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Dragon Ball is one of the most famous anime franchises in the world. It doesn’t matter if you have only watched the show or read the manga: you KNOW what Dragon Ball is. It’s one of those franchises that have become so ingrained in human culture that a Kamehameha or a Super Saiyan have become common knowledge for most of us. It’s THAT big.

So, when you have a story with so many fans, so many readers and viewers and so much to cover, it is only natural that there are discussions about the characters and the many different plots, especially with an anime or manga as long as Akira Toriyama’s creation. When the subject of Dragon Ball arises, it is usually to talk about the Saiyan characters, who happen to beat the likes of Goku, Vegeta or even Gohan–you know, the characters with the most screen time and are usually the most powerful when it comes to the good guys.

But what about the rest? The non-Saiyan cast? As we go from the original Dragon Ball portion of the story to the Z one (and depending on your preference, the GT or Super ones), we see a gradual progression of the show becoming much more Saiyan-centric and the other characters, whether they are Humans, Namekians, Androids or whatever the hell Ten Shin Han is, are slowly losing prominence. It’s unfair, especially when you consider how many of these characters have been there since the early days of the series.

That’s why in this article I’m going to talk about the best non-Saiyan moments in the Dragon Ball franchise. Now, some of these moments do include Saiyans, but they are not in the spotlight. In no particular order, we’re going to talk about these moments, why they were so good and what it meant to the characters involved.

Dragon Ball is much more than just the Saiyans (as much as we love them) and today the rest of the cast get their long-awaited due. Let’s begin.

Author’s note: Considering how long Dragon Ball is and despite me knowing a good portion of the show, I asked a lot of people for suggestions so I don’t forget any particular moments. I would like to thank Charby Tanza, Juan Carlos Carranza, Yeison Plaza, Samuel Lopez, Raisa Medrano, Javier Vazquez, Alberto Peláez Rivera, Alejandro Mendez Bonilla, Roberto Novelo, Ivan Ruiz, Jonathan Vallejos, Jhefer Centeno De La Cruz, Diego Orozco and Francisco Javier Gonzalez Roman for their input in this project.

Piccolo Against Android 17

Piccolo and Android 17 fighting in the Dragon Ball Z series. Both characters are trading punches to the stomach.

Let’s start with a big one and let me say what a lot of people think about this battle: this wasn’t martial arts style combat, but rather a straight up street fight.

We’re in the middle of the Android saga, with Cell rearing his ugly head a few episodes ago, and Piccolo, due to the high stakes of the conflict, merged with Kami to make himself whole again and have the power to beat the Androids, and the new threat that is Cell. Due to that fusion, the then-new Piccolo was the strongest character in that particular point of Dragon Ball.

So when the Androids show up to Kame House looking for Goku to murder him, Piccolo challenges 17 to a battle in a deserted island and thus begins one of the finest battles in Dragon Ball history, with both characters in a very even condition and pushing each other to their limits in the franchise’s typical style.

17 in theory had the upper hand because of his unlimited energy, but Piccolo was a bit more powerful than him, causing the Android to suffer considerable damage, which is why he is particularly tired when Cell shows up, ending this battle abruptly. But what a fight! As time goes by, usually one of characters in a Dragon Ball fight increases in power and this leads to more one-sided fights, but here you don’t know who is going to win as they go all out, thus building the tension and stakes.

In terms of sheer entertainment value, this is one of the best battles in the series’ history and is also choreographed extremely well and we can see both characters using a lot of tricks up their sleeve to gain the upper hand. Peak Dragon Ball Z right here.

Jackie Chun vs Goku In The 21st Tenkaichi Budokai

Jackie Chun, and young Goku exchanging kicks to the face.

Master Roshi signed up for the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai as Jackie Chun in disguise in order to teach his pupils, Krillin and Goku, the lesson that there was always going to be someone stronger out there and they shouldn’t get arrogant or complacent just because of their improvements. So by the time he and Goku reach the tournament finals, the time to teach his final lesson to his students has begun… and what a final lesson it was!

