Dragon Ball is about Goku and Dragon Ball Z is about Gohan. That isn’t exactly true considering the entire series is about Goku from start to finish save the beginning of the Buu saga, but that statement just goes to show how big of a role Gohan has in the franchise. From his introduction all the way to Goku flying off with Uub, Gohan cemented himself as one of Dragon Ball’s de-facto leads, even taking the main character spot for a stint. Naturally, he ended up developing quite a bit over the course of the series growing from Goku’s weak son into the strongest man alive by the end of the original manga.
Filled to the brim with potential and constantly getting redesigned, Gohan is one of the most versatile characters the series works with. He can fill so many roles thanks to just how dynamic he is, and his character interactions give him a very personable essence that makes him likable. On top of that, he’s a natural fighter who fails just as often as he succeeds, making him rootable in a sense. It certainly helps that his future counterpart is considered to be one of the coolest characters in the entire franchise. Like all great characters, though, Gohan is more than meets the eye.
25 Gohan Is The Only Hybrid To Be Born With A Tail
Toriyama’s complete dislike of drawing tails cause him to avoid doing so for Goten and Trunks, or so the legend goes. Regardless, their lack of tails does end up having one strange consequence: it makes Gohan the only hybrid to be born with a tail. While it’s certainly possible Goten and Trunks were born with tails and they just had them cut off later, it’s very much implied that they never had tails to begin with. Pan and Bra are both missing their tails, as well, which makes Gohan the only Saiyan hybrid to rock his heritage’s iconic look.
Sadly, this also means Gohan was actually weaker for having a tail. In an interview in Daizenshuu 4, Toriyama revealed that Saiyans born without tails are able to master many skills at a younger age than pureblood Saiyans or hybrids with tails. This explains why Goten and Trunks could go Super Saiyan so easily while Gohan had to struggle to trigger it himself. Having a tail does likely explain all of Gohan’s rage boosts and pent up anger as it is a physical manifestation of his violent biology, but his tail is actually a disadvantage as it kept him from refining his talents as easily as he could have.
24 Gohan Is The Father Of Rage Boosts
Rage boosts have been a part of the Dragon Ball formula for years. A character previously outclassed by a villain suddenly gets mad and is able to land in a few good hits. It’s a great and easy tool for making sure fights stay interesting while giving weaker characters the means of getting in on the action. While rage boosts are by no means exclusive to Gohan, he is the one character in the series they’re most associated with. From his introduction in the Saiyan saga to the end of his character arc in the Buu saga, Gohan made great use of rage boosts throughout the course of the series.
In the Saiyan saga, he most notably uses a rage boost against Raditz to save Goku. Later on, he’s able to tap into that same power to fight Nappa and Vegeta when the time comes (though to mixed results.) In the Freeza saga, he actually manages to do a considerable amount of damage to second form Freeza and effectively dominates the fight until Piccolo arrives. As for the Cell saga, it’s the mother of all rage boosts that triggers Super Saiyan 2. He gets one final rage boost in the Buu saga when Videl gets trashed by Spopovich, capping off a history of successful and emotionally charged moments of pure rage.
23 Training With The Z-Sword Actually Did Give Gohan A Big Boost
Something that gets often overlooked in discussions pertaining to Gohan’s Ultimate state is the fact that Gohan actually did do some genuine training before sitting down to get a power up. While Buu is terrorizing Earth, Gohan is training with the Z-Sword and preparing himself to fight Buu. The idea is to get strong enough by training with the Z-Sword in order to use it against Buu. When Gohan’s done training, Kaioshin explicitly notes that, even though he probably couldn’t defeat Buu, Gohan has gotten far stronger from just exercising with it.
Why exactly is this important? Because it takes away the idea that Gohan was given the Ultimate power up just because he’s Gohan. He genuinely proved himself in an Arthurian fashion by not only pulling the sword out of the stone, but by trying to master it. The sword breaks and awakens the Elder Kaioshin, an almost magically being who resided in the sword, and Gohan is bestowed upon Ultimate power. It’s very mythological in nature. The hero proves himself, the hero trains, the hero meets an old master, and the hero is given access to power he never knew he had. It’s only natural that in Dragon Ball fashion all this would stem from Gohan breaking the sword in a gag panel.
