I’m still on a Dragon Ball kick after yesterday’s post, so today I’m going to talk about my favorite characters in all the series: the villains.
What’s a hero without a villain? Over the many years of Dragon Ball, from the original series all the way to Super, Goku and friends have faced off against many fearsome foes. But which ones have my vote for the best?
Quick note: I’ll only be addressing canon villains. This means that movie villains, like Cooler or Broly (he’s not canon yet, therefor I don’t need to talk about him) will not be included on this list. We’re strictly looking at what we got in the main series.
I’m also ignoring GT for two reasons. The first is because the series isn’t canon anymore; at least not at the moment. The second is much more simple: I don’t like GT. At all. Especially not the villains.
With all that in mind, let’s talk about the first villain of the Dragon Ball franchise: King Pilaf and his two goons, Shu and Mai. (It took me years to figure that pun out, and now I feel like an idiot)
These guys were Team Rocket before Team Rocket even existed. They’re hardly intimidating, their motivations are so childish and simple that even a four year old could understand them, their acts of ‘villainy’ are so low-level that it makes a bank-robber look like Satan incarnate, and they are an excellent source of fun comedy and charm. Simply put: these guys were the perfect starter villains for the series.
Hell, these guys were so much fun that they came back in every Arc of the original series. They were there very briefly during the Red Ribbon saga, and they were even cronies to King Piccolo (and they add some much needed relief to that Arc). They even came back in Battle of Gods and Super as children which… varies wildly in effectiveness. Still, it’s nice to know that these guys will always be remembered.
In the next saga, however, we transitioned from a fun and lighthearted adventure to more of a serial epic with the next villains: the Red Ribbon Army.
These guys, unlike the Pilaf trio, have a genuine air of intimidation about them. While the Pilaf gang were a trio of lovable, goofy but ineffective losers, the Red Ribbon Army is an organized and powerful military force. Their forces are numerous, their actions are ruthless, and their motivation is… hilarious.
What makes these villains so good is the fact that they’re an ensemble cast. Any one of these characters on their own wouldn’t be very memorable. But together: they form a super memorable and cool force to be reckoned with. From the tiny General Red to the deadly assassin Tao, these guys were the perfect step up for Dragon Ball villains.
Now, before we move on, we need to discuss a hired member of the Army that deserves his own place on our retrospective: Tao Pi-Pi AKA Mercenary Tao.
He is easily the most intimidating villain up to this point in the series. His actions are ruthless (such as the time he killed a man with his tongue), his skill and power were absurd (for the time) and in case you weren’t convinced of how intimidating he is: he wears his job description on his back.
On top of his hilarious attire, he’s the first villain to be a genuine threat to Goku. His Dodon-Ray momentarily put the Kamehameha to shame, and he nearly killed Goku in their first bout. If he weren’t lucky, Goku would’ve been slaughtered where he stood. It’s only when Tao appears that, for the first time, the audience fears for Goku’s victory.
Then, after Tao and the Red Ribbon’s defeat, we got the single most powerful and terrifying villain of the original series (and my personal favorite): King Piccolo.
While the Red Ribbon Army did pose a genuine threat, it wasn’t until King Piccolo that we got a true big-bad. With a personality that can only be described as pure evil, a power that puts all prior villains to shame, and a sadistic nature that would only be eclipsed a few Arcs later by Freeza, King Piccolo came onto the scene in a big way.
His Arc is easily the darkest in the original series. For example: it literally starts with Goku finding Krillin’s dead corpse. And that’s not the first one, either; he would later kill Chiaotzu, Master Roshi, and, in a move never before seen or repeated, Shenron.
Yes. For those who haven’t seen the original series, I mean that Shenron. The Eternal Dragon. Yeah, this green demon fucker murdered him.
His use of the Dragon Balls is also pretty unique and compelling. After gathering all of them, he uses them to restore his youth, which he then uses to conquer the world. While you can argue that youth instead of immortality is a dumb choice, that only makes Piccolo that much more interesting: he’s not an incredibly brilliant character. He’s not stupid by any means, but he’s not nearly as smart as other villains. But what he lacks in brains he more than makes up for in sadism and power.
His actions are also as evil as you can get while keeping Dragon Ball a kids show. These include: making crime legal, starting a lottery system to decide which city he’ll destroy next, and even betraying the Pilaf gang! He is evil incarnate and I love him!
And amazingly yet: the next villain wasn’t a step down. Granted, it’s hard to be a step down when you’re literally a clone, but still. Our next and final villain is still an awesome one to be remembered: Piccolo Junior.
He wasn’t a villain for long (thanks to DBZ) but his time as the series big-bad was a memorable one. As the follow up to King Piccolo, Junior held a lot of his dad’s best traits while adopting his own. While he does have his father’s sadistic nature, he does have his own moral code. While he does have thoughts of conquering the world, those are overshadowed by his most major goal: killing Son Goku.
Plus, he gets some of the best action scenes in the original series. His battle with Krillin is one of the best battles the little monk ever got, he was the only villain to get Kami in on the action (at least in the main series) and his battle with Goku is one of the most visceral and explosive (quite literally) in all of the series. On top of that, he has much more time to develop, as he’s the first effective villain that Goku doesn’t straight up murder after defeating him.
Which will sort of become a trend for him.
And that’s all of them. At least for the original series. From episode 1 to 153, Dragon Ball treated us with some of the most delightful villains in all the series. Which makes me even more sad that most people haven’t seen the original.
Now, as the title implies, we’re not done. Not by a long shot. Tomorrow, we’ll be going over the villains of Dragon Ball Z, and the day after that we’ll cover the big bads of Super. Maybe I’ll throw in a forth day where I cover the movie villains, but don’t get your hopes up for that.
And if you’re hoping for one on GT… Sorry. That’ll never happen, no matter how much you pay me.
See you guys tomorrow!