If you are a fan of the original ‘Dragon Ball’ manga, then you can remember a time when every character played an important role in the development of the overall story.
There were so many characters in the original Dragon Ball that helped progress important story elements and plot points. Whether it be the Ox King, the father of ChiChi, or the turtle that led Goku to the great Master Roshi. The list of Characters that were later ousted to make room for the Saiyans to be the series’s main drive is endless. But, what made it worse was when it started affecting the characters that helped push Goku to be who he was.
The Z-Fighters that were so prevalent before, were made second-hand, third-hand, or even fourth if there is such a thing. It felt like a slap in the face to fans all across the world. The central focus had taken a dramatic shift, to the point where the characters we once loved would be better off dead.
Tertiary characters like Master Roshi, Yamcha, Puar, Tien, Oolong, and Chaotsu were thrown to the wolves almost immediately after they were introduced. Their accolades had been downgraded tremendously as the alien power scale increased, and they were made comic relief at best. Or their life’s purpose was to be a death scene that would progress the main characters’ power scaling.
Krillin and Piccolo on the other hand were downgraded to secondary characters but still played a prevalent role in certain arcs like Krillin being a major aid/catalyst to Gohan’s growth in the Namek saga. Even a decade after the initial events of Z, Piccolo helped tremendously in retraining Gohan for the Tournament of Power in Super. These two were characters who definitely held significance, at least until everyone became actual gods later in the franchise.
If you weren’t a Saiyan, then you ain’t getting screen time.
Some may say that the arrival of Goku’s brother, Raditz, was when the series took an unexpected turn. The moment Raditz appeared from the spacecraft was the moment every character we loved became fodder, and unreliable. Their blood could not match up to the number of skills their alien monkey companions emanated. Also, it became impossible to catch up to Goku the moment he trained with King Kai.
Goku had gotten in touch with his alien ancestors and had made great strides in a matter of months. And this progress was coming from a low-class Saiyan. So, you could imagine how the Z-fighters would have fared against someone with stronger genetics.
The origins of each Z fighter.
Tien / Chiaotzu
Tien and Chiaotzu both played interesting roles in the original Dragon Ball. Having initially met Goku during the world martial arts tournament, they had represented an entirely different threat in terms of abilities. They were the first to use psychic abilities, something that we hadn’t seen up to this point.
Tien and Chiaotzu had come from the Crane School. The rival of the famous Turtle Hermit School of Training. Their master, Master Shen, along with some assistance from his brother, Mercenary Chao, had been rivals with Roshi for many years. Both schools had put their honor on the line, hoping dearly that their school’s name would not be muddied.
Yamcha had initially started off as a desert bandit, who craved the dragon balls to get rid of his fear of women. It was not until he had met Bulma, that he decided that the bandit lifestyle was not for him. He then abandoned his search for the dragon balls, and his old lifestyle as a whole.
This change in resolve led to Yamcha adopting the turtle hermit school of training’s uniform and ideologies, which led to him becoming a pupil of the great Roshi. So basically, he was doomed to be a background character from the start.
Puar on the other hand is the companion of Yamcha, a fellow thief in that regard. He had initially met his pig companion Oolong at a transformation training school. After his time at the school, he met Yamcha and had known him for two years prior to meeting Goku.
As the name suggests, they both had an affinity for transforming into different objects and beings. This kind of skill, however, often led them into some very comedic situations that made Dragon Ball so likable.
Krillin had met Goku as a monk trainee, which definitely explains his bald head. He had traveled far from his dojo to train with Master Roshi, bribing him with dirty magazines until he was given permission to stay.
The initial encounter with Goku was rocky. Krillin had felt as though he was the only one worthy enough to train under ‘The Great Turtle Hermit’ Roshi. They were given challenges by Roshi, in which Krillin would sabotage and trick Goku into failing.
This often led to one of the two being forced to not eat dinner for failing to complete their task, such as locating a stone thrown into a huge forest. But obviously, after the one-sided beef was resolved, they became the best of friends.
Although their time in the limelight was short-lived, the fact is that they will always be the backbone of the show. The way they pushed the narrative without being too unbearable, allowed for more suspense and respect for both parties. All the Z-fighters had some form of a negative impression of Goku, and if he was not so dense, he would have never befriended them. But since he did, we managed to see them become lifelong friends that learned to love one another for who they were.
However, it will still pain the rest of us to see them fair so poorly with the protagonists this late in the series. Thankfully Toriyama managed to switch it around during the ‘Tournament of Power’ arc in Super.