The fascination of Dragon Ball Z is in between a strong inner pictures and a heightened readiness to resort to aggression.
Since decades one of the most popular trends in children’s culture is Dragon Ball Z. Boys are fascinated by the characters, by their strength and invulnerability. They integrate the series into their fantasies in order to feel more secure or to be able to control themselves better, but also for reasons of self-defence.
The series made its triumph especially through German children’s culture: In long-drawn-out scenes brutal attacks between ludicrous heroes are presented, with a minimum of any other action. There is no lack of hacked-off body parts, pain, and death resulting from the fights. As in other countries, the programmes were an absolute hit in terms of ratings in Germany as well – especially with boys.
But what is it that fascinates children and pre-teens about this series?
In all the responses of the Dragon Ball Z fans seems that the fighting and the fighters are clearly dominant. That is what they like about the series, what they talk about, what they copy in their games and what they dream about.
For those who watch the series regularly Dragon Ball Z becomes part of their fantasies. It is extremely difficult to examine the extent to which this is expressed in real-life behaviour. Not only are changes in behaviour in everyday life difficult to observe and interpret; an unidirectional link to television cannot be reliably established, as the connections are far too complex. Nor can we give a reply to this matter in this study.
Dragon Ball Z may contribute to an inner willingness to act aggressively. There is no simple connection of effects between a violent series and aggressive behaviour. The connection is more complex – but it does exist. In our sample there is only the idea of being able to fight in some of the children.
It is known from research into boys that boys (in Germany) feel threatened (by other boys). With the inner pictures which they gain from Dragon Ball Z they feel better prepared for these threats. In this case their strength is based on the willingness to resort to violence, and the means of solving the conflict is physical fighting. What they fail to realise is that, on the other hand, their heightened willingness to resort to violence turns them into a potential threat to others. A cycle of aggression is the result, which is certainly problematic from an educational point of view.
However these inner pictures of strength encourage self-control, without directly endangering others or setting off a cycle of aggression. From an educational viewpoint these are certainly positive inner pictures, which help individuals to deal firmly with themselves and with their feelings.
It again emerges that the connection between television and what children make of it is very complex. Even from a series like Dragon Ball Z the children and pre-teens make something positive for themselves.