Just how dirty is DRAGONBALL?

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200910091128 Just how dirty is DRAGONBALL?Ever since the manga revolution hit American shores, comics industry observers have been writing for parents to catch on to the fact that their kids are reading stories about passionate gay love affairs and teachers seducing their students, and a full-on book burning crusade taking place.

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. Outcry has been limited to isolated incidents where parents found out their kids were reading something beyond their age-appropriate level; there have been a few library board meetings, a few local TV news stories, but nothing approaching a movement.

And the latest incident will probably end up the same way. A father in Salisbury, MD was surprised to find his son reading DRAGONBALL Z by the great Akira Toriyama, and, after complaints, the school library pulled the book. Although DRAGONBALL has been shown on American TV and was the subject of a secret movie earlier this year, it was the sexual content that the dad found objectionable:

In one, the protagonist, a young boy, pats the covered crotch area of a sleeping teenage girl before removing her panties. The same boy later appears naked in the bathtub and is naked when he performs flying jump kicks.

In another scene, a Peeping Tom watches a naked teenage girl as she takes a shower. Furthermore, the novel shows a teenage girl flashing a bearded man; and another man asking a girl about her bra size.


The book, published by Viz, is rated T for Teen, and that sounds pretty saucy, but as J. Caleb Mozzocco reports, it’s not quite as bad as an ad for GIRLS GONE WILD:

If you’ve read Toriyama’s Dragon Ball comics, you’re no doubt familiar with the scenes in question (Yamcha’s the peeping tom, Bulma’s the girl and Master Roshi is the bearded man). You might also be scratching your head that this is something that even needs discussed at the level of a county government.

Goku is drawn with the body of a Valentine’s Day cherub, and while he’s occasionally nude, it’s the innocent nudity of naïve childhood. His penis is drawn on the page here and there, and it consists quite literally of two semi-circles. Fourth-graders will see more detailed male nudity in your average book of renaissance art then in Dragon Ball….The peeping scene could be considered sexual, as could a later scene where Bulma flashes the panties-obsessed Master Roshi (readers just see her butt) but there’s nothing even vaguely sexual about a Mowgli-like little orphan boy who lived his whole life in the woods running around naked here.


In short, this wasn’t quite the smoking gun you’d think. Mozzocco includes scans such as this:

Disgusting  Just how dirty is DRAGONBALL?

And that’s about the same level of nudity as you will find in an average Go Daddy ad.

Simon Jones has more:

The early volumes of Dragonball did have a great deal of sexual (or I guess, what puritanical individuals would percieve as sexual) comedy, much of which actually played on Goku’s complete and utter naivete of gender roles and boundaries; Bulma’s no-pants flash and constant incontinence, Goku’s predisposition for free-balling, Roshi’s dirty old man persona, and a certain memorable match in the first tournament come to mind. But disgusting? Imagine if some of the more risque Bugs Bunny cartoons were made today. Would Holloway say they promoted transvestism, bestiality, and sexual sadism (re: Little Red Riding Rabbit)?

Comments

  1. Is that Joe Matt in the lower left hand panel?

  2. Andrew Laubacher says:

    For the sake of accuracy, the volume was the first volume of DRAGONBALL, not DRAGONBALL Z, which was the American title for the second half of the manga series (borrowing the title from the anime adaptation from the same point in the story).

  3. Alexa says:

    Thanks for the http://blog.newsarama.com/2009/10/09/maryland-county-councilman-wants-county-government-to-consider-gokus-penis-local-paper-has-the-shocking-details/ link!

    “…Now I’m not going to argue that Dragon Ball necessarily belongs in a grade school library, and I’m uncertain of its educational value in general. It’s not a bad introduction to Journey to the West and some Chinese and Japanese mythology in general, and it’s certainly an expertly drawn and occasionally quite funny adventure comic with a juvenile sense of humor and fantastic action sequences. But it’s hardly required reading for school kids.

    “If the school, school board or county government want to take it out of the library, go for it. Heck, a glance at the book’s cover and a bit of first-grade level math will determine it probably doesn’t belong in most grade school libraries, and probably shouldn’t be lent out to nine-year-olds anyway (To put it mathematically , 9

  4. Educational value? If a book helps a kid read and the material is not too much for them, then it has lots of educational value! A book doesn’t have to teach you math or social studies to be worth it for a child to read.

