Goku – Wikipedia

goku dragon ball super

This article is about the Dragon Ball character. For other uses, see Goku (disambiguation).

Son Goku[nb 1] is a fictional character and main protagonist of the Dragon Ball manga series created by Akira Toriyama. He is based on Sun Wukong (known as Son Goku in Japan and Monkey King in the West), a main character in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West (16th century), combined with influences from the Hong Kong martial arts films of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Goku first made his debut in the first Dragon Ball chapter, Bulma and Son Goku,[nb 2][nb 3] originally published in Japan’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine on December 3, 1984.[2] Born Kakarot,[nb 4][nb 5] Goku is introduced as an eccentric, monkey-tailed boy who practices martial arts and possesses superhuman strength. He meets Bulma and joins her on a journey to find the magical seven Dragon Balls that can grant the user one wish. Along the way, he finds new friends who follow him on his journey to become a stronger fighter. As Goku grows up, he becomes the Earth’s mightiest warrior and battles a wide variety of villains with the help of his friends and family, while also gaining new allies in the process.


As the protagonist of Dragon Ball, Goku appears in most of the episodes, films, television specials and OVAs of the manga’s anime adaptations (Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z) and sequels (Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Super), as well as many of the franchise’s video games. Due to the series’ international popularity, Goku has become one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the world. Outside the Dragon Ball franchise, Goku has made cameo appearances in Toriyama’s self-parody series Neko Majin Z, has been the subject of other parodies, and has appeared in special events. Most Western audiences were introduced to the adult version of Goku appearing in the Dragon Ball Z anime, itself an adaptation of Dragon Ball manga volumes 17–42, as opposed to his initial child form, due to the limited success of the first series overseas.[3] Goku’s critical reception has been largely positive and he is often considered to be one of the greatest manga and anime characters of all time.

Conception and creation

Goku, and Dragon Ball in general, evolved from one of Akira Toriyama’s earlier one-shot series called Dragon Boy. In this story, the protagonist looks a lot like Goku, but has a pair of wings.[4] The original inspiration was Hong Kong martial arts films, including Bruce Lee films such as Enter the Dragon (1973) and Jackie Chan films such as Drunken Master (1978);[5][6] Toriyama said he had a young Jackie Chan in mind for a live-action Goku, stating that “nobody could play Goku but him.”[7]

The character Goku is based on Sun Wukong (Son Goku in Japanese),[nb 6] the central character of the Chinese novel Journey to the West.[8] To be creative with the idea of Sun Wukong, Toriyama designed Goku as a human boy with a monkey’s tail, rather than a complete simian, because the tail would give the character a distinguishing feature.[9] He later stated that the tail was a pain to draw, hence why he had it get cut off early on.[10] Toriyama did not initially plan to make Goku an alien, it was not until the introduction of fighters from other planets that he established him as a Saiyan[nb 7][nb 8].[11] Goku was given the ability to teleport to any planet in seconds, so that Toriyama could increase the pace of the story.[12]

Wanting the series to have a Chinese appearance, Toriyama used the color of the robes worn by Buddhist monks for Goku’s dōgi.[13] During the early chapters of the manga, Toriyama’s editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, commented that Goku looked rather plain. Toriyama had given him simple clothes on purpose because it was a fighting manga, so to combat this he added several characters like Master Roshi and Krillin, and created the Tenkaichi Budōkai[nb 9][nb 10] to focus the storyline on fighting. To defy the assumption that Goku would win the tournaments, Toriyama made him lose the first and second but win the third.[9] Toriyama also mentioned Torishima wanted Goku to form a relationship with Bulma, but this was never applied to the series.[14]

Toriyama’s editor was initially against having Goku grow up, saying it was uncommon to have the protagonist drastically change in manga, however, he gave in when Toriyama threatened that he would not be able to continue the series if the character did not.[15] Toriyama later stated he had him grow up as a means to make drawing the fight scenes easier.[16]

When Toriyama thought up the Super Saiyan[nb 11] concept during the Freeza arc, he felt the only way to show Goku’s massive power-up was to have him transform. Initially he was concerned that the facial expression looked like that of a villain, but felt it was acceptable since the transformation was brought about by anger.[17] The Super Saiyan form also spared the trouble of coloring Goku’s hair all the time for the standard black-and-white manga pages.[18] This was the reason for the Super Saiyan form having blonde hair, because it was easier to draw for Toriyama’s assistant who spent a lot of time blacking in Goku’s hair. Goku’s piercing eyes in Super Saiyan form was also inspired by Bruce Lee’s paralyzing glare.[19] For the Dragon Ball Z anime adaptation, character designer Tadayoshi Yamamuro also used Bruce Lee as a reference, stating that, when he “first becomes a Super Saiyan, his slanting pose with that scowling look in his eyes is all Bruce Lee.”[20]

