So, let’s talk about Bra from the online fan-manga Dragonball Multiverse, as this was a topic requested by several people.
Probably an odd choice to start off the Hero’s Journey series of this blog, as many would argue, that she is in fact, not a hero at all. Which in itself, already says a lot, so let’s dive right in to see, how she holds up as a character as well as a hero.
One of the most common complaints about Bra come from her portrayed personality. Mainly, that she is overly mean, arrogant and shows no compassion towards others. Which, if you read the manga, are all valid points. Pretty much everytime she opens her mouth, she badmouths others, has no kind word to anyone and quite frankly, shows psychotic behaviour on numerous occations.
Which wouldn’t nescessarily be a bad thing, but here’s the problem: she’s either never called out on it, or is outright rewarded for it. Notable examples include:
- despite her father’s direct orders, she transforms into a ssj2, a state she knows she can’t control and gets almost everyone killed
- right after the start of their match, she killes Zangya, despite her father’s orders being the direct opposite
- she risks the resurrection of Pan by almost attacking Bojack, which was only stopped by Gohan’s interference
- she is constantly condescending towards everyone, with the sole exception of her father (for the most part)
- she almost blows up Earth in a fit of rage for the sole reason of Gohan being stronger than her
- she risks the wish she gave to Eleim (a wish that could save a whole universe, literally), only to have a fun, but meaningless fight with King Cold
On all of the above mentioned occations, people around her are either completely okay with her behaviour, or are outright rewarding her for it. Which is rather questionable, if we’re supposed to believe, that many of the people present (including members of her own team) are supposedly heroes, who should not even tolerate such actions. Yet all she ever gets for being the way she is, is admiration and amazement at her talents. In-universe, she is pretty much treated as a perfect person, while a good chunk of the readers are left questioning, whether she is even meant to be likeable or not, despite everything in the manga telling us, that the answer is most likely yes.
Her cocky, arrogant attitude have also led many of her fans to claim, that she is just a female Vegeta, and thus, her critics are being hypocritical for complaining about her. That argument, however, holds very little ground, and here’s why.
Yes, both characters are arrogant, aggressive and cocksure, but that’s where the similarities stop. For starters, let’s look at their backstories, to understand, why these two are the way they are.
Vegeta was born a prince to a throne of a warrior race. A race, that values nothing more, than strength. He was the son of a king, who was the strongest of his people. Soon, while still being a child, he surpassed this man, and became the strongest warrior his people ever knew. That should explain, where the arrogance in him comes from. He lived in a society, that literally bred soldiers, and soldiers only.
Bra, on the other hand, grew up on Earth, within a completely different society. She spent her childhood in peacetime, while all Vegeta knew was war. She grew up in a – mostly – normal family, and a friendly environment. Vegeta grew up learning, that might makes right.
Let’s not forget about Frieza either. The seemingly omnipotent being, whose everpresent shadow gloomed over Vegeta’s whole life. A being, who, despite all of Vegeta’s power, could have erased him, his father and their whole race from existence by merely lifting a finger. Literally. Now, imagine how terrifiing that must have felt for him. Taking that into account, I’m sure to say, that it’s understandable, how Vegeta turned out. Meanwhile, Bra grew up as one of the strongest beings in the universe, and the only beings stronger than her were all members of her family, who would never have hurt her, so she had nothing to fear. Ever. Therefore, her acting like she has some tormented, dark past just makes no sense for her.
There’s also a third, and huge difference between the two: Vegeta always got his comeuppance. Bra never does. Yes, Vegeta was often arrogant and in over his head, but the thing is – the story never portrayed that as an okay thing, evidenced by the fact, that his arrogance always ended in him getting utterly destroyed and humiliated. Also, none of the protagonists acted like his behaviour was alright.
Bra, on the other hand, always gets away with it. Every. Bloody. Time. Often, she even comes out looking good for her mistakes. Mistakes, that nobody inside the manga ever acknowledges. Vegeta let’s Cell turn perfect, he gets humiliated, called out upon it, and ends up utterly beaten. Bra kills her opponent in her match, despite being told to controll herself, and she gets praise for it. Vegeta stops the others from destroying the androids, and he gets humiliated and beaten by Android18. Bra throws a tantrum while training with Gohan, she nearly destroys the planet, and they act like that’s nothing. Vegeta goes Majin, and everyone calls him out on it. Because of it, Buu gets released, and his fault in all this is admitted. He gets beaten and humiliated, again. Bra goes into her battle with King Cold full of arrogance, but does that come back to bite her in the ass? No, she comes out on top, her flaws are overlooked and everybody is amazed by how great she is. See a pattern there?
