Vegeta is one of the most well-known anime villains who redeem themselves and become heroes, but he actually isn’t the only character from the Dragon Ball universe to make such a transition. In fact, most of Goku’s friends were once people who were face to face to him, ready to fight.
Some Dragon Ball heroes who began their journey as villains, like Vegeta and Piccolo, have well-known arcs with memorable transitions from villainy to heroism. Their intentions for bad deeds are understandable, and their reasons for changing make sense too. Others, like Oolong or the Ymacha, have motivations that aren’t as well explored but are still amusing.
Which bad guy turned good is your favorite?
When Piccolo first appeared, his primary goal was to destroy Goku – and he had a pretty good reason for it. Goku not only defeated Piccolo’s father in a tournament, but he also killed him. In a fight between Goku and Piccolo, Goku decided to spare Piccolo’s life, leading him to change up his loyalties and become not just an ally, but Gohan’s mentor.
Out of all of the characters on this list, Vegeta is probably the most famous for his about-face. He came to Earth with an intention of not only defeating Goku but also annihilating anyone who got in his way as a powerplay of his strengths.
The full story of his shift from evil to good is convoluted to discuss in full here, but in short, going from a situation where his choices were either take lives or grapple with his own substantial losses to one where he could develop genuine emotional bonds led him to give up on villainy. By the end of the Dragon Ball series, he’s still growly and competitive, but he’s also a great parent and a loving husband.
Beerus is a god, so his concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is outside the norms of morality. That being said, he did try to destroy Earth once, so he gets slapped with the villain label. He came over to the good side, not because of any shift in his morals, but because he realized that destroying Earth meant destroying his access to a wide range of delicacies and foods.
4. Tien Shinhan
When Tien Shinhan first appears in the series, he’s a member of the Crane School, a martial arts school that deploys underhanded tactics to win. As one of the best students, Tien is asked to go after Goku, who his teacher believes to be responsible for his brother’s death.
With the help of Master Roshi, Tien eventually realizes that the people he’s been siding with aren’t actually what they seem to be, and he joins Goku instead of seeing him as an enemy. He was also Gokus opponent in the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, which doesn’t make him a bad guy per se, but still means that he isn’t on the same side as the protagonist.
5. Android 17 & 18
Both Android 17 & 18 were kidnapped by Dr. Gero and scientifically modified against their will. For a while, they do side with Dr. Gero, even going so far as to destroy entire cities in the name of taking out Goku. Neither shows any real remorse for a while, but they slowly rediscover their own free will and give up on villainy.
6. Android 16
Android 16 was always a peace-loving person who was happier relaxing with nature than engaging in combat. But because he was built with a specific purpose in mind – revenge on Goku on the instructions of Dr. Gero – he did have to face off against the good guys a few times. But when Cell threatens the safety of humankind, Android 16 is easily swayed to help Goku and company.
7. Majin Buu
Majin Buu first appears as Kid Buu, an evil demon of immense power who wants to and able to destroy everything that crosses his way. After consuming the Grand Supreme Kai, he splits off into multiple forms, including “Innocent Buu” who is destructive because he doesn’t know any better, almost like an infant, not because he wants to cause harm. With guidance from Mr. Satan on how to exist in society – as well as some help from the Dragon Balls in forgetting his past sins – Buu joins the good side.
Rather than making the transition from villain to hero and staying that way, Launch actually flips back and forth regularly. That’s because she has a strange condition that causes her to switch personalities – and hair color – whenever she sneezes. The blue-haired version of herself is kind and docile, while the blonde version is a straight-up gangsta. Launch’s two personalities aren’t aware of each other, and they don’t remember each other’s actions, which makes her life pretty confusing – especially since it seems like just about everything makes her sneeze.
Despite these difficulties, Launch eventually does learn to control her transformation to a certain degree, becoming less “bad” when she’s in her blonde form, and still being willing to help out the Z Fighters.
When Chi Chi’s father, the Ox-King, is first introduced, he’s an intimidating man who used violence and terror to achieve power. He also was a possessive father, to the point where anyone who got near her would have to risk facing his wrath.
But the Ox King has mellowed out over the years, turning into a doting grandfather who is always happy to help out his family.
Unlike many of the characters on this list, what’s surprising isn’t that they were once a villain – it’s that they ever stopped being one…and to be fair, he’s less of a ‘good guy’ now than he is a ‘temporary ally.’
Frieza spent the entirety of Dragon Ball Z committing various monstrosities, including destroying Planet Vegeta and attempting to destroy the Earth. In Dragon Ball Super, he teamed up with Goku and the rest of the Universe 7 team during the Tournament of Power. it’s true, he didn’t exactly have humanitarian reasons for doing so, but he’s still fighting by their side.
When Oolong first appears, it’s as a “demon” who took over the town of Aru, abducting the women, and stealing the money for himself. He was able to do this after learning how to shapeshift. After Goku defeats him, he joins the good guys.
But Oolong didn’t exactly become a morally upright citizen after all that – he proves to be lewd – but at least he stopped spreading terror in the village and generally sided with the good guys on most issues.
When Yamcha is first introduced in Dragon Ball, he’s definitely a bad guy, albeit a bumbling one. He’s a teenager who lives in the desert and steals from travelers, all while doing whatever he can to avoid encountering what he fears most in the world: women.
Through a series of mishaps that end with his overcoming his fear and falling in love with Bulma, he develops a conscience and stops robbing people, choosing to align himself with the forces of good instead. Despite being a passionate warrior who cares deeply for his loved ones, though, he just isn’t as strong as most of the other Z fighters, and is often a target for fandom jokes.