The story of the Dragon Ball franchise is as old as time itself, consisting of powerful heroes and villains battling for the fate of world.
Of course, Akira Toriyama also threw in people turning into monkeys, casual self-propelled flight, dinosaurs, weaponized ki and lots of screaming, effectively making it his own while influencing countless other series in the years since its debut.
While the characters are some of the most identifiable heroes and villains in any medium across the globe, and the good versus evil story of the series is easy enough to understand, at least on the surface, the Dragon Ball franchise is also home to an upsetting collection of dark secrets. Many of these have seemingly gone unnoticed or unspoken of for an inordinate amount of time, but no longer.
It's time to tackle these upsetting mysteries head-on, compiling a product that might just change your perspective on the entire series.
We’re plucking our entries from across the whole franchise, including the original Dragon Ball, Z, GT, Super and even reality itself, so there’s almost certainly something that hasn’t yet been revealed to long-time fans.
With that said, here are the Secrets You Didn't Know About Dragon Ball.
15 Frieza Is Literally A Nightmare
The planet-trading, galactic tyrant known as Frieza is unquestionably the most identifiable and well-known villain for the Dragon Ball franchise.
In fact, his popularity is so massive that he’s been resurrected multiple times throughout franchise history, sometimes cleverly, and sometimes for cash grabs, just because he’s so beloved.
With his pasty white skin and jewel-like purple carapaces, he’s certainly the stuff of nightmares, and there’s a very good reason for that.
According to Akira Toriyama, series creator, Frieza and his multitude of forms were based on very real nightmares he had has a child, along with how he imagined monsters looked.
We’re not sure what influenced Toriyama to have such terrifying nightmares, but it was an excellent and ingenious choice to incorporate all the visions that haunted him as a youth into one truly evil character, making history in the process.
14 Goku Isn't Bulletproof...
One of the great debates of our time in the realm of entertainment is the tried-and-true question of “who would win” in a battle between the godly powers of Son Goku and the Last Son of Krypton, Superman.
While both sides have well thought out points and strong stances, there’s one position that we can safely say Superman easily and irrefutably trounces Goku in: being bulletproof-- or laser proof, as it were.
As shown in the weak Resurrection F, Goku, a literal god, can be brought down by a measly laser from the wimpy Sorbet. The reason? Because he wasn’t paying attention.
Let that sink in. The goofy, aloof Goku wields awesome power, but if he can’t keep his mind on something as simple as “don’t get shot,” a mere lackey with a gun can bring this legendary saviour of worlds down.
However, then again, a rock can kill Superman.
13 ...Or Disease Proof
While Goku’s battle (and death in the future) with the radical heart virus is far from a secret, it’s a plot point that’s never really addressed and is instead glossed over.
Goku, a guy who has fought genuinely divine beings and some of the strongest lifeforms to ever exist in the universe can be killed by a microscopic entity, much like the all-powerful Martians in War of the Worlds.
This opens up a terrifying floodgate of what-ifs: If Goku, arguably DB’s strongest warrior, is susceptible to being killed by sickness, then what about Vegeta? Or Gohan? Or even Piccolo?
Something that can’t be controlled, prevented or cured (at least not yet) could, with enough bad luck, take hold of one of these beloved defenders of Earth and either render them useless, or kill them right out.
12 Toriyama Dislikes The Adaptations, Including The Anime
For thousands of Dragon Ball fans, the animated adaptation of Toriyama’s creatively rich and unique universe serves as the definitive portal into stories of Goku overcoming impossible odds.
Those same fans might find it shocking that Akira Toriyama himself doesn’t feel quite so warm and fuzzy regarding the animated endeavors, nor any of the many spin-offs.
According to an interview in Super History Book, Toriyama states that he was “upset by the live-action film, helped fixed the scripts of the anime films,” and “complained about the quality of the TV series."
It’s hard to blame the guy, though, since he’s the father of such an immensely popular piece of fiction, with the only portion of that world truly coming directly from him being the manga itself.
11 The Franchise Has Racial Controversy
For anyone who grew up with Dragon Ball Kai, the remastered and re-edited version of Z, Mr. Popo was a weirdly neon shade of blue, but that wasn’t always the case.