So I have to conlcude, that Bra and Vegeta are not the same case. And I say this as someone, who’s really, really not a Vegeta fan. But with him, we could at least see why and how he became the man we know. With Bra, the pieces of her past just don’t add up to the person we meet in the present.
Another thing, that bothers a lot of readers is that she is shown to be a straight-up psychopath. This is probably best showcased before, during and after her fight with Zangya.
While it would be understandable for her to be angry at her and Bojack for killing Pan, but she really goes overboard and comes off less as a mourning, mad family member and more as a complete psycho. For starters, noone in her group stopped Pan from entering a clearly one-sided fight, so it’s not really fair of her to be mad. Allowing Pan to fight Bojack was like allowing your child to climb into a lion’s mouth at the zoo. So technically, they should blame themselfs first, and Bojack second. But she does not see it that way. At all. Which tells us, she is quick to lay blame and that blame is never on her. That alone tells us, something is wrong with her.
But it goes further. Not only does she want revenge, she wants it on Zangya, not Bojack, because she think that her death will hurt Bojack. Sorry, but wanting to kill someone, that your enemy holds dear, isn’t that a villain move? Bra certainly doesn’t seem to care, she goes into the conflict with a wide psychotic smile, that would make the Joker proud, while she straight up declares she is going to make her opponent suffer.
Just look at that face. That’s not even an angry smile, that’s a sadistic, evil smile. That’s Frieza, when he tortures Gohan, not a hero we’re supposed to root for.
Then, after being told not to kill her opponent, she completely goes mad (again, where is this anger comming from?) and calls her “worthless trash”. Because that’s how heroes in the DragonBall universe act… They take a living being for worthless trash. That’s the woman who was raised by someone who is half Goku, ladies and gentleman…
So she murders her. But it doesn’t even stop there. Vegetto complients her for behaving like that, even though she didn’t even try and snapped in literally a second at the first sign of provocation. And it still doesn’t stop there. After she learns that Zangya wasn’t actually important to Bojack and thus, her death will not hurt him, what does she do? Does she show remorse, guilt, regret over taking her life? Not in the slightest, she just gets mad at Gohan for not telling her that beforehand.
I’m sorry, but that’s just straight-up evil behaviour. Yes, Zangya was a terrible person herself (not that Bra could know that), and she probably deserved, what she got, but the point is, no character associated with our heroes should act like Bra just did. Having to take a life is something a hero might be forced to do, but he shouldn’t enjoy that, especially not that much. And they shouldn’t react like she did afterwards either.
Point is – Bra refused to accept the responsibility she shares in Pan’s death. She wanted, yes, wanted to make someone else suffer for it to get back at Bojack. She straight up murdered her. Then she went on to be mad at Gohan for not helping her sadistic quest. How is that even remotely okay? Does anyone think, that Goku would have been okay with what Tao PaiPai did to General Blue, despite Blue being his enemy? Because this here is not so different at all, yet none, none of the heroes even bat an eye.
It always felt to me, like salagir wanted to cram all the “cool attributes” into one character with Bra. Gohan’s huge potential, Brolly’s legendary uncontrollable rage, Vegeta’s condescending and arrogant attitude, Vegetto’s power, Goku’s battle provess and so forth. Problem is, all those attributes together don’t mix well, and what’s worse, they make little to no sense in the case of someone like Bra.
For example, the author tries to sell Bra as this tortured, battle-weary person, who therefore has problems with her rage and so forth, but with the backstory we were given, it makes no sense for her to be that way. DBZ has never been that great at character development, but still. With Gohan, we saw where the rage came from. We saw, where Vegeta’s pride came from, we saw, where Future Trunks’s level-headedness came from. With Bra, her personality just doesn’t make sense with her backstory.
Not to mention, what did salagir do to convey her rugged, rage-filled personality and it’s origins to the readers? He wrote a “comedy” special chapter about her… -_- Not exactly the best way to explore this type of character. Especially, since even that chapter only showcased more and more of the flaws. She does not pay attention, she does not listen to her father, she is rude and condescending to everyone, she physically hurts innocent people for no good reason, and so forth.
