When it comes to underrated characters in Dragon Ball, few really compare to Pan, Son Gohan’s one and only daughter. Introduced at the very end of the original series, Pan was one of three new faces to join the main cast following the Buu arc alongside Bra and Uub. Where the former didn’t do anything in either Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball GT, and the latter had his narrative potential squandered at every turn, Pan went on to play a massive role in the anime only sequel series. As a result, she did manage to score some fans, but not too many. Especially considering how disliked her trademark series was.
Almost exclusively relegated to Dragon Ball GT, it’s hard for some fans to really appreciate Pan as a character. Which is a shame since she’s genuinely quite interesting in her own right. Pan is likable, Pan is a good foil for both Goku and Gohan, and Pan is a much needed female presence that the series always struggled with under Toriyama’s pen. Although we can all agree she was handled poorly by Toei, she’s an interesting enough character inherently where there are legitimately fascinating details about Pan to discuss.
25 Pan’s Introduction Parallels Gohan’s
For an author who admittedly did not write the series with any explicit themes or literary merits in mind, Akira Toriyama sure knows how to call back to previous narrative elements whether intentional or not. This is seen plainly in how Toriyama introduces Pan, lifting elements from Gohan’s introduction to tie the two characters together.
Both are four year old characters who are introduced to the audience via Goku. After a time skip, Goku is shown acting paternal to a young, new cast member. Where he was Gohan’s father, he is Pan’s grandfather. Both children clearly love and admire Goku before being separated from him. Unfortunately for Pan, the series ends once Goku flies away.
24 Pan Is The Youngest Character To Fly
Introduced in the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai, Bukujutsu allowed characters like Tien Shinhan and Chaozu to fly mid-battle, a technique that would go on to save them during the tournament. By the start of the Saiyan arc, pretty much everyone knew how to fly and what was once a unique skill became a staple of the series’ action.
It took Goku 18 years to learn how to fly for reference.
At the same time, said technique was always reserved for martial artists, and good ones at that. Videl has to actively learn how to fly in the Buu arc and Goten mentions how nobody ever taught him despite already having access to Super Saiyan. Thanks to Super, we see that Pan has inherited Bukujutsu as an infant, making her the youngest character to fly.
23 The GT Staff Deliberately Kept Pan From Turning Super Saiyan
The fact Pan never turned Super Saiyan is easily remembered as GT’s biggest missed opportunities. A brand new Saiyan who actively fought, Pan should have turned Super Saiyan. There are multiple instances in the series where she actually undergoes enough emotional trauma to do so, but she is denied the opportunity.
Disgustingly, this was done so that she could remain a damsel in the context of the series- someone for Goku to save and rescue. If Pan weren’t in danger, according to the GT staff, Goku wouldn’t be able to be portrayed as clear a hero. It’s a reductive take on an interesting character who could have given us our first female Super Saiyan decades earlier.
22 Pan Is The Only Character From The Original Series To Survive The Events Of GT
Even disregarding Goku’s fate at the end of the series, Dragon Ball GT’s ending is quite sad. The epilogue takes a somber ending and really rubs it in that this is the definitive conclusion to the franchise. There are no more adventures and no more characters left to follow. This is evidenced by Pan’s status as the only surviving member of the main cast.
It's a lonely ending for poor Pan.
Come the final episode’s last few minutes, none of the original main characters lived long enough to see Goku Junior and Vegeta Junior’s fight. The world has forgotten our heroes and Pan is a relic of an age long gone in the way Master Roshi was back in the original series. The world moved on and only Pan remained.
21 Pan Doesn’t Keep In Touch With Bulma’s Family In GT
What makes the ending all the sadder is the brief moment where Pan recognizes Bulma’s ancestor, but Bulma’s ancestor does not recognize her. This is meant to be a tender moment showing us that Vegeta and Bulma’s family has lived on, but it brings the sad implication that Pan did not keep up with Bulma’s family. Following the events of the series, and Goku’s disappearance, Bulma’s family and the Son family were not able to maintain a healthy enough relationship where Bulma’s ancestors could recognize Pan.
