At its core, Dragon Ball is the story of Son Goku. From the first chapter to the last, the narrative follows his growth, his adventures, and his battles. At the same time, the series is not so single-mindedly focused where Goku is the only character the narrative shines the spotlight on. Time and time again, Goku’s growth is only so impactful because of the people around him. This is a story about martial artists influencing the world around them, and each other through martial arts. In that respect, it can be said that the spirit of Dragon Ball can be seen most clearly in the relationship between Goku and Krillin.
Goku’s best friend, Krillin was introduced at the start of the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai in order to give Goku a proper literary foil. Where Goku pursued martial arts with a sincerity, Krillin was a bit more cynical in his desire to become stronger. Through each other, the two learned what it meant to be a martial artist, forging an unbreakable bond. Given how secondary Krillin has become in years, he’s not really the topic of much discussion and quite a lot of misconceptions litter any conversation about him. Arguably one of the more dynamic characters in the series, there’s quite a bit fans get wrong about Krillin.
25 Krillin Is Goku’s First Rival
Given that he is the first martial artist Goku actually fights in the story, many consider Yamcha to be Goku’s first rival. In many respects, Yamcha does tick off most of the rivalry boxes. He’s relatively evenly matched with Goku in their first appearance and he has a clear interest in martial arts.
That said, Yamcha does not fulfill the most important aspect of any given rivalry: the rivalry itself. He does not compete with Goku. Yamcha does not actively want to be better than Goku. Their dynamic does not influence each other. With Krillin, the two immediately force the other to grow and adapt in order to surpass the other.
24 Krillin Didn’t Start As A Villain
Considering that Yamcha, Tien, Chaozu, Piccolo, and Vegeta all begin as villains, Krilin naturally gets lumped in with the rest of the gang. In his very first appearance, Krillin is admittedly quite antagonistic towards Goku, but he never actually goes out of his way to be outright villainous.
Certainly antagonistic, but not villainous.
At worst, Krillin is rude, but not devious. He isn’t a bandit, an assassin, or a demon king bent on world domination. He’s just a crass young man who wants to become a martial artist to pick up girls. That in itself doesn’t last long either as Goku influences Krillin to pursue the craft with some sincerity.
23 Krillin Develops All The Way Through The Cell Arc
Fans have more or less accepted this idea that the Earthlings all fully develop in the pre-Z era. By the end of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, Roshi has passed the torch onto the next generation, Yamcha has gotten over his fear of women, and Tien has stopped walking the path of the assassin. What about Krillin, though?
In truth, Krillin is the only Earthling whose arc is not over by the time Goku defeats Piccolo in the 23rd Budokai. Rather, it’s only starting to begin in earnest. With the Saiyan arc, Krillin will start to come into his own, putting the needs of others above his own. This ultimately culminates in him winning over 18 by using a wish to get the bomb out of her body.
22 Krillin Is The Real Driving Force On Namek
Vegeta and Gohan tend to get most of the credit during the first half of the Namek arc, in large part due to them being our focal point Saiyans while Goku is out of commission. When it comes down to it, though, Krillin is the real driving force on Namek. At least for the first half. He’s the one who first finds Saichoro; he’s the one who keeps Gohan save from the Freeza Forces; and he’s the one who comes up with the very plan to go to Namek. The Namek arc is Krillin at his best.
21 Krillin Takes On Many Of Yamcha’s Traits In Z
One of the most interesting and under-examined aspects of Krillin is just how much he actually inherits from Yamcha once the Saiyan arc hits. Previously, Yamcha’s motivator was that he wanted to get married. It was his driving force. Suddenly, Krillin now laments his seemingly inability to wed.
The short man's Yamcha.
This is a thread that pops back up in the Namek arc before resolving itself by the end of the Cell arc with 18. We’re meant to link back his desire to marry off his desire to pick up women back in his introduction, but it’s a thread that is very much lifted from Yamcha. Does it work? Sure! But you need to recognize where it really came from.
20 Krillin Wasn’t The Strongest Earthling Until Namek
Nowadays, with constant interviews from Akira Toriyama and in-text evidence from Yamcha in the Buu arc, there’s really no debate over whether or not Krillin is the strongest Earthling alive. Fans obviously do still debate it, but the series already has an obvious answer. It didn’t begin so obviously, though.
