10 Dragon Ball Scenes That Changed Shonen Anime Forever

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is full of exciting sequences, some of which have even helped influence shonen anime as a whole.

A split image of Shenron being summoned, Goku's first Super Saiyan transformation, and Bulma with baby Trunks in Dragon Ball

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has kept audiences entertained for more than 35 years and the superpowered exploits of Goku, Vegeta, and company are more popular than ever. Fans continue to turn to Dragon Ball because of its colorful characters, serialized storytelling, and action-packed fight sequences.

It’s a series that loves to indulge in extremes and yet it still finds new highs after decades of pushing boundaries with fearless story decisions. Dragon Ball is filled with exciting sequences that strongly resonate with its own fandom, but there are also important Dragon Ball scenes that have gone on to change the broader spectrum of shonen anime.

10 The Dragon Balls Are Assembled For The First Time

Shenron gets summoned by Pilaf for the first time in Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball has come a tremendous way since the original anime’s humble origins. There are huge threats where the entire universe is at risk and yet there’s still something magical about the collection of the Dragon Balls and making a wish on Shenron.

This process has become commonplace in Dragon Ball, but Shenron’s first summoning is a powerful moment that helps demonstrate why these characters have embarked on such a dangerous adventure.The first Dragon Ball wish is an important scene in the series that also popularizes the concept of shonen heroes who go on quests to have a wild dream come true. They may not be Dragon Balls, but the concept is the same.

9 Goku’s First Super Saiyan Transformation

Goku as a Super Saiyan for the first time in Dragon Ball Z

Goku’s initial ascension to Super Saiyan status is almost quaint in comparison to the exaggerated places that this totemic transformation has been taken. Goku and Vegeta have reached the heights of Super Saiyan Blue and beyond, and yet Goku’s first taste of Super Saiyan strength is a game-changing moment for the franchise.

Super Saiyan transformations are now the easiest ways to create excitement in the fans and this concept of a golden-haired power upgrade has become an anime staple and even found its way into video games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Legend of the Mystical Ninja. It’s practically become an expectation for any new shonen anime to feature powerful transformations.

8 Goku Dies For The First Time

Raditz and Son Goku get killed by Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon in Dragon Ball Z

Death is inevitable in a battle shonen series and the original Dragon Ball features devastating losses for some of the anime’s best characters, like Krillin. The advent of the wish-granting Dragon Balls allows characters to gain a second lease of life and turns death into a temporary nuisance instead of a permanent status.

That being said, it’s an incredibly bold move for Goku to die in Dragon Ball Z’s fifth episode. It’s a brilliant tactic that subverts expectations and keeps the audience on their toes. Goku, and most of Dragon Ball Z’s main characters, die on more than one occasion. However, this early decision made main character deaths fair game in shonen anime.

7 Goten & Trunks Fuse Into Gotenks

Gotenks is formed properly for the first time and points in Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball continually finds new ways for its already-strong characters to ascend to even greater heights, but fusion has become quite popular among fans and grander pop culture. Dragon Ball’s Goku and Vegeta fusions, Vegito and Gogeta, are the most celebrated combinations, but the concept is first seen properly executed with Goten and Trunks’ Gotenks.

Fusion forever changes Dragon Ball and it’s become a recurring tactic in some of the series’ biggest fights, particularly in its feature films. Fusion has also been adopted by plenty of other anime and it’s become a trend in its own right.

6 Bulma Gets Together With Vegeta & Starts A Family

Bulma holds Baby Trunks in Dragon Ball Z

So much of Bulma’s character in the original Dragon Ball revolves around her clumsy romantic encounters with Yamcha. This carries over into Dragon Ball Z, only for Bulma to eventually find love in the unlikeliest of places. Bulma and Vegeta’s romance, plus Trunks’ quick birth, is one of Dragon Ball’s most effective surprises.

Vegeta and Bulma turn into a surprisingly sweet couple and the family that they build together significantly softens Vegeta and makes him a better person. This twist highlights how effective it can be to put two seemingly random characters together and how much family and loved ones can broaden a villain’s perspective.

5 Piccolo Sacrifices Himself To Protect Gohan

Piccolo sacrifices himself to protect Gohan in Dragon Ball Z

Bold character sacrifices are a common trope in shonen anime. That being said, Piccolo’s sacrifice to save Gohan is a groundbreaking moment because it reflects that Piccolo has beautifully come full-circle. Piccolo is brought into this world to carry out what his father’s will – destroy Goku.

Piccolo gradually grows into an ally who doesn’t just love Goku, but he’s willing to throw away his own life to protect Goku’s son. Piccolo’s sacrifice is one of anime’s most touching acts, and it’s the perfect execution of a villain’s redemption arc. It proves that the person who’s being saved is just as important as the person who is making the sacrifice.

4 A Time-Skip Reveals Goku Is Married & Has A Child

Goku comforts Gohan on the Flying Nimbus in Dragon Ball Z's first episode

Time-skips have become a popular structural element in long-running shonen series. They’re able to create tension and drama out of the changes that have occurred since the last time that these characters were seen. Time-skips aren’t always gracefully handled and series like Gintama have hilariously poked fun at the device.

Dragon Ball helps start this trend with the five-year jump between Dragon Ball’s end and Dragon Ball Z’s start, where Goku now has a young son, Gohan. This time-skip sets a precedent, changes the scope of the series in a major way, and helps popularize this narrative trick.

3 Master Roshi Destroys The Moon

Jackie Chun destroys the moon in Dragon Ball.

The original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z’s pre-Super Saiyan years make heavy use of the Great Ape transformation. Goku and other Saiyans will transform into a humongous rampaging monkey when they see a full moon. This volatile transformation is an iconic Dragon Ball element. However, the series somehow tops this spectacle through the outlandish solution to just blow up the moon.

Master Roshi, while under the guise of Jackie Chun, resorts to this tactic during his World Martial Arts Tournament match against Goku. Up until this point it was clear that these shonen characters were incredibly strong, but the idea that they can easily destroy the moon and alter the planet’s ecosystem is on a whole other level.

2 Future Trunks Travels Through Time To Change The Present

Future Trunks shows his time machine to Bulma in Dragon Ball Z

Future Trunks is one of Dragon Ball’s most beloved characters even though he’s only temporarily around for two major story arcs. Future Trunks’ introduction is an unforgettable Dragon Ball moment for many reasons, but it’s especially important because it brings the concept of time travel into the series.

Future Trunks comes from a decimated future and has traveled back in time to save the present-day heroes from a comparable fate. This greatly broadens Dragon Ball’s storytelling potential, but it’s also turned time travel into a viable plot device for shonen anime.

1 Goku Recruits Frieza For The Tournament Of Power

Goku recruits Frieza for the Tournament of Power in Dragon Ball Super

Martial arts competitions are common occurrences in Dragon Ball, but Dragon Ball Super’s Tournament of Power is a multiversal battle royale where the cost of failures is the erasure of the universe. Goku must assemble the best possible team to represent Universe 7, which leads to his recruitment of Dragon Ball’s ultimate antagonist, Frieza.

This is such a shocking moment because it forces the unlikeliest of characters to work together. There’s constant tension over whether Frieza will betray Goku and company and even if they win there’s still Frieza’s reward –his resurrection– to worry about.

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