Dragon Ball Super has reached a milestone of 101 episodes and it proves the franchise is as lively as ever. The anime and manga series has captivated audiences globally with its action and fascinating characters. The great addition to the Dragon Ball universe is the appearance of female super saiyans. For many years fans have only conceptualized this through fan art across the internet and now it is a reality. Women fighters were a rare occurrence in the series. The character Kale was dubbed by fans as the “female Broly.” As one can clearly observe this is more of a homage to a non-canon character. It seems their personalities are similar, however Kale may see some character development. This is an excellent choice, because it is essential that Kale develop to distinguish between two different characters in the Dragon Ball universe. Caulifla who is not a homage or reference to another character has been changing as well. This must continue to avoid the problem of tokenism that occurs in various forms of media. A female character should not be there just to placate some demand by fans or be a stock character. They should have critical roles and be a part of the action. The hope is that the series takes this into consideration. One aspect that should be praised about these characters, is that they were not afraid to have a unique character design. During their transformations they displayed powerful bodies and rarely do cartoons depict women with such a body type. Fan reactions to the characters are divided, but it seems overtime audiences will warm up to them. Criticisms mostly are directed at the power scaling and what some see as a marketing gimmick by Toei Animation.
Kale when she is first introduced is a timid and rather low self-esteem individual. When Caulifla encouraged her to enter the Tournament of Power, she was plagued with self doubt. However, before she did reach the berserker super saiyan form when triggered emotionally. Just like Broly, she was uncontrollable and murderous. Caulifa was able to calm her down and prevented Cabba from possibly being killed. Kale again goes into her Legendary super saiyan form during the tournament, but puts everyone at risk. Goku is the first victim of her assault, but Jiren then stops her. When Kale transforms the next time she has control. This shows a progression in character development. Kale is gradually going from a timid and uncertain individual to a confident person. When she saw Caulifla in distress, she realized a change had to be made. She was becoming tired of being a burden. Once Kale overcomes her insecurities she will be a self actualized individual. Her third time transforming was not just a physical one, it was a mental one. Kale did something Broly could never do and control the legendary super saiyan form.
This change in personality is a great development and adds depth to the character. Kale still has a long way to go in terms of mastery of this form, but it will be interesting to see where it leads. If Dragon Ball Super does this correctly would could see a very entertaining character. Kale may see a transformation from fear to fierce. It is uncertain where this arc will go, but hopefully the saiyans of universe 6 will survive.
Caulifla stands out as unique character as well. She does fall into a “tough woman” stock character. These women characters are suppose to have an I don’t need anyone attitude and generally not very emotional. While it seems that Caulifla would fall into this one dimensional role the series changes this. Caulifla is very protective of Kale and despite what appears to be a harsh personality cares about her protege. She encourages and attempts to motivate Kale even when she doubts herself. At first she comes off as arrogant when first meeting Goku, but then begins to almost befriend him when fighting. The encounter was belligerent at first. She attempted to intimidate Goku with her new form. It had power, but lacked speed.
Many Dragon Ball fans remember that Trunks attempted to use this form on Cell. While Caulifla seems cocky at times, this was a point in which she took advice from a more experienced fighter. Being very talented she was able to reach super saiyan two. Astounded by its power she continued to fight with Goku. When Cabba came to recruit her for the tournament, she cared little about the fate of the universes. Her only interest was acquiring a new form to elevate her power.This could change as she meets new people. Goku could have easily knocked her off the ring, but did not. It could be that he wants her to keep fighting so her stamina would drain. These are only theories. Caulifa may have found some form of friendship with Goku. She may be opening up to being a kinder person. Caulifla has much pride, but could be learning to be more humble and learn from the experiences of others. She may prove to be a helpful ally to Goku and his friends later on.
The character designs for both characters should be praised. Normally female characters are portrayed as thin to an exaggerated extent. Even when they are supposed to be physically strong this default character design is used. Dragon Ball Super broke that convention having the saiyan women appear just as powerful. Not only that, it is clear they do not need assistance from the male cast. It is common for the damsel in distress trope to used redundantly. Here it is not can it is apparent that Kale and Caulifla can take care of themselves. One problem is that the physically strong woman is normally presented as a threat, anomaly, or the punchline to some gender based joke. The story arc has not used any of these common stereotypical roles. The physically strong woman either falls into two notable tropes. They are either cast as the amazonian beauty or brawn hilda. The strange aspect about Kale is that she could fall into both, yet she is still an evolving character. Caulifla, while not as athletic looking in her base form may not fit in either and could be more associated with the action girl trope. The action girls seeks adventure and danger. They rarely back down from a challenge.