It’s only after Namek where Krillin finally gets a lead over Tien. Prior, Tien was always the stronger of the two, even acting as the series’ deuteragonist from the 22nd Budokai up to the end of the 23rd. Once Krillin got his potential unlocked, though, Tien never found the chance to catch up as Krillin just rocketed ahead.
19 Krillin Isn’t As Strong As Super Saiyan Blue Goku
When it comes down to it, power scaling truly does not matter. Of course, we all want our stories to maintain consistency in every facet, but something like power scaling is so secondary to narratives, themes, and arcs that we can all afford to be a bit more forgiving. At the same time, we should also be more perceptive towards context.
Kind of obvious if you pay attention.
What many claim are power scaling issues are really just matters of context being overlooked. In the lead up to the Tournament of Power, Krillin fought a Super Saiyan Blue Goku and gave him a fight. This doesn’t mean Krillin is suddenly SSB tier, but that Goku was testing Krillin and holding back in order to test how Krillin would adapt to a blatantly stronger enemy.
18 Krillin Wasn’t The Weakest Member Of Universe 7 In The ToP
On the subject of the Tournament of Power, it’s worth mentioning Krillin’s incredibly early elimination. For several episodes, the ToP goes by without eliminating another member of Universe 7, giving the impression that Krillin is weaker than the rest. As is the case with the SSB situation, this is a matter of context getting overlooked.
Krillin’s elimination doesn’t happen because he’s weak, it happens because Frost sneak attacks him. It’s an elimination that could have happened to anyone. Even then, Krillin puts up a much better fight than Tien, the second member to get eliminated. Elimination order has nothing at all to do with strength. Otherwise 17 wouldn’t have won.
17 Krillin And Chaozu’s Parallels
Considering just how much Tien Shinhan dominated the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai with his presence and character arc, it’s easy to forget that Chaozu also played a fairly important role in the arc. At least comparatively. Although his relevance is brief, Chaozu is introduced as a necessary foil for Krillin.
Two sides of the same miniature coin.
Chaozu is the Crane to Krillin’s Turtle, embodying the very antithesis of the ideologies Krillin picked up from Master Roshi. Chaozu will cheat if he needs to in order to win while actively fighting dirty. At the same time, he does not have a respect for the craft and is far less clever than Krillin, with the latter winning through cunning.
16 Krillin Was The First Character To Make Piccolo Sweat
Quite interestingly, the first character to give the newly reincarnated Piccolo Junior a challenge wasn’t Son Goku, but his best friend, Krillin. Krillin is the first opponent Majunior fights during the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, and Piccolo does not have as easy a time as he was expecting.
While Krillin ultimately loses, he does push Piccolo back considerably, outwitting him with his own clever techniques and dealing a fair bit of damage. Piccolo even comments how, after fighting Krillin specifically, his pursuit for world domination will be much harder than he initially imagined.
15 Krillin Doesn’t Lose His Life All That Often
One of the most prominent running jokes within the fandom is that Krillin struggles to stay alive way more than any other character. Just looking at the series as a whole, Krillin loses his life to Tambourine; gets blown up by Freeza; gets eaten by Buu; and gets dusted by Super Android 17.
He's really par for course.
That’s four times, one of which is from a non-canon series. That means Krillin loses his life a total of three times in the series. Where the first two are a big deal, the last isn’t. You know who else loses their life twice? Goku! And Piccolo! And Vegeta! Really, most of the cast. Krillin isn’t that special in this regard.
14 Krillin Isn’t All That Relevant Before Z
In the same vein as the fandom accepting the idea that Krillin develops more before the Saiyan arc than he does after, there is this idea that Krillin was at his most relevant during the pre-Z era along with the rest of the Earthlings. While this is true for Yamcha and Tien, it isn’t for Krillin.
