Yuli Ban wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 17, 2019 12:50 am
Kunzait_83 wrote: ↑
Thu Sep 12, 2019 12:47 pm
In Dragon Ball fandom of the early through mid-90s, Power Levels were INSANELY apocryphal, at best. They in NO way dominated the discourse around the series NEARLY to the extent that they did, hell even by the late 90s, much less today.
This is something that ought to be hammered home, especially when reading Usenet posts on Dragon Ball (which weren't very numerous, but are still a look into the series): https://www.reddit.com/r/dbz/comments/5 ... m_the_90s/
Were people still into wondering which characters were more powerful than the other? Absolutely. You can't have an action story without that.
The difference is that people weren't so obsessed with raw numbers.
Just so we're clear: there were far, far, FAR more posts about Dragon Ball during the Usenet days than are viewable in that particular archive you linked there. Despite the overall climate and fanbase for anime in the West being infinitely different back in 1992 compared to the last 15+ years with markedly different (really diametrically opposing) areas of interest and focus, and despite Dragon Ball not having any official dub or sub release in English territories at that point... it was still fucking Dragon Ball
. It still took up a VERY decent slice of the overall anime/manga discourse at that point in time, particularly online and among people whose general anime consumption was fairly mired in raw and fansub bootlegs to begin with and who trafficked in raw tankobans and such.
Archives like this often tend to be very incomplete and otherwise missing vast swathes of posts and threads from the time: some of them are further buried in a byzantine morass of other links to other archived threads, others are just plain lost to time period.
Yuli Ban wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 17, 2019 12:50 am
Just think about the very next super-arc after the Saiyan/Freeza arc— we're introduced to entities whose ki cannot be detected.
Well first, we're introduced to a boy whose power level is 5 and thus as low as the average human's until it's revealed he's a Super Saiyan who can completely dice Freeza. And so we never get another distinct power level reading in the series for 27 years until Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
So right off the bat, the manga is outright laughing at the concept of a power level by showing off the most extreme possibility: taking someone whose initial ki reading is so low as to be lower than Son Goku's at the start of the series (allegedly) and then ratcheting it up to beyond even Super Saiyan Goku's.
And then we get the Artificial Humans. Their ki literally can't be read. Ki detection was turned on its head— from having it quantified to having it obscured by technology. Once again, technology is shown interfering with the nature of qigong. That was the whole point of why the Artificial Humans had no detectable ki.
Yet nowadays, we still try to put a number on their power level. It's almost flagrantly missing the point.
This is almost verbatim what I've been trying to get across to people in countless
Power Level threads over the years: setting the dub and all its bullshit totally aside and going off of only the original Japanese material (manga and anime both): the actual series ITSELF consistently
refutes any and all merit to the idea that Battle Powers/Power Levels are of ANY use whatsoever in gauging a fighter's actual ability.
From the getgo of their introduction all the way up to their eventual exit from the series, Battle Powers serve little more than two basic plot functions:
A) They set aside Freeza's army (including the Saiya-jin) apart from our Earthbound mystical martial arts heroes by giving them a "sci fi" understanding of Ki/Qi/Chi. Freeza's minions all utilize the very same Qigong fighting techniques as our main cast of characters, but their whole understanding of it is entirely offbase, as they don't view it as what it actually is - a mystical power whose potential and potency is entirely abstract and in constant flux with a warrior's state of mind - but rather as some kind of "hard sci fi" energy source that can be concretely gauged and understood within a narrow and fixed perspective. Which brings us right to...
B) That this completely incorrect understanding of Qigong (which Freeza's army uses in a wholly "brute force" fashion to thuggishly bulldoze straight through everything/everyone in their path, technique and finesse be damned) is what ultimately gets each and every member of Freeza's army killed at the hands of our various kung fu heroes, despite the fact that they VASTLY overpower most of them in sheer, raw force of strength.
Battle Powers/Power Levels were NEVER, EVER
anything in the story other than a chink in the armor of a group of villains who otherwise dwarfed the main cast in terms of sheer might and raw power.