Not exactly hero material, is she? But wait! Maybe that’s it, maybe she is not meant to be likeable at all! Maybe she’s… a villain in the making?
Is she meant to be likeable?
Taking the things mentioned above into consideration, one might get the feeling, that all of this is to intentionally make her unlikeable and possibly even foreshadow her turn as a villain, right?
Well, no. The problem is, while most of the readers see her flaws and fully aknowledge them, the people in-universe… do not. Like, at all. As I already mentioned, everyone around her just seems mesmerized by her, as well as being completely blind to any of her flaws. She’s mean spirited, nobody calls her out on it, she defies direct orders, nobody calls her out on it, she puts people in danger for no good reason, nobody calls her out on it. And I’m not just talking about Vegetto, no, even the main universe’s heroes seem to be completely alright with her behaviour. Matter of fact, all they ever show towards her is amazement in the best of ways.
It’s not even that she’s hiding her darker side, and that’s why Goku and the others behave towards her the way they do. No, she fully shows off what a terrible, terrible (half)human being she is, and yet, in-universe, nobody has a problem with her personality. So it’s not the old, seemingly-good-guy-turns-evil stick.
Her power – is it justified?
Another thing that’s often criticised about Bra is her immense power. Which, according to Salagir, is justified merely by the fact, that she is Vegetto’s daughter. But is that really reason enough? Let’s see. Few things to consider there.
Salagir seems to go by the notion, that the stronger the parents, the stronger their offspring will turn out to be. But that’s not true in canon. Goku was much, much stronger, when he concieved Goten, than he was when he concieved Gohan, and yet, while Goten clearly started out with a bigger power, it’s undeniable that Gohan’s power and potential is much, much bigger. So there’s that.
Then there’s the case of Goten and Trunks.
Note, that there seems to be no notable difference between Goten and Trunks either, as far as potential goes, even though there should be, if Salagir’s theory holds true. Goku was much, much stronger, than Vegeta, when he concieved Goten, and ChiChi is far stronger than Bulma as well. Yet the kids are almost even, with Trunk’s having a slight edge due to his age. But that’s it. If what Salagir promotes was true, then Goten would be notably stronger than Trunks, as he was sired by much stronger parents. After all, we’re talking about a Vegeta, who was far below Android18’s level and a Goku who could go toe to toe with Perfect Cell for a very long period of time. And that’s not even accounting for the difference between ChiChi and Bulma.
If we accept salagir’s view, that stronger parents equal stronger kids, then how come that Goku was born so weak, even though not one, but both of his parents were absolute top brass elite warriors in DBM? Both stronger, than anyone in the royal family? By that logic, Goku should be far stronger than Vegeta very early on…
Also, why is U16 Pan so weak then? Her father is mystic Gohan, one of the mighties warriors of all time. And her mother is Videl, who, while not quite as impressive, is still worlds above the regular human, certainly a thousand times stronger than Bulma, Bra’s mother? So how come Pan can’t even beat Bojack as a ssj, no, scratch that, how come she can’t even hurt an untrasformed Bojack in the slightest, merely piss him off? Shouldn’t that mean, that Pan has just as big of a potential, or even bigger than Bra? After all, the difference between Gohan and Vegetto is smaller, than the difference between Videl and Bulma… So the overall parental potential is in Pan’s favour. But even if we only count the fathers, by Salagir’s logic, Pan should be at least as strong as a ssj2 in her ssj form as well, even at her age. Especially, since both have been training with Vegetto all their lives.
Sure, Bra has a few years on her, so I might be able to accept that she is stronger than Pan for now, but if Bra’s power is supposed to be justified merely on the basis, that she is Vegetto’s daughter, then Pan’s power should have been several times greater than what it was. As powerful as Bojack is, he should have been destroyed by her pinky. If we believe Salagir’s thesis, although not only does the canon contradict it, but so does he himself. Matter of fact, the only time he tries to apply this ideology is when it comes to Bra.
Does she even make sense?
I already talked about how Bra’s backstory doesn’t really match up with her personality, and that her power is not that well justified, but there’s also another problem with her, that does not seem to add up. Her looks. She looks identical to the main universe’s Bra, even though she shouldn’t. Why? Because their parents are different. They share the same mother, but her father is Vegetto, not Vegeta. So she’s not the same person, not even physically. So why does she look completely identical to the Bra we know? I suspect a rather prosaic reason – Salagir didn’t think of that.
