The original Dragon Ball anime series followed Goku on his adventures throughout the world. After he defeated Piccolo during the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament, the series took a five-year time skip. The show was brought back as Dragon Ball Z, even though the original manga kept the name without the Z. Goku now had an infant son, named Gohan, who was named after Goku's adopted father. Within minutes of his introduction, Gohan is kidnapped by his evil uncle Raditz. Thus begins Gohan's terrible childhood, along with one of his many tenures as the protagonist of the show.
Along with Goku, Gohan is one of the main characters of Dragon Ball Z. While Gohan never had the burning desire to win battles that his father had, he had a much more emotional depth to his story. While all of the other Dragon Ball characters were eager to train and fight, Gohan just wanted to live a normal life. He had the warrior lifestyle thrust upon him, which makes him a unique and relatable character (especially compared to Goten, who was essentially a Goku clone).
We are here today to look into the fascinating history of Dragon Ball Z's most unlikely protagonist. From the filler episodes making him cool with murder, to the odd discrepancies with The History of Trunks.
Here are 15 Things You Didn't Know About Gohan!
15 Don't Mess With The Gohan
Gohan was not as cool with killing people as his father was. During the events of the original Dragon Ball series, Goku murdered hundreds of Red Ribbon Army soldiers and punched a hole right through King Piccolo (as well as killing his demonic servants). Goku would go on to kill Yakon and Kid Buu in Dragon Ball Z. This isn't even counting all of the people Goku murdered in the filler episodes & movies.
By comparison, Gohan only ever killed Perfect Cell and the Cell Juniors in the original Dragon Ball manga. Gohan had a much gentler spirit than Goku. He had a life of violence forced upon him at a young age; Goku and Piccolo essentially turned him into a child soldier. Even after everything that happened to him, Gohan did not like to kill.
...unless you are watching the filler episodes of the anime and the movies, in which case, Gohan had no problem sending people into Another Dimension.
During the filler Garlic Jr. episodes, Gohan kills Mustard, Salt, Sugar, and Vinegar of the Spice Boys, with a series of Masenko blasts. In Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug, Gohan kills several of Lord Slug's soldiers. He killed Turles (a Saiyan who looks just like his father) during Dragon Ball: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans. Once Gohan had come of age, he murdered Bido, Bujin and Bojack during Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound. Gohan then joined the list of people who killed Frieza during Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn.
14 The Filler Tail Cutting
When a popular manga series gets an anime adaptation, it usually follows the source material as closely as possible. This can cause problems, the least of which is having to censor material that might be cool to show in comic book form, but wouldn't make it into a kids show. The biggest problem, however, involves time. An issue of a weekly manga series (usually consisting of 18-20 pages) will likely not contain enough material to fill up one twenty-five minute anime episode. Even if a manga is already several years old by the time the anime starts, the series will likely catch up in no time.
One way in which the anime will try and get around this is with filler episodes, which are generally cannot have a lasting impact on the series as a whole. Dragon Ball Z was no exception; in fact, one of the most positive things accomplished by Dragon Ball Kai was the fact that it removed most of the unwanted filler.
When Piccolo is training Gohan in preparation for battling the Saiyans, there were several new filler episodes that focused on what happened during this time period. One of the episodes involved Gohan turning into his Great Ape form. After Piccolo stops his rampage, he rips Gohan's tail off.
The thing is, Gohan's tail becomes important to the story later on, as he transforms into the Great Ape during the battle against Vegeta. The show then had to establish that Gohan's tail grew back... so that Vegeta could cut it off. This time, the loss of the tail stuck (except for some of the movies, where it is back again without explanation).
13 He Starred In A Commercial
Due to Dragon Ball Z's popularity in Japan, the characters have been used in numerous real world commercials. Frieza and his army danced like they were in the Thriller video, in order to sell Kirin Mets Grape Drink. The good guys of Dragon Ball Z were also roped into some dance/martial arts action for the Kirin Mets Orange Drink. Japan wasn't the only country to get Dragon Ball Z commercials. Burger King released a line of Dragon Ball Z toys with their Big Kids Meals. These commercials continue on to this day. There were two Dragon Ball Z themed commercials for the Ford Focus in 2015. One commercial has Krillin asking Porunga for a car. The second shows Goten and Trunks using the Fusion Dance to turn into the Ford Focus, rather than Gotenks.
