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While it is obvious to the native Japanese speakers and some non-Native Japanese speakers, the names of the characters in Dragon Ball series can be both entertaining and, more importantly, informative about some of the dynamics of the interplays among the characters in the series. I have laid out some of the most important names of the characters and their meanings with respect to the races they belong to so that some of the categorical differences among them will be made obvious below. Further, this will certainly elucidate some of the underlining sharp distinctions existing that necessarily separate the characteristic traits of each character from one another. My analytic introduction will follow as the names are explained.

 

 

1: The Saiyan Race and Earthlings

 

The name Vegeta comes from vegetables; Nappa means leaf vegetables in Japanese; Raditz comes from radish[1]. Here, you can also see the hierarchically arranged ranks of each character, Vegeta being the whole category of vegetables. Goku’s Saiyan name is Kakarrot, which comes from carrot, signifying weakness in the vegetable kingdom compared to Vegeta and Nappa, for instance. Also, Goku’s father, Bardock means burdock, again just as carrots, suggesting that these vegetables are rooted in the soil, i.e. the earth. Although Bardock never came to Earth, the root vegetable theme in the family seems to foreshadow the eventual arrival of Goku on the planet. Another Saiyan who only appears in movies is Broly, which is derived from broccolis. His power is said to have been so strong that he became the basis for the legendary Super Saiyan. Incidentally, the race Saiyan in Japanese is pronounced Saiya-jin, where the word “Saiya” is a phonetic rearrangement of the work yasai, which means vegetables in English, and “jin” just means a person or a race belonging to.

 

The names of the Earthlings are most often derived from food of Chinese origin – this has probably a lot to do with the Dragon Ball episodes when Goku was still a child. Different from Dragon Ball Z, the original ideas prevalent in Dragon Ball are taken a lot from the Chinese mythology and literature. Since it will be too long a list to name everyone from the first Dragon Ball series, I will only list some of the important ones that also appear in Dragon Ball Z. As you will see, since many of the original characters from Dragon Ball continue into the plot of Dragon Ball Z, oftentimes the theme of the names borrowing from food category run through early into Dragon Ball Z.

The name Goku comes from the classic Chinese literature, Journey to the West, and its main character’s name is Son Goku (or in Chinese, Sun Wukong, meaning Monkey King). Aligning with the Chinese theme, Oolong and Pu’ar (or Puar or Pu-erh) are from Chinese tea of the same names. Yamcha means in English Dim-Sum. Chiaotzu means dumplings and Tien Shinhan comes from Tenshin-don, which is a Japanese arranged Chinese dish that does not exist in China, but the inspiration for the dish may perhaps come from a Tianjin city in China. Kurillin comes from kuri in Japanese, which means chestnuts. This also explains his daughter in the very late in Dragon Ball Z is named Māron, which means chestnuts in French. Gohan means rice in Japanese.

Bulma and her family’s names differ from food, and her name as well as her family members’ names are derived from articles of clothing. Bulma means bloomers in English. Incidentally, bloomers in the 19th century represented the freedom for women and helped advance the women’s rights movement. This perhaps explains Bulma’s independence, talents and individualistic characters. Her father’s name is Briēf, meaning a type of underwear or swimwear, briefs. Bulma’s son is similarly named after swimwear, Trunks meaning, perhaps and more appropriately, brief shorts. Bulma also has her daughter much later in the series, named Bulla, which in Japanese is pronounced Bra, meaning bras, or brassieres.

Mr. Satan obviously comes from Satan, an evil figure from the Abrahamic religions. So it is no surprise that his daughter’s name, Vīdel, is a play on word of devil. Gohan and Videl have a daughter, named Pan (who only appeared in the last two episodes of Dragon Ball Z), which in Japanese just means bread in English, but the Japanese origin of the word is from the French word, pain. This is in opposition to rice as the traditional commoners’ food in daily life. It may perhaps something to do with many Japanese breakfast has begun to consist of bread and toasts, and it could be a partial social commentary implied in the naming of the younger generation after the classic Western breakfast and the main meal. Therefore, their daughter, Pan, represents something new and a change as well as hope. Pan, however, also has a dual meaning in that it is a name of a Greco-Roman god of the wild and has horns and legs of goats, wherein it is associated also with fertility and season of spring. The Greeks also considered Pan to be a theatrical criticism and impromptus, signifying spontaneity and chaos. The word ‘panic’ comes from this god. So the name Pan is clever not only because it belongs to the theme of Gohan’s family, but also because it inherits the Vīdel’s lineage. Either way, it is a great leeway to the new journey into the universe in Dragon Ball GT, where Pan is the main character.[2]

 

 

2: The Namekians and Other Races

 

The name Namek comes from namekuji, which means land slugs in English. Land slugs are often found in farming areas and prefer Ajisai plant, which is a deciduous plant native to Japan and its official name is Hydrangea Macrophylla. This is why the entire Planet Namek is greenish and the Namekians are seen planting Ajissa plants (i.e. Hydrangea in Namekian). They also do not eat but only drink water, as Dende tells in one of the episodes.[3] They are also hermaphrodites, as land slugs are; this too is explained when Dende tells Bulma there is no gender among Namekians.