20 Pan Has The Most Potential In The Series
Potential in Dragon Ball is an interesting beast. Almost any given character can be defined by their “potential,” but some truly excel above others. Gohan was the poster boy for quite a long time with the Cell arc capping off by explicitly referencing his potential, but characters like Goten and Pan ended up putting him to shame.
Only Uub really compares.
Of the two, Pan is easily the one with the most potential. As a baby, she can already fly and, as a four year old, she can travel around the globe in just a few minutes. Had the series continued (properly,) Pan and Uub likely would have helmed the series as the two natural frontrunners. Until Toriyama inevitably lost interest and made Goku the lead again, that is.
19 Pan Starts Her Own Dojo In Online
Dragon Ball Online is one of the lost relics of the franchise’s history, acting as an “official” sequel to the series long before Super was ever an idea in Toriyama’s mind. While Toriyama didn’t actively write for the game itself, he did pen a timeline that went over the fates of several different characters.
In the case of Pan, not only does she go on to inherit Mr. Satan’s dojo, creating her own themed fighting network, Pan also develops her own style of teaching, becoming a martial arts master in her own right. Interestingly, this approach strikes a nic balance between her two grandfathers: Son Goku and Mr. Satan. Commercial AND passion!
18 Pan Trained Goku Junior
While Dragon Ball Online gives Pan a very martial arts oriented fate, it isn’t as if Dragon Ball GT outright ignores the fact that she’s a martial artist. Goku Junior mentions that Pan ended up training him in martial arts while he was growing up. Considering Pan’s age and perceived lack of strength, this is a pretty impressive feat all things considered. Given that she was Goku Junior’s master, she was able to push him hard enough to trigger Super Saiyan on his own. This was before S-Cells were a thing, too, so that was genuinely an act of skill on Goku Junior’s part.
17 Pan Saved The World In Battle Of Gods
Although Pan does not physically appear in Battle of Gods, she does play a fairly crucial role, acting as the final Saiyan to help trigger Goku into becoming a Super Saiyan God. Granted, she was in the womb and really didn’t do much other than exist, but Pan is the last minute saving grace that ultimately ends up protecting the world from destruction. Without Pan, Goku would never become a Super Saiyan God and would fail to give Beerus the fight he was looking for, dooming the Earth.
16 Pan Was Goku’s First Student
Although Goku trained Gohan more than once during the events of the Cell saga, said training was very dissimilar to the schooling Goku underwent as a child. It was very much “training” in a specific sense and we’d be hard pressed to call Gohan a student of Goku’s. Philosophically, Gohan is Piccolo’s student.
Every mentorship starts somewhere.
In this sense, that makes Pan Goku’s first true pupil before Uub pops up. When we see Goku after the Buu arc time skip, he is actively training Pan and seems to be imparting similar lessons to the ones Roshi taught him. Of course, said mentorship is short lived as Goku flies off to personally train Uub a mere chapter later.
15 Goku Keeps Training Pan After The End Of Z
That said, while the original series cuts off with Goku flying off to train Uub- and supposedly just Uub- the Toriyama penned parody manga, Neko Majin Z, does give us a few Dragon Ball cameos that let readers catch up with the main cast after the end of the series. One such panel features Pan and Uub together in a panel, both wearing Goku’s signature orange gi. While it’s a brief cameo, it does suggest that Goku kept training Pan after the end of Z, mentoring her alongside Uub.
14 Pan Fights Freeza’s Army In Online
Even though Dragon Ball Online’s backstory is relatively light on the action, likely as a means of ensuring the main game wasn’t robbed interesting content, Toriyama did include one specific action based set piece: the return of Freeza’s army. Decades after his defeat, Freeza’s remaining forces would attack the Earth.
Interesting to note just how long Toriyama has had this plot thread in his pockets.
