Goku has been selected as a cultural ambassador for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Our beloved Son Goku is now the mascot for the Olympic Games in Japan alongside other anime heroes and icons of Japanese pop culture. These include Astro Boy, Naruto, Luffy, Sailor Moon, Shin Chan, Pretty Cure, and the main monster from Yo-kai Watch.
Goku and the others will appear on all of the official merchandise for the Games and will likely make several appearances at the opening and closing ceremonies.
A mascot for an Olympic Games is chosen or created as a representative of the host country’s culture. So what message is Japan sending to the world by choosing Goku and the other anime heroes?
First, they’re saying that they want to appeal to the youth who are already enamored with these characters both inside and outside Japan, where Japanese pop culture has been exported for the last two decades. They are capitalizing on the cultural panache that people think of when they think “Japan.”
Second, they’re saying that these characters represent the best of what the Olympics represent in the Japanese mind. Strength, endurance, courage, fortitude, a drive to be your best, and a set of principles and values that will allow you to get there.
Third, that Goku and the other characters are worth investing in. The Olympic Committee and Japanese government have decided to use these characters as their international representatives to every country on the planet. The athletes who attend the Games, and the worldwide audience who watches them compete, will see Goku and the Games as synonymous. The government previously invested in the creation of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods in 2012, and they’re doing so again right now.
This means that the Japanese government is continuing to see Dragon Ball as a worthy investment. Dragon Ball is the world’s most recognized anime and manga series, so there are good reasons to invest in this series, and it’s likely that more international fans will purchase Dragon Ball related products as a result of Goku being a mascot.
Each of these mascots is an icon of higher values, but I feel that there’s no better choice for the Olympics than Goku. While Naruto represents endurance, Luffy represents selflessness and sacrifice for your teammates, and Sailor Moon represents, um, magical girls who love men that wear masks and tuxedos, Goku is a true representation of the Olympic Motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”
Goku’s life is dedicated to becoming faster, reaching higher levels, and gaining strength in his body, mind, and spirit. He’s a dedicated athlete who sacrifices in areas he feels don’t matter so that he can become supernormal in those areas that do. Real-life athletes do the same thing every day.
Ideals aside, Goku would leave all of these mascots in his dust at any of the Olympic events, and especially if they add an eating competition!
So what do you think of Japan’s decision to use Goku as a mascot for the Olympics? And do you think Akira Toriyama is proud of his little monkey-tailed hero for achieving such cultural renown? It’s quite the honor!