In the world of Dragon Ball, characters don’t get as much attention if they are not fighters. And even then it’s only the super powerful fighters who really get talked about, as demonstrated by the current unimportant status of Yamcha, Tien, and Krillin. But just because a character isn’t a Saiyan breaking out a new transformation each month doesn’t mean they are useless. Sometimes it’s the characters who have never taken part in a battle in their life who accomplish the most important things. That’s certainly true of the franchise’s longest running character
(besides Goku himself), Bulma.
Bulma has played a huge role in the story since her first episode, being the first friend Goku ever has and agreeing to gather all the Dragon Balls with him. As the years went by, Goku became physically stronger, while Bulma’s strength was her mind and the many brilliant inventions she produced. She’s not the first name anyone thinks of in a serious situation, but she has helped her friends reach greater heights in their abilities, and saved their lives more times than you know. In case you’ve ever overlooked her, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bulma.
15. BULMA’S SISTER TIGHTS WAS INTRODUCED IN JACO THE GALACTIC PATROLMAN
When Bulma first reached out to her sister in Dragon Ball Super, a lot of fans were confused since they had never seen or heard of Bulma having a sibling before. People wondered if they missed a reference to Tights earlier in the franchise, or maybe if she was from one of the movies. But no, the answer really was that her appearance in Super was her first time in the franchise. But looking at Goku’s relationship with Raditz, having long-lost family members show up out of nowhere isn’t that uncommon for the franchise.
Unlike Raditz though, Tights actually had appeared previously to showing up in the Dragon Ball franchise. Akira Toriyama has of course worked on other projects besides Dragon Ball, one of which was Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. The short series tied into other of Toriyama’s works, but of course also featured a Dragon Ball connection through characters like Grandpa Gohan and Goku. But the most significant addition was Tights being one of the main characters, and it being revealed that she is related to the Brief family. So apparently Bulma just has a sister who she can go years and years without so much as mentioning.
14. BULMA’S BASED ON XUANZANG FROM JOURNEY TO THE WEST
Longtime fans of Dragon Ball are probably at least vaguely aware of the inspirations surrounding the franchise, but try explaining the characters to a total newcomer. When you actually think about it, a monkey boy going on an adventure with characters like a monk and a talking pig to summon a wish-granting dragon is more than a little bit strange. And that doesn’t even factor in later on in the franchise, when space aliens become a lot more prominent. But at least for the original Dragon Ball, there’s an explanation for most of it.
Starting out, most of the characters in Dragon Ball are inspired by Journey to the West, with some especially obvious connections being Goku drawing on the character of the Monkey King. Though Bulma doesn’t bear much resemblance to him, she’s also actually inspired by the monk Xuanzang who initiates the journey. Xuanzang is more of a guide on the quest, and has to surround himself with warriors to protect himself. You can see the similarity in Bulma, who basically kicks off the whole story by teaching Goku about the Dragon Balls and tracking them with her radar, but also needs Goku’s strength to keep her safe.
13. BULMA’S NAMED AFTER UNDERWEAR LIKE EVERYONE IN HER FAMILY
People who really pay attention to Akira Toriyama’s characters know by now that he has a fondness for naming schemes when creating his characters. All the pure-blooded Saiyans were named after vegetables, as seen in Raditz sounding suspiciously like radishes, and Broly sounding an awful lot like broccoli. All of King Piccolo’s family were named after musical instruments, and everyone in Frieza’s family has a cold-related name. But Bulma probably got the worst naming scheme of the bunch since everyone in her family is named after underwear.
The family’s last name is Brief, so there was already no escaping the legacy. But then her parents made the connection even more obvious by naming her Bulma, which translates to bloomers. Apparently Bulma was okay with that though, because she continued the trend by naming her son Trunks, as well as naming her daughter Bulla, which translates to bra. Not the most regal names for the children of the Prince of all Saiyans, but evidently Vegeta had no problem with this either.