Dende comes from dendenmushi,[4] which means snails in colloquial Japanese. Snail in Japanese is katatsumuri, and its variations, Katattsu and Mūri are also used as the names of the Namekians. The former was sent to Earth when the environmental crisis occurred in Planet Namek long before the Dragon Ball Z story began, as explained by Dende as well as by the Eldest Namekian. Katattsu’s son came to be Kami (meaning god in Japanese) on Earth, who spew out his evilness within him, who then became King Piccolo. Similarly, Nail does not mean ‘nails’ on the fingers as English speakers might suppose, but it comes from snails. Also, the name of the child who was killed by Dodoria as he was fleeing with Dende is Cargo, which is taken from escargot[5], a French name for snails.

Piccolo appears to be rather unique in that he does not have his name derived from slugs of any kind. Instead, it comes from the musical instrument. However, in Dragon Ball, where the enemies of Namekian origin are introduced, they are named as various musical instruments, such as Tambourine, Piano, Drum, Cymbal. The Namekians with names of musical instruments are categorized as demons, and hence Piccolo too is named after a musical instrument. It has been often said that Piccolo also means the little one, or small in Italian, which may be the origin for his name but this does not seem likely. As explained earlier, although Piccolo was spewed out as an evilness within by Kami as a form of an egg, which may tempt us to think that the Piccolo suggests the little kami. However, Piccolo never showed himself until he was very old as King Piccolo, and his birth story also comes in the reflection as a supplemental story. Further, all his subordinates he has created are named after musical instruments as has been said. What is more likely the case is that, traditionally, piccolos are played in orchestras to enhance the elegance and adding brilliance to the overall sound since it is the highest sounding instrument in the woodwind family. It is thus more reasonable to think that Piccolo is named after within the musical orchestral settings since piccolos are often used in repertoire with pianos, and traditionally used in conjunction with drums in marches, both of which are King Piccolo’s creations as well. It is also noted that Piccolo means a “Different World” just before the Earthlings depart for Planet Namek. Other than obvious meaning of the trip to the different planet, perhaps indicating that the piccolos in orchestras create a whole different world, and this possible double meaning may have encouraged the author to reveal Piccolo’s Namekian meaning – since what his name means in Namekian does not really help the plot at all, but it is a piece of information that is merely interesting at the time, and only then.

Perhaps it is fitting here to speak of Shenlong and Porunga, the dragons summoned up from the dragon balls to grant wishes. Both mean the same thing, but the former is a Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese word for a God Dragon, and the latter means the same thing in the Namekian language.

 

There are other races from different planets that appear only tangentially to help the plot flow. Probably the most important of these are Planet Kanassa, Planet Meat and Planet Tsufuru. Planet Kanassa appears in the special episode of Dragon Ball Z, Bardock: the Father of Goku. In that episode, Bardock and his companions are seen killing the inhabitants of Planet Kanassa, who are covered with fish-like scales all over their body. This is because Kanassa comes from a Japanese word for fish, sakana. The last standing Kanassan gives Bardock the heavy blow on the neck that is cursed with the ability to see the future. This is how he learns about the destruction of Planet Vegeta, however vaguely at first, and leads him to fight against Frieza all by himself. This blow renders him unconscious and he is taken to the medics on Planet Vegeta. While Bardock is being treated in Medical Machine, his companions had been sent to Planet Meat, which means of course meat in English. Healed from the wounds, Burdock remembers having dreamt of Planet Vegeta destroyed. Nonetheless, he soon follows his companions to Planet Meat, only to find out that the Frieza’s henchmen are killing them, as Tōma, the sub-leader of Burdock’s group has told him. The name, Tōma, comes from tomato, which becomes important in the paragraph to follow. The incident on Planet Meat convinces him that what he had seen while being treated is a reality, and becomes decisive to go against Frieza.

The story of Planet Tsufuru comes much later in the series. Although it is mentioned in Dragon Ball Z in recollection once briefly, it only comes in Dragon Ball GT, however, the confrontation with the Trufurians is very instrumental in the Saiyan history as well as all of Frieza’s technology.[6] So here I briefly mention about them. The name Tsufuru comes from a word play on fruits. In contrast to the Saiyans (i.e. vegetables) who are savages and barbaric, the Tsufurians are technologically advanced and intelligent. The former is endowed with strength in physical power, while the latter is blessed with strength in intelligence. This is perhaps adumbrated in the fact that fruits are born high above the ground, never to dirty their hands, while vegetables are hands on soil work. This may be why categorically ambiguous food item when talking about the names in Dragon Ball Z such as tomatoes (i.e. Tōma) could still count as a vegetable since they rather grow on the ground as opposed to grow high above the ground, relatively dirt-free.[7] However, being intelligent did not help the Tsufurians when the Saiyans invaded them and stole all their technologies, including the scouters, which accurately measures the combat power of the individuals. But since this explanation only comes from Dragon Ball GT, it may be just an add-on information on what had not previously been clarified, and it is possible that Frieza’s army had invented all the technologies by themselves. However, it is strongly implied that this is consistent with Dragon Ball Z series when in the later episode, Tusfurians received information that the communication with Frieza from Planet Namek ceased to exist, and Frieza might be dead. For one Tsufurian victoriously claimed upon hearing the information, “Frieza is now dead, who has eliminated our race, and we now have a new age coming!”, to which another Tsufurian responded by killing the former, saying “Frieza-sama has promised us prosperity to our race!” This at least indicates that there are factions within the army of Frieza and constant distrust as well as deception against one another might have existed.[8]

It needed to be mentioned, since all the other major food groups have been named, and with the variant of the fruits, it appears that the list is complete.

 

 

3: The Other Main Enemies in Dragon Ball Z

 

Most importantly, Frieza comes to mind. His name is derived from freezer, as in one of the compartment of refrigerator. His name suggests cold-blooded evilness, which is how he got his name. This is why his brother in the Dragon Ball movies “Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge” and “Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler,” is named Cooler, whose name comes from coolers. Frieza’s father also appears just after the battle on Planet Namek as King Cold, whose name is obviously from the variation of freezing temperatures. This explains why all his close subordinates are named after what you can find in a refrigerator. Dodoria comes from a fruit, durian, which is harvested from the tree of the same name. Zarbon is somewhat obscure but is derived also from a fruit named pomelo (it also has many variants of names), which is in Japanese called zabonn. Kiwi, as in kiwifruit, came to Planet Namek, chasing after Vegeta, only to be killed. The often-forgotten character, Apūru, too is named after a fruit, an apple. Apūru appeared a few times when searching for villages on Planet Namek with Frieza, and it was him who treated Vegeta, after badly beaten by Zarbon, in Medical Machine inside Frieza’s spaceship.

Ginyu Special Force’s members are also named after things you would find in the refrigerator. Ginyu comes from milk, or gyūnyu in Japanese. Guldo is named after yogurt. Remember that in Japanese, there is no phonetic distinction between l and r. Recoom comes from crème, a daily product just like his captain, Ginyu. Burter is derived again from a daily product, butter. Jeice may be the only member whose name is not necessarily attached to daily products. The name Jeice is from juice. Here too, there seems to be a top-down hierarchy, as fridges used to have the freezer on the top and refrigerator below, while fruits and vegetables tended to go even below the daily products are placed.

 

Cell is from the biological terminology cells. This is self-evident from how he is a clone made out of various cells collected over the years by Dr. Gero, which just literally means Dr. vomit, or perhaps, though less likely, means the number zero, as he is the creator of all androids in Dragon Ball series. However, he himself appears as the android 20, and all of his creations ended up as failure, as something that has disgusted him, which led him to turn himself into the android and create Cell. Hence, perhaps the former interpretation holds.

 

Majin Boo needs a little explanation, but an acute fan would probably have guessed that it is from the novelty song composed in 1949 and used in Disney film “Cinderella”, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, also known as The Magic Song. So, Boo was made by Bobidi, whose father, Bibidi, was an evil master wizard. Majin just means evil person. Bobidi’s henchman, Dabura comes from Abracadabra, which is derived from the Aramaic language meaning “I create like the word”[9], often used as an incantation in magic historically. Children in Japan simply know this incantation as something wizards would say, somewhat similar to “Open Sesame!”

 

 

4: Some Further Characters in an Ongoing Series, Dragon Ball Super

 

Some Saiyans appear in the parallel universe in the new Dragon Ball Series, Dragon Ball Super, that might be of some interest here. Namely, they are Cabbé from cabbages, Carifulla from cauliflowers and her sister Kale from kales. They are once again consistent with the theme of Vegetable Race (i.e. Saiyan from yasai). Also interesting is the Frieza’s counterpart, Frost. Here, it is also consistent with the theme of freezing temperature. Further, Frieza was revived by the Frieza’s remaining soldier, named Sorbet. Sorbet comes from the frozen dessert of the same name, also known as sherbet or sherbert.

This concludes, for the moment, my analysis on the character themes according to their names in Dragon Ball Z.

 

 

[1] Latin name is Raphanus raphanistrum

 

[2] The source from which I got this information is found here, although it is in Japanese. https://dic.pixiv.net/a/パン(ドラゴンボール) accessed on July 21st, 2017.

[3] A lot about the characteristics of Namekians are explained in the episode 51.

[4] The word “Dendenmushi” originated in a 1911 Japanese folksong Katatsumuri, in which dendenmushi appears.

[5] Cargo never really got to speak and his name is only mentioned once in the episode 48.

[6] There is a lot about the origin and the history of Tsufurians that are not explained in anime series, and oftentimes includes contradictions. So all we can do about Tsufurians is to make as much sense as possible from the available contradictory resources. In fact, one source says that the planet was not called Tsufuru, but Planet Plant, and Saiyans came along to live there, and took over years after they inhabited the planet, changing the name to Planet Vegeta, which was then destroyed by Frieza seven years later. So it is entirely possible that the names of vegetable origin and that of fruit origin can be found among Tsufurians or Saiyans in the case of Tōma, for example.

[7] However, tomatoes are vine fruits, so if supported, they grow high above the ground. So this nullifies my attempt to make fit the characters in the conceptual system. Given that the character Tōma appears only in the special episode, and Akira Toriyama had a specific desire to use a character with a name of a juicy red vegetable that can be likened to blood when squashed, I am willing to concede that this may be a necessary anomaly, for Toriyama’s purpose here was to soak the cloth Tōma was wearing in blood, which Bardock takes it to tie on his head, to show his strong determination to defeat Frieza who has killed his best companions as well as to show his strong bond with Tōma. See, http://dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/Tora accessed on July 21, 2017. *you can see that the English name of the character is Tōra and not Tōma. Further, see my footnote 6 for a possible reconciliation.