For those in the 90s and before, Mr. Popo, the kindly-but-powerful caretaker of Kami’s Lookout was pitch black, and his appearance called to mind racially insensitive imagery from the past.
Worse yet, his Japanese speech has him using broken sentences, as if he were extremely uneducated.
Much like the original Pokemon, Jynx, Mr. Popo’s appearance was regarded as offensive by some fans and activists, compelling his (and Jynx’s) color to be altered in order to appease groups who were outraged.
Thankfully, though, his less-than-competent speech patterns were never picked up in any version of the dub.
10 The People Of Earth Have Been Repeatedly Reborn And Killed
Despite the fact that Earth is typically saved throughout the various Dragon Ball series, it often comes at a heavy price for the inhabitants, with countless amounts of innocent civilians being obliterated by the many villains that threaten the world.
Thankfully, Goku and friends generally use the Dragon Balls to revive all those who were killed in whatever ruthless attacks plagued them.
Alas, this is a cycle that is repeated fairly often, meaning that enormous chunks of the population are killed, then reborn, then killed by the next villain, and reborn again.
Even Future Trunks’ timeline isn’t spared this agony, despite the loss of the Dragon Balls, as even after barely living through the initial wave of terror from the Androids, the slowly-rebuilt society is once again on the brink of extinction from Goku Black.
Humanity can’t seem to get a break.
9 Goku's Hubris Often Carries The Potential For Widespread Death
Goku, the main character of the franchise, is a lot of things: an extremely powerful hero, a goofy and lovable friend, and righteous warrior.
He’s also a terrible father, too dumb for his own good, and has had his character warped into someone who only lusts to grow stronger and test his limits.
It’s that last bit that’s most terrifying, because Goku has proven to be so irresponsible regarding his addiction to training and combat that he’s willing to not only risk the destruction of his loved ones and entire planets, but the very multiverse itself.
That’s a serious character flaw, and one that sort of sours the deal on Goku being the ultimate dependable hero.
Sure, he’ll likely save the day, but is that promise a good enough reason to put life as we know it on the chopping block?
8 Hitler Reignites WWII
Dragon Ball’s Earth is very clearly not our own. Sure, there are similarities, but we don’t have wish-granting dragons, living dinosaurs, flying cars and all manner of appliances able to be shrunk down into little capsules. For whatever reason, though, one thing both our worlds seem to share is a certain dictator from World War II.
While entirely removed from the original English release of Fusion Reborn, the Japanese and uncut versions feature Hitler and his army returning to life thanks to Janemba’s meddling in the after world, wreaking havoc on the city.
Thankfully, he and his cronies are swiftly sent back to hell by Trunks and Goten, but the fact that he even exists in Dragon Ball Z is tremendously bonkers, even for this franchise.
7 Vegeta Killed Countless Innocents And No One Cares
Dragon Ball Z prominently features Vegeta as an immensely powerful adversary. As the Prince of the Saiyans, he came extremely close to conquering the Earth, but long before that he was a loyal servant of Frieza.
For decades, Vegeta did Frieza’s bidding, wiping out an innumerable amount of civilizations and planets, and enjoying it thoroughly like a true sociopath. When he makes it to Earth, he’s happy to continue the routine, and then keeps it up on Namek.
Finally, after he is supposedly “reformed,” he lets the evil in his heart flourish during the Buu Saga, where he straight up murders an entire stadium of onlookers-- and no one cares.
No one really brings it up or even chastises the guy. Yeah, he’s been through hell, but the Z Fighters seemed to accept him pretty quickly, despite the fact that the blood of billions is on his hands, including Earthlings.
6 Emperor Pilaf And His Crew Are Living An Eternal Hell
One of the oldest gangs of villains in the entire franchise, Emperor Pilaf, Mai and Shu have long been a thorn in Goku’s side, first appearing when he was a child in the original Dragon Ball.
While they never really posed a genuine threat when compared to the later villains in Dragon Ball like the Red Ribbon Army and especially King Piccolo, their endearing persistence has more-or-less made them franchise staples.
It’s unfortunate, then, that their lives have been nothing more than a tortured existence of failures, miscalculations, poverty, and, worst of all, being turned into children and then being forced to relive their lives with young bodies and adult minds, which is almost assuredly an incredibly maddening experience.
