“Take care of your mother.” – The official parting words of the Dragon Ball Z dad. Of course, all the dads on the show don’t die, but the deaths are frequent enough that it’s normal for the kids. The moms however are mainstays. Even in alternative universes the mothers are always around – waiting, wishing, looking up at the sky and saying hopeful things. You know, making us feel good.
The mother-son relationships on DBZ don’t get a lot of screen time. But what we do tend to see on screen is always pretty heart-warming. Or devastating. Chi-Chi is left all alone to raise Gohan and Goten at different points in the narrative after Goku dies. Even in the alternate universe we see in the Android Saga, Bulma has stepped up to the challenge of being a single mom. And still, the boys are implored to take care of their moms. I wondered why.
For example, Vegeta knew Trunks was too inexperienced and too weak to help defeat Majin Buu. Vegeta sacrifices himself for his family, aware that if he fails his family will die anyway. Still he tells Trunks to take care of Bulma before his demise. Could it be that Vegeta was trying to give his son hope in a hopeless situation? Or did he really believe that his attack would succeed and Trunks would have to become the ‘man of the house’ after his death? Was Vegeta just doing the ‘right thing’ by making his parting words for Trunks a call to be good to his mother? Was that written just to give us feels? If so, it worked.
In the Android Saga, Future Trunks is the ‘man of the house’ so to speak: a strong, intelligent and resilient teenager whose father (and father-figure in Gohan) is dead. Bulma is the only close family he has left. In this version of the future Vegeta dies when Future Trunks was still a baby. There are no parting words (that we know of). Future Trunks has every reason to be bitter, jaded and rebellious as he lives his life in constant fear of the Androids. And still Future Trunks listens to his mom. They care deeply for each other. Could it be that Gohan’s much more kinder and noble personality traits rubbed off on Future Trunks? Or is it another case of simply doing the ‘right thing’ and making the whole fandom teary-eyed?
Morality is a big part of DBZ. Right versus wrong is something all the major characters struggle with at some point. As I talked about last week, family is important to everyone and family ties can be complicated in this universe. But the mother-child bond is the only thing that has remained fairly simple with Dragon Ball. And like all cultures everywhere, children tend to love their moms and moms tend to be protective of their children no matter what. No need to overanalyze it.
The thing is — our heart strings are constantly being pulled by tearful goodbyes and women sending up well wishes for their kids. The mother-son relationships on DBZ are largely used to make us all emotional and stuff. Chi-Chi crying over Gohan going off to Namek to fight mysterious evils really is kinda sad. Likewise, it’s sooo adorable to see her cheering on Goten at the martial arts tournament years later. Baby Trunks making cute little baby noises in Bulma’s arms? You can’t help but say, ‘Awwww!’ The same goes for any scene with Android 18 and Marron and Videl and Pan. In a way, motherhood in general is played for sympathy points or to evoke some strong emotion from the fanboys.
Maybe I’m wrong and it’s not at all about morality, but rather the human connection. “Take care of your mother.” Just that one line makes my heart melt.
What is Summer of DBZ? Hi, Iggles! I’m Melody and I will be analyzing Dragon Ball Z, it’s themes, tropes, characters and more every weekend all summer long (or all autumn lol). Feel free to leave a comment if you want to talk more about mother-son things on DBZ! Next week, it’s all about ‘the chosen one’ – Gohan.
Featured image source: Dragon Ball Z screencap