[8] As will be explained in the following section, there are soldiers in Freiza’s top ranking henchmen named after fruits. This implies that the characters who are named after fruits are loyal to Frieza. In Dragon Ball GT’s explanation, the Saiyans destroyed Tsufurians and stole their technology, but seeing those technologies were being used on Planet Frieza, the Saiyans were most likely acting on order by Frieza to kill and destroy Tsufurians. Assuming with consistency that the characters named after fruits are indeed descendants or belong to Tsufurians (as all characters named after vegetables are Saiyans, with the exclusion of Tōma, whose name is derived from what is scientifically a fruit [see footnote 6 above], and all characters named after slugs or musical instruments are indeed Namekians, thus forming their respective races), how is it possible that the Tsufurians would swear loyalty to Frieza, who had killed their compatriots? And why would Frieza believe such allegiance? See also EP96.

 

[9] There are many conflicting views on what it actually means or how it is read, which is beyond the scope or interest of the present treatise.

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The Dragon Ball series, broadly speaking, illustrates the interrelations among the individuals whose actions are dictated by the lust for power. And this desire for power manifests itself in the quest for the Dragon Balls, which are said to grant wishes of anyone who has collected all seven of them. The Dragon Ball series, then, is a process of power struggle narrated from the viewpoint of Son Goku and his journey into the achievement of absolute power. In a sense, everyone fends for himself and everyone collects the Dragon Balls for his own gain. This is why Goku is suspicious of Bruma when they first meet. Bruma reasons well when she decides to keep Goku close to her as her bodyguard, while intending to steal his Dragon Ball. In this way, a seed has been planted for a potential conflict in the future, and an ally has become at the same time an enemy. This scheme is also seen in Dragon Ball Z, where Goku is defeated by Raditz and forms a coalition with his nemesis, Piccolo. It is a beneficial agreement for both of them, for Goku needs Piccolo’s help in order to save his son, Gohan, from Raditz, while Piccolo needs Raditz to be gone in order to defeat Goku with his own hand. In the similar manner, the seed for trouble unfolds itself naturally in both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, involving those who aim to achieve the absolute power. What is unique to Goku, though, is that he wants power not for his own sake but for someone else. This may seem rather surprising and inaccurate, since all Goku cares for is to be strong simply because he wants to be strong. But if we look at how he fights and how he gets stronger each time, we can see that he is always fighting for someone else. It was his desire to help others for their sake that got him involved with the Red Ribbon Army in Dragon Ball. In the battle against Raditz, he chose to sacrifice himself over defeating his nemesis, Piccolo. The reason why he was able to become a Super Saiyan too was out of anger of Kurilin’s death. This is strikingly different from any other characters when they become stronger, as is most obvious from the battle against Frieza. Frieza’s strength comes from the humiliation he suffers, while Goku’s strength comes from the love for his friends. As we may remember, this is the truth about Goku’s strength as Vegeta also finally recognizes at the very end of the battle against Buu. The Dragon Ball series, then, is not simply an anime about selfish individuals fight against each other, but it is about what a powerful caring individual should do to protect the others when surrounded by the selfish individuals. It is a story of ethics in power politics of everyday life. The Dragon Ball series, through metaphoric means, teaches us how to maintain the good in us when confronted with the evil. In a way, the conclusion is contained in the beginning: once you have learned how to use power for someone else, you have achieved the absolute power that no one can take away from you. Goku may be said to have possessed from the beginning ‘the seed of this enlightenment’, and to that extent, he may have been the strongest of all from the very moment he decided to help Bruma in Mt. Paozu.

*This is just the beginning of what is to come – a project I have always wanted to write. For those of you interested in reading further, you may occasionally come back to check on my earlier post “A Philosophical Interpretation of Dragon Ball Z” for the moment (which is itself incomplete as of yet) to get a better sense of where I am going with this. https://isseicreekphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/a-philosophical-interpretation-of-dragon-ball-z/ But eventually, my aim is to a comprehensive treatise on the philosophy of Dragon Ball series, and this is where it starts.

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*Work in progress (feedbacks welcome)

Introduction

Dragon Ball Z has attracted so many people around the world, and it could rightly be described as one of the anime that represents the Japanese popular culture in the 90’s when anime began to be an iconic feature of Japan as promoting its unique national identity. In this sense, Dragon Ball Z, along with the other iconic anime such as Black Jack and Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka, or Draemon by Fujio F. Fujiko, may be heralded as the Japanese anime par excellence. But why do we love it so much? What is it that captures the passion and mesmerizes the hearts of the young people? It cannot simply be because of its often-criticized long-winded fighting scenes. In fact, Dragon Ball series are notoriously famous for their episodes-long battles that never seem to end. So, why is it that still succeeds to keep enchanting us in the way that never gets old? This essay is an attempt to explain the philosophical themes behind Dragon Ball Z, as I believe all art forms that are loved timelessly have deeper meanings to them. Sometimes, those meanings are not intended by the producers of the anime, and perhaps we often give them our own meanings to them in understanding the art for its receptive nature. In what follows, I will elucidate the possible philosophical meanings behind each series and attempt to explain that the Dragon Ball series in fact have various intellectual framework as substratum. And finally, I will argue that the Dragon Ball series keep captivating our mind because they are grounded in the serious philosophical argument about human nature.

