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In an episode of the Dragon Ball Super anime Zeno is shown playing a game with Future Zeno using what look like ... real planets in the universe.

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Almost like they were just marbles, we see the two Zeno tossing the planets around as they crash into each other and disintegrate. Were those actually real planets?

During the show we also see Zeno:

  • wiping out a timeline because he didn't like what Zamatsu caused. He didn't simply punish the culprit, he erased everyone with him.
  • make funny regards while killing people during the tournament (he says "bye-bye" in a joking tone after erasing Universe 9 and does that again for Universe 3)
  • plan to destroy every universe because "it is too much work to keep track"

Up to the Universe Survival saga, the show seems to handwave this using the usual, old excuse it always used when Goku puts everyone in danger for the sake of fighting strong stuff: they have a "pure, innocent, childlike, naive heart that simply does not grasp the consequences" (see also Is Goku still pure-hearted?).

I would like to know if anything changed afterward, especially since Whis seems to have some undisclosed reasons to want Goku and Vegeta to get stronger. Does the show new arch bring any change in the way Zeno is seen? Is he still considered an "innocent, neutral" being, or did someone allude to the possibility that he is fully aware of all the suffering he causes? Or is he more similar to Majin Bu before he knew Satan (*)? Is there any sign of Zeno being just an "all powerful simple mind" that someone else is controlling (aka the "Grand Priest is evil" theory)?


(*) that said one could argue that Bu was made to be evil, and the "fat" Bu is only him being changed after fusing with a Kai. So he WAS probably intended as evil but he was able to repent.

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  • If the story gets stretched further, we may see that he may be the destroyer of universes and there's someone else who's the creator of the universe, similar to Kai and Beerus from Universe 7.
    – Zero
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 7:20
  • @zero Xenoverse and Dragon Ball Heroes already blury the idea of Zeno as the "supreme god". In a way Chronoa (and her predecessor) are superior to him since apparently Zeno is vulnerable to Time (multiple Zeno exist while the Supreme Kai of Time exist outside of Time itself. This probably mean Zeno IS vulnerable to Timeline Erasure). It is a complete mess.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 8:09
  • oh, I didn't know about Xenoverse and Heroes, my bad
    – Zero
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 8:11
  • Basically, a fight between Aeos (the previous Kai of Time) and Zeno would go down to who erases the one first. And technically Aeos should have an advantage since they could just time travel to a point before Zeno is aware of them and erase the timeline there. But again, Dragon Ball logic. Arale is probably stronger than Zeno, and the final god is still Toryama Bot
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 8:16
  • Alright, the Dragon Ball logic part had me though, haha
    – Zero
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 8:36

1 Answer 1

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I will be primarily writing this answer based on the manga, simply because it is easier to reference.

Zeno is a Plot Device

I will get to answering properly, but this is worth pointing out. Zeno's main purpose so far does not seem to extend to being a character. His primary usage is as a Deus Ex Machina in the fight against Zamasu, and as a way to make the Tournament of Power happen, as well as give the tournament dire stakes.

When Goku actually suggests playing the friend angle to stop Zeno from erasing everyone, Whis immediately cuts the idea down. From volume 6, page 68:

Goku: Yeah... Maybe I'll ask the Lord of Everything to call off this whole erasure thing.

Whis: I wouldn't do that if I were you. The Lord of Everything and the Grand Priest decided this. If you offend them, you'll just be erased.

If Zeno were going to mean anything as a character, then we would expect his relationship with Goku to mean something. But the story doesn't want to do that, because it would get the tournament cancelled.

Furthermore, rather than see any character development from Zeno, at the end of the tournament arc, the Grand Priest just puts words in Zeno's mouth and says he was going to wipe out all of existence if the Super Dragon Balls were used for a selfish wish. It's kind of baffling, and it's hard to know what to make of this.

Zeno is also portrayed as insurmountable, which also points to him being more a plot device than character. From volume 5, page 67:

Supreme Kai: The Lord of Everything? I'm certain he is [still around in Trunks's timeline]. No one can defeat the Lord of Everything.

Morality in Dragon Ball Super

Neither Zeno nor the Grand Priest are depicted as evil. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z tended to have more clear cut villains, and take the stance that massacring people and blowing up planets was bad and should be stopped. Dragon Ball Super though, introduces the Destroyers, while also having a less serious tone at times than Dragon Ball Z. The Destroyers are deities whose job it is to destroy planets and the civilizations on them. The Supreme Kais were also given the designation of being gods of creation. This duality introduces to Dragon Ball Super the theme that the universe goes through cycles of creation and destruction. This is not seen as a bad thing in general. Though of course, when Beerus is trying to destroy earth, he becomes the antagonist for a time. And yet, as the story continues on, Goku and everyone else become friends with Beerus in spite of him not reforming (he is still a Destroyer God).

What we conclude from this is that Zeno destroying planets is not considered to be an evil act. It's just his job as the highest level destroyer god.

