Thank You, Goku
Learning to Love Incremental Growth
We’re shopping for school supplies in the summer of 2000. We’re at Kenny’s dollar store a few blocks away from home. I’m gearing up for third grade and I’m most excited to pick out my folders for the year. Next to the boring, solid color Mead and Five Star folders, I see it.
The greatest folder humanity created. A Dragon Ball Z folder. The cover is filled with muscle-bound men with cool hair (though not all of them). And in full color, Goku, the savior of the world was in the middle of the group. I had to have it — there was no way I was going to have a solid green Oxford folder after seeing this.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I loved Dragon Ball Z growing up. We didn’t have cable, yet we tried consuming as much of the universe as we could: the games, DVDs from friends, downloading off Kazaa; whatever we could get our hands on.
I guess cool hair, muscles, power-up transformations, and saving the world were awesome to me as a kid. I wasn’t the only one.
As I become a teenager, I thought less and less of Dragon Ball Z and Goku. I started to consider it childish — all this cartoony stuff about grown men fighting. I would see adults wearing t-shirts and hoodies with Goku on them and thought everyone wearing them were nerds.
I Was Wrong
In late 2017, I moved across the country to California. For the holidays, I decided to stay in San Francisco to be available for work and save on flights. In a bout of boredom and loneliness, I decided to watch Dragon Ball Super, the latest entry to the series.
SF in winter. There was no snow. That was surprising to me.
After 131 episodes and only a few days later, I must admit, I did not understand Goku growing up.
Goku is addicted to progress in the martial arts. To pare that down, Goku is addicted to progress, i.e. incremental growth. Sure, he saved the world several times, but every time he talks about it, he references them as opportunities to fight someone at the highest level.
It really hit me in the middle of the series when (mild spoiler warnings) his son Gohan has his first child — making Goku a grandfather. When Goku visits his granddaughter for the first time, Goku inadvertanly learns that Vegeta (his sparring partner and rival) is training with a literal god without him. Goku then makes every effort to go train with them leaving his family and his newborn granddaughter behind. His wife is initially irked by this, but eventually expresses that Goku would want nothing more in this world than opportunities to grow, and she understood.
Dang. I moved across the country for the same reason.
I didn’t play sports growing up, so when I hear sports metaphors, like Coinbase’s “championship team” mentality, I find it cheesy and don’t really understand. But I can understand Dragon Ball Z.