Compared to how much we heard about Frieza before the characters even encountered him, there was barely any introduction to the next big villain in Dragon Ball Z: Cell. That sudden arrival of a new antagonist added an intriguing mystery to him, but also left us with a lot of unanswered questions after his death. All the information about time travel, androids, and alternate realities was a lot to take in at the same time. So there might be a lot of things about the character you missed.
Frieza returned in Dragon Ball Super, and even Majin Buu is still hanging around as one of the good guys now, but Cell doesn’t look likely to ever come back. So our odds of learning anything new about Cell are probably pretty low. This just means fans have had to do their own investigating over the years, and have turned up some surprising facts about Dr. Gero’s most powerful creation. For all the curious fans, here is Dragon Ball: 16 Things You Never Knew About Cell.
16. CELL AND FUTURE TRUNKS KILL EACH OTHER TWICE
Time travel has a tendency to get confusing, so you might not have actually caught all the story elements going on during Cell’s plot. Like that there are actually three different version of Cell encountered during this saga. The one we see the most is from a future timeline that we never actually see. The Future Trunks of that timeline had deactivated Androids 17 and 18 with a remote like the one Bulma made for Krillin to use. But then the Cell of that timeline turned up and was able to kill this version of Trunks easily because this Trunks never powered up in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. So Cell stole Trunks’ time machine, traveled to the main timeline, and then killed Trunks again during the climactic battle against Gohan by firing a beam through his chest.
Trunks also evened up the kill count against Cell. The main timeline still had its own version of Cell in his embryo state, waiting to mature. To prevent there being two version of Cell to worry about, Trunks and Krillin found the main timeline’s Cell in Dr. Gero’s lab and destroyed it. Then Trunks killed another version of Cell after going back to his own timeline. He knew the Cell of his own time would be waiting to steal his time machine, but by this point Trunks had become so strong that he easily killed off this third version of Cell.
15. ANDROIDS 19 AND 20 WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE ORIGINAL VILLAINS IN CELL’S SAGA
Something that might still strike you as weird about everything involving Future Trunks in DBZ is how wrong he wound up being about the threat to the Z Fighters. And it’s never really explained why Androids 19 and 20 exist in the main timeline, but not Future Trunks’. Or at least it’s not explained unless you know the background information behind the characters.
Apparently, when Akira Toriyama was creating the manga, Androids 19 and 20 actually were supposed to be the main villains. Evidently Toriyama’s editor wasn’t impressed by the androids, supposedly saying the villains were just an “old man” and a “fat china doll”.
Looking at the androids, it’s kind of understandable why someone would say that. Androids 19 and 20 didn’t even get an entire saga devoted to them, instead dying off as they quickly encountered pretty much everyone who was stronger than them. So that’s why Future Trunks’ warnings were so wrong, and we wound up getting Cell instead.
14. ANDROIDS 17 AND 18 WERE ALSO SUPPOSED TO BE THE ACTUAL VILLAINS
After reading that last fact you’re no doubt already saying to yourself that Cell wasn’t introduced after Androids 19 and 20. And that’s true: after 19 and 20, we instead got three more androids in 16, 17, and 18. 1
7 and 18 were revealed to be the androids Trunks knew from his future, so it looked like we were finally meeting the big villains of this saga… and then the rug was pulled out from underneath them too. That’s because, once again, Toriyama’s editor wasn’t a fan.
Apparently when Toriyama’s editor saw 17 and 18, he dismissed them as just a couple of brats and wanted yet another new villain. So 17 and 18 quickly got put on the back-burner in favor of Cell, and their fate was revealed to be becoming part of Cell. So if this whole saga feels unsure of where it wants to go, that’s because it was still being shaped as it was coming out. But the third time was the charm, and Cell took on the main villain spot. Though not without some more criticisms from Toriyama’s editor…
13. CELL’S FIRST AND SECOND FORMS WERE BOTH CHANGED BECAUSE OF CRITICISM
Yes, even when Toriyama finally found the right villain, he hadn’t found the right form for that villain according to his editor. Apparently Imperfect Cell actually was supposed to be Cell’s first and only form, which probably would have suited many fans fine since a lot of people find it to be when Cell at his most menacing. But Toriyama’s editor supposedly once again was not happy, thinking the insect motif wasn’t good for a big villain, and suggested that Cell should transform.