It seems that they are now better fighters than Cabba himself. The animators and creators of the series were not afraid to give these female characters a different character design. Some of more conservative taste would scoff at the idea of female characters drawn this way. The point of making a cartoon character is to design them in a unique way that is recognizable to viewers. These character designs make sense, because Saiyans are a warrior race. They value fighting and physical fitness. Their civilization parallels that of Sparta, Dahomey, and Japan in regards to warrior culture. That means their whole society was invested in war and even conquest. Unfortunately for the Saiyans of Goku’s universe that were the victims of Frezia. Seeing as these characters are super powered being they might as well appear that way. Fans were either shocked see such a design or embraced this as another surprise that Dragon Ball is known for.
There are some who are even enthusiastic about these two characters transformations. Many videos, fan art, and fan commentary have been produced just for the discussion of Kale and Caulifla. The magic of Dragon Ball is that it has the ability to create lovable and enduring characters. Kale and Caulifla are now part of that family. The creation of the character design is just as important as the personality you give that character.
There appears to be a divide over these character s in the fan community. Some complained that Caulifla going super saiyan happened too fast and was anti-climatic. Detractors also said it cheapened that value of being a super saiyan. There are some problems wit these statements. First, it should be noted that Cabba went super saiyan in the last tournament. Trunks and Goten achieved this form as children. Could it be sexism among certain fans that get vexed that this happened to Kale and Caulifla? There is very little evidence, but there are various instances in which power scaling has been inconsistent. Then there are numerous transformations going from super sayian one to four following the new form super sayian blue. Goku and Vegeta are the strongest fighters on Earth, so there would be little to be a challenge for them. It should be remembered that Goku was holding back when fight Kale, but it seem like that Kamehahmeha blast could have at least caused some damage. This could mean several things. Kale is either stronger than people realize and their is a possibility that it can increase more. Kale could in an uncontrolled state be stronger, but runs the risk of destroying herself and cohorts. The last theory is that she has reached the full extent of her potential. Caulifla seems to be like Goku in a sense that she has the ability to master techniques fast. Others criticize this as lazy writing, but you could easily say that about Goku reaching super saiyan 3 during the Buu saga.
The point is many characters have become very overpowered and strong. Frankly, there should not be any complaint about power scaling. A franchise that has been around this long is bound to have inconsistencies in its folklore. Maybe it does not create a plot hole at at all. These are an alien species that are operating on a completely different physiological biology. This is only speculative, but more could be revealed as the arc progresses. Another prevalent criticism is that Kale is nothing more than a Toei Animation marketing gimmick. The company realizes that they have many devoted fans and Broly has been a fan favorite. Some were disappointed that Broly was not made cannon. Kale is a homage to the character in a sense as one can see from the outfit and her personality. A faction of fans still call her the “female Broly” even though it appears the character is developing into something different. There are either fans who like the character or dislike her in the series. While it is legitimate to say there should not be a character just to sell products or do fan pandering, it is unfair not to at least give the character a chance. There are fans who also fall into the camp of overwhelming support.
Anyone who has followed Dragon Ball would know there is a huge fan art community. Even before the appearance of these characters fans were drawing what they thought female super saiyans would loo like. Prior to Kale’s official appearance fans were already making art based on a leaked clip. It is wonderful that female characters are gaining popularity in the franchise. Other characters are even coming back to prominence such as Andriod 18. Action series tend to marginalize female characters either regulating them to support roles or merely having no consequence to the story. Dragon Ball was actually different. Looking back, these adventures would have never started if Bulma never came across Goku in the woods. This is significant,because it shows female characters actually doing something of importance and consequence. The arrival of Kale and Caulifla has more significance than some realize.
Women are becoming manga and anime consumers. There is a change as the anime culture continues to expand internationally. If women are getting interested in Dragon Ball, there should be some representation. It should not just be any uninspired or random character just to placate the advocates of diversity. These should be unique and well developed characters, rather than just token based tropes. So far,it seems the series is doing this right. There could be the possibility of a Vasquez always dies trope. However, the viewer should remain positive. This arc proves to be the best yet and it is clear that the Dragon Ball franchise is not going anywhere any time soon. Just having Kale and Caulifla present sends a message that you can create interesting female characters. This could inspire younger manga artists and animators to experiment with something new. Do not be afraid to draw the women differently or have a unconventional characterization. What makes this series great is that it is very creative and that is demonstrated by its large cast of characters. Kale and Caulifla will stand out as fan favorites.