Dragon Ball is one of the most popular anime of all-time and one of the reasons that it’s become such an evergreen staple of the industry is because of its passionate protagonist, Goku. Audiences have watched Goku mature from a curious boy to a courageous adult over Dragon Ball’s multi-decade run. Goku’s adventures never get old, especially when he has so many complex villains to defeat, whether it’s Demon King Piccolo, Frieza, or Majin Buu.
Goku is such a pure beacon of hope and positivity that there’s a natural curiosity behind the dark idea of what would happen if he became corrupted. Dragon Ball has never truly pushed Goku into villain territory, yet it’s repeatedly explored the terrifying consequences of an “evil Goku” as his adversary. Dragon Ball has turned to this idea through various means, all of which have uniquely affected Goku and the rest of Dragon Ball’s heroes.
Goku is responsible for some selfless, inspirational actions that are definitive proof that he’s a hero, through and through.
5 Great Ape Goku Unleashes The Hero’s Dormant Animal Instinct
Dragon Ball, Episode 12, “A Wish To The Eternal Dragon”
Goku initially gets sent to Earth by his father Bardock once Planet Vegeta faces destruction. The full scope of Goku’s backstory isn’t clear when the original Dragon Ball begins, but the series explains that Grandpa Gohan finds Goku as a lost baby and raises him as his own. It later comes to light that Grandpa Gohan accidentally drops Goku on his head, which apparently causes enough of an impact that it “erases” his original Saiyan instincts. This means that while Goku is a playful child, there’s still a brief period where baby Goku could technically be viewed as “evil” before Grandpa Gohan inadvertently puts him on the path of righteousness. It feels significant to mention this event, since otherwise Goku would likely have grown up to be much more like his wicked brother, Raditz.
This blip on baby Goku’s radar is merely a footnote in the character’s history. However, the original Dragon Ball does technically feature some moments where Goku becomes a viable threat to his friends. Dragon Ball’s Great Ape transformation has gradually been phased out of the franchise, along with Saiyans’ trademark tail, as Super Saiyan ascensions become the norm. Elite Saiyan warriors are able to control themselves while in this superior state, while lower individuals, like Goku, become a rampaging liability. In this sense, Goku in his Great Ape form can technically be viewed as a villain and he’s even responsible for Grandpa Gohan’s death while in this state. Some of the scariest moments in the original series is when Goku sees a full moon and this transformation awakens. Characters have to stoop to such measures as cutting off Goku’s tail or even blowing up the moon to end Great Ape Goku’s reign of terror. Fortunately, this ferocious side of Goku is handled by the end of the original series, but Dragon Ball Z still turns Gohan into a liability through the same circumstances.
Goku doesn’t win every fight, but he does learn something valuable from each of his losses.
4 Goku’s Doppelgänger Doll Turns Into A Curious Training Exercise
Dragon Ball, Episode 130, “Goku’s Doll”
Dragon Ball‘s anime has an interesting relationship with filler episodes that tell original stories that weren’t present in Toriyama’s source material manga. The original Dragon Ball doesn’t have many of these filler detours, but the majority of them tell fun, standalone stories. “Goku’s Doll” is one such experiment that happens in the anime’s second-half during Goku’s dedicated training at Kami’s Lookout. Mr. Popo concocts a training exercise for Goku that will properly test his abilities, and evidently the best opponent for him to face is himself. Mr. Popo builds a duplicate doll of Goku out of clay that goes on to gain sentience. This doll looks identical to Goku — except for his beady eyes — but he also possesses all the same skills.
This turns into a worthwhile exercise that helps Goku clear his mind and develop better focus when he’s lost in battle. The whole reason that this doppelgänger doll initially holds an advantage over Goku is because it fights with an undisturbed mind, unlike Goku. Goku’s battle against himself is only contained to this single episode and Mr. Popo never again utilizes this clay combatant training strategy. Mr. Popo’s plan is a success and Goku eventually emerges as the winner, even if his victory conveniently coincides with the doll running out of energy. The real Goku is equally exhausted and falls asleep after this unconventional clash.
3 Turles Puts Goku Up Against A Savage Saiyan
Dragon Ball Z, Movie 3, “Dragon Ball Z: The Tree Of Might”
It’s not uncommon for popular anime series to receive feature film celebrations, but Dragon Ball Z accrues more than a dozen movies before the end of its run. These stories frequently exist out of canon, yet still showcase some rewarding villains who have gone on to find even greater popularity in Dragon Ball’s video games and promotional anime, like Dragon Ball heroes. Dragon Ball Z’s third movie, The Tree of Might, pits Goku and company against a rogue evil Saiyan named Turles. It’s always exciting whenever Dragon Ball introduces a new Saiyan. However, what’s particularly interesting about Turles is that he looks nearly identical to Goku. Oddly enough, The Tree of Might doesn’t offer any explanation for why this “evil Goku” exists and why he so closely resembles the series’ hero. It wouldn’t have been difficult to say that Turles is Bardock’s illegitimate child and a brother to Goku and Raditz. This would even give the character a stronger motivation than merely motivating him through a thin quest for greater power.