As part of the strike force, Pan would team up with Gohan, Goten, and Trunks against the army’s remnants. Humorously, they all dressed in Great Saiyaman outfits so to hide their identities from the general populace. To make matters even sillier, Pan was the youngest in her forties, meaning Gohan was still parading around as Great Saiyaman in his sixties.
13 Most Of Pan’s Techniques Are Lifted From Goku And Gohan
It’s quite sad that in a series where just about every major character has at least one signature move, Pan is left with really nothing to call her own. The video games do give her some exclusive attacks under the “Maiden” moniker, but this is something the games do for everyone regardless of importance.
In the series proper, Pan just lifts her techniques from Goku and Gohan. When she’s not using some variation of the Kamehameha or Masenko, she’s using basic Ki blasts and punches or kicks. It makes her a very uninteresting character to watch in motion since she never does anything unique to her own character.
12 Pan Only Fights Once In Z
Considering Pan is only in two chapters of the original manga, the fact she fights at all is quite a big deal. In her brief appearances, she has a quick match against Mo Kekko in the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai, defeating him in a single hit. In the anime, the closing shots do allude to Pan fighting Goten in the tournament, but we never get to actually see the fight. As far as her Dragon Ball Z fights go, Pan really only has one and it’s mostly a joke to showcase just how overwhelmingly strong she is.
11 Pan’s Name Means “Bread”
In Japanese, Gohan’s name is a pun for both “meal” and “cooked rice.” It’s a small gag that was inherited from Grandpa Gohan himself. As most names in the series follow a pun convention, Pan, too, is named after a food. In this instance, “Pan” is a pun for “bread.” While it seems at first glance that the pun really is just food, it’s worth noting that bread and cooked rice are two key staples of any given meal. If you want to take it even further, you can link the name “Pan” to the devil imagery with Mr. Satan and Videl, though that’s in a ballpark of its own and crosses divinities a bit too much.
10 Pan Is The First Female Saiyan Hybrid
It’s hard to believe, but we didn’t see a female Saiyan in the manga up until Pan’s introduction at the very end of the series. With only two chapters left, Toriyama finally designed a female Saiyan. In the anime, filler did give us female Saiyans, so Pan isn’t special in that regard, but she does remain the first female hybrid Saiyan which is interesting in its own right. Granted, Bra is introduced shortly afterwards, but Pan will always be the first canonical Saiyan Akira Toriyama designed. It’s just a shame about the whole Super Saiyan situation.
9 Pan’s Name Would Have Been “Gomen” If She Were A Boy
Whether Pan were born a boy or a girl, Chichi solidified in Dragon Ball Super that her naming convention would stay consistent regardless of gender. In the event that Pan were a boy, Chichi suggested she be named “Gomen,” styled after Goku’s, Goten’s, and Gohan’s naming convention. The “Go” would keep the name consistent with the family name while the “men” would be a play on “noodles,” keeping the food terminology intact. Thankfully, Pan was born a girl and we got a more creative name. Gomen isn’t too bad, though.
8 Pan Wants To Try The Fusion Dance In Xenoverse
Given how on-rails the series’ story tends to be, video games tend to be the only way to place characters in consistently low stakes scenarios where they can relax, offer up bits of trivia, or just interact without some kind of looming threat on the horizon. Xenoverse is arguably the best example of this.
Weirdly enough, Fusions pairs her up with Videl.
If you talk to Pan in Xenoverse, she’ll interestingly mention how she wants to try the fusion dance. Specifically, she wants to fuse with an already fused fighter. Logistics aside, it’s quite charming that Pan expresses an interest in what is debatably her uncle’s signature ability. Maybe someday she’ll get to fuse. Perhaps with Bra?
7 Pan Appears In Dr. Slump Returns
In the same way Dragon Ball Super is a sequel that was released years later without being written by Akira Toriyama, Dr. Slump Returns acted as a brief, Super-esque continuation of Toriyama’s hit Dr. Slump. While generally regarded as decent enough to exist, most discourse about the sequel come from the anime films based off the series, fans do like to linger on the Dragon Ball cameos. Notably, Pan made a very brief appearance on a page that featured her with the rest of the GT main cast at the time. It’s really not much more than a small cameo, but it does make Pan one of the few Dragon Ball characters to appear in other works.