With the conclusion of the Cell arc, Gohan was intended to replace his father as the protagonist, but Toriyama later decided that Gohan was unsuitable for the role.[9] According to Toriyama, Goku is more of a selfish person than a hero as his main interest in the story is to fight strong opponents rather than protecting the innocent. As a result, Toriyama was angered when the anime adaptations of Dragon Ball started portraying Goku as more heroic than his manga counterpart.[21]

Dragon Ball GT chief character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru said he agonized over designing Goku’s Super Saiyan 4 appearance, which was the idea of the show’s producers, questioning whether it was necessary to go further with the transformations. Because Super Saiyan 4 is brought about while in a Saiyan’s Ōzaru[nb 12] form, he made the hair more “wild” and covered Goku’s body in red fur. There was only a single final draft of the character, although Nakatsuru did consider making the hair blonde, he ended up choosing black as it provides more contrast with the red fur.[22]

During the plans of the final story arc of Dragon Ball Super, it was decided that Goku should have another transformation: The Ultra Instinct. The concept was that the Ultra Instinct would be completely different from Goku’s previous Super Saiyan transformations.[23]

Voice actors

In the Japanese version of every Dragon Ball anime series and subsequent related media, Goku has been voiced by Masako Nozawa. Toriyama selected Nozawa upon hearing her audition sample, remarking that only Goku could sound like that.[24] Nozawa stated that she was ecstatic when she got the role because she had always wanted to be in one of Toriyama’s works. She said she had to be mindful of the fact that Goku grew up in the mountains and did not know much of the world. Despite having to voice Goku, Gohan, Goten and Bardock, Nozawa claims she is able to instantly get into the respective character simply upon seeing their image.[25] Nozawa explained that she did not read the manga so that she would not know what was coming in the story until recording, making her reactions the same as Goku’s.[26] Nozawa said that she liked young Goku with his tail because he was cute, and stated that the character was still the same even at the end of the series.[27]

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In the numerous English versions, Goku has been played by different actors because different companies produced the dubs, by reason of changes of ADR companies and recording studios, or due to actors quitting:

  • In Harmony Gold’s very brief dub of the original Dragon Ball series, Goku[nb 13] was voiced by Barbara Goodson.[28]
  • In Funimation’s initial dub of the anime, Goku was voiced by Saffron Henderson in the first 13 episodes of the original Dragon Ball series (produced in association with BLT Productions),[29][28] and by Ian James Corlett and Peter Kelamis in the first 67 episodes of Dragon Ball Z (edited into 53 episodes, produced in association with Saban and Ocean Productions).[30][31][32]
  • In Funimation’s in-house dub, Goku was voiced by Stephanie Nadolny as a child in both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT,[33][34][28] and has been consistently voiced by Sean Schemmel as an adult throughout the entire Dragon Ball franchise.[35][36][32] Since Dragon Ball Z Kai, Colleen Clinkenbeard has voiced Kid Goku for Funimation.[28]
  • In AB Groupe’s dub of the anime produced exclusively for Canadian and European broadcast (initially also in association with Ocean Productions and later with Blue Water Studios), Goku was voiced by Peter Kelamis again and later by the late Kirby Morrow in episodes 123-291 of Dragon Ball Z,[32] by Zoe Slusar as a child in both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT,[28] by Jeffrey Watson as an older teen in Dragon Ball,[32] and by Jeremiah Yurk as an adult and Super Saiyan 4 in GT.[32]
  • In Bang Zoom’s dub of the first 27 episodes of Dragon Ball Super produced exclusively for Toonami Asia’s broadcast, Goku was voiced by Lex Lang.[32]


In Dragon Ball

Cover of Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 51, 1984 featuring Goku and Bulma in their first appearances.

