Without a doubt, Gohan is one of the best characters in Dragon Ball Z. As protagonist Goku’s first born child, Gohan is immediately set up as a source of intrigue in the show as a child of great hidden power whose potential will one day be unleashed. The character had some fantastic moments in the series, including his hard won victory against Perfect Cell and his numerous emotional outbursts against villains, such as Raditz and Frieza.
However, Gohan has also been a source of great frustration for Dragon Ball fans. Although Goku’s son had the potential to be a legendary anime character and was once even lined up to take over from his father as the series’ lead, creator Akira Toriyama has all too often led Gohan into comedic territory, usually with less than impressive results.
The character’s decision to switch from a fighter to a scholar-- whilst understandable from a real world perspective-- was hardly the most exciting development for an action-centric anime and was thus hugely detrimental to the character’s reputation.
Indeed, there are plenty of times in the Dragon Ball story where Gohan’s actions triggered many viewer face-palms as the character gradually transformed from teenage badass to tracksuit-clad nerd. This list will draw from both Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super, but will ignore Dragon Ball GT because, frankly, no character came out of that one looking good.
Here are the 15 Times Gohan Was The Worst In Dragon Ball Z.
15 Losing To A Revived Frieza
When the remnants of Frieza’s minions conspired to revive their former master, the villain immediately headed to Earth in order to exact revenge on the Super Saiyan who bested him on Namek. However, with Goku currently off-world, the evil tyrant had to make do with the protagonist's son Gohan.
Unfortunately, Gohan had been slacking off in his martial arts training and, in a goofy green tracksuit, put on a poor display against Frieza and his underlings. Considering the levels of power that Gohan had previously reached in Dragon Ball Z, he should have had no difficulties dealing with Frieza’s regular form, so it was disappointing for fans to see how far the much-loved character had fallen in the Dragon Ball Super era, and how severely his power had diminished.
14 His first date
None of the “Gohan in High School” filler is remembered fondly by fans, but the youngster’s first date is certainly one of the most cringe-worthy stories, both for the character and the viewer.
The half-Saiyan is essentially blackmailed into going out with mega-haired ginger classmate Angela, who threatens to reveal his “secret” if he doesn't go. After checking with his mother first, Gohan takes Angela to the cinema but quickly loses interest-- much to the annoyance of his female companion. Things don’t get much better when the duo go for a drink in town, as Angela mistakenly believes that Gohan has ditched her for another classmate of theirs called Videl.
Gohan is subsequently dumped by his date and Angela quickly sets her eyes on a new target. Things worked out pretty well for Gohan though. The boy eventually marries and has a child with Videl and his shameful Saiyaman secret remains hidden from the public, as Angela reveals that she had a completely different incident in mind.
13 The Kai ritual
Over a large number of episodes, Gohan’s potential power was continuously teased and gradually revealed in Dragon Ball Z, but it wasn’t until his meeting with the Grand Supreme Kai (otherwise known as Old Kai) that his true ability was unleashed.
Indeed, the debut of Gohan’s Ultimate or Mystic form was actually one of the character’s best moments, but the method via which it was achieved... not so great.
After inadvertently being released from the Z Sword, Old Kai promised to unleash Gohan’s power by using a strange and ridiculous ritual that involves the Kai slowly dancing around the youngster for hours on end while chanting some unintelligible musings.
Whatever power it may have unlocked, having an old purple dude dance around you and muttering is not going to be included in anyone’s highlight reel.
12 Going Super Saiyan against a robber
The Super Saiyan form may have quickly lost its sense of exclusivity but it is still widely regarded as a prestigious transformation, and was ultimately responsible for the defeat of intergalactic evil-doer, Frieza.
Despite this, Gohan felt the need to use his Super Saiyan ability in order to prevent a simple robbery he witnessed while travelling to school one day. Admittedly, Gohan only transformed in order to conceal his identity but, aside from being the worst attempt at a disguise since Clark Kent’s “glasses and hair curl” method, the move also made a mockery of the transformation his father and Vegeta worked so hard to achieve.
Oh well, it could have been worse: Gohan could’ve hidden his identity by concocting some awful superhero outfit... imagine that.
