Dragon Ball Z is the Best Anime for Men
I’ve given many reasons why anime shows and their corresponding manga (Japanese comic books) do not present good role models for boys and young men (here’s a few more reasons). In so many words, the male protagonists are typically beta males afraid of beautiful women and outclassed physically by their female peers.
But there are exceptions to every rule and the exception here is Dragon Ball Z and it’s new continuation series Dragon Ball Super.
As we shall see, Dragon Ball Z has many of the classic anime tropes with which we are familiar, but it goes beyond those to deliver healthy messages about men and manhood.
Strength is Still Elicited From Emotional Responses
As we discussed in part one of part one of our discussion anime characters typically grow their physical strength in response to emotionally intense situations. Ultimately this is wish-thinking.
Now, there is nothing wrong with fantasy, but the message being sent is that if you are not strong enough to do something now you will be strong enough when an emotional situation elicits such a powerful response that your strength grows out of necessity. This is a romantic ideal and a poor message to send. Dragon Ball Z still utilizes this anime trope but does so in a better way.
In the series the protagonist, Goku, is a humanoid alien. His species are called Saiyans and are exactly alike humans except for their love of battle and their ability to get stronger after being beaten. What doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. Eventually they can get so strong that they transform into Super Saiyans.
Goku grows up on Earth and everyone he loves is human (or some other alien also living on Earth). So when an evil alien named Frieza encounters Goku and his friends while attempting to destroy entire planets they naturally fight. Frieza is much stronger than Goku and all of his friends. And he is evil. So when the opportunity arises Frieza kills Goku’s best friend.
This is the emotional event powerful enough to elicit such strong emotions in Goku that he is finally able to transform from Saiyan to Super Saiyan. It takes the death of a loved one to finally bring forth all of his strength and make him powerful enough to destroy the evil confronting him.
Why is Dragon Ball Z Different?
What makes Dragon Ball Z different from other anime is what Goku did prior to finding Frieza to fight him. To find Frieza Goku had to travel in a space ship for a while to a distant planet. While on that space ship Goku trained hard. He had a chamber that allowed him to artificially increase the gravity in the chamber. He trained in this chamber increasing the gravity everyday.
Where other anime fail is that they don’t show the blood, sweat, and tears that goes in to increasing physical strength. Dragon Ball Z does.
Later in the series a new villain arises. He of course is more powerful than they ever imagined (every new villain is more powerful than they ever imagined). They have to fight this new villain in just a few days but they are not strong enough to beat him. What do they do?
They go in to the hyperbolic time chamber. This chamber slows time so that one year in the chamber is like one day outside the chamber. They spend years in the chamber just training to defeat the newest villain. Years of blood, sweat, and tears.
This is the positive message that allows the classic trope to exist. We can believe that an emotional event can elicit a physically powerful response in these characters because they have trained their bodies so hard that it is possible they don’t know their own strength. In that case an emotional event might be needed to bring forth all of the strength within them.
The Women Have Feminine Roles
Goku’s wife? She’s a mother and a homemaker. The villains that threaten planet Earth? All but one are men and that one female villain gets outclassed quickly by both her villainous peers and her enemies. Even then, when she is done being a villain she becomes a wife, mother, and homemaker.
Some of the female characters do martial arts, one is a brilliant inventor, but all are loving wives and mothers.
Contrast this with other anime and we don’t see any of the misleading messages about male-female relationships. Women do not overpower men physically in this show. The men are not clumsy oafs and the women do not have to clean up their messes and make them look like fools.
The only downside of the women of Dragon Ball Z is that they are bossy, but that can be forgiven.
The Characters are Not Teenagers
Recall from previous articles that most anime shows star teenagers. It is a poor habit for adults to watch teens doing stupid teenage stuff, but it is a growing trend. Dragon Ball Z avoids that.
In its prequal show Dragon Ball, which was produced before Dragon Ball Z, the protagonists are all kids. When Dragon Ball Z starts the timeline has jumped forward so much that we are already in the adult lives of the protagonists. Goku is married and has a kid when the first villain arrives.
The show either jumps from the fun antics of children to the adult drama of hand-to-hand combat. Teenage stuff is left out of the equation.
Men are Not Afraid of Sex
When the series starts, Goku is married and has one child. Later in the series he dies. It’s a sad moment. But in subsequent episodes he is allowed to leave the underworld and come back to life for one day (characters die and come back to life a lot in the series).
What does he do in that one day? He competes in a martial arts tournament and fights some villains and shows off his strength from all the training he has been doing in the afterlife. Also he conceives a second son.
When Goku has one day back in the real world he is sure to take some time and give his wife the business. Nearly all the male characters have kids. Master Roshi, Goku’s teacher, does not have kids but he is a perv who tries to get with teenage girls.
To sum it all up; the men act like men and the women act like women. Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super have plenty of the common tropes found in anime but none of the harmful messaging for males. It’s no surprise that nearly every guy I know watched this show habitually and loved it. It’s one of the few anime shows approved for men.