The Dragon Ball franchise has boasted a growing number of special attacks and techniques ever since Master Roshi taught Goku the Kamehameha Wave at the beginning of the original series. Piccolo unveiled one attack that stands separate from the usual line of devastating martial arts moves at the start of the sequel series Dragon Ball Z as he faced off against the Saiyan invader Raditz: The Special Beam Cannon.
Despite newer and more powerful attacks that have been introduced into the franchise, the Special Beam Cannon remains one of Piccolo's signature moves -- and one of the most uniquely effective attacks in the franchise. In addition to its impressive introduction, let's take a look at what makes Piccolo's attack so special.
While Raditz was significantly stronger than Piccolo and Goku when he arrived on Earth at the start of DBZ, Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon was an attack that could visibly damage and kill him when fully charged. At the beginning of their fight, Raditz was nearly killed by Piccolo's attack, narrowly dodging at the last second with his shoulder still getting injured after the energy blast grazed him. When Goku sacrificed his life to hold his evil older brother in place, Raditz was mortally wounded by Piccolo when taking the full brunt of the Special Beam Cannon head-on, with the blast blowing completely through both him and Goku. Following this, Piccolo would employ the Special Beam Cannon throughout DBZ and its sequel series Dragon Ball Super, often taking less time to charge up the attack to its full potency than its initial appearances.
A significant part of the Special Beam Cannon's effectiveness is because it is a charged attack. Charged attacks have a long history of being capable of defeating much more powerful opponents throughout the entire franchise. Goku's fully charged Kamehameha Wave and Vegeta's fully charged Final Flash both significantly damaged Cell in his perfect form. The most iconic charged attack of all is the Super Spirit Bomb. This technique takes Goku a prolonged amount of time to prepare but can completely obliterate vastly stronger enemies.
The other factor in the Special Beam Cannon's effectiveness, and the one that makes it more unique to other energy attacks in the franchise, is how the technique is delivered. Whereas many of the energy attacks tend to detonate upon impact, the Special Beam Cannon blasts with a current of spiraling energy, like a corkscrew, and is designed to cut through its intended target. This is similar to Krillin's signature attack, the Destructo Disk, designed to cut through enemies rather than concussively explode. Even though Krillin was significantly weaker than Frieza in his second form, the Z Fighter could still sever the villain's tail with a well-aimed Destructo Disk; the Special Beam Cannon operates on similar principles.
Piccolo is one of Dragon Ball's master strategists, even as his Saiyan counterparts grew far more powerful than him. This combat wisdom extends to the development of his Special Beam Cannon. Originally conceived as a way for Piccolo to triumph over Goku following their climactic battle at the end of Dragon Ball, the Special Beam Cannon ultimately succeeded in killing Goku as they dispatched a common enemy. Piccolo knows how to defeat even the strongest enemy with a single attack, with the Special Beam Cannon cutting through the opposition in contrast to the franchise's other signature techniques.