Goku first appears in Dragon Ball as a monkey-tailed child adopted by the hermit martial artist Gohan. Before the series’ narrative begins, he accidentally and unknowingly kills Gohan when he temporarily transforms into the mighty Ōzaru after staring at a full moon. However, Goku loses the ability when his friends cut off his tail.[37] Living alone with an item known as a Dragon Ball which he keeps as a memento of Gohan, Goku befriends a teenage girl named Bulma. He joins her to find the seven Dragon Balls, which, when gathered, summon the wish-granting dragon Shenron. They encounter the desert bandit Yamcha and two shapeshifters named Oolong and Puar, who also join their quest. Goku is later trained by the martial artist Master Roshi, alongside a monk named Krillin, who later becomes his best friend. It is Roshi who gives Goku the magic cloud Kintōun[nb 14][nb 15], as a reward for saving his pet sea turtle, which becomes Goku’s primary source of flight travel across the world. Goku’s first shown martial arts attack as a child is Jan ken[nb 16], three physical blows modeled after the hand signs in rock-paper-scissors.[38] As a child, he also wields the Nyoi-bō[nb 17][nb 18], a magic staff that extends and retracts on command, given to him by his late grandfather.[39] However, Goku’s signature attack is the Kamehameha, which he learned from Master Roshi.[40] The Kamehameha is a concentration of energy, released as a concussive beam. Roshi spent about 50 years developing and perfecting the technique, but, as a child, Goku is able to understand and copy the technique immediately after only one demonstration. After training with the Earth’s Guardian, Kami, Goku learns to fly by virtue of the technique Bukū-jutsu[nb 19] and uses the Nimbus cloud less frequently for flight travel. While participating in the World Martial Arts Tournament that attracts the most powerful fighters in the world, Goku battles foes, later turned allies, such as Tien Shinhan and Chiaotzu, as well as the Namekian Piccolo. After becoming the runner-up champion of the 21st and 22nd tournaments, Goku finally wins in the 23rd with Piccolo’s defeat, and marries Chi-Chi soon after to fulfill a promise he made to her years ago despite not knowing what marriage was.

From left to right: Goku in his base form, and in his Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan 2 and Super Saiyan 3 forms.

Five years later, Goku meets his evil older brother Raditz and sacrifices himself to defeat Raditz after he learns about his heritage.[41][42] Goku comes from a race of now nearly extinct extraterrestrials called Saiyans, himself having been sent from their home planet to prepare Earth for sale on the intergalactic market by destroying all its life.[43] While Grandpa Gohan was taking care of him, Goku suffered a severe head injury and forgets his mission to conquer Earth.[43] After Raditz kidnapped Goku’s son, Gohan, he forms a truce with Piccolo in order to defeat Raditz. After sacrificing his life during the battle, Goku trains with King Kai in the Other World. He teaches Goku the Kaiō-ken[nb 20], which multiplies his energy and strength but with possible strain to the body.[44] It is also from King Kai that Goku learns his most powerful attack: the Genki-Dama[nb 21][nb 22], an energy sphere created by gathering energy from surrounding animals, nature and humans.[45] After being revived by the Dragon Balls, Goku faces off with the Saiyan prince Vegeta, who eventually becomes his greatest rival and another ally. On his journey to Planet Namek in order to aid his friends in gathering the Namekian Dragon Balls to revive those killed by the Saiyans, Goku fights the galactic tyrant Frieza, who destroyed the Saiyans’ home planet and nearly the entire race. During his epic battle with Freeza, Goku becomes the first Saiyan in a thousand years to transform into a fabled Super Saiyan.[46]

After defeating Frieza and escaping the destruction of Namek, Goku learns a teleportation skill called Shunkan Idō[nb 23][nb 24], taught by the inhabitants of the planet Yardrat.[47] However, Goku contracts a heart virus whereof the time-traveler Trunks warns him, but recovers after taking medicine provided by Trunks. Later, Goku trains Gohan to be his successor and sacrifices himself again during the battle against the evil bio-android Cell. Goku is temporarily resurrected on Earth seven years later and meets his second son Goten. Goku also battles Vegeta again after Vegeta willingly falls under the control of the wizard Babidi in order to gain power. Shortly after, he is drawn into a battle for the universe against the monster Majin Buu. Despite having mastered two new Super Saiyan transformations, Goku prepares Goten and Trunks to take his place as Earth’s defender. After his life is fully restored, Goku attempts to fuse with Gohan in order to defeat Buu, but this fails when the latter is temporarily absorbed by Buu and so he persuades the newly arrived Vegeta to fuse with him, creating Vegito.[nb 25][nb 26][48] Eventually, Goku destroys Buu with a Spirit Bomb attack. Ten years later, during another World Martial Arts Tournament, Goku meets Uub, Buu’s human reincarnation, and leaves with him, intending to train him as the new protector of Earth.[49]

In Dragon Ball Super

Cosplayer recreating the appearance of Goku in “Super Saiyan Blue” form.

After defeating Majin Buu, Goku meets a new opponent known as Beerus, the God of Destruction in the film Battle of Gods. An alternative, more innately powerful form known as the Super Saiyan God[nb 27] is reached by Goku during this film. Though the temporary transformation wears off, Goku manages to harness its godly powers. In its sequel film Resurrection ‘F’, Goku manages to achieve a blue-haired evolution of Super Saiyan God under Whis’s tutelage, known as the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan[nb 28] or “Super Saiyan Blue” for short, which Goku uses to battle the newly revived Frieza.[50] These forms also appear in Dragon Ball Super and its manga tie-in, which expand upon the stories from the two films.

