I had almost completely forgotten my old days of anime-watching. As a child, I had been a pretty big fan of the Dragon Ball manga. And now that I think about it, it was because I had a fascination with personal training, superheroes, and metamorphosis.
Goku’s adventures were so vivid and wonderful, and I loved the scenes that depicted his adjusting to life a “normal person”, namely taking showers, wearing proper clothes, and talking to women.
As a kid, I quickly ate up the recurring themes of becoming a superhuman by drinking literal poison, exercising to the point of near-death, climbing a giant tower were super appealing to my young boyish mind. I kept re-reading the pages over and over again where Krillin and Goku take off their bronze turtleshell weights, jump to the treetops, and move mountains using their newfound body strength. The entire arc where Goku and Krillin train themselves to near death every day was a gold mine for me.
The girl Lunch, a petite brunette who turned into an uncouth blonde criminal whenever she sneezed, was a very interesting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type character, and I had a similar fascination with Goku’s monthly transformation into a giant gorilla that terrorized everybody in his path.
I really loved the food in Dragon Ball, for some reason. Goku was always a voracious eater, and it was pretty fun reading stories of him devouring tables-full of delicious homecooked food, senzu beans (which expand in your stomach to fill you up, or something), and a giant octopus that tries to kill him but ends up getting steamed and eaten instead.
In the end, I ended up liking Dragon Ball far more than Dragon Ball Z. The only part about Z that I enjoyed was the short side-story where Gohan has to hide his superpowers and live an ordinary high school life — that shit was the best! How cool it was that he got to play baseball but had to lower his strength, knowing that the wrong amount of strength could kill or injure everyone around him! That was the kind of story I loved.
So I read a lot of manga, but I always got my anime from Kids WB on Saturday mornings, where I would watch Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Shaman King, and sometimes Sonic. Toonami anime was great whenever I caught it, but I was always too lazy or too sleepy to wait for it at night. I only started watching anime online when a girl in 6th grade told me about Hellsing, this cool anime about vampires. I went on YouTube’s atrocious 2006 interface and looked up the 13 episodes there, each of them split into three very low quality sections.
Man, Hellsing was a blast. The show was borderline-ecchi in its obvious fanservice, and there was a lot of gratuitous violence and giant phallic guns, but I didn’t care at all about either of those. My previous fascination with Goku’s superhuman powers and transformative abilities carried over to this show, but there was something about Hellsing that made it even more appealing. Goku’s powers stemmed largely from his nature as a Saiyan alien, and since this was a genetic quality, I always felt a bit distanced from Goku, since I knew that nobody could gain Saiyan strength through hard work alone.
But Seras Victoria’s story in Hellsing was interesting in the way it subverted this. She begins the story as an ordinary human but is granted the superhuman strength of vampires when Alucard bites her to save her life. She is transferred from the police to a secret organization run by a bunch of Protestant knights and has to deal with daily life as a superhuman. Just as Goku had to learn how to take proper showers and become civilized, Seras has to deal with drinking blood transfusion packets every day, sleeping in a coffin, and avoiding holy weapons. To my childish brain, the idea of superhero-living-a-normal life was the perfect story! (Moreover, the Hellsing Ultimate OVA and the manga itself does not cover as much of these slice-of-life elements, which is why I did not enjoy them as much as a kid.)
Goku also had frequent run-ins with bandits who would be blown away by his meek and unassuming appearance. His childish face belied the strength of hundreds of men. I loved this sort of modest-but-strong turnaround, which is why I enjoyed seeing Seras, a harmless-looking girl, destroy people much stronger-looking than her. There was also this weird element of the show where Seras and Alucard, being natural and ancient vampires, are elitist towards a new race of inferior vampires enhanced by technology. I kinda enjoyed that too. Hellsing might not be the most well-rounded show, but it holds a special place in my heart for being both my first real, online-streamed anime (dubbed in English, of course, since my simple mind didn’t want to deal with Japanese audio) and appealing to my superhero fascination. If anyone is interested, you can find the first episode here:
Streamed on YouTube and dubbed in English, of course.