Considering how dramatic and over the top Dragon Ball has become in terms of battles, it is interesting to go back in time and see this combat. Roshi is takin this fight extremely seriously and his wisdom and experience really shine here, but we can also see that there is a lot of emphasis on technique and actual martial arts, which is a far cry from what we see nowadays in the franchise.

Regardless, this is a great non-Saiyan moment because you can see how Roshi has a response for all of Goku’s attacks and strategies, highlighting their difference as student and master while showing how our protagonists has progressed in the series so far. The interlude where he becomes a great ape also shows Roshin managing the situation quite well (a bit too extreme, but quite well) and the battle pushes both characters to their limits, with the old master winning by the skin of his teeth.

It is a passing of the torch kind of moment and also a very important theme of Dragon Ball as a whole: that you shouldn’t get too confident because there is always someone out there who can be stronger than you.

Krillin Cuts Off Frieza’s Tail

Frieza flying in the air stunned as Krillin's attack cuts off his tail.

Krillin might be one of the most misjudged characters in modern Dragon Ball. While he has certainly lost a lot of influence in the show and he is nowhere near Vegeta or Goku’s level, the reality is that Krillin is a lot more than memes about how many times he has died. Moments like when he cut off Frieza’s tail in the Namek saga highlight not only his bravery, but also how cunning he can be.

To put things into context, Frieza had unleashed hell upon our heroes with his first transformation and this put them into a corner: Goku was still recovering in Frieza’s ship, Piccolo hadn’t arrived yet, Gohan was on the edge of death while battling Frieza, and Vegeta was not moving due to how terrified he was. But who wasn’t afraid? The only human in the entire conflict, Krillin.

Recently healed by Dende after Frieza pierced with one of his horns, Krillin surprised the galactic tyrant with a Kienzan, almost cutting him, but having to settle for his tail. Not only does he manage to save Gohan’s life, but he also starts taunting Frieza and gives the others a bit of extra time by distracting their enemy.

Krillin was by far the weakest out of everybody involved in the battle, but he still showed enough bravery and intelligence to save Gohan and by a bit of time for Piccolo to show up and even the score a little more. Say what you want about the little guy, but when it was time to stand up to Frieza, Krillin did and Vegeta stood still. I’m sure he tells Android 18 this story all the time.

Mr. Satan and Majin Buu

Majin Boo (left) is talking to a surprised Mr. Satan (right).

Mr. Satan might be one of the most Akira Toriyama characters of all time. In a universe filled with guys that could destroy entire galaxies, he has this guy who is a martial arts champion and a massive opportunist who takes advantage of Gohan’s victory over Cell, increasing his fame and wealth. In a lot of franchises, he would just be the comic relief character, and he is that for the most part in Dragon Ball… but he also saved the entire universe.

His friendship with Majin Buu during the Buu Saga proved to be pivotal to the story’s development and for the good guys’ final victory when Goku throws the Genkidama at Kid Buu to end the conflict. Satan becomes friends with Buu at first for opportunistic reasons yet again, but as they get to know each other, he starts to genuinely care for the character who was the main antagonist at the time and understood that he truly had no sense of right and wrong.

Instead of relying on conflict and just viewing him as another monster to destroy, Satan see’s goodness in Buu and this led to a beautiful friendship until this very day in the franchise, with Buu having expelled his evil side and becoming an ally to Goku and his friends (even though the writers in Super always find a way to not use him).

He might be comic relief for the most part, but Mr. Satan was the only one who tried to treat Buu as a person and he reaped the rewards for that. After all, he is the Earth’s savior.

Piccolo Fuses With Kami

Piccolo and Kami staring at each other in preparation for their fusion.

For longtime Dragon Ball fans, the separation between Kami and his evil side (first Demon King Piccolo and later his son, the Piccolo we all know and love) was part of the franchise’s lore, but as the threat of the Androids proved to be so dangerous, Piccolo goes to the Lookout and demands the Guardian of Earth join bodies with him again, thus forming the “Super Namekian” that could protect humanity.

