Chi-Chi and Dragon Ball Z

*NOTE*This is the first detailed installment of a series on the female characters of Dragon Ball Z. For the overview of sexism in the series click here. My analysis will be based off the manga not the original anime.

Although Bulma is the primary female character for most of the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, Chi-Chi is the character who is solely played for laughs, where Bulma is at least acknowledged as being a genius.

Chi-Chi is introduced as a fighter (as you can tell by her ‘warrior outfit‘) though despite her bikini armor she has very few action scenes. All she does is throw the spike on her helmet to kill a dinosaur and then shoot a laser from her helmet to disintegrate the body. This could potentially be a great display of ingenuity and skill, but when she fights a dessert bandit named Yamcha she is taken out with one hit. In this way she is dismissed as a competent fighter and is shown to have no skills on her own.

Although Dragon Ball itself is not meant to be taken seriously (especially in the earlier volumes) Chi-Chi is given dialogue like “Oo, this is ‘jes’ too dang freaky” and “Waah!! That was SCAAARY!!”. She is laughably stupid even compared to a character like Goku, who has no education and is typical of the  idiot hero trope. Chi-Chi’s ignorance is not cute or lovable, she is written off as a hick.

At the beginning of every volume of the manga there’s a page of main characters that gives a brief description of each in addition to catching the reader up on the plot. The description of Chi-Chi is as follows:

“A strange girl who Yamcah…ran into. She has a tendency to overreact.”

This is Akira Toriyama’s fall back for Chi-Chi: it will be funny if she’s the hysterical woman. And Chi-Chi is constantly ‘overreacting’ though in reality most of it is for her own safety. Goku, having lived in the woods all twelve years of his life does not know how to tell the difference between boys and girls except by patting their gentitals. When Goku does such, Chi-Chi responds:

“Get your hands off me!!!!”

and proceeds to push Goku off the flying cloud they’re traveling on and screams just before she crashes the cloud into a boulder. Once the two are traveling again, Chi-Chi’s dialogue shows that she is still upset, explaining that “[he] did plenty!!!” to deserve being pushed off the cloud, but the next panel of the manga she is blushing. Her inner thoughts read as such:

“But, thought the maiden, having been touched ‘there’ what else could it mean but that she would become this youth’s wife?”

Granted, Goku was not trying to molest her or make her uncomfortable, but it is wrong of Akira Toriyama to brush aside this complete disrespect of Chi-Chi as a female. Goku did not know what he was doing, but Akira Toriyama did. Akira Toriyama was well aware of how he treated Chi-Chi and was equally aware that Chi-Chi is a Japanese word for breasts. Because the author does not treat her with respect none of his characters do either. Not even her own father. Without her being present her father offers her in marriage to Goku. This is never addressed as being a sexist issue and toward the end of the Dragon Ball series, Chi-Chi comes back into the story after having spent the past six years of her life waiting for Goku to come back to her and claim her hand.

She is written as fully accepting of her weaker status as a woman, both as a fighter-who can never even come close to matching her male counterparts- and as a person-who revolves her life around a young boy who she barely knows. Goku and Chi-Chi do get married at the very end of Dragon Ball though it is seen as more obligatory on Goku’s part who, when he and Chi-Chi part ways,agrees that

“whatever [Chi-Chi’s father] wants to give me I’ll be sure to come an’ get! Count on it!”

Chi-Chi is referring to marriage, but Goku does not know what marriage is. He finds out six years later, when Chi-Chi demands he keep his promise and he agrees. To Akira Toriyama, marriage is something imposed upon men and is another example of the woman overreacting over nothing.

Throughout Dragon Ball Z, Chi-Chi becomes even more of a sexist character. Her role is diminished to being a constant worrying mother over her son Gohan. Her ‘overreacting’ as her emotions are played, are in fact quite reasonable. She does not want her 4 year old son being turned into a warrior or traveling the galaxy or being put into life or death situations with his father. Her concern is understandable, but it played as the hysterics of a ranting woman who cannot keep herself under control. As a woman she does not see the big picture that her son is needed to save the world. As a woman she cannot have the same scope of vision as a man.

