In Defense of Hercule: How the Majin Buu Saga Helped This Gag Character
by Natalie C.
Out of all the Dragon Ball characters, a handful will pop up on people’s least favorites list. The notable ones include Chi-Chi, Garlic, Junior, Goten, Oolong and Pan, specifically in Dragon Ball GT. These characters have fans and people who feel neutral about them, but these are some of the more likely ones on the “least popular” or “hated” character lists.
Another, and the discussion of this listicle, is Hercule, aka Mr. Satan. In my experience, things people disliked about him included him being generally annoying and showboating, being useless in most circumstances, stealing the credit for beating Cell and his cowardly persona.
That said, of all the disliked characters, Hercule seems to be one of the most defended (and, to a somewhat lesser extent Chi-Chi, specifically in Dragon Ball Z). Here’s how the Majin Buu Saga helped reshape him.
As a Gag Character, He’s Fine
A gag character, by definition, is a character whose main purpose is to be a joke or gag. They aren’t meant to be taken seriously and are mostly there for comedy. This concept is an uncommon trope in Akira Toriyama’s works. Dragon Ball started as a sort of gag manga inspired by the Chinese tale Journey to the West. Dr. Slump is another example.
Hercule exemplifies that because of his “proud, tough guy” public image despite his inherent cowardice. Though he comes off as strong to the public, he’s not, at least when compared to the human and android Z Fighters. (Realistically, no one will be stronger than the Saiyans or even a Super Namekean like Piccolo.) He’s one of if not the only character who hasn’t died. While that could be seen as more of an oddity, it has gag elements when you consider that Hercule, the least durable human, took hits from Perfect Cell and Kid Buu and somehow survived.
He has since evolved from a gag character to a father figure who looks out for his daughter, granddaughter and Buu; however, he would still be categorized as such. I know not all gag characters are created equal. So, whether or not someone will like him, or any gag character based on that, will vary. I think he does a fine job as a gag character.
Being Useful During the Fight With Kid Buu
If there’s one critique regarding the Kid Buu fight, it’s how Goku chose to save Hercule and Dende instead of Piccolo, Gohan, Goten and (Kid) Trunks. While a case could be made for Dende since he’s needed for the Dragon Balls once Earth is wished back, there’s less of a case for Hercule. Specifically regarding fighters in the same vicinity before Earth was blown up.
That said, saving Hercule became more of a benefit than initially expected. Because of his friendship with Buu and his popularity with the people of Earth, he helped out in his own way. So, while he might not have had a fighting chance against Kid Buu, he wasn’t completely useless.
Had he not been there, Buu might not have joined the fight. He mainly hopped in because Kid Buu had hurt his friend. He could have been convinced somehow, but I think it was better to have Hercule there as a driving force for Buu.
Additionally, Hercule assisted with the Spirit Bomb. Most people hesitated to trust Goku or Vegeta when they were asking for help (transmitting their message telepathically). However, since people trusted Hercule more, his stating that it was helping him proved beneficial in dealing the final blow to Kid Buu.
Sure, it might be a contrived way to make him useful. While I’m certain Toriyama could have thought of an alternative, in hindsight, having him do something is better than nothing. There would be a louder outcry if Goku saved him and Hercule didn’t contribute at all. That’s why I believe saving Hercule was beneficial, even if he didn’t contribute much to the fight.
One significant reason to defend Hercule is his friendship with Buu. I won’t lie and say the Buu Saga didn’t have flaws. However, it had legitimate strengths. Vegeta’s sacrifice is a big one. I would also argue this friendship is another.
It started with Hercule planning to beat Buu, who had recently killed Babidi and lived in the middle of nowhere. However, Hercule didn’t go through with it, partially out of fear of Buu (both reasonably and in a comedic fashion). However, upon seeing Buu wasn’t that bad of a guy now that Babadi was out of the picture, he decides to befriend him.
This friendship would be a blessing and a curse during the Buu Saga. In befriending him, it gave Hercule a purpose. However, it also led to Super Buu, when Buu thought a couple of men killed Hercule and Bee. This led to Kid Buu, who would be reincarnated as Uub (the boy Goku faces and decides to train in the epilogue).
Had they not become friends, Buu might not have helped Goku and Vegeta in the fight against Kid Buu. Well, at least not without persuasion, possibly involving Hercule. Without it, Uub wouldn’t exist, and Buu wouldn’t have become an ally in the Kid Buu fight, the epilogue, Dragon Ball Super or Dragon Ball GT.
Why This Friendship Is Important
More than anything, this friendship shows how characters can make an impact and that Buu isn’t inherently evil. That’s not to excuse anything Buu has done. It means not every antagonist will need to be beaten or killed. It didn’t only affect Buu but Hercule, too.
For Hercule, while he still kept his showman attitude and comical overconfidence, it gave him a purpose and a friendship that benefitted his character. He may still be afraid of what’ll happen if Buu gets mad (for example, the whole debacle with Buu and Beerus over pudding), but he sees the good in Buu.
Furthermore, because he has this friendship with Buu, there are things he is more familiar with (like when Buu falls asleep before the Tournament of Power in Super). Hercule was the first person to see the good in him and the first person to befriend him.
As for Buu, it indicates he can do good and make his own choices. Having been told what to do by Babadi and his father, Bibadi, he never had a choice to do anything other than cause destruction. So, when Hercule gives him the option not to kill people, that shows him he has choices. Buu having a friend who showed him an alternative gave the character a reason to be a good and (relatively) peaceful being.
In a way, this friendship could be seen as somewhat similar to Androids 8 and 16. Both were created for more sinister tasks (8 to fulfill duties for the Red Ribbon Army and 16 to kill Goku) but didn’t carry them out. 8 (aka Eighter) had a gentler nature that overruled his intended programming. 16 before and after removing Gero’s “Kill Goku Protocol,” loved nature, animals and his pseudo-siblings 17 and 18. He had wisdom and understanding when he talked to Gohan before he achieved Super Saiyan 2 in the Cell fight.
Though not the most popular, compelling or developed Dragon Ball character, Hercule has something that makes him better. It might not change anything for some or make Hercule a fan favorite; however, it gives the character purpose and development to make him more enjoyable.
What are your thoughts on Hercule? Do you like him, dislike him or feel neutral? Do you think his friendship with Buu is meaningful? Sound off in the comments below!
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