Before Vegeta came along, Piccolo was the original big villain to change sides. There was no one more evil or dangerous in the original Dragon Ball than King Piccolo, but his reincarnation became one of the Earth's greatest protectors in Dragon Ball Z. It was a really interesting move too, because we learned so much more about his character and his race in the second series. Piccolo was shown to be so nuanced that he ranks as a favorite character among many fans.
Since Piccolo has been around so long, and has been one of the few non-Saiyan characters to be actively involved in battles, he's evolved quite a bit. He has been revealed to be part of an alien race, has gained great power by fusing with his fellow Namekians, and still reveals new abilities today. With how much he's changed, you might have missed some details about the warrior named after a musical instrument.
So let's shed some light on one of the most mysterious Z Fighters in Dragon Ball: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Piccolo.
14 PICCOLO WAS ORIGINALLY JUST SUPPOSED TO BE A DEMON
We're kicking things off with a fact that a lot of people probably already know, but newcomers to the franchise might not be aware of. You watch the original Dragon Ball and you keep hearing about Demon King Piccolo. It's a pretty cool story for Goku to be going up against a literal demon, and for all of the first series, that story holds up. But then, when Piccolo arrives to face Nappa and Vegeta, the latter informs Piccolo that there are other green-skinned people like him called Namekians.
If you're watching the franchise straight through, you might not even wonder about this new piece of information. But the more you think about it, the more you realize the truth: that Piccolo being part of a race of slug people was never the original plan.
Remember how Tambourine, Drum, and the rest of King Piccolo's children look nothing like him? We know all Namekians look quite similar, so it's obviously inconsistent that Piccolo's children would look so different. And Piccolo Jr. has the body of an adult almost immediately, while later on Namek we see kids like Dende who have childlike appearances.
The discrepancies add up and make it clear Akira Toriyama wasn't planning the Namekians for the long term, and instead retconned Piccolo’s demon heritage.
13 HE'S ACTUALLY BARELY OLDER THAN GOHAN
If you just looked at Piccolo, you'd probably never consider him a child. He's as a big as an adult, sounds like one, and certainly acts like one. And yet, rationally thinking, the Piccolo we know today was just a child when he was first introduced into the franchise. King Piccolo was very old when we first got to see him, but he wished for his youth to be returned using the Dragon Balls. He was eventually mortally wounded by Goku, but not before spitting out one last egg that would be his final child. This was his own reincarnation, Piccolo Jr.
Before much time has passed at all, Piccolo Jr. shows up to confront Goku and gain revenge. But since this new Piccolo was hatched from an egg only a couple years prior, that would mean by our standards he would be nothing more than a toddler at the time Goku encounters him.
It's never really brought up in Dragon Ball Z, but it's funny to think that Piccolo becomes Gohan's guardian and trainer after Goku dies, but there's really barely any age difference between them. They're both still children at this point, which is especially odd to think about when Gohan later befriends Dende, who actually does look like a child.
12 THERE ARE NO FEMALE NAMEKIANS
You probably noticed this one in the story, but maybe you just thought it was an oversight from the artists or writers that none of the Namekians we saw on Namek were female. Or perhaps you thought there was some backstory like that of the Saiyans, where females did exist, but we never see any in the main story (at least not any pure-blooded ones) due to them being wiped out. Neither of those is the case, though. We simply don’t see any female Namekians because there are none.
Though Namekians all have what we would call masculine characteristics, their race are actually hermaphrodites. If you remember from the original Dragon Ball, King Piccolo produces children all on his own by spitting eggs out of his mouth.
This wasn’t just some ability unique to him. Though we don’t really see this process occur again in the franchise, apparently all Namekians reproduce asexually. If nothing else, it explains why their race is hard to eliminate.
