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The Untold Truth Of Dragon Ball's Piccolo

Your Namekian hearing has not deceived you: "Dragon Ball" has made Piccolo a contender again. Though never too far behind the central Saiyan characters of the franchise, it's true that the gap between Piccolo and warriors like Goku and Vegeta has grown dramatically in recent years, especially due to the introduction of god transformations. Thanks to "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero," however, the caped warrior from Namek finally has a transformation of his own.

Given that Piccolo is a major character in the "Dragon Ball" franchise in general and the 2022 movie "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" in particular, it seems like a good time to explore some of his lesser-known facets. Sure, "Dragon Ball" aficionados know the basics: he's the reincarnation of Demon King Piccolo, Gohan's mentor, and arguably the coolest-dressed of the main "Dragon Ball" heroes. Yet there's a lot more beneath his air of mystery than you may realize. Set down those weighted robes and power up to maximum, because it's time to assimilate the untold truth of Piccolo.

His voice actor may be a bigger Piccolo fan than you are

For many American "Dragon Ball" fans, English language dub actor Christopher Sabat is synonymous with Piccolo. Thanks to web sites like Crunchyroll simulcasting "Dragon Ball Super" during its original airing (per Kotaku), though, many more U.S. fans are now familiar with the performance of Piccolo's original Japanese actor, Toshio Furukawa. As you might expect from someone who's voiced a character for so long, Furukawa has a deep love and respect for Piccolo ... and has no problem showing it. As he explained in a Dragon Ball Official Site interview, "Whenever someone asks me who my favorite character is, I always answer 'Piccolo' without hesitation. I have around 3,000 Piccolo figures, if that gives you an idea of how much I like him." 

Funnily enough, Piccolo himself becomes an unwilling collector, of sorts, in "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero," having amassed several Penenko plushies that Videl and Gohan keep giving him as presents, despite his protests. It's a very funny example of art imitating life, even if Piccolo isn't as wild about his Penenko collection as Furukawa is of his Piccolo figures. Then again, seeing as Piccolo has kept his various plush gifts, perhaps deep down he really does share his voice actor's habit of collecting.

He's the first hero shown to reach a power level of one million

Let's be clear: the first character to ever boast a power level above one million is Frieza. The intergalactic tyrant originally displays such massive might when he shows off his second transformation to Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta on Namek. Not only that, but several "Dragon Ball" villains, such as Majin Buu and Moro, sport powers well above one million eons before most of the main "Dragon Ball" cast is born. Heroes like the Supreme Kai also clearly possess power exceeding one million long before they actually appear in the series.

The first hero to surpass one million on-screen, however, is Piccolo. The Namekian accomplishes the amazing feat shortly after he's resurrected in the Frieza Saga, namely when he absorbs the powers and body of his fellow Namek warrior, Nail. The resulting power boost is tremendous, making Piccolo more than a match for Frieza's sophomore state, even with his weighted clothing on. In the manga, Piccolo's new strength leads Frieza to change into his third form mere moments into their fight; in the anime, however, Frieza makes the mistake of staying in his second form a little longer, allowing Piccolo time to show off his full, unrestrained power. While Frieza easily regains the advantage when he transforms again, that doesn't take away from Piccolo's impressive milestone, which he achieves before even Goku does.

He's the only person who's lost to Goku in a World Martial Arts Tournament final

Fans may be used to seeing Goku win fights at this point, but longtime readers and viewers of the character's exploits know he's had his fair share of defeats, too. Most notably, he's lost the final round of the World Martial Arts Tournament twice: first to Jackie Chun (a.k.a. Master Roshi) in the 21st tournament, then to Tien Shinhan in the 22nd.

That all changes in the 23rd tournament, which Piccolo enters to get his revenge on Goku for killing his previous incarnation, Demon King Piccolo. While the Namekian proves to be Goku's virtual match, the Saiyan just barely manages to defeat his reborn foe after a battle that completely decimates the World Martial Arts Tournament stadium. Piccolo shouldn't feel too badly about the loss, as it convinces Goku to both spare his life and bestow upon him the title of "archenemy" as a sign of respect. Piccolo's still the only fighter to have been defeated by Goku in the finals of that specific competition, as the Saiyan abandons the next two World Martial Arts Tournaments he takes part in, and gets tickled out of a victory in "Dragon Ball GT." 

He rarely uses his most famous technique in the manga

If somebody asks a "Dragon Ball" fan what Piccolo's signature move is, many would likely say it's the Makankōsappō, alias the Special Beam Cannon. The two-fingered technique first appears during the fight with Goku's brother, Raditz, in the "Dragon Ball Z" era, where Piccolo uses it twice. Though he first misses his target, his second attempt is a direct and lethal hit, although Goku, who keeps Raditz from dodging again, dies with his older sibling. Piccolo's not too choked up about it, however, as he considers Goku an enemy at the time.

