Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

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Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by WittyUsername » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:18 am

My divisiveness with the franchise lately has caused me to think long and hard about the general nature of the franchise in terms of whether it’s idealistic or cynical. Back in the day, I was inclined to say that the franchise is idealistic overall, despite some occasionally mean spirited humor and selfish decisions on the part of the protagonists. These days, however, I’m more inclined to think of Dragon Ball as being all around cynical and unpleasant in terms of the kind of tone it sets for itself, especially in light of the additions of Beerus and Zen-Oh, and Toriyama’s “poison” comments.

What do other people think on the matter? Is Dragon Ball a cynical franchise that hides under the guise of something colorful and whimsical, or is it an overall idealistic series that just happens to have occasional traces of cynicism that we’re not supposed to take seriously?

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Cure Dragon 255 » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:27 am

I think its more the fandom and memes that make you feel that way. I feel the exact same way, but I know better than to just blame the series itself.
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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Michsi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:12 am

WittyUsername wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:18 am
My divisiveness with the franchise lately has caused me to think long and hard about the general nature of the franchise in terms of whether it’s idealistic or cynical. Back in the day, I was inclined to say that the franchise is idealistic overall, despite some occasionally mean spirited humor and selfish decisions on the part of the protagonists. These days, however, I’m more inclined to think of Dragon Ball as being all around cynical and unpleasant in terms of the kind of tone it sets for itself, especially in light of the additions of Beerus and Zen-Oh, and Toriyama’s “poison” comments.

What do other people think on the matter? Is Dragon Ball a cynical franchise that hides under the guise of something colorful and whimsical, or is it an overall idealistic series that just happens to have occasional traces of cynicism that we’re not supposed to take seriously?

I think there is some truth to that. I myself have considered this quite a number of times and throughout the story I believe you can see several instances where this shines through. Mr. Satan being a fraud is never corrected, the gods are either uncaring or incompetent, the constant reminder that Gokuy&co. are not heroes, and aren't even nice people only seem like it - yeah, it definitely has a cynical side. But I think that is true of most of Toriyama's works.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by KBABZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:59 am

I think Dragon Ball is optimistic, but there are many instances where I think Toriyama and the other writers get overly-bold in how subversive they can be with certain characters and moods, such as with Zeno and Beerus. This of course doesn't even mention the Future Trunks stuff, which goes from bad to outright depressing when it's revisited in Super. However while I agree that the protagonists aren't capital-h Heroes, I do think that they're very much good people.

Where I get cynical with Dragon Ball is regarding Toei and Funimation, haha.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by 90sDBZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:36 am

Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:12 am
I think there is some truth to that. I myself have considered this quite a number of times and throughout the story I believe you can see several instances where this shines through. Mr. Satan being a fraud is never corrected, the gods are either uncaring or incompetent, the constant reminder that Gokuy&co. are not heroes, and aren't even nice people only seem like it - yeah, it definitely has a cynical side. But I think that is true of most of Toriyama's works.
What makes you say Goku and co. aren't even nice people? I think that's an exaggeration. At the very least they'll fight to do the right thing if something bad is happening right in front of them.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Michsi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:29 am

90sDBZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:36 am
Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:12 am
I think there is some truth to that. I myself have considered this quite a number of times and throughout the story I believe you can see several instances where this shines through. Mr. Satan being a fraud is never corrected, the gods are either uncaring or incompetent, the constant reminder that Gokuy&co. are not heroes, and aren't even nice people only seem like it - yeah, it definitely has a cynical side. But I think that is true of most of Toriyama's works.
What makes you say Goku and co. aren't even nice people? I think that's an exaggeration. At the very least they'll fight to do the right thing if something bad is happening right in front of them.
It's not my opinion (don't even want to agree with it ), but it's Toriyama's apparently.
I can't remember which interview it was, but Toyotaro mentioned that Toriyama told him the the characters are not nice people and they only appear to be like that.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Polyphase Avatron » Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:06 am

WittyUsername wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:18 am
and Toriyama’s “poison” comments.
Could you elaborate here?
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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by KBABZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:20 am

Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:29 am
It's not my opinion (don't even want to agree with it ), but it's Toriyama's apparently.
I can't remember which interview it was, but Toyotaro mentioned that Toriyama told him the the characters are not nice people and they only appear to be like that.
Which I personally disagree with, my evidence being the behaviour of the characters in his own story. Vegeta of course is callous and often couldn't care less, and Goku is such an oddball that he can often seem that way, but both have put life and limb on the line to protect their family, friends and the Earth. Then of course there's the time Gohan actually donned a caped outfit TO FIGHT CRIME. And apparently he isn't a nice person??

