Tag Archives: Goku

Four Current Examples of Static Characters

Static characters are surprisingly a lot harder to find because they are easy to overlook. They don’t personally undergo any real journey other than the events of the plot – instead they tend to serve as a tool for the dynamic characters of a story to react to or receive guidance from. Here are four examples of static characters. I tried to avoid literary figures like Atticus Finch, so that students have room to talk about those once they understand the concept. I instead focused on making sure that these characters were prominent in pop culture to ensure that students would be able to see the concept at work with characters they already know.

If you’re looking for examples of dynamic characters, I wrote an article about that here.

Son Goku

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I started the last one with a Dragon Ball character, so it’s time to start with one here. If that one worked with your audience, then this one will work for those same people.

I was tempted to start with Frieza, a villain, but I decided it would actually be a more effective example if I used a hero. Villains are easy. The idea is that they don’t change, so you don’t have to feel bad when the hero destroys them. A static hero, however… how do you explain that?

Static heroes were especially popular back in the day because it allowed an audience to pick up a series easily – what you see is what you get, and you can count on them to be that way because they’ll always be that way. What happens then is that the audience begins to see how the characters around him develop. Son Goku is no exception. It is his refusal to change that makes Vegeta’s transformation so stark in contrast.

The Benevolent Fighter

Son Goku starts the series Dragon Ball as a young boy. It is revealed when he is an adult that he is a Saiyan, an alien race subjugated by the evil Lord Frieza, and that he was sent to the Earth as a baby (named Kakarot) to destroy all life there to make the planet fit for sale to the highest bidder. However, a head injury as an infant causes Kakarot to become sweet and kind, a trait that stays with him into adulthood. Raised by an old martial artist named Son Gohan as a grandson (named Son Goku), the baby retains the strength and love of fighting possessed by his race, but his nature is converted by his head injury and perhaps most notably by his adoptive grandfather’s influence into that of a generous, loving hero.

Goku retains this nature as an adult, an immensely strong fighter who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, for such a comedic, dopey, likable guy, he sure does have a huge body count. Goku’s love of fighting often gets him into trouble and interferes with his common sense, much to the chagrin of his comrades. His rival, Vegeta, is constantly developing as a character as a result of repeated attempts to surpass Goku. In fact, most of Goku’s friends were formerly dastardly villains that are won over by his constant, consistent optimism and unrivaled work ethic.  In this way, Goku – like most static characters – serves as a device for all of the other characters to change and develop around him.

Steve Rogers/Captain America

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This hero is definitely well-known, both in the comic world AND in popular culture as a result of cinematic success. (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War).

A Patriot Lost in Time

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Waking in the 21st Century and not believing Fury is a general because he’s black.

Steve Rogers just wants to fight for his country, and he gets the chance to do so when he is recruited and made the only successful test subject for the Super Soldier Program. Frozen in ice while saving the world, Rogers unexpectedly finds himself in the 21st Century, with most of his friends old or dead. With augmented athletic abilities, and a strong sense of hope and optimism, he is regarded somewhat as the flagship member of the Avengers – and most of the time, the group’s leader.

Captain America’s moral compass is one that never wavers. You never wonder if you should or shouldn’t be cheering for Cap, even when he does things against the system. I found this especially true during Civil War: “Oh, Captain America is doing something weird? Well, he must be right, so let’s wait and see.” While he certainly changes physically, Captain America as we know it hardly ever changes.

If you’re about to quote the comics at me, shut up. Comics explore every single idea out there because otherwise they run out of story. Any prolific series is going to have an evil version, a cynical version, an elderly version, a child version, a werewolf version, a zombie version… The point is when you say “Captain America,” there will always be a very specific picture in your head. He is and always will be. He arguably has more of a “boy scout” rep than Superman does!

The Batmanbatrobin

He’s Batman. Unless we’re referring to the Adam West goon, Batman is a pretty static hero – especially once the 90’s animated series was underway, as its popularity validated what the comics had begun doing in making his character dark and brooding.

A Force of Nature

Bruce Wayne will sometimes change, but his role as The Batman seldom does. Batman is smart, crafty, and has a ridiculous work ethic. His status as a static character does not mean that he is without flaws. He has definite trust issues that often lead to very explosive incidents with those involved – particularly the time when it was revealed that he had secret files recording the weaknesses of every Justice League member and how to exploit them in case any one of them went rogue.

