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Everything You Need To Know About Dragon Ball Z's Gohan

They say it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. That's certainly the case when it comes to Gohan — son of Goku from the ever-popular "Dragon Ball" franchise — whose gentle exterior belies a tremendous power. Gohan has been a steady presence in the "Dragon Ball" world since his debut, though he's played a less substantial role in recent years compared to his father and the Saiyan prince Vegeta due to his decision to place his career in academia over the fighting arts. 

That seems set to change with the upcoming film "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero," which, according to movie producer Akio Iyoku (via ComicBook.com), features Gohan as one of the leads of the movie. For fans of the character (who often ranks high in surveys, such as a 2021 Viz popularity poll), this likely feels like a long time coming, especially given how often the franchise has teased him as a fighter with great promise that has yet to be entirely fulfilled. If you're relatively unfamiliar with the character or just need some reminding of who he is and what makes him so great, take a short break from those textbooks and power up for a Gohan refresher course.

He's named after a popular food and is Goku's most beloved relative

As many "Dragon Ball" fans know, pretty much every character's name is some sort of pun. The Saiyans, for instance, are all veggie puns, with Vegeta being short for "vegetable," Raditz being a play on "radish," and Goku's Saiyan name, Kakarot (Kakarotto in Japanese), being a pretty overt nod to "carrot." Gohan doesn't have a Saiyan name, so he's not named after a vegetable, but he is named after a staple of many meals: cooked rice. Funnily enough, he's not the only character named after a rice pun on the show — the very first main villain of the "Dragon Ball" franchise, Emperor Pilaf, is, of course, named after the famous rice dish.

It's probably not too surprising for those familiar with Goku to hear that his son is named after a food, given the Saiyan's legendary appetite. Yet that's not why Goku and Chi-Chi gave their son that name: It was inspired by Goku's Grandpa Gohan, the martial artist who found Goku not long after the Saiyan came to Earth. Grandpa Gohan raised him and taught him some martial arts, and given their extremely close bond, it's not surprising he'd pass the name down to his son.

He doesn't share his dad's biggest hobby

Make no mistake: Gohan is a terrific fighter. It's safe to call him a prodigy, having already become a tremendous martial artist at only 5 years old. Yet he never chose to be a martial artist — he was literally thrown into the lifestyle when Piccolo kidnapped him to train him for the impending arrival of the Saiyan duo of Nappa and Vegeta.

Despite having gained incredible skill under Piccolo's tutelage — even learning one of the Namekian's energy techniques, the Masenko — Gohan still becomes paralyzed with fear when he sees Nappa violently take down the other fighters of Earth who oppose him. While it's true that Gohan does find his courage and more than makes up for his initial "stage fright" many times over, it becomes clear when he fights Cell later on that he just doesn't like fighting the way Goku does. It's little surprise, then, that he largely leaves the martial arts lifestyle behind after beating Cell, only returning to it for certain occasions. It's not until "Dragon Ball Super" that he decides to resume the fighting life on a somewhat regular basis, with Piccolo again as his teacher.

He really was going to replace Goku as lead

Throughout most of the "Dragon Ball" franchise, Goku's clearly the main character. When he's killed off in "Dragon Ball Z" during the Cell Games, however, he refuses to be resurrected, believing his mere presence on Earth to be responsible for many of the threats he and his friends faced. With Gohan being the most powerful character at this point in the series, Goku's choice feels like a passing of the baton, and sure enough, quite a few episodes (and manga chapters) go by afterward where it seems like Gohan really is the series' new star.

As it turns out, that's exactly what Akira Toriyama intended, even stating as much in "Dragon Ball Daizenshuu 2: Story Guide" (translated by Kanzenshuu). Ultimately, however, Toriyama changed his mind, stating, "I felt that compared to Goku, he was ultimately not suited for the part." Sure enough, Goku reappears shortly after Videl learns Gohan's the Great Saiyaman and eventually reclaims his role as the series lead.

It's hard to say exactly when Toriyama first decided Gohan would eventually succeed Goku. Some have posited it may have been the character's introduction, yet Toriyama himself debunks this theory in "Dragon Ball: The Legendary Manga" #36 (translated by Derek Padula on the Dao of Dragon Ball), stating, "When Gohan appeared I had no intention of making him a protagonist."

