Goku's long absences in the story

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Goku's long absences in the story

Post by 90sDBZ » Thu Feb 20, 2020 3:18 pm

How do you guys feel about Goku being absent for long portions of the story, particularly in Z? I've seen some different views on this, with some liking it and others saying he's out of action for too long.

I feel like a large portion of my childhood was spent waiting for Goku to arrive, whether it be against King Piccolo, the Saiyans, the Ginyu Force, Frieza, Cell, or Buu.

For me it made his entrances and subsequent fights feel special, because I'd been made to wait so long for it to happen, and it felt like a major event when it did. This was especially true when he arrived on Namek, as it had been forever since we'd seen him in action, and so much had happened in between. The pre-Namek filler in Z made the wait even longer. I felt like I'd earned the right to see Goku fight again, because I'd waited so long for it to happen, and boy was it satisfying. If anything it's less satisfying in Kai, because the wait was much shorter.

I also love the fact that Goku and Frieza never actually come face to face before their fight. We're waiting for their fight from the moment we lay eyes on Frieza, and we're given lots of buildup with the Super Saiyan legend. I love how Frieza pretty much overlooked Goku existence prior to their fight (except for that one filler scene were he mentions him). It's like we all know Goku will be the one to beat him, but it's still exciting because Frieza doesn't know it.

Even though a lot of you guys don't consider Goku a hero, he was always my hero as a kid, because of the way his presence alone would instantly lift the mood when he arrived. We'd spend countless episodes seeing things go from bad to worse, and just when all hope seemed lost Goku would arrive with his cheerful can-do attitude.

Thoughts?

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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by MasenkoHA » Thu Feb 20, 2020 3:51 pm

Even though “Goku is late to the party” became a go to story device for the Z era I think it was changed up enough to prevent it from being stale

Goku is on his way back to earth from King Kai’s

Goku is on his way to Namek with a spaceship

Goku is recovering from injuries sustained from Captain Ginyu

Goku is out of commission because of his heart virus

Goku is training with Gohan in the time room

Goku is trying to stay dead and hope one of his sons can stop Boo withput being a fuck up

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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ekrolo2 » Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:38 pm

The worst application of it was on Namek where Goku arrives and is almost immediately taken out again until he can basically repeat the same beat, again. It's one of the factors that contributes the Ginyu Force feeling very superfluous to the story.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by MyVisionity » Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:43 pm

If anything, it highlights the importance of the supporting characters to the story and is a reminder that it's not "The Goku Show". Especially starting in DBZ, where Gohan and eventually the others move into the spotlight.

Aside from that, the long absence device is mostly a thing only in the Saiya and Freeza arcs, where it helps the story preserve tension and excitement and also allows the other characters to be present. I agree though that it becomes repetitive and more obvious in the Freeza saga.

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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips » Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:52 pm

Varies.

Goku being late to the party against Piccolo Daimao worked for me because the heroes were on parallel journeys.

I liked it in the Saiyan Arc because it was handled perfectly. When Goku finally appears it leads to one of the best climaxes in the series.

I did not like it in the Freeza Arc because Goku was put on a shelf twice and his fight against the Ginyus was completely pointless. It accomplished nothing, was boring to get through, and ended what was in my opinion the best of the arc. I'd rather have Krillin, Gohan, Vegeta, and Nail (because come on. Do something, Nail) hustle their way to a victory against the Ginyus rather than have Goku swoop in, win, and then immediately get put in a healing chamber afterwards.

I didn't mind it in the Cell Arc because the heart virus was an amazing reveal. I don't understand why Goku only used IT to bring Vegeta et al to the Lookout and not to track down and gang up on Cell but by that point in the story Cell absorbing 17/18 was a given so a proactive protagonist was a no go.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:51 pm

ekrolo2 wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:38 pm
The worst application of it was on Namek where Goku arrives and is almost immediately taken out again until he can basically repeat the same beat, again. It's one of the factors that contributes the Ginyu Force feeling very superfluous to the story.
It is filler (not in the sense that the term has taken on in DB circles) but it's not boring. Despite what the above poster wrote Goku doesn't swoop in and win. He takes out much of the team but due to some clever reversals, Goku nearly gets taken out by Ginyu. It's only due to luck and some fast thinking that Goku is able defeat Ginyu. What does get boring is waiting for Goku to heal.

It works sometimes but it became a narrative crutch, much in the same way taking out Superman early became a crutch during the DCAU's Justice League.