In reality, Krillin isn’t actually all that relevant before the Saiyan arc. He’s Goku’s best friend, but he barely plays a role in the Red Ribbon Army arc and is gone for the entire Demon King Piccolo arc. Of the first six arcs, Krillin is only active in four and a major character in two- the 21st Budokai and the 22nd. Even that’s debatable though as his role in the latter isn’t too impactful.
13 Krillin And Goku Aren’t Really Equals As Kids
Even though Krillin is introduced as a foil to Goku and an equal who can push a rivalry between the two, Akira Toriyama establishes fairly early on that there really is no equality between Goku and Krillin. Almost as soon as Krillin proves himself faster than Goku when training with Roshi, Goku gets new shoes and immediately blitzes past Krillin’s time, suggesting to the audience that Goku will always be a little bit better than his rival.
12 Except For The 22nd Budokai
Except during the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai. Kind of. Goku is clearly the stronger of the two, but Krillin makes up for the distance between himself and his rival by using his craftiness to his advantage. Krillin fights a proper martial artist’s battle, but not without inflating himself like a balloon, using a Kamehameha to catch Goku off guard, and gabbing Goku’s tail. Had Goku not trained his tail during the time skip, Krillin would have actually defeated him- not through sheer strength, but through cunning.
11 Krillin Could Have Won The 21st Budokai (In The Right Context)
Believe it or not, there is a scenario where Krillin could have won the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai and, with the exception of Jackie Chun, Krillin was the only character who realistically could have when it comes down to it. This scenario effectively necessitates Goku fighting Jackie Chun as early as possible.
Namu would give Krillin the most trouble, but if Goku could win so could he.
In any setting where Goku and Jackie square off right away, both are left too tired to continue the tournament. Should Jackie move on, he’d be immediately eliminated as Goku would have taken so much out of him. From there, Krillin, the only character near in strength to Goku and Chun, would go on to dominate the rest of the Tenkaichi Budokai.
10 Krillin Has Boogers Even Though He Doesn’t Have A Nose
If you spend long enough consuming late series material, you almost forget that Dragon Ball began not as the super serious martial arts serial it now is, but a lighthearted adventure story with martial arts tropes conveyed through humor. Krillin doesn’t have a nose, but he’s happy to shoot boogers out of his face anyways. This happens in his battle against Bacterian and, while it’s certainly weird in every respect, it is a firm reminder that the series has always had its feet dipped in the more jovial side of storytelling.
9 Krillin And 18 Have One Of The Healthier Relationships
For a series with more than a few romances, and there are surprisingly quite a few considering Akira Toriyama’s apparent disdain for writing romance, Krillin and 18’s ends up perhaps the healthiest of the bunch other than Videl’s and Gohan’s. The two clearly love and support one another in a way that enables the other to continue doing what they love.
Admittedly not a hard feat to pull off in this series.
Despite becoming a wife, 18 doesn’t fall into the same trap as other spouses in the series, maintaining both her relevance and aptitude as a martial artist after the fact. This is seen clearly in the Tournament of Power and her supportive dynamic with Krillin clearly indicates why.
8 Krillin Isn’t Naturally Bald
If you aren’t super into the series, chances are you just assumed Krillin was naturally bald. That’s a fine assumption, honestly. Most western fans were introduced to the franchise via the Saiyan arc so they didn’t have the context of Krillin claiming to have shaved his head in the original series.
Interestingly, in the Buu arc, Toriyama does bring this comment back up with Goku reflecting on Krillin’s new haircut only for Krillin to tell him that Goku already knew he shaved his head. Which he did! Krillin told him all the way back in the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai arc. It’s a brief line and it goes by fast, but it does shine light on why Krillin suddenly has hair.
7 Krillin Is An Incredibly Skilled Martial Artist
With such a heavy emphasis on Saiyans, Namekians, aliens, and Androids, it can be easy to overlook the Earthlings. As the power scale increases with the introduction of scouters, transformations, and heavier Ki attacks, characters like Krillin, Yamcha, and Tien naturally get swept to the sideline of conversation.
One of the very best.
Which is a shame as these new conventions don’t actually diminish the value of characters like Krillin. Even in a world with Super Saiyans and Genki Damas and Gods of Destruction, Krillin is still an incredibly skilled martial artist. He knows how to fight, he’s clever in battle, and he manipulates Ki arguably better than most of the cast.
