While many fans of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball series know everything about main characters like Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Frieza and so forth, the franchise's longest-running character (besides Goku himself) frequently gets overlooked: Bulma. While Bulma has been overshadowed and sidelined by the introduction of more powerful villains, particularly since Dragon Ball Z, she has played a huge role in the story since the very first issue of the manga and the first episode of the anime. Bulma may not have new Super Saiyan transformations every month, but she was the one who started the quest for the Dragon Balls, invented the Dragon Radar, and created most of the machines used in Dragon Ball, including an actual working time machine.
Because Dragon Ball has a lot of battles, it's undeniable the two super-powered Saiyans Goku and Vegeta get talked about the most, while other fighters like Krillin, Tien, and Yamcha have become increasingly unimportant and regulated to supporting cast. In fact, the parody series DBZ Abridged has a moment when the camera cuts away from the action to show Master Roshi, Chi-Chi, Ox-King, Oolong, and other sidelined characters sitting in Kame House relaxing. Bulma herself delivers the punchline: "Remember when we used to do stuff?"
Nevertheless, Bulma is a compelling and interesting character, largely because she has no powers to speak of except for her genius intellect (she's never taken part in a battle), and because she proves that sometimes it's the characters who are ordinary people that accomplish the most extraordinary things.
Here are 20 crazy things you didn't know (or might have overlooked) about Bulma.
20 Classic Inspirations
Longtime fans of the Dragon Ball franchise are probably aware of its origins, which remain mysterious for many Westerners and casual watchers. But if you've ever found yourself mystified by the monkey tails and anthropomorphic people walking around the world, it's because Dragon Ball is loosely based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, where the main character is a super-powered monkey god named Sun Wukong (Son Goku in Japanese)and where animals have human traits.
Just like Goku is inspired by the Monkey King, Bulma is based on the character Xuanzang, the monk who initiates the journey. Xuanzang has no superpowers to speak of, and surrounds himself with powerful warriors for protection. Similarly, though Bulma kicks off the story by introducing Goku to the concept of the Dragon Balls and the radar, she needs Goku to keep her safe. Of course, the parallel became less clear by the time Dragon Ball Z rolled around and space aliens got involved.
19 The OG Dragon Ball Girl
Bulma was a part of the series from the very start, deputing in the first chapter of the first volume of the Dragon Ball manga titled "Bulma and Son Goku." It was published in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine on December 3, 1984. The chapter involves her starting the story by meeting Goku and recruiting him as her protection in her quest to find the wish-granting Dragon Balls. Because he was more or less raised in the woods, Bulma was also the first girl Goku had ever seen.
Having also deputed in the first episode of the anime, Bulma is the second character introduced after Goku himself, and remains the longest-running character in both the anime and manga other than Goku. Though she was eventually overshadowed by characters like Piccolo and Vegeta, she maintained her prominent role into Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, and all subsequent Dragon Ball media.
18 Changing Up Her Look
Throughout the entire Dragon Ball series Bulma changes her appearance more than any other character. She has gone through a total of 18 different hairstyles, and her hair has switched between green, blue, and purple tones. Her hair is purplish in the original manga, and in the anime it's a turquoise green. Her clothes frequently feature the logo of Capsule Corporation, which is owned by her father.
She's had everything from shoulder-length hair to a ponytail, and wears a wide variety of outfits throughout the series, usually switching nearly every saga. It certainly gives her more flair than Goku, who never seems to run out of orange fighting outfits. At one point she wore a red cap with her name on it, which is a fashion idea whose time has come when you think about it.
17 Naming Everyone After Underwear??
People who pay close attention to Akira Toriyama's series know by now that character names are almost always puns. Among the most famous naming schemes is naming every full-blooded Saiyan after vegetables: Kakarot meaning "carrot," Vegeta being the first six letters of the word vegetable, Broly meaning broccoli, Nappa meaning greens, and Raditz in particular sounding a lot like radish. The word "Saiyan" itself comes from rearranging the Japanese word for "vegetable." King Piccolo and Namekians were also all named after musical instruments.
But Bulma's family got the short end of the stick when it comes to names, since they're named after underwear. Bulma itself refers to bloomers, a form of female undergarment. The family's surname is Briefs, her older sister is named Tights and her mom's name is "Panchy," which is a pun on panties. Bulma continued this trend by naming her son Trunks and her daughter Bulla, which translated to bra. Vegeta apparently had no problem with this.
