There Is No Brawn Without Brain: Anime Girls Ode to Bulma
By Lex Luther
Anime Girls…..think of it as our version of Woman Crush Wednesday. But since I took a break yesterday, we’re publishing this today! We highlight various girls/ladies of anime and discuss why we love them. This week it’s Dragon Ball Z’s Bulma! Now, before I was into Power Rangers or Marvel or anything else nerdy, I was into Anime. And I was into Dragon Ball Z specifically.
Yes, before I would later go on to become a highly critical Marvel fan, anime would be the thing to bring me into the nerd fold and Dragon Ball Z would be the show that cemented it all. However, the one character that caught my eye and would get me to stick it out with Dragon Ball Z and it’s semi-annoying “I’m gonna stretch this fight out for 423082394209384 episodes” syndrome for the long-haul was Bulma Brief.
I’ll start off by saying that it’s actually quite hard picking a favorite Dragon Ball Z character. Almost every single character that made an appearance, big or small, served a purpose and often had character development. I often found myself switching between Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta, and [Teen] Gohan depending on the day. However, I also found that Bulma remains a constant favorite for a variety of reasons. To elaborate, it is no secret that Bulma was one of the anime weeb populace earliest crushes. Not only is Bulma incredibly beautiful (and damn near ageless too. Like, go back and look at her as compared to Chi-Chi and even Android 19 but the woman is HIGHLY intelligent. Like, let’s be real. Had Bulma not been around to help Goku and his muscle-bound friends, they would have never gotten anything done.
(It ain’t know fun, when you can’t get things done!)
Time and time again, Bulma proved to be instrumental in the Z-Fighters (and Goku, prior to the Z-Fighters assembling themselves). Defeating the Big Bad of their latest saga. She usually accomplished this by coming up with ingenious gadgets and trinkets. With the most notable one being the Dragon Ball Radar. This radar, (while not the first, but definitely one of the more efficient ones) would go on to be vital for the Z-Fighters in locating the Dragon Balls.
Of course, Bulma was not at all shy about calling each and every Z-Fighter out about their dependence on the Dragon Balls. The most famous example of her doing this was during the Fusion Saga when it was suggested that Piccolo, Goten, and Trunks committed suicide due to events stemming from Super Buu only for them to be revived by the dragon balls at a later time. Bulma then became rightfully called them on their sh*t. In fact, in the Japanese version, she went as far as calling them downright cowards.
Which brings me to my next point: Bulma absolutely gave zero f*cks. And I loved it every minute of it.
To explain, Bulma was very much brash and unapologetic. This made her one of the most dynamic characters of the series. On top of the former example where she read the Z-Fighters for filth over their reliance on the Dragon Balls, it never mattered to Bulma who she had to step to. Some of the most memorable examples of Bulma going toe-to-toe with someone (despite her lack of powers) included some pretty powerful Big Bads (most recently Beerus). For instance, some of my favorite examples of Bulma included any and every moment she stepped to Vegeta.
Real talk: while Vegeta went through some INCREDIBLE character growth and development (re: going from being a genocidal, sociopathic maniac to a revered and beloved friend and Z-Fighter), the dude could still be really scary and would not hesitate to do something fairly questionable, especially if it was for the purpose of finally besting his friend/rival Goku (re: Babidi and the Majin Boo Saga). If he stepped out of line, she was right there to put him back in it. So, it comes as no surprise that he eventually married her, because while he never vocalized it, Bulma demanded his respect, and the respect of everyone else.
The way in which she commanded said respect was one of the things that made me truly love her character. Especially considering the gender breakdown of the show. To be quite honest, the composition of the Z-Fighters (and the show at-large) skewed overwhelmingly male, but that didn’t seem to bother Bulma one bit. As one of the show’s 3.5 female characters (the point .5 comes from the fact that Launch was literally forgotten til’ the end of DBZ), Bulma proved to be quite the interesting study on gender dynamics and gender fluidity due to the fact that she often moved between being “one of the guys” and being what some would dismiss as “too girly” (because at the end of the day, the belief that one can be too girly or else, not girly enough, is bogus and rooted in tired, gendered roles).
She had a temper that put fear in the hearts of heroes and villains alike. She could also very concerned with her looks and reveled in keeping up with the latest fashions. She considered herself very beautiful and did not feel bad about being confident. She also could be very selfish at times, but would not hesitate to help her friends. And whereas some might expect her to be seen and not heard, Bulma was just about vocal about everything.
And she owned it. All of it.
And that is essentially why she will always be one of my favorite anime girls. As a character—a female character—who refused to be placed neatly into one singular box and one singular category, she encouraged me (and many others) to strive for the same. And for that, I am eternally grateful.