dragonball z uses a lot of videogame terminology to frame its narrative and the characters. you might not be aware of this, like i wasn’t, because the north american localization gutted all of that out completely. only recently have i discovered this watching the japanese dragonball kai recuts.

anime enthusiasts often profess the superiority of subtitles+original audio, how localizations of anime are often done recklessly and gut the work of much of its meaning and cultural contexts. i don’t really have a wide-reaching opinion about that, but i feel pretty confident that rings true with dragonball. for much of my life dragonball meant little else to me than shlocky screaming men doing bombastic things at each other. it was cool at face value, but nothing really felt like it was building on any greater ideas. that’s not inherently a bad thing, but’s a shame that what it did have was gutted to put it to market.

i find some of these things we missed out on very interesting. for one piece of context, toriyama (the creator of dragonball) is also famous in japan for his involvement in the disney-level-popular progenitor of japanese rpgs, dragon quest. i’m not going to read into toriyama here, but i think that makes this connection very interesting, especially since dragonball z came around after toriyama had been working on dragon quest for a while; dragonball existed before dragonquest. it is even more interesting that common rpg words are used like ‘party’ and ‘power-up'(in my experience this is a wider term for japan, encompassing the act of a character raising their stats as well). in reflection, i am given the impression of a narrative that not only refutes using metrics to measure human beings,(‘power level’) but one which also relates that statement to the way people are expressed in rpgs. and on top of that, the show’s power level arms-race reflections on cold war politics and how those relate back to the blind powerlust social politics that rpgs often encourage.


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