AUTHOR'S NOTES AND FINAL THOUGHTS
So, it's been over three years since I started writing What Should Have Been, and I can say with finality, it's done. I've edited it all and made all the changes I wanted. In that time, I've evolved my method of writing and changed a lot as a person. When I initially started writing this story, I had a few major things about Dragon Ball Z that bugged me, particularly when it came to the Buu saga and Gohan's character. I originally had some of these written in an A/N prior to chapter 1. This "chapter" is a recap of it, and a brief explanation of many of the topics that people brought up during the course of publishing this.
One of the biggest things I changed was the circumstances that evolved surrounding Goku's departure to otherworld. Him dying in battle was understandable, and could have brought a depth and consequence bound plot to the show. However, DBZ abridged and TFS put it best: "Why do you care? We're literally waiting to go back." -Tien. The magic that once made the Dragon Ball series (the original, not Z) so enchanting and exciting eventually made DBZ seem to have no consequence or tension whatsoever. I am, of course, referring to the dragon balls themselves. This was made doubly silly by the reason Goku stayed dead, only to come back less than ten years later on a whim. So, without changing the plot to the point of making it extreme AU, I just shifted the reason a few degrees towards the stressful. Give a reason for Goku to stay in otherworld that changes from "oh shit", to "what the actual fuck" as the plot is revealed. Which leads to the next thing that bugged me:
Gohan's reaction and overall character development post-Cell was nonexistent and bland. During the lead-up to his fight with Cell, he went from a timid child who refused to fight back, to a very Goku-ish happy-go-lucky type of personality, and then during the fight he turned into a powerful and ruthless bad-ass that gave me chills as a child watching this on Toonami. I still get goosebumps when I start thinking about those times, watching in awe as the fight with Cell took so many good and bad turns, which climaxed with the father-son Kamehameha, and that sealed it. That was the moment that I got TRULY excited for Gohan's character. OOOoooonly to be let down within 10 episodes, as soon as he showed absolutely no hint of resistance to Videl's attitude and aggressive snooping. Then the added the Great Saiyaman… I get it, it was during that era where the idea of a super hero was something that fell between comic relief and overpowering strength. Hell, America did much of the same thing with characters like the Power Rangers, and cartoons like He Man and Voltron. But still, it hurt me to watch, especially when Gohan did his little "rap" that was reminiscent of Jackie Chun in the original Dragon Ball series. Jackie Chun was funny because it brought Goku in, and fit with the tone of the show.
Then they brought in Buu, and the way they built it up, and the way they turned Vegeta against the other fighters, I had high hopes. Only to find the main villain to be overly childlike and not intimidating at all. Now, to counter myself, his innocent nature and intense power combined to make a freakishly creepy villain that could have definitely given me a turn of the stomach. But then they got rid of him and rationalized it by saying he absorbed the Supreme Kais, which changed his power and appearance to make him weaker and less violent, and Kid Buu was supposed to be the actual villain. And any character who had any relevance prior to Goku taking over in the fight was made totally useless and irrelevant. The super spirit bomb just felt like a weak nod in their direction like "yay, we're here too".
And a thing I didn't directly address that possibly bugged me the most out of everything was how the constant power creep made anything besides raw power and bigger transformations completely useless and inconsequential. Technique no longer played a role by the time they reached Buu, and very little of a role even during Cell. The fights were determined by "who's the strongest", not "who's the overall best fighter".
So, I addressed many of these things while writing this fic. I attempted to give there an air of tension and feeling of consequence, without removing the things that made this show what it was. Goku faced consequences of his actions, even if it later turned out that they were fake, and Gohan's resulting change in demeanor and attitude was supposed to reflect his previously unstable personality traits (I mean, the kid did some ridiculous things as a mere child when pushed too hard, even prior to Cell. That was his character) turned dark and distrusting. With that being said, my original version of Gohan was not what I had imagined. I was in a particularly rough part of my life – which led me to watching the show again in the first place because it reminded me of an easier time – and the resulting Gohan I portrayed was super dark, violent, brooding, and a general ass hole with no real conscience for the things he did. Lime was my most unknown character to write on, so I went ahead and made her a sister character, in spite of what a lot of people may have thought I should have done. Ria was supposed to be a "Why not?" type of character, And then Videl… I completely messed up my intent with her. She was supposed to initially have a character to her that was similar to the show, then have her first real moment of helplessness with Gohan/Bardock and start making some self-realizations. What I eventually started making her – as someone so bluntly described her – a doormat. She turned into a different version of Bella Swan (mind you, I've never read or watched the twilight series). What I originally wanted to happen was for her to maintain her fiery and tough-girl persona, and simultaneously tame the unpredictable monster that was Gohan's traumatized psyche. That was a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. I went back through when I edited this whole thing, and made my characters represent what I actually meant them to this time around. Gohan's character is distrustful, quick to anger, and unpredictable, but still tries to maintain a generally nice outward attitude and helpful intent, and he doesn't actively try to kill many of the criminals he runs into, they just can't withstand his attacks. Videl (hopefully) seems less like Bella Swan, and more like the Videl who I imagined.