Toriyama is said to have actually liked Semi-Perfect Cell so much that it was his favorite form of Cell. But Toriyama’s editor still wasn’t satisfied, apparently. The editor apparently said Semi-Perfect Cell looked silly, and wanted Cell’s third form to come about as quickly as possible. To be fair, Semi-Perfect Cell was Cell’s least intimidating form, but it certainly was odd how short-lived the form was. Though, the quick change brought us to Perfect Cell, his most iconic form, so maybe Toriyama’s editor was right to keep pressing for a better villain. And all it took was for Toriyama to draw someone perfect.
12. GOHAN HAS A NIGHTMARE ABOUT CELL BEFORE EVER EVEN SEEING WHAT HE LOOKS LIKE
There are inevitably going to be some inconsistencies in a show that runs hundreds of episodes, and it makes for some amusing moments if you’re able to spot them. One of the funnier moments of DBZ involves Cell, and Gohan’s time training to fight him. But during his training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber with Goku, Gohan never even knew what Cell looked like. This made it especially odd when Gohan had a dream that perfectly depicted Cell.
After some intense training, Gohan wound up having a nightmare about his mom bursting into the room to yell at him for lapsing in his studies. Then Cell showed up and killed Chi-Chi, to Gohan’s horror. Gohan hadn’t even had so much as a glimpse of Cell at this point, so he should have had no idea what the villain looked like. It’s even more unusual because there’s also a scene in the series where Goku is encouraging Gohan to tap into his anger by picturing Cell, but Gohan acknowledges he can’t because he doesn’t know what he looks like.
11. CELL WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO REGENERATE IF HIS HEAD WAS INTACT
Cell’s ability to regenerate was something that made him a particularly resilient villain, because he could just heal from typically mortal injuries. It made the Z Fighters struggle to find a way to get rid of him for good, but in the manga, Cell eventually reveals he’ll always be able to come back as long as his head is intact because that’s where his nucleus is. Which makes sense, because Piccolo has said similar things about his own regenerative abilities, and Cell gained his regeneration from Piccolo.
The problem is, Cell actually does have his head destroyed at one point and manages to survive anyway. During his fight against Goku at the Cell Games, Goku teleports in front of Cell and hits him with a Kamehameha that totally destroys Cell from the waist up, which should have been the death of Cell if what he said was true. It’s a bit of a plot hole in the manga, but the anime skirts around the issue by instead having Cell say that even one of his cells has enough of his DNA for him to survive, so the Z Fighters will have to not leave a single bit of him intact.
10. CELL REPEATS THE SAME MISTAKES AS TRUNKS AND VEGETA
We all know Cell is just a mix of the other characters from the franchise, but he might have taken a bit too much from Trunks and Vegeta, judging from the way he handled his fight against Gohan. To start off, upon hearing Gohan has an untapped power, Cell becomes so cocky that he decides to allow Gohan a chance to show off that power instead of just killing him outright. But Cell should have known what a bad idea this was since Vegeta made this exact same mistake by allowing Semi-Perfect Cell to gain his Perfect form.
Then, once Cell realizes he is severely outmatched by Gohan’s power, he bulks up his muscles so that he becomes incredibly strong, but at the sacrifice of all his speed so that none of his blows are able to land. This was another mistake Cell should have known not to make because he saw Trunks attempt this earlier, and Cell mocked him for thinking something so desperate would work. Apparently with all the power Cell inherited, he also gained some bad ideas.
9. CELL IS THE ONLY MAIN VILLAIN IN DBZ THAT GOKU DOESN’T KILL
Anyone who knows their Goku trivia knows that, despite being the protagonist of the franchise, he doesn’t actually kill many people at all in Dragon Ball Z. In fact, his only major kill in the series is against Majin Buu, who just gets resurrected as a good character anyway. Thanks to the events of Dragon Ball Super, Goku does finally get his chance to finish off Frieza. But unless Cell shows up in Super at some point, Goku will never have the chance to say he’s killed all three of DBZ’s major villains.
