Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dragon Ball: Cliche?

Onward To Adventure!

Well, duh!

Okay, so maybe cliche is not exactly the right word for it. By current standards, yeah. Thing is, DB made most of the stuff we call cliches now. DB is the trend setter. If you think DB has things you see in other Shounen, well, then it’s because, most likely, those things were inspired by DB in the first place.

Maybe Dragon Ball wasn't exactly the first to use many of the common Shounen tropes (Tournament Arcs, Naïve Protagonist, Time Skip, Transformations, etc.) but it did make a lot of these things popular.

I mean, who doesn't know what a Super Saiyan is? Even if you have never watched DBZ, chances are you have at least heard of this Super Aryan power up!

But that’s not what this post is about. I mean, yeah, DB is cliche in many ways. Even now, you can see traces of Goku in characters like Naruto and Luffy. But in many other ways, isn't this a manga that did quite a few things differently?

I’m not sure if I will ever make more of this type of post, but let’s focus on something simple this time.


The Shounen Hero Wins. Plain and simple.

Oh sure, he will lose like one or two times in the whole manga to a rival character or a main villain. He might even lose in not serious matches. When it’s “for real” though? Fate of the world, life or death and all? 


So let’s analyze Goku. Let’s look at the times Goku loses. Not the times he fights and happens not to be 100% or something silly like that. Hazard so hates that type of losing. It’s so fake. No, we are talking real loses here, which means I am not including guys like Yamcha, Tambourine, or 19 here.

Goku vs Roshi

The Master
The first time Goku really goes against someone who could match him blow by blow. Also, he could blow up the moon when he really got going; so Goku got a little lucky in this fight. This was an expected loss from a Shounen perspective. The hero never wins the first tournament.

Goku vs Tao Pai Pai

The Assassin

A new challenger appears, and he is good. A expected loss before the required training in order to win in the rematch. Tao crushes Goku. Takes his best Kamehameha and only loses his clothes. The guy is probably the first “real” threat Goku faces in Dragon Ball.

Goku vs Tien

Square Triangle Beam!

Okay, so this one is a bit weirder. If the hero got to the finals last time, he is expected to win the second time. In the case of a Sports manga, he will win the regional and lose at the national. In any case, you don't lose the same tournament twice. Here, Goku loses for the tournament for second time against a new rival.

It’s a close match. Really damn close. Hazar vividly remembers staring at the screen as a kid whispering, “Fall. Fall. Fall.” Hoping to somehow make Tien fall faster.  At the end it came down to luck, but Tien won all the same.

Goku vs King Piccolo

The Overlord

Expected. Come on, you don’t win against the evil King on the first try. Piccolo’s overwhelming power is way too much for Goku. Obviously, he wins the rematch.

Goku vs Vegeta

The Rival

I could count Raditz, but that one was kind of a win, Goku dying notwithstanding. Dragon Balls and all. Anyway, Goku has trained. Goku is ready. Goku still gets beaten within an inch of his life. Vegeta is a monster. He takes everything Goku has and comes back for more.

Pure overwhelming power here.

At the end, it is an intervention of Gohan, Krillin and a half formed Genki Dama that saves the day.  
Goku vs Ginyu

The Captain
And odd one. Goku has the advantage. A solid one at that. Ginyu is one of the most powerful guys of the universe, but Goku outclasses him.

So in a rare reversal, Ginyu outsmarts him.

Body switching is cheap like that.

Goku is left in a wounded, nearly dying body. Meanwhile Ginyu leaves with a brand new, stronger body. It’s only the aid of Vegeta, Gohan and Krillin (plus Ginyu not really knowing how to work Goku’s body) that saves the team for certain loss, but make no mistake, when you are left to die with a hole in your chest...

Yeah, you pretty much lost that one.

Goku vs Cell

The Perfect
One really awesome fight.

And one simple loss. Goku gives up. Yep. Gives up. Just like that.

Now, Goku had been saying it the entire time since he finished his training. He wasn't strong enough to beat Cell. He said it. He really did.

But we were all expecting him to do it anyway, because Hero.

He doesn't. He surrenders because he recognizes he is up against someone way stronger than him. Which is true as Cell demonstrates when preparing to fight SSJ2 Gohan.

Still one heck of a surprise. There is something incredibly alien about a Shounen Hero just shrugging and going, "No, I'm not going to beat that guy.'

Serious Face

 So that’s one, two, three… seven times. Seven times! Seven times Goku loses in the course of the manga. Got to say, that’s a pretty big number. Almost one per arc. Almost.

Now Goku doesn't really lose in the Buu Saga. At least not in the way that I am counting for this post. However the Buu Saga does introduce something else in terms of power.

The protagonist is not the strongest.

The final battle is between Goku and Kid Buu.

But Gohan, Buutenks, Buuhan and others are quite a bit stronger than those two. In the end Buu’s weakest form faces off against a weakened Goku for the final battle. Not that Goku isn't strong, but the manga makes it clearer that there are/were way stronger guys in the arc.

It’s an odd dynamic.

So there you have it. A shounen hero that loses a lot and that doesn't end up as the strongest one in the end.

If you compare to current Shounen manga, then Naruto has only lost once, Luffy has lost four times kinda, and Natsu hasn't really lost.

Ichigo is probably the one that comes closest in terms of “real” battles lost.

Yet, Goku still manages to look really cool, despite having a large number of loses and not really being the strongest in the end.

In that sense at least, you can say Dragon Ball is definitely not cliche.

Final thing, huh, this may be my longest post.

Final final thing, Yeah so don’t expect an update tomorrow or Monday come to think of it.

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