"I don't need this shit."
PART I: The Preamble
I've been a fan of the Dragon Ball franchise off and on since about the time Dragon Ball Z first broadcast in syndication in September of 1996. I didn't immediately latch onto the show. It took a while. A friend of mine, Jon Oakes, who I used to play SNES with at his house (I had a Sega Genesis, and we alternated homes for playing), introduced me to the series, and I didn't quite latch onto it until I started watching it on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. When I started branching out into different types and titles of anime, I kept pushing the DB franchise back, exploring the more complex and compelling narratives of shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, and Cowboy Bebop. And after all, I would argue, the English version of Dragon Ball Z was so poorly done it was impossible to stomach the show except with subtitles, and I didn't even have a DVD player until around 2001. By then, I looked at my DB fandom as an object of nostalgia at best and embarrassingly poor childhood taste at worst.
Eventually I got back into DB, bought some DVDs, some Blu-Rays, but it's not really a high ranking anime for me. I can name dozens of better shows, better manga, and better franchises than the ones occupied by our spikey-haired Son Goku and his friends. Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Now and Then, Here and There, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hellsing, and the like. And yet, as I'm sure anybody who reads this blog regularly (I certainly don't update it regularly), I seem to be consumed with reviewing and commenting on what should be considered mostly just a paltry, overly long, badly edited, action manga/anime about aliens shooting lasers out of their hands, when I have, or should have, bigger fish to fry. I'm not entirely clear on why I continue to dedicate my time to it. Maybe it's just easier to talk about than other franchises. But I know why I like it. I know I like it because it's fun and charmingly breezy, but also with just enough complexities and turns that make it compelling enough to continue following, and perhaps even at times, obsessing over.
Just a little.
PART II: Thrown Out On My Can...dy Cloud
Tome sweet tome.
Perhaps part of my obsession stems with my contact with the website DaizenshuuEX, now Kanzenshuu after its Fusion Dance with the website Kanzentai, both dedicated, detailed, and well maintained Dragon Ball franchise fansites, and especially the Kanzenshuu forums. I joined pre-Fusion in 2009, shortly after the announcement of Dragon Ball Kai, expecting the message board would be full of like-minded fans of the Japanese version of the show, rather than the messy, inaccurate English version that was mostly shunned by VegettoEX (the site's webmaster). And, for the most part, that is exactly what I found. But, of course, me being me, I still managed to get in some fracases in my years there, leading, ultimately to my expulsion, prompted by a particularly nasty exchange with a few of the denser imbeciles that now infest the forums.
Now, I don't hold much animosity towards VegettoEX for my banning. I had some previous strikes on my record, and I can be quite the giant asshole at times. In fact, by the end of this, I will have been an enormous shitdial. I'm not perfect, I have a tendency toward abrasiveness, if not outright hostility, despite my dazzling intellectual trappings. It does irritate me, however, that the people I've tangled with continue to rant on in much the same manner without so much as a scolding, and I've been swept aside like so much dust, as if I've never contributed anything insightful to the fan community, forgotten like yesterday's trash.
C'est la vie.
PART III: The Premise
I'm scared, too, Gohan.
What was the topic that so called for my intense, perhaps pathological verbal brutality? Well, it was a continuing, baffling misinterpretation of Son Gohan's actions in his bout with the villain Cell during my favorite story arc in the Dragon Ball saga, the Artificial Humans/Cell arc. And while I won't name the lowlife degenerates that continue to propagate this poorly argued misconception, I will, in due course, examine the position and refute it, I believe, quite thoroughly and dismantle the unadulterated absurdity of it.
The supposition put forth by the two or three different people regarding Gohan's actions in his fight with Cell is, in general, that he is out of character in his perceived reluctance to bring forth his full power to bare against the villain, and that in stating his displeasure over fighting the ultimate Artificial Human, it seems that Akira Toriyama, the author, has merely placed in some unnecessary, and unsupported drama to strengthen the intensity of the narrative.
In other words, why does Gohan not want to fight Cell, why doesn't he get angry as he's done in the past (as when fighting Freeza), and why does it take the death of Artificial Human No. 16 to finally bring his power out? And is that out of character for Son Gohan?
Have these people even read this manga?
