Goku is one of the most well-known characters in anime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s always likable.
By Daniel Kurland
Published 2 days ago
It’s hard to engage in a discussion about shonen or action anime series and not have Dragon Ball come up. Akira Toriyama’s iconic series isn’t just one of the most enduring and palatable anime, but it’s also inspired countless other series due to the staples and tropes that it helped establish. Dragon Ball sticks to a formula, but it knows when it’s important to mix things up and push forward.
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However, one major element of the series that doesn’t change is its determined protagonist, Goku. Goku has gone on to become one of the most popular anime characters of all time, but he’s far from perfect and he’s actually hurt his own reputation in various ways over the years.
It’s exciting when the original Dragon Ball series allows Goku to progressively mature into an adult. This trend continues into Dragon Ball Z, where Goku starts a family, and his son Gohan also grows into an adult. All of the groundwork is laid for Gohan to replace Goku as Dragon Ball’s protagonist, right down to the Buu Saga’s initial opening credits. Toriyama gets cold feet and doesn’t just shelve Gohan and his progress, but he makes Goku even more important. This mentality only becomes more egregious in Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super, which makes Goku easy to resent.
The roles of heroes and villains can often be fluid in anime series, and Goku has experienced surprising results behind his attempts to rehabilitate enemies and turn them into powerful allies. This is a practice that’s worked with Piccolo, Vegeta, and Buu, but it’s also far from a tried and true approach to battle. This strategy has backfired on Goku on even more occasions, with particularly disastrous results surrounding his battles against Cell and Moro. Audiences have become frustrated with Goku frequently adopting this perspective, even when certain villains are beyond redemption.
Goku is an individual who isn’t ashamed to admit that his greatest passion is fighting and a good challenge. This often leaves very little room for Goku’s family, especially his wife Chi-Chi, who often finds herself at odds with Goku’s cavalier attitude.
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Goku frequently ignores his wife’s wishes, keeps secrets from her, or just outright lies to avoid immediate conflict. Dragon Ball was never designed to be a romance or examine slice-of-life issues, but it’s still hard to watch Chi-Chi suffer like this as Goku fails to grasp the concept of romance.
Goku’s carefree personality is one of his most defining features, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect this playful nature to completely leave the character. That being said, context is important and there’s a time and a place for frivolity. Goku’s enthusiasm over combat or his own naivety often take precedence over the reputation of revered figures like Beerus, Whis, or Zeno. Goku tends to fail upward, and these deities strangely appreciate Goku’s aloofness, but it’s an approach that can only work for so long. Under different circumstances, Goku’s entire universe would be erased because of his insolence toward Zeno.
The first time Goku turns into a Super Saiyan is one of the most important moments in the entirety of Dragon Ball. From this point onward, new Super Saiyan transformations become the norm. Dragon Ball Z features an exciting change of pace when Gohan becomes the first Super Saiyan 2, but afterward, it’s routinely Goku?who debuts any new transformation. It becomes frustrating that it’s always Goku?who breaks this barrier, and it almost reduces the impact of the transformation itself. Dragon Ball would only improve if it allowed other characters to surpass Goku and then?force him to catch up.
Victory and defeats are a very black and white way to view strength and progress, especially in an anime. It’s not the end of the world to lose a fight, and ultimately what’s important is the lesson that’s learned from the experience. Goku faces his shares of wins and losses, but he struggles to actually incorporate any lessons from his habits.
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Goku has turned to certain strategies that routinely fail, yet he still resorts to using them. It’s frustrating to see Goku win battles with the same old tricks, where brute strength is the only changed factor.
Dedication and ambition are crucial traits in Dragon Ball. It’s not enough to just be the strongest,?and there has to be a focus on continually?improving in case the unexpected occurs. Goku relishes legitimate competition, but this desire for a worthy opponent can sometimes come at the expense of the universe. There are some conflicts that Goku could have entirely avoided, but instead, he willingly volunteers himself, the Earth, or the entire universe because he can’t resist a good fight. The most reckless example of this is the entire Tournament of Power.
Goku is an incredibly skilled fighter?who has faced dangerous opponents from multiple universes. Goku’s developed his own strategies that are quite reliable, but this can sometimes result in battles that play out in a predictable fashion. All shonen anime develop a formula for battle, but Goku’s approach to combat is especially telegraphed. There are occasional random elements that keep things fresh, but it’s still quite easy to predict what Goku will do in a fight. Repetition is never a good sign for an anime series.
There’s no doubt that Goku cares about his friends and family, and their endangerment is often the catalyst that pushes Goku to become stronger. It’s this dedication to his loved ones that makes some of Goku’s other actions even more confusing and disappointing. There are several occasions where Goku turns his back on everyone he cares about for what appear to be very random reasons. The conclusion of Dragon Ball GT sees Goku bid everyone farewell, and Dragon Ball Z’s controversial ending has Goku choose to train a stranger, Uub, over peace with his family.
One of the biggest problems that Dragon Ball currently faces is that it’s developed a very comfortable routine that it struggles to pull itself out of. Dragon Ball has a nasty habit where Goku is regularly the one to defeat the new villain. This often means that characters like Vegeta suffer an unnecessary beating, only for Goku to be the one who always gets to save the day. Goku’s strength and determination are inspiring, but that doesn’t mean that he always has to be the hero, and frankly it’s a little annoying at this point.
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About The Author
(695 Articles Published)
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales” and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel’s extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.
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