22 Gohan Is The First Character In History To Surpass Super Saiyan
Goku fulfilling an ancient prophecy to become Super Saiyan is a big deal, but you know what’s a bigger deal? Gohan turning Super Saiyan 2. Even though Goku’s first transformation is by far the more narrative and thematically important, Gohan’s transformation into Super Saiyan 2 actually holds a bit more in-universe weight. In the Freeza saga, we already know there was a previous Super Saiyan. Goku turning SSJ is just a given in Freeza’s eyes; it’s why he wiped out the Saiyans, after all. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. For Gohan, though, nobody in history had ever turned Super Saiyan 2, let alone truly surpassed Super Saiyan 1.
You could argue that Yamoshi was the first person to do so considering he was the Super Saiyan God, but SSG is very much its own thing in the Super Saiyan context. Gohan was the real ground breaker, taking a form that already worked, and that Goku had perfected, and turning it into a boost of pure rage. Narratively, it’s not as big a deal since we already saw this happen to Goku with the original SSJ, but it’s contextually a far bigger deal for Gohan to outright trigger a brand new form that nobody has ever seen before, especially after making the audience believe Mastered Super Saiyan was SSJ’s endgame.
21 Ultimate Wasn’t Originally A Transformation
Ultimate Gohan isn’t so much a state of being as it is a transformation these days. In Dragon Ball Super and, weirdly enough, in Wrath of the Dragon, Gohan turns Ultimate on and off like he would with Super Saiyan. In the former, especially, its nature as a transformation is very much emphasized to the point where Gohan grows a bang to visually signify the shift. If you go back to the original series, however, it’s very clear that Ultimate is not a transformation, but rather a natural state of power where all your latent potential comes out.
The Elder Kaioshin even goes so far as to tell Gohan that turning Super Saiyan would be pointless. Not because he’s already so strong, but because his now “Ultimate” being has all that power flowing through him naturally. Ultimate is basically Gohan having access to all his strength, rage boosts and transformations included, in his base form. For some reason, though, Super threw all that logic out the window in favor of making it a straight up transformation. It does work for the story Super is trying to tell for Gohan, for better or for worse, but it does also take away a lot of the charm found in Gohan’s Ultimate state.
20 GT Did It First: How Gohan Lost His Ultimate State
Gohan’s lack of training, and subsequent loss of Ultimate, is a central part of his character arc in Resurrection F and, by extension, the rest of Dragon Ball Super. After failing to keep up with his training for years, Gohan dwindles so low in power to the point where Future Trunks can hardly believe the boy who defeated Cell could grow up into such a passive man. After some reflection, (as much reflection as Gohan can have in an anime that seems intent on ignoring him as much as possible,) he vows to finally get back into shape and even goes on to make it into the top ten in the Tournament of Power.
GT did it first, AND better.
GT did this concept first, though. Not the arc, itself. GT Gohan actually feels like a (semi) natural extension of DBZ Gohan’s development, but the concept of losing Ultimate is one that originated in GT. In that anime, Gohan is back to using Super Saiyan in all instances and fans then cried “plot hole” at the matter. Ultimate was supposed to be permanent, after all, but Gohan seemingly lost it through the passage of time. The difference in GT is that Gohan never got so out of shape where he seemed like an all new character. In a sense, GT Gohan is actually better than Super Gohan.
19 Gohan Has Quite The Body Count When Considering Filler
Like his father, Gohan doesn’t have much of a body count despite being one of the series’ principal characters. He fights quite often, but he seldom ever feels the need to dive into his natural Saiyan bloodlust. If you think about it, and don’t count the Cell Juniors, the only character Gohan has under his belt would be Cell. The battle pushed him, and the Earth, to its absolute limits, requiring him to tap into all his power and completely eviscerate the bio-man. One villain, and an arc villain at that, is nothing to scoff at, but Gohan has an even bigger body count in filler.
Gohan's got a lot of lives on his shoulders in the anime.