My position is that, given the extreme situation Gohan is placed into during this story arc, and with evidence to similar behavior in the past, that the actions highlighted in the above questions do not measurably imply an inconsistency in character behavior. Gohan does absolutely act somewhat out of character in a portion of this story arc, even in the battle of Cell, but not in the way supposedly supported by the arguments made by these people in question have raised. That is to say that Gohan isn't out of character when he struggles to bring his full power to bare against Cell. The only time he is truly out of character is when the power makes him overconfident, and it's with very good reason.
However, first we should establish who the character of Son Gohan is, his temperament, so that we properly place him within the context of the Cell Games, and specifically the moments these members of the Kanzenshuu forums view as being out of character for him.
PART IV: Mini Goku is Just Precious! I’m Gohan
Son Gohan is the eldest son of Son Goku and Chi-Chi, and was named after Goku's "Grandpa", who raised him (and was subsequently squashed by him). Introduced in Chapter 196 of the Dragon Ball manga, "Kakarrot", Gohan first appears as a meek and sheltered four year old boy with a monkey tail and aspirations to be a great scholar ("great scholar" isn't in itself a job, Gohan). After being kidnapped by Raditz, Gohan suddenly, in the heat of the battle between the marauding alien invader and the team of his father and Piccolo, has a sudden surge of power. Enraged by his father's injuries, Gohan bursts out of Raditz's space pod and headbutts him, fazing him and damaging his armor. Unfortunately, Gohan has no awareness or memory of his inner strength, and is unable to support the effort against his uncle any further (add to that, he's knocked out right away).
Piccolo takes Gohan under his wing as a student to train for the arrival of Vegeta and Nappa and the battle to come. He is a reluctant student to say the least, but has his father's resilience, even if he lacks his will. This lack of will becomes something that puts him and his allies in some tough spots. In the battle with Nappa, Gohan has difficulty summoning enough courage to actually attack him. It's only in rare moments of intense anger that Gohan can strike, and he can never maintain this powerful rage for very long. Even after Piccolo's death, Gohan is unable to stop the bald Saiyan's onslaught, and is rescued by an arriving Goku. While he is instrumental in the defeat of Vegeta later on, it's in concert with others. He regrets being unable to save Piccolo, his mentor, and so volunteers to be in the party to retrieve the Namekian Dragon Balls on the far off Planet Namek.
Gohan's tenacity grows with every new battle, every new danger. Seeing the threat of Freeza and his men firsthand in a Namekian village, he plunges headlong into the fray to save Dende. He stands up as best as he can against Recoome until his father can arrive on the alien planet, getting his neck broken in the process. When facing Freeza, Gohan flies into a monstrous fury after Kuririn is impaled, and unleashes a series of blows and blasts at the tyrant, but loses steam when it turns out it didn't hurt him much. He continues an effort against Freeza, but is clearly overwhelmed, and doesn't do well when put on the spot. Ultimately it is his father, now a legendary Super Saiyan, who defeats Freeza, while Gohan, wished to Earth by the Dragon Balls, waits for his father to return.
My reaction to the "out of character" supposition.
Throughout a lot of the Artificial Humans/Cell Arc, Gohan is in the background. Toriyama makes him a keen observer who injects some insight into matters when it's needed, but he doesn't fight Artificial Humans 19, 20, 17, 18, or 16. When Cell emerges, Goku takes Gohan to Kami's palace and they spend a good portion of the story either waiting to use the Room of Spirit and Time or training in the Room of Spirit and Time. It's in that strange white void that Goku reveals his intentions to make Gohan stronger than him. In Chapter 382, Gohan transforms into a Super Saiyan for the very first time, but it's clear this isn't going to be nearly enough to defeat Cell, and it's Goku's opnion that the two of them need to learn to make the Super Saiyan form feel natural by staying in it as much as possible.
We get little hints here and there that Goku has something up his sleeve in the upcoming Cell Games, but it's not until his sudden, shocking surrender to Cell that we learn that his ultimate technique, if you will, is his son! Nobody believes him at first, even Gohan, but Goku manages to get out of Gohan that he wasn't sure that Goku and Cell were fighting at their best because he was comparing it to his own power. Goku is confident that if Gohan can tap into that, he'll easily surpass Cell and save the planet. He even goes as far as giving Cell a Senzu Bean so the fight will start off fair.
This, as you might imagine, doesn't pan out as well as Goku had hoped.
PART VI: Gohan Shoots To Kill, Or At Least Badly Maim
Now to place Gohan comfortably (or to him, quite uncomfortably) into the place where the debate raised is, well, raised.