This moment might not have been an epic battle or a cool transformation, but it showed how far Piccolo had come as a character and how he had embraced the goodness inside him. Kami would have never agreed to fuse with him if he thought he was still a bad guy, thus confirming how his time on Earth, learning to care for others (especially Gohan), was fundamental to reach this moment.

It was also the period of the series where Piccolo became the strongest character of the series, recovering his relevance after a period on the sidelines. It’s also a bit sad to see Mr. Popo crying because he has to say goodbye to Kami after hundreds of years working for him–it’s a small touch that make this moment so good and even more impactful.

Yajirobe Cuts Off Vegeta’s Tail

Yajirobe is in the air after cutting off Vegita's (In his great ape form) tail.

Goku and Vegeta just had one of the best fights in the history of anime. The Prince of all Saiyans is on the ropes and he decides to create an artificial moon to turn into a great ape, thus gaining the upper hand over Goku and his friends. All seems lost until we get an unexpected hero… Yajirobe?

Yeah, Yajirobe was never a big time character in the franchise, not even in the original Dragon Ball despite a few moments here and there, but this is what makes this moment so good: he doesn’t have the power, the personality or even the bravery to be part of a battle of this magnitude and, yet, he ignores all the fear that he has, jumps into action and cuts off Vegeta’s tail, thus putting the balance of power in the good guys’ favor.

This is one of those moments where Toriyama’s pen really shines as absolutely no one was expecting Yajirobe to do this and it also serves as a bit of a theme as Vegeta was constantly bragging about his position as an elite warrior… only for the weakest person there to cut off his tail. It’s delightfully ironic and one of those underrated moments in the Dragon Ball franchise.

The First Death Of Krillin

Young Goku holding a lifeless Krillin

Not all great moments have to be positive–they can also be quite painful and unforgettable, and this is one of those. Krillin’s first death in the original Dragon Ball is still one of the most shocking moments and a total game-changer in terms of the story’s style and approach to things.

After the resolution of the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai, all of the characters are eating and having a good time when Krillin leaves for a second. Goku, after a while of not seeing his best friend, decides to check on him only to find his lifeless body lying on the ground and his eyes still wide open in a perpetual state of shock. I remember getting chills when I watched this as a kid and it is still a very powerful moment.

Krillin’s death proved to the overture of the Demon King Piccolo saga and also a shift in the story’s tone. It was mostly a jolly martial arts story that got darker and more violent with the introduction of Piccolo, who proved to be a much more menacing and evil villain than anyone that came before him. And it all started with this death.

Android 17 In The Tournament Of Power

Android 17 In the Tournament of Power from the Dragon Ball Super Series.

Illogical power scaling aside (how a Super Saiyan level character in the Cell saga could be fighting God-tier characters after just catching regular bad guys on an island on earth for years is beyond me), Android 17’s performance in the Tournament of Power was amazing and it brought the character back to the spotlight after years in the (literal) wilderness. If I had to drop a sports reference here (I don’t have to, but I want to anyway), he was Luka Modric in Croatia’s 2018 World Cup run.

The man was everywhere, helping his teammates, getting fighters from other universes kicked from the arena, a helpful fighter, cunning and he was even willing to give his life for the cause. It also showed his growth during those years on the island, going from being a cocky brat that just wanted to kill Goku because of boredom to someone who actually cared for something and for other people. Sure, we didn’t see that development on screen and that’s a valid criticism, but it was still an enjoyable watch.

It was hard to just pinpoint one moment because I think his entire performance was extremely solid and most fans consider him the MVP of the Tournament of Power, which I completely agree with.

Ten Shin Han vs. Tao

Ten is preparing to fight Tao at the Martial Arts Tournament.

Most Dragon Ball fans love the character development of the likes of Vegeta and Piccolo and for a good reason: they went from being Goku’s nemesis and truly bad people to becoming fundamentally good people and powerful allies of earth. But before we had the Prince of all Saiyans and the powerful Namekian, we had Ten Shin Had and his journey from being Goku’s ruthless ally to a very reliable ally in times of need and all of this comes to fruition in his fight against Tao in the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai.