12. BULMA AND GOKU WERE ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO HAVE A ROMANCE TOGETHER
As weird as it was when fans were first told that Vegeta and Bulma became a couple, today it’s hard to imagine her with anyone else. In retrospect, her time with Yamcha feels especially mismatched since when they first met he was too scared to even talk around her. It also doesn’t help that Vegeta has more power in one hand than Yamcha will ever have in his whole body. But an even more unusual pairing that was apparently considered at one point was Bulma getting with Goku.
Supposedly when Akira Toriyama first began working on Dragon Ball, his editor believed the two characters should be romantically involved. But looking at the finished product, that relationship would feel so weird. Bulma is 16 at the start of the franchise, while Goku is 12. They are even further separated in their maturity by Goku being so naïve about the world to the point that Bulma is almost like a surrogate mom for him. Goku still had some learning to do when he decided to marry Chi-Chi, but at least by then Goku actually knew the difference between boys and girls.
11. BULMA ORIGINALLY WANTED TO USE THE DRAGON BALLS TO WISH FOR STRAWBERRIES
As GT demonstrated, overuse of the Dragon Balls for not unimportant issues isn’t a very good idea. Beyond it just being selfish when you think about all the tragedies those wishes could go to instead, it also resulted in negative energy building up in the Dragon Balls and producing the evil dragons born of the selfish desires of everyone who took Shenron for granted.
You probably best remember Shenron being used to revive dead characters, but the very first use we saw of the Dragon Balls in the franchise was Oolong wishing for a pair of women’s underwear. Admittedly Oolong’s wish was made to stop Emperor Pilaf from making his own evil wish, but surely Oolong could’ve thought of something more useful.
Bulma was pretty young at the start of the franchise, so her desires weren’t exactly the most selfless at the time either. Fortunately, she didn’t actually get a chance to use the Dragon Balls until she had become a bit more worldly. When she first started searching for the Dragon Balls, all she wanted was to wish for a lifetime supply of strawberries because they are her favorite food. Though her priorities did change as the franchise went on,and she later decided she wanted to wish for a perfect boyfriend for herself. Apparently she was satisfied with Vegeta, though.
10. BULMA HAS HELPED VEGETA BECOME THE STRONGEST Z FIGHTER MULTIPLE TIMES
Before Goku became the first Super Saiyan in modern times, the Z Fighters based their understanding of the transformation on legends. They thought it was necessary to be pure of heart to gain such power, but Vegeta proved otherwise when he attained the transformation as well. But something Vegeta also learned is that relying on others doesn’t make someone weak, because his marriage to Bulma has actually made him the strongest Z Fighter on more than one occasion.
The first time we saw it was in GT when Bulma helped Vegeta become a Super Saiyan 4 by creating a Blutz Wave Generator. In that new form, Vegeta was able to fuse with Super Saiyan 4 Goku and become Gogeta, the strongest fighter in the series.
Then in the Battle of Gods movie, Vegeta knew he couldn’t take on Beerus since even the Super Saiyan 3 Goku couldn’t handle the god of destruction. But when Beerus decided to smack Bulma, Vegeta’s rage at his wife being attacked was so great that it made him more powerful than ever before. He not only landed the first real assault against Beerus in the movie, but Master Roshi specifically noted how Vegeta had become stronger than Goku in that moment.
9. BULMA WAS THE CHARACTER MOST USED FOR FAN SERVICE IN THE MANGA
This isn’t a secret to those who read the manga for Dragon Ball, but to fans who were introduced to the franchise via the English dub of the original Dragon Ball, or especially the TV edit of Dragon Ball Z Kai, you might not realize how much was edited out surrounding Bulma being placed in suggestive situations. Master Roshi being a perverted character was retained even for American fans, but Bulma’s role in those situations was definitely scaled back. Probably in no small part because she was only sixteen at the start of the franchise.
We won’t go into the specifics, but Bulma is definitely the character most used for “fan service” throughout the franchise. It’d be fair to say that probably just about all the original Dragon Ball characters have either seen her naked or been in compromising situations with her. Goku in particular couldn’t help but blunder into such situations since he was so sheltered growing up. When he first met Bulma, he couldn’t even tell the difference between a boy and a girl. Suffice to say, he eventually learned.
