The androids have been present in the Dragon Ball saga since the early days of the original series, with Dr. Gero releasing several of his creations unto the Earth in his attempts to kill Goku. Most of the androids were scrapped before they were ever programmed, and some of Gero’s completed creations turned to the side of good.
Cell is the obvious exception, posing Goku and the Z Fighters their biggest android threat to date (discounting the non-canon events of GT). Androids 17 and 18 destroy most of the world’s population in Future Trunks’ timeline, and Trunks’ meddling with history leads to the release of 19 and 20 in the present day.
The androids have been around for so long (and they remain a part of the franchise to this day) that the forethought gone into their history and roles within the series is sure to uncover a few hidden gems of information.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About the Androids.
15 The Original Android Saga Villains
Where Vegeta, Frieza, and Buu were built up over several episodes of excruciating filler, Cell’s introduction to the series is surprisingly abrupt. This is because he was never intended to be the final villain of the Android arc, and was only thrown into the fold when Akira Toriyama’s editor suggested that Androids 19 and 20 were not "big bad" material.
Toriyama replaced the “old man” and “fat china doll” with 17 and 18 at Kazuhiko Torishima’s request, dismissing 19 and 20 as products of Trunks’ attempts to change time. This was all well and good, until Torishima decided he didn’t like 17 and 18 either.
We then ended up with Imperfect Cell, but Torishima wasn’t done there. First-form Cell is only “Imperfect” because Torishima didn’t like his design. Toriyama had never intended for Cell to transform at all, but by having Cell absorb the previously dismissed androids, he and Torishima eventually settled on Perfect Cell as the Android saga villain.
14 16 is Modeled After Gero’s Son
Gero has harbored a hatred for Goku ever since the young Saiyan destroyed his Red Ribbon Army androids, but his vendetta is a lot more personal than you might realize. Gero’s son was a high-ranking soldier in the Red Ribbon Army, before he was shot and killed by an enemy soldier. Goku was not involved directly in the death of Gero’s unnamed son, but in defeating the Red Ribbon androids, he destroyed the army Gero’s son died fighting for.
Gero created 16 in the model of his fallen son, which partly explains why Gero was so reluctant to release him in the Android saga. Gero deliberately made 16 gentle to keep him from being killed in battle, and to save himself from losing his son all over again. But 16 is released before his programming is fully complete, and he ends up trying to destroy Cell, Gero’s own “perfect” creation-- although he does retain a grudge against Goku.
Gero experimented with three different types of android in his infinite quest to defeat Goku, although some aren’t technically androids at all. 17, 18 and Gero himself are actually cyborgs, which is the correct term for a being that is part-organic and part-mechanical.
Gero transferred his own brain into a mechanical body to turn himself into a cyborg, and completely restructured 17 and 18’s organic matter after kidnapping the human pair. Their bases allow them to reproduce like regular humans, though the aging process takes longer as their cells deteriorate more slowly, and they no longer need food to survive.
Androids 16 and 19 are fully-fledged androids, created from scratch with entirely mechanical parts. The androids tend to look less human than their cyborg counterparts, but they can also be identified by their blood, which is essentially a power oil. Cell, on the other hand, is known as a bio-android, having been constructed biologically from the cells of various races.
12 Power Supplies
The androids are also split into three different power groups. The first has an unlimited energy supply. Strangely, this type is the most common, even though they are said to be the most difficult to keep under control. Androids 8, 16, 17, and 18 have unlimited energy sources, as do 13, 14, and 15 (outside of canon). This means that they can battle for longer periods of time, while still being able to get stronger through training. These models also have the advantage of being undetectable through ki sense.
Androids 19 and 20, meanwhile, can only get stronger through an intake of energy. This model is also immune to being sensed, although they can be detected indirectly through the fading ki of the person whose energy they steal. The only advantage of this model is that Gero has an easier time controlling 19, but that makes little difference in the long run.
Although their ki can be sensed, the bio-androids have the best of both worlds. Like the unlimited energy androids, Cell can improve through training, but he is also able to get stronger through absorption, which he uses on 17 and 18 in his bid for perfection.
11 Goku Never Defeats an Android
Goku defeats almost every villain through the Dragon Ball series, but he sits out most of the Android saga come DBZ. Goku comes down with a lethal heart condition and, although Future Bulma’s medicine is on hand to save his life, he is out of action until the Cell Games, by which point Gohan was being integrated as Earth’s newest hero.