11 HE'S ONE OF ONLY TWO CHARACTERS TO EVER KILL GOKU
For all the villains who have attempted it, very few have actually managed to kill the protagonist of the Dragon Ball franchise. In fact, only two characters have managed to ever accomplish it. One of them was Cell, who took out Goku when the Saiyan was forced to use instant transmission to transport Cell away from the Earth before Cell could make it explode. But Goku also died before that, near the start of Dragon Ball Z... at the hands of Piccolo.
Like with Cell, Goku's death at the hands of Piccolo was sacrificial. Goku's brother Raditz was threatening the Earth, and the only move the Z Fighters had that was strong enough to end the fight was Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon. The move took a ton of time to charge up, so Goku grabbed onto Raditz to keep him from dodging out of the way. The problem was that Goku had no time to get out of the way, so Piccolo was happy to take the chance to kill two Saiyans at once. Piccolo was the first to do it, and he'll always be one of the few to have done so.
10 THERE'S CONCEPT ART OF HIM USING FUSION WITH KRILLIN TO FORM PRILLIN
During the homestretch of Dragon Ball Z, Goku and Vegeta were gone while Majin Buu was on a rampage, so it fell to Goten and Trunks to attempt to save the world. The only problem was that, even though the two Saiyan children were extraordinarily strong (becoming the youngest Super Saiyans of the franchise), they were still no match for Buu. The only chance they had was to learn a new technique that Goku had shared called fusion. And once Goku went back to the afterlife, it fell to Piccolo to ensure the kids saw their training through.
Obviously Piccolo knows a thing or two about fusion, since he did it with both Nail and Kami. When Goten and Trunks asked to see the fusion dance one more time, Piccolo begrudgingly agreed, though he forced Krillin to join in the demonstration. They didn’t actually fuse during the demonstration, but clearly Akira Toriyama actually did consider what a fusion between the two would look like, because concept art of the combination exists.
The character has been dubbed Prillin, but we can’t imagine he would have stood much of a chance against Buu.
9 AKIRA TORIYAMA HAS CALLED PICCOLO HIS FAVORITE CHARACTER
Fans of the franchise have gotten used to their favorites getting pushed into the background in favor of Goku. If you liked the majority of the characters from the original Dragon Ball, too bad; they were nearly useless in the next series. The treatment of Gohan has been another sticking point for fans. Many feel this shows that Toriyama clearly likes Goku the best, but that might not actually be the case.
Akira Toriyama has referred to Piccolo as his favorite character in the franchise before. That might surprise some people since Piccolo has far from a starring role in the story. Though, admittedly Toriyama has been inconsistent with his favorite character; he’s also said Vegeta and Goku are his favorites at other times.
Still, at least Piccolo could be considered Toriyama’s favorite for a little while. It certainly beats being someone Toriyama totally forgot about, like Launch from the original Dragon Ball.
8 HE MIGHT BE ABLE TO REGENERATE EVEN IF HIS HEAD IS DESTROYED
One of Piccolo's most useful abilities is that he is able to regenerate his body after taking enormous amounts of damage. Losing a limb isn't some permanent injury for him, because Namekians have the ability to simply grow a new one in just a few minutes. It's obviously an incredibly useful ability, but it still has its limits. Namekians have said that at least their head has to be intact to be able to regenerate. But that might not actually be true.
In the Cell saga, the villain utilizes the best abilities from all the prominent fights in the franchise. This includes Piccolo, whose primary contribution to Cell is the ability to regenerate body parts. The thing is, during the Cell Games, we see Goku destroy all of Cell's upper body with a Kamehameha, head included. And Cell still regenerates.
So if Cell was able to do that just because of Piccolo's traits, that should mean Piccolo could do the same. Fortunately for the Namekian, that theory hasn't had to be tested yet.
7 HE WAS ONCE THE STRONGEST HERO IN THE FRANCHISE
Nowadays it's all about Goku and Vegeta when we're talking about who the most powerful villain in the franchise is. That wasn't always the case though. Before Goku became a Super Saiyan, the franchise actually had quite a few contenders vying for the role of the most powerful hero. But after Goku defeated Frieza, that put him on a level that was impossible for the majority of the other characters to reach. So it's even more impressive that Piccolo was not only the franchise's strongest hero at one point, but became so after Goku and Vegeta became Super Saiyans.