Afterwards, Goku and his friends participate in a fighting tournament set between Beerus and his brother Champa,who is Universe 6’s God of Destruction, facing the best warriors from Champa’s universe. During this tournament, Goku reveals that he has learned to combine the perfect energy control of his Super Saiyan Blue form with his older technique, the Kaiō-ken, creating a variation called “Kaiō-ken Blue”. Although Goku gives up after fighting his opponent, Hit, his team ends up winning the tournament. After meeting with the omnipotent being known as Grand Zeno, Goku encounters an evil alternate version of himself called “Goku Black”, who is terrorizing Future Trunks’ timeline. Black is eventually revealed to be a rogue Supreme Kai in training named Zamasu, who has stolen Goku’s body from yet another alternate timeline and teamed up with the Zamasu of Future Trunks’ timeline to fulfill their “Zero Mortals Plan”. After Zamasu and Black become even more dangerous by undergoing Potara Fusion during the battle in Future Trunks’ timeline, Goku ultimately summons the future version of Grand Zeno who erases the entire universe and Zamasu. Goku and the others manage to escape in the time machine, and later Goku and Future Trunks use the time machine again to bring Future Zeno to the present timeline.

Later, Goku requests Whis to hire Hit to assassinate himself, but his reasoning behind this is to get another chance to fight Hit. Shortly afterward, Goku causes the Zenos to decide to hold a multi-universal martial arts tournament with the losing universes wiped from existence. He encounters Universe 11’s warrior Toppo and fights him to a draw, only for Toppo to reveal that his universe houses a vastly more powerful warrior named Jiren. After enlisting nine of his allies to fight alongside him in the “Tournament of Power”, Goku ends up recruiting Frieza from Hell as well to replace Buu after he falls into a long sleep.[51] Throughout the tournament, Goku faces multiple opponents but finds his toughest in Jiren. It is during his fights with Jiren that Goku acquires and later masters a new temporary transformed state known as Ultra Instinct [nb 29] . Ultimately, the final combatants of the tournament consist of Goku, Frieza, Android 17, and Jiren. Goku and Frieza manage to work together to force Jiren out of bounds in a triple elimination, leaving Android 17 the only warrior standing and ensuring Universe 7’s victory. After Android 17 uses his wish on the Super Dragon Balls to restore the erased universes, Goku and his team part ways with a fully revived Frieza and return to their normal lives on Earth.[52]

Goku’s origin story from the Dragon Ball Minus manga chapter is retold in the film Dragon Ball Super: Broly. His birth parents are Bardock, a low-class Saiyan mercenary, and Gine, the owner of a butcher shop. Bardock has a strong suspicion that Frieza is up to something when he receives an order on his scouter for all Saiyans to return home, so he convinces Gine to send their infant son in a space pod to Earth. In the present, following the events of the Tournament of Power, Goku and Vegeta encounter another Saiyan survivor named Broly, whom Frieza has recruited to defeat them. When Broly proves to be too powerful for either of them to handle individually, Goku and Vegeta use the Metamoran Fusion Dance, which creates Gogeta[nb 30], who sports slight visual differences from their previous merger. Gogeta almost defeats his opponent, but Broly’s allies Cheelai and Lemo use the Dragon Balls to teleport Broly back to the barren planet he grew up on. Later, Goku teleports to this planet as well to provide Broly, Cheelai and Lemo with survival supplies, hoping to be able to spar with Broly again someday.[53]

In the manga, directly after the final scene of Broly, Goku and Vegeta are tranquilized and conscripted into the Galactic Patrol by Jaco and a mysteriously highly skilled agent named Merus in order to help stop an ancient warlock called Moro, who was only stopped by the Grand Supreme Kai and imprisoned 10 million years ago. With Moro headed to New Namek to use the Namekian Dragon Balls, the two Saiyans travel to the planet to stop him, where they are defeated by him using his magic to drain their life essences until near death. Once recovered, they attempt to go after Moro again, but he escapes from them, Merus and (the also conscripted) Majin Buu with the help of his accomplice Cranberry (who he kills) in order to wish upon the Dragon Balls to free all the Galactic Prison prisoners. Moro shares his power with the prisoners and absorbs Goku, Vegeta and New Namek’s energy while his allies gang up on the Saiyans, forcing Goku to teleport everyone back to Galactic Patrol headquarters. After a few days, Goku hears from Merus that Moro has grown even stronger and is unstoppable, This leads to Goku asking Merus to help train him to master the Ultra Instinct state so he can defeat Moro. Merus agrees and puts Goku through grueling training over the next few months, during which he reveals his knowledge of Ultra Instinct, much to Goku’s surprise. Near the end of their training, Goku discovers from an intervening Whis that Merus is an Angel and Whis whisks him away, leaving Goku to travel back to Earth. Once he arrives, he helps his friends take out Moro’s forces before he comes face-to-face with Moro again, wherein he reveals his ability to activate the Ultra Instinct -Sign- state at will, though he is still no match for Moro’s overwhelming power. When Moro fuses with Seven-Three, he and his allies are soundly defeated and mortally wounded, but a timely interference by Merus and him imparting an important final lesson before he fades away enables Goku to finally achieve the full power of Ultra Instinct, which he uses to debilitate Moro to near-death. Even after healing him with a Senzu bean, tanking his ensuing sneak attack, unsuccessfully attempting to convince him to reconsider his ways and go back to prison, and him using a stray severed arm with Merus’s copied power to obtain Ultra Instinct for himself, Goku continuously outmatches Moro until he resorts to merging himself with the Earth itself. Ultimately, with the help of his friends and family, along with a key assist from Buu/Grand Supreme Kai and Uub’s divine power, Goku manages to finish off Moro and save the Earth once more. He, Vegeta, Buu and Jaco then reunite with a now-mortal Merus to be honoured as heroes by the Galactic Patrol.