He has the potential to become the strongest Dragon Ball character

When Gohan first appears in the series, he's a 4-year-old without any fighting training, as his mother, Chi-Chi, has forbidden Goku to teach him martial arts. Yet when Raditz kidnaps Gohan, the toddler stuns his uncle with a power level that well exceeds his own father's. Though his power drops to 1 soon after, it sets up a long-running tradition of Gohan possessing an inner power rivaling or exceeding that of the most powerful characters in the "Dragon Ball" franchise.

While some may assume this is no longer the case after the character dedicates himself to more academic pursuits, a new bio for Gohan promoting "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" (translated on Twitter by Todd Blankenship, or Herms98) states, "While he hides potential surpassing Goku or Vegeta, he dislikes fighting and lives a peaceful life as a scholar." The fact that he could still overcome the franchise's most powerful leads is a stunning revelation, given how Gohan and Vegeta have reached incredible new realms of strength through the Super Saiyan God forms, Ultra Instinct and Ultra Ego. It's likely given hope to Gohan fans who've always dreamed of seeing the character reach his full fighting capability.

He's the first of his kind

As the son of Goku and Chi-Chi, Gohan is part Saiyan, part-human — something that no other living being has been before him. And according to Vegeta, this is the source of his strength. Consequently, Gohan has a number of other traits inherited from both species. Like most Saiyans, he was born with a tail, which, before it was removed, allowed him to become a Great Ape when his eyes took in the Blutz Waves of a full moon or artificial device like a Power Ball. Gohan also gets power boosts, or Zenkai, from battle, especially after recovering from near-fatal wounds received from opponents. Meanwhile, his most notable human trait is his hair, which has a style and length that allows it to grow in ways Saiyans' often cannot.

Interestingly, not all hybrids inherit the same Saiyan traits Gohan does. For example, his younger brother, Goten, isn't born with a tail and can become a Super Saiyan easily without getting angry, which Gohan can't do. Those same traits apply to present-day Trunks, while other Saiyan humans like Pan and Bulla don't seem to have been born with tails, either.

His rage is a major source of power

In general, rage is a potent tool for Saiyans — it's what allows most of them to access the first three Super Saiyan forms and technically Super Saiyan Blue, which stacks Super Saiyan over Super Saiyan God. In Gohan's case, however, rage gives him enormous power spikes long before he ever learns to become a Super Saiyan. Gohan's rage boosts are first seen when he's captured by Raditz, causing the 4-year-old's power level to temporarily jump from 1 to 710 from the duress. It climbs even higher still to 1307 when he sees Raditz torturing Goku, causing Gohan to break free from Raditz's Attack Ball spaceship and head-butt his nefarious father-in-law.

Gohan's anger causes his strength to swell short-term even further on Namek, when his anger from seeing Krillin impaled makes his power go from 200,000 to a point strong enough to briefly challenge Frieza's staggeringly high power level of beyond 1 million. For the most part, though, Gohan doesn't really learn how to prolong his rage-induced power spikes until he becomes a Super Saiyan.

He's the first Saiyan to become a Super Saiyan 2

As the "Dragon Ball Z" cast's battle against the Androids progresses, the Saiyans start becoming aware that there's a level of Super Saiyan beyond their reach. To change that, they begin training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, where Vegeta and Trunks manage to evolve the original Super Saiyan form in new ways, while Goku and Gohan learn to perfect the technique.

Yet no one actually reaches the next level of Super Saiyan until the Cell Games. It's here that Gohan, enraged by Cell callously crushing Android 16's head and sending the Cell Juniors to attack his friends, explodes with power. The result is Super Saiyan 2, a new form that spikes up the user's hair almost completely and surrounds the familiar Super Saiyan aura with electric sparks while giving the user a stunning power boost. The transformation is a major turning point for Gohan, officially making him both the most powerful and skilled fighter among his peers, including (to Gohan's own surprise) his father.