I know plenty like DB to not be the Goku show but if a writer has to constantly sideline his main character in order to give the supporting cast the spotlight, the supporting cast isn't that interesting.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ekrolo2 » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:11 pm

ABED wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:51 pm
ekrolo2 wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:38 pm
The worst application of it was on Namek where Goku arrives and is almost immediately taken out again until he can basically repeat the same beat, again. It's one of the factors that contributes the Ginyu Force feeling very superfluous to the story.
It is filler (not in the sense that the term has taken on in DB circles) but it's not boring. Despite what the above poster wrote Goku doesn't swoop in and win. He takes out much of the team but due to some clever reversals, Goku nearly gets taken out by Ginyu. It's only due to luck and some fast thinking that Goku is able defeat Ginyu. What does get boring is waiting for Goku to heal.

I know plenty like DB to not be the Goku show but if a writer has to constantly sideline his main character in order to give the supporting cast the spotlight, the supporting cast isn't that interesting.
Nah, the Ginyu Force is absolutely boring dreck. It actually became really, really hard for me to even bother going through it on a recent re-read because it is SO obviously, spectacularly pointless to the entire narrative. Nothing else Toriyama ever wrote felt like a random anime filler thing shoved into the manga quite like the GF does.

But you are right about the supporting cast: they're not that great and Toriyama himself already resolved basically everything you can with all of them. Piccolo's at peace, Kurilin's got a girlfriend, Vegeta accepted Goku's number 1,...
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:19 pm

Just because something isn't on plot doesn't make it not interesting just like being on plot doesn't make something interesting. The Ginyu Force fights were interesting, the characters were quirky and memorable, and it serves as a good t-up before the main event. What's the point - to entertain. That's it. That's the goal. It's not to make everything as streamlined or on plot as possible, it's to be interesting.
ekrolo2 wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:11 pm
Nothing else Toriyama ever wrote felt like a random anime filler thing shoved into the manga quite like the GF does.
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ekrolo2 wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:11 pm
But you are right about the supporting cast: they're not that great and Toriyama himself already resolved basically everything you can with all of them. Piccolo's at peace, Kurilin's got a girlfriend, Vegeta accepted Goku's number 1,...
Not really the point I was making. I was saying it was a narrative failure on Toriyama's part. He didn't need to put Goku to the side just to give his other characters something to do. My bad for not being clear.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:23 pm

ABED wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:51 pm
I know plenty like DB to not be the Goku show but if a writer has to constantly sideline his main character in order to give the supporting cast the spotlight, the supporting cast isn't that interesting.
But the dynamic on Namek was already great. Goku wasn't being "sidelined" for the sake of the cast, he just wasn't there and the story was perfectly fine without him. Krillin, Gohan, and Vegeta were carrying the story wonderfully despite Gohan having recently completed a big part of his character arc and Krillin being roughly the same as he always had been.
Just because something isn't on plot doesn't make it not interesting just like being on plot doesn't make something interesting. The Ginyu Force fights were interesting, the characters were quirky and memorable, and it serves as a good t-up before the main event.
The Ginyu Force fights were a vastly inferior version of the Nappa fight on Earth. It even had Goku come in at the last second with senzus to heal Krillin and Gohan before one shotting Recoome.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:38 pm

It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:23 pm
ABED wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:51 pm
I know plenty like DB to not be the Goku show but if a writer has to constantly sideline his main character in order to give the supporting cast the spotlight, the supporting cast isn't that interesting.
But the dynamic on Namek was already great. Goku wasn't being "sidelined" for the sake of the cast, he just wasn't there and the story was perfectly fine without him. Krillin, Gohan, and Vegeta were carrying the story wonderfully despite Gohan having recently completed a big part of his character arc and Krillin being roughly the same as he always had been.
Just because something isn't on plot doesn't make it not interesting just like being on plot doesn't make something interesting. The Ginyu Force fights were interesting, the characters were quirky and memorable, and it serves as a good t-up before the main event.
The Ginyu Force fights were a vastly inferior version of the Nappa fight on Earth. It even had Goku come in at the last second with senzus to heal Krillin and Gohan before one shotting Recoome.
Far too often people point to the Namek arc as the point that shows how the supporting cast can carry the story without Goku. That's it. That's their only bit of evidence. Not surprisingly, it's the story that doesn't require strength to do something important.