In Dragon Ball GT

In the anime-only sequel series, Dragon Ball GT, Goku is transformed back into a child by an accidental wish made by his old enemy Pilaf using the Black Star Dragon Balls while Pilaf was about to wish to take over the world.[54] Goku, Trunks and his own granddaughter Pan travel the universe to search for the Black Star Dragon Balls and return them to Earth to prevent its destruction. After acquiring the Super Saiyan 4 transformation, Goku battles the evil Tuffle Baby, Super Android 17, and the evil Shadow Dragons. His final challenge is against Omega Shenron, whom he destroys using the Spirit Bomb.[55] Goku leaves with the original form of Shenron, but not before saying his goodbyes to his friends on Earth. He then appears 100 years later at the next World Martial Arts Tournament as an adult, where he watches a battle between Goku Jr., his descendant, and Vegeta Jr., Vegeta’s descendant. An elderly Pan sees him, but he quickly departs.[56]

In other media

Goku has appeared in various other media including an unofficial Taiwanese live-action film[57] and an unofficial Korean live-action film.[58] He was portrayed by Justin Chatwin in the 2009 20th Century Fox feature Dragonball Evolution.[59] Goku has also appeared in almost every Dragon Ball licensed electronic video game, including crossover games such as Jump Super Stars, Jump Ultimate Stars and Battle Stadium D.O.N. In 1992, Goku was featured in the interactive game Dragon Ball Z: Get Together! Goku World,[60] in which Goku and his gang travel back in time to review events in the Dragon Ball timeline and interacts with his younger self. In December 2007, Goku made a guest appearance in avatar form in the MMORPG Second Life for a Jump Festa promotion titled manhthevinh1989@gmail.com Life.[61] Goku also appears in the Dr. Slump and Arale-chan video game for the Nintendo DS.[62]

Goku has been the subject of, and is mentioned in, various songs. “Son Goku Song”[63] and “Gokū no Gokigen Jānī”[64] feature Goku as a child singing about himself. During his adult years, the song “Aitsu wa Son Gokū” by Hironobu Kageyama, where Kageyama praises everything about Goku,[65] and the duet “Ore-tachi no Energy”[66] feature words spoken by the character. For the release of the single of the Dragonball Evolution international theme song “Rule”, Toriyama supplied CD artwork of singer Ayumi Hamasaki dressed as Goku.[67]

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Goku has been used in Japanese public service announcements aimed at children. In June 1988, Goku and other Dragon Ball characters were featured in two PSA short films. The first, in which Goku is taught the importance of obeying traffic safety by others, is entitled Goku’s Traffic Safety[nb 31].[68] The second is called Goku’s Fire Fighting Regiment[nb 32], in which he teaches two children the importance of fire safety.[68]

Goku has made guest appearances in various Japanese television shows and manga. In 2005, Goku appeared in the Toriyama parody manga Neko Majin Z where he is the sensei of the main character Z.[69] On September 15, 2006, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo, the special manga Super Kochikame[nb 33] was released. The chapter entitled This is the Police Station in front of Dragon Park on Planet Namek[nb 34] has Ryotsu Kankichi travel to planet Namek and try to issue Freeza a citation and scold both he and Goku for parking their ships illegally.[70] Goku and other Dragon Ball characters join the cast of One Piece in the 2006 crossover manga Cross Epoch.[71] He also appears in a single panel of Toriyama’s 2013 manga Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, which is set before the events of Dragon Ball.[72] The collected tankōbon volume of Jaco features the bonus story Dragon Ball Minus: The Departure of the Fated Child, depicting how and why Goku’s parents sent him to Earth.[73][74]