When a Japanese company called Rooto was looking for characters to star in the commercial for their eye drops, they chose the stars of Dragon Ball Z. Gohan was the star of the first commercial, along with Krillin and Oolong. It seems that his half-Saiyan body doesn't protect him from the chlorine used in swimming pools. A second commercial was released years later. This one starred the adult version of Gohan, along with Goten, Trunks and Goku.
12 Super Saiyan 3 & 4 Gohan
There exists a popular genre of arcade games in Japan known as "Carddass". They are games that require the use of real trading cards in order to function. You put a card inside the arcade cabinet, where it will be scanned and create an effect within the game. The most popular game in this genre is Dragon Ball Heroes, a Carddass game with thousands of cards. The game regularly receives new updates. Dragon Ball Heroes has its own unique stories, with high quality animated cutscenes.
Dragon Ball Heroes is best known in the West for showing characters achieving new forms of power that they never reached in the show. You can buy Gohan cards where he has achieved both Super Saiyan 3 and Super Saiyan 4 forms.
It wasn't just Gohan who received new upgrades in Dragon Ball Heroes. Vegeta, Future Trunks, GT Trunks and Broly all had Super Saiyan 3 cards. Broly also got a Super Saiyan 4 card. There also exists cards of things for things like the adult version of Gotenks and Majin versions of Lord Slug and Garlic Jnr.
11 Dreams Of Cell
The Hyperbolic Time Chamber is one of many elements from Dragon Ball Z that feels like Akira Toriyama just pulled it out of nowhere. After Goku recovers from his heart issues, he reveals that there exists a room in Kami's lookout that does not respond to the regular rules of time. Within this Hyperbolic Time Chamber, a year will pass for every 24 hours that pass outside. It's kind of a dick move for Goku or Kami to have never mentioned this before, as it could have been useful in preparation for Vegeta & Nappa's arrival on Earth, or for getting some extra training in before the Androids showed up.
Whilst Gohan and Goku are training within the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Gohan has a strange dream. He imagines both his mother and Piccolo entering the Time Chamber, before being murdered by Perfect Cell. This dream is odd because Gohan had never actually met Perfect Cell at this point. In fact, Cell hadn't even achieved his Perfect form when Gohan entered the Time Chamber.
10 The Tail Gene
Gohan was the first half-human/half-Saiyan child born. Like his father, he was born with a tail. This tail allows him to turn into the Great Ape form when faced with a full moon. Once Vegeta cuts Gohan's tail off, it never grows back.
The odd thing about Gohan having a tail is that none of the other human/Saiyan hybrids has one. Neither Trunks nor Goten has a tail, despite Goten having the same parents as Gohan.
Akira Toriyama actually gave a reason for this. He answered numerous fan questions in the first issue of the American Shonen Jump magazine. When asked about the Saiyan tail situation, he stated the having a tail is a recessive gene. He really should have given the honest answer that comes up a lot with questions concerning Dragon Ball Z, which is "Toriyama forgot about it". This is why characters like Launch disappeared from the series in Dragon Ball Z, as well as a lot of the opponents from the original Dragon Ball series.
9 Gohan The Protagonist
Once Goku is killed by Perfect Cell during the Cell Games, it is up to Gohan to avenge his father. Once Cell is dealt with, the usual post-battle wishing everyone back to life with the Dragon Balls commences. Goku refuses to be returned back to life. He comes to the conclusion that his presence on Earth will attract too many problems. This is despite the fact that there other, more powerful beings on Earth, including two Super Saiyans. Goku bravely decides to leave his wife a widow and his son an orphan and stay dead. He chooses to remain in Another Dimension with King Kai.
With Goku out of the way, the stage was set for Gohan to become the protagonist of Dragon Ball. This was actually Akira Toriyama's intention. He wanted to age Gohan up to his teens and make him the main character.