Tao Pai Pai taught Ten Shin Han how to fight and for a long time molded his vision of what he used to be, but this battle shows them at very different points in their lives: Ten Shin Han has found honor thanks to his fights with Goku and Roshi and Tao has become an even more ruthless and sadistic man after becoming a cyborg to get his revenge on the Saiyan and his former pupil.

The battle is massively uneven, with Tao failing to hurt Ten Shin Han at any moment and with the latter asking to retire as he still holds him in high regard, but the former sneaks up on with a knife, scarring him for life, and resulting in him being disqualified for breaking the tournament’s rules. He still kept fighting, but he was no match for Ten Shin Han.

Toriyama doesn’t reflect a lot on his character’s growth, at least not in a very obvious or straightforward manner, but this is a great moment because it serves us how much Ten Shin Han has grown as a person and how Tao Pai Pai’s teachings and lack of honor are now a far cry of who he is now. He was the first major antagonist of Goku’s to go through a path of redemption and he has never looked back, always willing to give his life to protect others (as we will discover later on).

It’s just a shame that Toriyama never developed him more after this moment.

Android 18 Breaking Vegeta’s Arm

Android 18 kicking Vegeta in the arm.

Akira Toriyama has gotten a lot of criticism over the years about the fact that “he can’t write strong female characters” and even though I wouldn’t go as far as some people have gone by accusing him of being sexist (something that I think is a bit out of line), I do have to agree with that to some degree. The lack of strong female fighters in Dragon Ball is a missed opportunity for more cool characters to appear, which makes the arrival of Android 18 and her breaking Vegeta’s arm all the more shocking to the viewer at the time.

To add a bit of context, Vegeta was on cloud nine at this point of the series. He had reached the legendary Super Saiyan form, had instilled fear in a machine like Android 19 and killed him in style and was by far the most powerful character at that point in time.

Then Android 18 showed up.

The female android not only has unlimited energy, which was key as Vegeta was running out of batteries as the battle progressed, but she was also a lot stronger, constantly dodging the Prince’s attacks and making a fool out of him. Then, to add insult to the injury, and in his moment of greatest vulnerability due to being exhausted, she broke his arm and stepped on it to taunt him.

18 would go on to become an ally of the good guys and marry Krillin, but this was still her greatest moment in the series, highlighting how she made a fool out of Vegeta and all of his hard work to become a Super Saiyan. The fact Toriyama could write a female character that was not only powerful, but also confident, strong and with an attitude was something that a lot of people were not expecting.

She wouldn’t be used again until Super in the Tournament of Power, although it’s a shame that she doesn’t have a bigger role because she is quite likely the strongest woman on Earth and a fan favorite.

Funny enough, I think Vegeta and her have never interacted ever since. Wonder why.

Goku vs. Krillin

Young Goku and Krillin fighting each other.

It’s difficult for some people to imagine it now, but there was a time when Goku and Krillin were very evenly matched in terms of power and they had their own showdown in the semifinals of the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai. It was a pivotal moment for both characters and a time to prove how much they had improved.

This battle highlights all of that, but it also serves to show their value as strategists and how Goku and Krillin have grown in their understanding of one another and themselves, with our protagonist overcoming his weakness with his tail, and his best friend coming up with a lot of different strategies to try beating him.

One of the most underrated battles in the entire original series and one that is always worth checking out once again.

Master Roshi’s Last Stand Against Demon King Piccolo

Demon King Piccolo standing over Master Roshi.

As I have mentioned before, the arrival of Demon King Piccolo was a shift in tone for the Dragon Ball series, starting off with Krillin’s shocking death. The series got more violent, more serious and darker as they now had a villain that was pure evil and wasn’t messing around, which is why Master Roshi stepped up to deal with this threat and sacrificed himself for others… only to no avail.

Roshi steps up against Piccolo and even though he held his own for a while, he was no match for the Demon King and eventually had to resort to the one technique that made the evil creature shake in fear and was the one that held him captive for centuries: the Mafuba. This was the same technique that Roshi’s master, Mutaito, used to capture the Demon King so long ago, but it took a severe toll on his body and this is something that our dear master realizes as he starts executing it, although he makes a mistake: he has no one to hold the container where Piccolo was going to be held captive in.

