Every anime has one. Whether it’s Jiraiya from Naruto or Brock from Pokémon, it seems that every anime series is required to include at least one lecherous pervert within their cast. But the Godfather of that shameful character trope is, without doubt, martial arts guru and the inventor of the Kamehameha, Dragon Ball’s Master Roshi. The bearded Turtle Hermit began as Goku and Krillin’s sensei and was legitimately stronger than both during a large chunk of the original Dragon Ball series. Like many of the initial characters, Roshi’s role was reduced in Dragon Ball Z, often serving as a comic relief character as he suffered yet another nosebleed at the sight of a girl in a bikini.
Despite his decreasing relevance to the overall narrative, Master Roshi has consistently given the Dragon Ball franchise a reliable source of entertainment and, in an ever-uncertain world, can always be relied upon to lower the tone. Given how iconic Roshi is in the world of anime, it’s natural that he would have a fascinating and intricate history and this list will explore some of the lesser known details about his canon story arcs, character development, and appearances in wider media. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Master Roshi!
15. His appearance is based on God in Dr. Slump
Outside of creating Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama is perhaps best known for his comedy series Dr. Slump. Since that franchise doesn’t have much of a fan-base here in the West, it isn’t widely known that Master Roshi’s character design is heavily influenced by the character of God from the Dr. Slump series. Aside from both being wise old men in positions of respect, God and Roshi both sport similarly lengthy white beards, bald heads and even have the same hunched, diminutive stature.
Facially, the two are almost identical and if Toriyama wasn’t responsible for both characters, he’d surely be facing a lawsuit over such an uncanny likeness. Given that no one has reported seeing the two characters in the same manga panel at any one time, it’s possible that Roshi and God could be the same person, with the former simply adding a pair of sunglasses as a disguise, à la Clark Kent.
14. Roshi cannot die from old age
Like most Dragon Ball characters, Roshi has been killed in battle and subsequently revived with the Dragon Balls. Unlike most characters however, Roshi doesn’t succumb to old age. During the Dragon Ball story, Roshi is said to be between 300 and 350 years old and is also one of the few human characters to show absolutely no signs of aging in the present timeline.
Although a man being really old isn’t exactly the craziest thing to happen in the Dragon Ball canon, there is an implied explanation to this seeming immortality. Before Roshi bestows the Flying Nimbus cloud upon Goku as a reward for helping his turtle, he briefly considers giving him a bird called the Immortal Phoenix, before being reminded that the creature died after Roshi didn’t feed him properly. Roshi confirms that had the bird been alive, it could’ve granted Goku eternal life and this, combined with Roshi’s extreme age, heavily implies that he has already reaped the benefits of the Immortal Phoenix… before giving it food poisoning.
13. He destroyed the moon
Although Master Roshi is nowadays played more for laughs than treated as a genuinely powerful fighter, early in the Dragon Ball series, he managed to completely destroy the moon by firing a Maximum Power Kamehameha at it. The event occurred at the series’ first World Martial Arts Tournament saga during Goku’s fight with Roshi (competing under the guise of Jackie Chun.) Although the phenomenon hadn’t been properly explained at that point, Goku looked up at the full moon and duly transformed into the Oozaru giant ape form that all Saiyans are capable of achieving. With the transformed Goku causing mayhem and danger at the public event, Roshi was forced to put the moon out of commission, not knowing that simply loping off the ape’s tail would’ve done the trick. Although the full implications of Roshi’s actions aren’t covered, he does later encounter a Werewolf unable to transform back into a man.
12. He is still capable of going into his super-muscular form
Not content with destroying Earth’s largest natural satellite, Roshi also pulled another surprise out of the bag by transforming from an unassuming old geezer to a bulked-up beast with muscles The Rock would be envious of. This first occurred when Roshi was asked by a former student to put out a huge fire near the beginning of the original Dragon Ball series.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Master Roshi has been shown to still have the ability to make this transformation in the current timeline. Both in the most recent Dragon Ball movie, Resurrection of F, and the currently running series, Dragon Ball Super, Roshi powered up to his bulky form in order to defend Earth from Frieza’s oncoming army of goons. It’s difficult to know what surprised fans more, finally seeing Roshi return to the frontlines of battle or realizing he could still pull off a transformation that hasn’t been seen for an awfully long time. Interestingly, some Dragon Ball video game media has referred to this form as ‘Super Serious Turtle Hermit’.