8. BULMA GETS MIND CONTROLLED A LOT
Lots of characters have wound up falling into patterns throughout the franchise. Krillin is remembered by fans as the one who always gets beaten up, Yamcha is the one who always gets killed, and Goku is the one who always has to save the world. Evidently Bulma is no different, because she’s also had a recurring pattern during the franchise—getting mind-controlled by the villains.
One of the earliest examples was in the movie Lord Slug, where the eponymous villain used his powers to read her mind against her will. The next instance wasn’t just Bulma’s mind, but her entire body, when Captain Ginyu made her one of the few characters who knew what it was like to have her body hijacked. But the final two instances were as textbook of a definition as mind control as you can get, with Bulma being taken over by Garlic Jr’s black water mist like many of the other Z Fighters. And then a similar incident happened again when the parasitic Baby took over the minds of everyone on Earth and made Bulma his Tuffle queen.
7. FUTURE BULMA’S STORY WAS INSPIRED BY THE TERMINATOR MOVIES
Just because Akira Toriyama incorporated Eastern influences on his work like Journey to the West doesn’t mean he wasn’t also taking inspiration from Western stories too. And it just so happened that the Terminator films were pretty big while Toriyama was in the midst of working on Dragon Ball Z. So after the whole saga with Frieza wrapped in the manga, it looks pretty likely that the story was influenced by the sci-fi classic going forward.
The whole Android Saga kicks off with machines becoming the primary threat to the Z Fighters, and a time traveler from the future warning of an apocalyptic world awaiting the characters if the machines are not stopped. The similarities don’t end there, as there’s also enemies, like Cell, who have regenerative powers reminiscent of the T-1000 Terminator. And Future Bulma plays very much of a Sarah Connor role for Future Trunks, believing he’s the last hope to save the world, and grooming him for that role and ensuring he survives at all costs. And with Future Bulma now gone, Future Trunks is left to face surviving in the devastated world alone, like John Connor after his own mother dies.
6. BULMA’S A SMOKER
It can seem pretty strange at times that a show as violent as some of the Dragon Ball series can still be marketed as a kids show. In Dragon Ball Z alone we see incidents like Tien getting his arm ripped off, Babidi getting his head punched in by Majin Buu, and Frieza getting chopped in two. But as long as the blood was edited to be less abundant, all of this was considered fine for kids to see. Something like Bulma smoking a cigarette, though? Well that was just going too far, apparently.
We’re all educated enough at this point to realize that smoking is not a good habit to pick up, but it seems pretty silly that even characters on TV are frowned on for smoking. A few brief instances of Bulma having a cigarette did still make it into Dragon Ball Z, but for the most part, her habit is so rarely shown that many might not even realize she smokes. We shouldn’t encourage kids to smoke, but if children grew up watching Dragon Ball, it’s probably much more likely their problem was mimicking one of the hundreds of fights that happen in the franchise.
5. BULMA LIES ABOUT HER AGE IN BATTLE OF GODS
The unifying story in the Battle of Gods movie was the characters coming together to celebrate the birthday of Bulma. It becomes a running joke that no one actually knows how old she is, and Bulma doesn’t want anyone to know. But in a heated moment when it looks like Beerus is on the verge of killing Vegeta, Bulma angrily blurts out that they are ruining her thirty-eighth birthday party. Everyone in the background is amused that she seemingly slipped up and let her guard down, but in actuality Bulma seems to have been lying.
Bulma is 16 at the start of the original Dragon Ball, which begins in the year 749. By the time Battle of Gods happens, the year is 778. So doing a little math, we know that if Bulma starts off at 16 in 749, she was born in 733. And if Battle of Gods happens in 778, that puts her in her mid-forties. So either she’s lying about being 38, or else she’s just convinced herself that she’s younger than she actually is.