    As for this whole Dragonball debacle, this thing was written something like 2 decades ago! We’re still so puritanical in the US that we cannot handle some touchy material as nudity? It’s not a porn book!

    Japan has their hangups (like using mosaics in porn) but they don’t make such a big deal about nudity as we do. I bet you could put Z in an elementary school library, no problem. It’s full of violence, but if there’s any hint of sexuality, BANNED. It’s really ridiculous.

    My solution is to put it in a “parent’s permission” section so that parents who aren’t so conservative about content can allow their kids to read what they want.

  5. Simon Jones says:

    –>For the sake of accuracy, the volume was the first volume of DRAGONBALL, not DRAGONBALL Z, which was the American title for the second half of the manga series

    Herein lies the irony… the original Dragonball, with its greater emphasis on comedy and adventure, is aimed at younger readers. The latter Dragonball has more action, to appeal to older readers who grew up with the series. Had the library been in possession of the more violent Dragonball Z manga, there would likely be no story, no outrage.

  6. Bingo, Simon!

  7. As for the scan, I remember than Bulma is not hidden by bubbles in the french version. Even though, as you’re saying, there’s nothing really hurting feelings.

  8. I wonder if Erin Andrews will let her future children read this?

  9. Alexa says:

    Darn, the “less than” symbol is an HTML bracket too. Lemme try that quote again:

    “…Now I’m not going to argue that Dragon Ball necessarily belongs in a grade school library, and I’m uncertain of its educational value in general. It’s not a bad introduction to Journey to the West and some Chinese and Japanese mythology in general, and it’s certainly an expertly drawn and occasionally quite funny adventure comic with a juvenile sense of humor and fantastic action sequences. But it’s hardly required reading for school kids.

    “If the school, school board or county government want to take it out of the library, go for it. Heck, a glance at the book’s cover and a bit of first-grade level math will determine it probably doesn’t belong in most grade school libraries, and probably shouldn’t be lent out to nine-year-olds anyway (To put it mathematically , 9 [is less than] 13).

    “I am going to point at Joe Holloway, Latshaw and The Daily Times for making a big deal out of something that should be as simple as saying, “Oh yeah, this says it’s for teenagers, maybe we shouldn’t give it to nine-year-olds” though…”

    “Educational value? If a book helps a kid read and the material is not too much for them, then it has lots of educational value! A book doesn’t have to teach you math or social studies to be worth it for a child to read.”

    True, and at the same time elementary school libraries tend to have even more limited budgets than town libraries do. I can understand elementary school librarians wanting to get more educational value per dollar and per foot of shelf space.

    “It’s full of violence, but if there’s any hint of sexuality, BANNED. It’s really ridiculous.”

    Yeah!

    “I wonder if Erin Andrews will let her future children read this?”

    If she does, I bet she’d also remind them that IRL violating someone’s privacy is bad behavior.

  10. you’re right, Mathieu: the Ducht version is bubble-free as well and is easily puchased in any Belgian supermarket

    Those early volumes, collecting the first chase for the Dragon Balls is pretty race-y and pervy at times. WOuld I want my kid to read this? Sure! It’s time the USA starts getting their knickers out of a twist.

  11. I’ve been waiting for some right wing nutjob to discover the whole yaoi craze. Or maybe some Jack Thompson to complain about violence in some books, but video games have more money to sue over.

    Meanwhile, I honestly don’t get the problem some people have with childish nudity like this. Plus the book is rated for teenagers anyway. Then again my dad used to let me watch Benny Hill shows when I was growing up, so this is nothing. Most of the stuff went over my head anyway.

  12. Alexa says:

    “Meanwhile, I honestly don’t get the problem some people have with childish nudity like this.”

    “In one, the protagonist, a young boy, pats the covered crotch area of a sleeping teenage girl before removing her panties.”

    Is this childish nudity?

  13. YES, it is! It’s a child who doesn’t know anything about sex doing something he doesn’t know is wrong. It’s innocent, and I know for a fact there are parents out there who have experienced embarrassing moments involving kids and nudity.

    It’s a moment reinforcing that Goku is a pure soul, a very innocent individual, which makes him such a great hero.

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