Thanks to the Garlic Junior saga, Gohan’s body count goes up from a respectable one to a shocking five. In the anime, Gohan is responsible for the demise of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Demon Clan, more commonly known as the Spice Boys. The Spice Boys, Garlic Junior’s effective honor guard, all face off against Gohan and ultimate fall in combat. Not even Piccolo, a character significantly stronger than Gohan at this point, manages to take one of them out. If Garlic Junior weren’t immortal, Gohan might even have six characters to claim victory over. Toss in those aforementioned Cell Juniors and the kid’s sitting in the double digits.
18 Gohan Goes Through The Most Design Changes In The Series
Perhaps even more than Bulma, Gohan goes through the most design changes for any main character in the series. In the Saiyan saga alone, Gohan goes through five major designs, each one different enough from each other. His designs slow down a bit in the Freeza saga where he basically sits with three major designs (two on Namek and one after,) but he picks up full speed once he hits the Cell saga. The Garlic Junior filler has its own design, but the main arc has Gohan going through eight different costume/hair changes, nine if you count Super Saiyan 2 as its own design.
The fun doesn’t end there, though, as Gohan goes through a host of new designs in the Buu saga. He has three main designs before the 25th Budokai, two during, and then four after including his End of Z design. That’s nine different designs just for one story arc. Super ends up reusing most of his designs, albeit with a hair shift, but, even then, nobody can really come close to the sheer amount of variety present in Gohan’s wardrobe. When you toss in GT and his future counterpart, it’s hard not to see Gohan as a bonafide fashionista.
17 Future Gohan Didn’t Know He Could Transcend Super Saiyan 1
Future Gohan has it rougher than just about any character in the franchise. Not only is he forced to watch his friends and family drop like flies in the face of the Androids, he suffers years fighting them as they just toy around and neglect to finish him off as a game. Future Gohan’s position ends up raising a lot of questions within the fandom. Since Gohan is such an angry character, why didn’t he transcend Super Saiyan after watching everyone he loves get destroyed? Simply put, Gohan didn’t know how.
Future Gohan lived and died in his father's shadow.
Think back to the Cell saga. The only reason anyone was able to transcend Super Saiyan was because Goku and Vegeta figured out they could. Even then, only Goku realized the optimal path to transcending the form. Future Gohan didn’t have either character alive to help him, and he didn’t even have Piccolo around to train with him. He was basically stuck in a limbo where he believed that turning Super Saiyan was the best he could do because that’s the strongest he ever saw his father. When he sees Trunks’ potential, he gets more hope, but only in the sense that he hopes Trunks turning SSJ will ultimately help. As far as Future Gohan is concerned, Super Saiyan is the best there is and no amount of training can fix that.
16 Great Saiyaman And The Ginyu Connection
Great Saiyaman is quite possibly the silliest thing in Dragon Ball Z after the Ginyu Force. Not only is the concept of a superhero in the Dragon Ball universe goofy in its own right, it’s made all the funnier thanks to the fact that Gohan of all people is the one rocking the mantle. Does this direction for Gohan’s character make sense, though? He’s always been a little bit quirky, but nothing to the point where it’s implied he’d dress up as like pseudo-Power Ranger. Unless you look back on his fight with the Ginyu Force.
Goofy, endearing, and incredibly violent, Gohan’s bout with the Ginyu Force is fun, but it also nearly ends his life. His fight with Reacoom, especially, pushes him to the absolute brink. He gets his neck broken and writhes around in agonizing pain. When Goku shows up, he can barely get the Senzu bean down since Gohan can’t swallow. It’s an incredibly morbid moment that likely scarred Gohan. Great Saiyaman could be a way of dealing with the trauma of nearly losing his life on Namek. His poses are very Ginyu-esque in nature so it’s only natural he would pick up the quirk after seeing it in action. Or maybe Gohan’s just an enormous dork.
15 Gohan Is The Strongest Character At The End Of Z
Even though Goku is the main character and the anime tries to imply that he’s the strongest main character at the end of the series, the title of strongest actually goes to Gohan at the end of Z. Thanks to his Ultimate power up, Gohan ends up being the single most powerful unfused character by the end of the manga’s run. AS far as fused characters go, Buutenks, Buuhan, and Vegetto are all stronger, but nobody else even comes close. Goku’s actually leagues weaker than Gohan at the end, his SSJ3 unable to match the raw power of Ultimate Gohan.