4. BULMA WAS TURNED INTO FOOD BEFORE EVER EVEN MEETING BUU
We all know Majin Buu is the villain that turns people into food. It’s an odd power, but it’s also pretty creepy that he willingly decides to eat people by turning them into a meal. One of Buu’s most brutal acts is at Kami’s Lookout when he turns many longtime characters, including Yamcha, Krillin, and Bulma, into chocolate and devours them all. But for Bulma, this wasn’t even a new experience because she had already been turned into food once before many years ago.
Though Monster Carrot was far from the most dangerous villain, even by the standards of the original Dragon Ball, he did have one extremely useful ability in being able to render people totally helpless by transforming them. Like a bunny version of King Midas, Monster Carrot could turn whoever he touched into a carrot. He used this power on Bulma, and Goku and his friends had to rescue her before she wound up as bunny chow.
3. BULMA IS INDIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR UNLEASHING CELL AND OMEGA SHENRON
Everyone knows that Bulma is a great inventor. Her work at Capsule Corp has introduced many technological advances, like cars and aircrafts that can literally be carried around in your pocket. Two of the biggest impacts she’s had on the show were her inventions of the Dragon Ball radar and Trunks’ time machine. They’re obviously extremely useful since no character can naturally sense the Dragon Balls or travel through time, but they also helped unleash two of the most powerful villains in the franchise.
Rather than build a spaceship for Future Trunks to travel to Namek and use their Dragon Balls to stop the androids, Future Bulma built the time machine. While the time machine saved Goku’s life and allowed Future Trunks to gain more power, Cell stole it in one timeline and traveled to the main timeline to absorb the androids there. So Bulma inadvertently provided Cell a means of becoming one of the biggest threats the Z Fighters have faced.
And though the Dragon Ball radar is extremely useful, overuse of the Dragon Balls in GT caused negative energy to collect in them and manifest the evil dragons. In Battle of Gods, Bulma is even giving away the Dragon Balls as part of a contest rather than collecting them for any dire need. This frivolous use of the Dragon Balls resulted in Omega Shenron nearly wiping out the Earth. Bulma definitely deserves credit for greatly helping the Z Fighters, but she’s also contributed to them having to confront some of their strongest opponents.
2. BULMA HAS BEEN KNOWN AS LENA AND PINCHI
It’s to be expected that when a show gets translated between countries that the names are going to sound different, but Bulma has also had totally different names unrelated to translation as well. In an English dub of Dragon Ball known as the Harmony Gold dub, many things were changed, including giving characters completely different names. For no real explained reason, the dub changes Bulma’s name to Lena. The Harmony Gold dub is also the English version that has the least amount of fans, so it’s understandable that Lena never caught on.
Being known as Lena wasn’t Bulma’s first name change, though. In the concept art for the original characters, it looks like Akira Toriyama was initially planning to refer to Bulma by the name Pinchi instead. It’s unclear how seriously the name was considered for her or why the change happened, but everyone seems quite happy that Bulma is the name that stuck.
1. FUTURE BULMA NEVER HAD HER DAUGHTER LIKE SHE DOES IN THE MAIN TIMELINE
The timeline of Future Bulma has endured a lot of devastation, as anyone keeping up with Dragon Ball Super is aware of. The world was destroyed by Androids 17 and 18, and then Cell, and now Goku Black. The Bulma of this timeline had to watch all of her friends die, including her husband Vegeta. For whatever reason, this timeline’s characters can’t seem to get to Namek to use their Dragon Balls to wish anyone back, so death means a lot more here. For one thing, it means Bulma will never have her second child.
From the ending of Dragon Ball Z, we know Vegeta and Bulma have a daughter named Bulla. However, in the future, Vegeta dies after Trunks is born, so Future Bulma has a daughter in another time who she will never get to know. Some theories tried to reconcile how Bulla could still exist by saying Future Bulma found someone else after Vegeta, but with Future Bulma’s death in Super, it looks definitive that Bulla has been wiped from that timeline forever.
Have you gained a greater appreciation for Bulma? Tell us why you’re a Bulma fan in the comments!