When I last spent an entire week talking about Dragon Ball GT, I dedicated an entire day to discuss the character of Pan, and then another one after that to delve into GT’s interpretation of Goku. While not enough has changed for me to deem it necessary to go there again, they’re still two of the most noteworthy characters to dig into.
Both Goku and Pan do go through some changes during these episodes, one more blatantly than the other. But when it comes to the end of the arc, I actually think that one of them ends up looking better in my eyes than how they got started, and it might surprise you to learn which one…
By the time I wrapped up episode 40, I wanted to tear my hair out for a few reasons. Surprisingly, Pan was not one of them. Being brutally honest though, it’s not because GT decided to start writing her better as the series went on.
No, rather she became relegated to the sidelines as the show took a more action oriented turn. And as I agonised about last time I spoke about her, GT’s writers seemed adamant that she not contribute anything to the series as a fighter, as the apparent promise for her was given the end of the Dragon Ball manga.
Pan’s incessant immaturity in the face of what the gang were facing frustrated me endlessly during the early episodes, especially when she felt like she was supposed to be a direct analogue to Bulma from the original show. And believe me, she’s no Bulma.
As we reached the transition point between the end of the last arc and the start of this one; Pan was in a position where it seemed like she was the only one who could save the day. I even had hopes for her doing so.
Unfortunately, due to the quality of writing I went to great pains to criticise yesterday, her hero moment completely falls flat when Goku and Trunks end up rescuing themselves, relatively easily. While all while she meanders around, wasting both her own time and the audiences.
Relegated to cheerleader
Thus she ends up struggling to contribute anything to events other than moral support. It’s a role that most of the cast end up filling sooner or later, even Vegeta half of the time. GT’s Pan was destined for the role ever since the writers gimped her out from a mini-Goku into a poor man’s Bulma.
Which is why she becomes so inoffensive as the story focuses more on Goku fighting Baby. It’s not that she’s better, it’s just that she’s not really there.
Her biggest contribution though, admittedly, is probably one of the best things the show manages to pull off. When Goku turns into a great ape and loses his mind. Pan is the one to make the tearful plea that he return to his senses, and eventually become a Super Saiyan 4.
It flashes back to the much superior, young child Pan, in a version of the series I’d much rather have watched. Which is an odd turn considering how spiky their relationship has been leading up to now in the series. But I’m not going to hold that against her, when things get really serious, Pan does rise to the occasion.
If not in a combat capacity, but a supportive one. I’ll be honest though, I’d much rather the series made her a serious fighter like Toriyama seemed to envision for her. I only hope she does have something positive to contribute during the series final two arcs that amounts to more than simply cheering for her Grandpa.
Speaking of Which…
That Goku eh?
My previous interpretation of GT’s Goku was one with nothing left to prove. He was older and surprisingly wiser in his approach to life. Well, for Goku at least. The battle addicted Goku of Z, and especially Super, had been replaced with a more laid back Goku who seemed to treat every fight as light entertainment.
Throughout early GT, he never felt flustered.
Something that continued for most of this arc. While Rildo did seem like he seriously challenged him at times, the inconsistent writing makes it difficult to know if he was ever taking the machine mutant seriously during their battle. Hell, despite how much trouble he seemingly gives Goku early in the arc, his eventual defeat is incredibly anticlimactic.
It’s when Baby achieves his full power that we start to see a new side of Goku, one I’m not sure I can accept from the character given his history, both older and more recent.
Despite Goku’s pretty staggering power in GT, it’s obvious that Baby far outclasses him after he takes control of Vegeta and absorbs the power of the other possessed Saiyans.
And Goku’s response is to laugh it off and fight the hopeless battle anyway. Which does seem like all he can do considering the circumstances. However, thanks to Kibito Kai and the Elder Kai, Goku is rescued and the path to new power is opened to him.
My feelings on Super Saiyan 4 Goku
After returning to fight Baby again, losing, turning into a big monkey and then having his touching moment with Pan, Goku becomes a Super Saiyan 4, an event that really feels like it could have been handled with a little more weight and awe. But that’s not what I’m getting into here.
What I do want to get into is Goku’s really strange turn in personality during the battle after this point. Goku’s new transformation means he far exceeds Baby. It’s a great moment, one of the best of the series. I do like Super Saiyan 4 from a design and lore standpoint, it makes sense. What I can’t really get behind is Goku’s staggering arrogance after obtaining the form.
Despite having the ability to put an end to Baby there and then, Goku proceeds to play with his food in a manner I don’t think he’s ever done with any other enemy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about him allowing Freeza to attain 100% power here, or giving Cell a Senzu Bean, nor failing to finish Fat Buu in Super Saiyan 3.
This is arrogance of Cell saga Vegeta or Super Saiyan 2 Gohan of the same era, something that feels totally out of character for Goku. And thanks to Bulma’s meddling, the battle ends up getting away from Goku and his cocksure attitude almost loses him everything. Which is typical Dragon Ball style storytelling, it’s just usually not Goku on the wrong end of this particular stick.
Through a bit of luck and some convenient writing from Toei, Goku is able to get restored to his full power thanks to the efforts of his sons, Trunks and “Majuub”. Having learned from his mistake of toying with Baby beforehand, surely Goku would quickly dispatch Baby this time.
Of course he doesn’t. Instead he goes right back to acting like some arrogant jerk-off, this time giving the most dramatic hero speech possible, waxing lyrical about light and darkness, before eventually ending the fight in a incredibly anticlimactic fashion. Which is a crime in itself.
Toei were just trying too hard
Goku isn’t above making a hero speech. But he’s not as well spoken as GT seems to want him to be. It smacks of them trying way too hard to make him cool. But Goku isn’t that cool, he’s a massive dope. Which is the charm of his character. Hence I feel like Goku in this form feels out of character.
Which isn’t to say he can’t be cool, but he certainly doesn’t help his case when he’s all heroic monologue and none of the goofy charm of the original character. Part of the reason Ultra Instinct was so damn cool was because Goku never uttered a word when using it that first time.
I appreciate the moments between Pan and Goku, and I like Super Saiyan 4. But their shortcomings are just two more examples of the many problems GT has revealed to me during this big chunk of episodes.
And I haven’t even gotten into how it deals with the rest of the cast. No, that’s tomorrow…
This is a part of a week long series in which I complain about Dragon Ball GT, if you want to read the other parts, the links are below:
Black Star Dragon Ball Saga:
Day 3: Pan and Goku (This is the post you’re reading)