Gohan did briefly become the focus of the series, with the Great Saiyaman saga/his budding relationship with Videl taking centre stage. For whatever reason, Toriyama decided that Gohan was not suited for main character status. This led to Goku's return as the protagonist of the series.
8 Gohan Takes To The Stage
Live stage shows of popular anime series happened quite frequently in Japan in the '90s. A lot of these shows have been immortalised by YouTube... if you can bear to watch them. A lot of these shows would rather use horrifying mascot heads than just dressing real actors like the characters. If you aren't reading this article alone, or late at night, then you might be able to gird your loins and witness the dead-eyed doll parade this is the Sailor Moon and Digimon Frontier live shows.
Dragon Ball Z was not spared a terrifying stage show. In fact, it has had several. When Dragon Ball GT was first being broadcast in Japan, there was a stage adaptation of the show that was performed in malls. If you ever wanted to see Kid Goku with a giant head have a fight with a red version of Frieza, who achieved a form that looks like a pro-wrestling dominatrix, then this show has you covered.
When Dragon Ball Kai brought the series back to television, a new live action show was made. Dragon Ball Kai Super Stage is a very loose retelling of the Broly movie. The young version of Gohan returns, as he teams up with Goku and Vegeta to stop Paragus and Broly.
7 The Lost Tuxedo Footage
While English dubs of Dragon Ball Z were attempted as far back as 1996, the show did not become popular until after the success of Pokémon in 1998. Pokémon helped anime to become mainstream in the West. If it weren't for Pokémon, then Dragon Ball Z may never have found its audience. Shows like Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade and Digimon may never have been localised at all. Goku and his friends owe a lot to Ash and Pikachu.
With Dragon Ball Z taking longer to become popular in the West, there exists a lot of merchandise that never saw a release outside of Japan. There also exists several specials that were produced exclusively for television. Thanks to YouTube, a lot of these curious pieces of Dragon Ball Z history (like the commercials and live shows) can now be seen all over the world.
One of the specials could only be found in an incomplete form for many years. It was called Dragon Ball Z: Movie Overview Special and it featured Goku and Gohan dressed in fancy white tuxedos, as they discussed everything that had happened in all of the previous Dragon Ball Z movies. Until 2014, the last few minutes of the special were believed to be lost. Within the last few minutes, Goku transforms into his regular clothes, whilst Gohan is unable to due to his low power. A complete version of the special was finally discovered on a Polish Dragon Ball Z forum in 2014.
6 Fighting Age
Gohan can be a divisive character among the Dragon Ball Z fanbase. Some viewers find him annoying, due to the fact that it took him until the Cell Games to start getting serious. For most of his time as the protagonist of the show, Gohan just cried and complained. This is especially grating when he refused to fight in order to save his friends (as said friends were getting the crap beaten out of them). When Goku was a kid, he rose to the occasion when trouble was brewing. He trained night and day in order to stop evil in its tracks.
There is a huge difference between the times when Goku and Gohan were kids. At the start of Dragon Ball, Goku was 12 when he first met Bulma. In Dragon Ball Z, Gohan was 5 when he was first kidnapped by Raditz. That is quite a huge difference in terms of maturity. It makes you wonder if Toriyama had ever even met a 5 year-old before making one the star of his manga series.
While Gohan's age might seem low, it bears pointing out that he was first trained by Piccolo... who was only 8 years old himself at the time.
5 Gohan Is Rice
Akira Toriyama loves using theme naming in his work. This can be seen most prominently in Dragon Ball, where the Saiyans are all named after vegetables, Bulma's family are all named after undergarments and King Piccolo's soldiers are named after instruments. These are just a few examples from Dragon Ball. Theme names also appear in other works associated with Toriyama, such as Chrono Trigger, where Magus' three generals were named after condiments in the original Japanese version of the game (this was changed to rock stars in the English language edition).
In Japan, the word Gohan is a term for rice. It can also apply to all meals in general. In the episode "Memories of Gohan", we see Goku, Chi-Chi and the Ox-King trying to come up with a name for baby Gohan. Chi-Chi originally suggested he be named after Archimedes or Einstein (establishing that these two individuals existed in the Dragon Ball Z universe). They eventually decide to name him Gohan, after the man who raised Goku as a child.