11. The anime expanded his history with King Piccolo
In both the anime and manga versions of Dragon Ball, Roshi has a bitter history with the evil King Piccolo. In the manga however, this back story is vastly simplified, with Roshi’s own sensei, Master Mutaito, sealing the Namekian away with the Mafuba (Evil Containment Wave) technique. The anime greatly expanded on this version of events, showing Mutaito and his two students, Roshi and Shen, losing their initial bout with Piccolo. As a result, Shen goes on to lose faith in his master, leaving only Mutaito and Roshi for the rematch several years later when the Earth has reached an almost post-apocalyptic state. It was during this second battle that Roshi’s master succeeded in sealing Piccolo inside a rice cooker. Although the changes in the anime do make for a more convoluted back-story, this version of events successfully deepens the rivalry between Roshi and Shen and makes their hatred much more personal.
10. Chow Yun-Fat, who played Roshi in Dragon Ball: Evolution, had never seen the anime or read the manga
Our apologies for bringing up this stinker of a movie but it would be remiss not to mention the most widely-known live-action version of the Turtle Hermit. Although the utter failure of Dragon Ball: Evolution cannot be attributed to just one element of the production, it might not have helped that Chow Yun-Fat, who played Roshi in the movie, had very little idea about the character before he took the role.
Yun-Fat claimed during the movie’s promotional interviews that he was busy with his career during the peak of Dragon Ball’s popularity and as such, he had neither seen the anime nor read the manga and based his take on Roshi solely on the script he was handed. Given that said script was lacking in every aspect, this would prove unwise and although movie history is littered with examples of actors who knew very little about the history of their character still putting on a good performance – Michael Keaton’s Batman for instance – Chow Yun-Fat’s Master Roshi is resoundingly not a member of that group.
9. He appears in a cross-over with Sanji from One Piece
Master Roshi may be the king of combat trained perverts in anime but One Piece’s Sanji makes a good case for the runner up. The chef of the Straw Hat pirate crew generally goes for more of an overblown romantic technique with the ladies, as opposed to Roshi’s outright creepiness, but has still shown he’s not above attempting to sneak an inappropriate glance at a female when he shouldn’t. Unfortunately for all ladies of the anime world, Roshi and Sanji would team up in Cross Epoch, a one-shot manga written by Akira Toriyama and One Piece author, Eiichiro Oda. The chapter is far from canon and as such, Roshi and Sanji are portrayed as Police Officers on their way to attend Shenron’s tea party. Obviously, they spend most of their time chasing down attractive women but then what else would you expect from two of anime’s most notorious purveyors of sleazy behaviour.
8. ‘Muten Roshi’ literally translates to ‘Invincible Old Master’
Whilst most Western Dragon Ball fans are familiar with the name ‘Master Roshi’, this was actually adapted from the Japanese name for the character: Muten Roshi. This term was literally translated by the publishers of the series’ English manga as ‘Invincible Old Master’ which both reinforces the belief that Roshi used the Immortal Phoenix to gain eternal life and solidifies his status as one of the genre’s prime ‘wise teacher’ characters.
Interestingly, since the ‘Master’ part of the translation comes from the term ‘Roshi’, calling the character ‘Master Roshi’ is effectively the same as calling him ‘Master Master’. Another Japanese term often associated with Roshi is ‘Kame’, a word that is both written on the side of the hermit’s house and forms part of his signature move, the Kamehameha. Kame translates to English as ‘turtle’, referencing both the shell on the character’s back and his long-time friendship with the turtle on his island.
7. He is capable of both hypnosis and telepathy
Roshi’s combat skill, prowess as a teacher and ability to blast blue beams of energy from his hands are well publicized but less well know are his mental capabilities. After his previously mentioned decimation of the moon, Roshi is later confronted by the angry Werewolf who is no longer able to transform back into a man. Taking pity on the creature, the Turtle Hermit decides to reverse the man’s transformation by using a moon substitute, namely Krillin’s bald head. To convince the wolf that Krillin’s noggin is actually the moon, Roshi claims to be using hypnosis.
This wouldn’t be the only time Master Roshi demonstrated supernatural abilities either, as he is also seen to read another competitor’s mind, figuring out they were going to use the tournament prize money to buy water for their poor village. Although it’s arguable whether this instance demonstrated telepathy or just a keen intuition, the fact that Roshi’s sister is a fortune teller and witch suggest the former is more likely.
6. His rival trained Tien and Chiaotzu
As mentioned previously, Roshi had an enduring rivalry with his fellow training partner Shen which the anime adaptation of Dragon Ball greatly embellished. The changes weren’t just implemented for filler or meaningless back-story however; they actually dramatically increased the stakes when it came time for Roshi’s students to battle against Shen’s own underlings at the World Martial Arts Tournament. Even fans who have only watched Dragon Ball Z may know that Roshi’s students consisted of Goku, Krillin and Yamcha but they may not be aware that Shen’s students were also familiar faces: Tien and Chiaotzu.
