I was just thinking about Dragon Ball Z power levels. The graphs below are the measured instances of a character power level throughout the many show arcs. So they really aren’t synched together.
The interesting thing to note is that Son Gohan is actually much stronger than the character in the show who wins all the important fights, his father Son Goku.
That used to bother me. So let me break it down for you, Dragon Ball Z is made up of “sagas”:
- Radditz Saga (“Raddish”)
- Saiyan Saga (Nappa [Cabbage] and Vegeta [Vegetable])
- Namek Saga
- Android Saga
- Cell Saga
- Buu Saga
The development of the show from Saga 1 is that Son Gohan (who is 4 at that time of that saga) is the equivalent to the Incredible Hulk. When enraged he’s actually very powerful but otherwise, temperamentally, is quite passive.
Throughout the first three Sagas, Son Gohan is forced time and time again to go outside his comfort zone (he’s an intellectual in a world run entirely on physical prowess) in order to stop evil doers from doing their evils. He gets into numerous battles to the death before the age of 15.
It’s not a good show, but if you think about it, Son Gohan is a pretty cool character. He’s raised by his father’s mortal nemesis and, as a result, shares a special bond with that character throughout the rest of the show. In the height of his narrative relevance, Son Gohan wears the uniform of his master, not that of his father.
Anyway, by The Cell Saga, Son Gohan, who is around 15 by then, and the other “Z-Warriors” are facing off with a deadly super android named Cell. No one can beat Cell because he’s too powerful, but Gohan’s father volunteers Gohan to fight Cell. During the fight, Gohan is enraged enough to become strong enough to defeat Cell. It’s the pinnacle of his character arch, the once terrified child transformed into an enraged killing machine.
It’s a little tragic in that respect because as I write this I realize that Son Gohan is effectively a child soldier out of necessity.
After the Cell Saga, Son Gohan went into decline because, as I’ve said, he never really wanted to fight. Fighting was his dad’s business and he much preferred being a scholar. He actually becomes a costumed superhero for a period because, even in his weakened form, he’s by far one of the top ten most powerful people in the universe.
By the Buu Saga, out of desperation, the team once again turns to Gohan who goes on a mystical journey to unlock his latent potential (again), and as a result becomes Ultimate Gohan. Ultimate Gohan who promptly… loses to the bad guy and thus only makes the bad guy even stronger but don’t worry, Gohan’s dad saves the day.
In the following Dragon Ball Z movies, we see that Gohan has weakened to the point of irrelevance. By the most recent movie, Revival of F, Gohan is functionally on par with Piccolo and Krillin, which means he’s relegated to background duty. It’s a bit sad, considering his prominent role throughout the series. In USAmerican cartoon shows we rarely get to see a person grow from a child to adulthood over years of the show.
My favorite Gohan moments, now that I’m really thinking about it, are the times he spends with his little brother Goten. Gohan’s relationship with the world was an overtly hostile one. He was kidnapped at 4, then kidnapped immediately after that and raised by a monstrous space demon, then forced into a war on another planet. Gohan was traumatized again and again, but surprisingly was pretty upbeat about things. Goten was born into a world mostly pacified by his family, and his childhood was much more innocent. Gohan kind of acts as both an older brother and a kind of surrogate father to Goten, because their dad is basically always dead (it makes sense, trust me). There are a few moments I’ve seen where Gohan acts as a mentor and a protector of Goten kind of in the way that people really couldn’t do for him as a kid. It’s touching.
I wouldn’t recommend watching Dragon Ball Z. But I do love it. If you really want to, I still say check out the movie Fusion Reborn. Where the manliest man in the universe (he’s literally two men at the same time) kills the bad guy with rainbows. Fuck yeah.