4 The Final Name
Akira Toriyama loves his theme names. He does, however, have an issue with introducing characters and concepts and never naming them. This has forced the fans to come up with names of their own, some of which have been adopted by the makers of the Dragon Ball Z video games. Frieza's race, for example, have never been given an official name. One of the video games referred to them as the "Ice Demons", which has stuck with the fanbase. Launch's blonde form is usually referred to by the name Kushami (the Japanese word for "sneeze") by fans, in order to differentiate the two.
One of the most frustrating examples of something going without a name for a long time is Gohan's final form. In Dragon Ball Z, Gohan trains with the Old Kai in order to unlock his dormant potential. Once the training is complete, Gohan gains a power beyond that of the Super Saiyan.
This form is never named within the show. This has led to several official names for the form being given over the years. The fans used to refer to this form as "Mystic Gohan" (which did actually appear in some of the literature that came with the DVDs). The form has officially been referred to as Mightiest Warrior Gohan and Strongest Warrior Gohan. The last official name (which seems to have stuck) is Ultimate Gohan.
3 Gohan & The Iron Giant
The first English dub of the Dragon Ball Z anime has become infamous for its poor quality. This dub was co-created by Funimation and Ocean Studios. This initial dub ran from the beginning of Dragon Ball Z to the episode where Goku battled Recoome. The "Ocean Dub" as it has come to be known by fans was filled with heavy editing and censorship.
One of the biggest issues that fans have with this dub is that several episodes were skipped completely. The first episode to be cut (barring a few brief scenes from the beginning) was "The Strangest Robot". This was one of many filler episodes created by the writing staff. In the original manga, we did not see much of Gohan's training with Piccolo. The anime staff decided to flesh this part of the story out, with several episodes of Gohan's adventures during this time.
Like most filler episodes, "The Strangest Robot" is a self-contained story that has no repercussions to the overall plot. It is just a sad story about Gohan befriending a robot that he finds in the desert. The robot sacrifices itself to save Gohan's life, leaving him alone once more.
2 Full Frontal Gohan Nudity
The Ocean Dub was responsible for numerous clumsy edits in order to make it possible for Dragon Ball Z to be broadcast in America. As later dubs have proven, the extent to which they tried to tone down the violence in the show went way too far.
Dragon Ball Z would never have been considered for localisation if it weren't for its massive popularity around the world. It didn't help that the show started out with a lot more violence and death than the original Dragon Ball did. This is why we had all deaths on the show referred to as being "sent to Another Dimension". Blood and corpses were edited out, as well as all references to cigarettes and alcohol.
One way in which Dragon Ball Z differs from other anime that come to the West is the lack of sexual content. Shows like One Piece and Yu-Gi-Oh needed to have bare skin & cleavage shoddily edited out on numerous occasions. With Dragon Ball Z, the problem wasn't with scantily clad girls, but with naked little boys.
Throughout the early arcs of Dragon Ball Z, there were several scenes where Gohan was depicted in the nude. In order to make these scenes broadcast-worthy, the localisation team had to edit clothes onto him. If that wasn't feasible, then they would add extra foliage into the foreground of scenes to cover Gohan's modesty.
1 The Discrepancies In The History Of Trunks
When Trunks first appeared in Dragon Ball Z, he quickly became one of the most popular characters on the show. He was the second Super Saiyan, he had a cool sword, he was the son of Vegeta (another fan favourite) and he killed Frieza in two episodes (which was especially cathartic, as it took Goku nineteen episodes and he never even finished the job). The so-called "Future Trunks" has remained a popular character in newer Dragon Ball Z adaptations, especially in the video games. He even returned for a new story arc in Dragon Ball Super.
Trunks became so popular that he even had a TV special based on his past. Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks showed the alternate timeline where Goku died of heart disease and the Androids took over the Earth. This special was actually based off an issue of the original Dragon Ball manga.
There is actually a huge discrepancy between the manga and the anime versions of Trunks' life. The main difference is that in the manga, Trunks has already become a Super Saiyan. This makes Gohan's sacrifice totally pointless, as there was no need to throw his life away if Trunks was already a Super Saiyan.