Representation of Women in the Japanese Anime “DragonBall”

I will be taking a look at the first encounter the protagonist of the anime series “DragonBall” has with a female. This comes within the first episode of the first season of the show. Goku, the young martial-arts practicing boy, meets a girl named Bulma who accidentally hits him with her car. Right off the bat the viewer can tell that the writers of the show are using Bulma more as a sex symbol than as a real character that contributes to the story. She is wearing a very revealing pink skirt that is hiked halfway up her thighs. It is not only the way she is dressed, but the things Bulma says and does that points to her being used as a sex symbol.

Bulma says “I am a human being just like you are!” Goku responds “Well, you look human enough, but you’re different. You’re thin and scrawny.” “Well I’m a girl, silly, that’s why!” This exchange between Goku and Bulma pinpoints what we see in modern media today. Modern media frames “beauty” in regards to women as being thin. Girls that are considered beautiful that grace magazine covers and commercial advertisements are always tall and thin. In reality, girls can be found in all shapes and sizes just like men. You see different shapes and sizes of men in media, but very rarely do you see a non-thin woman in advertisements.

Another example of Bulma being used as a sex symbol is a very obvious one. She asks Goku to trade for the dragon ball when she realizes he won’t just give her the dragon ball. She says “You let me have your dragon ball, and I’ll let you have a peek!” As she says this she slowly lifts her skirt up exposing her underwear. This is as explicitly obvious as it gets in this show about her being a sex symbol.

Another quote from Bulma: “I can’t believe I already have three of the balls, if I keep this up, I can wish for a boyfriend by the end of the month!”  In the story, if a person were to gather all seven dragon balls, they could wish for nearly anything they want. Bulma’s wish would be to get a new boyfriend. This plays into the frame that women should be housewives and homemakers before their career. This has recently started to change as we see more and more women in the workplace, but this anime series was created in 1986, and the views were different back then.

Later in the season, Bulma and Goku meet an old man that is a martial arts legend that can help Goku advance his martial arts skills. The old man’s name is Master Roshi, and he is completely inappropriate towards every young woman he meets. He is constantly staring at them and making sexual remarks towards them. This is a kid’s show, and it is baffling how profane some of the things that happen in this show really are. It was originally supposed to just be in Japan, but got brought over to the United States due to how successful it was. You would never see a kid’s show today that was as dirty and profane as this show is.

 

GokubulmaMaster Roshi

 

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One thought on “Representation of Women in the Japanese Anime “DragonBall”

  1. Your deconstruction of this show with respect to the representation of women is terrific. I had to laugh that “1986” seems a long time ago–however, I don’t think representations have changed that much over the last 26 years. Perhaps they aren’t quite so overt in kids’ shows, but the overall messages are similar.

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