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by WittyUsername » Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:27 am

Polyphase Avatron wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:06 am
WittyUsername wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:18 am
and Toriyama’s “poison” comments.
Could you elaborate here?
http://www.kanzenshuu.com/translations/ ... interview/

“Right. There’s how, basically, Son Goku from Dragon Ball doesn’t fight for the sake of others, but because he wants to fight against strong guys. So once Dragon Ball got animated, at any rate, I’ve always been dissatisfied with the ‘righteous hero’-type portrayal they gave him. I guess I couldn’t quite get them to grasp the elements of ‘poison’ that slip in and out of sight among the shadows.”

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by SuperSaiyaManZ94 » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:03 am

WittyUsername wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:27 am
Polyphase Avatron wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:06 am
WittyUsername wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:18 am
and Toriyama’s “poison” comments.
Could you elaborate here?
http://www.kanzenshuu.com/translations/ ... interview/

“Right. There’s how, basically, Son Goku from Dragon Ball doesn’t fight for the sake of others, but because he wants to fight against strong guys. So once Dragon Ball got animated, at any rate, I’ve always been dissatisfied with the ‘righteous hero’-type portrayal they gave him. I guess I couldn’t quite get them to grasp the elements of ‘poison’ that slip in and out of sight among the shadows.”
Yeah, of course the people at Toei made their own interpretation of Goku in the anime as a 'righteous hero' because apparently they felt that Toriyama's version of the character who is only all about fighting strong opponents everything else be damned wouldn't make for a likeable protagonist. At least, that is the reason that i have heard.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by MyVisionity » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:08 am

Agreed about Goku and the gang being shitty people. That's much more evident in the earlier sagas, but it never really goes away entirely.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Michsi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:13 am

KBABZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:20 am
Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:29 am
It's not my opinion (don't even want to agree with it ), but it's Toriyama's apparently.
I can't remember which interview it was, but Toyotaro mentioned that Toriyama told him the the characters are not nice people and they only appear to be like that.
Which I personally disagree with, my evidence being the behaviour of the characters in his own story. Vegeta of course is callous and often couldn't care less, and Goku is such an oddball that he can often seem that way, but both have put life and limb on the line to protect their family, friends and the Earth. Then of course there's the time Gohan actually donned a caped outfit TO FIGHT CRIME. And apparently he isn't a nice person??
I think the scene in which the gang chooses to wait for the androids so they can fight them instead of listening to Bulma and preventing their creation is the best embodiment of the not-good-people idea Toriyama keeps trying to put forth. Personally, I always thought that Toriyama was concerned that the dragon balls were too obvious of a solution to the upcoming android problem so instead of always trying come up with a convoluted plot point to keep the characters from using them he simply wrote them to be the sort of characters that would rather choose pride over safety of others - and then just kept on going with that. This way he could have Vegeta let Cell absorb 18, have Kuririn destroy the remote, have none of the characters agree with Trunks when he suggested they attack Cell together when Goku wounded him, have Goku give Cell a senzu, etc. etc.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by 90sDBZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:13 am

Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:29 am
It's not my opinion (don't even want to agree with it ), but it's Toriyama's apparently.
I can't remember which interview it was, but Toyotaro mentioned that Toriyama told him the the characters are not nice people and they only appear to be like that.
That's interesting. Maybe there's more context to that quote than we're seeing. For instance, maybe he was referring to most of Goku's allies starting out as enemies? Just an idea.
http://www.kanzenshuu.com/translations/ ... interview/

“Right. There’s how, basically, Son Goku from Dragon Ball doesn’t fight for the sake of others, but because he wants to fight against strong guys. So once Dragon Ball got animated, at any rate, I’ve always been dissatisfied with the ‘righteous hero’-type portrayal they gave him. I guess I couldn’t quite get them to grasp the elements of ‘poison’ that slip in and out of sight among the shadows.”
I've seen that quote brought up a number of times. It's funny because even the manga had Goku vow to beat Freeza for all the people he'd killed, which seems pretty righteous to me.