The duo are initially villains – with Tien going so far as to needlessly snap Yamcha’s leg in their bout – and they’re also shown to be incredibly powerful, with Tien eventually winning the tournament by besting Goku in the final. Of course, Tien and Chiaotzu soon join the good guys and appropriately enough, it’s Roshi that lures them away from the treacherous Shen.
5. Roshi still can’t fly
Although Master Roshi’s role in Dragon Ball Z was largely reduced to watching Goku fight on television and having nosebleeds, his rare moments of action over the years have proven he’s certainly no slouch. As such, it’s somewhat surprising that at no point has Roshi ever learned how to fly. Being airborne quickly became common practice for characters in Dragon Ball Z and Gohan teaching the technique to his future wife Videl proved that it was simple to master – so long as you could control your ki. Since Roshi has mastered the Kamehameha, he should have no problem with this, yet in a recent episode of Dragon Ball Super, he had to suffer the indignity of riding on his former student Krillin’s back. One can only conclude that since he is sometimes able to call upon a flying turtle for transport, he didn’t feel the need to learn how to fly himself. Perhaps his recent trip aboard Krillin will convince him otherwise.
4. He is even more perverted in Dragon Ball Super
Since Dragon Ball was first published in the ’80s, the world has become a more politically correct place. Master Roshi, seemingly, has gone in the other direction. He may have had a significant amount of perverted moments in both the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z but the franchise’s most recent series, Dragon Ball Super, seems to have taken this element of his character into overdrive. In terms of his P.P.E. (Perversions Per Episode) ratio, Master Roshi is currently knocking it out of the park, even going so far as to make a solitary appearance in episode one purely to ask Chi-Chi for money to buy dirty movies.The aforementioned scrap with Frieza’s underlings did go some way to repairing Roshi’s reputation but there’s no denying that he – like many characters – has been sidelined by the current series in order to focus solely on Goku and Vegeta.
3. His power level is WAY UNDER 9000!!!
Since Roshi’s heyday took place long before the introduction of Scouters and sensing energy levels from afar, the character’s actual power level is a bit of a mystery, especially since he rarely seems to fight seriously. Daizenshuu 7, a popular Dragon Ball encyclopaedia, puts Master Roshi’s base power at 139 and it had been previously stated in an issue of Shonen Jump – the publication responsible for releasing Dragon Ball issues – that when at full power, the martial arts master’s power level rises to 180.
Obviously, this is nowhere near the famous “over nine thousand!” that Gohan managed to reach as an angry child, demonstrating just how much Master Roshi had fallen behind the Saiyan characters by the beginning of DBZ. To put those numbers into context however, a regular human has a power level of five, so Roshi is as strong as exactly thirty-six regular humans. Not bad for an old guy.
2. He trained Chi-Chi’s Dad
Master Roshi had many famous students such as Goku, Krillin and Grandpa Gohan. He also trained Yamcha. But one person who many fans – particularly DBZ-only viewers – won’t be aware was under Roshi’s tutelage is the Ox King, Chi-Chi’s father. Ox King is barely seen fighting in the Dragon Ball franchise but he was nevertheless trained at Kame House alongside Grandpa Gohan. However, the fact that the King requested his old master put out the raging fire that had surrounded his home demonstrates that Ox King never surpassed his sensei.
Chi-Chi’s father does shine for a brief moment during the Red Ribbon Army Saga and he is shown to be largely resistant to cannon fire and able to crush a series of tanks with a single blow. Ox King also passed some of his expertise down to his daughter who is shown at several points in the Dragon Ball franchise to be a capable fighter in her own right.
1. He attempted to take on Broly while drunk
You can criticize his attitude towards women and you can criticize his failure to keep up with the strength of his students but you certainly can’t criticize Roshi’s courage and gutsiness after his actions in the Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan movie. After partying hard on Earth, and later on the new Planet Vegeta, Master Roshi had become somewhat tipsy and remained so while the situation with Broly was kicking off. In his semi-sober state, the hermit thought it would be a good idea to confront the raging Super Saiyan, even going so far as to transform into his muscular state and fire a Kamehameha at him, all to no avail of course. Roshi then launched an attempt to make Broly laugh himself into submission with a series of goofy masks, at which point he was wisely escorted away from the battle by Oolong. This scene wasn’t included in some of the English dubbed versions as the sub-plot about Roshi’s intoxication was censored for the benefit of younger viewers.
Dragon Ball Super continues January 21st on Adult Swim.