16 Family Ties
Long-lost relatives showing up out of nowhere has precedent in the series after the sudden appearance of Goku's older brother Raditz at the beginning of Dragon Ball Z. But many fans were still confused when Bulma reached out to her older sister in Dragon Ball Super, since there had never been a reference to Bulma having a sibling before. While there have been no references to Tights earlier in the franchise or in the movies, Super was her first official appearance in the franchise.
However, Tights did previously appear in another Akira Toriyama project: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. The short series shared a universe with Toriyama's other works, including Dragon Ball. Characters like Grandpa Gohan and Goku make cameo appearances. But by far the biggest tie-in is that Tights was revealed to be related to the Briefs family. It's still odd that Bulma has an older sister she can just go for years and years without mentioning, but at least she's got the family naming scheme down.
15 She's As Good An Inventor As Any
While she is unable to fight most of the villains in Dragon Ball, Bulma's inventions play a key role in the story, including battles and the various searches for the Dragon Balls. Bulma has extensive knowledge of capsule and micro-technology, including houses and cars that can be carried around in your pocket and deployed at will. She is shown to have a genius-level intellect, and her engineering skills are so advanced she can repair an alien scouter in DBZ to working order with no problem.
Her most famous invention is the Dragon Radar, a device which detects the energy signal emitted by the Dragon Balls; even advanced alien races like the Saiyans and Frieza's organization are shown to be unable to replicate the device. She also invented the time machine that sends Future Trunks back to the past. As she matures and is less directly involved in the main story due to her lack of powers, Bulma becomes an acclaimed scientist, even being presented an award at a ceremony for her achievements.
14 Sorry, Bulma And Goku Shippers...
One of the biggest unexpected plot twists in the series is Bulma and Vegeta becoming a couple; just about no one saw that coming. But as time goes by, it's hard to imagine her with anyone else. Though fans were used to her on-again, off-again relationship with Yamcha, in retrospect things were always rocky between them and they seem horribly mismatched from the start. But an even weirder pairing that almost became reality was Bulma and Goku becoming a couple.
As the story goes, in the early days when Toriyama started working on Dragon Ball, his editor strongly believed that Goku and Bulma should eventually become romantically involved. Clearly, Toriyama didn't agree, and looking back it would have been supremely weird consider their age difference, the surrogate mother turned brother-sister relationship they ended up developing, and the fact that Goku is so naïve compared to her, even as an adult.
13 The Most Innocent Wish Of All
Most of the time on Dragon Ball and especially DBZ, characters summon Shenron to revive dead characters killed during the previous saga's battles. The villains almost always want immortality so they can conquer the universe. But aside from that, we're used to seeing the wishes used for trivial reasons; let's remind ourselves the very first wish we saw on the mystical spheres was Oolong wishing for a pair of women's underwear (to be fair, it was to keep Emperor Pilaf from making his wish, but still, he could have conjured something less creepy and more useful).
Seeing as how the Dragon Balls can grant almost any wish, the reason Bulma initially started searching for them seems cute to us now: all she wanted was to wish for a lifetime supply of strawberries, her favorite food. This somewhat childish wish might have something to do with the fact that she was very young at the start of the series, but even as she matured her desires grew no more selfish than wanting to wish for a perfect boyfriend for herself. Considering all the terrible possibilities, that's still a pretty innocent thing to use the powerful artifacts for.
12 She Doesn't Care Who She Slaps
In Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, the eighteenth feature film of the franchise, Bulma has a very distinct moment that ranks as one of the most memorable in the movie. When Beerus, the God of Destruction himself, hears that Frieza was defeated by a Saiyan, he seeks our heroes out. He easily dodges all their attacks. Bulma doesn't care about any of this warrior nonsense, however.
Angry that all the fighting and commotion is ruining her birthday, Bulma approaches Beerus as he stands gloating over a paralyzed Vegeta, and... slaps him across the face. Yes, she smacks the guy who was throwing around the strongest men on Earth like ragdolls moments ago. While Beerus does slap her back, which angers Vegeta enough to make him so Super Saiyan 2, you have to admit this may be the most badass moment in the series. Bulma has no powers, but shows no fear of Beerus whatsoever when Goku and Vegeta are petrified of him. Dang.