6 Goku Heals Pan In A Hero’s Legacy
At the end of A Hero’s Legacy, the Dragon Ball GT TV special, Goku Junior bumps into Goku, now inhabiting the four star Dragon Ball, and tells him that he wants to heal his grandmother, Pan. Even though Goku Junior only has one Dragon Ball, Goku seemingly answers his successor’s request, restoring Pan to full health.
It's alright to break the rules if it makes for a good story.
Logistics aside, this is actually a fairly tender gesture on Goku’s part that adds some much needed mysticism back into a series that virtually had none by the special aired. Does it work within the rules of the series? Not at all, but it does demonstrate the bond between Goku and Pan.
5 Pan Is GT’s Deuteragonist
There’s a reason fans deride Dragon Ball GT as “Goku Time.” He’s never away from the action, he always saves the day, and the story does anything and everything to put the spotlight back on Goku if it’s off him for too long. At the same time, the focus isn’t too uneven with Pan getting quite a bit of focus.
Perhaps it’s because Pan is Goku’s granddaughter and that’s a relationship the original series never had time to develop, but Pan is very much GT’s second lead, playing second fiddle to Goku. Other than her gramps, Pan appears in the most episodes, has the most fights, and plays the most narratively important role.
4 Pan Is One Of The Only Characters In GT To Have A Character Arc
Dragon Ball GT’s biggest problem isn’t that it’s a series made up of good concepts executed poorly, it’s that GT is a sequel to a franchise with consistently great character arcs that rarely, if ever, tries to develop the main cast. Over the course of the show, only Goku, Vegeta, and Pan get anything resembling development.
It's not great, but it is there.
Of the three, Pan has the most cohesive arc, seeing her gain agency, take action, and come into her own as a person. Kind of. It isn’t a very impactful arc and more or less occurs in the background, but her growth is present and she’s fundamentally a different character by the last episode than she was during the first.
3 GT Makes Pan Too Weak
Considering just how strong Pan was at the end of the original series, it’s quite bizarre starting the Black Star Dragon Ball arc and seeing that she doesn’t seem much stronger at all. If anything, she might actually be weaker. She doesn’t struggle with anything until the characters get to space, but should she be struggling at all?
To be fair, this is a power scaling issue GT enforces on every single character including Goku. No one is as strong as they should be, likely in an attempt to give Goku more attention than he deserves. Pan is just collateral damage, but it’s all the more prominent considering how large of a role she has compared to everyone else.
2 Super Makes Pan Too Strong
The idea of the next generation surpassing the last is one of the defining themes of the franchise, dating back to the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai and playing a role up until the very last pages of the manga where Goku flies off with Uub. Naturally, it’s only fitting that Pan, the newest generation thus far, be absurdly powerful.
There really is no middle ground with Pan.
She is, and it does make thematic sense, but Super pushes things a bit too far, admittedly. As a baby, Pan can already fly, use Ki, and cause massive amounts of destruction that neither Gohan or Goten could. It’s a huge leap in power that’ll only make power scaling discussions harder to take seriously in the future.
1 Pan’s Characterization At The Start Of GT Makes Little Sense
No one’s arguing that characters shouldn’t change with time- in fact, it wouldn’t exactly be great writing if characters just stayed static with time- but the shift Pan undergoes from the end of the Buu arc to the start of the Black Star Dragon Balls arc is… off putting. She goes from someone keenly interested in martial arts to a pre-teen who doesn’t seem to particularly care for the craft.
Not only does this betray the one defining element of Pan’s characterization back at the end of the original series, it strips her away from her chance to be the one female martial artist in the series who actually grows, develops, and does something with her strength other than turning into a wife or mother.