End of Z Goku's got nothing on his son.
This is actually quite fitting for Gohan and Goku. One of Dragon Ball’s major themes is the idea that there will always be someone stronger. In making Gohan stronger, Goku has an explicit benchmark to surpass, and an incredibly high one at that. For Gohan, it’s simply a nice way to cap off his arc. He was always building up to something power related, but it never seemed to truly come until the Elder Kaioshin awakened his potential. He doesn’t beat Majin Buu, but he gets to end the series as the strongest character. It’s a fitting end for a character who never wanted to fight, but knew he had to.
14 Gohan’s Tail Is Cut Off Four Times In The Anime
In the manga, Gohan gets his tail cut off twice. The first time, Piccolo cuts it off after Gohan turns into an Oozaru. While Vegeta blows up the moon to stop the transformation, he decides to play things safe by removing the tail as well. When Gohan fights Vegeta, his tail grows back, but Vegeta manages to cut it off before Gohan can do too much damage as a Great Ape. After the Saiyan saga, Gohan’s tail never grows back and we never see an Oozaru again. Though this remains true for the anime as well, the adaptation does feature two more instances of Gohan losing his tail.
In the Saiyan saga, Gohan transforms into an Oozaru again thanks to Goku’s space pod generating the waves necessary to force a transformation. Piccolo ends up breaking the pod, cutting off Gohan’s tail again, and creating a massive plot hole as Goku needs that pod in one piece for his spaceship in the very next arc. The next instance of filler taking away Gohan’s tail is the Coola film. Despite a movie, Toei does seem to consider it canon to the anime. The thing is, Gohan’s tail doesn’t get cut off there. Rather, it just disappears off screen never to be seen or heard from again.
13 The Super Writers Have No Clue What To Do With Gohan
The Super writers not knowing what to do with Gohan is not a theory, it is not an analysis, it is a fact. Throughout all of Dragon Ball Super, Gohan is either misused or not used at all. His character arc is wildly inconsistent with no logical thread that keeps flip flopping between Gohan deciding he needs to be a martial artist or settling down into his own life. This all began with Resurrection F. After years of slacking off, Gohan struggles to turn Super Saiyan. It’s embarrassing, but it leads to Gohan realizing he needs to train again.
Except he doesn’t. For two whole arcs, Gohan doesn’t so much as train except for in filler episodes. By the time we hit the Universe Survival arc, Gohan has spent dozens of episodes doing absolutely nothing until Piccolo decides to whip him into shape. The Tournament of Power doesn’t even treat Gohan that well. He’s technically the team leader and he does get to erase a universe, but he has no arc to speak of. Making it into the top ten is a cool tidbit, but it does nothing to develop Gohan. The Super writers just don’t care about pushing Gohan’s character any further.
12 Is Gohan Out Of Character During The Cell Games?
A lot of fans seem to love Gohan’s character during the Cell Games. He’s sensitive, doesn’t want to fight, but taps into a true rage unlike any other when Cell pushes him by crushing 16’s head. He utterly humiliates Cell without taking a serious, major hit. For Gohan fans, this is a highlight. Or at least it should be. In reality, Gohan is kind of out of character during the Cell Games. Conceptually, his personality makes sense. After all, Gohan was always kind of sensitive. The problem is, Gohan already worked through these issues in the previous two arcs.
Sort of. We'll get into it.
By the time we hit the Cell saga, Gohan has grown out of his inability to fight. On Namek, he instigates several fights himself and doesn’t so much as hesitate when the time comes to put his life on the line. Getting to the Cell Games and seeing him want to relent from fighting only make sense if you ignore the blatant growth he went through previously. It’s a forced regression to allow Gohan’s transformation into Super Saiyan 2 to have some more narrative weight and it doesn’t really work in the context of Gohan’s whole arc. With a bit of tweaking, it could have made some more sense, but it’s not a direction that truly fits the character.
