The First Draft Of Lord Beerus Didn't Fit The Dragon Ball 'Spirit'

In a Shonen anime, a protagonist is only as compelling as their opponent, and in the case of "Dragon Ball Super," a worthy opponent makes or breaks the series. The sequel series to "Dragon Ball Z" sees Goku ascend to the level of gods in his never-ending journey to be the strongest. After Goku defeated Majin Buu at the end of "Dragon Ball Z," there was an air of uncertainty about what levels of power Goku would go to next, and more importantly, what driving force would take him there. Whatever opponent Goku would take on not only had to be ridiculously strong but compelling enough to get viewers invested in the fight and make Goku's journey of strength feel like he has a ways to go.

Enter Lord Beerus: a god of destruction with an insane appetite who is on an entirely different level than Goku. Created by Akira Toriyama for the film "Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods," Beerus' Egyptian god design and immense strength helped not only make Goku reevaluate his strength but also created an entirely new power ceiling in the world of "Dragon Ball." Beerus' exuberant personality and love for food brought a charm to the character that subverted expectations for someone with the title of "god of destruction." Beerus' debut in the film would lead into the "Super" series and see him become a mentor to Goku. However, Beerus wasn't always the foil and eventual instructor to Goku that he is today.

The hateful god of destruction that almost was

In an interview with V-Jump, translated by, Toriyama and Toyotarō, the manga artist for "Dragon Ball Super,"  talked about an earlier draft of "Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods" that had a much more evil Lord Beerus:

Toriyama: "Yeah, in the early version, [Beerus] did all kinds of bad stuff."

Toyotarō: "But ultimately, he changed into being someone who's still scary but not actually hateful. More in keeping with the spirit of 'Dragon Ball,' one might say."

It's important to note that Lord Beerus works on a fundamentally different level than the classic opponents of "Dragon Ball Z." In contrast, characters like Majin Buu or Frieza are villains with the typical motivations of being hell-bent on destroying Goku. Beerus approaches his fights in an entirely different way. Being a god of destruction, he is characterized as being so much more powerful than Goku that he is merely toying with him for his own entertainment. Pair that attitude with Goku's hard-headedness, and you have a fight that is very one-sided but keeps the "spirit of Dragon Ball" that Toyotarō is talking about intact.

A goal personified

Goku has always been at the heart of "Dragon Ball." Moreover, while his gloriously long blonde super Saiyan hair is undoubtedly part of his charm, Goku's longevity as an anime protagonist speaks to something beyond whatever new form he takes. The spirit of "Dragon Ball" is Goku's unwavering optimism and need to grow stronger, no matter what. With "Dragon Ball Super" and the introduction of Beerus, we get a character who is essentially a manifestation of Goku's goals. If Toriyama kept Beerus' original characterization as a much more evil god of destruction, Goku's defeat would have been guaranteed. However, in the true "spirit" of "Dragon Ball," Beerus is an opponent that sees Goku's determination, turning his amusement with Goku into a genuine interest to help him grow stronger.

After three different series with 500 episodes across all of them, it's good to know Akira Toriyama and the newer "Dragon Ball Super" collaborator/artist Toyotarō still care about what makes "Dragon Ball" tick. Surpassing limits and being as strong as you can be will always be an excellent message to younger viewers of an anime. While Goku may just be a few super Saiyan screams away from surpassing his next opponent, for now, let's just enjoy the ride to get there.