Akira Toriyama does all that he can to discredit her opinions, demean her actions, and keep her uneducated and in her place as a side character written solely for laughs. This is unfortunate because Goku, Chi-Chi, and Gohan have the best chance in the series of establishing a stable family relationship where there can be a break from the constant fight scenes. If these rare family moments were taken seriously, a loving equal relationship between husband wife could have possible to portray. Chi-Chi was never taken seriously.


17 thoughts on “Chi-Chi and Dragon Ball Z

    • I was planning on doing Bulma’s character next, but I may put that on hold in order to more fully answer your comment about how the male characters of DBZ are treated. But the next female character is going to be Bulma. Although no, I don’t have a set date planned.

      • Sure.

        On the subject of Chi-Chi I heard her outfit as a child is based off Super Sentai type shows.

        In the anime there is a part where Chi-Chi gets wife training from an Old Lady which just consists of cleaning the house, washing dishes, ETC.

      • I never watched the original anime (the dialogue is too terrible) so I never knew Chi-Chi was treated that way. My knowledge is from reading the manga and watching the revised DBZ Kai. I know almost nothing of Dragon Ball GT. If you ever have anything else to add please feel free to do. I appreciate your insights and your knowledge.
        Thank you!

      • Yeah the dialogue of the dub is pretty bad, plus Funimation often gets character info and dialogue wrong.

      • I think watching the Japanese subs is best. Kai is okay but it cuts out the but Saga. Plus it has the same voices problem.

        The Anime added storyline involving Chi-Chi and Goku going on one last adventure before their marriage. I can tell you about it later.

        Please reply soon, I’m very interested in this conversation.

  1. When a female character is not a BAMF or acts as tough as her male counterparts, everyone jumps the gun and says the writer is incompetent.. When ACTUALLY he totally is; any female that can’t hold their own in a fight against men is depicted that way because the author has had (an) experience(s) where this is the case. And that is the way it should be written. Not making every girl bust a cap in their guy colleagues when the author has never even seen this happen in reality.The worlds that they create are theirs to mold in whichever direction they see fit. When someone dies, this is what the author thinks should have been written, fir whatever reason. Obviously then, if a girl gets molested, this is what the author feels should have been done, and that without it, the story would not have flowed properly.

    • I do need to tell you that I have heard your comment before and I think we need to start this discussion from the beginning. As a feminist I do not want writers to write “BAMF” female characters. I want writers to write REAL female characters. This means they are not plot devices, they do not serve the stories of their male counterparts and they exist on their own even if a male character is not constantly present.

      For Dragon Ball Z it doesn’t matter whether Akira Toriyama ever saw a woman “hold her own in a fight against a man” because I bet he has also never seen a man fly into the sky and fight, or scream long and loud enough to turn his hair golden. DBZ is not based off reality. And even if it were, it is a false assumption to believe that female characters are either dependent or characters who need to compete physically with the men. If you are looking for reality in your fiction, I think you need to understand that, just like men, there are more than two types of women in the world, and all of them are equally valid and fully rounded individuals.

      I can tolerate the misogyny above as perhaps being misinformed. But, I cannot tolerate the idea that sexual violence and assault as being a plot device. Yes, the author has the right to shape the world they create, but there is the opportunity to shape a better world. If a girl is sexually abused in a work of fiction, the author is held accountable for how he or she treats this incident. It has nothing to do with the story’s flow, and everything to do with the morality the author proposes for his or her audience.

