Ranch is in the foreground over a Dragon Ball background.

Dragon Ball: The Merits of Fanfiction

This is typically a comic book site, and Dragon Ball isn’t technically a comic book, I know. But I wanted to talk about a topic that’s been an important part of my life for the past few weeks. Fanfiction is almost a dirty word in some circles. It’s when fans take time out of their day and decide to create content that adjusts, completely changes, or adds upon an existing IP. There’s fanfiction for just about everything from comic books to ancient legends.

But because of this air of “fakeness” or “falsehood,” fanfiction gets criticized and put down as being bad and even a waste of time to read or write. I won’t lie, I admit, I’ve thought and said much of the same thing. Why put so much time into something you can never properly release, something that’s not really yours? I thought that when you write fanfiction you’ll never get anything out of it because you don’t own it.

Yeah, I read Paradise Lost, one of the most famous pieces of fanfiction on the planet, and thought that. I’ve been really dumb.

So suffice to say, I was wrong, and honestly, I was a pretty massive hypocrite, and I’ll get into that, but this all has some kind of the point. My point is that fanfiction is not a waste of time, it’s not fake, and you can get a ton out of it, as a creator and reader. I want to talk about how I came to this realization. It started when I first started reading Dragon Ball: Multiverse, and then my recent discovery of YouTube series by one MasakoX, where he detailed a Dragon Ball Z “What If” situation, that asks the question of what would happen if Raditz turned good?

Me and Dragon Ball Z

Goku stands on a mountain with the power staff.
Look at that dummy. Love him.

I may be a huge comic book nerd, but I’m also huge into Shonen anime. I grew up watching reruns of Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai, playing the games, and watching the movies like there was no tomorrow. And I love the story of Goku and his friends, I love pretending to do the Kamehameha and pretending to go Super Saiyan. 

Dragon Ball Z is the premier Shonen series, the one that popularized the genre in the East and West with its likable and interesting characters, its awesome action choreography, and absolutely iconic character attacks and designs. I swear I don’t think there are many things spoofed more often than Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation.

And while I never quite forgot my love for Dragon Ball… I did lose some of it. You see, as I got older, and honestly more pretentious, I found myself needlessly criticizing it. I picked at the inconsistencies in the plot and the character arcs. I complained up and down about how the series treated Gohan’s character post-Cell arc, and how repetitive the stories became. 

Especially with the start of the DBZ sequel, Dragon Ball Super, it felt like every arc we got to see our favorite characters sidelined so we can see Vegeta get beat up by the villain and Goku have to be the one to defeat him. It happened the same way, over and over again, one way or another. It started with the Buu arc, continued into Super’s first two arcs, and even ended that way with the Tournament of Power. Dragon Ball, in my eyes, had gotten into a rut, and the original creator Akira Toriyama wasn’t going to fix it.

I found myself disliking Dragon Ball, and here’s when I became a hypocrite.

Discovering DB: Multiverse

A collage of DB characters and original creations in DB multiverse.
Look at this masterpiece!

There was an idea, made by one guy named Salagir, to dive deeper not only into Dragon Ball lore but the story possibilities fans had been hypothesizing about for years. What if Goku and Vegeta never defused and had to stay as Vegito forever? What if Goku had never hit his head and Raditz actually brought him back into the fold? Imagine if all the movie villains could meet the main universe heroes. 

That idea became Dragon Ball: Multiverse, a new story taking place at the end of Dragon Ball Z. It considered what if the multiverse was real in Dragon Ball and possible alternate continuities could come together to fight in one mega-tournament.

It was amazing seeing characters new and old in Dragon Ball’s world, fully realized, using the continuity and rules as a basis for story-telling. This was a nice change after Super had begun to retcon favorite lore bits into oblivion. 

There are a couple of standout moments I’ll never forget. Seeing King Cold reach his third form against Son Bra, the daughter of Vegito was amazing; the Super Namekian Gast coming and proving that more than just Saiyans can fight at the top of the food chain was inspiring; Taipon summoning a monster’s body parts to fight as no Dragon Ball character has ever done before was just about the most creative combatant to grace the franchise.

It was amazing, and it’s still running after passing hundreds of chapters. The comic even has some amazing guest artists and writers adding backstories to the new universes. It was so good, and as I was reading it, Dragon Ball Super was on, tackling the multiverse too, and it was just… not as good.

I took away the wrong thing from Dragon Ball: Multiverse, an excellent fanfiction. Honestly, I felt that it was so much better than what we were actually getting that I should think of it as the canon, like a madman. I kept internalizing how terrible Dragon Ball Super was, and how awesome Dragon Ball: Multiverse is to cut myself off from Dragon Ball and give up on the franchise. Outside of a game and an amazing movie, I had left Dragon Ball behind. 

Then I found out about the web series, “What If Raditz Turned Good?

Rediscovering My Love for Dragon Ball

A close up shot of Raditz.
This guy is the definition of underrated.

Raditz, for anyone who doesn’t know, or just wants a reminder, is the brother of Goku, the iconic main character of Dragon Ball. The original Dragon Ball series went on for over a hundred episodes without ever giving Goku a definitive origin or explanation for his monkey tail. Legit, fans didn’t know why he transformed into a giant ape at the sight of the full moon for a long time. 

