The Dragon Ball franchise is without a doubt one of the most legendary anime franchises of all time. Akira Toriyama's epic sci-fi action cartoon saga has been around for over thirty years now, evolving from its humble manga origins to become a media franchise and global phenomenon. The original manga was serialized in Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1995, eventually selling over 240 million copies and becoming the second best-selling manga series of all time. Dragon Ball has become an ever-expending universe of settings and characters, and has been developed into four anime series, nineteen feature films, an ever-growing number of fighting video games, and a collectible trading card series, to the tune of over $5 billion in merchandise.
Of course, any series as popular as Dragon Ball is bound to have its share of fan theories. Over the years, Toriyama's creation has evolved from a light-hearted weekly adventure manga into a hard-hitting action drama, and along the way it's left plenty of room for the fans to step in and generate their own canon to fill in the blanks he left behind. Let's face it: it's a lot more fun that way. Discovering hidden meanings and messages left by the creators is a fun and intellectually stimulating way to engage with our favorite fictional worlds. Some fan theories are absurd but still make entertaining reads, but others actually end up being confirmed by the show, the manga, the developers, or frequently even Toriyama himself!
Here are 18 theories from the fans of Dragon Ball that actually got confirmed.
In the Dragon Ball universe, it's part of the official lore that 17 percent of earth's population are anthropomorphic animals, a reference to the series' origins in the classic Chinese epic novel Journey to the West. This explains the existence of Oolong and Puar, and why we see cat people, dog people, and fox people walking around wearing clothes and talking. Even more bizarre, the King of Earth is a blue dog that makes periodic appearances.
One disturbing fan theory suggests that the king's ancestors used the Dragon Balls to wish for royalty, which would explain why the entire planet is unified into one kingdom, and shown in the King Piccolo Saga. The fact that the first wish Shenron granted was for an unknown character to become king was confirmed by dialogue from Dragon Ball. The only logical explanation is that animals rule the world because of that wish. Disturbing...
The galactic warlord Frieza is probably the most recognizable and iconic villain in the Dragon Ball Universe. He is also considered one of the evilest antagonists. But did you know Frieza is also one of the laziest villains of all time? He was used to being immensely powerful and never challenged, so he never trained. Seriously, he has multiple transformations at his disposal and until Goku showed up the dude never got out of his hoverchair, even while he destroyed planet Vegeta! That should tell you something.
In the movie Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, Frieza actually trains for revenge on Goku. As the result of training for the first time in his life, it only takes him four months to unlock his Golden form and obtain what it took a Super Saiyan years to achieve. It turns out he actually had the skills to defeat Super Saiyan Goku all along if only he'd applied himself.
It's pretty well-established that the Saiyan race are some of the fiercest warriors in the Dragon Ball Universe. One of their most well-known powers is called the Zenkai, or their famous ability to grow exponentially more powerful when recovering from the brink of death. The Zenkai boosts are why Frieza feared the Saiyans and their potential. But it's long been speculated that Saiyans might have other genetic abilities that make them particularly powerful, and one of them frequently goes unnoticed.
Fans picked up on the fact that Saiyan characters seem to instantly memorize techniques after observing them once. Goku has done this with just about every technique, including his Kamehameha. Vegeta was also able to learn to sense power levels without a scouter just by watching Goku. This has since been confirmed by the lore surrounding the Zenkai. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense for them to adapt their minds as well as their powers.
It's not an easy decision to give up your individuality and entire existence by agreeing to fuse with someone, but considering how long it takes Kami to propose fusing with Piccolo during the Cell Saga you wonder if he could've come to that decision before just about everybody died. He is the Guardian of Earth, after all. When Kami finally fuses with his better half, they become more powerful than anyone could have imagined. But wait a minute, doesn't this mean Kami could've saved everyone during the Saiyan and Frieza sagas?
Indeed, this disturbing fan theory was confirmed in-universe by Guru, who explicitly says that Kami and Piccolo's potential was so great that only a Super Saiyan could have defeated them. This means Nappa and Vegeta wouldn't have stood a chance. When they fuse, Piccolo's power level is even greater than Frieza's final form. So basically, Kami valued his own life more than protecting the planet he's supposed to be guarding.
Android 16's origins were shrouded in mystery when he was introduced during the Android Saga. Trunks and Cell didn't even recognize him. Unlike 17 and 18, 16 was also a purely mechanical being, and therefore the only true android. Unlike the others, 16 had no taste for combat and preferred to spend his time in the forest, living with birds and squirrels. It didn't take long for the DBZ fandom to draw their own conclusions.
The theory stated that Android 16 was modeled on Dr. Gero's dead son, and building him was a labor of love for a father who couldn't cope with the grief of his son's death. He couldn't bear the thought of him being destroyed (especially by his own creation Cell), so he gave him a gentle soul. This theory was confirmed by Toriyama himself, who also revealed Gero's son was a soldier in the Red Ribbon Army.
