The Dragon Ball franchise has sprawled across decades, encompassing an immense number of manga, anime, movies and video games. Starring in all of these are some of the most iconic and recognizable characters in anime, with heroes such as Goku, Gohan and Vegeta being synonymous with the medium.
With so many fan-favorite characters, it makes sense that some are more liked than others. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama also has his own favorite characters, though he seems to have trouble deciding exactly who they are. This reticence to declare a favorite reflects the franchise's sometimes meandering focus and a brief revolving door of protagonists.
Akira Toriyama's Favorite Dragon Ball Characters
Toriyama was once asked in a 2003 interview -- later relayed in the book, Dragon Ball: A Visual History -- who his favorite characters throughout the franchise's various sagas are. His initial answer is, arguably, to be expected, but as he expounds further, things become a lot more interesting. Toriyama stated:
"For this comment space, they asked me to talk about my favorite DB character. Since I'm the author, my answer is obviously Goku, but I'll choose a side character instead. Truth is the one I enjoy drawing the most is none other than Hercule. Not to brag, but I've always had a soft spot for sneaky rule breakers. I did start my manga career with a gag series after all.
"Hercule's still a cop-out answer, though, so if I had to pick a more major character, it'd have to be Piccolo. He was cool in The Great Demon King form, but I especially love how the reborn Piccolo we all know is so taciturn and embraces solitude. When he first showed up, little did I know that he'd become a mainstay. Now I'm emotionally attached to him."
This prolonged answer may seem almost surprising to some fans, but it certainly explains some of the story's different twists and turns throughout the years.
The Real Heroes of Dragon Ball
Goku being recognized as a cliched answer for favorite character speaks volumes, namely in regards to how Toriyama truly felt about the character at the time. After all, he's tried to kill Goku off in the past, with the Cell Games intended to usher in Gohan as the Dragon Ball protagonist. Toriyama essentially being forced to bring Goku back due to his popularity would likely sully the author's like and interest in him.
The pathetic and loud-mouthed "hero" Hercule being one of Toriyama's favorites reflects the author's true interests and narrative leanings. Hercule slightly resembles the eponymous creator in Toriyama's Dr. Slump, and his status as something of an over-inflated loser makes this resemblance even stronger. His lack of power in comparison to the Z Fighters typically lends Hercule to comedy roles, echoing the humorous nature of both the initial chapters of the Dragon Ball manga and the mangaka's other works.
Toriyama choosing Piccolo as his true favorite mainstay also explains why the Namek has stayed more prominent than others such as Krillin and Yamcha. Piccolo trained Gohan to become a warrior in Goku's absence and became a sort of second father to the boy, in doing so becoming a kinder and more compassionate person himself. This gives Piccolo more concrete character development than Goku himself, again showcasing how Toriyama may have become bored with Kakarot. Nevertheless, Goku is still the face of Dragon Ball and the preferred favorite of most of the fandom, explaining why he continues to lead the series to this day.