Dragon Ball has millions of fans, but not much has been written about the fandom. Without the actual fans that keep the series going, Dragon Ball would not be the worldwide phenomenon that it is today. The fans themselves are the real wonder of Dragon Ball, yet we know so little about them.
Today I introduce a new series called Dragon Ball Fan Focus, where one lucky Dragon Ball fan is interviewed and featured on The Dao of Dragon Ball.
My guest for the very first Dragon Ball Fan Focus is Monica, a young film student from Michigan who believes that she can win a debate against any other Dragon Ball fan, including the boys!
Is that a lofty claim, or can she really walk the walk? And what is it like for her to be a fan of a series made for young boys?
Let’s dive right in to the interview and find out what makes Monica such a unique Dragon Ball fan.
Dragon Ball Fandom Lives Eternal
Before our interview, Monica shared a bit about herself on the Dragon Ball Z sub-Reddit forum on Reddit.com, called r/dbz. It’s a fun community of like minded (and sometimes not so like minded) Dragon Ball fans from all over the world.
She told enough to make me intrigued and now here we are.
Derek: Hi Monica. Thanks for being the first Dragon Ball fan to be featured on The Dao of Dragon Ball.
You are from Michigan, right? Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Monica: I’m from Plymouth, Michigan but I haven’t lived here my whole life. I grew up around here and moved to South America when I was really little. That was the first place I started watching Dragon Ball, it was in Spanish.
Derek: You speak Spanish? I don’t know very much about the South American dub.
Monica: Yeah, fluently. It’s pretty good. I’ve been to South America a couple times and they have a lot of anime there. It’s all dubbed really well and they translate the theme songs, which they don’t do in the US, they make up their own theme songs here, which is stupid.
Derek: Which dub do you prefer?
Monica: I usually watch the English version, and I have a reason for that too. I’ve watched some of the Japanese version, but I watch the English version because they add in some things, certain character developments that I like. They do a good job with it.
Derek: Sometimes they fill in the characters personality, especially with Vegeta.
Monica: Yeah, and he’s my favorite character!
Derek: When did you start reading The Dao of Dragon Ball website and what do you think of the idea behind it?
Monica: I think it’s an interesting idea to go into the back stories, because there are a lot of things in Dragon Ball based on something else, like the Rabbit in the Moon article.
Derek: Have you learned anything from the site?
Monica: I read a lot of Dragon Ball Z in Shonen Jump, and they put history things into there, about that stuff, which led me to look into more of it. So I’ve looked at some of the Japanese history myself, and being interested in anime I’m like, “Hey, that’s in Dragon Ball!”
Derek: Right! You can see the correlations. That’s how the project started.
When you first told your story on Reddit you mentioned that when you were a child you used to wake up on Saturday mornings and watch the show with your little brother, but your dad decided it was too violent to watch. Can you tell me that story?
Monica: We were right in the Ginyu Saga when Vegeta kills Burter and Recoome, who aren’t dead yet, and my dad saw that and was like, “Oh, he just broke his neck!” Haha, and he decided that wasn’t appropriate for us, since I think I was still in 4th grade.
But I still had some friends who watched it and they would all tell me the stories. I was amazed to hear that Krillin had hair!
Derek: So you didn’t get to the see the rest of the show until you grew up, you said about 8 years later?
Monica: I had dabbled in it a little since then because I had friends who liked it, but I had never seen it all the way to the end until I was much older, in high school.
Derek: Then a friend bought you the first and second seasons and rekindled your repressed love for the series. What happened then?
Monica: Right. I watched the entire thing on a straight marathon, all the way through! With all of the filler and long power up sequences it’s perfect to sit down and watch while you do homework. Every time I was doing something else I’d turn it on. As soon as Season 2 [aff] was over I was like, crap, I’ve got to get the next one. Haha.
Vegeta, Confidence and Pride
Derek: Why does Dragon Ball hook you? What’s your favorite aspect?
Monica: I think people seriously underestimate the story of it. Everybody gets involved with the long power up sequences and muscle bound characters and they forget that there’s an actual storyline going on, and the characters are quite involved in the story.
Derek: Yeah, it was tragic. Is he your favorite character because of how he changes or do you identify with Vegeta?
Monica: I like his character development and how he changes, but also how true they stay to his character. I know Akira Toriyama didn’t really intend for him to be a main character. He just threw him in and then kept him going.
Derek: Right, because the fans liked Vegeta and wanted him to stay.
Monica: Yeah, because of Akira Toriyama not liking him very much, he remains a bad guy all the way through to the end. I really like that because it’s something you don’t usually see. He’s the reluctant good guy the entire time. He hates everyone! Haha.
I like the tenacity of his character and I do identify with him a lot. My favorite thing about him is that he’s not always the best, but he’s always trying to be.
Derek: Do you feel that way about yourself?
Monica: I play hockey and I like to compete. Being a girl in a men’s sport I kind of feel that no matter what I do I’ll never be good enough, so I can relate to that.
Derek: So you’re always pushing yourself to be better?
Monica: Yeah. I said in my submission that I wanted to get a tattoo of the Saiyan crest. I’m a film student and a lot of my teachers are telling me “You’re not confident enough,” and Vegeta is a really confident character, so I feel like if I had that it would remind me to be more confident.
Derek: I see. I was going to ask what that symbol meant to you and now I understand.