Goku Black first appeared in Dragon Ball Super as the antagonist of the Future Trunks arc. The true identity of the dark counterpart to our hero remained a mystery. Theories ranged from Goku Black being a corrupted future version of Goku to him being one from an alternate timeline, or perhaps a demonic creature from another realm. Another theory was that he was a new android created by Dr. Gero, or the original God of Destruction before Beerus, or a fusion-based character.
While it was eventually revealed in episode 57 that his true identity was Zamasu from an unaltered timeline who stole Goku's body in order to destroy all mortals, the fusion theory evolved to include Goku Black and Zamasu fusing, which turned out to be true in the form of Fusion Zamasu. Fans totally called the idea that a fusion between Goku Black and Future Zamasu would be their trump card.
The legendary Super Saiyan transformation is built up in the Frieza Saga as the ultimate power. It's what drives characters like Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, and Trunks towards the end of the Cell Saga. It and its subsequent evolutions are a major turning point in the series. At first it's implied that Goku is the legendary Super Saiyan, but eventually, every other major character achieves it. Even a couple of first-graders in Trunks and Goten. Why is that, anyway?
Fan speculation went wild: how were children able to do what it took centuries to achieve? Could it be that half-Saiyans can achieve it easier? Well, just recently the concept of "S-Cells" were introduced to the Dragon Ball Universe, which are passed on genetically. The more gentle the spirit, the greater the amount of S-Cells, though they can also transform from strong emotion. While fans were quick to compare "S-Cells" to Star Wars' midichlorians, they did confirm that half-Saiyans do have an easier time going Super Saiyan.
Astute fans of Dragon Ball Z and other series that show Goku as an adult have noted that he's changed little from the naïve boy living in the woods. Many people have, in the past, even called into question Goku's cognitive abilities, since we know he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child. This opens up the tricky moral question of whether someone who could have impaired mental functions (and possibly even retain the mind of a child) is capable of being in a consensual relationship.
This seems to have been confirmed by Dragon Ball Super, where Goku reveals to Vegeta that he doesn't know what a kiss is, which is very disturbing coming from a married man with not one, but two sons. Of course, it's also possible the quip was just to poke fun at Goku's naivete, but it's still a deeply disturbing revelation when taken at face value.
Aside from the classic "over 9,000" meme starring our favorite Warrior Prince, one frequent joke you see referenced is that he never actually achieved Super Saiyan 3 form. By the end of DBZ, characters like Goku and Gotenks have achieved SS3, but Vegeta never does in the course of the story, and by the time of Dragon Ball GT he goes straight to SS4. Fans have noted that this oversight seems odd considering Vegeta's habit of doing whatever it takes to surpass Goku and that he should have enough power for SS3.
Some fans argued that it was because Goku spent time training in Other World while Vegeta did not, while others insisted it was it's because DBZ ended before it could be a useful plot device. Regardless, the theory that Vegeta did have enough power to achieve SS3 was confirmed in the video games many times, particularly Dragon Ball: Raging Blast.
Everyone remembers the epic duel between Frieza and Goku on Namek at the very end of the Frieza Saga. Before the battle, Frieza claims his fireball will destroy the dying planet Namek in five minutes. That "five minutes" ends up lasting from episode 97 to episode 105, and the Frieza vs Goku battle turned out to be the longest on-screen battle in history. So what's the reason behind the longest five minutes ever? Did Frieza just overestimate his attack's effectiveness? Is Dragon Ball really that full of filler?
Well, a recent Reddit post posits the most likely theory: the fight took so long because we, the viewer, are watching the epic anime showdown in super slow motion. While it's not a theory confirmed by Toriyama, it makes perfect sense when you consider that the two most powerful fighters in the universe would be moving at speeds so quick we couldn't follow them with the naked eye.
Gohan had it rough as a child. He was just a happy-go-lucky kid with a tail before he was taken by his uncle, watched his father die, then was taken again by a green guy who forced him to survive on his own out in the woods. This was even before he fought Nappa and Vegeta. But even all that is nothing compared to the trauma of fighting the Ginyu Force, one of whom actually snapped the kid's neck and nearly killed him, then another attacked him with his own father's body.
It's difficult to imagine the psychological damage all this would inflict on a young mind, and there's a theory that Gohan uses his Great Saiyaman identity to cope with his PTSD. This one hasn't been exactly confirmed by Toriyama or the official lore, but the proof is in the pudding: while in his Great Saiyaman persona, Gohan uses the same poses and cheesy rhymes as the Ginyu Force. The idea is he keeps others from experiencing the horror he did, and "takes back" the silly poses.
Everyone knows that Goku is the virtuous hero of Dragon Ball. Many of the plotlines center around him, to the point where much of the series is spent waiting for him to train and arrive somewhere to save everybody. Sure he's hopelessly naïve, a rather absent husband and father (it's obvious Chi-Chi and Piccolo did most of the work raising Gohan), and he seems to only care about fighting and eating, but it's just because he has flaws like everyone else, right?