He's the first Saiyan to move beyond the Super Saiyan transformations period

Once the Super Saiyan is introduced in "Dragon Ball Z," there's no going back. For the rest of the series, Super Saiyan forms become the main way of showing that a Saiyan has found a new level of strength. This continues into "Dragon Ball Super," where Goku discovers the Super Saiyan God forms. He does, however, finally "graduate" from the Super Saiyan transformation period when he learns to use the Ultra Instinct technique.

Yet there's one character who temporarily left Super Saiyan forms behind him years earlier: Gohan. To make him a match against Super Buu, Old Kai draws out all of the half-Saiyan's latent power. As a result, Gohan is able to access a level of strength even beyond his peak as a Super Saiyan 2 while remaining in his base form. Old Kai even tells Gohan not to use the Super Saiyan forms anymore, as they'd no longer increase his power, and he'd merely waste energy from transforming. While this post-Super Saiyan form essentially becomes Gohan's new "normal" state for a time, he loses it by the time Frieza returns to Earth to show off his new golden transformation and has to rely on Super Saiyan 1 and 2 once more. With Piccolo's help, however, Gohan restores his "ultimate" power-up.

He's got a gruff but loving mentor

Gohan's dad, Goku, has a long history of convincing former enemies and rivals of his to switch sides. That skill, it seems, has been passed down to his eldest son, as Gohan famously manages to win Goku's former enemy, Piccolo, to the side of good.

Piccolo originally joins the heroes out of necessity when Goku's evil brother, Raditz, arrives on Earth. Despite his alliance with Goku, however, Piccolo still very much hates his old enemy, killing both Goku and Raditz without hesitation. Similarly, Piccolo also starts training Gohan as a weapon against Nappa and Vegeta, whose plans for Earth interfere with Piccolo's own. Yet as he prepares Gohan — first by making the half-Saiyan learn to survive in the wilderness and then by teaching him martial arts directly — Piccolo unexpectedly develops a paternal bond with his foe's son. Piccolo's reform is completed when he leaps in the way of an attack Nappa fires at his young pupil, saving Gohan's life at the cost of his own. When Piccolo is later resurrected, he remains an ally to Gohan and buries the hatchet with Goku. And though he does at one point claim he still intends on conquering Earth, it turns out to be all talk. He remains a close friend to Gohan and helps his young ward get back in fighting shape in "Dragon Ball Super."

Power runs in the family

While Gohan's innate strength stems from his mixed heritage, not all human Saiyans end up with that kind of power. For example, Vegeta and Bulma's second child, Bulla, doesn't appear to be innately powerful like her older brother, Trunks. However, in the case of Pan, Gohan and Videl's daughter, Saiyan strength truly does run in her blood. Despite being a newborn in "Dragon Ball Super," Pan can already fly and perform great feats of strength. Furthermore, the final chapters of "Dragon Ball Z," set years after the events of "Super," reveal that Pan can already fly around the Earth quickly at just 4 years old. She's also begun martial arts training by this age and is incredibly strong — she handily defeats Wild Tiger, a skilled adult fighter by normal human standards, at the 28th World Martial Arts Tournament.

Pan's bio for "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" (also translated by Todd Blankenship on Twitter) states that she'll be 3 years old in the movie, meaning the film will be set shortly before the "Dragon Ball Z" finale. It also states that she's being instructed in martial arts by Gohan's teacher Piccolo, proving she takes after her father in more ways than one. Of course, Pan also famously proves her fighting mettle in "Dragon Ball GT," which, though not canonical, features her taking on numerous threats with Goku, Trunks, and company.

He has an unusual association with demons and devils

For a pure-hearted warrior, Gohan sure runs into a lot of demons and demon-themed people. The first, of course, is his mentor Piccolo, aka Piccolo Jr., the reincarnation of Goku's old nemesis from the original "Dragon Ball" series. Yet there's also Videl, who dates and later marries Gohan, and whose name, when rearranged, just happens to be "devil." Meanwhile, Gohan's father-in-law, Mr. Satan, has two devil references in his name. His last name, of course, is a reference to the Judeo-Christian devil, but so is his first name, which Akira Toriyama has revealed to be Mark (not Hercule, dub fans!). As Kanzenshuu explains, the katakana spelling can be arranged to "akuma," aka "demon." Finally, Gohan is the only character in the series who's had a prolonged physical battle with Dabura, who's even more of a literal demon king than Piccolo is.