Goku stalemates Cell, although he admits himself that he would have lost the battle had he not forfeited. He doesn’t encounter either 17 or 18 until Cell regurgitates the latter, and he welcomes 16 as part of the team, despite 16 having been programmed to kill him. Android 19 provides Goku with his only other mechanical match-up and, though Goku is the superior fighter, his victory is interrupted by the heart virus.
Outside of the main series, Goku beats Super Android 13 in the movie of the same name, as well as Cell and Super Android 17 in GT, but Goku has never beaten an android in official DBZ canon.
10 17 & 18’s Real Names
Before 17 and 18 were kidnapped by Gero, they were just a couple of generic teenagers, described as “delinquents.” Gero stumbled across the twins completely by accident, as he searched for subjects on whom to experiment. He clearly decided they would be a perfect fit, and snatched them away from their family. The twins rarely talk about their past, and not much else is known about their upbringing, other than that they were born to human parents, and 18 is the older of the two.
In 2014, Toriyama revealed more information as to the pair’s true identities, including their real names. 17’s name was Lapis, while 18 was originally Lazuli. Incidentally, the Lapis Lazuli is an incredibly rare blue stone, whose name comes from the Latin and Persian words for “stone” and “blue” respectively. The blue color is a symbol of God and power, which supposedly represents 17 (stone) and 18’s (blue) transition into all-powerful cyborgs.
9 Present vs. Future
In the Android saga, Trunks states that the androids of the present are stronger than those in his timeline. This should theoretically be the other way around, given that Trunks is from the future, and the series passes it off as a result of Trunks’ meddling with time. But fans aren’t happy with this explanation, and theories as to why present 17 and 18 are stronger continue to circulate online.
The most common theory, that Gero powered up the androids when he realized Goku was preparing for their arrival, is shot down by the fact that Gero stopped tracking Goku after the Saiyan arc.
It is possible that the androids of the future are as strong as the present androids, and they simply hold back in their battles with Trunks and Gohan in search of a challenge (17 even admits he is hiding his true power from Future Gohan). An alternative idea is that Future Goku, having not trained for the androids, died from the heart virus earlier than he should have done due to his body being weaker. Gero somehow heard about Goku’s death, and released 17 and 18 before they reached their maximum potential, which was no longer necessary. This particular theory explains why Trunks never encountered 19 and 20, who would also have been surplus to requirements.
8 Namekian Android?
One of the lesser known androids in the franchise is #76, whose only appearance is in the Dragon Ball Fusions video game. Android 76, also known as Artificial Namekian 76, is technically a Namekian cyborg, although he shares in 19 and 20’s ability to absorb energy, which he uses to restore health points. He also has the traits of a full android using the Rocket Punch technique as his signature move, which is specific to Android 16 in the series.
76 actually shares a strong resemblance to Android 16. Initially listed as another evil android, having been created from Dr. Gero’s villain database, 76 turns out to be a generic, good-natured Namekian. He also wears the same thick battle armor worn by 16. Within the game, 76 is first encountered near the Future Capsule Corporation, where he can be recruited to Tekka’s team by KO’ing him with a Zenkai attack.
7 The Terminator
The Android saga is made up of two manga volumes, the second of which is titled “Rise of the Machines”. Sound familiar? Actually, this one is simply a coincidence, with the manga released in 1992 and the third Terminator movie coming out 11 years later, but it is one of several similarities the saga shares with the hugely popular film franchise.
First, both the Terminator and the DBZ androids appear in the present on May 12. Trunks plays the Kyle Reese role, sent from the future to warn of a robot apocalypse. The future leader of the resistance, Gohan is the John Connor of the Dragon Ball universe. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which opened in theaters just a year before the manga volume first released, features a main antagonist with regenerative powers (Cell), and a character reverted to the side of good, whose death leads directly to the villain’s demise (16).
6 16 is Alive
Although Android 16’s death is generally considered to have been permanent, he is most likely alive and well. Despite being purely mechanical, even the full androids transfer to Other World after their deaths. Android 19 returns in Dragon Ball GT, while Kochin’s bio-warriors are brought back in the movie Fusion Reborn, having first appeared in another movie: The World’s Strongest. Even in canon, Android 8 is wished back to life by the Namekian Dragon Balls when Kid Buu destroys the planet, as he is seen giving energy to Goku’s final Spirit Bomb.
So it can be safely assumed that Android 16 returned to life on both occasions (first after the Cell Games and then the planet’s destruction). He has never officially appeared in the series since his death at Cell’s hands, although he does appear in the DBZ 2: Super Battle arcade game. The game suggests that 16 took up residence in the forest, protecting animals from poachers.