Not according to Toriyama, who said in an interview he never intended for Goku to be a righteous hero: "There's how, basically, Son Goku from Dragon Ball doesn't fight for the sake of others, but because he wants to fight against strong guys. So once Dragon Ball got animated, at any rate, I've always been dissatisfied with the 'righteous hero' type portrayal they gave him." Say it ain't so!
Krillin is one of the most popular characters in the series, but more often than not is on the receiving ending of beatings in the series. This has become such an inside joke for fans that there's even a hilarious "Krillin Owned Count" in TeamFourStar's parody series DBZ Abridged. He's frequently on the sidelines for most of the major battles of the series. So how would you react if we told you Krillin is the strongest pure human?
Yep, it's right there in the official lore. In terms of power and fighting skill, Krillin is easily the strongest human on Earth. He also has many feats of badassery to his name, including killing all the Saibamen, almost cutting Nappa in half, cutting off Frieza's tail, and headbutting Imperfect Cell. The only character to ever surpass him was Uub, but that's cheating since he's the reincarnation of Kid Buu. If we also discount power multipliers like Super Saiyan transformations, Krillin is easily the most powerful human fighter.
Fans have long speculated what "word of god" says about Dragon Ball's characters. One is tempted to say Vegeta is the favorite because of all the love he gets, but Toriyama once revealed that he does play favorites with his creations. In an interview featured in Daizenshuu 2, he noted that Vegeta is actually one of his least favorite characters, but that he found him "extremely helpful" to have around for developing storylines. He also noted that it was fun drawing Mr. Satan.
Toriyama finally ended years of fan speculation with the revelation: "I guess I like Piccolo the most after all. Out of all the enemies, Piccolo Daimao is the one I like most, and even after that I like Piccolo the most." Though he also noted Goku was near the top of his list: "I like Piccolo about the same as I like Goku."
So, there you have it: the true "Omni-King" of Dragon Ball's favorite character is Piccolo.
This one is pretty well-accepted at this point, but let's remember the idea that Dragon Ball GT isn't canon originated with fan speculation. Dragon Ball GT was the sequel that was never meant to be and the only Dragon Ball series to meet mixed reviews from critics and fans. Toriyama had almost nothing to do with production by his own admission. He merely came up with the title and let Toei Animation produce everything else. It ran for only 64 episodes and was eventually replaced by Toriyama's own sequel Dragon Ball Super.
Fans have long speculated that GT isn't canon, but Toei has refused to admit it because something that's non-canon would, almost by definition, be less profitable than something that counts. But while the phrase "non-canon" hasn't passed the creator's lips, he practically admitted it by calling GT "a grand side-story of the original Dragon Ball."
Fans were flabbergasted by how strong Master Roshi seemed to be in Resurrection F and Dragon Ball Super. Theories soon went wild trying to reconcile his new ridiculous strength with the old man outclassed by his own students in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is to say his retirement was a front, and he was really training all along. There was also fan speculation that Roshi, much like Goku in the Cell and Buu sagas, was hiding his strength so that the next generation of fighters would take care of themselves.
Sure enough, Toriyama confirmed this in Dragon Ball Volume F, where he said Roshi is "only that strong is he feels like it." But hold on a minute: Roshi is powerful enough to defeat Frieza soldiers, that means he should've been able to make short work of Radtiz and Nappa. Well...he's still not as cowardly as Kami.
Unlike Dragon Ball GT, Toriyama has been involved in the development of Dragon Ball Super. He's written storylines and provided character designs for Super, as well as the films Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F. But after GT many fans have seen subsequent Dragon Ball media (some even include the Cell and Buu sagas in this) to be blatant cash-ins on the lucrative toy market. This perception was confirmed by Toriyama, who has pretty openly admitted that he did not want to write for Super (he's refused to do the manga adaptation), but Toei's desire for that sweet action figure money compelled him.
In his opening statement in the Super History Book, Toriyama wrote, "Dragon Ball once became a thing of the past to me, but after that, I got angry about the live action movie, re-wrote the entire movie script, and now I'm complaining about the quality of the new TV anime." The new anime is, of course, Super. For more proof, compare how much DB merchandise there is for Super compared to Kai.
Fans have long speculated about creator Akira Toriyama's long-term intentions with the Dragon Ball series. Was it meant to end at the Frieza Saga? Why does he seem to forget established plot lines and characters? Well, it turns out that Toriyama has been pretty open in interviews about confirming his fan's theories that he simply makes up the story as he goes along. Basically, he does whatever he wants and then tries to create a cohesive story with (somewhat) consistent characters and themes. In one interview, he even said:
"My policy is to try and forget things once they're over. Since if I don't discard the old and focus on what's new, I'll overload my brain capacity. I still haven't lived down going, 'Who the heck is Tao Pai-Ppai?" that one time I was talking with Ei'ichiro Oda-kun. (laughs)But the fact that there are still people reading the series after all this time...All I can say is, 'thank you.' Really, that's all."