During the Cell saga, Goku knows Cell is more powerful than him, and instead focuses on Gohan being their only chance to stop Cell. Even after Goku sacrifices his life to teleport a self-destructing Cell away, Gohan is still left to deal with the villain. It wasn’t only Gohan’s biggest moment of the franchise, but also one of the rare times when it didn’t fall to Goku to save everyone else.
8. IN THE GAMES HE HAS FUSED WITH FRIEZA TO FORM CELLZA
With how many techniques the Z Fighters are given to strengthen themselves, fans have of course wondered what would happen if villains got to use some of those abilities as well. During the Buu saga, fusion played a big role in creating some of the most powerful fighters the franchise had ever seen, despite the fact that they didn’t really get to do anything too useful. It wasn’t until Dragon Ball Super that we got an official look at two villains deciding to fuse together, but before then, we got to see it in the games.
Since Frieza and Cell are two of the franchise’s most popular villains, a lot of people have wanted to see them fuse together at some point. Dragon Ball Fusions finally explored that idea, with the two characters joining as one to form Cellza, who basically looked like a purple version of Cell with Frieza’s face. But since fused characters have really bad luck ever winning fights, Cellza’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived, and he was quickly defeated.
7. IT APPEARS ABSORBING WEAKER FIGHTERS CAN ACTUALLY LOWER HIS POWER LEVEL
The Dragon Ball games are fun to play because they frequently explore what-if scenarios that fans might have been wondering about, but never got to see in the show. We got to see Cell gain more power by using fusion with Frieza to become Cellza. The games also explored ways that Cell might be weakened.
Usually Cell stabs people with his tail and uses it like a syringe to drain their life. With the androids, he enlarged his tail like a funnel to consume their entire bodies and help him transform into something stronger. In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, we see what happens when Cell accidentally uses the latter method to absorb someone weaker, as Krillin sacrificed himself to try and save Android 18. The accident not only changed Cell physically, by making him smaller; it also drastically lowered his power level so that he could barely even beat Yamcha.
6. GOKU IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO REVERSE BEING ABSORBED BY CELL
Of all the attacks in Dragon Ball, being absorbed by Cell seems like one of the most effective. Androids 17 and 18 are helpless to resist being absorbed once Cell decides to come for them, and he was able to take the lives of entire towns of people using this move. The only times we’ve ever seen anyone counter the move were in DBZ when Gohan hit Cell so hard he regurgitated 18, and then again when Cell tried to deactivate Android 16 but wound up being mistaken about where his deactivation point was. So really no one actually escaped being absorbed on their own in the series. Until GT, that is.
Perfect Cell showed up again in Dragon Ball GT, working with Frieza in Hell to attack Goku. Goku treated the entire encounter as a joke, but the one moment where it looked like he might be in trouble was when Cell managed to absorb him. Cell’s energy surged and he described the power as unbelievable, seemingly turning him into the show’s most powerful character. Then, through methods that are never really explained, Goku managed to crawl back out of Cell’s body. Cell had never tried absorbing someone more powerful than himself before, so maybe this just meant Cell’s victims have to be weaker than him for him to be able to keep them from escaping.
5. CELL WAS CHANGED BETWEEN THE MANGA AND THE ANIME
Anime watchers don’t often have to worry about how a character will be adapted from the manga to a show. It’s not like with a book where everyone has their own image of how a character appears. Manga is just as visual as comic books, so if you knew what Cell looked like when reading the story, you pretty much got the same thing in the anime. Except for a few small details.
For one, in the manga Imperfect Cell only has three fingers on each hand. In the show, they gave him the typical five, maybe just because it was easier to draw. Another somewhat odd change is the way Cell is referred to. In the show, Cell is always spoken of with male pronouns. While in the manga, Cell is spoken of in a gender neutral way, and referred to as “it”. Cell is an artificial being, so it makes sense that the Z Fighters might view Cell as more of a robot than a human. But that small difference adds a really different way of thinking about the villain.