This results in Roshi missing by a few inches, and this means Demon King Piccolo will remain free, killing Roshi in the process. It was a powerful moment because Roshi was willing to give his life to save the world and it also made the strongest character, at that point in the series, shake in absolute fear. It was also a passing of the torch as Roshi, the last of the older generation of fighters, was falling in battle and it was time for the new generation (Goku) to step up to the challenge of protecting the Earth.

Chaos and Ten Shin Han vs. Nappa

Chiaotzu holding on to Nappa's back

The Saiyan saga was really rough for those Dragon Ball fans that grew up with the original series: watching all the characters we grew to love die in just a couple of episodes was really tough and it set the stage for the likes of Nappa and Vegeta in terms of power. But one of those touching moments was Chiaotzu and Ten Shin Han’s sacrifices against Nappa.

The bald Saiyan was a huge challenge for our heroes and they were grossly outmatched, so Chiaotzu decides to hold to Nappa’s back and self-destruct in order to save everybody, much to Ten Shin Han’s dismay. They both share a sweet moment of goodbye before Chiaotzu self-destructs… but Nappa manages to survive.

Tien firing a beam at Nappa

Ten Shin Han is destroyed and truly hurt as he lost his best friend in the world in battle, but now, standing with just one hand, decides to make a last stand and chooses to use a Kikoho (or Tribeam as it was known in the English dub), even if it kills him, to take down Nappa. He hurts the Saiyan, but its not enough and Ten Shin Han falls to the ground, dying in the process.

It was a moment that felt very emotional and at the same time very frustrating because we see two heroes die without doing much of anything, but it also shows Chiaotzu’s willingness to give his life to save everybody and how much Ten Shin Han cared for him.

Android 16’s sacrifice against Cell

Android 16 grabs cell and plans to self destruct.
Image Credit: dragonball.fandom.com

During the final battle of the Cell saga, Android 16 jumped into the action to stop Cell as Gohan wasn’t willing to fight the villain on equal terms. But as 16 was about to self-destruct in order to end Cell, Krillin lets him know that Bulma took off the option to do that from his system and Cell rapidly turns him into pieces.

Still, his head was able to communicate and he asks Mr. Satan to take him to Gohan, which the champion agrees to. 16 tells Gohan that there are times where you just have to fight and stand up for what is right–that there are people in this world you just can’t talk to. But Cell then steps on his head, crushing it, resulting in Gohan having a burst of rage, turning him Super Saiyan 2.

It may involve a Saiyan to some degree, but Android 16’s sacrifice was a major catalyst in saving the world and allowing Gohan to fulfill his potential at a very crucial time in the story. Plus, the fact that 16 never came back to life due to the fact he was a machine makes his final sacrifice all the more impactful and meaningful.

Krillin saving people from Cell

Krillin attacking Cell
Image Credit: Ultra Dragon Ball Wiki

As I said before, Krillin might not be the strongest of fighters in Dragon Ball Z, but his bravery and willingness to help others should never be doubted. That is exemplified when he runs into Cell in his first form and he is trying to feed off a woman and her daughter, resulting in Krillin stepping up to help them.

Just like when he cut off Frieza’s tail in Namek, Krillin is no match for Cell in direct combat and yet manages to avoid him and keep him distracted as the woman and her daughter manage to escape. Of course, the most iconic scene is when Krillin headbutts Cell, much to the beast’s surprise.

Dragon Ball characters are by and large not heroic in the traditional sense of the word, but Krillin definitely has a lot of heroic qualities in this moment and shows that you don’t need to have the highest level of fighting powers to be useful.

Master Roshi In The Tournament of Power

Master Roshi thinking about all of the other characters during the Tournament of power.