11 Becoming a movie stuntman
For reasons many have yet to fathom, Gohan’s Great Saiyaman persona was recently revived in Dragon Ball Super but, rather than fighting crime, Gohan became a stuntman.
When Hercule lands a role in a Great Saiyaman-themed movie, Gohan and Videl are invited to visit the set. However, the film’s stunts become too dangerous for the regular stuntman to perform so Gohan happily steps into the breach. The half-Saiyan’s ability to perform incredible, superhuman feats quickly earns him popularity on the movie set, and he soon begins to outshine egotistical lead actor Barry Kahn.
Of course, Kahn gets an extra-terrestrial power-up and he and Gohan soon come to blows. Satisfyingly, Gohan gives Barry a serious fatherhood-inspired beatdown, which perhaps makes this one of the best Great Saiyaman arcs thus far. Not that such an accolade is much to be proud of, however.
10 Not beating Lavender
Gohan fans across the world rejoiced when the character resumed his training with Piccolo in Dragon Ball Super, but the first real chance viewers got to see the fruits of his labor was somewhat of a disappointment.
As a precursor to the Tournament of Power, a Zen Exhibition Match was held between the Universe 7 team of Goku, Gohan, Buu, and the Trio De Dangers of Universe 9. Gohan was paired up against middle-ranked Lavender and, although the bout was fairly even to begin with, the notoriously dirty Lavender hit Gohan with a poison that both blinded and gradually weakened him. Gohan does manage to eventually take his opponent out, but succumbs to the poison’s effects at the same time, ending the match in a draw.
Gohan managed to show glimmers of his previous self during the fight, and was also struggling against underhanded tactics but, nevertheless, it was disappointing that Gohan's fight against Lavender wasn’t the beginning of the character’s renaissance.
9 Losing transformations
Given how hard characters work to achieve their various transformations, it was somewhat surprising to discover that these abilities weren’t permanent and could be lost without regular practice. Depressingly, Gohan ominously stated before facing off against Frieza’s minions on Earth “I think I can still go Super Saiyan.” Hardly inspires confidence, does it?
The fact that Gohan had previously surpassed the standard Super Saiyan form, with both Super Saiyan 2 and his Ultimate transformation, meant that his demotion to a regular Super Saiyan was a kick in the teeth for both the character and the fans. The move also undermines all of the character development Gohan underwent to reach his previous level.
Thankfully, in the build up to the Tournament of Power, Gohan redoubled his training efforts and managed to re-attained the level he was at previously.
8 Getting scared against the Saiyans
This entry should be prefaced by acknowledging that, at the time of the Saiyan Saga, Gohan was only around five years old, and most kids this age are picking their nose and watching cartoons, rather than defending the Earth from invading aliens.
However, this isn’t the real world and Gohan does have Saiyan blood after all. He had also been spending time under the harsh tutelage of Piccolo. So, by chickening out when the moment of truth arrived, Gohan really let himself down.
The most memorable example came when Piccolo organized a combo attack that gave the group their only real chance at beating Nappa. When it came time for Gohan to play his part, he retreated once again, much to Piccolo’s ire. Still, he’s only a kid, so I guess we can't be too harsh.
7 Not beating Dabura
When the Babidi and Majin Buu material kicked off in earnest, Supreme Kai led a team of Z Fighters to the wizard’s spaceship in order to launch a pre-emptive strike, where the trio of Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan were pitted against Babidi’s minions.
The two pure Saiyans won their battles with ease, but Gohan was left to face the strongest of the villains: Dabura, the King of the Demon Realm. After switching to Super Saiyan 2, Gohan manages to fight on an even level with Dabura but, ultimately, the match is abandoned without a clear victor. As Vegeta says, however, Gohan would’ve won easily had he been as powerful as he was back in the Cell Games.
This was the first real sign in Dragon Ball Z that Gohan was on a downward slope as a character, and things would only deteriorate from here.
6 Being Protected By Piccolo... Again
The first time Piccolo sacrificed himself to protect Gohan, the tragic scene ending up being one of Dragon Ball Z’s greatest and most emotional moments. However, the second time was just careless.
When fighting the Saiyans, Piccolo took a ki blast from Nappa but, at least in this instance, Gohan’s need to be protected could be explained by his youth and relative weakness. In Dragon Ball Super, though, as a grown man with a child of his own, such excuses don’t hold much water.