11 Changing The Design
When Toriyama wrote his first draft of Dragon Ball, the character of Bulma was significantly different than the one we know and love. In the concept art for the characters she was originally designed with the appearance of a young cowboy girl, complete with curly blonde hair, a cowboy hat, daisy duke shorts, and a revolver. Goku resembled an actual monkey like his base character from Journey to the West, and Oolong was a much larger pig like his counterpart.
In the second draft, she became much closer to the final version, appearing as a modern Western girl but with a braided ponytail with a large bow, Goku became a young boy, and Oolong a smaller pig in a CCP Mao suit. The third draft gave her the name "Pinchi" and a Western shirt and mini-skirt, while Goku wore a Japanese schoolboy's uniform.
In the English dub known as the Harmony Gold dub, Bulma was also known as Lena. That particular dub is not popular with fans, so it's understandable why the name never stuck.
10 Standing By Her Man
Dragon Ball is based around a very simple formula: Goku is the strongest fighter in the universe. After all, he is the hero and the Super Saiyan of legend, right? He defeated Frieza after all. There's no way anyone, even the Prince of all Saiyans, could ever be stronger than him. Except not really. Goku has been surpassed in power throughout the series multiple times. Vegeta has been the strongest Z fighter on several occasions, always with the help of Bulma.
In Dragon Ball GT, Bulma created a Blutz Wave Generator which helped Vegeta become a Super Saiyan 4. In this form, he fuses with Goku to create Gogeta, canonically the strongest character in the series. In the Battle of the Gods movie, Beerus slapping Bulma angers Vegeta enough to make him stronger than Goku, as Master Roshi noted.
9 The Queen Of Fanservice
Bulma is the most recurring female character in the series and is the source for most of the fanservice in the series. Though it's not a secret to anyone who's read the Dragon Ball manga, fans who were introduced to the universe via the English dub of the anime or the television edits of Dragon Ball Z might not have any idea how much was cut out when it comes to Bulma being portrayed in an inappropriate manner. In fact, nearly every character in Dragon Ball has either seen her naked or in compromising situations.
Master Roshi being a pervert and trying to mack on nearly every female lead in the series was kept even in the heavily censored American version, but almost anything suggestive regarding Bulma was cut out. This probably had to do with the fact that though she's an adult by DBZ, she's only sixteen at the start of the franchise.
8 Your Mind Is Not Your Own
Considering how long Dragon Ball has been going on, it's only natural that characters would wind up falling into recurring patterns –Krillin gets beaten up, Yamcha gets killed, Piccolo and Vegeta nearly succeed but never quite defeat the big bad, and of course Goku is the one who saves the world. While Bulma has also done things like be the techno-wiz of the group,she's also has a recurring problem in getting mind-controlled by the villains.
The most famous example is during the Frieza saga on Namek when Captain Ginyu switches bodies with her to escape his frog form. Though this was having her body hijacked, her mind was switched into a frog, which has to be pretty traumatic. This also happened in the movie Lord Slug, when the villain read her mind against her will. During DBZ, Bulma was also one of the characters whose mind was taken over by the Black Water Mist unleashed by Garlic Jr. The machine mutant Baby also took over the minds of everyone on Earth and chose Bulma as his Tuffle queen.
7 Never Ask A Woman Her Age...
Bulma's birthday is August 18. She is 16 years old at the start of the Dragon Ball franchise during the Emperor Pilaf saga and the Red Ribbon Army saga. Later, during the Tien Shinhan and King Piccolo saga, she is 19 years old. By the end of the Dragon Ball anime she is still just 22 years old. However, after the time skip and the beginning of Dragon Ball Z and the encounter with Raditz, Bulma is 28 years old. By the time they leave for Namek in search of that planet's Dragon Balls and face Frieza, she is 29.
By the time Garlic Jr. unleashes the Black Water Mist she has celebrated her thirtieth birthday, when Trunks shows up she's 31, and when they face off against the Androids she's 34. Finally, at the end of DBZ when they face Majin Buu, Bulma is 41. In Dragon Ball Super she is 46 years old, and by the end of GT she is 56, though we have to say she still looks quite young for her age.
6 ...But If You Do, She'll Probably Lie About It
Now that we've established Bulma's age, we can move on to another interesting plot point of her character: despite the fact she seems to be aging well, she's also insecure about it. The evidence? Well, what kicks off the plot of Battle of the Gods is all our favorite characters getting together to celebrate Bulma's birthday. It's a running joke that no one actually knows how old she is.
