The Three Pleasures, the Archontic Principle and Creating Emotions in Fans. Fan Culture of "Dragon Ball"

Term Paper, 2019

12 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Three Types of Pleasures
2.1 Pleasures of Connection
2.2 Pleasures of Appropriation
2.3 Pleasures of Performance

3 Archontic Principle

4 Emotions by Three Pleasures and Archontic Principle

5 Conclusion

Works Cited

1 Introduction

“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (New International Version, Luke 21:27)

This bible quote serving as the text for a meme about Dragon Ball ’s main character Goku tells a lot about the impact this manga from the 1980’s has had on its fans (Padula, Gokuism). The fan culture of Dragon Ball, which, by its creator Akira Toriyama, was intended to revolve around young boys (Padula, Dragon Soul xiii), has grown to such an extent that some people have started the “Church of Goku”, calling their religion “Gokuism” (Padula, Gokuism). But this godly degree of fan culture is just the apex. The text of Dragon Ball, as other grand text universes like those of Sherlock or Harry Potter, first and foremost, consists of written texts and films. Through these texts and films, fans get into the text and make it their own. They write fan fiction, collect merchandise or memorabilia, try to meet the show’s voice actors or draw energy and ideas from the text onto their own lives to get motivation to accomplish goals and, sometimes, to find purpose in life again at times with less to no hope. Oftentimes, the emotional confrontation with the text is the motivation to stay connected with the Dragon Ball fandom for their whole life (Padula, Dragon Soul 116).

As a result of this connection, fans of various ages perform cosplays, create fan fiction and parodies in text and film, dedicate their lives to the text and even professional voice actors feel as if they have a responsibility to keep voicing ‘their’ characters instead of retiring and let another person destroy their vocal chords due to the exhausting screaming in Dragon Ball (Twitter @VoiceOfVegeta). This essay will show that the text of Dragon Ball has an emotional impact on its fans which is far beyond the pleasure of simple enjoyment of the text through reading or watching. Therefore, it will look at various examples relating to Mark Duffett’s “three types of pleasures” to show the fans’ way of how they connect with the text. Furthermore, we will look at the text of Dragon Ball from the point of view of the “archive” in the context of Jacques Derrida’s “archontic principle” (1995). After that, this essay will try to connect the “three Pleasures” with Abigail Derecho’s “Archontic Literature” (2006), based on Derrida’s theory. Derek Padula’s “Dragon Soul” (2016), a collection of texts, wherein fans and producers of the text write about their relation to Dragon Ball, will serve as the main source of examples especially relating to the three pleasures. In the conclusion, the main aspects will be summarized and a possible future of the archive of Dragon Ball will be outlined briefly.

2 Three Types of Pleasures

In his book “Understanding Fandom” (2013), Mark Duffett elaborates on fan practices and presents the “three types of pleasures”, namely “Pleasures of connection”, “Pleasures of appropriation” and “Pleasures of performance”. For Duffett, “the primary practice of media fandom is simply consuming the text or engaging with the performance” (276), which sound at first like simple, passive actions fans do. But “[f]an practices give the lie to the idea that fandom is passive” (Duffett 276), as the border between reading and writing text is blurry. Therefore, the three pleasures show, how fans can be active within their fandom.

2.1 Pleasures of Connection

Within the pleasures of connection, the primary aim of fans is to get in touch with the performers, and in the case of Dragon Ball, with the voice actors of the show. Various contributors to Padula’s “Dragon Soul” mention their encounters with voice actors at different conventions, journeys they often undertake “just to meet the voice actors behind the series (Padula 89). Due to the fact, that connection with stars through autographs and selfies is limited Daniel Hertitz reported:

Roland Barthes says photography is a memorial to the dead, a way of making the dead present again among us while also confirming their absence, since the photo reminds us it was then we knew them (and no longer). (qtd. In Duffett 278; emphasis not mine)

Still, these encounters can leave emotional traces in the mind and lives of the fans, impacting the rest of their lives. Meeting your ‘heroes’ in person can spark the wish to leave your mark within the fan community like Chad Scott reports, in his contribution to “Dragon Soul”, after he “had the incredible pleasure of meeting Masako Nozawa[1] ”, what he describes as an “honor” (Padula 121).

The former fan, and now still fan but also famed voice actor of Goku in the parody “Dragon Ball Z Abridged”, Lawrence Simpson, has had a special encounter with Christopher Sabat[2], where the fan was asked by the star to get a selfie and autograph (Padula 63). In a video of that 5-minute talk, Sabat even says that the parodists did a better job than him and his team did with the original (YouTube). This shows the importance of the expansion of the archive (will be elaborated on later) in the universe of Dragon Ball, where producers and creators of the main show are fans of their own fans.