That the modern fanbase (for like the better part of 20 fucking years
now) have not only never clued into that, but also that they consistently make THE EXACT SAME mistake in their view of Ki as the series' own Sci Fi Space Nazi villains do (seeing these nonsense Battle Power readings and numbers as the end all, be all of what any fighter in this series can do) despite the series blatantly bending itself over backwards
in the most clear and unmistakable fashion imaginable to hammer home that this "Sci Fi" conception of Qi is a fucking blitheringly stupid and over-literalized misconception about one of the single oldest and malleable mythical powers in all of Eastern mythology, to the point where literally EVERY SINGLE fucking badguy character in the two main Freeza Army arcs who refuses to understand the real abstract/fluctuating/spiritual nature of the very power that they wield is rewarded in kind with a vicious, brutal, and often gruesomely bloody death for their troubles...
I mean, this is still ultimately a story written down to the level of 1st grade Japanese children
. Its NOT meant to be THIS difficult to grasp the barebone basic mechanics of its plot threads.
I mean, just break this down to its most raw and simplified storytelling mechanics here:
Good guys and bad guys both fight each other using magical/spiritual kung fu powers. Bad guys are brutishly stronger, but don't get what this power actually is or its finer points of what it can do besides blow shit up really well. Good guys are outmatched in raw strength by bad guys, but are better trained - as mystical kung fu masters - to understand this mystical kung fu power for the spiritual magic that it is and thus how to more deftly wield it.
Good guys thus are able to eventually (albeit with GREAT effort, danger, and casualties to their numbers) outwit, outsmart, and inevitably outfight and beat the bad guys, often by the skin of their teeth and despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them. Ergo, in the end the bad guys' sci fi understanding of this mystical Eastern Taoist power is complete fucking bullshit. Taoist Kung Fu Mystics soundly beat Sci Fi Star Wars-Reject Space Hitler and his forces because they know kung fu better.
Like... this ISN'T fucking rocket surgery here. Again, this was a martial arts fantasy story written so that 6 year old Japanese kids could follow it easily and with no problems.
The fact that these thuddingly basic and very, VERY unsubtle plot points not only fly over the heads of the vast majority of its Western fanbase, but that they have managed to do so so thoroughly for the better part of two decades
and WITH the benefit of the internet and all its vast resources of information out there freely available to any random schmuck all during those years... that's honestly staggering.
And ultimately, it gets right to the heart of all this: the ONLY way that this can happen for THIS long is because the Western audience is entirely
robbed and bereft of the context behind what kind of story and story elements they're actually dealing with here. They glommed onto EXACTLY the wrong idea about the series' most central magical fantasy concept - the very wrong idea that the series very unsubtly uses one of its foremost arch villains to continually demonstrate its folly time and again - partly yes, because of the stupid dub and its shitty marketing.
But also, and moreover, because without that context of what Qigong is, what it represents in these kinds of stories, and all of its ensuing cultural osmosis in its home territory (where this stuff is as innately understood in the mass mainstream as Vampire & Werewolf lore or Western/Cowboy tropes are over here)... then all they're really left with that they concretely understand IS the clearly and demonstrably wrong (wrong in-series and in-universe even) sci fi nonsense about number readings and Scouters and whatnot. Which is further supplemented and reinforced by their over-familiarity with heavily sci fi-tinged Western superhero tropes - which the dub tied its particular spin on the series into as well anyhow - and allowed it to feed into their mistaken built-in assumptions about the story.
Yuli Ban wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 17, 2019 12:50 am
Alas, it's possible— even probable— that power level discussions may have been inevitable in the internet age because they provide some manner of a medium/ease of understanding the powers we're dealing with.
Maybe to SOME degree, but again apart from cultural ignorance about even the most basic of Chinese kung fu fantasy concepts, I think that the dub itself REALLY fed deeply into the whole Power Level fixation: as I've noted before, a LOT of it is also because the dub not only cut straight to the beginning of Z (and thus right to the story arcs where Battle Powers are even a thing at all) but also because it spent its first several YEARS endlessly rerunning and repeating the Saiya-jin and Freeza arcs on an endless loop before finally moving on ahead (and eventually, backtracking to OG Dragon Ball).
That endless loop of Saiya-jin and Freeza arc episodes for the series first opening several years in the U.S. mainstream (remember the importance of first impressions), combined with the audience's ignorance of these genre tropes/concepts/themes, AND with the dub leaning as heavily into its "Sci Fi Superhero" re-flavoring of the story as it did: THAT is ultimately what permanently enshrined fixation on Power Levels and numbers into the mass fandom consciousness (at least in the West) forevermore.
