May 28, 2023

If Dragon Ball Super and all of its related vehicles from the larger Dragon Ball revival of the 2010s were subtitled, then “The Goku and Vegeta Show” would be a niche choice. Son Goku has a pure heart, a thirst for battle, has been the leader of Dragon Ball since its creation in 1984, and his rivalry with Vegeta has been a prominent feature since his debut. presently. Original manga creator Akira Toriyama kept their relationship balanced with other prominent members of his massive cast for a while, but by the end of the manga and through the anime adaptations, the two The Saiyans have dominated the action and haven’t let it go since. The stakes they fight for have escalated from the planets and galaxies in the original Dragon Ball to the entire universe in Super – even as their sheer strength and the abilities of some of their allies sort out. let go of any feelings of stress or danger.

It seems that even Toriyama and his partners at Toei Animation are open to trying something else. Following on from the success of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, the latest film in the series, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, will turn away from “cosmic-scale battles” and instead “[focus] on threat to the Earth” according to producer Akio Iyoku. In the same interview, Iyoku confirmed that the main characters of Superhero will not be Goku and Vegeta, but Goku’s son Gohan and his mentor Piccolo.

Gohan’s making of a Dragon Ball movie might surprise casual audiences and even some longtime fans; Gohan is the best supporting character in Super, and in Toei’s Dragon Ball GT series that was produced after the original manga ended. He didn’t even appear in Broly. But this isn’t the first time Akira Toriyama has positioned Gohan for such a role. At one point he even prepared to put him there forever.

Son Gohan first appeared in the Dragon Ball manga not long after Goku became an adult. The plot before Gohan’s arrival ended with such a final mark – aside from Goku growing up, he stopped an evil Piccolo from destroying the world, winning the World Martial Arts Tournament after two failed attempt and got married – which Toriyama felt it was necessary to include a note that the story would continue. For various reasons, Toei Animation chose the storyline that started with Gohan’s appearance as an opportunity to relaunch their anime adaptation as Dragon Ball Z. The timing is coincidental. At one point, however, they considered the full title Dragon Ball: Gohan’s Big Adventure.

I don’t know why Toei is subtitled The Great Adventures of Gohan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was their speculation about where the wind was blowing after his introduction. Son Gohan was conceived from the outset as a polite, shy boy, and was sheltered by his mother who encouraged him to pursue an education. But unbeknownst to even Gohan himself, he explodes with strength when angry or threatened, so much so that his strength is comparable to that of his father. And after Goku sacrifices his life in battle, Gohan is sent by Piccolo to train as a fighter against an approaching new threat: the Saiyan prince Vegeta. With all of that taking place at the beginning of the Saiyan saga, anyone can be forgiven for thinking that Gohan is about to take over the series.

Things didn’t turn out that way, at least not at the time. Gohan trained with Piccolo for a year, gaining skill and control over his powers and gaining more confidence in himself (and coming up with a way to redeem himself with Piccolo). He always gets into the action points and gets more screen time and character development than many established members of the cast, including his father at times. The Saiyan hybrid’s inner potential remains a tantalizing element of his character throughout, that strength eventually being partially awakened at a time and becoming the core (in a roundabout way) in the face of adversity. Vegeta’s defeat at another time. But Goku is still the star at this stage. He brings his body to the afterlife to train until he can be wished back with the dragon balls and eventually fulfill the prophecy of the legendary Super Saiyan,

By the Cell saga, Dragon Ball acts more like a collection than a story centered around a single protagonist. Although Goku nominally retains that title, he spends most of the story’s story either absent or incapacitated, and a small group of people take turns leading the fight against the monster. Cell genetic modification. Gohan spends most of his time on the sidelines with his father; I don’t know if this is an accident of Toriyama’s “plan as you go” writing style or a deliberate choice. But Goku eventually trains his son to reach the level of Super Saiyan and, in his final battle with Cell, reveals his true plan of victory: pit Gohan against Cell, leaving him in a fit of rage. , and finally his full potential is unleashed. It was a plan he didn’t let anyone in, not even Gohan,