Then at the start of the sequel series Dragon Ball Z, when Goku and his friends were adults, some random stranger with a tail like Goku came down and declared himself the main character’s brother. That’s freakin’ bonkers! Imagine if after years Superman suddenly found out that he had a brother… (Thinking of Superman & Lois) Or what if Batman found out he had a brother… (Thinking of Batman: Court of Owls)

Okay, a long-lost brother isn’t that crazy of a plot point, but for Dragon Ball it was mind-blowing! What could this new character teach Goku? Was he gonna be a rival? A teacher? A new friend? How could this relationship really change Goku who, while entertaining, wasn’t exactly the most dynamic character in comparison to other anime MCs who were appearing on the scene?

Then after five episodes of trying to deal with Raditz’s arrival, he… he dies? He dies? Okay, a bit anti-climatic, but with the Dragon Balls, anyone can come back and… (several hundred episodes later).

Wow yeah, Akira Toriyama never brought back Raditz. This character should be integral to the lore of Dragon Ball, and he’s barely even mentioned. The next time we even see him is several decades later as a cameo in the Dragon Ball Super: Broly film. 

This always disappointed me, because Goku and the story as a whole, really needed another character who was on Goku’s level but used his brains outside of a fight. Piccolo’s easily the smartest Z-fighter, but once Cell comes on the scene, he’s never in any relevant fights again until the Tournament of Power. That’s a death blow to a character in a battle Shonen. 

Raditz would have made such an excellent addition to the cast. He wasn’t like other Saiyans or even Goku. He was shrewd and cunning in his few episodes, surviving despite his low power level in comparison to other Saiyans. Raditz came to Goku to have another person weaker than him so he could survive on something other than his weak power alone. I promise, for Dragon Ball, this is pretty deep thinking for a character.

So what if he had lived, and turned good?

That’s where MasakoX’s series came in.

What If I Liked Dragon Ball Again?

Ranch from Dragon Ball R&R is pointing finger guns at the viewer.
Dragon Ball R&R is too good to be real!

In his series, MasakoX took a deep dive into what would have happened if Piccolo’s fated Special Beam Cannon failed to hit Raditz. What would happen to him then and how would he come to join the Z-Fighters? It was fun going through the original story of Dragon Ball Z with MasakoX narrating how things would be different if Raditz had turned good.

I was enraptured listening to how Raditz and Goku could have reconciled, how Raditz could have curbed Goku’s more stupid instincts, and how Raditz could have provided a deeply emotional foil to Vegeta because of the caste system Raditz lived under. It felt so in-depth, utilizing aspects of the Dragon Ball Story I had forgotten about. The idea of Raditz coming to live near Goku, getting with forgotten OG Dragon Ball character Launch, and having a kid in Ranch, was just emotionally fulfilling.

This did what fanfiction does best, remind you of how much you love something, and why.

I loved listening to a story of how Raditz and Goku helped each other push past their limits. I loved how Raditz and Goku proved that lower-class Saiyan warriors weren’t bound by caste and could shatter the limits Vegeta sought to put on them! Most of all, I loved the dynamic Raditiz and Ranch brought into the story, and reminded me of how I loved Dragon Ball. 

Hell, listening to this series actually got me to go back and watch the Tournament of Power. Without prior notions and judgments, I enjoyed the canonical ending to the Dragon Ball series.

The Merits of Fanfiction

A collage of characters in Dragon Ball Multiverse, too many to count.
This, this is good stuff.

Dragon Ball: Multiverse and “What If Raditz Turned Good” are fanfictions, with fan-creations. They were properly released, in a format that best fit their stories. Dragon Ball: Multiverse is a free online web series, open to anyone and everyone, with no boundaries. “What If Raditz Turned Good” is a YouTube series expertly narrated by MasakoX, with him giving characters he loves and he created each their own voice. They released them properly, and they are Salagir’s and MasakoX’s creations. It’s not like Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation are ever going to be able to adapt themselves without these two creators. 

And they’ve certainly gotten stuff out of it. I mean, I’m wearing a t-shirt with Ranch on it, MasakoX’s own character. Not only does he get to put his character on merch, and Saligir put ads on his website, they get to have their creations live on. That’s for sure getting something out of it, not just for him, but for Dragon Ball fans.

Their fanfiction, the both of them, helped me get back into Dragon Ball. I don’t think I’d be so excited and happy to be thinking about any of the series if it weren’t for both of these fanfictions. 

Fanfiction takes what we love, and adds something new to help us remember why we loved the original property. Fanfiction breathes life into the properties we love. Is there bad fanfiction? Sure, just like there’s bad “officially released fiction.” The format itself doesn’t deserve the ridicule it gets, and anyone willing to put in the time for something they love should be proud of their work. 

I’m always going to love Dragon Ball, and fanfictions like Dragon Ball: Multiverse and Dragon Ball: R&R have assured that I’m not going to forget why. 

Tell me, is there any fanfiction you like? Tell me in the comments below. And to anyone creating fanfiction, just because a story has been done before doesn’t mean it isn’t worth telling. That story has never been told by you before.

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