Dragon Ball Z was created by Akira Toriyama, who is also known as the author of Dr. Slump Arare and character designers of the famous RPG game, Dragon Quest. Dragon Ball tells a longer story revolving around the boy named Goku and the mysterious balls that are said to grant any wishes to whomever finds and collects seven of them dispersed in the world, known as the dragon balls. The story of Dragon Ball is divided into three parts, of which the first is Dragon Ball, telling the story of Goku from his earliest years up to his adolescent years. Dragon Ball Z is a story of Goku’s adulthood, concluding with Dragon Ball GT, in which Goku becomes a child again due to a malevolent wish by his longstanding enemy.

In the North America, Dragon Ball Z is subdivided into several sagas, each of which are called, Vegeta Saga, Freeza Saga, Android Saga, Cell Saga and Boo Saga, respectively. Here, I will first discuss about the first two sagas, followed by the second two sagas, ending with Boo Saga. This division is not without reason, for I believe each segment of the series is thematically different. For instance, Vegeta and Freeza Sagas are about power, while the Android and Cell Sagas describe more of the philosophy of science. In what follows, I will argue that each segment presents itself as representing the philosophy of Akira Toriyama. Further, I venture to divide these segments according to their themes, to which I might ascribe Political Philosophy to the first two sagas, Philosophy of Science to the second two sagas and Ethics to the last saga.

 

Book I: Vegeta & Freeza Sagas as Political Realism


I: Stars incline but do not necessiate

 

Dragon Ball Z begins with the new introduction of Goku’s son, Gohan. The entire Dragon Ball Z story essentially derives from one incident in the very first episode, when Gohan gets kidnapped by Raditz, one of the four Saiyans left in the whole universe. It turns out that Raditz is Goku’s only brother, and he has come from the outer space all the way to the earth to urge Goku into helping him conquer the universe by force. Such a plan would involve destroying the earth itself and eliminating Goku’s friends along the way. When Goku refused to cooperate, Raditz took Gohan as a hostage so Goku would have no choice but listen to him. A long story short, Goku teams up with his nemesis, Piccolo, to defeat Raditz in order to save his friends and family and the earth.

Now, what is important here is to realize that the seed has already been planted, and everything that happens afterward is naturally contained in the initial offense done by Raditz. It was indeed not Goku’s intent to get involved with any of the events that ensued. However, one may arguably say that the power hungry Saiyan would never have been satisfied with the status quo, hence his involvement was inevitable, although unsolicited. In this sense, Goku’s succeeding journey is termed as soft-deterministic. I think Leibniz’ soft-determinism is very much in accordance with this, for the journey was inclined to happen while not being necessitated to occur. So what seemed like a simplistic catalyst in the anime was in fact dictated by the necessary conditions embedded in the characters themselves. This also explains rather flawlessly with consistency how each event follows one after another. In this way, it was inevitable as much as natural for Goku and Piccolo to have teamed up against Raditz, Vegeta and Nappa came to the earth in order to defeat Goku, and Goku’s eventual triumph over Vegeta, leaving Vegeta in bitter defeat.

Here it is worth while to scrutinize a little more about the situations, for everything that happened in this Vegeta saga is a precondition for what was to happen in the Freeza saga. In order to support my argument that every event in these two sagas happened naturally, one event following after another without any structural jamming, as it were, let me use some historical examples to illustrate how convincing the story development of Dragon Ball Z really is. As I have argued, Gohan’s initial kidnap instigated the successive events that would last for years onwards. Here, the first episode contains everything that was to happen, just as Leibniz’s dictum that ‘predicate is contained in the subject’, so the succeeding events are merely unfolding of the events that have occurred previously. This flow must be naturally determined, i.e. soft-determinism, in order to have a cogent effect.[1] So once again, what seemed rather innocuous kidnapping of Gohan contained in itself Goku’s revenge against Raditz and how Raditz treated Gohan and everyone else naturally increased Goku’s dislike towards Raditz. Of course, the Saiyans qua Saiyans do not care about the feelings of the others, as also seen when Vegeta killed his companion, Nappa. It is ingrained in the philosophy of the Saiyans that they only care about satisfying their own curiosities for fighting and replenishing their hunger for power. Indeed, the Saiyan philosophy is no other than the philosophy of political realism, and as such, it only thinks of itself and its survival. It is essentially self-interested, and always revolves around the self-preservation and nothing more. Let me call this the Primitive Saiyan Philosophy, for Goku’s philosophy is fundamentally different, as we will see. While the Primitive Saiyan Philosophy is individualistic and singularistic in its view (i.e. it does not accept any other idea but its own; there is only one truth, which is its own, etc…), Goku’s Philosophy is pluralistic. Here is contained the seed for empathy and therefore leaves room for ethics. In this way, Vegeta and Goku can be contracted as representing political realism and liberalism.