It also seems that Nozawa feels differently about it, speaking about Goku positively in a recent interview, saying he sees the good in others and wants world peace. There's also an older interview were she said the world would be a better place if everyone was like him, and Toriyama disagreed saying it wouldn't function very well or something to that affect. Clearly they have differing interpretations.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Michsi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:27 am

90sDBZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:13 am


It also seems that Nozawa feels differently about it, speaking about Goku positively in a recent interview, saying he sees the good in others and wants world peace. There's also an older interview were she said the world would be a better place if everyone was like him, and Toriyama disagreed saying it wouldn't function very well or something to that affect. Clearly they have differing interpretations.
That probably comes from the fact that she voiced- and therefor mostly knows- Goku's anime version, the one that Toriyama complained about being too hero-like.

But I also think that Toriyama's description of Goku often conflicts with how he wrote him in the story. The reason Goku can fly the Kinto'un is because he is pure of heart, so unless that has a different connotation in Japanese, that means he is supposed to be not just a good person, but a really good person. But then where does that leave his obsessive desire for stronger opponents and more power? Sure, he is not in it for fame of fortune, but does that make his reasons less selfish? It's kinda hard to combine these aspects and make a cohesive character.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by MyVisionity » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:37 am

KBABZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:20 am
Then of course there's the time Gohan actually donned a caped outfit TO FIGHT CRIME. And apparently he isn't a nice person??
Gohan might be the only exception since he seems to be genuinely decent, probably to show just how awful the rest are.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by KBABZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:46 am

Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:13 am
I think the scene in which the gang chooses to wait for the androids so they can fight them instead of listening to Bulma and preventing their creation is the best embodiment of the not-good-people idea Toriyama keeps trying to put forth.
That's contradicted though by Goku's reaction to Trunks' news earlier about his unaltered timeline, one where the world is terrorized, in ruins, and all of Goku's friends are dead. Yes, the bit that he's upset about the most is that he wasn't alive to fight them, but the thing I think many fans forget is that this isn't the only reason Goku fights the big villains. If that were the case, Goku would have been completely nonchalant about Frieza (or Tambourine) killing Krillin, Daimao killing Roshi, or the deaths of Yamcha, Piccolo, Tien and Chiaotzu to Nappa. I feel like Goku's nature here is perfectly encapsulated with Tao killing Bora, someone he had only just met, and that event and Goku's passionate reaction happens in the anime and the manga, no matter which way you try to slice it.
Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:13 am
Personally, I always thought that Toriyama was concerned that the dragon balls were too obvious of a solution to the upcoming android problem so instead of always trying come up with a convoluted plot point to keep the characters from using them he simply wrote them to be the sort of characters that would rather choose pride over safety of others - and then just kept on going with that. This way he could have Vegeta let Cell absorb 18, have Kuririn destroy the remote, have none of the characters agree with Trunks when he suggested they attack Cell together when Goku wounded him, have Goku give Cell a senzu, etc. etc.
Again I disagree. First, by this point the nature of Saiyans had been introduced where they actively enjoy and look forward to fighting, so it makes sense that Goku and Vegeta would want to fight the Androids. It gets used as a crutch to explain why Vegeta lets Cell become perfect, but it's used effectively later when Cell goads Gohan into going Super Saiyan 2. Secondly, as I recall, waiting for the Androids was Vegeta's idea, and by this point in the story he's fresh off the Namek arc where his only change is that he isn't actively trying to become immortal and destroy the Earth. Goku of course goes along with it, but he has a fair excuse to: he's got a two year head start to train his butt off, so from his perspective he'll have it under control.
MyVisionity wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:37 am
Gohan might be the only exception since he seems to be genuinely decent, probably to show just how awful the rest are.
What about Krillin and Yamcha and Tien and Chiaotzu and Goten?

