizawa to Admiral William Stenz.

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