11 Son Gohan And The Dangers Of Arrogance
Every character in Dragon Ball has flaws. These are not perfect heroes and they’re often undone by their own faults. Resurrection F is a movie all about succumbing to your flaws, for both the heroes and the villains. Most fans would argue that Gohan’s main flaw is his inability to take martial arts seriously, and while that is certainly one of his greatest flaws, it isn’t his main flaw. Rather, Gohan’s biggest issue that he needs to work on is his arrogance. Twice in the series, Gohan unlocks a new transformation and immediately throws away his shot at victory thanks to an unrivaled hubris.
The first time Gohan succumbs to arrogance is when he turns Super Saiyan 2 for the first time. Upon triggering the form, he begins to play around with Cell, refusing to finish him off even though he could at any moments. His actions end up leading to 16’s destruction, Goku’s sacrifice, and Trunks’ needless demise. While the price of arrogance is certainly heavy here, Gohan does not learn his lesson for the Buu saga. Once again, upon gaining a new form, he plays around with his opposition, this time Buu, and inadvertently allows him to absorb Gotenks leading to the destruction of the Earth. Arrogance truly is the silent killer.
10 Gohan Has Prophetic Dreams In The Anime
The anime had this weird habit of adding in prophetic dreams for Goku whenever he was out of the action. Most notably, he dreamed up Androids 17 and 18 despite never meeting them in any timeline. This concept likely stems from, or at least connects to, Bardock’s psychic abilities we see in the Bardock special. Obviously, it can’t be genetic considering Bardock gets those powers about a day or two before he loses his life, but it is the only clear way of “explaining” Goku’s premonitions. Since it runs in the family, it’s only natural that this would extend to Gohan.
Like father, like son, like grandson.
When Gohan is training in the Room of Spirit and Time with Goku, he had a dream that Perfect Cell murders everyone he holds dear. It’s meant to establish a connection between the two characters before they get a chance to meet, so it’s conceptually sound, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense all things considered. Was Cell even Perfect at this point? If he was, how would Gohan know what he would look like? Gohan dreaming about Cell in the RoSaT is completely nonsensical and just as bad, if not worse, as Goku dreaming about the Androids.
9 Gohan Has More Potential Than Any Character
If Gohan had to be described in one word, only “potential” would sum up the essence of his being. From his introduction all the way to where Super left off, Gohan has been depicted as a character with unlimited potential. In the Saiyan saga, he does the most damage to Raditz out of anyone; in the fight against Vegeta, he’s able to hold him back despite being leagues weaker; on Namek, he primarily fights Freeze before Piccolo shows up; in the Cell Games, he becomes a Super Saiyan 2 and saves the world; and in the Buu saga, he becomes Ultimate and ends the series as the strongest man alive.
Gohan may not always be the strongest, but he'll always be able to be.
While Super uses Gohan strangely, Vegeta is constantly mentioning in the manga how Gohan has the most potential out of all of them, and is constantly trying to get him in on the action. Even when he’s out of shape, the other characters can recognize just what exactly Gohan is capable of. He’s not even a tailless hybrid, but he still manages to stay ahead of the curve and improve himself in record time. During the Universe Survival arc, he’s able to get back into Ultimate shape in no time at all, even going so far as to almost rival Goku’s Super Saiyan Blue. The boy is leaking raw, natural talent.
8 From Coward To Hero: Gohan’s Character Arc In The Saiyan Saga
Let’s talk character arcs, specifically Gohan’s. Most people consider Dragon Ball Z to be his story and there’s a good reason why: the boy is constantly developing from start to finish. In the Saiyan saga, Gohan’s arc revolves around him breaking out of his cowardly tendencies in order to fend off the Saiyans. Right after, it’s clear that he isn’t just a carbon copy of Goku. He’s timid, meek, and doesn’t want to fight. At the same time, though, Piccolo knows he has to mold Gohan into a warrior and much of his arc is spent building him to to the point where he realizes that he needs to fight.
Upon seeing real combat, however, Gohan finds himself completely outclassed. He watches his father’s friends fall one-by-one and Piccolo ends up sacrificing his life because Gohan fails to take advantage of an opening to attack Nappa. Once his father shows up, though, Gohan resolves that he can’t just sit back and let everyone’s deaths be in vain. The moment he notices Goku’s in danger, he rushes back and goes toe-to-toe with Vegeta. It’s a perfect way to cap off his character arc in the Saiyan saga and he ends up being instrumental in saving the Earth from the Saiyans.
