Right now, fans of the Dragon Ball franchise are abuzz trying to figure out all they can about Black Goku. Despite some early doubts about how good Dragon Ball Super might be, it looks like it has finally managed to drum up as much excitement as its predecessor series. There have been articles coming out from all kinds of sources trying pin down the identity of Black Goku, and creating theories behind the antagonist’s appearance and origin.
But seeing people trying to learn more about Black Goku got us thinking, how well do people know the original Goku? Even if you’ve watched all the hundreds of episodes of the Dragon Ball franchise and seen all the movies, could there still be anything that would surprise people? Well, we’ll give it our best shot. See how well you know Goku as we run down some of the core history of the character, and dig deep for some interesting trivia to tell you 15 Things You Need To Know About Goku.
Pretty much every day has now become a holiday to someone, so this fact might not be quite as remarkable as it might have been before the calendar year became littered with the likes of national bikini day and national talk like a pirate day. But at least we can say Goku is more deserving of his own day than just some random excuse to get people tweeting behind a weird hashtag on Twitter like so many of these other days seem to be. The character does star in one of the most popular anime ever made, after all.
Just like May 4 became synonymous with Star Wars due to some word play (“may the force be with you”), May 9 became Goku day for a similar reason. Apparently in Japan, the numbers 5 and 9 can be pronounced as the sounds “go” and “ku.” So May is the fifth month of the year, and on the ninth day of that fifth month you get “goku”.
This is one that many fans are likely already aware of, but when talking about Goku, we can’t exactly omit something as integral as the inspiration for the character. Akira Toriyama has been very open in acknowledging that the Dragon Ball franchise originated due to his desire to do a story similar to Journey to the West. So if you ever wondered why the Saiyans are just randomly part monkey, it’s because Goku was modeled on Journey to the West’s Monkey King.
Anyone familiar with the original story will know that Toriyama’s manga obviously differed from its source material quite heavily as the years went by. Characters like Bulma, Oolong, and Krillin all have counterparts to the story that inspired Toriyama. The flying blond space aliens firing laser beams at each other? Well, not so much. But those unique elements have certainly given the franchise a lot of memorable moments, so who can complain?
Goku might be one of the strongest fictional characters out there, and has frequently stood at the top of the franchise as the most powerful character on the show, but his professional fighting record really does not show it. Goku loves a good fight, so it only stands to reason he would be interested in tournament fighting. And in the original Dragon Ball especially, it showed. The problem is, for one reason or another, he’s never been very good at it.
Throughout the various series of the Dragon Ball franchise, Goku has competed in nine different tournaments, yet only became victorious in one. His first two outings in the original Dragon Ball saw him lose to Jackie Chun, and Tien, respectively. But in his third tournament, he gained his only victory against Piccolo. Then moving forward into Dragon Ball Z, he forfeited against Perfect Cell during the Cell Games, fought to a double disqualification against Pikkon in Other World’s tournament, ditto for his planned match with Vegeta during the Buu saga, and once again when he fought Uub at the end of DBZ.
Though people dislike acknowledging GT, Goku fought in a tournament there as well, where he lost to a feeble boy named Mugley after being distracted by Vegeta showing up. Finally, and most recently, in Dragon Ball Super, Goku’s sense of fair play made him eliminate himself in his tournament match against Hit due to the rule of no killing prohibiting Hit from utilizing his full power.
The blond hair of the Super Saiyans has become synonymous with things becoming serious. We know it takes a Saiyan tapping into incredible amounts of rage to access that form, so when they go Super Saiyan, it’s usually a good indicator someone is about to get hurt. But even in the world of Dragon Ball, we don’t really get an explanation for why their hair turns blond. Like why does a Saiyan gaining more strength effect their hair color?
By the logic of the show, the blond hair (and subsequent red and blue) may always be a mystery, but in terms of real world explanations, we do know the reason. When the man behind the manga, Akira Toriyama, was looking for a way for it to be visually evident that Goku had gained a new power, changing Goku’s hairstyle seemed like a good way to communicate that. But there was also the issue of not wanting the transformation to be anything too difficult to draw. So instead, Toriyama went with something that would actually save time to draw since in the black and white pages of the manga, blond hair was represented by the color white. So by making Goku’s hair turn blond, it saved time compared to having to color in Goku’s typically black hair.