If we look at the case of Zamasu, the god characters are careful in their words so as to not condemn him for destroying, but rather for disrupting balance.

From volume 2, page 210:

Whis: Well, in terms of destruction, I don't see anything different between him and you.

Beerus: Hey! This jerk is just messing with whoever he doesn't like without thinking about the balance of the universe! I've got a whole different level of wisdom, dignity, and history!!

Whis: Ha ha ha... You are right.

From volume 3 page 44:

Gowasu: How absurd! Listen, Zamas! You learned this earlier. Such judgement is to be passed only by the God of Destruction.

From volume 3 page 63:

Gowasu: Our purpose, of course, is to maintain peace. If there is a planet that becomes devoid of peace and disturbs the balance, we must think of a way they can fix it themselves.

Zamas: Can you not see how easy you are on them? We must be more actively involved and crush evil in its tracks! [...]

Gowasu: I told you before. That is the work of the God of Destruction! Listen well, Zamas. Although I acknowledge your sense of justice, having too much of it is no different from fastidiousness, and it will bring you nothing but frailty. [...] It is not combat skills that make you a Lord of Lords, but a calm mind and a gentle soul.

Grand Zeno has a Pure Heart?

Good news. This is supported directly by the text of the work. From volume 5, page 142:

Beerus: Zeno-sama is surely pure of heart. But his pureness is what makes him so scary!

Grand Minister is Evil Theory?

While I myself initially was suspicious of the Grand Minister from watching the anime, reading the manga has led me to a different conclusion. He truly does seem to be just trying to interpret (and sometimes guess) what Grand Zeno wants. He definitely tacks some things on at times. I'm pretty confident Grand Zeno didn't tell him to offer the Super Dragon Balls as a reward for the best fighter in the tournament. And he seems pretty gung-ho at other times. For instance, when Zeno says managing the universes is a pain, we would want the Grand Priest to talk him down, but instead he suggests destroying some. What we have to consider is that the Grand Priest's concerns do not align with our own. Why would he talk Zeno down? And the conversation could be interpreted as him just trying to figure out what Grand Zeno wants. From volume 5, pages 146-148:

Zeno 1: Isn't this too many?

Zeno 2: It is...

Zeno 1: Why don't we get rid of a few?

Zeno 2: Let's do that.

Zeno 1: Hey, Grand Priest, how are the mortals in the 12 universes doing lately?

[Grand Priest gives report]

Zeno 1: So, they're not developing at all. It's pointless to keep all 12 of them.

Zeno 2: It is.

Zeno 1: I'm losing interest in observing them all.

Zeno 2: So am I.

Grand Priest: Would you like to get rid of a few?

Zeno 1: You're right. I guess four is good enough.

Zeno 2: Let's erase the eight universes that are lower than the others.

Grand Priest: Very well, my lord. Then let the guides in the designated universes withdraw.

Grand Zeno as Naive?

As far as I saw reading up to volume 6, there is no evidence for Grand Zeno not fully understanding the consequences of his actions when erasing the universes. At best, it is ambiguous. He always wears a fathomless expression. His mannerisms are childish, but that doesn't automatically make him naive.

When Goku summons Grand Zeno to defeat Zamasu, it's unclear how effective Goku's attempts to manipulate him were. The problem is that in the end he decides to wipe out all of existence instead of just Zamasu, which is not what Goku wanted him to do.

From volume 5 pages 70-72:

Zeno: What's this? It's all messed up.

Goku: Th-Those guys did all this...

Zeno: So many of them. Is this their fault?

Goku: Y-Yes. They are bad guys.

Zeno: How annoying.

Goku: Right? Don't you want to erase all of them?

Zeno: Yes, I think so. A world like this...

Goku: W...World?!!

It is unclear how much of the decision to do this is Zeno and how much Goku, and thus it doesn't give a clear picture of how much Zeno understands the consequences of his actions. Though the fact that he asks if Zamasu is responsible does somewhat indicate a lack of agency. It's just hard to say with that fathomless face what's going on inside Zeno's mind.

In the anime, we see Zeno hesitate destroying Universe 7, which does at least imply he knows that if he does that, he won't be seeing Goku again.

Conclusion

Zeno is primarily a plot device, he is pure of heart, and his actions are not depicted as evil. This is because it's not about good and evil--it's about balance between creation and destruction.

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  • The "Grand Minister is evil" was an extremely popular theory.It would not have been that widespread if the anime didn't gave multiple reason to think that he saw the existence of 12 universes as a nuisance and put that idea in Zeno mind. Basically, don't blame the theory - blame the show for making that theory far too believable. Coincidentally that also tied in to another theory - the fact that Whis has some purpose for training Goku and Vegeta (he should be impartial but it is clear he is not and also abuses future knowledge). As for the rest, I'll leave it for the chat - too long for this
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 8:05

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