To be fair, Gohan has a few unique relationships with deities, as well. Piccolo technically qualifies, as he bonded with Kami, Earth's former god, to stop the Androids. But Gohan is also friends with Dende, Earth's current god, who he's been close friends with since they met on Namek. Furthermore, Gohan is the only person in the main "Dragon Ball" cast to date who's trained with the Old Kai and Shin (the current Supreme Kai) in the main Dragon Ball timeline (although another character, Future Trunks, has trained with the Shin of his timeline).

His wife is the daughter of the devil, sort of

Despite her and her father's names, Videl doesn't really have any actual connection to devils or demons in the "Dragon Ball" universe. Instead, she's a normal human who first meets Gohan while on her way to stop a shootout between police and a car full of criminals. Annoyed that the crooks have already been subdued by the mysterious Golden Fighter, Videl immediately grows suspicious when she learns the fighter dresses just like Gohan and wears an Orange Star High School badge, suggesting he's a student at her school. Yet Videl's attentions are quickly diverted by another new super-hero, the Great Saiyaman, whom she quickly deduces is Gohan. Though she promises to keep Gohan's "Saiya-life" secret, she gives him two conditions: he participates in the World Martial Arts Tournament with her and teaches her how to fly.

Gohan honors both promises, and Videl proves to be a quick study, learning to hover in a day and fly gracefully just a little more than 10 days. While neither of them wins the tournament, the two officially begin dating after Buu's defeated and eventually marry. They later give birth to a daughter, Pan.

People think his father-in-law is the real hero

Though he doesn't really have ties to the actual devil, "Mr. Satan" still is a pretty accurate name for Gohan's father-in-law, given how his reputation's based on a giant lie. When Gohan defeats Cell, the ZTV television crew on the scene neither sees nor records the victory and thus relies on Mr. Satan to explain what happened. Seeing only opportunity, the showboat martial artist claims he defeated Cell. As a result, the entire world begins erroneously viewing Mr. Satan as Earth's greatest champion, even renaming an entire city after him. Yet Gohan never seems too upset about someone else taking credit for his major victory. If anything, he's far more interested in concealing his vast power from society to avoid unwanted media attention, explaining why he often obscures his identity when using his abilities in public.

Gohan and Mr. Satan's paths cross again at the 25th World Martial Arts Tournament. Grateful that Gohan has brought Videl in for medical attention but not yet recognizing him, Mr. Satan forbids his daughter from dating Gohan, saying she can only date someone stronger than her father and not a "wuss." Eventually, Mr. Satan realizes his mistake and ends up getting along quite well with Gohan, especially once the two become relatives. It probably doesn't hurt that Mr. Satan actually uses his ill-begotten fame for good at one point by convincing Earth's populace to loan their energy to the Spirit Bomb Goku uses on Kid Buu.

He's two superheroes in one

Starring in a movie called "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" is pretty fitting for Gohan, given that he's been a superhero twice over. Gohan's first super-identity is the Golden Fighter, which he ends up creating unintentionally when stopping lawbreakers as a Super Saiyan. Unfortunately, it's not enough of a disguise to fool more discerning people like Videl, leading Gohan to ask Bulma to create a full-on superhero costume for him. Gohan calls his new superhero identity the "Great Saiyaman" and devises several elaborate poses for whenever he announces his entrances. 

While his disguise and dramatic stances don't impress many people, being Saiyaman gives Gohan an outlet to express himself more freely than in his regular identity, similar to how Peter Parker is more extroverted and wisecracking as Spider-Man. While the spectators of the 25th World Martial Arts Tournament learn that the Great Saiyaman, the Golden Fighter, and Gohan are the same person, the rest of the world remains oblivious thanks to Piccolo disabling the recording equipment at the event. Additionally, most people at the competition never even learn Gohan's name, other than perhaps those within earshot of Sharpener and Erasa when they cheer Gohan on. In the anime, Gohan even gains a partner in his crimefighting adventures in the form of Videl, who becomes Great Saiyawoman, or, as she's called in Japan, Great Saiyaman 2.