We’re going to have to hand it to the Pilaf Gang, though, as they certainly haven’t seemed to fully lose their minds. Yet.
5 Hercule Lives Life As A Hostage
Hercule, also known as Mr. Satan, was first introduced as a bumbling martial artist/Hulk Hogan hybrid who believed his skillset was far greater than it was, particularly when attempting to defeat the incalculably powerful bio-android, Cell.
Still, his charisma paid off and he convinced the world that he was the one to defeat Cell, not the Z Fighters.
Fast forward to the Buu Saga, and Hercule finds himself unwittingly befriending the destructive Buu, whom he teaches to not be evil. Better yet, Hercule ends up rallying the Earth in order for Goku to destroy Kid Buu.
The downside is that Hercule is now eternally bound to the whims of the good Buu, who is now his roommate.
Bowing to his every whim, and more or less acting as the leash to restrain Buu from losing his cool, Hercule’s life is now nothing more than walking on eggshells indefinitely.
4 Selfish Abuse Of The Dragon Balls Led To Cataclysm
Dragon Ball GT is generally considered non-essential rubbish, and the consensus isn’t exactly wrong. However, despite quality deficiencies in a number of areas, GT does have some captivating concepts and, despite them never really panning out appropriately, this one was an extremely appropriate plot point.
Thanks to Bulma’s Dragon Radar, the mystical and incredible power to get one’s wishes granted from the Dragon Balls became less of an adventure and more of a constant of life, with them able to be easily obtained using the device.
In GT, these abuses didn’t go unnoticed, and a natural safeguard on the Balls failed due to the constant use, creating the seven Shadow Dragons, which were the ultimate adversaries of the series.
Despite the overall flaws of the show, the idea of these mystical objects not being designed for constant, selfish use, and our heroes being punished for it, was an awesome idea.
3 Toriyama Hates Vegeta
If there’s one character more beloved by fans than Goku, it’s Vegeta. The Prince of Saiyans, Goku’s eternal rival and all around bad man (with a shirt to prove it), Vegeta has one of the best character arcs in the entire series.
He goes from cold-hearted and malicious enemy to a somewhat softer and far more heroic defender of life. The journey is extremely captivating, too, from his tears on Namek to the death of his son.
What makes all this attention and development really odd, though, is that Akira Toriyama apparently doesn’t care too much for the pointy-haired Saiyan.
In Daizenshuu 2, Toriyama states that Vegeta is one of his least favorite characters, but “he was extremely helpful to have around.”
While Toriyama may be teasing, as Japanese translations can be hit or miss, the fact that Vegeta barely gets any definitive moments of victory should be evidence enough.
2 Goku Ends Innocent Lives... And It Could Have Been Much Worse
Goku is such a funny and lovable guy that it can be hard to recall that he is, in fact, a murderer. Sure, he’s been known to go easy on people, sometimes sparing them outright, but he’s never hesitated to kill at a moment’s notice.
That might not even sound that weird to you until you really think about it. In Dead Zone, Goku deftly defeats the forces of Garlic Jr., and then intentionally finishes them off instead of giving them a speech about mercy. Surely if he could change Vegeta’s heart, couldn’t he afford the same courtesy to others?
This murderous attitude might be a repressed remnant of his Saiyan heritage, which was scrambled after a bonk on the head.
If the goofy Goku we know and love still murders his enemies on occasion with no remorse, decades into his life, imagine if he didn’t hit his head?
1 Dragon Ball Ruined Akira Toriyama's Creativity
Dragon Ball, and the creative well-spring that fuels it, has made Akira Toriyama an extremely well-known and well-off man.
For many artists, it’s a long-held dream that they will create something that will stand the test of time and be remembered for generations, such as Star Wars. Dragon Ball is that franchise, with its enormous popularity and influence, years later.
But that victory is a double-edged sword. Much like how George Lucas felt burnt out on Star Wars, Toriyama felt shackled by Dragon Ball and its popularity.
Whether it was the general desire to move on after Z, or even being forced by his editor to continually add or change elements to the manga, Toriyama was under crippling pressure from his superiors, and the seemingly endless demands of fans.
While personal pet projects have come and gone, Dragon Ball, like an inescapable addiction, continues to haunt Toriyama year after year.
Can you think of any other dark secrets about Dragon Ball? Sound off in the comments!