Goku is obviously a very friendly person who takes no delight out of hurting other people. Throughout the franchise, he continually tries to give second chances to people who have done some pretty terrible things. And yet, in the original Dragon Ball, he still showed he was willing and able to end the lives of people who were committed to their evil ways.
Maybe adulthood mellowed Goku out or something, because he definitely cut back on the mortality rate of his fights in Dragon Ball Z. Not only does he repeatedly offer to spare Frieza, who destroyed an entire planet, but he even refrains from killing anyone until the Buu saga. Even then, his only victims are Yakkon, who basically killed himself by eating too much of Goku's energy, and Kid Buu, who got reincarnated as Uub anyway.
Admittedly, this character trait is something more from the anime than the manga, so some fans will discount it as non-canon, but fans who remember the earlier episodes of the original Dragon Ball will probably remember Goku’s strong dislike of needles. Even as a kid, there wasn’t too much that could intimidate what would become Earth’s strongest warrior, but the prospect of having to get an injection would set him on edge like nothing else.
It was generally used as a comedic gimmick early on in the series to see such a tough character turn into a coward over something that wasn’t that big of a deal. But if they had kept with the running gag, it could have made Goku’s encounter with Cell more interesting. Early on, Cell basically did use his tail as a needle to suck the life out of his victims. It could have been like Goku’s worst nightmare made a reality.
This one won’t come as a shock to a lot of people, especially those who came to the Dragon Ball franchise by watching it with the Japanese dubbing. But for many of us who grew up with the English voice cast for Dragon Ball Z, it was extremely jarring to find this out. Goku sounds like a pretty normal guy in our translation, but in the Japanese dub, there’s no way you’re not realizing that it’s a woman voicing this super powerful man.
Admittedly, even in English dubs it’s very common for women to voice young male characters, such as the kid version of Trunks. But Japan’s Masako Nozawa as adult Goku can take some adjusting to if you’re not used to hearing her. Of course, fans of the Japanese dub have no issue with Nozawa, and view her as the definitive voice of Goku as much as many English speakers consider Sean Schemmel the voice behind the franchise’s hero.
If, thinking back on the fight against Frieza on Namek, you remember it taking forever, there's a pretty good reason for that: it kind of did. Sure, he was the biggest enemy in the series up to that point and everything had been building up to this confrontation with him, but Goku's battle against Frieza took in the range of four hours from start to finish. That's the longest fight that's happened in any anime.
Bear in mind, that's just Goku's portion of the encounter. Frieza had three other forms that kept Vegeta, Gohan, Krillin, Piccolo, and Dende busy for many more episodes prior to his final one. The Frieza battle has become infamous for its length, especially due to Frieza's line that the attack he just used would destroy the planet in "five minutes" and yet the battle continued for several more episodes. There were still lots of good moments in the fight, but just remember you could watch a couple movies in the time it takes for Frieza to go down—and then they didn't even succeed in killing him!
Throughout the Dragon Ball franchise, Goku's main characteristics are his loyalty to his loved ones, and his desire for a great fight. Whereas most people would define Vegeta's characteristics in Dragon Ball Z as his envy of Goku's power and the desire to be better than him. But why did Vegeta become that way? Because Goku is more powerful than him and has always beaten him, you say? That's actually not the case.
In their first clash, Vegeta was on the verge of killing Goku after transforming into his great ape form and crushing him between his hands. Sure, Vegeta lost, but that was due to Krillin, Gohan, and Yajirobe. Goku was left defenseless because he couldn't handle Vegeta on his own.
And their second fight? Majin Vegeta left Goku lying at the end of that encounter too. Yes, Goku was concealing his ability to become a Super Saiyin 3, but Goku's obsession with mercy and fairness has repeatedly been shown to be a weakness that backfires on him, such as trying to spare Frieza, and giving Cell a senzu bean. It doesn't count as less of a defeat just because Vegeta was ruthless enough to exploit Goku's naivety.
So Vegeta has never lost to Goku, and even surpassed Goku multiple times like when he became a Super Saiyin against Android 19, and when he emerged from the Hyperbolic Time Chamber to challenge Semi-Perfect Cell. So this all begs the question: why was Vegeta so jealous of Goku as a fighter?
We all know the Kamehameha wave is Goku's signature attack and that he's been using it since childhood. But if you think it's some last resort attack that he only whips out once in a blue moon, then you might be surprised about the stats on how often he's used it. It’s not quite the last resort you might think it is when just remembering the handful of enemies he’s finished off with it.