2.2 Pleasures of Appropriation

Fans who want to immerse more with the text itself instead of the stars born out of it, often follow the pleasures of appropriation. The pleasure here revolves around the act of spoiling or writing fan fiction (Duffett 280-296). Spoiling probably is the most hated act that can be done to fans of a text because no one wants to know who is going to die when and why before having experienced it by her-/himself. But some “fans engage in educated prediction work that is akin to ‘spoiling’ in some ways” (Duffett 280), according to Will Brooker. This kind of spoiling allows to ponder about possible outcomes of future events and therefore makes those fans “the most dedicated sort” (Duffett 281; emphasis not mine). In the universe of Dragon Ball, there are a lot of people contemplating ‘What if’s’ or possible future developments of the text in various videos on YouTube (e.g. MasakoX, Totally Not Mark). A lot of these ‘What if’s’ reflect about the question of what would have happened, if a character was female, as most of the lead characters are male. This reflecting about gender and sexuality leads to fan fiction. As has been written about in a lot of research about fan fiction, Dragon Ball, too, opens up to slash fiction with over 1,800 works of about 6,300 works in total on[3]. Here, fan fiction thinks about the question of how relationships between (mainly) male characters could have been acted out with Zoness’ “Chronicles of Earth’s Defenders” as the biggest work with a word count of more than 740,000. The importance of fan fiction will be elaborated on again later in this essay in terms of the archive.

2.3 Pleasures of Performance

For Duffett, the pleasure which unites fans the most with the text is “enjoyment through engagement” (296; emphasis not mine). The pleasures of performance combine all the actions fans do to engage with a text or to participate – singing along, repeating the most iconic catchphrases of shows, etc. In Dragon Ball, this is mostly being fulfilled by shouting along the famous attack ‘Kamehameha’. Also, collecting items related to the text is common amongst fandoms. Fans can collect “mimetic traces of the performance itself” (298; emphasis not mine), for example all the manga of Dragon Ball [4], merchandise, there are innumerable amounts of Dragon Ball merchandise, mostly action figures, and memorabilia, items which are intimately linked to the fans emotions and memories regarding the text, which can be tickets to a convention.

For many fans of Dragon Ball, performing their fandom seems to be the most important aspect. According to Padula’s collected texts of fans’ fandom around Dragon Ball, there are people who started drawing because they wanted to create their own fan-art or manga related to Dragon Ball and thus earn money with their art (Padula 4). Others want to honor the impact the characters had on their own identity and life by doing cosplays (Padula 74, 112, 166). Also, Dragon Ball has a lot of unique soundtracks, which evoke nostalgic emotions within fans (Padula 44).

The previous paragraphs elaborated on the relation of fans and their emotions with the text of Dragon Ball regarding the three types of pleasures by Duffett. The following paragraphs will look at this from a point of view based upon the “archontic principle” by Derrida and Abigail Derecho’s reading of it as “archontic literature”.

3 Archontic Principle

According to Jacques Derrida’s “archontic principle”, an “archive” (the collection of all texts related with on another), is always expanding, because “[n]o archive is ever final, complete, closed” as Abigail Derecho summarizes it (64), “[the archive] opens out to the future” (Derrida 68). Derecho claims that the term “archontic” is close to the meanings of “derivative” or “appropriative” since all these three terms describe intertextual relationship, but the latter two are negatively connotated because they announce “property, ownership, and hierarchy” (64). In contrast, the “archontic principle” describes the “drive within an archive to always produce more archive, to enlarge itself” (64), which, according to Derecho leads to the fact that “all texts that build on a previously existing text are not lesser than the source text, and they do not violate the boundaries of the source text” (65), therefore exist without hierarchy or any structure of ownership. The most obvious difference between archontic and intertextual texts is, that archontic texts always directly point out that they are a variation of a pre-existing text (Derecho 65). However, Suzanne Black pointed out that Derecho’s reading of the archontic principle deviates from Derrida’s. While Derecho states that there will be no violation of the source text’s boundary, “for Derrida, any addition to the archive recontextualizes the preceding entries” (Black 3). Also, Black explains that Derecho, even though she claims equivalence of an archive’s texts, admits non-equivalence at least in terms of chronology, since any differentiation of a source text needs to be built on the source text (Black 3). These readings lead to different possible understandings of Dragon Ball as an archive.


[1] Masako Nozawa is the Japanese voice actress of the main character Goku

[2] American voice actor of Vegeta (former enemy and after that biggest rival of the main character Goku)

[3] As of August 14th 2019

[4] There are 42 volumes of the original manga series, but also many (official) abridged versions.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The Three Pleasures, the Archontic Principle and Creating Emotions in Fans. Fan Culture of "Dragon Ball"
University of Augsburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Dragon Ball, Cultural Studies, Archontic Principle, Three Pleasures, Derrida, Duffett
Quote paper
Dominik Pohlmann (Author), 2019, The Three Pleasures, the Archontic Principle and Creating Emotions in Fans. Fan Culture of "Dragon Ball", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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