I recently saw a post on the Geeks Under Grace community page illuminating the only thing greater about Frieza than his power level and shiny head: his relentlessly inflated arrogance. A brief primer for the layman (though, let’s face it, everyone who clicked on this article is going to be a DB fan): Frieza is the most notorious villain in the history of Dragon Ball (DBZ, if you’re only familiar with the anime). He took a seemingly infinite amount of episodes to defeat, and his battle with Goku holds the record for being the longest standing battle in all of anime, clocking in at over four hours. Because he’d gone relatively unchallenged his entire life, Frieza believed himself incapable of being defeated. For good reasons, too. Before Goku entered the fray, Frieza had no serious competition.
But Goku does enter the fray, and he overcomes Frieza. He also famously gives Frieza something the genocidal tyrant doesn’t deserve: a second chance. This comes only after Frieza begs, with tears in his eyes, to be spared a much-warranted destruction. Imparting some of his own power to the dying warlord, Goku flies off, believing his battle concluded and that Frieza will leave in peace, thoroughly understanding his defeat. However, Frieza infamously decides, nah, he isn’t about that life. So, conjuring up every last drop of pride and disdain in his body, Frieza fires all of Goku’s mercy back at him in one final attack. Being that Goku isn’t a fool, he obviously kept more power for himself, and properly disposes of Frieza for what seems to be once and for all. (We learn later that this isn’t true, but at the time he was considered good as gone).
Thus Frieza was cemented as Dragon Ball’s most conceited and foolish villain of all time. I mean, he threw away a golden ticket, right? After all the pain Frieza caused, including killing and fatally wounding several of Goku’s best friends, slaughtering millions of people, and attacking his own son, it would have made sense for Goku to just bury the beast and be done with it. But Goku showed undeserved mercy, in a very Christ-like way, and it was thrown in his face. Few would argue that Frieza deserved his outcome.
But I’m here to say: Frieza is not the most guilty victim of pride in Dragon Ball.
Curve ball, right? All of that build up, and I hadn’t even gotten to the point of the article yet.
In the wake of such monolithic villains as Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu, there is one pretty formidable character who falls into the periphery of our memory–a cruel little monster named Garlic Jr. I am convinced Garlic Jr. is an object lesson on how badly your pride can be your downfall, and why poetic justice should sometimes be thrown aside in favor of simply getting the job done.
So, somehow, this guy manages to do what several other villains in the DB universe only aspire to do: he collects the Dragon Balls and successfully wishes for immortality. In this universe, that means not only can you not die of age, but you also can’t be destroyed. Consequently, Garlic Jr. cannot be beaten by any means the Z-Fighters have available to them at this point in the series.
Little G sets out to rid the world of the Z-Fighters and cause general havoc with his newfound power. Understandably, he does remarkably well against earth’s mightiest heroes, and thus has no reason to use his trump card ability, “The Dead Zone,” ever again. The Dead Zone opens a swirling vacuum into infinite darkness, from which there is no escape. You know, bad news.
With all the intellectual fiber of wet bread, Junior decides, “Hey, we’re winning. Might as well open the Dead Zone for no apparent reason.” He then proceeds to get knocked into the Dead Zone by Gohan, who at this point is a toddler. The gate to the Dead Zone closes and, voila, Gar-Gar is trapped in eternal darkness. Oh, but remember, he can’t die. So he’s stuck there. Forever. Immortality probably wasn’t looking too fresh anymore, huh?
Wait for it. We aren’t done yet. Haven’t even gotten to the good part.
Years later, Garlic Jr. is fortunate enough that, by miracle of miracles, he is afforded an opportunity to escape the Dead Zone. Now possessed by some asinine idea that he should challenge the Z-Fighters again, he conspires the downfall of Earth. Yet again, because he cannot be beaten, his victory is all but assured against our struggling heroes.
Now logic would suggest that opening the Dead Zone again might be infinitely less appealing, seeing that last time he was, you know, almost chambered there forever.
But, alas, it is not to be. Garlic gets cocky and opens the Dead Zone again so his enemies can “suffer what he suffered.” He is willing to throw away a certain victory over some misplaced sense of poetic justice. Remember, this is literally the only way he can be beaten, and it’s his call whether or not to play that card.
But he does. And he gets knocked back in again. By the same kid. Locked in darkness for all time because his pride and arrogance could not tolerate a single failed attempt to find victory the way he wanted.
Though there are mixed opinions of what Hell must be like, I do think the Dead Zone, and Garlic Jr.’s fate overall, is allegorical of the idea, even if not deliberately.
Let’s crack open the Bible for a couple quick passages about pride and why it is something we should be diligent to discern and manage within our own lives.
Isaiah 2:12 – The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled)…
Jeremiah 9:23-24 – This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
Daniel 5:20 – But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.
And like, a million of the proverbs. There are a million. I counted.
Now, obviously, some of these verses have certain contexts. I don’t think the Daniel passage is explicitly talking about a lofty alien invader, but the principle stands. Regardless of how much standing, strength, or vanity we gain in this life, it is put asunder if not approached with wisdom and all the credit reflected back to God.
For those who are keeping up with the series, try to remember this character’s poor fate. While the Z-Fighters are dealing with each new enemy, season after season, Garlic Jr. is still trapped in unending darkness, desperately and hopelessly trying to find escape. He was a slave to his own contemptible pride and sense of invincibility, and so he received a result similar to what each of us will receive if we don’t lay down our pride at the feet of He who stands upon our petty crowns.
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