      • To start things off, I am not an active member here, and have not posted anywhere near this blog before. I was directed here by someone I was speaking with on another site.
        Now,yes,you’re right,we do need to start things from the beginning. You need to understand that before anything “[wanting] writers to write REAL female characters” is a counterproductive expectation when you read a shounen (Japanese for boy) manga. The focus is not women and therefore it is not wise to expect fleshed out female roles. Despite this, Akira does provide real female roles,starting with his main female character,Bulma,who is the best example as she is neither dependent (on anyone at all, I mean really.) nor does she need to compete physically with men. Android 18 is another, as well as Goku’s red-head friend from the Red Ribbon arc (who’s name I cannot recall). Now exactly how fleshed out you expect them to be is another matter entirely, but compared to their male peers, these characters are equal if not greater in depth than much of the cast,and Chi-Chi is not an exception.
        Chi-Chi may have been stuck on relationships and marriage when she was introduced, but this is who she is. It’s not about sexism it’s about characterization and variety. Akira pulled it off, she was a side character and already had plenty of background that for some reason, many choose to ignore simply because of her feminine nature putting them off. For example she’s the Ox King’s daughter, she has a pure heart, she undergoes training by the Ox King, she is introduced with a serious dilemma that acted as one of the show’s first conflicts, and her personality alone makes her standout. This is more detail than we’re given about the deuteragonist,Krillin, when he is introduced. Akira is not misinformed, I have seen women like Chi-Chi in reality,starting with my own mother and sister. Does this mean all women are like Chi-Chi? No it does not. Does it mean they exist? If we assume her creation is an emission from Akira’s own mind and his own knowledge,then yes, someone in this world has seen a woman of that nature. Does that make it misogyny? In no way or form does it. It is not a malicious act towards women, though it may be insulting to a woman who dislikes the stereotype. The same would go to a Mexican who watches a flick involving a mafia with a Mexican head. They do exist, and the author included this aspect because of this knowledge. If they want to change the fact that the mafia exists, that’s an entirely different story, but there is no need to attack the producer.
        You also need to understand that there are themes in DBZ that make the show realistic. Remember the scene when Goku demonstrates SSJ3 for the first time? This is what i mean. People work out to just the theme song that plays there. This is a product of experience, trying really hard to achieve something, trying to output more power than what is naturally possible, these are the themes that are reflected in the main character as well as some others. Now consider the scene in question;is it possible to output enough energy to shatter the glass on skyscrapers while miles away, cause tidal waves, or crash television stations? Is it possible for a person to transform at all? Or let’s go even further, do aliens that conveniently look just like humans (and have nearly the same anatomy at that) actually exist? No, they don’t. Do people connect with the impossible situations presented? Yes, they do. Do you think that this is some extraordinary coincidence? It isn’t, and this is the case with most, if not all, works of fiction. In this case the point is the emotions that the audience experience are key, and creating circumstances that they can relate is something Akira is good at.
        So while Akira may choose to work in characters like Android 18,with a feisty attitude and the ability to fight super saiyans, ultimately scolding him for also adding characters without your preferred traits is not only unfair, but it’s a bit childish.The same goes for the creation of scenarios you don’t like. If murderers exist in reality, and they do, then the author of a book in which a serial killer exists is morally out of line? No, they are not. The author introduced this aspect of his book in order to make his audience feel a certain way, and it makes their story more real. You may not want to watch someone get killed, or accept the thought of one person killing another, but it happens. And keeping it out of any work of literature because you want your audience to feel only happiness or joy the entire time is limiting yourself and creating an unbelievable, juvenile world for your readers to dive into. Akira Toriyama created a real world, and added things that he thought were, well, cool. Should he add things he does not think are cool? Should he add things he’s not sure about? No, this is called pseudo-intellectualism.
        The case is the same with Chi-Chi. She is an overbearing wife. She is an overprotective mother. She may be brash, and may not be reasonable at times. These are things that many have had experience with in reality. Akira molded Chi-Chi to the way he has seen things to be, still without making generalizations(as seen with other mothers/wives in this series) and I don’t think there’s any reason to assume he has a little bit of the characters he designs in him. In short, drawing a young girl getting molested absolutely does not make him a pedophile, (this is an example; not saying you think it does) and whether or not he says something that insulted you should not be on the syllabus for the evaluation of his competence as a writer.

  2. I have to say I love all of these posts!! I know I’m a little late to the party, but I’d love to see more. I thought chi chi was the most tragically brushed aside character. I also always thought Frieza was potentially an offensive portyal of a transgendered person

    • Thank you for commenting and it’s never too late to join the party. I never considered Frieza as a stereotype of a transgender person, I think I’ll write about that. Thank you for the new blog idea!