Since the original Dragon Ball, Kami and Piccolo were two parts of the same person. They were divided by their moral beliefs, but had also divided their power by staying separate. So to truly stand a chance against the androids endangering the world, Piccolo became desperate enough to agree to merge with Kami. It gave him a massive increase in power, beyond what any of the other Z Fighters had achieved at the time. After this merger, Piccolo even became known as a Super Namekian.
Unfortunately his time on top was very short-lived since Imperfect Cell was also increasing in power, but it was still a great little moment for Piccolo fans.
6 HE SACRIFICES HIS LIFE FOR GOHAN IN EVERY SERIES THEY'RE IN TOGETHER
As much as Piccolo initially hated Goku, he had a soft spot for Gohan. What started out just as Piccolo trying to train Gohan evolved into genuine affection, and he became like a second dad to Gohan. Piccolo grew to care about Gohan so much that he was even willing to sacrifice his life for the kid. In fact, Piccolo gave up his life numerous times for Gohan, to the point that Piccolo has allowed himself to be killed to save Gohan in every series they’ve been in together.
The first time is pretty clear cut in DBZ: Nappa was about to blast Gohan and kill him, but Piccolo leapt in front of the shot to shield Gohan from harm. It cost Piccolo his life, but Gohan lived. And that would become their pattern going forward.
In Dragon Ball Super, a near identical moment happens where Piccolo sacrifices his life to block a beam that Frieza was firing at Gohan. And lastly, in GT, Piccolo gives up his life so that the Black Star Dragon Balls can never cause the world to explode again. Sure, Piccolo had the whole world in mind during GT, but Piccolo spends his final moments speaking to Gohan, so it’s clear who was most important for the Namekian to save.
5 HE'S HAD CROSSOVERS WITH ONE PIECE
Obviously voice actors don't get into the industry just to do one role, so they're going to be involved in a lot of different projects. Piccolo's most well-known English voice actor, Christopher Sabat, has been fortunate enough to have a lengthy career from the role and receive work in each of the TV series, in the movies, and video games. Despite how busy voicing the Namekian (not to mention Vegeta as well) must keep Sabat, he has found time for other roles, like Zorro on One Piece.
One Piece and Dragon Ball are two of the most popular manga/anime ever made, so it was pretty neat to see them eventually crossover in a story called Cross Epoch. Needless to say, the crossover is totally non-canon and features such silly plot threads such as Vegeta leading a band of pirates, and Shenron hosting a tea party.
One of the funnier stories involves Piccolo and Zorro as swordsmen traveling together. So if the story ever got an English anime adaption, it would just be Sabat speaking to himself for this portion of the story.
If you're a One Piece fan, you know the characters of Dragon Ball actually did appear in the One Piece anime, so it's far from out of the question for Sabat to get a shot at talking to himself for a living.
5. THERE HAVE BEEN BIG INCONSISTENCIES IN HIS APPEARANCE
If you need further proof that Piccolo was still being developed as the franchise went on, you only have to have a keen eye for changes in his appearance. Back when he was still considered a Demon King, Piccolo had red blood like pretty much every creature on Earth. Later on, when his connection to the planet Namek starts being developed, his blood suddenly changes color to purple. All the Namekians we meet from that point on also have purple blood, making for a pretty sudden change.
Piccolo's inconsistent appearance wasn't a new thing, though. When he was first adapted from the manga into the show, he had already been changed. In the manga, Piccolo was one of several characters who didn't have five fingers. Maybe just to make it easier for the anime team, this was changed and everyone was uniformly given five fingers. But in the manga Piccolo actually had four fingers, so he had to do a lot of physical adaptation over the years.