Goku has been the subject of various parodies. In the episode Career Day of Takeshi’s Castle, known in the United States as MXC, the hosts Beat Takeshi and Sonomanma Higashi dressed as popular anime characters, one as Goku as a child, the other as Doraemon.[75] Weekly Shōnen Jump‘s Gag Special 2005 issue, released on November 12, 2004, featured a Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo one-shot Dragon Ball parody manga, a retelling of the first fight between Goku and Vegeta.[76] In chapter #179 of the Yakitate!! Japan manga, Kawachi executes a Genki-Dama parody called a Shinrai-Dama[nb 35] on the character Katsuo.[77] In the manga and anime series Blood Lad, the character Staz performs the gestures for Goku’s Kamehameha, having learned it from his favorite manga superhero, but it has no actual effect.[78]

Goku regularly appears on Fuji TV. In 2003, Goku appeared in the interactive feature Orb’s Panic Adventure![nb 36], which was featured exclusively at the Fuji TV headquarters in the orb section. In this, Freeza attacks a visiting tourist, blasting the orb section free from the rest of the Fuji TV building. Goku fights Freeza over the real life aqua city of Odaiba.[79][80] In 2004, a sequel called Orb’s Panic Adventure Returns![nb 37] was produced.[81] On March 25, 2006, Goku and Freeza appeared in an original animated short film in the IQ Mirror Mistake 7[nb 38] segment of the Japanese game show IQ Supplement[nb 39].[82] On April 7, 2007, Goku and Fuji TV announcer Masaharu Miyake were commentators on the anime segment in the Japan Great Man Awards[nb 40] titled Who is the Strongest Hero?[nb 41]. The segment featured a special tournament to decide who was the greatest person in Japanese history. During the intermission, Goku promoted the coming release of R2 Dragon Ball DVDs.[83]

Since the U.S. debut of Dragon Ball Z in 1996, Goku has appeared in American pop culture. He was featured in an issue of Wizard magazine in which he and Superman fought a hypothetical battle and won.[84] In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode “Operation: R.E.P.O.R.T”, Numbuh Four’s version of the story is a parody of the Goku and Freeza’s battle in Dragon Ball Z.[85] Goku appears in Robot Chicken in a sketch entitled A Very Dragon Ball Z Christmas, where Goku and Gohan fight an evil Mrs. Claus with Santa’s reindeer, in an attempt to save Christmas.[86] The Saturday Night Live sketch TV Funhouse titled Kobayashi depicts real-life hot-dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi as able to transform into a Super Saiyan as he prepares to eat hot dogs; Goku appears briefly near the end.[87] Goku is referenced in the songs “Goku” and “Anime” by Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, where he brags that he looks and feels like Goku.[88] Goku appears in a parody of the film Moneyball on an episode of Mad entitled Money Ball Z, in which Billy Beane drafts Goku and a couple of other Dragon Ball characters into the Oakland A’s.[89] In 2013, he and Superman fought in a “Death Battle” episode of the Rooster Teeth web series ScrewAttack.[90] The episode “Goku vs. Superman” in the web series Epic Rap Battles of History[91] won a Streamy Award for Best Music Video.[92]

The use of the Kamehameha attack became an Internet meme which started with Japanese schoolgirls photographing themselves apparently using, and being affected by, this attack.[93][94] It has also attracted considerable media attention in France,[95] Germany,[96] as well as in many Spanish-speaking countries in South America.[97][98][99]

Cultural impact

A number of notable public figures have commented on their feelings towards Goku or his status in popular culture. For example, Jackie Chan has gone on record stating that Goku is his favorite Dragon Ball character.[100] The German rock band Son Goku takes their name from the Dragon Ball protagonist. The band’s lead singer Thomas D chose the name because Goku embodies the band’s philosophy, saying he was “fascinated by Goku’s naïveté and cheerfulness, yet, at the same time, a great warrior saving the world.”[101] In 2010, a fiberglass statue of Goku was created by Canadian-born Hong Kong artist Edison Chen, with Chen’s facial features instead of Goku’s, as part of Chen’s collection that was displayed at the “Treacherous Treis” exhibition in Singapore’s Museum of Art and Design.[102][103] CNN released an article explaining how Goku was Spanish professional tennis player Rafael Nadal’s childhood inspiration, and called Nadal “the Dragon Ball of tennis” due to his unorthodox style “from another planet.”[104]

One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda and Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto said that Goku inspired their protagonists as well as series structure,[105][106] with Tekken‘s Lars Alexandersson also showing traits of a hero through his design inspired by Goku alongside Marvel Comic’s Thor.[107] Commenting on Goku’s popularity, Kishimoto stated that when people hear the name “Son Goku”, no longer do they think of the Journey to the West character, but instead Dragon Ball’s protagonist comes to mind.[108] Additionally, for the second half of the series, Kishimoto created an ape named Son Goku in reference to Toriyama’s character to the point the ape has four tails just like the four-star Dragon Ball Goku earned from his grandfather.[109]