But when it looks like Beerus is going to kill Vegeta, Bulma accidentally blurts out that he's ruining her "thirty-eighth birthday party." The joke is that she messed up and revealed what she didn't want anyone to know. As it turns out though, she was probably lying about her age: Bulma was 16 in year 749, and Battle of the Gods takes place in year 778, which would mean she's actually in her mid-forties. It's doubtful she forgot her own age, and she certainly wouldn't be the first person to be insecure about getting older, so chances are it was intentional on her part.
5 Watch What You Eat
During the Majin Buu saga of DBZ, it was established that one of Buu's favorite finishing moves is to turn his opponent into food and eat them. It's an odd but undeniably frightening way to kill someone, since he's in essence eating them alive. One of the most shocking scenes of late DBZ is when Super Buu invades Kami's Lookout and turns long-time fan favorites like Yamcha, Krillin, and Bulma into chocolate and eats them all.
What's even more shocking is that it was the second time Bulma has been turned into food. It happened to her once before in Dragon Ball when she was turned into a carrot by the villain Monster Carrot. Monster Carrot was a large rabbit that turned whoever he touched into a carrot, and he used this power to render Bulma helpless. Thankfully, Goku rescued her before she became rabbit food.
4 A Regular Sarah Connor
Akira Toriyama is fond of incorporating Eastern themes like those from Journey to the West into his work, but that doesn't mean he doesn't make references to popular Western culture. While in the middle of working on Dragon Ball Z and looking for new plot points after wrapping up the Frieza saga, Toriyama noticed the Terminator films, which were the biggest thing in West at the time. Thus, the Android saga was born.
During that particular arc, Dr. Gero's thinking machines become the primary threat to the main characters and the world, and the plot involves time travel to prevent an apocalyptic world from coming about. Cell also has regenerative abilities like the T-1000, and Future Bulma's story parallels that of Sarah Connor, believing Future Trunks to be the hope for humanity's survival. Trunks' story, of course, closely parallels that of John Connor.
Marketing Dragon Ball and especially Dragon Ball Z as kids' shows in foreign countries proved to be a tricky task, considering the level of violence and adult themes they could have. To please censors and Western audiences, blood was removed, scenes were taken out, beer was turned into grape soda, and in one English dub death was changed to "being sent to another dimension." What other things were removed to make the series more appealing to kids? Bulma smoking.
Yes, in the unedited version of the Dragon Ball anime and the manga, Bulma is shown smoking cigarettes on several occasions. This didn't happen particularly often, and was obviously frowned upon for kid's programming, so it was cut out from many adaptations. Smoking is a nasty habit, but realistically it's more likely that children will imitate the countless fights in DBZ (I may or may not be guilty of that) rather than pick up smoking.
2 Indirectly Responsible For Cell And Omega Shenron
Longtime fans probably wonder why the Z fighters don't use the Dragon Balls for things like ending world hunger or wishing for a cure for cancer. While wishing their friends back to life all the time might seem noble, by GT Bulma is actually giving them away as part of a contest instead of helping the needy. This chronic overuse of the artifacts for what are essentially selfish reasons caused negative energy to build up and unleashed the evil dragon Omega Shenron, who nearly wiped out Earth.
Of course, this isn't the first time Bulma's good intentions have yielded negative results. One of her most famous inventions is the time machine used by Future Trunks. The problem is Cell stole the machine in one timeline and used it to travel to the main timeline and absorb the Androids there, becoming Perfect Cell, one of the deadliest threats in the series.
1 Whatever Happened To Baby Bulla?
We've already mentioned that Bulma has a daughter, Bulla, in addition to Trunks. We know this from the end of Dragon Ball Z. However, in the alternate future timeline, the world had to face the threat of Androids 17 and 18, and then Cell, and now due to Dragon Ball Super we know they've had to face Goku Black on top of that. The Bulma of this world has had to watch all her friends die, and her husband Vegeta died after Trunks was born.
Since none of the Future characters have been revived with the Dragon Balls, it seems death is permanent there. Among other things, this means Future Bulma won't have her second child in the alternate timeline. While some fan theories said Bulla could be born to someone else other than Vegeta, seeing as how Future Bulma was killed in Super, Bulla has likely been wiped from existence in that timeline for good.