I’m quite sure there is discussion elsewhere of more depth than what I am about to go into, largely thanks to James Steele and his find of Anime and Philosophy (which I have not yet read). Never the less, I have my own ideas about why the anime series Dragonball Z is so incredible, so amazing, and so inspiring to many of us.
My ideas can be reduced to two fundamental points about the series.
1. The series in it’s entirety is a relentless display, depiction, and expression of the hero in man’s soul. Time and again, virtually every character of significance in the series goes through the greatest of trials, pushes past his pre-conceived limits, and reaches ever greater depths of his own potential.
The characters consistently face odds that at face value, appear insane to even consider fighting against. Yet, throughout the entire series, the fighters choose, when no other options are presented to them, life in the face of death.
They choose to fight to the death, if necessary, for their values — for their lives, the lives of their loved ones, and for their happiness.
And while they often experience heavy losses in temporary defeat, the death of their friends, and so on — a hero of heroes always arises and succeeds where the rest have tried, and failed.
That hero of heroes succeeds in the face of every odd and challenge conceivable — he finds a way where none was thought possible.
While saving entire planets from the brink of physical, instantaneous destruction is typically not on the “to do list” of our daily lives, and neither is fighting off a single entity more powerful than the chains of reality suggested possible, the challenges the fighters face are not disproportionate to the challenges we face in our own lives in correspondingly high pressure circumstances and environments (high intensity training is especially relevant here).
The characters and the events they take part in are actually quite relevant to our own lives, if only a depiction of such obstacles in a certain and specific style — a style that strips down and reveals the best in every man.
The ideal in and possible to man — every man.
And in a world, society, and bankrupt culture that tell us “No, it is not possible”, Dragonball Z tells us “Yes, it is possible“, with a literal, glowing radiance attributed to it.
This is so exceedingly rare in today’s art — and our world in it’s sum entirety — that when we see it, its value is so overwhelmingly obvious it exceeds the ability of most to describe — if and only if a man holds his life as his highest value and the achievement of his own happiness as his highest purpose.
Men who do not — who deny life as an achievement and instead seek to avoid death — see little or no value in the series and the subsequent characters.
They feel nothing for the characters, often mock the series, and at best, enjoy “the story” — ignoring the characters that the story is designed to embrace, challenge, and actualize the best in.
The story being a vehicle and means for the end — the characters.
2. The second primary, fundamental point I hold for the series attraction and achievement is the successful, vivid depiction of the ideal man, by the creators best judgments.
The lead character is Goku. While there are some points lacking, and some other points patently wrong about the depiction, Goku is still pretty damn good, and I think by leaps and bounds, the best my generation has yet to produce and witness in art.
Which is his particular draw as a character, and subsequently, for Dragonball Z itself. Draw because this is so exceedingly rare in today’s culture that it is almost non-existent — and we hunger for it.
We hunger for a man to be portrayed as he could, should, and ought to be — his best and highest self, and continually striving higher and higher, beyond what he and others thought was possible in reality.
What’s more, while there is humor about and for Goku, mockery for and of him is virtually non-existent in the series. Compare that to today’s super heroes and you have quite the contrast. In fact you have the building up and tearing down of the ideal man in today’s art.
Blade Trinity and (I strongly suspect) Mission Impossible 4 are examples of such (as compared to the previous installments in the movie series).
See the trailers below, reflect on the movies previous to those, and think about how the two series have progressed (and probably ended in the case if Blade).
DragonBall Z is a series to be celebrated, as is its main character, Son Goku. You should take no shame in enjoying the series, and even finding concrete inspiration in it, fictional as it may be.
Those who attack it, specifically for its heroism, are the greatest of cowards, who hold man in concept as a mindless, soulless slug, and not a heroic being — which is to say, and is a confession of how they face existence, and view themselves, first and foremost.
— Anthony Dream Johnson