Disagree that they were vastly inferior. The Nappa fight was great, but so were the Ginyu battles. It's a difficult comparison because the former was one guy, the latter was several. The fight against Reacoom alone was one of DB's best fights. I think in large part because Reacoom kept taking damage and yet even though his clothes were in tatters, his hair was all but gone and even his teeth were damaged, it was all superficial.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:57 pm

ABED wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:38 pm
Far too often people point to the Namek arc as the point that shows how the supporting cast can carry the story without Goku. That's it. That's their only bit of evidence. Not surprisingly, it's the story that doesn't require strength to do something important.
Some of us also point to the Piccolo Daimao arc and how well side characters like Tenshinhan were doing. And, yes, stories where power isn't required for characters to play a meaningful role tend to have broad appeal. Look at stories like The Thing or Aliens. Or, heck, the Wrath of Khan. Characters hustling their way towards their win conditions despite a vastly superior enemy often makes for very engaging stories.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by Gaffer Tape » Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:26 pm

To utilize a term ABED uses to great effect, Goku's absences definitely take on a feeling of diminishing returns. Goku showing up at the last second works well in The Piccolo Arc because it's new and because Goku isn't actually removed from the story. He's simply on a separate path. It works okay in The Saiyan Arc because the narrative threads tie into him. It's his species that are attacking. Raditz came to earth because of him. Goku is gone because he died defending earth from him. The latter two Saiyans decide to wait (a little) for him.

The Freeza Arc is really where it's ruined, not only because it feels like a narrative crutch plot device by this point but because Goku showing up at the last second ONCE has already been done, Toriyama feels compelled to ratchet up the "excitement" by doubling down. Goku has no connection or role in The Freeza Arc prior to simply taking over as the protagonist two thirds of the way through the story. Toriyama can't even keep it straight whether or not Freeza knows he exists prior to Goku challenging him to battle. At this point, it's almost fair to say that Goku has become a more of a plot device than a character. He exists to show up and save the day, and that's about it.

Then The Cell Arc tricks the audience by subverting expectations (and even commenting on it) by having Goku be present at the very beginning. But that's nothing but a ruse as he is once again removed TWICE, first to the virus and then immediately to go train. It's really here where I hear a lot of fans claiming it's good because it keeps things from being "The Goku Show" and allows the other characters to shine. But quite frankly, it doesn't make the other characters look any better or more useful when their primary roles are to fail constantly until Goku shows up to save them. It not only doesn't keep the series from feeling like "The Goku Show," it makes the moments he's not around feel like padding for cheap drama.

So, to summarize, it's not necessarily bad, and it can be done well. However, like a lot of Toriyama's narrative crutches, it was overused to the point it lost all impact.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:50 pm

Thanks Gaffer Tape. I second your opinion, especially regarding the Cell arc. That entire arc until the end is the heroes failing to stop the bad guys at every single turn. Taken as a whole, it's all a naked attempt to delaying the ending.
And, yes, stories where power isn't required for characters to play a meaningful role tend to have broad appeal. Look at stories like The Thing or Aliens. Or, heck, the Wrath of Khan. Characters hustling their way towards their win conditions despite a vastly superior enemy often makes for very engaging stories.
Completely different genre! The entire point of DB is the accumulation of power. That's at the heart of the story. Goku is on a never ending quest to get stronger. It's different than a science fiction revenge flick or a horror movie or a sci-fi actioner.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by WittyUsername » Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:13 pm

Regarding the Ginyu’s role in the story, I actually think there is merit to the idea that they were pointless padding. You could easily take them out of the story, and nothing would’ve actually changed. Considering how long the Freeza arc is in general, I think it definitely could’ve managed without them. The only thing they really add to the story is that they provide some comedy in an arc that otherwise takes itself pretty seriously, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference.

Anyway, I’m surprised no one here has mentioned it yet, but Resurrection ‘F’ also did the “Goku shows up right on time to save everyone” routine. Is it fair to say that movie pretty much embodies the worst parts of the franchise?

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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips » Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:52 pm

ABED wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:50 pm
And, yes, stories where power isn't required for characters to play a meaningful role tend to have broad appeal. Look at stories like The Thing or Aliens. Or, heck, the Wrath of Khan. Characters hustling their way towards their win conditions despite a vastly superior enemy often makes for very engaging stories.
Completely different genre! The entire point of DB is the accumulation of power. That's at the heart of the story. Goku is on a never ending quest to get stronger. It's different than a science fiction revenge flick or a horror movie or a sci-fi actioner.
Plenty of Shonen stories do it too. In HxH's Yorkshin City Arc the main cast has to outwit a troupe of dangerous thieves/serial killers. In that arc the two leads very clearly did not care about this troupe of villains and were just checking in on a friend. And while not exactly the norm, many Wuxia writers do put their protagonists in situations where a true victory is unlikely and the goal is to survive.

It's a good way to build drama and allow unique character interactions to take place.