5 Voice Actors’ Other Roles
If you ever look at the credits for a Dragon Ball Funimation dub, you’ll see that plenty of names appear more than once. The anime studio has its core group of actors, and rarely does it stray off the beaten path when it comes to casting. For example, Christopher Sabat, a producer at Funimation, voices a whole host of main characters, including Vegeta, Piccolo, Yamcha, Kami, Mr. Popo, and Korin.
The android cast is no different. Chuck Huber is no stranger to villains, having voiced Android 17, Garlic Jr., and Emperor Pilaf since Dragon Ball began. The voice of Dr. Gero, Kent Williams, has played even more characters, from Mercenary Tao to Janemba, Supreme Kai, and Elder Kai.
Meredith McCoy and Jeremy Inman’s roles aren’t quite so varied. Besides playing Android 16, Inman’s only other appearance in the franchise is as King Gurumes in the Dragon Ball movie: Curse of the Blood Rubies. McCoy chipped in as Launch before she became Android 18, but she didn’t return for either role in Dragon Ball Z Kai.
4 Post-Resurrection 17
When Android 17 is resurrected along with the rest of Cell’s victims, he renounces martial arts, instead taking a job as a ranger in the wildlife preserve section of a royal nature park. Like Future 16, 17 is particularly unkind to poachers, and he takes his job very seriously. He even lives in a house inside the nature park; a house he shares with his zoologist wife, two adopted kids, and a biological child of their own. Although he has never been seen outside of the park in the series, he meets up with his sister every now and then.
17 is seen on duty in the Buu saga, as Goku pleads with the citizens of Earth to lend him their energy. 17 tricks a pair of poachers into supplying their energy by raising his rifle, after which he raises a hand of his own. The poachers are absent in the manga version of the same scene. Instead, 17 recognizes Goku’s voice, saying “So it’s Goku, huh? I haven’t heard that voice in a long time,” and raising both hands.
3 Future Android 16
It might not be official canon, but Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 maps out an extensive story arc for Android 16’s future counterpart. Though he was never originally released in the future timeline, Future 16 is tracked down by Dabura’s demon sister Towa, who activates the android, reprogramming him into joining her organization: the Time Breakers.
Identical to the 16 of the present, Future 16 is forced to travel through time and kill Future Gohan, before he, in turn, is killed by 17 and 18. With Goku dead in 16’s timeline, the android transfers his vengeance onto his half-breed son, but their battle is cut short by the intervention of the Time Patrol.
16 returns to Future Trunks’ timeline after he is repaired, joining forces with Future Perfect Cell, this time to kill Trunks himself. Trunks and the Future Warrior defeat the android pair, restoring the original timeline, but creating several more in which the evil Future 16 is reunited with Future 17 and 18.
2 Arale is the Strongest Android
Arale Norimaki may be a name unfamiliar to some, but she is both the first and strongest android to appear in all of Dragon Ball. The character is the protagonist of manga series Dr. Slump, also created by Toriyama. She is drawn as a short-sighted schoolgirl, though she is far more powerful than any Android saga villain.
She had several minor cameos in the Dragon Ball series, mostly appearing on posters and book covers, but made her debut in the Red Ribbon Army saga of the original series. She defeats General Blue with ease, where Goku had struggled, and he invites Arale to the next World Martial Arts Tournament.
Arale does not attend the tournament, but she does turn up in a recent episode of Dragon Ball Super. She easily outclasses Vegeta in a sparring match, after which Vegeta vows never to fight another gag character. She then goes toe-to-toe with Super Saiyan Blue Goku, indicating that she’d like to battle again but at 100x the power.
1 17 is Returning to Action!
The upcoming Universal Survival arc has been building up since the very beginning of Dragon Ball Super. Promotion for the Tournament of Power, set up by Zen-Oh and the Grand Priest at Goku’s request, has been everywhere since late last year. The saga will see all 12 universes pitted against each other in the biggest martial arts tournament ever seen in Dragon Ball, although it has recently emerged that there will be dire consequences for the losing universes.
Supposedly, only one universe will be allowed to return home, with the rest being vanquished by the King of Everything. Ten fighters will be selected from each universe, and with Hit returning for Universe 6 and a female Legendary Super Saiyan also on the cards, Universe 7 is pulling out all the stops.
Android 17 is also returning within the next few episodes, and he will fight alongside Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Buu, Piccolo, Tien, 18, Krillin, and Master Roshi, as the Tournament of Power gets underway.
What did we miss? Who is your favorite android from Dragon Ball? Let us know, as always!