In his book about Akira Toriyama published in 2004, Julius Weideman said Goku’s journey and ever-growing strength resulted in the character winning “the admiration of young boys everywhere.”[110] Jason Thompson stated that unlike the “manly” heroes of other popular shōnen manga of the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as City Hunter and Fist of the North Star, Toriyama made his protagonist (Goku) cartoonish and small, thus starting a trend that Thompson says continues to this day.[111] In 2015, the Japan Anniversary Association officially declared May 9 as “Goku Day”.[nb 42][nb 43][112] Goku is the first manga character to have a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with his first appearance at the 2018 parade.[113][114]


Several pieces of merchandising based on Goku have been released, including action figures,[115][116] plushes,[117] and keychains.[118]


Goku has appeared in innumerable “top” character lists. He was ranked number one in IGN’s 2009 list of Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time[119] and reappeared on the same list in 2014, however, on this occasion they ranked him third, with Cowboy Bebops Spike Spiegel and Neon Genesis Evangelions Shinji Ikari placed above him, saying that “He was, in many ways, a character that bucked the trends of his time and defined the direction of shonen manga/anime for decades.”[120] In Mania Entertainment’s 10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes, Thomas Zoth commented that “Goku and Dragon Ball completely revolutionized shōnen manga.”[121] In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Goku was voted the fifth most popular male character from the 1980s.[122] Goku ranked consistently high in the Anime Grand Prix poll in the category of “best male character” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, appearing seventeenth in the 1987 poll,[123] fifteenth in the 1988 poll,[124] second in the 1989 poll,[125] fourth in the 1990 poll,[126] third in the 1991 poll,[127] fourth in the 1992 poll,[128] thirteenth in 1993 poll,[129] and twelfth in 1994 poll.[130] In a 1993 character popularity poll for the series, Weekly Shōnen Jump readers voted Goku second, after his son Gohan.[131] He came in first in the magazine’s 1995 poll,[131] as well as in a 2004 poll amongst fans of the series for the book Dragon Ball Forever.[132] In a 2005 The Daily Reader article entitled “The Greatest Geek Movie Heroes of All Time”, Goku is the only animated character listed, and is ranked tenth.[133] In a survey of 1,000 people, conducted by Oricon in 2007, Goku ranked first place as the “Strongest Manga character of all time.”[134] In the survey “Friendship” developed by rankingjapan.com, in which people chose which anime character they would like as a friend, Goku ranked fifth.[135] In 2000, Goku placed third in an Animax poll of favorite anime characters.[136] In 2011, readers of Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition voted Goku as the 41st-top video game character of all time.[137] NTT customers voted him as their third favorite black haired male anime character in a 2014 poll.[138] Game designer Hiroshi Matsuyama from CyberConnect2 said that while Goku is an appealing character readers could root for during the manga, he was hard to relate and, thus, instead preferred other characters like Krillin or Bulma. However, during the manga’s final story arc, Matsuyama recalls being overjoyed when Goku says that Mr. Satan, a comic relief character with no superextraordinary skills, was the real hero of mankind as the Earthlings found him as the saviour of mankind when Buu was about win the final fight.[139]

Goku’s characterization has been well received by publications for manga, anime and other media. Anime News Network noted Goku as a good source of comedy and remarked that after everything he experiences, he still remains a naïve character.[140] Tim Jones from THEM Anime Reviews noted that Goku is not an omnipotent character in the first anime series, unlike Dragon Ball Z, and does not disappear for long periods of time between sagas. Jones also liked the way the series’ depict his entire adventures, making him a good main character.[141] Rationalmagic.com praised Goku’s innocence as one of the funniest parts of the series.[142] In January 2017, Nozawa won two Guinness World Records for her longevity as Goku; she has been the sole voice actor for the role for over 23 years.[143] According to Screen Rant, Goku’s origin story has some similarities to that of Superman.[144]

