Dragonball deals with difficult issues, ranging from unwed parents to death, not to mention the actual plot, which usually involves conquest. But is it too complicated for its demographic?
Traditionally, children's programming has been educational programs, such as Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers, or humorous cartoons, such as Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse. Dragonball and other anime series, such as Gundam Wing or even Pokemon, have raised the bar for children's television.
The anime series have more adult themes. Would Pokemon still be regarded as a children's program if parents knew there was a show in the Japanese version where the male villain, James, got breast implants (fig.4, Psaros-a, 2002)?
The Dragonball series seems better suited for an older demographic. The best show, for comparative purposes, seems to be Star Trek, The Next Generation (TNG.). Both series deal with many of the same issues in similar fashions.
In both Dragonball and Star Trek TNG, the characters encounter with villains whose intent is to conquer a city, planet, galaxy, etc. The two series also share the subjects of sex, children, addiction, death and even limb removal and resurrection.
Star Trek characters were occasionally found in a bar, on board their ship, Enterprise, enjoying synthahol, an alcohol like substance (Livingston, 1990). Dragonball characters also enjoyed addictive substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. However, alcohol and cigarettes were edited out of the English program, although the manga remains intact (fig. 5-6, Psaros-a, 2002).
During Star Trek TNG's seven year airing, it had a demographic older than Dragonball - the 18-30 year-old group. As far as content is concerned, the only real difference in the issues discussed is the Dragonball series is animated and Star Trek isn't.
Is animation really a factor in determining demographic? Should an animated series or feature automatically be aimed at younger demographics? The American Motion Picture Association does not think so. Akira is an anime movie that is rated R (Otomo, 1988), as is the anime movie Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997), the top grossing movie in Japanese history (Amazon, 2002).
Since animation does not appear to be an issue in demographics, why is Dragonball aimed at the younger demographic? The simple answer could be merchandising.