Dragon Ball Super has gotten a lot of criticism from longtime fans of the series and while I agree with a lot of the critics, I have to say that Master Roshi’s moment in the Tournament of Power was a wonderful way of ending his character arc in the series and finally retiring him as a fighter. In a modern entertainment industry were a lot of iconic characters are desecrated, a lot of them would have killed to have Roshi’s sendoff in this saga.

The old master manages to take down several enemies in the tournament, but then he faces off against a rival that transforms and gets stronger, pushing him over the edge. The enemy tells him to give up, that he isn’t up to the task and he is too old for this, but Roshi says that limits don’t matter as he charges his most powerful Kamehameha (the technique he invented), he tells Krillin and Goku, his pupils, the lessons of the Kame style of fighting and how much they mean to him.

Flashback sequence of Master Roshi's training. The text reads, "Move well, learn well, eat well, rest well. This is the Eternal Turtle School's training".

It was a moment to celebrate the first master in Dragon Ball and the man that kickstarted Goku and Krillin’s lives in the world of martial arts. Goku went on to become one of the strongest warriors ever and Krillin, while nowhere near Goku’s level, was always willing to protect others, and became a great strategist and formed a wonderful family. They lived good lives, and were examples to their peers and it all started with Roshi’s teachings.

Roshi was by and large viewed as comic relief during the Z portion of the franchise, so it was refreshing to see him not only in action, but also reminding people of how wise he truly is and how much he means to the franchise. This is something you don’t often see in Dragon Ball, with a lot of characters being pushed to the wayside, which is worth taking into account.

As a very interesting note, Goku cries near the end of the episode when he thinks that Roshi has died–the only other time he cried was when he saw the spirit of Grandpa Gohan in the original series. That goes to show how much Roshi means to him.

Piccolo Gives His Life To Save Gohan

Piccolo standing in front of an attack to protect Gohan.

Piccolo’s relationship with Gohan is one of the best aspects of Dragon Ball. The way he learned to cast aside the evil in his heart and learn to care for others through his nemesis’ son is one of the greatest character arcs in anime and his relationship with Gohan has never changed. Even now in 2022, with the new Dragon Ball movie that just came out, it’s as strong as ever.

The decisive moment for this was when they were fighting Nappa in the Saiyan saga and when Gohan was about to get destroyed by the former, Piccolo jumps in to protect his pupil, giving his life in the process. This was something that changed Piccolo’s character forever as it showed he genuinely cares for Gohan and his final words to him reflect that.

This was the scene where Piccolo truly became a good guy and where his bond with Gohan grew extremely strong. For both characters, their development starts right here, and for fans this is one of the saddest and most poignant moments in Dragon Ball history.

Ten Shin Han vs. Cell

Tien attacking Cell

When it comes to the best non-Saiyan moments in Dragon Ball history, this right here is the epitome of that. And if you were a kid watching this for the first time, your respect for Ten Shin Han became unbreakable. In terms of bravery, this is one of the best scenes in the entire franchise.

Cell had just absorbed Android 17 and grew much stronger than Android 18, Android 16 and Piccolo. Vegeta and Trunks were training in the Room Spirit of Time. Gohan and Goku were waiting for their turn and were still no match for Cell. So who steps up to the stage and tries to save everybody? Ten Shin Han.

In a moment of absolute heroism and altruism, Ten Shin Han prepares his new and improved Kikoho (or Tribeam) and starts shooting at Cell and while it doesn’t hurt him at all, it holds him enough for the Androids to escape. It was an attack where his own life energy was being used to attack the beast and it managed to hold him off for FOUR HOURS (according to the research I’ve done).

Ten Shin Han didn’t have the power to defeat Cell, but he didn’t care–he decided to step in and help others even if it came at the expense of his own life. This is something that is consistent with his character throughout the franchise and it also managed to give him a moment in the spotlight, even if it was for just a couple of minutes, reminding people how the non-Saiyan characters could still help in battle.

Definitely one of the best moments in the entire franchise and one worthy of Ten Shin Han’s legacy.

Thanks for reading our article about the best non-saiyan moments in the Dragon Ball series. Are there any moments we missed? Let us know by leaving a comment below this article.

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