I got a lot of flak, as well as a lot of praise, for Ria's transformation. The only thing I'll say is that, as I had Gohan state in the beginning of the fic as he held them the first time, they were kept mostly out of the fight and irrelevant to the whole of the story. So really, it was more to spite Akira Toriyama's decision to just… give the boys the Super Saiyan transformation, purely for the purpose of dragging out the Buu fight with fusion, and delaying the inevitable "Goku saves the day". Sure, my reason may have been "meh" to a lot of people, but you know what? I don't care really, it's a reason, which is more than you could say for the original version, excluding fan theory and mistranslations.
As for the healing abilities of Dende and the Senzu beans, as I said in my original Author's notes that addressed these things, if you didn't understand why I did what I did, here's my thinking: It was too convenient for there to be a figurative reset button in the show, much less three possible reset buttons. So, I simply restricted them. Dende's healing ability wasn't all powerful, and wasn't instant, and also had a consequence in the way of energy drain on the little guy. The Senzu beans were something I considered leaving the same, but ultimately decided to change to fit something that would be so mystical and magical IRL. In my mind, they need to be grown and cared for over a long time, and the longer a bean is on the vine, the more healing effect it will have. As I said before, think of it like alcohol. The longer you let it brew, the more potency it will have (excluding distilling). My objective with doing this was to leave a sense of urgency and consequence for the things the people go through in these fights. Make them think, "oh, but what if It's so bad that Dende can't help me in time", or "there won't be a senzu ready for another few months, I gotta be careful", as opposed to "welp, I'm almost dead now. Better keep dragging this out, because I get a +100HP potion waiting for me".
Arguably the most uncertain subject I brought into this fic was the whole Saiyan Mating idea. Now, I'm not going to make any excuses for adding it, besides just being a whim after reading a couple fics that introduced the idea to me. I wanted it to be represented as a biological trigger and hormonal response to pheromones. My first rendition of it though, sounded far to dramatic and completely over-the-top bad for the plot. It was a route towards taking this to a darker place. But then, I realized that I didn't want it to get darker. So I made it less and less important, and after editing, it's barely a real footnote. It has a part in the story, but it's not represented as a "if he do dis then we gon die" type of situation, and I'm much happier about how it fits now. I seriously thought about just going back and removing it altogether, and frankly, you could go through and pretend it's not there at all, with the exception of a few paragraphs here and there. But in the end, I left it where it was, and made it seem like an influence for the behavior of my characters, not a serious controlling force.
Towards the end of this fic, I seriously considered bringing in SSJ4. Like, I set it up so that I could. But ultimately, I decided that I didn't like the transformation and the way it happened in GT. My reasoning was that if – for example – Raditz were able to achieve SSJ, and then turned into a Golden great ape, according to how it happened with Goku, he'd have a free ticket to SSJ4. So, I just went ahead and dropped the entire thing, because the great ape was enough. I hate using the whole "power level" bull, but if we take into account that Gohan's power at the end of DBZ was rivaling a SSJ3, and you increase it tenfold with a great ape transformation? That's absolutely enough, and if you think about it, an utterly obscene amount of power at his disposal. SSJ4 wasn't necessary to add, so I didn't. As it is, it's playing into the power creep that plagues DBZ in general, but this version revisits a transformation that was there since before DBZ was even a thing, and dragon ball was all we had. I also tried my hardest to make all of the characters relevant to the plot, whether it be a proper stalling operation or the final showdown. Hopefully, I did it justice.
And my last note, I brought the Saiyans back because it felt like it fit the theme of the show. Why not, you spend enough time watching this show, and it dawns on you that literally nothing is impossible for the plot of the show. I mean, the entire show suffers from a superman complex, and just gets more and more over-the-top and ridiculous, just to have something new to freak out about. So, who's to say that the revival of an entire race is impossible when you consider that it literally happened at the end of DBZ. Remember, the only person with any Human blood who survived the Earth's destruction was Hercule. Not even the half-human hybrids lived to the end of the Buu fight. So, I just went ahead and threw that in as an inverse consequence for the things that the main characters do, rewarding them for all the crap they were put through. I felt like that was a far better way to end that massive a fight, than just leaving a fat Buu with Hercule, reviving Buu as Uub, and having Goku do that stupid ass thing where he just runs off with some kid he met that day, leaving his entire family behind to wonder "what the fuck?"
That's all I've got to address, as far as I can remember. I want to thank everyone who's been there, reading this thing and enjoying it along with me. I hope that the changes I made when I went through and "remastered" it changed it for the better. Give it a re-read if you want, I'm actually proud of the way it came out this time. Also, I have to give credit to a reviewer: Dyton. He contributed the idea of the scene with Bardock at the car wash way back in 2014.
This story helped me work my way through some rough times, some manic-depressive states of mind, and a whole lot of sleepless nights. So sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
In fact, I've enjoyed writing this so much, I'm writing out plot ideas for a sequel fic based off of the world I established here. If you are interested, feel free to send me a PM with any suggestions, I'm open to all ideas and prompts. I can't guarantee that I'll use it, or even write at all, but if there's enough interest, I just might.
This is my last note, my last edit, and my final word. I'm slapping the "complete" tag on it, and this time, it's staying there. So, I'll just say, thanks for reading, and as always, have a fantastic day.