This time, Frieza’s Death Beam is the attack in question and, with Gohan incapacitated, Piccolo once again must lay down his life to protect his student. No worries though, the Dragon Balls bring him back to life before anyone even noticed he was dead.
5 Lacking killer instinct against Cell
Everybody was surprised when Goku forfeited his match against Cell at the Cell Games and handed responsibility for the Earth’s safety over to Gohan, particularily the young boy himself. However, whilst Gohan certainly had the power to battle Cell, his inexperience and lack of Saiyan aggression quickly became a problem.
In the clash, it becomes apparent that Gohan doesn’t share his father’s desire to fight, and is battling out of necessity rather than instinct. He’s also missing the typical Saiyan edge and struggles to attack with any real malicious intent.
Additionally, Gohan is aware that becoming angry or emotional will unleash his inner power but actively works to restrain this side to him, rather than utilize it and, as a result, Cell quickly gains the advantage.
However, when Gohan eventually does unleash his full power and becomes enraged, a whole new problem presents itself.
4 Caught from behind by Buu
Many of Gohan’s battle blunders can be blamed on youth, inexperience, or being out of practice, but there were no such excuses available after this mistake. Faced with Ultimate Gohan and Super Saiyan 3 Goku, things were looking grim for Buu after he lost the power of Gotenks, one of several unfortunate fighters he had previously absorbed.
However, just as Goku and his son felt that the battle was finally going their way, Buu managed to snag an ever-beefier power-up by catching Gohan unawares and absorbing him, transforming into a villain that could outmatch the remaining Goku in every respect.
The fusion of Goku and Vegeta into Vegito was required to revert Buu back to his original beatable state, but the entire Earth was destroyed in the interim. It all could’ve been avoided if Gohan had just watched his back.
3 Getting cocky against Cell
A cocky attitude in battle never turns out well in Dragon Ball Z. Vegeta is regularly outdone by his more humble rival Goku, Frieza’s arrogance ultimately led to his defeat, and Trunks once foolishly believed a hyper-muscular state could help him beat Cell without considering the consequences of his additional weight.
Gohan was similarly foolhardy in his final battle against Perfect Cell. Although initially timid in the battle, the destruction of Android 16 triggered the young half-Saiyan’s latent ability, and Gohan’s aggression came to fore, allowing him to rapidly overpower his opponent. With the villain on the verge of death, Goku pleaded for his son to finish Cell off before he could regenerate, but the youngster refused, wanting the bio-android to suffer before perishing.
Needless to say, this hesitation was a mistake and resulted in both Goku’s death and Cell being reborn into an even stronger creature.
2 Giving up martial arts
Dragon Ball is a story with martial arts at its core, so any character that steps away from the frontlines of battle naturally becomes less relevant in the narrative. While this may have been acceptable for the likes of Yamcha, who wasn't too popular to begin with, turning Gohan from a fighter into an academic did not go down well with fans.
Of course, such a career path makes perfect sense in the real world, and is a very reasonable and logical decision to make. However, considering the fact that he was the most powerful unfused character by the end of Dragon Ball Z, the decision to scale down Gohan’s abilities in subsequent outings has deprived the story of one of its most intriguing characters in order to focus solely on Goku and Vegeta.
Fortunately, there have been hints to suggest a Gohan revival may be incoming, and he was recently made the leader of Universe 7’s team in the Tournament of Power... even if only half of his team actually listen to him.
1 The Great Saiyaman
By some margin, the worst thing Gohan has ever done in Dragon Ball Z was invent the terrible Great Saiyaman persona. Despite featuring in a lot of filler episodes, the Saiyaman concept itself is entirely canon and was, undoubtedly, completely the wrong direction for the character of Gohan to go in after he had won the battle of his life against Cell.
The Great Saiyaman was goofy in a way that inspired groans more than it did laughs, and was somewhat of a dull period between the excitement of the Cell and Buu sagas. The material did at least lead to the pairing of Gohan and Videl, which has stood the test of time, but you have to imagine that there must have been a more inventive way to instigate this coupling. It's still a better love story than Twilight though.
Can you think of any other times when Dragon Ball Z's Gohan was the absolute worst? Let us know about it in the comment section.