May The Fourth Be With You and Revenge of the Fifth might be over for Star Wars fans but May 9 is now upon us, the holiday that is known in Japan — and to Dragon Ball fans all over the world — as Piccolo Day. In 2015, the Japan Anniversary Association even declared Piccolo Day a national holiday.
But Bandai Namco, when promoting Dragon Ball: Xenoverse 2 in 2018, threw a monkey wrench in the gears of Piccolo Day by calling it Goku Day. This makes sense, since Goku did dismantle Piccolo’s empire the day he conquered the world on May 9 but it caused an unnecessary division in the fandom on what should be a celebratory occasion. Regardless of what you call it, here are the best, classic episodes of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that you can watch to mark the auspicious day.
The origin of Piccolo Day comes from Dragon Ball, Episode 118, “Prelude to Vengeance.” Piccolo, believing himself the ruler of all the world, declares this day Piccolo Day, which he will celebrate by choosing a random point on the map and blowing it up. And it just so happens he chooses West City, which is where Bulma and the others are located.
What follows is a confrontation between Tien and Goku against Piccolo and his new minion, Drum, culminating in the final confrontation between Goku and the Demon King himself. The Demon King Piccolo Arc is in many ways the transition point where Dragon Ball went from a mostly comedic martial arts manga into full-blown, epic shonen action series. The final fight in Episode 122 is arguably the second-best fight in all of Dragon Ball. As for the best fight, well…
The greatest fight in Dragon Ball is the final battle between Goku and Piccolo at the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. Goku, after training under Kami, works his way through the whole tournament to combat Piccolo Jr., the son/reincarnation of the iconic Demon King. What proceeds is one of the most brutal, creative brawls in all of Dragon Ball.
This fight is also important in the series because it leads to the original series into its follow-up, Dragon Ball Z, where Goku beats Piccolo but lets him live, allowing him to undergo his redemptive path from would-be evil overlord into the hero of the universe.
In Dragon Ball, Goku and Piccolo were adversaries and arch enemies. In the opening episodes of Dragon Ball Z, however, when confronted with the threat of Raditz, Goku and Piccolo team up to rescue Gohan. While the opening episodes of Dragon Ball Z serve as an introduction to the Saiyans and later Frieza, these episodes are often overlooked as a major turning point in Piccolo’s arc up until this point as well.
This is also where Piccolo finally accomplishes what so few Dragon Ball Z villains have failed to do — he finally kills Goku, thus fulfilling his purpose in life up until this point. But this leaves him wondering what’s next for him. The answer? Become the best father figure Gohan could ever ask for.
Goku takes a little longer than expected to return from death, so it’s up to Piccolo, Gohan and Krillin to buy time fighting Nappa. Gohan proves a capable fighter after Piccolo’s year of training, but ultimately, it’s not enough to stop Nappa from his rage. Ultimately, Nappa tries to kill Piccolo, only for the Namekian to dive in the way. This, in many ways, is the culmination of Piccolo’s arc throughout the Saiyan Saga, going from the evil king from the early days of Dragon Ball to a man who will lay down his life to save that of someone he loves.
While Goku does return and avenge Piccolo’s death, this still means that Piccolo dies and the Dragon Balls are left inert. Ultimately, Piccolo’s sacrifice is validated by Goku beating down Nappa, showing that Piccolo didn’t die for nothing.
A highly understated Goku and Piccolo scene later on into Dragon Ball Z is significant in showcasing how they both react differently to Gohan’s arc. Goku surrenders to Cell, claiming that his son Gohan is far stronger than him and thus, will be able to beat Cell in battle. The focus of the episodes is on Gohan and Cell’s fight before Gohan turns Super Saiyan 2. However, for our purposes, the highlight is Piccolo’s reaction to Goku pushing his son to fight.
This is particularly noticeable in the episodes that also expand on Piccolo’s exasperation at Goku. Goku projects a little of his own desires onto Gohan, assuming he enjoys fighting just as much as he does, but Piccolo knows better. He knows Piccolo hates fighting. However, at the same time, Piccolo underestimates Gohan’s power since he didn’t see Gohan’s full potential in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. All of this establishes their weaknesses as parents, while also their strengths. It’s easy to see Piccolo as the better father figure, even if Goku turns out, ultimately, to be right. It’s a poignant scene that showcases how Piccolo has developed true empathy for another human being.
This is a filler episode that doesn’t have any real impact on the plot. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the greatest single episodes in all of Dragon Ball Z and proof that some filler episodes are amazing in their own right. Chi-Chi, tired of Goku not understanding how hard it is to manage a household, forces Goku to get a driver’s license — and Piccolo, too, who… happens to be there at the time.
In having the two take their driving exams, the episode perfectly showcases how differently Goku and Piccolo deal with conflicts that don’t involve combat. But it’s also filled with funny moments, with the funniest one being Piccolo donning a human disguise that is hilariously ineffective at making him look less like the Demon King Piccolo who declared May 9 a planetary holiday. If you have to watch one episode on Piccolo Day, this is the one to watch.
Whether you think May 9 is Piccolo OR Goku Day, we've got you covered with this list of the best Dragon Ball episodes to mark the occasion.