Pan has been one of the biggest points of contention amongst Dragon Ball fans. Ever since Toei took the liberty to alter her character since her introduction in the final pages of Dragon Ball’s manga. The daughter of Gohan and Videl and the granddaughter of Goku, the battle loving little girl seemed like a post-Goku future of series along with Uub. The Pan seen in Dragon Ball GT is the furthest thing from that.
Today, Dragon Ball Super exists, and Goku has still has many more fights to have compared to when he was still trying to pawn off his “guardian of Earth” moniker during the later half of Dragon Ball Z. In Super, Pan seems a lot more like the character we knew from the end of Z, despite only being a baby. One of the most painful things about going back and watching GT is my huge problem with Pan.
Even the most staunch defenders of Dragon Ball GT rarely have anything positive to say about Pan in the series. I can understand why, she is such a profoundly disappointing mishandling of a character. The Pan first introduced at the end of Z was a precocious little girl, one seemed to love to fight and was already strong in her own right.
It felt like Toriyama was writing her as the eventual successor to Goku, sharing many traits with him from when he was introduced in the beginning of Dragon Ball. It’s one of the things Super has gone out of its way to rectify, despite her only being a baby.
The Pan in Dragon Ball GT sucks.
Toei Changing her for the Worse
I knew she wasn’t the most popular character, but I went into GT fully planning on giving her the benefit of the doubt. And yet almost right away I disliked her. Right from the first episode, she is shown to be obnoxious, selfish, childish, showing few positive character traits at all. Forcibly inserting herself into the search for the Dragon Balls, denying Gohan and Goten the chance to go, more often than not, her role seems to be to exacerbate situations.
The energetic fighter with the happy-go-lucky attitude character she displayed in Z is long gone now. Pan falls into my least favourite character archetype for kids in media: the “don’t treat me like a kid” kid. She demands that everyone around her treat her like an adult, while simultaneously acting like a bratty child at every opportunity.
Just going through my notes now makes me mad. Let me go through some of her actions throughout the series so far:
- She sneaks aboard the ship and prematurely launches it before it’s finished so she can force the issue, disregarding her parents directly telling her not to. Mere minutes later, when the ship crashes on a hostile world she starts crying and the lines “I want to go home” and “it’s over, we’re doomed” come from her mouth.
- When they all survive the crash, she proceeds to complain loudly and blame both Goku and Trunks for their predicament. A common utterance throughout these episodes.
- Later on, the gang are sneaking through a junkyard to retrieve their impounded ship. Shortly after berating Goku for his lack of stealth, an empty tin can falls from above and lands on her head. The immediate reaction from this 14 year old girl: to start crying.
And it goes on like this. Between her attitude and her actions, it’s incredibly difficult to like her.
It leaves me scratching my head. Dragon Ball has been packed with cool female characters, and while Toriyama always runs out of things for them to do down the road, they always start out strong. For the sake of argument, let’s compare her to a similar character who is much loved by the fan base: her mother; Videl.
When Videl was first introduced, she was shown to be strong, heroic, competent and intelligent. Not only that, she was also arrogant, selfish in some regards, standoffish and pigheaded. She was a well fleshed out character with both positive and negative character traits. Given, her negative traits went away post Z and she became another wasted female character in Super, but the point is we like her.
Pan, by contrast displays all of her mother’s initial negative traits on her introduction (and them some), but lacks any of the redeeming qualities to make us like her. We liked Videl, because despite the handicap of being a normal person, by standard of the Z fighters, she never backed down or gave up. Conversely, Pan has all of those powers her mother lacked, and gives up almost right away. It just adds to the deeper frustration of seeing her compared to the version of the character in Z/Super.
Relationships with other Characters
Most character’s grow and change through their interaction with others. For the most part, Pan has pretty combative relationships with the rest of the crew. Berating both Goku and Trunks for some misdemeanour or another. The one character she does have an arc and any growth with is the robot/ Dragon Radar: Giru.
It’s literally the most redeeming feature of Pan’s character throughout these episodes. Her slowly warming to the little robot is cute, but even then, none of the effort in this character growth comes from her. Giru has some strange obsession with her, like an abused dog’s unconditional for it’s abusive master. Despite her yelling punching and otherwise abusing him for most of the series, Giru never stops trying to be close to her.
Let me bullet out the events of Episode 15, the episode that deals with the growth in their relationship:
- Pan berates Giru for saying her cooking is bad. Which, as a robot, he must be telling the truth.
- During one of these sessions of abuse, Trunks points out they’re passing close to Earth and should probably drop Pan off. As she has been in several perilous situations at this point and what they’re doing might be too dangerous for her.
- Pan’s reaction to this is to run off and cry.
- They land on a desert planet holding a Dragon Ball and are attacked by giant ant lion aliens. Their water tanks are damaged in the process. Pan gets in Trunks’s way while he is repairng the ship and both him and Goku tell her to wait inside the ship.
- Upon being told to “go play”, she makes the very intelligent and rational decision to run away… on a planet covered entirely in scorching desert… with six suns… with a single canteen of water… At least the dub justifies this by saying she is looking for the Dragon Ball (without a radar), no such line in the original Japanese.
- After very quickly running out of water and realising her plan was terrible she is lost in the desert and quickly on the verge of death. It’s down to Giru to rescue her, which he does. And finds the Dragon Ball in the process, putting a stamp on Pan’s utter lack of positive contribution thus far in the series.
The upside is that her and Giru’s animosity is replaced with a friendly kind of abuse. It ends up being one of the more positive things done with her character, if only because it’s all she was afforded.
In this big throwback to the original Dragon Ball, Pan feels like she is supposed to be the paralell of Bulma from the original series. She too was a bratty, selfish character during her youth, some might argue she still is. But she was also shown to be a good hearted person too, one who cares for her friends. There are moments of empathy between Pan and the alien’s plight throughout their journey. But these moments aren’t enough to establish any positive character traits in Pan outside of basic humanity.
The Bulma of GT
So, why is it okay for Bulma to be like this, but not Pan. Well, Bulma was a normal girl, a hyper intelligent, hyper rich one sure. But she lacked the power of the other characters and acted as the audience surrogate to some extent. Pan, conversely has access to the power of the other characters, but suddenly stopped using it once as she got older. Bulma had to use her wiles and smarts to get herself out of bad situations, because that’s all she had to work with. Pan has the potential for the strength to defend herself, and yet needs to be rescued by other people at basically every impasse. She is unable to do anything for herself.
It kind of sums up my problem with her character. Giru, the character who ostensibly feels like the marketable comic relief is a more admirable character. Even after his apparent betrayal at the end of these 16 episodes.
I have done a lot of complaining about Pan’s character in this post. As these handful of episodes end, it feels like we’re in a situation where it is solely up to Pan to save Goku and Trunks from General Rildo’s forces. Her trust of Giru betrayed and left all alone. I really do hope that these last two episodes are the start of genuine growth for her going forward in the series.
Ultimately though, I know enough that Pan doesn’t become a factor in the series in terms of her fighting power. And with the promise made for the granddaughter of Goku in Dragon Ball Z and Super, I’m going to always hold some degree of resentment towards Toei and GT. The choices made in the main cast of GT feel misplaced, which is something I’m going to get into more tomorrow when I take a deeper dive into GT’s version of Son Goku.
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