Despite his predominantly positive reception, Goku has received some negative feedback, in particular for his characterization in Dragon Ball Super due to how his constant desires for fighting stronger enemies resulted in setting up a story where all universes could be destroyed. While Anime Now’s Richard Eisenbeis believes Goku is determined to protect his universe, the fact that he does not seemingly care about other loser universes being destroyed has been criticized.[145] Monique Jones from Syfy panned the character’s relationship dynamic with his wife, as well as his perceived incompetency and irresponsibility as a father, drawing attention to the “tons of memes and fan chatter about Piccolo actually being the best dad Gohan’s ever had”.[146] Sam Leach from Anime News Network agreed that fans of the series tend to joke about Piccolo being a better paternal figure to Gohan than his actual father, Goku, and felt that Dragon Ball Super emphasized this more when Piccolo started training him again.[147] The same site also criticized Goku often being busy in the narrative, most notably in Frieza’s resurrection, as the supporting characters have some extra scenes only to have their spotlight stolen by Goku and Vegeta. His rematch with Frieza was criticized for how overpowered the character has become and how much back up his allies can provide in the battle, ruining the tension the film was supposed to generate.[148] DVD Talk expressed similar responses in the handling of these characters.[149] IGN noted that Goku has a tendency to show enemies mercy, including Vegeta, Piccolo, Cell and Moro. His decision to let Cell have a senzu bean without informing his allies in particular was considered to be infamous, which affected Gohan’s confidence and led to his defeat.[150][151]

See also

  • List of Dragon Ball characters


  1. ^ Son Gokū (孫悟空) ()
  2. ^ Buruma to Son Gokū (ブルマと孫悟空)
  3. ^ Was renamed to “Bloomers and the Monkey King” in Viz’s translation.
  4. ^ Kakarotto (カカロット)
  5. ^ An English to Japanese play on the word “carrot”.
  6. ^ 孫悟空, reads as “Son Gokū” in Japanese, hence providing the origin of Goku’s name.
  7. ^ Saiya-jin (サイヤ人, lit. “Saiya Person”)
  8. ^ “Saiya”, an anagram for Yasai (野菜, lit. vegetable).
  9. ^ lit. “Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament” (天下一武道会)
  10. ^ Renamed to “The World Martial Arts Tournament” in Funimation’s dub.
  11. ^ Sūpā Saiya-jin ( (スーパー)サイヤ人, lit. “Super Saiya Person”)
  12. ^ lit. “Great Ape” (大猿)
  13. ^ In this dub Goku was renamed “Zero”.
  14. ^ lit. “Somersault Cloud” (筋斗雲)
  15. ^ Renamed to “Flying Nimbus” in Funimation’s dub.
  16. ^ lit. “Jan Fist” (ジャン拳)
  17. ^ lit. “Mind Stick” (如意棒)
  18. ^ Renamed to “Power Pole” in Funimation’s dub.
  19. ^ lit. “Air Dance Technique” (舞空術)
  20. ^ lit. “World King Fist” (界王拳)
  21. ^ lit. “Energy Sphere” (元気玉)
  22. ^ Renamed to “Spirit Bomb” in Funimation’s dub.
  23. ^ lit. “Instantaneous Movement” (瞬間移動)
  24. ^ Renamed to “Instant Transmission” in Funimation’s dub.
  25. ^ Bejitto (ベジット)
  26. ^ “Vegerot” in Viz Media’s manga translation.
  27. ^ Sūpā Saiya-jin Goddo ( (スーパー)サイヤ人ゴッド)
  28. ^ Sūpā Saiya-jin Goddo Sūpā Saiya-jin ( (スーパー)サイヤ人ゴッドSS (スーパーサイヤ人))
  29. ^ 身勝手みがっての極意ごくい (Migatte no Goku’i, lit. “Secret of the self”)
  30. ^ Gojīta (ゴジータ)
  31. ^ Gokū no Kōtsū Anzen (悟空の交通安全)
  32. ^ Gokū no Shōbō-tai (悟空の消防隊)
  33. ^ Chō Kochikame (超こち亀)
  34. ^ Kochira Namekku-sei Doragon Kōen-mae Hashutsujo (こちらナメック星ドラゴン公園前派出所)
  35. ^ lit. “Trust Ball” (信頼玉)
  36. ^ Kyūtai Panikku Adobenchā! (球体パニックアドベンチャー!)
  37. ^ Kyūtai Panikku Adobenchā Ritānzu! (球体パニックアドベンチャーリターンズ!)
  38. ^ Aikyū Mirā Machigai Nana (IQミラーまちがい7)
  39. ^ IQ Sapuri (IQサプリ)
  40. ^ Nippon Ijin Taishō (日本偉人大賞)
  41. ^ Saikyō no Ijin ha Dare? (最強の偉人は誰?)
  42. ^ Gokū no hi (悟空の日, lit. “Goku’s Day”)
  43. ^ In Japanese the numbers 5 and 9 can be pronounced as “Go” and “Ku” respectively.


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Further reading

  • Padula, Derek (2012). Dragon Ball Z ‘It’s Over 9,000!’ When Worldviews Collide . foreword by Ryo Horikawa. ISBN 0908603917.

External links

Goku - Wikipedia Wikiquote has quotations related to: Goku


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