It works too well; Gohan’s rage propels him to a form beyond the Super Saiyan (later known as Super Saiyan 2), but the growing anger of this form and Saiyan bloodlust propel Gohan into a dimension. Miscalculation cost Goku with his life. When Gohan repents and defeats Cell (my personal favorite climax from the Dragon Ball storyline), Goku sends word from the afterlife that he doesn’t want to be brought back with the Dragon Balls; he is too much of a magnet to the forces of evil. His third departure in so many storylines is, in the end, meant to stick. Toriyama has confirmed in interviews that he “plans to cast Gohan in the lead role.” He made a note to that effect in the manga at the time. And while Toei didn’t rebrand again, they did do a major overhaul to Dragon Ball Z’s opening, accompaniment, and animated ending to take advantage of the new status quo: the seven-year pass , with a now-teenage Gohan leading the cast as Son Goten’s big brother, a high school student, and a replacement as the handsome superhero Great Saiyaman. Since Toriyama had already made up the story as he went on, Toei had no reason to think he would go back to his plan to make Gohan the hero, so why not get to work on it?

Watching Dragon Ball Z on Toonami as a kid, I didn’t know any of this (and didn’t have access to Toei’s opening sequences and interstitial either). All I know is that Gohan is my favorite character and the series has long positioned him as a possible lead. With age and a few re-watches, I’ve also come to realize that Dragon Ball Z’s supporting cast, rife with Goku’s old friends and rivals, is getting bigger and bigger with fewer opportunities for them. do anything; Usually, they’re just there. Besides promoting Gohan as the main character, the time skip and Goku’s absence paved the way for a whole new generation of characters. In addition to Goten, there are Vegeta’s son Trunks, Gohan’s girlfriend Videl, and his new high school friends. And after so many dramatic battles for the fate of the planet, the new move by a docile student acting like a superhero with a limp and pun is fun to watch.

It doesn’t last long. The anime gave Orange Star High School and Great Saiyaman a little more stand-out time, but they eventually followed Toriyama into another World Martial Arts Tournament and an online battle with the ancient Majin Buu. Supporting that battle is Son Goku himself, granted the right to pass a day between the survivors. But even at this point, the story still leans towards Gohan as a hero. His lack of training since his fight with Cell has serious consequences; he was unable to stop Buu’s resurrection and nearly lost his life. The idea of ​​a new generation taking over continues through Vegeta’s death and Goku becoming a mentor to Goten and Trunks, seen as the last hope after Gohan’s apparent death (in fact, he is). was healed and sent to heaven to train him in possession).

Dragon Ball has played with multiple threat training groups before, with some of their combined abilities playing a role. Goten and Trunks fight against Buu, and Gohan returns from heaven with powers surpassing him. Buu turns the game around by absorbing Goten and Trunks to fight Gohan. But instead of Gohan finding a way to fight this or rescue his brother and friend, that day Goku and Vegeta came back to life and defeated Buu – a development that wasn’t even set until it happened, and was actively opposed throughout the story.

All Akira Toriyama had to say about his decision not to follow Gohan as the hero was, “I feel that compared to Goku, he’s ultimately not suitable for the role.” When he made the determination it was not clear. It is possible that he considered Goku back in the driver’s seat as soon as his one-day life card arrived. But a lot of Buu’s stories trade on the idea of ​​the next generation, led by Gohan, saving time until almost the last possible moment. Even when writing with a seat in his pants, Toriyama has never written himself into a corner so tight that he can’t find an outlet for much of his satisfaction – until that point in the Buu saga, the final storyline of the series. original manga, ending with Goku taking the reincarnation of Majin Buu to train and adventure with the family that was left behind.

As a kid, I don’t recall feeling frustrated watching the series finale for the first time except in comparison to previous finals; it’s not as interesting. But the more I look at it, the more disappointing it seems, to the point where everything Dragon Ball comes out feels contaminated to some degree. So much time has been spent with Gohan (and his new generation, as they emerge) that he’s been written out of the story all of a sudden and left on the periphery of Dragon Ball since then it seems what a waste. The growth Gohan received was due to regaining the strength he already had and learning the lessons he learned. Goten and Trunks are no better. Nothing new or exciting has happened to Goku or Vegeta as characters since their return to the limelight; they chose new transformations, but their characters stagnated. And that massive supporting cast are old friends of Goku – characters who have largely retired because of the Buu story? They were around again, still on the sidelines, still there.

Super Hero might offer some support to Dragon Ball fans similarly disillusioned by the ending of the original story. I’m afraid I’m still skeptical and skeptical (without the help of Superheroes representing the transition from traditional animation to CGI). But after being easily and skillfully finished off by Freeza wearing a running suit in Super, Gohan had nowhere to go up.

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