6 Krillin Has The Most Creative Ki Attacks In The Series
Speaking of Krillin’s Ki attacks, let’s dig a little bit deeper into what he can pull off. It goes without saying, but the Kienzan is easily Krillin’s claim to fame. An attack made up of what appears to be raw, refined Ki, the Kienzan can supposedly cut through anything and even nearly tears Freeza in half.
Krillin also has a unique scattershot Ki attack that he used against the Saibaimen following Yamcha’s explosion. In one burst, Krillin was able to destroy most of the Saibaimen on the film, showing off a level of Ki aptitude that only Tien Shinhan would go on to one up with the Kikoho.
5 Krillin Was Always Stronger Than Yamcha
Yamcha’s a very interesting character to pin down when it comes to strength. Despite frequently being paired with Tien Shinhan, the strongest of the Earthlings up until the Namek arc, Yamcha is actually one of the weakest. He appears to be quite physically strong, but he really has nothing on Krillin.
He never has, either. From Krillin’s introduction, he was already much stronger than Yamcha. Where Yamcha was beaten by Goku fairly effortlessly after the latter was introduced, Krillin was at least able to compete and keep up with Goku during their training. At no point does Yamcha ever catch up to Krillin as Krillin was always so much further ahead.
4 Krillin Is Able To Keep Up With Goku With Minimal Training (As Kids)
Which does speak volumes to just how competent a martial artist Krillin is. Although Goku was always the better of the two, Krillin was able to keep up with Goku up until around the end of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai without nearly as much effort. Every time Goku broke a wall, Krillin followed.
Things get admittedly tricker in the Z-era.
When Goku trained with Karin, Krillin was able to nearly match him at the 22nd Budokai after only have trained again with Roshi. Even though Goku trained with God, Krillin didn’t trail too far behind in the 23rd Budokai after training with Karin himself. Come the Saiyan arc and Krillin has surpassed Raditz from training with God in less time than Goku ever did.
3 Krillin Wasn’t Always So Short
On an aesthetic level, Krillin is primarily known for being short and for being bald. He is one of the easiest characters to identity just by a silhouette and his height is a big reason why. Oddly enough, though, Krillin’s height has been exaggerated in recent years. In the original manga, Krillin was never so painfully short.
Sure, he was only a bit taller than a five-year-old on Namek, but Krillin at least reached Goku’s shoulders during the Saiyan arc. Come the revival and Krillin is barely reaching Goku’s waist. Krillin’s height keeps getting shorter as that’s what fans associate with him when, in truth, he was never so puny in the original run.
2 Krillin Is The Bravest Character
Krillin is one of the most human and relatable characters in the series in large part due to the fact that he wears his insecurities on his sleeve. Krillin is not shy about mentioning when something is bothering him or when he’s scared. In fact, he deeply laments the fact that Goku needs help against Raditz, but still resigns himself to fight. That isn’t cowardice. It’s bravery.
He still would have fought Raditz if Piccolo didn't show up.
Krillin is the kind of character who will actively feel fear, but won’t let said fear overwhelm him. Krillin takes on Freeza by himself, luring him away from the action to buy his companions a moment to breathe; he lunges at Cell even though he knows he won’t be able to do anything; and he stands up to Buu, albeit briefly. Krillin is the bravest character in the series because he actually feels fear and doesn’t let it define him.
1 Krillin Is Master Roshi’s Number 1 Student
Given that Dragon Ball is the story of Son Goku and his growth, it’s only fitting we see him as the one truest pupil of Master Roshi. After all, many of the series’ core themes are linked rather intimately with Roshi’s philosophy as a martial artist. At the same time, Goku forges his own path when all is said and done, ending the series a master artist in his own right and not just in the shadow of Roshi.
Krillin is another story entirely. Where Goku makes his own path and Yamcha abandons martial arts altogether, Krillin never abandons the Turtle School or strays away from it. He wears his Kame kanji with pride and consistently represents Master Roshi’s style of teaching. Dragon Ball Online even had Krillin taking over the Turtle School. Krillin is Roshi’s number 1 student.