In summarizing the events in Vegeta Saga, it is Raditz’s independent action that led to Goku’s anger, which led to the bitter defeat of Vegeta in the end. The similarity with the whole sequence of the Great Wars in the 20th century is rather striking, for just as the Austrian prince was killed (an individual, rather politically personal event, which developed into the series of events), which triggered the allied countries to jump into the quarrel, Gohan’s kidnap triggered Piccolo’s reluctant cooperation with Goku in fighting the common enemy. It was, however political, a personal event that happened at the Kame-House in the middle of nowhere that stirred up all the subsequent events. Further, if I may be allowed to reason parallel to the specific historical event of the World Wars, Vegeta’s bitter defeat is likened to Germany’s bitter defeat at the end of the World War I. Vegeta, then, is the embodiment of the philosophy of Adolf Hitler. It is important to note here that Vegeta himself does not represent the historical Hitler, but I emphasize here that I am talking about the abstract ideology that Vegeta adhered to, and likening it to the abstract ideology of Adolf Hitler. In other words, I am not identifying Vegeta as Hitler, but rather, I am identifying the philosophy of Vegeta as the philosophy of Hitler. So it is not a matter of important who actually held such a philosophy, as long as we are clear that it is the philosophy and ideology itself that I am talking about. So, the readers will see sometimes my talking about the philosophy of Vegeta as exercised by another character, Piccolo or Krillin, for instance. I ask the readers not to equate the idea one adheres to with the characters themselves.

For in order to talk about how power behaves, one needs not to attribute players who exercise that power to any specific solid individuals. I am merely using some historical figures in order to illustrate, visualize and somewhat more easily accessible to our imagination. Also, the World Wars are the perfect examples in which each player fought for power and survival. Therefore, I cannot find any other examples that are fairly recent enough that everyone knows about that illustrates the power struggle as clear as as the two World Wars.

Having clarified my intention, let me continue. It makes sense that Vegeta and Nappa came to the earth, then, for the Primitive Saiyan philosophy is self-interested and its interest is acquisition of power and exercising destruction, but why did they have to travel such far away in order just to fight and destroy? It took them 6 months to go to the earth, when in fact they could have exercised their power and enjoyed destruction in their nearby planets? To defeat Goku, who was the only other Saiyan left in the universe? Plausibly, but not enough to drag them out of the edge of the universe to the earth. Here, again, it is their self-interest that piqued their curiosity. Desire for the dragon balls moved them away from where they were, for in order for them not only to survive but also to acquire the absolute power, the use of dragon balls was a necessity for them.

Before moving on further with the plot analysis, it is necessary to briefly go into the historical Hitler since I will be largely drawing upon him as well as the other major events during World War II.

[1] Soft-determinism in this sense differs from hard-determinism in that the former is a natural occurrence, an unfolding events given that the characters have all these qualities, while the latter type of determinism does not care about what qualities each character may have. Hard-determinism is indifferent to external influences, whereas soft-determinism is dictated by the natural phenomena. It is in this sense Leibniz argued that, in soft-determinism, you would not be doing anything contradictory to your character had you done something that you did not in fact do. This is because what you did at a particular moment in life is always a dictation of the natural phenomena occurring not just in you but also around you.

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          Sora no Woto (ソラノヲト) is an animation released in 2010 in Japan. The story is set in an indefinite future, revolving around the five girls’ experiences in a military station located in the small town of Seize. During the course of living as military force at Time-Telling Fortress, each of them undergoes various life experiences that force them to choose what they believe is most important to them. What is distinct about this show is that it takes place in a future where it has undergone a significant discontinuity with the past civilizations, mainly due to continuous warfare. This distinctly ‘new’ future presents us with a unique picture of who we are as human beings. As you can see from the several episodes in the show, it seems that there has not been a complete discontinuity, as is usually the case with similarly situated stories found in movies and other shows. What would the future look like when we only have a disconnected understanding of the world from the past? Would we still act in the similar way or would we lose many traces of what we take to be a human quality, thus proving the socio-philosophical theory that almost all our actions are mere results and consequences of particular circumstances shaped by the society of the era that has given a meaning to itself? In this theory, it would be ridiculous even to talk about what is a human-like action or emotion, since it discounts the possibility of there being any standard ways how humans are to behave. As you have probably guessed it, this show tries to reveal some of the fundamental features of human-ness by creating a world where knowledge is primeval and culture is confused. Only when we see what we would be like in such a world, can we understand the meaning of its proposed thesis: “Someone has told us that the world is ending, but we are living quite happily – at this 1121st Platoon called, Time-Telling Fortress.”[1]

The story is centered around the new trumpeter in the military, a 15-year-old girl named Kanata Sorami. She volunteered to join the Helvetian army believing that she would learn how to play the trumpet for free. This misunderstanding was due to her childhood memory that she saw a beautiful lady in military uniform who played the trumpet so elegantly that her music dissipated the rainy clouds in the sky, as if the sound of the sky itself were to resonate with her performance, bringing back light into the field. Later in the episodes, it is revealed that this lady was Princess Iliya, the Queen of Helvetia. Ever since this experience, Kanata has been fixiated on learning to better her trumpet. So when she was assigned to the 1121st Platoon at Time-Telling Fortress, she knew almost nothing about what her tasks would be in a military. The country of Helvetia, although still under the influence of warfare, had signed a truce for the last six months that the war had not been actively pursued at the moment when Kanata is stationed. All this contributes to the sense in which people in town are generally relaxed, in hopes that the war would soon end. As such, the other members of the 1121st Platoon too are quite laid back, partly because of the truce, and partly because their station is located at the border between their country and the uninhabited area which they call No Man’s Land.