The Special Beam Cannon goes on to appear many times in the "Dragon Ball Z" anime, as well as in the movies, where Piccolo often makes his entrance by firing the attack from off-screen. However, in the original "Dragon Ball" manga (which isn't split into "Dragon Ball" and "Dragon Ball Z" in Japan, like it is in the U.S.), Piccolo never uses it again after defeating Raditz. He does seem to use a similar technique against Nappa, although given the differences it has, including its size and the way it's fired, it could be considered a separate attack altogether. It's not until the "Dragon Ball Super" manga that Piccolo uses the Special Beam Cannon again on the comics page, though he had already used it a few notable times in the "Super" anime by that point.

His creator thinks he's pretty neat, too

Though much of Akira Toriyama's "Dragon Ball" work tends to be action-packed and dramatic, he's a comedy guy at heart, by his own admission (as he wrote in "Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary Super History Book," translated via Kanzenshuu). While his most famous work of humor is "Dr. Slump," there are plenty of jokes and gags throughout the "Dragon Ball" saga. It's likely little surprise, then, that he often includes comical characters like fighting con man Mr. Satan (a.k.a. "Hercule") among his favorite Dragon Ball characters (per Men's Non-no, via Kanzenshuu).

What may be a shock, however, is that another of his preferred creations is Piccolo, who's quite serious by comparison. Why? Quite simply, because he's a man a few words, creating a sense of mystery that Toriyama likely considers part of his appeal. Toriyama is also a big fan of Piccolo's "dad," noting that Goku's battle with the Demon King is his favorite battle in the early "Dragon Ball" period (per "Dragon Ball Super Exciting Guide," via Kanzenshuu). Small wonder, then, that Piccolo has finally gotten a movie to himself and his closest friends — the only surprising part is that it's taken as long as it has.

He has more fingers in the anime

For the most part, the "Dragon Ball," "Dragon Ball Z," and "Dragon Ball Super" anime are pretty faithful to the character designs from the manga. There are differences, however. A famous example, for instance, is Bulma's hair color, which is bluish-green in the anime, but purple in the color chapters of the manga. Similarly, Korin the cat is blue in the manga, rather than white.

As for Piccolo, his design differences are smaller, but notable nonetheless. One is the color of his scales, which the anime changes from gold to pink. The other is more overt: namely, the anime gives Piccolo an extra finger! In the manga, Piccolo (like rest of his species) has three fingers and a thumb, whereas the anime throws in one more: the poor, neglected pinky.

While "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" is animated feature to give Piccolo's scale its manga color, he'll still keep that extra finger the anime and movies have always given him. Sounds like a good time for the character to catch up on his pinky swears.

He definitively made the Grand Kai canon

If you're a faithful "Dragon Ball Z" viewer, then you probably remember the Grand Kai. Besides being the "boss" of the cardinal Kais (North, South, East, and West) and the Kai with the most facial hair, the Grand Kai is memorable for his laid back, almost hippie-like demeanor. His biggest role in the anime is holding the Other World tournament, where he promises Goku and Pikkon a training lesson for being the competition's finalists.

While the Grand Kai's also appeared in the "Dragon Ball Z" movies, "Dragon Ball GT," and even "Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters," he doesn't show up in the original manga at all. One might easily think that, like North Kai's grasshopper Gregory, the Grand Kai is an anime-only character. Leave it to Piccolo, then, to confirm the character does exist in the manga version of the Dragon Ball universe. The reveal happens after Piccolo forfeits his match with the mysterious Shin, who he believes to be the Grand Kai. Shin quickly corrects him, however, explaining he's actually the Supreme Kai, instead. That scene, which the anime adapts pretty faithfully, proves that the Grand Kai exists somewhere in the source material. Perhaps one day, the "Dragon Ball Super" manga will finally deal the Grand Kai in.

He's never fought Vegeta

They may come from different worlds, but Piccolo and Vegeta have a lot in common. Both begin as villains when they're introduced, only to eventually reform. They have their similarities in personality, too: aloof, guarded, and at times ruthless to their enemies. They're also, of course, aliens who live on Earth.

You'd think with all their similarities, the two would at least be friends. Yet they've never been particularly close the way Piccolo is with Gohan and even Goku, whom Piccolo eventually befriends. Of course, Vegeta's pride and temper make it difficult for him to become pals with anyone. Interestingly, however, the two have never fought, either, despite having been enemies during their first meeting. When Vegeta first arrives on Earth, for instance, he lets Nappa fight Piccolo and his Earthling allies, and Piccolo's killed before he even gets the chance to face the Saiyan prince. On top of that, the two never seem to have even sparred with each other after Vegeta's reform. While Vegeta may perhaps consider Piccolo "too weak" to train with, it'd certainly be interesting to see if he'd change his mind now that Piccolo's new form, Orange Piccolo, is a factor.

