Anime has exploded over the past two decades, quickly transforming into one of the most recognizable artistic mediums of the 21st-century. A major reason for this growth is the presence of iconic franchises like Dragon Ball, which follows the adventures of the all-powerful Saiyan known as Son Goku.
Goku’s reputation as anime’s strongest character is well-earned — he’s literally earned the status of Super Saiyan God by the events of Dragon Ball Super. Still, there are several other characters within the medium that, either through sheer power or savvy strategy, could defeat Goku in one-on-one combat.
9 Suguru Geto (Jujutsu Kaisen)
When it comes to the world of Jujutsu Kaisen, no character is stronger than the series’ most popular character, Satoru Gojo. However, another, even craftier jujutsu sorcerer is willing to go to the extreme lengths that it would take to defeat Goku — Suguru Geto.
Suguru Geto trained to become a jujutsu sorcerer alongside Gojo, but after the death of the Star Plasma Vessel, he made a sharp turns towards evil. While he lacks the raw strength of his former ally, Geto is more than willing to use underhanded tactics to defeat opponents. Goku would annihilate Geto in a fair one-on-one, but with objects like the Prison Realm at his disposal, the jujutsu sorcerer stands a legitimate chance.
Kakashi Hatake (Naruto)
The Naruto franchise has been compared to Dragon Ball since its inception, so it’s only appropriate that one of its characters would be a match against Goku. Although the Super Saiyan’s offensive firepower far exceeds that of any shinobi, Kakashi Hatake might be able to overcome this deficit.
The vast majority of Kakashi’s techniques wouldn’t be able to leave a scratch on Goku. That being said, his dual-Mangekyo Sharingan attacks, which teleport their target to another dimension, are legitimately dangerous against any opponent, potentially providing a way to circumnavigate Goku’s impenetrable defense.
8 Griffith (Berserk)
Goku gains the powers of a Super Saiyan God during the events of Dragon Ball Super, elevating him to a level of strength that is incomparable to other mortal figures. However, other gods, such as Berserk‘s primary antagonist, Griffith, may still stand a chance.
During the events of Berserk, Griffith makes a deal to become a member of the God Hand — a group of five devil-like figures that preside over demonkind. Their strength is capable of altering reality itself, so there’s no telling what Griffith, let alone the rest of the group, could do against a single opponent.
7 Arceus (Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Leaf)
At its core, Pokémon is a battle anime, and during the course of Ash Ketchum’s journey, he encounters some of the most powerful Pokémon of all time. One of these creatures, Arceus, is thought to be the creator of the series’ universe, allowing it to affect the space-time continuum with various abilities.
As strong as Arceus’ physical and elemental attacks are, they wouldn’t pose much of a threat to Dragon Ball‘s Goku. However, the Pokémon’s ability to alter reality is a complete x-factor, so if the iconic Saiyan lets his guard down, then he could very easily be incapacitated by the creature.
6 Antispiral (Gurren Lagann)
The world of Gurren Lagann is full of harnessable energy known as Spiral Power — unfortunately, the overuse of this energy is prophesied to cause the end of the universe. In response to its apocalyptic potential, a species decides to purge themselves of Spiral Power, and as a result of their actions, they merge into a singular being.
This collective consciousness, referred to as the Antispiral, grows strong enough to control reality itself, making it a legitimate threat to Dragon Ball‘s protagonist. Although Goku has defeated characters with the ability to manipulate time and space, he would almost certainly be overwhelmed by the omnipotent, omnipowerful antagonist of Gurren Lagann.
5 Ryuk (Death Note)
The protagonist of Death Note, Light Yagami, wreaks havoc throughout Japan with the abilities of his journal, the Death Note, but none of his actions would have been possible were it not for his otherworldly companion, Ryuk. The ancient being hails from the Shinigami Realm, and after growing bored with living among his peers, he departs for the land of the living.
As a Shinigami, Ryuk has a distinct advantage against those living in the mortal realm. There seem to be few limits to his ability to harvest souls, so despite Goku’s overwhelming strength, the Saiyan would presumably be helpless to stop Ryuk if the Shinigami decided to claim his life.
In terms of traditional combat strength, Dragon Ball‘s Goku’s sheer power is virtually unmatched. However, against a deity like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood‘s The Truth, not even Goku’s strongest attacks would be enough to win a one-on-one battle.
The Truth is omnipowerful, possessing the ability to manipulate the very fabric of existence itself. While the deity’s defensive capabilities are unknown, it’s unlikely that any figure from the mortal realm would be able to significantly damage it.
3 Julius Novachrono (Black Clover)
Black Clover follows the adventures of Asta, a young mage working to overcome his natural shortcomings. Along with many other wizards in the Clover Kingdom, Asta’s ultimate goal is to become the next Wizard King — a position currently held by the Time Magic user, Julius Novachrono.
Using his magic, Julius Novachrono is able to take, control, and store time from his opponents. This, coupled with his battle savy and near-instantaneous movement, could legitimately pose a threat to Dragon Ball‘s Goku. If the events of Dragon Ball GT are any indication, then the Super Saiyan has already demonstrated that he’s vulnerable to age manipulation, making Novachrono’s skillset particularly dangerous.
2 Saitama (One-Punch Man)
In the eyes of many shonen fans, One-Punch Man‘s Saitama is the sole anime character that stands a chance against Goku in one-on-one combat. The baldheaded hero takes out world-level threats without breaking a sweat, making him a prime candidate to unseat Goku as the anime medium’s strongest fighter.
One-Punch Man‘s protagonist can travel to the Moon and back in an instant, and if he were to go all-out, there’s no doubt that he could destroy an entire planet with a single strike. With Saitama’s true potential still a mystery, Goku would be wise not to take him lightly.
1 Beerus (Dragon: Ball Super)
The Dragon Ball franchise will always revolve around Goku and the Z Fighters, but they’re no longer the strongest characters in the universe. In fact, Beerus, the God of Destruction, could probably take on the entire cast of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, even after their respective power-ups throughout Dragon Ball Super.
On multiple occasions, Goku attempts to defeat Beerus, and in each instance, the God of Destruction emerges as the undisputed victor. While the pair have yet to square off since Goku unlocked his Ultra Instinct form, Beerus remains the favorite in any battle between the two.