Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has continued to tell powerful stories across more than 600 episodes between its many series. Dragon Ball Z, the franchise’s first sequel, tends to receive the most attention due to its more adult storytelling, longer length, and greater focus on action. However, Dragon Ball Z doesn’t just wipe the slate clean and begin anew. All of the series’ developments are a careful response to what’s already been established in the original Dragon Ball.

Goku meets many compelling friends and foes during his initial adventures, some of which fade into obscurity, while others completely change and take on new goals in life. Dragon Ball has hundreds of individuals to stay on top of, but a select few experience particular growth from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z.

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10 Piccolo

Piccolo sacrifices himself to save Gohan in Dragon Ball Z

Piccolo is one of Dragon Ball’s greatest success stories and Dragon Ball Z immediately creates tension through the temporary alliance between Piccolo and Goku as they take on the greater threat of Raditz. Piccolo is brought into the world in the original Dragon Ball for the express purpose of Goku’s destruction and to accomplish what his malevolent father, Demon King Piccolo, couldn’t.

Dragon Ball poignantly concludes with a battle between Piccolo Jr. and Goku during the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. Not only does Dragon Ball Z transform Piccolo into one of the series’ most important heroes, but he willingly sacrifices himself to protect Goku’s son, Gohan, which brings his character arc full-circle.

9 Bulma

Bulma works on Namekian spaceship in Dragon Ball Z.

Bulma is the first person that Goku meets on his adventures and she spends most of the original Dragon Ball as a flippant teenager who’s more concerned about finding a boyfriend than she is about saving the world. Bulma’s connection to Capsule Corp. and technology isn’t a secret in Dragon Ball, but her scientific acumen doesn’t reach its full potential until Dragon Ball Z.

Bulma gets her carefree teen years out of the way and in Dragon Ball Z she’s responsible for some of the heroes’ most important technological breakthroughs. Bulma perfects the Dragon Radar, fixes a Namekian spaceship, and even figures out time travel Bulma also gets over Yamcha and builds a proper family with Vegeta.

8 Krillin

Bulma, Chi-Chi, Yamcha, Krillin, and Maron on the Lookout in Dragon Ball Z.

Krillin isn’t Goku’s first friend in Dragon Ball, but he gradually becomes his closest companion and a steady source of motivation during the original series. Krillin is introduced as a conniving rival who looks to cheat his way through Master Roshi’s Turtle School martial arts training, only to become inspired by Goku’s altruistic and humble attitude.

Krillin makes significant changes in his personal life. He sees the best in Android 18 when no one else does and his love for her is so strong that he’s willing to put martial arts on the backburner so that he can properly raise a family.

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7 Chiaotzu

Chiaotzu attempts to self-destruct to take out Nappa in Dragon Ball Z

The original Dragon Ball creates a rich rivalry between Master Roshi’s Turtle School students and Master Shen’s Crane School disciples. Dragon Ball creates an eerie symmetry between these two contrasting approaches to martial arts and Chiaotzu is supposed to be Krillin’s Crane School counterpart. Chiaotzu remains shrouded in mystery throughout the Dragon Ball franchise, but he’s at his most intimidating in the original series.

Chiaotzu’s debilitating and unnecessary self-destruction against Nappa in Dragon Ball Z appears to set him up for a passive future of failure and fear. Chiaotzu struggles to find motivation later in Dragon Ball Z and he certainly loses the cocky attitude that defined his debut.

6 Yajirobe

Yajirobe slices off Great Ape Vegeta's tail in Dragon Ball Z

Yajirobe first enters the fray during Goku’s treacherous training at Korn’s Tower. Yajirobe remains a vital fixture of this component of Kami’s lookout and a useful dispensary for the restorative Senzu Beans. Yajirobe’s role in Dragon Ball Z isn’t too substantial and he’s not someone who experiences a major power boost.