He's the only hero who's killed the main character

Poor Goku. He may not be as big a magnet for trouble as he thinks he is, but there sure are a lot of people who've wanted to kill him over the years. One of them is, in fact, Piccolo, whose beef with Goku begins when the Saiyan first interferes in the Namekian's quest for world domination. That hatred only grows when Goku kills Piccolo's Demon King incarnation, and further still when the Saiyan vanquishes "Piccolo Jr." (a.k.a. the modern-day Piccolo) at the World Martial Arts Tournament. 

So what makes Piccolo different from everyone else who's tried to send Goku to the next dimension? Two things. One is that he's the first person to actually succeed, namely when his Special Beam Cannon kills Raditz and Goku simultaneously. The other is even more surprising: he's the only heroic character to do the deed. Sure, he isn't a hero when he fires the attack, but he does become one not long afterward. He isn't even acting as a villain, per se, when he kills Goku, as the two are in the middle of a temporary truce when it happens. Not even ex-villains like Tien Shinhan or Mr. Buu can say they've done the same before leaving their evil ways behind (though in Buu's case, it's kind of a technicality, as Goku is actually already dead when they fight).

We still don't know his original name

While the character we know as "Piccolo" has gone by that name for centuries, it's not the one bestowed upon him when he and Kami are born. So what was he called before? Not even he knows. As Mr. Popo reveals, the Namekian who eventually splits into Kami and Piccolo arrives on Earth when he's incredibly young, and ends up forgetting everything about his alien origins, name included. When the Namekian eventually decides to purge all evil from himself, the malevolent being that coalesces from the exorcised malice takes on the name Piccolo, which he recalls as being the word for "another world" in his native tongue. The Namekian whom Piccolo splits from, meanwhile, never renames himself, and instead becomes known by his new title, Kami, which is a Japanese word for "god."

Thanks to Nappa and Vegeta, Piccolo and Kami relearn their alien origins. Yet most of their memories from Namek and their trip to Earth, including their Namekian name, never return, even when they fuse back into one. For that reason, the re-merged being tells Mr. Popo he's simply the Namek who's forgotten this name. He eventually decides to just stick with "Piccolo" so Goku won't call him "Kamiccolo," as that name combo isn't exactly his cup of fresh water.

Despite being the first Piccolo-focused Dragon Ball movie, "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" doesn't clear up matters on this front, choosing not to dwell on Piccolo's past. Maybe someday a feature or manga story will tell all.

He represents an entire generation

Vegeta isn't the only Saiyan with whom Piccolo shares some things in common. Like Goku, Piccolo is sent to Earth in time to avoid becoming victim to a catastrophic event. In Goku's case, it's the destruction of Planet Vegeta he narrowly avoids, making him one of the last survivors of his species. In Piccolo's, it's a calamity of a climatic nature, which doesn't destroy his home planet of Namek, but kills all except two people.

Who is Piccolo's fellow survivor? Why, none other than Guru. Having become the sole inhabitant of Namek after Piccolo's departure, Guru repopulates the planet. Consequently, Piccolo has become the only Namekian not descended from Guru. Well, there's also Lord Slug, but seeing as the movie he appears in (fittingly titled "Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug" in the United States) isn't canon, he may not even exist in the primary "Dragon Ball" universe period.

He's why Goku stopped looking like a kid

As most Dragon Ball fans know, Goku's just a kid when his adventures begin, and he stays that way for quite a while. Even in his mid-teens, Goku doesn't really grow taller, at least not all that noticeably. It's not until his battle with Piccolo, aka Piccolo Jr., that Goku's body begins developing into what he'd look like as a grown-up.

As it turns out, Piccolo himself is responsible for Goku's so-called "growth spurt." As Kazuhiko Torishima, the editor of the "Dragon Ball" manga and "Weekly Shonen Jump," told Forbes, Toriyama had grown frustrated with having to always fudge Goku's height and other physical attributes to make his battles with taller opponents seem more believable. Since Piccolo's both taller and less comical than most of Goku's previous opponents, Toriyama felt depicting Goku with actual muscles would not only make the fights look more detailed and impactful, but also more realistic and dramatic. So while Goku still has the same "kid" proportions against Demon King Piccolo, he's notably changed by the time he fights Piccolo Jr. Perhaps Goku's youngest son, Goten, would have had his own growth spurt earlier if he'd fought with Piccolo more often?