4 PICCOLO HAS OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE VIDEO GAMES
We already talked about how Piccolo being a Namekian was a retcon, so that means that all of King Piccolo’s children also retroactively became Namekians by extension. Since they appeared in the manga and anime, everyone is already very familiar with Tambourine, Cymbal, Drum, and Piano. There were also other Namekians shown to have existed in the past, but we don’t get to learn what their names are. Presumably they were all also children of King Piccolo. But it turns out Piccolo’s family is actually even bigger, because he has even more siblings/children in the video games.
Games have to provide some way to keep the player busy for a satisfying amount of time, and you can’t do that with just the characters from the main story. You’d run out of people to fight pretty quickly. So the games added new characters for the player to fight, including more of King Piccolo’s children. These game-exclusive Namekians have the same naming variant as the others, with all of them being named after musical instruments.
So if you want to know all of Piccolo’s relatives at a family reunion, go play the games to meet Harp, Banjo, Bell, Bongo, and all the rest.
3 NAMEKIANS ONLY NEED WATER TO SURVIVE
Depending on who you ask, Namekians are either slug people or plant people. There’s an argument for either side when going by aesthetics. The antennae certainly give off a slug vibe, but the green skin and ability to regrow lost limbs feels much more like plant qualities. One deciding factor for calling Namekians plant people might just come from their diet. As it turns out, Namekians only require water to survive.
You’re no doubt already thinking back and recalling instances of Piccolo eating, but evidently these instances are simply chalked up as being due to filler in the story. Namekians being able to subsist on nothing but water does sound logical, though.
Piccolo certainly has an affinity for quiet, secluded places, and it’s not like there’s fast food restaurants out in the middle of nowhere. Saiyans obviously never miss a chance to gorge on a feast, but Piccolo is a guy who keeps his desires in check and enjoys the peace of meditation. He definitely seems like someone who espouses the benefits of eight glasses of water a day.
2 KING PICCOLO IS THE ONLY CANON CHARACTER TO KILL SHENRON
You'd think the giant wish-granting dragon would be the most powerful creature in the entire franchise. Since Shenron can grant almost any wish that is asked of him, you might think that he could grant wishes for himself. Couldn't he just wish for anyone who attacked him to cease to exist, or make himself invincible? Apparently not, because when someone finally decided to assault Shenron, he was helpless to keep himself alive.
After wishing to regain his youth, King Piccolo decided to make sure no one could summon Shenron again to undo any of his plans. King Piccolo, even as weak as he was by today's standards, destroyed Shenron and left the Dragon Balls useless.
Obviously Shenron didn't stay gone, but the feat was nonetheless impressive, and very clever for a villain to do. It has happened again in the video games, but in the manga or show, Piccolo is the only one ingenious enough to use this plan.
1 JAMES MARSTERS REGRETS PLAYING PICCOLO BECAUSE HIS SON LOVES DRAGON BALL
Just about everyone involved in the live-action Dragonball: Evolution is embarrassed for taking part in that disaster. It’s no wonder it turned out bad, though, as many of the cast and crew admitted they weren’t even fans of the franchise before signing up for it. In fact, the writer behind the movie flat-out admits that, in hindsight, he was just taking what he had hoped would be a good payday.
That wasn’t the case for everyone, though. James Marsters, best known as Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was a big fan of the franchise before he signed up to be Piccolo. Watch any video of Marsters talking about his involvement with the movie and he enthusiastically speaks about how he was excited to be in the movie for his son’s sake.
Marsters says he got his son into Dragon Ball because he believes Goku embodies what a man should be—peaceful, fun-loving, humble, but powerful enough to protect his family. So when Marsters talks about the failure of Evolution, he also brings up his son, because being Piccolo was something his son had been proud of him for. Of course, seeing the finished product changed their feelings on that role, but hopefully they still have a good bond over the anime.
Do you know any other interesting facts about Piccolo? Share anything else you think fans might not be aware of in the comments!