It just drilled itself down deep, DEEP into the very foundations of modern Western DB fandom as we've known it these past two decades via a combination of cultural ignorance, deliberate mismarketing from its handlers, and the sheer constant repetition
of its fucked original airings.
Yuli Ban wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 17, 2019 12:50 am
Now imagine any of the older kung fu movies and imagine how they'd use that information. Compare that to a toy commercial cartoon. The toy cartoon would base the entire show around that power level and the understanding of power levels. Goku's power level is smaller than Broly's, so what does he have to do to enhance his power level to get it higher? X, Y, and Z
, of course. They need to read their power levels often to keep the theme going. And I say "toy commercial cartoon" and not "Western toy commercial cartoon" because the idea this is only limited to Western shows is ludicrous— anime, especially the card/toy-trading anime popular in the 2000s— is just as bad if not worse at this than even the most egregious 80s shows.
The kung fu movie would've had this as background information because the more important question is how does this affect Broly's ability to fight? Makes him superior to everyone else? That's all we really need to know, then. Oh, his power level is 10 billion Freeza Paps when he's transformed? Neat, but that's really just a side effect of his immense control of chi. If you measured his voltage, it might be a quadrillion, but we use Freeza Paps on this forum. Knowing his exact power level doesn't really change the fight, especially when he might still pull out more chi anyway. The point is Son Goku has to beat him through any means necessary, even if he's not as strong as Broly. At the very least, he's a better martial artist, quicker on his feet, capable of some special technique Broly doesn't know, or knows how to use Broly's own power against him. Or maybe he does have the raw ability to overcome Broly. It doesn't matter what the numbers are, especially if he uses his chi to enhance some specific part of himself.
Bingo all around. And honestly, this whole assessment actually gets right to the heart of a LOT of what actually MAKES Dragon Ball special, watchable to any age group (including grown-ass adults) and moreover a cut above other children's cartoons (both Eastern and
Western): despite still being ultimately a comic/cartoon made for children, the story (in terms of plot mechanics, themes, and characterizations) still carries itself as basically just a - very tongue in cheek and self-aware - giant serialized and authentic 70s/8s Kung Fu fantasy movie, and NOT as a nakedly merch-shilling toy commercial that clearly only exists to hawk action figures and model kits and such.
Dragon Ball is - in its execution - at the end of the day a giant animated Shaw Brothers wuxia serial (that happened to be made in Japan and that happens to primarily gear itself towards kids, but does so WITHOUT sacrificing the authenticity and commitment to the kind of story its telling for even a second (even while its poking constant fun at itself and its own genre's conventions and cliches). It never betrays itself or the spirit of the kinds of stories its conveying, no matter how young the audience its geared towards, and never waters itself down.
It manages to consistently carry throughout its original run the same timelessly universal sense of effortlessly loose fun and retro-cool that has continued to make everything from the best of more recent wuxia fantasy to the classic Shaw and Harvest catalogs of old so endlessly accessible and addictive for any/every age group or generation. Its a particular kind of fantasy storytelling that, when done properly, can easily transcend demographics, even despite any cultural barriers. No matter where you're from or how old you are, almost damn near everyone
loves a good high-flying, over the top, high speed martial arts throwdown: all the more so when you add in monsters and mystically powered martial arts techniques into the mix.
You can literally watch Dragon Ball right alongside any NUMBER of hundreds upon countless hundreds of other similar Chinese martial arts fantasy stories (particularly the most whimsically demented of them, and of which there are no less incalculably many) and it SEAMLESSLY fits right in alongside most of its brethren. And indeed, I speak from a lifetime of personal, firsthand experience of having done exactly that - watching Dragon Ball alongside countless other Wuxia/martial arts fantasy stories as just another of them among that crowd - over the years/decades.
Getting hung up on and obsessed with the stupid made up sci fi numbers is missing the entire point of not just the in-universe storyline involving said-numbers (again, EVERY badguy that relies on those numbers LOSES, and loses often BECAUSE they relied on the dumb numbers), but also the very core spirit of what kind of story this ultimately and clearly is: a silly East Asian martial arts fairytale about a mischievous monkey warrior who trains and trains in the cultivation of his martial power so hard and so diligently all his life that he can fight and beat anyone and anything from the greatest kung fu masters, to Buddhist gods, to space aliens, cyborgs, test tube insect mutants, Lovecraftian ancient bubblegum abominations that can kill gods and erase existence itself, and warriors from whole other realities and universes unknown.