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by MyVisionity » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:18 pm

KBABZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:46 am
MyVisionity wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:37 am
Gohan might be the only exception since he seems to be genuinely decent, probably to show just how awful the rest are.
What about Krillin and Yamcha and Tien and Chiaotzu and Goten?
Kuririn wanted to learn the martial arts to get women. He was also shown to be morally dubious early on, willing to cheat to get what he wants etc., and always had that shady vibe to him. Particularly to contrast with Goku/Gohan. Then there's the whole #18/Cell plot. He's always been motivated by self-interest, almost comically so.

Yamcha the former bandit is portrayed as perpetually unemployed and broke, always looking for a deal, even from Shen Long.

Maybe Tenshinhan/Chaozu aren't so bad post-reform, but who knows outside the martial arts. I'll give you Goten, although even he is shown to be lazy and disinterested.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by Michsi » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:20 pm

KBABZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:46 am
Again I disagree. First, by this point the nature of Saiyans had been introduced where they actively enjoy and look forward to fighting, so it makes sense that Goku and Vegeta would want to fight the Androids. It gets used as a crutch to explain why Vegeta lets Cell become perfect, but it's used effectively later when Cell goads Gohan into going Super Saiyan 2. Secondly, as I recall, waiting for the Androids was Vegeta's idea, and by this point in the story he's fresh off the Namek arc where his only change is that he isn't actively trying to become immortal and destroy the Earth. Goku of course goes along with it, but he has a fair excuse to: he's got a two year head start to train his butt off, so from his perspective he'll have it under control.

Yes, but Saiyans are far from a benevolent race and fighting because they enjoy doesn't put a positive spin on why they chose to do what they did. Bulma states the moral problem outright and they still dismiss her. Well, Vegeta, Goku and Tenshinhan mostly, the others just go along. But that's what I was getting at- them being like this made Toriyama's job easier. When he was told to move things along faster during the Semi-Perfect Cell part Vegeta's well established ego helped with creating a scenario in which Cell reached perfection faster.

My problem is that they're going a bit overboard with that aspect lately.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by KBABZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:32 pm

MyVisionity wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:18 pm
Kuririn wanted to learn the martial arts to get women. He was also shown to be morally dubious early on, willing to cheat to get what he wants etc., and always had that shady vibe to him. Particularly to contrast with Goku/Gohan. Then there's the whole #18/Cell plot. He's always been motivated by self-interest, almost comically so.

Yamcha the former bandit is portrayed as perpetually unemployed and broke, always looking for a deal, even from Shen Long.
So what you're telling me is that these characters are still self-centered asses who have no character arc? Sorry, I don't buy that.
Michsi wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:20 pm
My problem is that they're going a bit overboard with that aspect lately.
I agree with you there. As I said earlier, I think Toriyama and the writers are getting EXTREMELY bold in how much the characters can be subversive in a dark comedy way, from Beerus sneezing and destroying an entire planet, to Goku telling Zeno to hold the tournament already when that actively puts entire other universes at risk. It seems to just graffiti all over the tone of the old stories.

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Re: Is Dragon Ball cynical at its core?

Post by MyVisionity » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:48 pm

KBABZ wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:32 pm
MyVisionity wrote:
Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:18 pm
Kuririn wanted to learn the martial arts to get women. He was also shown to be morally dubious early on, willing to cheat to get what he wants etc., and always had that shady vibe to him. Particularly to contrast with Goku/Gohan. Then there's the whole #18/Cell plot. He's always been motivated by self-interest, almost comically so.

Yamcha the former bandit is portrayed as perpetually unemployed and broke, always looking for a deal, even from Shen Long.
So what you're telling me is that these characters are still self-centered asses who have no character arc? Sorry, I don't buy that.
I'm not saying they haven't grown or matured any, just that they aren't exactly "righteous heroes" or role models. I can understand Toriyama's comments and see the cynicism.

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