Goku as a Role Model

Dragonball Z’s Goku provides a good example of an anime role model. Some scoff at the idea of a fictional character being a role model, but in many cases fictional characters make better role models than sports stars. It doesn’t matter if the character doesn’t exist in reality. If anything, a fictional character is even more influential because our minds have to create the character. Animation, prose, and graphic novels involve the audience. They invite us to enter the story in ways live action and standard role models cannot. Imagination takes the character and builds it deep within the mind. This makes fictional role modals like Goku influential. They become a part of our way of thinking.

Goku shares many similarities with Superman. However, Goku is a more identifiable character and a better role model than Superman. Goku must struggle to win and to improve his skills. Just like us. Modern society pushes us to improve. To level up. To get stronger in our various skill sets. Those that do not are eventually left behind in promotions and even employment. As a librarian, I daily see the results of those who didn’t try to get stronger: unemployment, damaged confidence, and a blaming attitude. Most struggle to function in a world of rapid technology change. Goku shows us how to go about the never ending quest to improve.

Optimism. Goku remains optimistic no matter how daunting the challenge. Goku doesn’t doubt he can do it. He only doubts how he will do it.

Faith. Goku has faith in his abilities, in his ability to learn and improve. We sometimes forget we have the capacity to improve with enough work. It takes a lot of faith to believe in ourselves when we face life’s challenges.

Friends. Goku is not a self-made man. Despite the perpetual American lie, no one is self made. It takes a good circle of friends to help us improve our spirits. Goku only improves so far when he trains alone. Only when he seeks help from others can he change his limits. Likewise, without his friends he wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this.

Satisfaction. Modern society encourages us to work hard and consume products in order to climb the social ladder and become happier. Goku is satisfied with the pursuit of improvement. He doesn’t seek happiness through products or through his power level. He seeks challenge to try his spirit, not so he can fill some emptiness inside. Seeking to improve merely so we can make more money is a fool’s errand. Consumption doesn’t satisfy. It dissatisfies. Goku enjoys the small things and the journey of improvement.

Purpose. Goku doesn’t seek power to lord it over others. He wants to try his abilities to decide if he has improved or not. He doesn’t pursue power. He just does his own thing.

Goku is a father. He cares about his family and their safety drives him. He enjoys spending time with his son Gohan and sharing a common interest in the martial arts. Good fathers are involved in their children, but they don’t attempt to force their children in a certain direction. Gohan wanted to learn martial arts. Goku didn’t train him until Gohan expressed that interest (and the story forced Gohan to study).

Goku is loyal to his wife and a generally upstanding guy. Many would claim he is old fashioned. I am a firm believer in so-called old fashioned values. Values of honesty, integrity, stick-to-itness, loyalty, selflessness, balance, and patience. Goku is all of these. He is also communally focused.

Let me stand on the soap box a moment.

American society worships individualism. Individualism is the idea that the self has more value than a community. It pushes the lie of self-reliance and independence. Reality is a communal affair. Self-reliance ignores the many communal factors that shape us. For example, many business owners consider themselves self-reliant and independent. After all, they started a business so they can work for themselves. However, they ignore the societal aspects of their business: roads for customers to travel, a safe environment, running water, and various other infrastructure. No one person can build all of these on their own. Too much individualism rots our sense of reality. No one can be truly self-reliant, unless they are in some survival situation alone in the mountains or on an island, and even then a good portion of the tools they use were made by others.

Goku isn’t a self-made man. He is a product of his culture, his friends, and his enemies. If you look to Goku as a role model, he has helped shape who you are. While he is fictional, he adds to the fabric of your identity just the same as your parents and friends. Like business-owners who take roads and safety for granted, we can be unaware of how stories and characters influence us. Goku can be a role model without our knowledge. The stories we consume change our perspectives. The human body uses everything we eat to build itself. The mind uses every bit of information to build itself. Garbage makes for a poor mind and body. Consuming primarily role models like Goku gives the mind higher quality building materials than consumerist, individualistic messages.

Change the messages you consume, and you can change your perspective.

Who are you role models? What building materials do you consume?


  • What I dislike about Goku right now is that he isn’t relying on his friends or family and is only thinking of himself. Goku is free spirited, but he’s also inconsiderate. At this moment, every universe is at risk of annihilation because of Goku’s carelessness — and that’s why all the universes hate Goku right now.

    Even at the opening of the Tournament of Power (where teamwork is supposed to be key), Goku decided to work alone. Then, he got surrounded by a team of enemies working together. Goku was in a difficult situation. Vegeta came to his aid, standing back to back with Goku, but Goku’s response was, “No fair, Vegeta! They’re my opponents.”

    Maybe Goku deserves an early elimination. While he’s sitting in the stands, he can read this article on japanpowered.com and learn about role models.

    • We wrote about the problems with Dragon Ball Super’s Goku in this article. I agree. Goku just isn’t Goku anymore. Dragon Ball Super would’ve been far better if it followed Gohan’s daughter Pan and a new journey with her as the protagonist. The old cast should just retire.

      • To be fair, Goku was that way in the Martial Arts Tournament against Piccolo Jr. too. His friends kept telling him there was more at stake now than the tournament and to allow them to help him defeat Piccolo, but Goku kept insisting to fight within the tournaments rules for his own pride.

  • I love all your articles about my favorite subject: Japan, but you not only discuss Japan and its history, you also discuss their culture and how it can actually relate to every day life here in America such as what you did especially well in this subject of Goku, and even though I’m late in reading this article I just had to comment.

    You have done very well in comparing an anime character to how people should act, and how no individual can ever accomplish what they become without the help of others, yet too many believe they are the one that made them who they are, but they had teachers and family and friends and many others that helped along the way.

    Unfortunately, all we can really hope for is that more in America would think as Goku does versus looking out for themselves and ignoring their neighbors, but I’ve always hoped in the face of adversity.

    My role models have always been those who have tried to learn daily and thanked those who have helped them along the way, they also humbly apologize when they know they’ve done wrong or wronged another person.

    Those who realize their own weakness and know they cannot do much of anything without help, and reach out to help their neighbor and friends are those we should look up to, not the skinny model in the magazine or the rich man on the television.

    Great job and thank you on this, and I look forward to more from Japan!!

    • I’m glad you enjoy my little blog. You may like the article I wrote about Goku vs. Superman. Goku, unlike so many of us, understands the need for others when it comes to personal growth. At the same time, he pulls people up with him. After all, Vegeta grows as a person only because of Goku’s growth. They are like a knife and a whetstone.

      A day without learning something is a wasted day. Thanks again for your kind comment and sharing your ideals for a role model.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *