The year was 2005, it was 5pm EST and the Toonami block on Cartoon Network was about to premier. The Toonami block was when all of the “cool” cartoons would come on. I’m talking Sailor Moon, Duel Masters, Rave Master, One Piece, Pokémon Chronicles, Immortal Grand Prix (IGPX), and of course Naruto! But among all of those epic shows, none was more epic than Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z.
Dragon Ball Z is a story about a Saiyan boy from Planet Vegeta that escapes from his home in a space pod; before it [his home] is destroyed by Frieza — the emperor of space. Frieza destroys Planet Vegeta out of a relentless racism toward the Saiyan race and a fear of the potential of one becoming strong enough, to over throw him/his empire [transform into a Super Saiyan]. Goku [Kakarrot], the Saiyan boy who escaped, his space ship crash landed on earth, where he was found and raised by his adoptive grandfather Gohan; And he grew up to become a martial artist.
This show above all the others was what I looked forward to watching the most. Dragon Ball Z for whatever reason resonated with me. To its own credit DBZ (Dragon Ball Z) revolutionized a whole genre of anime for decades after its inception. I just liked the fighting, the destructiveness of the villains, the severity of the situations that the Z-fighters found themselves in. The various power boosts and transformations — and the explosions from massive kai blasts! I would do the Kamehameha with sound effects and at the same cadence as Goku. I’m not too proud to admit that I have tried going ‘Super Saiyan’ before, and to set the record straight: Vegito is stronger than Gogeta.
I was a fan boy of DBZ for at least 10 years of my life. its not until last year that my perspective changed towards DBZ and I decided to implement a personal boycott. You see, Dragon Ball Z has an innumerably large black fan base and while I do not believe the anime was mal in intent in and of itself — I have reason to believe that the anime has promoted negative stigmas within the black community, specially among black boys that are now becoming and are already black men, and their outlook towards one another.
In the early episodes of the anime, there was an arc that focused on a Saiyan invasion on earth in search of the Dragon Balls. Throughout this invasion we are introduced to Goku’s elder brother: Raddits, and who would soon become an antagonist turned co-protagonist Vegeta. These two encounters in the early episodes of the anime sowed the seeds of rivalry. Here we see Saiyans, the last of their people, fighting and competing against one another — albeit the circumstance of their encounter.
This rivalry is perpetuated throughout the series as Vegeta — Prince of all Saiyans, cements his role in the series. Now you may say how could something that simple have any innuendo on the black community, and in a certain sense you are right it should and probably does not to detriment however; we are products of our consumption, meaning, what we take in we become. I just finished fawning over my experience with DBZ. If this show had that much of an impact on me, I can guarantee there are a multitude of black men as impacted if not more so from this series — some of them were my friends. I say this to say, those seeds of contentiousness that had the opportunity to take root at an early age and were watered regularly through affirmation can and does eventually influence one’s subconscious behavior towards another person/or people group.
Just for a moment, I want to stick a pin in that point and talk about racism. Racism perpetuates in the same way. It starts with a nefarious thought about a person or people group for a baseless reason riddled with falsehoods and misinformation. Those thoughts are then encouraged, confirmed, and affirmed by propaganda that over a period of time, not only takes root in the life of that person consuming that information, but then also buds into future generations — creating generations of people predisposed to a racist sentiment.
All I am saying is, minorities are not bad people, black people are not bad people, racist people just have bad thoughts towards and about them (us). The reason Americans are so adverse talking about racism is because some of those bad thoughts are still prevailing towards black people. No not everyone but enough for someone reading this to feel offended. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is one — it’s okay to say you have racist thoughts, its not okay to be okay with them; But I digress.
Where was I… Ah, yes, the correlation between black people in America and the Saiyan race. Another reason DBZ was so impactful in the black community was because we could identify ourselves within the story. An enslaved people abused and killed eventually escaping only to find ourselves dejected and broken as a people, holding on to the few pieces of identity we can gather, whether it be in a certain association or habit… Oops, I forgot I was talking about DBZ; but that is my point, the narrative of the black male and the Saiyan run parallel. I am giving more focused attention to black men primarily because there was no Saiyan women in the series until Dragon Ball Super, a continuation of the DBZ story that came over a decade after the original series’ first airing. Saiyans were even referred to as monkeys in the series — do you know another people group that was (and sometimes still is) referred to as monkeys? Black people.
The point I am making is, DBZ was culturally relevant to the black community, and was tantalizing in its appeal to black men with its action-packed fight scenes, intense storytelling, and destructive finishing moves. The danger of influence is impact, and depending on what we allow to influence us, it can potentially have a notable impact. To that end I propose, that Dragon Ball Z has had a negative impact on black men. I for one can admit that I am already a competitive person but can become extremely so when in a competitive context with a fellow black person. This response of behavior is not always because of an intentionality, in some cases I may not know how to properly handle or engage a certain situation.
Rivalry among those in the black community is not new and is to this day, a great divider among the people group. With that being the case, it is possible that feeding into that subconscious innuendo over a multitude of years has manifested itself in ways that present themselves as what can sometimes be bellicose. Is it possible that through the subliminal messaging of an anime an entire generation of black men could be naturally inclined to be less accepting of one another? That is not for me to say right now, and we may never know, however what I can assure you of is, I will not be further perpetuating that predilection among myself or my immediate sphere of influence.