So we know there are 153 episodes of the original Dragon Ball series, and 291 episodes of the follow-up series Dragon Ball Z. Over the course of both series, Goku uses the Kamehameha a total of 97 times. That comes out to around one Kamehameha every four or five episodes. So that's really not such a rare attack after all. Especially when you consider you can count the number of times Goku uses a move like the spirit bomb on both your hands and still have fingers left over.
The reason Goku's Japanese voice actor being a woman was such a surprise to many people was because so many of us grew up with America's Sean Schemmel as our Goku. And sure, starting out he infamously could have some questionable delivery on his lines, but he grew into the role and has now become one of the franchise's best voices to listen to. He's great at capturing Goku's light-hearted enthusiasm as well as his intensity during battles. Though as a lot of fans have maybe heard, he got a little too intense at least once.
The franchise is known for its long bouts of screaming, and this once led to Sean Schemmel passing out in the recording booth. Many people assume this must have been from the Super Saiyan 3 transformation which was basically five minutes of screaming at higher and higher pitches. But it was actually Goku's first Super Saiyin 4 transformation. Schemmel said that the scream descending into a low growl was a more difficult adjustment on his breathing and led to him waking up on the floor.
Even though the Dragon Ball franchise and anime in general are absolutely popular in many parts of the world, it makes sense that they would have their most significant fan base in Japan since that is where it originates. So sure, there are plenty of people in the Western world who look forward to a new Dragon Ball Z movie as much as fans in Japan might, but probably not to the extent that a major fast food chain over here would advertise for it.
In Japan, Dragon Ball Z has been used to advertise for a variety of products. Though one of the more amusing ones has to be the Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial that aired in Japan to advertise the Battle of Gods movie. With the ravenous appetite Saiyans exhibit, food advertisements make sense for the franchise, but a crossover between Goku and Colonel Sanders is pretty bizarre to witness.
With the number of powerful opponents Goku has encountered, it's really lucky that he hasn't wound up dying more than he has. Even when facing Buu, someone who literally killed almost every single person on the Earth, Goku was still one of the lucky ones who didn’t get caught in the crossfire (even though he was already dead at the time, though that certainly didn’t effect his ability to get hurt in fights).
By Dragon Ball standards, Goku’s death count is on the low side at two. Not only that, but he’s been so fortunate in his fights that the only times he’s ever died were when he willingly sacrificed himself. The first was when he restrained his brother Raditz so Piccolo could finish him off with the Special Beam Cannon, a move that unfortunately necessitated Goku’s demise as well. And the second was when Cell was about to detonate himself to blow up the Earth, so Goku used his Instant Transmission to transport them both away. So in a way, the only person who has ever killed Goku is Goku.
The similarities between Goku and Superman are many. They are both aliens from a distant planet. They both had their home worlds destroyed and were believed to be the last survivors of their race. They both became defenders of good, and adopted Earth names. And most importantly, they are both incredibly powerful characters.
It’s only natural fans would want them to square off at some point, so Screw Attack’s Death Battle series made it happen. Twice. Looking at the powers available to each character and factoring in their vulnerabilities, the Screw Attack team engaged in a bit of fanfiction to pit the Super Saiyan against the last son of Krypton. And Goku lost. Both times. But if it’s any consolation, the first time they battled, it took the destruction of the entire planet for Goku to go down.
As Saiyans have become more and more prominent throughout the franchise, one glaring aspect has been how little we get to see of female Saiyan warriors. Sure, in GT there are Bulla and Pan, but Vegeta’s daughter shows no interest in fighting, while Pan never really gets to take center stage when she oddly can’t even turn into a Super Saiyan. There have been female Saiyans in the movies, despite those stories being regarded as non-canon, but that’s about it.
It was always odd that Goku was never more inquisitive about his parents, especially after Raditz showed up with the revelation that Goku was not even a human. But we the viewers got to learn about Goku’s father Bardock over time, even though his mother still remained a mystery. That finally changed in 2014 when the bonus manga Dragon Ball Minus explored the backstory of Goku being sent to Earth, and gave us our first look at his mother Gine, who turned out to not even enjoy being a warrior.
What surprised you the most about Goku when you first heard it? Share your memories of one of anime’s biggest names in the comments!