Dear earthling, this is a series called the Dragon Ball ABC. Every week we take a letter of the alphabet and take a look at a character or a thing with the biggest influence on the Dragon Ball universe we all love. So if you’re into Dragon Ball you better buckle up, because we’re bringing you 26 weeks with peeks into the amazing world of Dragon Ball! Since we’re diving into some of the nitty gritty of Dragon Ball, an obvious spoiler warning applies!
First of all, if you were expecting the G this week you are not mistaken since the G follows the F. However, due to my silly mistake I wrote about the letter G a few weeks ago (I somehow messed up the alphabet). If you want to read it, just follow this link: PlanetGoku's Dragon Ball ABC - G Stands for Goku.
Now, after covering the first major villain in Frieza last week, this week it is all about the heroes of Dragon Ball. The series is built on the fight between good and evil and is fairly straight forward in how it is structured. Evil threatens one of the protagonists, planet earth or even the entire universe and it is up to one of or a group of protagonists to fight and eventually overcome the evil force. But if you take a closer look, the dichotomy between evil and good is less black and white than it seems at first. There is plenty of gray area to be found in Dragon Ball. Although, admittedly, the gray areas are not explored too much most of the time, but for those who look for it there is a lot to discover and think about. So let's dive into our favourite cast members and figure out which of them is the real hero.
Let's start with our main protagonist, Son Goku. Described as being pure of heart and an all around good person, Goku is the main hero of all Dragon Ball series. Goku never gives up, Goku never gives in and despite setbacks he will always find a way to prevail and protect the ones he loves. However, and this might not be new to you if you are a long time Dragon Ball fan, Goku has some character traits that are a hero unworthy. It is not that he is not a good character, since he almost exclusively acts out of kindness, but his naivete and obsession with fighting sometimes takes some dark turns.
A few obvious examples are when he decides to give Frieza some life energy to be able to leave or at least survive the destruction of Namek. Frieza, who is arguably the most evil character in all Dragon Ball series. Frieza, who has no problem torturing and killing and murdering millions. That Frieza, was left alive by Goku. Not just left alive, but he gave him a better chance to survive. Another example is Goku practically forcing his teenage son to fight Cell, a hybrid creature created specifically to defeat the Z-Warriors. Of course, we know that it ends with Gohan becoming the first to reach Super Saiyan 2 levels and the defeat of Perfect Cell. But that is hindsight and we cannot ignore how highly irresponsible it was of Goku to make his son fight the strongest enemy in Dragon Ball until that moment. Goku's obsession with fighting and becoming stronger also caused plenty of enemies to stay alive for much longer than necessary, becoming much stronger than necessary and causing more death and destruction than necessary. He could have defeated and killed Majin Buu earlier, but he instead opted to fight Vegeta. Or more recently he could have tossed a lot more enemies off the stage during the Tournament of Power, but refused to do so to be able to fight them again later.
Does make this Goku evil? No, absolutely not. As stated before, he is a person with a pure heart as demonstrated by his ability to fly on Nimbus or using the spirit bomb. However, Goku's actions are often selfish, reckless and irresponsible, causing destruction and harm that could have been prevented. That makes Goku a good character, but not necessarily a true hero in the classic sense of the word.
Next, there is the hero that was meant to be. The one who was supposed to succeed Goku and who could have been a hero in the true sense of the word. However, due to some poor character development decisions ended up being somewhat of a hero against his will. I am, of course, talking about Gohan. Born to a father with remarkable strength, Gohan grew up as the prodigy who could become the promised hero Goku never could be. Raised to be humble and smart by Chi-Chi, Gohan could have been the perfect hero. He overcame the anger issues he had as a child and seemingly gained perfect control over his aggressive Saiyan nature.
Gohan, however, had to deal with the one force no fictional character can beat: the creator. After the defeat of Perfect Cell, Akira Toriyama decided to turn Gohan into the Great Saiyaman and that inadvertently (or on purpose?) became his downfall. The Great Saiyaman couldn't even come close to the popularity Gohan gained as first Super Saiyan 2 and caused Toriyama to reintroduce Goku. With his father back around there was no room for Gohan to be the top dog and he 'regressed' into scholarship.
