goku word Dragon ball The franchise is a textbook example of an anime hero…well, at least according to people other than his creator. Originally an alien sent to destroy Earth, the combination of his head injury and guardian’s concern instilled in him a sense of empathy. He becomes a lovely guy who always pushes himself to the limit to become stronger, to be able to better protect humanity. That’s the impression most fans overlook when reading or watching Dragon Ball, but this is clearly a far cry from series author Akira Toriyama’s intentions.
In an interview with WIRED Japan, Toriyama admitted that he has been disappointed with Goku’s portrayal since the anime first aired. Describing himself as an “extremely twisted person,” he made all of his characters darker and more complicated. This is where he feels Dragon Ball’s anime has fallen short when it comes to Goku. As iconic as his portrayal of Goku in the Dragon Ball anime, Toriyama felt it missed a level of inherent toxicity in the Goku character.
Goku wants to become stronger for himself, not a hero
A major part of Dragon Ball’s plot is Goku’s determination to become stronger than ever. The Saiyans are already an extremely powerful race, but Goku has increased his training to become even stronger than his own. In the anime, this determination is said to come from his desire to protect his loved ones. But Toriyama insists this was not his intention, saying, “Son Goku in Dragon Ball doesn’t fight for the sake of others, but because he wants to fight against the strong… I’ve always been unhappy. love the “righteous hero”. -kind of portrait they gave him.” There is nothing heroic about this quest to gain power. It only serves to build the Saiyan’s ego.
While Toriyama’s comments may surprise many, it makes sense looking at the series. Goku is selfish. He often puts his training before anything else, wanting to prove himself the strongest out there. He actively prioritizes fighting challenging opponents over his family, not even respecting his beloved Grandfather Gohan in favor of his mentor. The anime hints at this, making jokes about Goku’s obsession with training, but it doesn’t quite live up to Toriyama’s standards in his manga. When discussing the changes made to the anime, he said, “I guess I couldn’t get them to capture the elements of ‘poison’ that got in and out of sight in the dark.”
Anime fans of the ’90s saw Goku as a level of righteousness that they should try to replicate. The truth of the matter is that this is not who the real Saiyan is. His determination to push his limits does not come from heroism, but from selfishness. The loved ones that seem to fuel his determination, through his eyes, are actually what distracts him. He is seen as the embodiment of the “poison” that Toriyama painstakingly portrayed in Dragon Ball, a standard that anime cannot meet. Goku is not a hero, a fact is even Dragon Ball creators accept and expect others to understand.