Batman also has a very firm policy against killing that never seems to change – despite fighting some of the most deranged villains in comic book history, and despite suffering equally devastating losses at the hands of these villains.

Much of the interest in the Batman series comes from watching the dynamic characters around him. (Batgirl. Robin/Nightwing. Two-Face. Red Hood. The list goes on.) All of them owe their engrossing storylines to their interactions with the force of nature that is Batman. The first Robin, particularly, goes from worshipping him to resenting him – eventually becoming Nightwing and forcing his surrogate father to recognize him as an equal. Batman stays the same – no matter how the villains or even his friends try to force change on him.

Geralt of Rivia

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Whether you’ve played Witcher 3 lately (I haven’t yet) and just entered the series, or you’ve been a long-time fan, it’s pretty plain that Geralt is a static hero. This doesn’t mean he’s not a badass: His character design is top-notch and distinct, with white hair, scars… he has a sword and a silver sword – come one. One for monsters, one for people right?

Sure Geralt has revelations and crises of identity – but for the most part, if you are reading or playing the Witcher series, you know exactly who you’re dealing with and what he’s going to be like.

One trait he has is a stubborn adherence to his personal code. Geralt, like most Witchers apparently, has a very specific job description; he has to kill monsters. Of course, there are wildly varying impressions throughout the world of exactly how necessary or serious this job is – though as you might imagine, respect for this job is usually directly proportional to how close a monster is to messing up the lives of those whose respect is in question. This means that sometimes he’ll get a job offer asking him to deal with a striga (a terrifying monster whose description involves the words “dead monster baby” and a tiny coffin). No problem. But in other places where the monster problem is less than common, they’ll offer jobs that let you know they obviously don’t take his job seriously. King or not, he will refuse these people. Need him to kill a dragon? Dragons don’t count as monsters to him, so no. Not to mention that for the most part, he refuses to work for free.

Well, actually it’s no hold barred for the video game, right? Fetch-em quests galore!

Geralt, for the most part, is cynical, sarcastic, and dismissive of authority. He is also very loyal to those rare few that become his friends. He has shown himself to be sympathetic to the plight of even monsters, despite his overt commitment to kill those in his path for money. He is well-aware of the fact that he literally eliminates work for himself as he does his job. I’m not currently aware of how exactly he got his powers or why he wants to be human again, but I find Geralt’s static nature to be a nice anchor when transitioning from setting to setting in his stories. Most of my journey with The Witcher is “Okay, that’s the person available, okay that’s the problem… whoa, this is interesting… where’s Geralt? Oh, there he is, good, okay I know how this story is framed now.” The experience feels a lot like watching anything based on Sherlock Holmes. (I would have used him in this article, but he’s not current in my mind, despite the riveting BBC present-day adaptation.)

Hopefully, this article helps you talk about static characters when you need it. If you have better ideas for current static characters, let me know in the comments or social media!

If you’re a Witcher die-hard that wants to tell me how Geralt is actually super dynamic, then take a moment, Internet Warrior, to reflect on your life, and on how being static isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and then also know that I’m like two books in, so if he suddenly becomes a villain or something that’s gonna come out of left field for me.

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Dragon Ball Evolution Writer Apologizes to Fans | The Dao of Dragon Ball

Apparently, the writer of Dragon Ball: Evolution has apologized to fans for writing that monstrosity of a movie.  I think it’s admirable for him to put the onus on himself considering there was way more than awful writing going on with that movie.  Also, there are many who suspect that if not for this horrible movie, Toriyama wouldn’t have come back with Battle of the Gods and Resurrection of F, not to mention his decision to continue the series.

“I went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment. I have learned that when you go into a creative endeavor without passion you come out with sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat out garbage. So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself. As a fanboy of other series, I know what it’s like to have something you love and anticipate be so disappointing.”

We forgive you.  Now let’s forget.  Forever.  Don’t be that guy that keeps getting our attention so you can keep apologizing.  We all want to forget this movie.

Source: Dragon Ball Evolution Writer Apologizes to Fans | The Dao of Dragon Ball

Naruto vs Goku

This is not an indulgence of ignorant universe-crossing what-ifs.  I’m not comparing the characters of these series in terms of how powerful they are, but how effective they are as characters.  In other words, this is a comparison of the series as entertainment.

Premise

The basic premise of each of these series is irresistible to children, as usual with anime and manga directed at that age group.