The jobs of the members externally are to observe the safety of the town people as well as informing them of any development on the war. Internally, however, they must always ready to be deployed into the field and receive and manage orders from their superior. This environment situate them as the lowest ranking officers who serve as the police force in the town while they themselves have no authority to make any unorthodox decisions on their own. In other words, they represent ordinary people whose duty is to keep order both in body and soul while busying themselves with mundane errands. Indeed, Kanata and others are usually occupied with non-military related duties, such as going to shopping (for parts that are used to enforce the only tank they own that is broken, but also for food and things used in cultural events, etc.), doing laundry, and taking a hike (to keep them fit). Here, in this circumstance, they are military by name only, and they resemble just as much as non-militia who spend their daily life in order to survive. In addition, the group captain, Felicia, is opposed to hierarchical system in the military that none of the five characters are referred to as superior or subordinates, again, except in name only. This dislike of hierarchy probably results from her past experience in combat, where everyone but her survived. She suffered the loss of her close friends and wondered why they had to die. She was visited by a ghost, a soldier from the past, who told her life is but meaningless series of events that eventually come to no fruition. “What good,” the soldier asks her, “does it do to keep living?” As the ghost suggested, it was probably easier for her to die there. But there, she shows the determination that only the living has – the will to live. This is unique to the living creatures, and the dead has no attachment to life. But her decision was not to live to hate, but to love. She made a conscious decision to live happily, even in the world full of misery. This is evident especially in the episode where she tells us that “there is in fact no meaning whatsoever in the world, that’s why we can make one and give it a meaning.”[2]

This is a striking difference from the other character, Rio, who is also a group-leader figure. Her life philosophy is more pessimistic, and again, this is due to her experience in the past, where she lost her mother as a result of unskilled church physician as well as the loss of her elder sister, who jumped into the river to save a child who was drowning. In a way, Rio represents the distrust and pessimistic aspect in those of us who want to believe in good but our past experiences dissuade us from entertaining the idea. These experiences are likely to be the reasons for her dislikes and distrust in authority, especially of religious order, as she says “she does not like hypocrites” when referring to the members of the community church.[3] But even she seems to value the feelings of others, and she well recognizes her stubbornness when she realizes no one can live by herself.[4] Her prior dislike for children (because of the loss of her sister) too are weakened and reconciled immediately after seeing people suffer.[5] This is indicative of the fact that humans are essentially empathetic to one another. Her pessimistic philosophy on life is always plagued with dilemmas in this way, and although she behaves as though she cares less about other people’s problems, she is in truth afraid that someone might go through the same misery as she has experienced. Her inner conflict, and her stronger side, is manifestly seen when she tells Kanata that “superiors exist so that the subordinates can cause troubles,” and that “it is the job and point of there being rank systems.”[6] Rio eventually comes to reconcile with her past and realizes that one needs to do what one can do with the time that is given to her. That is, as a half sister to the princess, she must continue with the legacy her sister Princess Iliya had left: achieve peace.

Both Felicia an Rio are older in age and experience (though they are both 17) than the other members who are 15 years old. It seems the external fear of warfare does not frighten them any longer, but their issues lie internally with them. Reconciliation with the reality seems to be the primary aspects seen in those characters. But fear factor is a very important, and essential, element in life. After all, this show takes place in the midst of warfare. The general view of fear is represented by Kureha, the gunner of the group. She is proud of having had her father as a war hero and her mother as an experienced military doctor. Both of her parents were lost in the war, and hence she became an orphan at an early age. Her thought and feelings towards war and enemy is thus the representative of the entire citizens in the town of Seize. She is the representative not only because she feels the strong animosity towards the enemy who has destroyed the lives of many, but also because she is in a position to participate in the cause she believes in. That is, by gunning down the enemy at the event of attack. Perhaps, this is no coincident that her character is a gunner – she expresses her aggressiveness in personality and her job. When Kanata speaks, upon discovery of the enemy soldier in Helvetian territory, that “I had imagined [the enemy] to be more like monsters with scary faces” because everyone kept saying the enemy was the source of all evil in the world and that they must win the war to keep the level of civility they possess,[7] Kureha was quick to criticize her as defending the enemy, which is to Kureha absolutely unacceptable. She was also the one to stay closely by the orders from the higher offices until the very end, when Felicia’s principle of “loving than hating” overcomes her.