Gohan, facing down Cell shortly after their match has begun, tells Cell that he'd rather not fight him. He doesn't want to kill anybody, even somebody as evil as Cell, and doesn't enjoy fighting as much as his father does. This makes a lot of sense. Gohan has always fought out of necessity, but clearly doesn't enjoy in the way his father does, and is pretty sure that if he did fight, if he did bring out his true power, he would certainly kill Cell in the process. He goes to explain this through bringing up past instances where, when properly triggered, he unleashed a great power through anger. At this point in his training, he reasons, if he were to unleash that power, Cell would not survive, and he doesn't want that to happen.
This, however, only furthers Cell's interest in the fight, and he does his best to anger Gohan into showing him this great inner rage and power, attacking him, threatening and attacking his friends, and finally, killing Artificial Human 16 right in front of him by crushing his head. This finally sends Gohan over the edge and he transforms into the next full Super Saiyan form in what is probably my favorite moment in the story, especially the animated version. And in this form, Gohan is relentlessly, smugly, even, brutal.
This is where he's "out of character", but that's kind of the point.
So what we see here is that, fearing what a monster he might become if he unleashed his power, given enough time to reason this out in his mind, Gohan decides to warn Cell off continuing his fight with him. He's willing to, capable of fighting Cell, and inside holds enough power to destroy him, but would prefer not to if he can help it.
During the attempts to ensure Gohan's rage explodes, Cell is amused that Gohan stays pretty inactive. But to the attentive reader, to the attentive viewer, to a follower of the story thus far and the character of Son Gohan, it's clear to see Gohan's dilemma. It is two fold: one, he finds himself not wanting to kill Cell, two, he's finding difficulty summoning enough rage to be of use against Cell. It's these two feelings fighting it out inside him that cause him to be paralyzed with dispair, and thus stare helplessly as his father and friends are hurt by Cell's duplicates, the Cell Juniors.
Gohan has, in the past, snapped pretty easily and gone into a powerful fury, but those were always in the moment, spontaneously, where there weren't any expectations made of him. Whenever he's been put on the spot, whenever it's been expected, taken for granted that he could just spring into action, Gohan has been reluctant. Despite being a rational, clear minded kid, Gohan's fighting spirit is ultimately acting on impulse.
You know, like this.
In short, Gohan shoots to kill. He might regret it later, he may not want to at first, but when he finally does find that impulse, he will go as far as it will take him, and unlike in the past, this time when Gohan explodes, he becomes something a little, dare I say, out of character. Not because he refuses to fight Cell, because he never did refuse, but because he becomes savage and even a little sadistic in his Super Saiyan 2 form.
He's not messing around, folks.
Artificial Human 16, who nobly attempted to sacrifice himself to destroy Cell, but failed (as Dr. Brief and Bulma had removed the explosive inside his body), gave a final speech, attempting to rouse Gohan from his frozen state, ensuring him that it was okay, it was righteous to let go of his inhibitions and release his power. Yes, this was a character Gohan had spent no real time with. And it was even an Artificial Human created specifically to kill his father. But he had seen what it tried to do to stop Cell, heard its voice, and then witnessed the needless cruelty of Cell's crushing his head when he no longer posed a threat to villain. While 16's death wouldn't have been as big of a trigger as one of Gohan's friend's deaths, it was all that was needed. Any death would have sufficed at that point, but fortunately in the long term, it wasn't anybody Gohan held dear. It was just enough to bring out Gohan's power.
Now, if there's anything that's out of character about Gohan in his fight with Cell, it's after he goes Super Saiyan 2 and becomes a stone cold killer, kicking Cell Juniors to death, and ruthlessly raining terrifying attacks onto Cell with a smile on his face. Obviously the power and anger have pushed him into a serene state of madness. It's understandably out of character, however, given his situation. Cell had been pushing him to the point where not only did he want to hurt him, he only didn't want to kill him because, to paraphrase Natasha Radinov put it in Gunsmith Cats, he can only hurt him while he's still alive. He's so overwhelmed with anger at this point, he actually begins to enjoy making Cell suffer. He has truly snapped.
Seriously. Never fuck with Gohan.
