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Leaving power levels aside, is Goku if not worst, one of the worst anime characters?

To support this question, I have several examples:

  • He has put everyone in danger many times, just to have fun fighting.
  • He spared Piccolo, who was the manifestation of Kami's malice (later he turned out to be a good character), but that was a huge risk comparing Piccolo's power to humans.
  • He let go of Raditz and Vegeta in their fight, who could've destroyed the planet, as it's Saiyans' job.
  • He gave his energy to Frieza, who later came to destroy the earth, which would've been destroyed if not for Trunks.
  • In Cell Saga, he gives Cell a Senzu-Bean, as if fair fighting is more important than the survival of the planet.
  • He wasn't seriously fighting with Beerus when all of the Z-fighters were requesting him to save the planet.
  • He messes around Beerus and Zeno who can destroy planets or universes in a jiffy.
  • He kickstarted the Tournament of Power, putting the entire multiverse's existence at stake, just because he wanted to fight someone.

Other than putting other's life at risk.

  • He didn't care about his own family, he spent most of his life training rather than spending it with his family.

EDIT: Changed the question title (Villain -> Irresponsible) to better relay my question.

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    "He didn't care about his own family, he spent most of his life training rather than spending it with his family.", well, that would need some measurement. If we take DBZ, I'd say say he spent most of time dead. He married at the end of DB, he reappears 5 years later with a son (which he has lived with), then he's dead for a year, then he goes to a hospital, then he goes to Namek, then he takes 1 year to come back (could have done it sooner), then he stays with his family for 3 years while training (because he has to), then he would be dead for good, if not for the events 6 years later.
    – Gae. S.
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 21:49
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    It sounds like bad judgment and not a villain
    – Joe W
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 21:50
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    Again that sounds like bad judgment and not a villain. People can make stupid and dangerous choices but that doesn’t mean that they are a villain
    – Joe W
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 21:54
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    You're also missing a passage about Frieza: 1) Goku gives him energy. 2) Frieza says "Don't pity me" and attacks him. 3) Goku makes his best, and to his knowledge successful, attempt at murdering him. 4) Unbeknownst to him and everybody else, Frieza managed to survive and be rescued by his father.
    – Gae. S.
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 7:49
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    @Gae.S. to be fair, for the most time he wanted to stay dead.... in order to freely train without Chichi interference. He later pulls out the excuse "it is better if I stay dead because I attract villains" only to not care about that as soon as he can participate in a tournament (and wonder what? they cause the return of Majin Bu). In Dragon Ball getting out of afterlife is as simple as making a "phone call" to Shenron (even the time to get the spheres has been powercreept ), if he cared he could have asked to be wished back. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 13:34

1 Answer 1

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If we're talking about fiction, acting irresponsible and stupid does not disqualify one from being a hero, nor does it make one a villain. Being incredibly monstrous or neglectful to your own family does not automatically make a character a villain either. Just consider the story of the Greek hero Heracles. As we all know, he killed his whole family. He spends the rest of the story doing crazy tasks for a selfish king as penance. Heracles was considered a hero by the Greeks and he's still considered a hero now. Where parenting is concerned, Goku seems pretty harmless by comparison. He may have gotten his sons and wife killed, but he never killed them himself (not in the current timeline anyway, though the whole Zamasu thing is actually quite analogous to Hera sending madness down on Heracles).

Whether a character is hero or villain all depends on the framing of the story, as well as the heroic traits that are valued in the culture the story comes from.

Oftentimes in fiction, the terms hero and villain are synonymous with protagonist and antagonist (not always, but often). In Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super, I think it's pretty clear Goku is the hero and our protagonist. The story does not portray him as a villain - just a careless idiot who sometimes gets carried away wanting to fight strong opponents.

As to addressing your specific matters in your bulleted list:

  1. Goku is a warrior and he likes fighting. These are not inherently villainous traits. Look at all the heroic warrior stories we have: Beowulf, Heracles, Achilles, etc. Achilles's selfishness gets his friend killed, but he's still considered a hero in spite of having this negative trait.
      1. Mercy and forgiveness are not considered a villainous trait. They are considered heroic traits. The consequences of the forgiveness don't really matter for determining a hero. Batman is still considered a hero even though he keeps showing Joker mercy, which results in more people dying.
  2. Giving Cell a Senzu Bean was idiotic and irresponsible. Those traits don't make Goku a villain. 6. and 7. are just Goku being stupid and/or irreverent too. Doesn't make him a villain.
  3. I have more to say about the Tournament of Power below.
  4. "He didn't care about his own family." This is not true. You could say he is neglectful, though there are some who would contend this too. I won't, though. It doesn't matter whether he's a good father and husband or not, as I've already explained.

Definitions

Let's look at some definitions of hero and villain from Merriam Webster.

Hero:

a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

an illustrious warrior

a person admired for achievements and noble qualities

one who shows great courage.

the principal character in a literary or dramatic work

Nowhere in there does it say Goku has to take only good actions, or that he is not allowed to take evil actions. And note that with how ambiguous the world is, it would take a philosopher to figure out what is good and evil anyway. For instance, is it really evil to give Frieza a second chance? We have the hindsight of knowing he won't reform, but Goku doesn't.

Villain:

1 : a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

2 : a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

3 : one blamed for a particular evil

4 : villein

5 : an uncouth person : boor

These ones are worth going through, which is why I've kept the numbers in. Goku definitely is not 1, because he is the hero of the story. He is not 2 either, because none of the evil he does is deliberate. But for 3-5, there is actually a case for each one that Goku is a villain.

  1. Many of the other universes blame Goku for the Tournament of Power.
  2. We've seen Goku do some farming in Dragon Ball Super, so go ahead and call him a villain. He most likely does not actually have a lord though. Or maybe the land he lives on actually belongs to the Ox King.
  3. Goku has been shown to have poor manners at times.

Conclusion

Is Goku a villain? It depends on what you mean. There are some who considered him a villain for a time, namely those from the other universes forced to participate in the Tournament of Power. As you say you believe Goku is "the worst", however, I do not think this is what you mean by villain, in which case, I think we have to conclude that he is not one. We can reasonably conclude he is a hero though, as he fits most of the definitions provided.

If the question is whether Goku is a boorish peasant though, then the answer is yeah, kind of. Though he probably doesn't fit the literal definition of a peasant, he fits the bill enough that it makes sense to use that as an insult against him.

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  • Your answer has valid points backed by good examples, and I agree with most of them. I think I should have meant something other than a villain, as my point was that he's irresponsible, even when other's lives are at stake. So, can't say if giving Senzu beans is kind or foolish.
    – Zero
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 23:49

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