But even setting all that aside, if all there's going to be to Dragon Ball is Goku rushing off to meet the next challenge then why do we keep bothering with the stuff in between? Why not just skip it? When Goku comes down with the heart virus why not fade to black (or have the panel grow darker and darker as Goku loses consciousness) and the next issue have Goku wake up to a Perfect Cell ready to rampage? When Goku is left for dead by Piccolo Daimao why do we cut back to what Tenshinhan is doing? After Namek, the moments between Goku being taken out of comission and Goku fighting the BBEG get really boring. So why didn't Toriyama just skip it like a great many other creators have? To me, that suggests he still wanted to do stuff with them. So why shouldn't those of us in the audience who enjoy stories like the early parts of the Namek Arc ask for similar further down the road?
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by Grimlock » Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:53 pm

WittyUsername wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:13 pm
Is it fair to say that movie pretty much embodies the worst parts of the franchise?
Totally. The only thing Movie 15 itself doesn't have is a tournament in the middle of it, but considering there's one right after it...
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:53 pm

It_Is_Ayna_You_Flips wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:52 pm
Plenty of Shonen stories do it too.
Shonen isn't a genre, it's a demographic.

I like ensemble stories, too, but not every story needs to be an ensemble.
So why shouldn't those of us in the audience who enjoy stories like the early parts of the Namek Arc ask for similar further down the road?
The Namek arc was a different type of story. It was a quest. Gohan, Kuririn, and Bulma could go after the DB's and as long as they had one, the bad guy couldn't achieve their goal, ergo giving them something important to do in the story. I love the Freeza arc, but I don't want every story Toriyama tells to be like that. Goku is unquestionably the main character in the first series, and many have argued it's the best part of DB. The secondary characters get interesting things to do without it having to be an ensemble show. Being a part of the central plot isn't necessary for them to contribute something interesting to the story.
So why didn't Toriyama just skip it like a great many other creators have?
What stories skip it?
Regarding the Ginyu’s role in the story, I actually think there is merit to the idea that they were pointless padding. You could easily take them out of the story, and nothing would’ve actually changed. Considering how long the Freeza arc is in general, I think it definitely could’ve managed without them. The only thing they really add to the story is that they provide some comedy in an arc that otherwise takes itself pretty seriously, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference.
There isn't just merit, it's objectively true. They aren't important to the plot. However, not all stories need to be the same. Some stories do work best when they're streamlined and efficient. This isn't a thriller that moves at a brisk pace. It's about the journey, not a race to the end. The second act of a story is mostly about putting roadblocks in front of the protagonist. It's essentially about delaying the payoff. And as long as the delays are interesting, which I believe the Ginyu Force is, then it's okay. The one true rule of fiction is "don't be boring." I think the Ginyus are far from that. Were they needed? No. While we're at it, was Nappa?

Anyway, I absolutely agree that the comedy was needed.
Last edited by ABED on Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by KBABZ » Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:03 pm

Goku's absence is similar to the Superman problem, where you have an infinitely powerful character so you have to figure out a way to write them out of the story for a bit so that they can solve the problem at the end (which isn't entirely true: the villains often find a way to give Goku himself a tough time and outclass all the other characters). DB didn't always do this either: the Red Ribbon Arc is specifically an adventure focused entirely around Goku; it's kinda unique as far as non-Tournament arcs go because Goku is the central character and we follow him the entire time. There's no B plot because it's Goku's personal adventure which he does on his own a lot of the time.

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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by JulieYBM » Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:17 pm

They kind of drive me nuts and I find them boring to the point of nausea. Personally, I think Gokuu should have just not arrived on Namek until the battle with Freeza. Having Gokuu show up with Vegeta on his deathbed and Gohan's neck broken. Angered by the near death of his son, Gokuu transforms into a Super Saiyan right then and there.
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Re: Goku's long absences in the story

Post by ABED » Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:18 pm

I'm honestly less interested in how the other characters can contribute to the plot than how they change and grow, or maybe regress.
They kind of drive me nuts and I find them boring to the point of nausea. Personally, I think Gokuu should have just not arrived on Namek until the battle with Freeza. Having Gokuu show up with Vegeta on his deathbed and Gohan's neck broken. Angered by the near death of his son, Gokuu transforms into a Super Saiyan right then and there.
That's just awful, awful writing. It's too damn easy. The reason the Super Saiyan transformation doesn't come off as a complete deus ex machina is because Goku goes through hell to get to that point, and when his friends are picked off and threatened, he's there powerless to stop it. He doesn't see it after the fact.
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