Unfortunately, this backfires when Cell decides to rage quit by using his self-destruct device to obliterate the planet. Thinking just fast enough to know how to solve the problem, but not fast enough to do it and return without being killed, Goku teleports himself and Cell to Kaio's planetoid, sacrificing himself to save the planet. Of course, it doesn't quite take, as Cell returns in the next chapter, but hey, a save is a save. It's this that largely returns Gohan to a more clearheaded state.
Funny old thing, life.
The battle continues from Cell returning, and subsequently Gohan manages to pull off a victory despite a bad injury to one of his arms. But honestly, none of that is especially relevant to the discussion at hand, nor is any of the subsequent events, such as his attending Orange Star High School seven years later, his becoming Great Saiyaman, finding even more bullcrap hidden power in him, temporarily becoming the hero, and then ultimately becoming a huge failure because Toriyama decided he wasn't going to work as the hero. Then he has a daughter who gets written into slash fiction with a guy twice her age because of a non-manga related TV show that takes place after Goku abandons his family to go train some kid he just met, who is also the reincarnation of Majin Buu.
Dragon Ball is weird, man.
PART VII: You Are Stupid. You Are Stupid. You Are Stupid. You Are Stupid. You Are Stupid. You Are Stupid. And Don't Forget, You Are Stupid.
"This fucking debate is stuuuuuuuuupiiiiiid!"
Can it really be said, given the evidence presented, that Gohan was, indeed, out of character in how he handled the first stage of his battle with Cell? That is to ask, before his transformation into his Super Saiyan 2 form, was Gohan effectively behaving contrary to his established character, and is this for some shallow, hurried melodrama on the part of Toriyama to up the stakes of the narrative?
Of course not, you intolerable simpleton.
Out of character? As I just carefully laid out for you in a way that even six year old children, the target audience of this franchise, can understand, and usually have, Gohan is acting well within the parameters of his established character. If you're so rock stupid as to not clearly glean that from reading the manga, a children's manga, a comic for people who can barely read, or watching the show, or even reading vague descriptions given on online wikias, I must seriously question your mental faculties.
Clearly, simply, and overwhelmingly, the evidence I have presented, coupled with the outright ludicrous and exaggeratedly dense way those on the opposite side of the "debate" have carried themselves (that is to say, without reasoning), points to a steel-clad conclusion:
There isn't any evidence that points to Gohan being out of character, as described by the accusation given on the Kanzenshuu forums as of late that he becomes "a sudden pacifist". A sudden pacifist who kicks Cell? A sudden pacifist standing there deciding whether he should savagely tear apart somebody in front of him, and then ultimately doing so?
The sheer, unmitigated temerity to suggest that Son Gohan is out of character simply because, as usual, he has difficulty acting under expectation, is not only a complete misreading of the situation, but of the entire character of Gohan. It is an obvious, malignant, almost masochistic failure to employ even the simplest reading comprehension skills, and if I have to remain banned from Kanzenshuu' s forums because I couldn't stand the barking stupidity of a few toxic morons, and went out of my way to put them in their place (which is is under my feet), then viva la expulsion, because those feeble-minded, single-digit dimwits can suck my character.
Wow, what a whimp, am I right?
Still a great site, though, and I would recommend it to DB fans everywhere. And the forums to those who, unlike me, are not snarling ragebeasts with dozens of rows of venomous hatefangs with which to devour the souls of the living, as their mouths drip with acidic fear saliva that eats away at your mind's eye. Or, as I call those type of people, pussies.
As I've asserted, Gohan is, at his very nature, out of sorts when forced to measure up to a certain expectation. Past incidents of his surges in power are all from spur-of-the-moment reactions to something setting him off. This is exactly what occurred in the Cell Games, and Gohan cannot be said to be truly out of character in struggling to bring out his power, even with his friends in danger. Gohan's inner struggle is palpable, and it's clearly shown in several reaction shots. He's not simply giving up and standing idly by, but battling himself. This is why his transformation is a victory, because he's not just becoming the hero he had the potential to be, but he's finally beginning to overcome himself.
Assertions to the contrary seem unsupported by any reading I've done of the manga or viewing of the animated version.
tl;dr - No. No, he's not.
- Penguin Truth
(It's... it's n-not like I like you or anything, Dragon Ball... b-baka! I j-just happen to have s-some extra bento, drabo~!)
Enough is enough, already.
AND ENOUGH COMMENTS. THEY'VE GOTTEN OFF TOPIC. (5/5/14)