4. CELL’S ENGLISH VOICE ACTOR, DAMEON CLARKE, ALSO VOICES FUTURE GOHAN
Voice actors have to have a lot of diversity in how they sound so they can play a lot of different roles, so it can be surprising when someone you’ve associated with one character also voices someone totally different. There are a few cases of this in Dragon Ball, like with Christopher Sabat, who in the FUNimation English dub not only does the voice of Vegeta, but is also Piccolo. Cell’s voice actor has an even more amusing secondary role in the franchise.
Dameon Clarke is the voice actor of Cell for FUNimation’s English dub, creating the confident, sophisticated voice that so many people associate with Perfect Cell. But Clarke has done other work in Dragon Ball, most notably in the movie The History of Trunks. The movie provided our first time seeing or hearing an adult Gohan, who was also voiced by Clarke. This means Clarke wound up playing an alternate version of the character who killed Cell. He didn’t continue voicing Gohan into the Buu saga, but Clarke can still say he’s voiced two of the most popular characters in the franchise.
3. CELL IS ONE OF THE ONLY TWO CHARACTERS WHO HAS KILLED GOKU
You always hear memes about how tough Goku is, but you might not even realize just how powerful he is until you stop and think that he has only ever been killed twice. Cell holds the honor of being one of those characters who has actually managed to kill Goku. For the other character, you have to go all the way back to the first fight of DBZ, when Piccolo killed Goku to finish off Raditz.
The funny thing is that Goku willingly sacrificed himself for Piccolo to kill him, and then that’s how Cell wound up killing Goku as well. So really Goku has only ever died of his own volition. Regardless, it makes Cell stand out that he has that over Goku, while even literal gods have not managed to end Goku’s life. Unless something changes in Super, Cell might very well be the last person to have ever killed Goku.
2. THE CELL/ANDROID SAGAS WERE INSPIRED BY THE TERMINATOR MOVIES
For DBZ to continue after the death of Frieza, the series obviously needed to go in a new direction to keep things fresh. Akira Toriyama had originally been inspired by the story of Journey to the West when creating the manga, but had long since exhausted that source of ideas. He needed something new to look to, and it just so happened that a groundbreaking sci-fi franchise was pretty popular right around this time.
The similarities are pretty obvious once you recognize them. Terminator has Kyle Reese sent from the future to warn the past of a robot apocalypse that will occur. Future Trunks is also a time traveler who journeys back to warn that his timeline has been devastated by androids, and he hopes his warning to the Z Fighters can help avert that future. You have Cell, who is able to regenerate, much like the liquid metal Terminator, and you have Gohan playing a John Connor type of role. Plus the date that the first Terminator appears is on May 12— the same day the androids first appear in DBZ.
1. AKIRA TORIYAMA SUPPOSEDLY REGRETS THE WAY HE DESIGNED CELL
It seems like characters never really stay gone in the world of Dragon Ball, even the villains. Buu lives on as one of the good guys now, Vegeta has been fully converted to one of the Z Fighters, and the same is true about Piccolo. Even the bad guys who have stayed bad have found a way to come back, like Frieza’s recent return for Resurrection ‘F’. But one person we might not be seeing for any significant role is Cell, because Akira Toryiama supposedly doesn’t like drawing him.
Obviously if you’re an artist you want to pack in detail, but when you have to draw a character over and over for a manga or anime, detail can be a pain. And apparently the way Toryiama designed Cell made the character a particularly irritating experience. Obviously since Cell has an insect motif, he is covered in lots of little spots, kind of like a ladybug. Evidently those spots take a long time to draw, because Toriyama has been said to have regretted the way he designed Cell for that very reason. So if you’re ever wondering why Cell hasn’t gotten a new movie like Frieza did, it might just be because Toriyama doesn’t want to put himself through the aggravation again.
What surprised you the most to learn about Cell? Tell us in the comments, and let us know if you have any other interesting facts about him!