Over the course of Dragon Ball‘s 35-year run, many characters have been introduced that have stood the test of time. There are a handful of villainous roles like Vegeta and Piccolo who have remained by Goku’s side as trusted allies to this day, even overcoming their evil ways and becoming genuinely good people. There are also the side characters who continually get regular page and screen time despite their low impact on the overarching story, and are instantly recognizable.
As a result of these additions, some older characters have had to fall by the wayside to make room for the new ones, some even falling so far behind that they haven’t been seen or mentioned in years. Covering the story from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Super, here are five characters whose roles have shrunk, and five whose roles have grown over the years.
10 Shrunk: Yamcha
Yamcha started out as a desert bandit and enemy of Goku, but quickly became an ally and love interest for Bulma. He spent most of his time trying desperately to catch up to Goku’s power and never quite reaching the same heights. Yamcha’s constant chase after his friends reached its end when, in the face of Cell and the Androids, he realized that no matter how much he tried, he would never be able to catch up to their strength, and Yamcha gave up fighting shortly after.
This is probably for the best, as Yamcha’s win ratio was appalling and has been the butt of many jokes since his fall to Nappa in early Dragon Ball Z. To make matters worse, the fighters who replaced him had barely hit double-digits before they took on galaxy destroying threats.
9 Replaced by: The Saiyan Children
Gohan started out as simply the inexplicably powerful Saiyan hybrid who, despite his enormous potential, seemed to do very little in the way of battles aside from a few key moments where he lost his cool. This changed with the Cell Saga when he was finally able to tap into his hidden powers, becoming the first character to reach Ascended Saiyan and demolishing Cell once and for all.
After this, the roles of Goku and Vegeta’s children would only grow as the series went on, with Goten and Trunks also being major players during the Buu Saga. The three boys may have reduced the Super Saiyan transformation to a child’s plaything, but they are well on their way to surpassing Goku and Vegeta’s levels of power.
8 Shrunk: Master Roshi
It’s sad that Goku has moved on from his original master, but as time went by and Goku’s power ballooned far outside the normal reach of human capabilities, Master Roshi quickly ran out of things to teach the young Saiyan. Even as a child at the beginning of Dragon Ball, Master Roshi was barely able to keep up with his students in terms of raw power, and his only means of staying ahead of them was his vast knowledge of martial arts and years of experience.
Even though Roshi played a part in the Universal Survival arc, where he showed he is still no pushover when it comes to combat, his role as Goku’s master is well and truly over, making way for a more destructive influence on his training.
7 Replaced by: Beerus
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods marked the beginning of the ever-popular Dragon Ball Super series, and introduced the concept of gods of destruction alongside the main antagonist, Beerus. As the show progressed past the desperate attempts of the heroes to stop Beerus from doing his job and destroying Earth, over time, he became the next master for Goku and Vegeta to train under, effectively leaving King Kai and Master Roshi in the dust.
Beerus’ screentime grew even more during the multiple tournament arcs, where his and Whis’ roles were expanded on further and introduced the hierarchy of their kind. Thankfully, despite Beerus taking the title of master from King Kai, it hasn’t diminished the North Kai’s role in the series like it did Master Roshi.
6 Shrunk: Chiaotzu
Chiaotzu has the same problem as Yamcha. He started out as a strong adversary for Goku, eventually becoming his ally and fighting alongside him with varying degrees of success. Like Yamcha, his downfall came after his embarrassing defeat at the hands of Nappa, where his attempt to blow up both himself and the monstrous Saiyan ended as a pointless sacrifice.
Despite training with King Kai alongside Tien, Yamcha, and Piccolo, Chiaotzu never showed any real improvement aside from a filler episode involving the Ginyu Force. At this point, his duties are relegated to cooking for Master Roshi while they watch their friends fight on TV. While the little fighter moved from the ring to the kitchen, another similarly tiny powerhouse moved in to take his place as the child you shouldn’t underestimate.
5 Replaced by: Dende
There was a time during Frieza’s arc when Earth’s Dragon Balls were lost, alongside its long-standing guardian, Kame. After the Android’s appearance and Piccolo’s fusion with the old Namekian, Earth was once again without its get-out-of-jail-free cards, and a replacement guardian was needed to ensure everyone would survive the Android rampage.
Dende was first introduced as an ally to Gohan and Krillin in their search for the Namekian Dragon Balls and was later brought to Earth to be its new guardian, allowing a new set of Dragon Balls to be created with different rules to the original. While his appearances haven’t been on the same level as other minor-turned-major characters, Dende is still present for the majority of the series.
4 Shrunk: Launch
Launch was introduced during the original Dragon Ball in a comedic scene where Goku was sent on a mission by Master Roshi to fetch him a woman and came back with a fiery female with a dual personality. Her blue-haired personality is mild-mannered and innocent, even capable of riding Nimbus, which can only happen if someone has a pure heart. Launch’s blonde form, on the other hand, is wild and dangerous, even being a wanted criminal for armed robbery.
While Launch had a small part in the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, where she is seen with Tien and Chiaotzu, her role has otherwise died out since her cameo appearance. In the years to come, her role as the feisty blonde criminal would be replaced by a similarly blonde powerhouse with an affection for bald fighters.
3 Replaced by: Android 18
Like Vegeta and Piccolo, Android 18 started out as a villain alongside her brother, Android 17, and the mysterious Android 16. After killing their creator and going on a rampaging field trip to kill Goku, the Androids are hunted down by Cell to be absorbed into his body so he can become the perfect being.
It is around this point that Android 18 becomes more sympathetic, even drawing the attention of Krillin and, eventually, marrying him and giving birth to their daughter, Maron. Even though she was arguably the weakest of the android trio, Android 18 was able to incapacitate both Vegeta and Future Trunks with ease in their first encounter.
2 Shrunk: Yajirobe
This pudgy samurai was introduced as a strong and capable warrior, despite his physique. Yajirobe quickly proved his worth when he defeated and, disgustingly, ate Cymbal, one of the Dark Vassals and a mutated Namekian sent by King Piccolo to retrieve the Dragon Balls.
Yajirobe assisted Goku in many of his trials over the course of Dragon Ball before eventually decided to stay in Korin Tower to help grow Sensu Beans for the more capable warriors. Yajirobe’s last major act as a fighter was when he cut off Vegeta’s tail during the Saiyan Arc, before quickly returning to his life with Korin for the remainder of the series. It seemed as though Akira Toriyama has an affinity for powerful fat fighters because, in the final arc of Dragon Ball Z, fans were gifted with another to join the ranks of the Z Fighters.
1 Replaced by: Buu
The Buu Saga marked a return to the more magical side of Dragon Ball, as Dragon Ball Z had been more sci-fi than fantasy. A terrifying creature that took the efforts of the Grand Supreme Kai to defeat, Buu proved to be a deadly adversary for the warriors of Earth, and many of the main cast died in their attempts to stop his endless eating habits.
It wasn’t until he was befriended by, of all people, Hercule, that he made a play straight out of Kami’s book and split the good and evil sides of him into separate beings. As of the Galactic Patrol Prisoner Arc currently unfolding in the manga, Buu’s role as a warrior has been expanded even further and he has proven to still be a strong fighter, despite being weaker than his Majin counterpart.
With multiple series spanning decades, certain Dragon Ball characters have grown less important, only to see other heroes and villains replace them.