You mentioned that you’re a woman playing hockey in a men’s sport. Dragon Ball also has a reputation for being geared toward young men. It is the quintessential example of a Shonen (Young Boys) manga and anime. And according to my 2012 reader survey, 91% of the readers of this website are male. What do you think of that? Is Dragon Ball a boy’s club, or is it universal?
Monica: It’s geared a lot towards guys. All of the main characters are guys. There are a couple female characters but they don’t do much, except maybe Bulma. Chi-Chi is just Chi-Chi. Haha. They don’t glorify them very much. 18 is really the only, oh and Videl is pretty cool too I guess. But they don’t glorify the women, which I guess I should have a chip on my shoulder about but I really don’t because it’s Dragon Ball Z!
I know a lot of girls who like it, like my roommate in college, she loves it now too. As a Shonen show it’s geared toward guys for a reason. I can understand why there aren’t a lot of girls who like it, but I feel like there’s a whole genre of girls who would, if they give it a chance.
Derek: I agree. You said that you’re a hardcore fan, you’ve got the Majin Vegeta hat, the Goku clothes and everything. Are boys ever surprised to find out that they’ve been talking to a girl about Dragon Ball, and especially when they’re proven wrong in debates or specific points of trivia online?
Monica: I try to point out that I’m a girl on r/dbz as much as I can.
But people don’t seem to like when I point out that I’m a girl because they seem to think I’m doing it for attention. They’re surprised, not because I’m a girl, but more so because I’m pointing it out!
Derek: You said that Vegeta is your favorite character and he inspires you to push yourself harder. Has Dragon Ball changed your life in any other way?
Monica: I think that’s probably the biggest way.
You can’t sit there and watch these guys go through all this stuff and then continue to watch television. I watch a couple episodes of Dragon Ball Z and then go to the gym.
Derek: I hear ya. I was religious about working out when I was really into watching the show. I was doing Kung Fu training for 3 hours a day, sparring and Tai Ji. Then I’d come home, shower, eat, and then watch DBZ on Adult Swim and work out again. It was mad.
Why do you think that 15 years after the series concluded in 1997, that there are still so many Dragon Ball fans, and it is still so successful?
Monica: It really is one of those cult shows. It has iconic things going on, the Kamehameha and stuff. People still make jokes about it, and when someone makes a Kamehameha joke, then everybody goes, “Oh yeah, Dragon Ball, I’m going to go back and watch that.”
Because it’s such a long running series and there are so many things to joke about and relate to, it has stood the test of time.
Derek: I think it’s something a lot of young adults grew up with and now it’s a language that we all speak and understand. When you mention Dragon Ball or one of those simple things like the Kamehameha, you instantly understand each other. “Oh, you grew up with Dragon Ball, too?” There’s a connection formed and then you can laugh about it.
If there were one question you’d like answered about Dragon Ball, what would it be?
Monica: I would like to ask Akira Toriyama why he shit’s on Vegeta so much in the Buu Saga!
Derek: Haha. Any idea what he might say?
Monica: I think he would say that he was never a huge fan of Vegeta and that was probably his reasoning for it. Vegeta just gets thrown around so much more than you think he should against Buu.
Derek: You’re right, he does take a pretty hard beating. But seeing Goku fight against him and win is the catalyst for his ultimate admittance that Goku is #1. It’s the ending of his character.
Monica: Right, but it was Vegeta’s idea of how to beat Buu.
A Hardcore Dragon Ball Fan
Derek: There are these terms, “hardcore” or “true” fan. Do you believe in those terms, and if so, what do you think they mean?
Monica: Yeah, I do. I’ve had a lot of seriously philosophical discussions with fans. I haven’t met a single fan that I haven’t been able to talk into a corner about Dragon Ball Z, because I watch it all the time. They’re all guys, too.
Would Majin Vegeta be able to beat Super Saiyan 3 Goku? Why, why not? If you can seriously lay your arguments out and have a hardcore, bloodthirsty discussion about stuff like that, then you’re a hardcore fan.
If you’re like, “Oh right, I saw him that one time when he had the “M” on his head,” it’s like, “Get out of here, you’re bush league.”
Derek: Haha. That was all of my questions, Monica. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Monica: I saw you had the ebook online. Is the book going to be published physically?
Derek: Yes. First as an ebook so I can generate the funding for the physical book. The people who pre-order the ebook now will get the 3 bonus chapters for free plus a physical copy signed by me when its published, as an incentive to pre-order it and support the project.
I just got another pre-order today from a person named “Majin.” So that’s pretty cool.
I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and answer so honestly. I think a lot of people are excited about this series and this was a great way to start.
Monica: Thanks for interviewing me. I told all of my friends I was going to be interviewed on a website!
Derek: Yeah, please share the link to the page with your friends.
Monica: Thanks. Bye!
Focusing on the Fans
What a fun way to start the series!
What do you think of Monica’s story? Her father wouldn’t let her watch Dragon Ball, but years later she received the first two seasons as a gift and fell in love with DBZ all over again!
She seems like a pretty big fan, wouldn’t you say?
Are you a huge fan of Dragon Ball? If so, what’s your story?
Leave a short version in the comments below. If I decide to feature you, then we’ll set up a time to talk.
Tell the world why you’re a Dragon Ball fan and become the next guest on Dragon Ball Fan Focus!