7 Protecting Others No Matter The Cost: Gohan’s Character Arc In The Freeza Saga
With his newfound heroism, Gohan proudly exclaims that he has to go to Namek himself and kelp Krillin and Bulma find the Dragon Balls. He recognizes his responsibility in Piccolo’s demise and wants to make up for it directly. On top of embracing his new courage head on, Gohan also spends much of his time on Namek protecting others as much as humanly possible. He rescues Dende from Dodoria; saves Vegeta’s life while fighting Reacoom, preventing another needless sacrifice; and even fights off Freeza’s final form for a while in the anime after Goku seemingly loses in a filler episode.
It's an understated arc, but it's an arc all the same.
Gohan’s arc doesn’t stop there, though. While the Freeza saga is pretty light on actual development for Gohan, it’s more interested in showing the fruits of his labor. He’s the one character who fights Freeza the most before Goku shows up. When Freeza’s in his second form, Gohan’s the main combatant until Piccolo shows up. That alone is a sign of true bravery. Even Vegeta, arguably the strongest character on Namek, refused to fight Freeza out of sheer terror. Gohan knew that Freeza couldn’t be left alone, though, and he needed to buy time for his father to heal up. Gohan took responsibility when nobody else would.
6 Accepting Of The Torch: Gohan’s Character Arc In The Cell Saga
In many ways, the Cell saga is almost a reward for Gohan’s arc. It’s by far the the story arc with the least amount of focus on Gohan, surprisingly enough, but it does use its last act to effectively transition him into the role of protagonist. It’s in this saga that Goku’s character arc adopts the “passing the torch” ideology first seen in Master Roshi. Upon recognizing Gohan’s potential in the Room of Spirit and Time, Goku decides to push out all that latent power so that Gohan is fully surpass him and defeat Cell.
Come the Cell Games, however, Gohan doesn’t want to fight. At some point in the RoSaT, he regressed. Perhaps it’s puberty, but Gohan finds himself conflicted. He’s powerful, yes, but he wants to be a scholar. Like in the Saiyan saga, though, push comes to shove and Gohan realizes that he needs to fight. He can’t be passive. 16’s head gets crushed, his father sacrifices his life to stop Cell, and Gohan sees plain as day that he needs to take control of his power and protect the Earth. There are some iffy spots in the arc, like Gohan’s regression, but it’s a conceptually solid progression of Gohan’s character arc and transitions smoothly into the next arc.
5 Taking Responsibility: Gohan’s Character Arc In The Buu Saga
Although Gohan took on the role of Earth’s guardian at the end of the Cell Games, peace made him weak. By the time we reconvene with him seven years later at the start of the Buu saga, Gohan has stopped training altogether. Vegeta even notes that he might actually be weaker than he was when fighting Cell and this ends up being a problem later on when Gohan fights with Dabra and can’t defeat him. Gohan’s arc in the Buu saga is all about taking responsibility for his actions and recognizing the worth of his power.
Upon failing to prevent Buu’s awakening, Kaioshin whisks Gohan off to his planet in order to train him with the Z-Sword. By training with the sword, Gohan is able get back in shape and even surpass his previous limits. It isn’t enough, unfortunately, and it’s only in breaking the sword that Gohan meets the Elder Kaioshin, the man who will awaken Gohan’s latent potential. In becoming Ultimate, Gohan’s arc comes full circle. He was always the character with the most potential, and now he’s the strongest unfused character. He doesn’t manage to defeat Buu himself, but he exits the series on a great fight and Goku even comments on just how much energy Gohan donates to the Genki Dama. By the last chapter, Gohan is finally the scholar he’s always wanted to be, but there’s nothing to imply he ever let himself get out of shape again.
4 Dragon Ball Super Utterly Ruins Gohan’s Character Arc
Until we hit Dragon Ball Super, that is. Even though Gohan’s arc comes to a perfect close at the end of Z, DBS decides to walk all over that in favor of forcing Gohan through the same character beats over and over again. It all starts with Resurrection F where Gohan is so weak that he can barely trigger Super Saiyan. It’s basically a more pathetic version of his character arc in the Buu saga that doesn’t even get resolved. He’s weak because he stopped training but he has no moment of realization and never actually trains outside of filler.