Dragon Ball follows a character based on the Chinese Monkey King, Sun Wukong.  Simply called Goku, the character is small, cute, and incredibly small.  He is also super strong, and in fact half of the series’ appeal is watching bad guys underestimate Goku, and then have them be completely wrong.

Then you have Naruto, a series about a young ninja in a ninja village who wants to grow up to be… the best ninja in the village.

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Master Roshi trains Goku and Kuririn by having them perform assorted chores – Mr. Miyagi style.

Main Characters

Goku’s adventures  involve him traveling West, to find the legendary Dragon Balls for some noble, Goku-related reason.  In fact, Goku is inexplicably kind, innocent, and giving, with almost every other character having some kind of flawed personality.  His main pull is his naivete.  Goku is always the kindest, most innocent character in the room.  His foils are the vain Bulma, the posturing Yamcha, the obsessive Tienshinhan, the lecherous Master Roshi, the similarly perverted Kuririn, and other characters that are part of his revolving entourage.  The other irresistible element of this series is Goku’s ability to befriend former enemies, as to him fighting is a sport, and part of the game is knowing how to separate that from personal feelings.  Almost every comrade Goku travels with has fought against him at some point.

To sum up his character as introduced by the series, Goku is:

  • young
  • innocent
  • super strong
  • constantly underestimated
  • noble
  • orphaned
  • fun-loving

It’s no wonder people love this guy!  It’s a blast to watch him defeat whole armies led by fat, corrupt commanders, or take down a master assassin who can kill people with his tongue.

Naruto, however, excels in its execution.  Immediately Naruto is presented as a bratty orphan that everybody hates or looks down on, including the wise adults and the good guys.

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Naruto, even when put down by the entire village, still finds a way to smile.

Adults may be quick to hate such a character, but children latch on immediately.  Who hasn’t felt like everybody was judging them?  Who hasn’t felt like the world considers them a nuisance?  Who hasn’t had a dream that they would show everybody that ever doubted them that they were wrong?  Naruto is what Goku isn’t; an Everyman.  Naruto is not initially skilled at anything; he must always find his own niche, and that’s what makes him fun to watch.  His version of the Rasengan involves his own special method.  His Shadow Clone jutsu as a specialty is in itself a symbol; he relies on himself to support himself in battle, because he knows himself the most.  His constant flashbacking shows his power to reflect.  If the children I knew were as reflective as Naruto, they’d all be young novelists.

As a result, Naruto is more grown than he has the maturity to show.  He can see when an adult is looking out for him because he has spent so much time as an orphan.  However, he doesn’t know how to properly repay such a kindness – he lacks the social maturity to do anything but act out.

Instead, what becomes Naruto’s trademark is to pay it forward.  If Kakashi treats him a certain way, he makes sure that he treats anybody else the same way if he’s in that position.  Did someone save his life?  He’ll save someone else’s, because he’s learned that life is precious.  Especially potent are times when Naruto sees himself in other people and moves to protect them.  He sees Neji insulting Hinata, and even though he is not involved in that family’s conflict he rushes to Hinata’s aide.  When fighting Gaara, a stranger, he immediately recognizes the loneliness they have in common.

“It’s almost unbearable, isn’t it… the pain of being all alone. I know that feeling, I’ve been there, in that dark and lonely place… but now there are others – other people who mean a lot to me. I care more about them than I do myself, and I won’t let anyone hurt them. That’s why I’ll never give up. I will stop you, even if I have to kill you! They saved me from myself. They rescued me from my loneliness. They were the first to accept me as who I am. They’re my friends.”

Naruto is a very flawed character with a sense of right and wrong burned into him by the very role models that have failed him in other ways.  One thing he has learned for sure is that he has to believe in himself, even when it seems nobody else will.  Anyone who has spent any real time with Naruto cannot hate him.

Conclusion

I have been a fan of Dragon Ball since I was a small child.  I was only introduced to Naruto this year, and even so it was with extreme skepticism and cynicism.  I had a million questions, and I tore episode by episode apart with reckless abandon, annoying my wife horribly as I pointed out plotholes and obvious instances of filler – then Naruto opened his stupid mouth and ruined it for me.

Morally, I would want my kids to watch Naruto.  My previous favorite is a deadbeat alien father who constantly abandons his family (Adult Goku).  Naruto ruined me with his stupid optimism, his stupid compassion, and his stupid perseverence.  Be a brat, kid.  You grow up more with every episode… it feels real, even if it takes place in a ninja world.