Furthermore, the very fact, that she exists is rather questionable. What do I mean by that? Well, in the main continuity, Bra was the daughter of Bulma and Vegeta. Who were a couple, so it’s no surprise they might have a daughter. However, in U16 continuity, Vegetto never defused. So normally, that would mean that Bra would never be born.
However, the author decided, that Vegetto would just go on and live as the husband of Bulma. Which is… strange, to say the least. After all, Bulma loved Vegeta, a man, who was no more. Vegetto is not Vegeta. So the fact, that Bulma would just go along with having a brand new husband right away (as she did in DBM), is just extremely weird and seems like a very forced plot point, that only serves as an excuse to have a Bra that happens to be Vegetto’s daughter.
Sure, one could make the argument, that DragonBall has never been that big on romance, but still, the idea that a woman, who very much loves her husband, would just go along with having Vegetto as her new man just like that seems rather off. That’s really stretching it, even by DragonBall standards.
And that’s not even looking at it from Vegetto’s point of view. I mean if we look at him as a new person, then why would he go and play husband to Bulma? And if we look at him as an amalgum of the two characters, possessing emotions and memories of both, then how could he chose between the two families so easily? After all, going by this theory, he is as much Goku as he is Vegeta.
That just screams lazy writing.
I bet this idea really makes you relieved, that the fusion between Gohan and Goku never happened. Following Salagir’s logic, in that case ChiChi should be married to a fusion character who is half her husband and half her own son… Creepy. You know, since the women in DBM act right away like Vegetto and Vegeta are the very same person. The fact, that nobody even suggests, that Vegetto should be defused is rather odd as well, or shall I say, plot convenient.
Is she a Mary Sue?
For many reasons already mentioned above, readers have often labeled her as a Mary Sue. Of course, that label nowadays is hurled around a lot, even at characters who do not fit the mold at all. But is it justified in Bra’s case?
Most characters who are considered a Mary Sue are usually original characters in fanfiction. And while there already is a Bra in DragonBall canon, this version is so different, that we might as well consider her a different character. Especially, if we take it into account, that due to her parents being different, she is a different person anyhow. So she ticks one box for sure.
She is also young, extremely powerful for no good reason, is mean and condescending towards canon characters, is considered in-universe to be near flawless and is adored by all, and canon, already established characters are in awe of her amazing power.
She is also very frequently used, appears a lot on cover pages, and has several special chapters dedicated to her. Goku in comparrison, hasn’t done anything worth mentioning in over 1200 pages (other than being amazed at Bra’s skills), while Bra already had three long and detailed fights, each and every one of them earning her the amazement of her peers, including the main universe’s heroes. She also seems to have the brooding, tortured past thing going on, despite the fact, that there’s no actual reason for her to behave like that. She also never gets taken down a peg. Her fight with King Cold would have been the perfect opportunity for her to be finally humbled, but sadly Salagir decided to go the opposite way with her. A missed opportunity, if there ever was one.
To sum it up:
- original character
- young and beautiful
- extremely powerful for no good reason
- all characters are in awe of her
- constantly outdoes and amazes canon characters
- brooding, tortured attitude
- often takes the spotlight
- her flaws are never acknowledged in-universe
- constantly recieves praise from everyone
- is the author’s favorite
All in all, sadly Bra fits the mold of a Mary Sue to a T in many aspects. A real missed opportunity, I’m saddened to say. A troubled, gone astray daughter of Vegetto, who slowly went from hero to villain could have been a great story arc, if handled properly. Even if Salagir wanted to keep her as a hero, she could have been done much better, if he followed these 3 steps:
- Create a better, more believable reason for her to behave like she does. Something, that explains both her arrogance and her brooding, tortured veteran attitude. A more detailed, reasonable background can make all the difference between a Mary Sue and a good character.
- Make sure the other characters aren’t completely okay with her behaviour. If you let the others call her out on the way she behaves, you make sure the reader doesn’t get the sense, that she is just a creator’s pet.
- Give her a devastating, humbling experience in the tournament, that could be used to kick off her growth as a hero. A brutal loss to King Cold would have been the perfect opportunity for several reasons. Not only would that take away her Mary Sue status, but it would be a goldmine of character development opportunities.
All things considered, I have to conclude, that most complaints about Bra sadly hold true, and therefore she doesn’t really hold up well neither as a character nor as a hero. Which is a real shame, as she could have been a great addition to the DragonBall universe, had she been placed into more capable hands.