Super takes one of the series' best characters and drags him through the mud.
The Universe 6 tournament and the Goku Black arc flat out ignore Gohan with Goku disregarding him in the former and Trunks expressing disappointment in Gohan’s passive nature in the latter. Gohan’s always wanted to be a scholar, but Super goes too extreme in one direction whereas the original series never implied he couldn’t balance both. The Buu saga ends with Gohan as the strongest character and rewards him by letting him be a scholar. DBS demonizes his dreams and depicts him as weak in a disrespectful and sad way, trampling on four sagas worth of character development. Gohan deserved so much better.
3 Being A Scholar Has Been Gohan’s Dream Since His Introduction
Whether you like it or not, Gohan’s decision to give up martial arts and become a scholar makes perfect sense. From his very introduction, it’s made clear that Gohan wants to grow up into an academically inclined person. Initially, this is mostly setup for Gohan learning to realize the importance of his power and that he needs to use it, but Toriyama cleverly transitions this into a full story beat for Gohan’s arc. It’s reintroduced rather clumsily in the Cell saga, but it serves as the perfect jumping off point for the Buu saga.
When we get to the end of the series and Gohan is a full blown scholar, it makes perfect sense. He’s still the strong warrior he’s always been, at least in Dragon Ball Z, but he’s rewarded with finally getting to pursue his dreams. He’s a true philosopher and Dragon Ball Online even follows up on that idea directly by having him publish a book on Ki manipulation. It’s the perfect endpoint for his character arc and allows him to mix his martial arts experience with his scholarhood. Super goes a bit extreme with the scholar connection, forgetting Gohan’s martial artist background, but it’s not inherently a bad thing to keep him bookish and away from the action.
2 Toei Played Up Gohan’s Importance
Nobody can deny that Gohan is important. He’s effectively the deuteragonist for Dragon Ball Z and even the protagonist for a while. That said, Toei played up his importance for the anime adaptation to the extreme. In the manga, while Gohan certainly still plays a big role, he’s very much a supporting player to Goku. He takes the lead whenever his dad isn’t around, but the notion that DBZ was building up to Gohan becoming the main character is a false one. There is nothing in the Saiyan saga, Freeza saga, or first half of the Cell saga that implies Gohan will go on to be anything other than the series’ second fiddle. The anime does things a bit differently.
You'd be forgiven for thinking Toriyama intended Gohan to be the main character all along.
Thanks to filler, Gohan really ends up taking more of a leading role than he did in the series proper. Half of the anime’s adaptation of the Saiyan saga focuses on Gohan’s training. In the manga, we only get the beats necessary for his character arc while the anime slows things down to the point where you’d be naturally think DBZ was always about him. Come the Cell Games, the shift to Gohan feels like business as usual since the anime, up to that point, had been creating new material for Gohan rather regularly.
1 Gohan Is The Only Saiyan With A Unique Transformation
In a series where transformations are the norm, Gohan’s Ultimate form feels all the more special considering there isn’t a single other character in the series who has access to it. All the male Saiyans have access to Super Saiyan; Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan can all go Super Saiyan 2; Goku and Gotenks can go Super Saiyan 3; Goku, Vegeta, and Gotenks went Super Saiyan 4 in GT; and Goku and Vegeta can both go Super Saiyan God in the manga along with Super Saiyan Blue in all mediums. As of the end of Super, Goku is the only character with access to Ultra Instinct as we know it and Vegeta has Super Saiyan Bluer, but these transformations aren’t inherently unique. Ultimate is all Gohan.
Now, it’s theoretically possible for other characters to get their potential unlocked by the Elder Kaioshin, but it’s important to remember that the Ultimate transformation is something born out of Gohan’s innate talents. His entire character is based around his seemingly endless potential. No character would be able to match the same gains as Gohan by sheer virtue of not being Gohan. On top of that, Super making Ultimate an outright transformation triggered ala Super Saiyan basically outright confirms its status as a Gohan exclusive form. Vegeta can get Ultra Instinct and Goku can get Super Saiyan Bluer, but only Gohan can be Ultimate.
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