Dragon Ball Z is a legendary anime, with a ton of beloved characters. Here are the main characters and how well their character arcs were.
The adventures of Goku and his friends as they tackle numerous powerful foes will never cease to be entertaining, with the incredible power-ups and awe-inspiring fights being a staple of the series since time immemorial.
Of course, one of the biggest and most enduring aspects of Dragon Ball Z that fans still look back fondly on to this day is the vast swath of memorable characters, each of whom have become legendary in their own right. The main cast is especially notable in this regard, growing along with the series to reach new heights in physical strength and mental prowess while simultaneously growing from an emotional point of view as well.
These character arcs are truly brilliant to witness, and this list will rank the arcs of each main character while taking a look at their stories in detail.
When one talks about some of the most underutilized characters in anime history, then it goes without saying that Goten would very much be near the top of this list. His introduction as Goku’s second son could’ve led to major things for the character, but — aside from his fusion into Gotenks — there’s not really much to say about this otherwise forgettable character.
At least, Trunks had a presence due to his alternate future self that was established well beforehand in the Android and Cell Saga. Goten has absolutely nothing to differentiate him from the rest of the pack aside from maybe an airheaded personality that turns him into a comic relief character of sorts.
Suffice to say, there were villains — both major and otherwise — that ended up having more character development than Goten.
The Prince of all Saiyans ends up getting taken down a peg several times in Dragon Ball Z, but it’s Vegeta’s pride and stubbornness that truly make him the most entertaining character in Dragon Ball Z.
The blows he receives to his pride, his contentment to live life on Earth, his rivalry with Goku — or Kakarot, as he likes to say in his snide tone — and the conflicts that he endures throughout the anime all end up developing his character to the point where one can easily say that he’s easily the best part of Dragon Ball Z.
Son Gohan also had a future counterpart who was just as likable… but it was the person he was mentoring who ended up being the highlight of that timeline.
While Trunks from the original timeline may be a decent character in his own right, it’s Future Trunks who truly steals the show as one of the best parts of Dragon Ball Z, with his tragic past and unwavering nature making for some truly brilliant moments indeed.
Any Dragon Ball fan who hasn’t cried after watching The History of Trunks is either lying… or isn’t a real Dragon Ball fan.
The idea of a fighter who’s slated for greatness being averse to any kind of violence is an interesting idea that is explored through Gohan in Dragon Ball Z. Goku’s son is pretty mild-mannered and prefers peace, but there’s no denying the immense latent potential hidden in him.
His character truly comes into his own in the Cell Saga, however, when his need to protect his friends and his non-violent nature end up clashing together after Android 16’s death, ultimately leading to the birth of the Ascended Super Saiyan and what is arguably the greatest moment in Dragon Ball history.
The protagonist of the show plays a major role in all the arcs and ends up unlocking the amazing Super Saiyan transformation that has become the stuff of legends in Dragon Ball Z. From his fights with Frieza, Cell, and Buu to the amazing dynamic he develops with Vegeta — Goku has been a part of numerous iconic moments throughout the series.
However, one must admit that his character doesn’t really grow over the course of the series. After all, Goku’s character is pretty much set in stone, and his thirst for battle and kind heart is simple enough to drive forward the narrative of the series without facing too many problems.
The father of Son Goku might not have appeared in the anime series, but the movies still do a spectacular job of introducing and humanizing a character who was initially nothing more than a heartless Saiyan warrior.
While the Episode of Bardock did ultimately end up cheapening his character in order to give him a totally unnecessary Super Saiyan transformation, there’s still no denying that Bardock is a character who still has a ton of potential.
Initially serving as an antagonist in Dragon Ball, Piccolo comes back as an unwilling ally to Goku who ultimately ends up forming a bond with Gohan and developing a softer side to his character that would ultimately end up being his downfall… only to be revived in a flash because death has absolutely no meaning in Dragon Ball Z.
That being said, it’s still quite refreshing to see Piccolo get his moments in the Frieza and Android Saga, allowing him to fight on equal footing with some truly powerful foes that allowed for some truly excellent fights indeed.
Just like Bulma, Krillin is another character who was a focal point of the Dragon Ball anime, with his death perhaps being the most shocking part of the entire show. However, in Dragon Ball Z, his limitations as an Earthling eventually ended up sidelining him as he was unable to power up to the point where he could take on some of the more powerful foes that were threatening Earth.
That being said, he still has his highlights. His marriage to Android 17 is a great moment for the character… but perhaps his most iconic scene in the show was when he was blown up by Frieza, prompting Goku to tap into his inner reserves and become the legendary Super Saiyan in what is easily the most iconic part of the entire show.
Bulma is another mainstay of the Dragon Ball series, but one has to admit that her role wasn’t really all that pronounced in Dragon Ball Z. This may probably be due to the fact that most of her character was already established and developed in the prequel, and her irrelevance in a combat scenario made her take the backseat to battles more often than not.
That being said, there’s no denying the fact that Bulma still develops a ton throughout the series, with her marriage to Vegeta being one of the focal points of the show that serves as quite an interesting surprise indeed.