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Why is Dragon Ball so popular?

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As you may already know from previous posts, I started re-watching the Dragon Ball series all over again.  Now that I am 27 years old I get to enjoy it in a very different way. At the time I was around 11 and had a basic understanding of the differences between Western and Japanese “cartoons”. Actually, one of my first memories of an Anime were from what I believe was Captain Harloc and Robotech. Anime had all those battles, were more aggresive and didn’t shy away of killing or hurting the main cast. It felt more exciting and dramatic. I’m not saying that I didn’t like Western animation, but simply put I just found myself at the edge of my seat more times than I could count with Anime.

A couple of weeks ago I started showing my niece Dragon Ball, and I was gladly surprised that the theme still managed to caught this generation’s attention. This made wonder what’s exactly the reason is so popular across the years.  Just keep in mind that my experience of Dragon Ball might have been a little different compared with the US dub, as we got the Latin American dub.

The first time I watched Dragon Ball was by mere chance. I was attending “afternoon” school (1pm-6pm) at the time and we had an off day. In my house, I was not allowed to turn on the TV until I had my homework done and I was lucky enough that day as I didn’t have any. I turned on the TV and there was this strange kid in a bright red suit, spiky black hair and a tail. “UH”. They were airing the Ninja Murasaki episode and I was watching it with my sister, aged 7. I recall realizing this was “that Goku kid” some of my classmates used to talk about. And then the unthinkable happen… the ninja impaled himself in Goku’s pole. We gasped, our eyes wide, covered my mouth… and rolled laughing.

I could not believe what had just happened! I could not believe they let that air on NATIONAL TV! It was genius! And bold! It was Dragon Ball. After that, I was lucky enough because our school got a number of day offs that we took advantage of to watch DB on every possible chance. When vacation time came, we were ready in front of the tv and even my mom started to watch it with us.

Now that I look back it surprises me that my mom didn’t complained about it. She hated silly/strange, violent or “rebellious” cartoons. With time she eventually warmed up to them, but with Dragon Ball she accepted it almost instantly. Maybe it was Goku’s innocence what got her too.

While rewatching those first episodes of Dragon Ball I realized something that might had influenced me when I was young. It was a sense of achievement I have yet to find on other series. Goku started strong, yes, like many other heroes on Western and even Anime cartoons, but unlike them his full potential hadn’t been reached yet by a long shot. It was indeed a journey to get stronger. The story of Dragonball also showed the development of the other humans (because even at the time, we knew Goku wasn’t exactly human himself). We witnessed the growth of Krillin and Yamcha from “human-good” to “human-Incredible”. It was a learning curve that felt real (in a sense). Hardwork, training, practicing and experience.

I remember feeling that I could be like them. No, of course not shooting energy beams of my hands (not that I didn’t wish that), but in more palpable ways.  Run around my block 3 times, next day I would do 4. Finish my homework in less than 1 hour. Dragonball taught me to push my limits and go beyond them. In this regard I might be speaking for myself, but I can’t help to wonder if the other kids at the time felt the same. It’s a little harder to give goals to kids these days because they quickly loose interest, but with Dragon Ball as guidance, the goal was simple. “Be better”.

Maybe Goku is just simply that kid inside of us that refuses to give up. The promises of adventures, foes and incredible skill. Whatever the reason is, I’m glad I have it in my life.

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1 Comment

  1. Marianne says:

    I completely know where you are coming from. Taking note that this blog post was posted on 2012, I take it that you already know several Dragon Ball specials that came out recently (e.g. Yo! Son Goku and His friends Return and Episode of Bardock). I landed onto your blog hoping to find a reason why the show is still popular even though it’s already a 24-year old anime (or, a 29-year manga for that matter). You hit the mark when you mentioned that the goal is simply to ‘Be better’. If you could write a 1000-word essay about this, I will not be surprised if you could tell me at least 10 activities how kid Goku showed this. I also agree when you mentioned that “the kid inside of us…refuses to give up.” Also, I believe TOEI Animation is reviving this classic anime from the 1980-1990’s to the younger generation because they wanted kids to be exposed to the shows we were exposed back then. With so many Western and Eastern cartoons in this generation already entering kids’ minds, TOEI Animation may have thought if they could introduce the series unless in a refreshed version (thus the creation of Dragon Ball Kai). Hopefully, the younger generation will find this show as interesting as we did even though they’re already living in the Digital Age. Like you, perhaps Dragon Ball left a mark on me because this was my childhood anime (though I have not had the same school rules to watch it as you had).

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