This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Network: Cartoon Network
Best For Ages: 9-12, 12 and up
This Japanese anime series features a group of young martial artists who use ancient forces to defend the universe. Although many younger children admire heroes Goku and Gohan, and watch the series because the pace and humor keep them entertained, the constant violence and death make adult supervision imperative.
Educational Value: Audiences are treated to occasional references to the Japanese afterlife, and to cultural values about dedication to martial arts training. Goku is compassionate, but doesn't hesitate to use violence to make a statement when words fail.
Entertainment Value: Action overwhelms plot in most episodes, as villains of uncertain origin arrive to do battle with the central characters. Fight scenes are visually exciting. Hero Goku's integrity and commitment to justice make him sympathetic.
Emotional Intensity: American versions of the Japanese series say kids have been whisked away to another dimension, but it will be obvious to older children that the kids in question have died. Evildoers frequently place children in danger.
Frightening Situations: Aliens who have it in for Earth threaten adults, kids, and pets. Super-boy Gohan turns into a destructive monster in the light of the moon.
Gender/Racial Issues: Gohan's mother is a stereotypical worrywart. The male warriors do most of the fighting.
Mature Themes: Dragon Balls, which can be used to grant wishes, are called upon to bring back the dead.
Questionable Behavior: Because the young people have special powers, they use violence in ways that would place ordinary children in grave danger.
Sex/Nudity: Characters appear naked but protected by trees, leaves, and other coverings. Some mild innuendo passes between adult characters.
Violence: Constant and rather more graphic than other children's anime series. POKEMON and POWER RANGERS are tame by comparison.
American kids, especially boys, adore DRAGON BALL Z for its nonstop action and visual humor. But even by cartoon standards, this show is extremely violent.
The show focuses on Goku, a member of a militant alien race called the Saiyans, who was raised by humans and who fathered a son, Gohan, with a human woman. At age five, monkey-tailed Gohan is taken from his mother to train for battle. In their quest to possess wish-granting Dragon Balls, the young men constantly fight vicious adversaries.
There's no question that boys find Goku and Gohan to be empowering role models. One ten-year-old boy commended the characters' dedication to their training and skills. But the show strongly suggests that violence is acceptable and laudable in many situations. Children play-acting DRAGON BALL Z sometimes pretend to hurt one another, or even use physical force since they don't have the exceptional powers of Gohan.
The fights are well-choreographed, if excessive--entire buildings get destroyed by the heroes' martial arts. The characters aren't as interesting as those in the anime series GUNDAM WING and adults often inadvertently place their young children in jeopardy. Younger kids who enjoy anime should probably stick to POKEMON.
Children's Television Reviews