  3. I have to say, I have personally never been convinced that Gokuu loves Chichi in a romantic way. Sure he cares about her and is protective of her, but it’s not like he married her because of love. But then again, that has more to do with the fact that I don’t think Gokuu knows anything about, nor much cares for, romantic love, and less to do with ChiChi’s characterization. Let’s face it, we all know women like ChiChi. Tough women who nonetheless fret a lot and are overprotective to the point of being annoying at times. I don’t think Toriyama demeans her, but then again, in a world of much stronger fighters, even someone as strong as ChiChi cannot contribute much to the plot.

    Nevertheless, it is obvious that her sons love her, and that Gokuu really cares for her. Gokuu has also never dismissed her worries. He acknowledges them and provides counterarguments. More to the point, he actively seeks her agreement before doing anything, especially what involves their son. Also, you say that ChiChi is a dependent woman, but really nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Gokuu is the one who, not knowing how to use money, depends on her and lives with her off her father’s fortune. In those senses, they have an equal relationship. Gokuu is the insanely physically strong one with great tactical wisdom and forethought, as well as being a good judge of character and bringing out the best in most people; ChiChi is the protective and caring housewife who raises her sons to be modern men and provides for the family with her father’s fortune. Neither one of them is perfect, nor a stereotype, nor weak.

    Mind you, ChiChi is not a favorite character of mine as I find that she can be annoying, but I certainly don’t dislike her that much either. In fact, to me, a woman like Bulma, in spite of being the independent type you so like, is far more of an annoyance. Sure she’s a genius, but that doesn’t excuse her acting like a privileged bitch because of it. Not to mention that this isn’t something that’s true of her only when she’s younger. She at least gets a little better once she becomes a mother though.

  4. I get your points, but despite that, I really dislike Chi-Chi as a character. After the fight with Vegeta she didn’t care about Goku at all, all she was doing was being overbearing on Gohan. And when Goku was terrified of needles she just abandoned him. As someone who has a phobia, I could not sympathize with Chi-Chi there at all.

    Overall, I’d say that Chi-Chi’s worries are understandable, but they made her very extreme which makes it just annoying. It’s understandable that she’s worried about Gohan, but she takes it to the extreme and completely dictates his life. I don’t blame either Goku or Gohan from wanting to get away from her. Gohan has it more difficult than other children. I guess most children occasionally feel that their parents don’t listen to them or don’t view them as intelligent people who can think for themselves, but Gohan’s wishes are completely irrelevant in Chi-Chi’s eyes.

    Now I agree that women are lacking in the fighting department, though it doesn’t bother me as much. Maybe that’s because I’m not a feminist (I am a woman btw), I don’t get as uptight about it. Most of the men in the series are just as flawed: for instance, a lot of people complain that in the early series Bulma fawns over the idea of having a boyfriend, but Yamcha was exactly the same.

    It is the fault of the writers of the show and of the dub that Chi-Chi is so annoying, but knowing that doesn’t make her any less annoying. Though I understand her worry over Gohan I have absolutely no respect for the way she treats Goku. She’s not exactly the poster girl for accepting people the way they are. She doesn’t seem to respect Goku at all for who he is, despite that he saved the world several times, so why the hell did she marry him?

  5. Are you ever going to finish this series or write about any of the female characters besides Chi-Chi? You provide a really interesting analysis.

  6. So I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball on cartoon Network. I certainly got the toned down version. This was of course before my feminist awakening. My nostalgia sent me down the Dragon Ball Z rabbit hole and I came to a similar realization: Dragon Ball Z is pretty sexist. I had no idea Chi-Chi meant breast, gross. She’s like 12 when she’s introduced. When I was a kid I found her constant freaking out annoying, but rewatching I really feel for her. Goku was always leaving her and piccolo took her son from her for a year, without asking, and never even bothered to give her updates about how Gohan was doing. Those are valid things to be upset about. And a really wasted opportunity, she was always portrayed as an obstacle to the boys’ adventures. I feel like the writers forgot half the time she was a martial artist in her own right. Instead of being the embodiment of the “ball and chain” trope she could have fought with them.

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