That being said, Yajirobe matures into a more courageous and responsible fighter. Yajirobe delivers a crucial blow against Vegeta during Earth’s battle against the Saiyans, which speaks volumes for the character’s growth. Yajirobe flees away as soon as his attack makes contact, but he never would have even attempted such a maneuver during the original Dragon Ball.

5 Yamcha

Yamcha is killed from a Saibaman in Dragon Ball Z

The original Dragon Ball finds a lot of humor in Yamcha’s clumsy, hormonal antics. Yamcha certainly remains comic relief in both Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super. However, the original series still takes him seriously and presents him as a force to be reckoned with whenever he participates in the World Martial Arts Tournament.

Yamcha’s Wolf Fang Fist and other unique attacks help him serve an important purpose. Yamcha never fully recovers from his early Saibaman defeat in Dragon Ball Z and his best moment comes from filler content on King Kai’s Planet. Yamcha has a bright future ahead in Dragon Ball, but the emergence of Saiyans and the loss of Bulma turns him into a prolonged punchline.

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4 Chi-Chi

Chi-Chi with a young Gohan as he gets frightened in Dragon Ball Z

Chi-Chi helps bookend Goku’s adventures in the original Dragon Ball. Goku doesn’t fully understand the commitment of marriage when he agrees to be Chi-Chi’s husband. However, Chi-Chi repeatedly proves herself to be a formidable martial artist and if anyone would be a good match for Goku, it’s her.

Chi-Chi’s priorities radically change after she has her first child. Dragon Ball Z turns Chi-Chi into an overprotective parent who Goku has to sneak around in order to indulge in training. Chi-Chi actively disagrees with Goku’s decision to put Gohan in harm’s way at such a young age. Chi-Chi rarely uses martial arts in Dragon Ball Z and instead focuses on a stable domestic life for herself and her family.

3 Tien

Tien releases the rest of his energy against Nappa in Dragon Ball Z

Tien is Master Shen’s star student and he even manages to beat Goku during the finals of the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament. Tien is initially Goku’s strongest adversary and a worthy motivator to surpass his previous limits. Tien’s potential only grows more impressive across the original Dragon Ball thanks to powerful techniques like his Multiform maneuver, Four Witches Technique, Tri-Beam, and Solar Flare, all of which Goku initially lacks.

Dragon Ball Z really takes the wind out of Tien’s sails and he shifts from one of the strongest characters to a helpful afterthought. Dragon Ball Super is at least able to redeem the character through his participation in the Tournament of Power.

2 Kami

Kami and Mr. Popo run away in Dragon Ball Z

Kami is one of the first Namekian that Dragon Ball introduces, even if the series hadn’t fully decided yet that these creatures were actually aliens Kami serves the role of Earth’s Guardian, creator of the Dragon Balls, and the pure-hearted other half of Demon King Piccolo. Kami also helps Goku and the audience better understand Dragon Ball’s grander scope. Curiously, Kami sacrifices himself for the greater good in Dragon Ball Z when he fuses together with Piccolo to give the Namekian his strength and insight.

This essentially turns Kami into a passive warrior due to the body that he shares with Piccolo. It’s Dende who goes on to become Earth’s new guardian and Dragon Ball architect.

1 Goku

Goku uses Instant Transmission to get rid of Cell in Dragon Ball Z

The entirety of Dragon Ball remains Goku’s epic story and each series contains significant growth for the displaced Saiyan. The original Dragon Ball transforms Goku from a precocious child to a thoughtful martial artist who masters ki manipulation and translates it into flight. Dragon Ball Z continues to build upon this idea, but it also makes Goku a husband, father, and a powerful Super Saiyan.

Goku learns about his Saiyan heritage, which informs much of his development, while he also prepares his son to be the Earth’s strongest in his absence. Goku never loses his levity, but there’s a stark shift between his looser Dragon Ball self and the hardened warrior that he’s become by Dragon Ball Z’s end.