Noël, the mechanic of the group, is somewhat isolated from the rest of the characters. This is naturally the case when we consider her character – she is a genius who is simply asocial. But her asociality is not to be taken as similar to Rio’s anti-social attitudes. Noël simply is not good at expressing herself, perhaps due to her love for learning rather than interacting, but most likely because of her past ‘accomplishment’ as a genius child. She was gifted with scientific knowledge and understanding that her talent was used to create biochemical weapon that can kill a large number of people instantly. Here is the paradigmatic example of exploitation – exploitation just is the exploiting of the unaware. As a result, Noël comes to suffer all her life from helping the military to create such a devastating weapon as can be used in mass-destruction. Her story is that she has been hiding in this dilapidated platoon at the edge of the world so she would not be found by war scientists who need her cooperation. This is why she broke out into tears and fear when she saw the wounded soldier from Rome whom Kanata and Kureha found. Although she had been asocial for almost all episodes until then, but we see her actively taking care of the wounded soldier with all her effort, forgetting about her usual job as a mechanic, which she loves and would never miss her duty to maintain the now restored tank, Takemikazuchi. When she hears from the soldier that in Rome, the enemy country, there is a person whom people are afraid of, known as ‘Invisible Reaper’, Noël loses herself and responds frantically, as if a mentally ill patient deprived of medication. She discovers that in the enemy country, she is known as a devil and nothing more. This drives her crazy, and she shouts mindlessly in the fortress. As a result, the war-loving commander in chief of the army who came to look for the wounded soldier finds that she is in the fortress along with the enemy. What we learn from Noël’s character is that even in persons who seem indifferent, feeling is overflowing. It is not a suppression of feeling, but seemingly misplacement of feeling. Again, here it makes sense that her task in the group is a mechanical affairs – she is seen identical as the emotionless machines, which can only move predictably, i.e. mechanically. But even when the age where the concept of machines is still rudimental and, because of that, is invincible, she realizes there is something humans have that machines can never have. The realization that machines can be used for good or for evil depending on the person who operates them was, perhaps, the first step for her to stay human and still believe in humanity. Noël asks Kanata at one point that if Kanata thinks machines that have killed countless people are scary. But Kanata responds with her honest self that “not really, because it depends on the person who uses them.”[8] It is only after then that Noël shows interests in things other than machines, as is apparent with her fascination over a pill-bug’s ability to roll into a ball when disturbed.[9]

          I have been purposefully silent about Kanata’s role in the show, for there is so much to unpack. But as can be surmised by the frequent mentioning of her in the above passages, she is an optimist who lives to enjoy life. She loves to get lost because getting lost gives her an encounter with people she would otherwise not have met. She loves every bit of life. She is an eternal optimist but at the same time is only equipped with the knowledge of the world told by others. Hence, her discovery about how similar their enemy look like was an honest expression any human would give in her situation. Her influence on the other members is incalculable. She joined the army believing she could learn to play the trumpet as beautifully as the lady she once saw when she was a child, and even after she has learned to play the trumpet, her life revolves around her love of music. Even in times of war, or because of it, she believes that music is essential – it can convey feelings without the use of language. By the means of music, one can communicate with people from other countries – yes, even people from the enemy countries. That is why she is exhilarated when she hears the wounded enemy soldier plays the trumpet. The soldier plays Amazing Grace in front of her, and she is overwhelmed with joy and happiness – because that is the music the lady she saw as a child played to bring back the light into her heart. Amazing Grace was the only piece of music that she knew (because no other music pieces are left from the past civilizations), and the only music that made sense to her. It symbolized peace and universal language. Her conviction that people are essentially the same everywhere further convinces her that war is unnecessary. For how could anyone who can play such a beautiful music do harm to others? Just like Princess Iliya, Kanata thought, people essentially wished for peace and no one wanted war.

This conviction and her faith in humanity and music would in the end bring Helvetia and Rome together and enable one another to communicate their feelings through music. For ordinary people understood no language of the enemy countries, it was impossible for them to come to understanding. Indeed, the reason why countries in war prohibit enemy country’s language or culture is not only for tactics but so the ordinary people cannot ever understand them. Because once they do, they might realize that we are all the same and people in neither side are pure evil. That this is the case is nowhere evident but when Kanata plays two pieces of music in effort to stop the war. One represents ‘language’, that is, a division made by civilization, while another represents ‘music’, which is the universal and borderless language that speaks to the heart rather than to reason. First, she plays the music of the army code – a sign of cessation of battle, to which some soldiers were confused and did not know whether to advance or not. This is a likely outcome, since such music does not speak to their heart but only to their reason. Reason always aims for maximizing security, and when it receives a signal that is in disagreement with their preconceived notion of what an enemy is, they hesitate. Still, the sense of security dictates their reason that it is better to attack than be attacked – consequently, the music only had a momentous halting influence on the either side of the army. Seeing that no one listened to the warning as prescribed by military code, Kanata decides to play the music that has touched her heart: Amazing Grace. Hearing this, both sides of armies stopped to listen, partly because of confusion but also because they simply dissipated fear in their heart. As this music resounds in the sky, Rio who had left Time-Telling Fortress to persuade both countries to come to an understanding and stop fighting, came with an edict from the Roman Emperor. This resulted in ending the war between Helvetia and Rome.

            This anime, more than anything, tries to show the fundamental features as human beings living in community. It is not, however, all optimism. Even in times of sorrow, this show speaks to us, what is important is how we receive the reality. I want to end this essay with the underlining theme of this show that is spelled out in the beginning. That is, “The world is not full of happiness, nor is it filled with joy. As a matter of fact, it is rather dark and miser. But its reality depends on you. Even beautiful things, ugly things, hard times and fun times, its reality depends on you who receive them.”


[1] Kanata, “episodes 1,” in Sora no Woto, released in 2010.

[2] Felicia, “episode 7”, in Sora no Woto, released in 2010.

[3] Rio, “episode 1”, ibid.

[4] Ibid., episode 3.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Kanat, episode 11, ibid.

[8] Noël and Kanata, episode 4, ibid.

[9] Episode 9, ibid.

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