That is not to say Gohan does not possess many traits of a perfect hero. He is kind, humble, intelligent and strong. Though he can be seen struggling with the harm he causes, he seems less hesitant to take out enemies than his father. Gohan seems to understand that sometimes harm must be done to prevent greater harm. He can also be seen fighting the Androids relentlessly in the Future Trunks alternate timeline. That specific timeline is what could have been, had Gohan not been turned into the Great Saiyaman and it shows Gohan as the true hero he was set up to be as a child.
The Dragon Ball Super series subsequently seems to have tried to make peace with Gohan's Great Saiyaman past. While initially still being the caricature super hero, even starring as himself in a movie, Gohan eventually realizes the ridiculousness of his character. That leads to him retreating as super hero and focusing on his studies and family for a while, but as any true hero he comes to terms with who he is and the responsibility he bears. As the Tournament of Power starts, Gohan becomes the captain of Universe 7 and fulfills the leadership role he was given all those years back. Looking back, Gohan's character development has been quite the rollercoaster and it will be interesting to see where Toriyama takes it from here. He has now been established as a responsible adult, someone who does not shy away from who he is. Having come full circle, it will be interesting to see where this leaves Gohan's character since he resembles the true hero most of all Dragon Ball characters, but has to share the stage with Goku and Vegeta.
Speaking of which, Vegeta is an interesting case on it's own. He obviously started as a villain who was then reluctantly turned into a 'good' character. Throughout the years, Vegeta filled in the role of classic anti-hero. Someone who does not seem to care about anyone but himself, who does not care much for kindness and puts his own pride above anything else. However, after he married Bulma and became a father to Trunks he appears to come to terms with being 'good' more and more. Though most of his actions are still cleverly covered in protecting his pride, his actions leave some room to wonder how much of a good guy he has really become underneath his Saiyan pride. Having become the father of a daughter, it will be interesting to see where his character development will go. It is unlikely that Vegeta will ever become a real hero, but it wouldn't be surprising if the balance of anti-hero versus hero became more even.
The last person I want to cover is a little peculiar, considering he comes from an alternate timeline. While Future Trunks is 100% canon, he's not quite 'there' since he generally lives in a different timeline than our main cast. But all things considered, Future Trunks is perhaps the most archetype super hero in all of Dragon Ball.
A few things to consider: He is the son of a prince, making him of royal blood. He fights with a sword instead of merely his fists, making him resemble the tales of medieval knights. He also upholds classic medieval chivalric romance, on a quest to fight for the poor and defenseless with a burning desire to protect those in need. He has a support netwerk, but he is the only super hero alive in his world, carrying the burden and weight of the entire world on his shoulders. He will jump at any chance to fight evil forces and wastes no time on his own needs and desires. When he walks among the regular people, they look up to him as a hero and admire him. He not only acts like a hero, but is also seen as such by the people of his world. Last but not least, Trunks has been given a maiden to protect. A maiden with plenty of character strength, but somewhat in need of defense.
Considering all this, Future Trunks truly is a remarkable hero who's only problem is that he's just not that relevant to most of Dragon Ball. It does, however, seem a very deliberate choice of Toriyama to make Goku Black and Zamasu some of the most evil and vile villains in Dragon Ball. Against them and between Vegeta and Goku's bickering and selfish reasons to fight, Future Trunks stands out as a truly noble character who will do anything to protect the innocent and defenseless.
One last honorably mention goes to Piccolo. Born as the spawn of evil, he turns good and becomes a mentor to what could have been the main hero. Piccolo is always there when needed and has wise words for those seeking wisdom. Piccolo's only problem is his shared fate with Future Trunks, he's just not all that relevant or strong enough to be the main hero of the story.
What do you think about Dragon Ball's heroes? Who do you think is the biggest hero and why? Leave a comment or check out the other parts of PlanetGoku's Dragon Ball ABC.
We'll leave you with perhaps the most honorable thing Goku has done, sacrificing his own life to allow Piccolo to kill Raditz.
See you next week!