The Tree of Might’s main novelty is to have this Goku doppelgänger take on Gohan and later Goku himself. Turles is stronger than Raditz and packs quite the punch. However, the titular Tree of Might rewards him with even greater strength once it feeds upon the Earth’s energy. There are some vicious moments where Turles excitedly beats up Goku, which provide a brief look at what Goku’s life might have been like if he never left Planet Vegeta. Goku manages to overwhelm Turles by creating a Spirit Bomb that saps the Tree of Might’s power and finally ends this evil alien’s destructive plans. Turles has become a fan-favorite villain, despite his short tenure in Dragon Ball Z.
Dragon Ball allows for massive powerups and strong characters, but Goku gets so impressively powerful that it seems like Dragon Ball can’t handle it.
2 Captain Ginyu Steals Goku’s Body To Further His Villainous Vendetta
Dragon Ball Z, Episode 71, “Goku Is Ginyu & Ginyu Is Goku”
Dragon Ball Z’s heroes have their work cut out for them when they arrive on Namek to acquire the planet’s Dragon Balls to revive their fallen friends. It takes a while for the battle against Frieza to begin and the galactic tyrant instead staffs his henchmen and mercenaries to do his dirty work for him. The Ginyu Force are fascinating characters who embody both shonen and sentai series stereotypes, but in a way that felt genuinely fresh upon their debut. Each Ginyu Force member possesses a unique skill and their leader, Captain Ginyu, harbors a dangerous ability that allows him to swap bodies. Ginyu seems to have found success by continually leveling up and replacing his host body whenever he encounters a stronger fighter. It’s widely speculated that the body he fights the heroes with isn’t even his original form. Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta are forced to contend with the weaker Ginyu Force members before Goku shows up to save the day. However, Goku’s recent power boosts make him an easy target for Ginyu and his “Change Now!” technique.
Captain Ginyu’s signature ability connects with Goku and there’s a very stressful run of episodes where he runs amok in Goku’s body while Goku is forced to survive in Ginyu’s weakened shell. Much like the battle against Turles, Dragon Ball Z gets a lot of mileage out of Gohan being forced to fight his dad. He even briefly considers a life where he learns to accept Goku-as-Ginyu as his father. This becomes a harrowing showdown because the heroes must take care of the threat, but any fatal damage to Ginyu-as-Goku means that reversing this process is impossible. This fight ultimately becomes much more about strategy than strength alone. Goku eventually gets his body back early on in Episode 74, “Captain Ginyu…The Frog,” where the feared mercenary is forced to spend the rest of his days trapped in the useless body of a Namekian frog. Ginyu does make a surprise return in Dragon Ball Super, but Goku, thankfully, doesn’t fall for the same tricks as before.
Goku’s defining traits are his boundless naivete and optimism, but sometimes those same traits keep him from throwing in the towel when he should.
1 Goku Black Is The Culmination Of A Perilous Plan To Wipe Out All Mortals
Dragon Ball Super, Episode 47, “SOS From The Future: A Dark New Enemy Appears!”
Dragon Ball Super succeeds through a satisfying mix of familiar nostalgia and completely original ideas. Past villains like Frieza, Cell, and the Red Ribbon Army return, but there are also bold new enemies that radically expand the series’ scope. Dragon Ball Super engages in genuine suspense and mystery when Future Trunks makes a surprise return appearance and claims that his timeline is being ravaged by an evil version of Goku. There was initially speculation that this could be Super’s attempt to canonically bring Turles into the mix or that it might even be an alternate version of Goten who’s grown up to become a villain.
Dragon Ball Super eventually reveals that Goku Black is actually the end result of a complicated plan where the future version of Universe 10’s Supreme Kai apprentice, Zamasu, uses the Super Dragon Balls to steal the body of his timeline’s Goku. It’s harrowing to learn that this villain doesn’t just look like Goku, but that he actually is the character under the worst of circumstances. One of Dragon Ball Super’s most disturbing sequences is when Zamasu and Goku switch bodies, only for Zamasu-as-Goku to kill Chi-Chi and Goten while they fail to comprehend what’s going on.
Goku Black sticks around for 21 episodes until this threat is finally eliminated in Episode 67, “With New Hope in His Heart – Farewell, Trunks.” Goku Black and Future Zamasu are such a dangerous team that tactics like the Demon Containment Wave and Super Saiyan Blue Vegito still aren’t enough to win. Goku Black uses many of Goku’s techniques against the heroes, but he also develops new abilities, like the ki-based Sickle of Sorrow and his own Super Saiyan Blue variation, Super Saiyan Rosé. To date, Goku Black is Dragon Ball’s most recent and most powerful evil version of Goku. His destruction likely means that the franchise won’t return to this idea. However, there’s a whole multiverse of possibilities out there and it’s not impossible for another evil Goku to strike. Perhaps Super will make Dragon Ball GT’s Baby canon, only this time around he possesses Goku instead of Vegeta. Only time will tell.
Dragon Ball tells the tale of a young warrior by the name of Son Goku, a young peculiar boy with a tail who embarks on a quest to become stronger and learns of the Dragon Balls, when, once all 7 are gathered, grant any wish of choice.
- Created by
- Akira Toriyama
- First Film
- Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies
- Latest Film
- Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
- First TV Show
- Dragon Ball
- First Episode Air Date
- April 26, 1989
- Sean Schemmel , Laura Bailey , Brian Drummond , Christopher Sabat , Scott McNeil
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