Today I had a realization. I realized….black people LOVE them some Dragonball Z. Yes, you read that correctly. Dragonball Z. Dragon, dragon–rock the dragon.
If you’ve been in the anime community long enough like I have, you know it’s no secret that black folk really love Dragonball Z. Even black people that don’t consider themselves hard-core anime fans or “Otaku” can definitely say, without hesitation, that Dragonball Z is one of their favorite ‘cartoons’.
Dragonball Z is a Japanese Anime created by Akira Toriyama and produced by Toei Animation. With its mixture of martial arts action, and sci-fi, the show debuted in the US on Toonami — going on to become one of the most loved Japanese anime in history.
Whether you love it or hate it, you cannot deny that the fighting show has had quite an influence when it comes to hip hop (black) culture. Even some of your favorite rappers/singers have DBZ fever.
In 2010, rapper Soulja Boy Tellem made several songs referencing the hit cartoon show. One song was titled “Goku”.
Bitch, I look like Goku. Bitch, I look like Vegeta. I’m hopping in that old school. – Soulja Boy Tellem (Goku)
And let’s not forget how our fluid-bae fave singer Frank Ocean referenced the villain Majin Buu in his song “Pink matter” ft Andre 3,000.
In an 2015 interview with Inverse, Jason DeMarco, a creative at Adult Swim, explained that when it aired, they saw that the demographic for Dragonball Z was mostly ethnic minority children. “We have detailed breakdowns of our audience. Even then research was a huge thing. We knew that Toonami and Dragon Ball Z in particular over-indexed with boys, and even more with minority audiences.” When asked how that happened, DeMarco responded, “[We] try to get as many different kinds of people watching as possible … [but] anecdotally out in the world, when we would go to festivals or conventions, or just sometimes go speak at schools, there was definitely a large number of minority kids that would come up to me and talk about how much they love Dragon Ball Z or Gundam.”
So you can only imagine how ecstatic black fans were when a character that went by the name of “Black Goku” appeared on Dragonball Super. (I don’t care if it’s a translation error–let us have ONE thing, dammit!)
I, a black woman, am probably one of the biggest DBZ fanatics I know.
I have my own theory as to why Dragonball Z attracted and still attracts a lot of black youth to this day. For me, I always looked at Saiyans as black people. Deadass. First of all–their hair:
That shit can defy gravity. What other race of people do you know have hair that can do that?
But in all seriousness– Saiyans dealt with racism on a daily basis. There was always someone coming to earth with hopes of “eradicating the Saiyans.” They were called every name in the book. Inferior. Looked at as weak. Weren’t allowed to train, or explore their powers for fear they would become too strong and overthrow Lord Frieza. But through all of that, they still managed to overcome the struggles and hardships and end up on top.
Speaking of Frieza–you can’t tell me he wasn’t a white supremacist/slave master. He kept the Saiyans as slaves on Planet Vegeta. Thought his race–whatever that is–was the ‘superior; race. Then, when Bardock (The Harriet Tubman of the Saiyan Race) decided he wasn’t having it anymore and that he was going to lead him and the other Saiyans to freedom, Frieza decided to just blow up all of Planet Vegeta.
These aliens HATED the Saiyans. And yet, still were out here trying to learn everything they could about them. They even would go as far as stealing their iconic fighting moves and transformations (sound familiar, pop culture?)
These could very well be reaches of course, but they’re just little similarities I’ve observed that Saiyans have with black people and could, subconsciously, be why black folk resonate with the show so much. Aside from the fact that it’s just so badass.
So if you’re black, and a Dragonball Z fan, I want to hear from YOU. Why do you watch the show?