Every kid watching Dragon Ball Z has tried copying Goku's signature move: the Kamehameha Wave. Even to this day, it remains Goku's most iconic move among all of his other techniques and transformations. No other attack brings with it the legacy and weight of the Kamehameha while still being relevant to the modern era.
But why exactly is this attack so iconic? It's not Goku's strongest move, after all, unable to compete with the Spirit Bomb or Super Dragon Fist. However, it is one Goku has used and altered throughout the history of Dragon Ball, from the start of the saga to its later ends. The Kamehameha has grown with Goku.
The Development of the Kamehameha
The Kamehameha was mastered originally by Master Roshi, but soon Goku and almost every other core hero learned how to use the technique through observation and brief training. However, what makes the move remarkable is that unlike other moves from early Dragon Ball, it remains useful throughout the series.
Over time, the Rock-Paper-Scissors attack and Power Pole Extension attacks fell out of favor, as did Goku's reliance on the Magic Nimbus. Instead, Goku learned new techniques to fight opponents but found new ways of incorporating the Kamehameha into his fighting style. During his fight with Piccolo, Goku even realized how to fire the Kamehameha through his feet. Before that, Goku figured out how to use the technique to project himself through the air, simulating flying before knowing exactly how to fly.
While ultimately Goku's new technique, the Spirit Ball, proved essential in beating Vegeta during the Saiyan Saga, the Kamehameha-Galick Gun beam struggle remains one of the most iconic moments of the clash. One element of what makes the Kamehameha so incredible in this scene is that Goku stacks the Kamehameha's power with the Kaio-Ken, proving that the attack's power could improve not only with the strength of the user but also with other techniques.
The Spirit Bomb and Super Dragon Fist are far more powerful and spectacular techniques Goku has in his arsenal. However, the raw might of the Kamehameha, along with its memorable but simple charge-up, makes it easily one of Goku's most iconic moves.
The Kamehameha Remains Threatening Even Late Into the Game
Many techniques appear throughout the series but lack bite. While both powerful, Gohan's Masenko and Krillin's Destructo Disk don't have a high body count. Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon and Vegeta's Big Bang Attack have ended the lives of villains, but they never hit quite the same way after their initial use. The Kamehameha, however, is responsible for taking down several adversaries throughout Dragon Ball.
Among the villains defeated by the Kamehameha are Broly, Baby, Cooler and Kefla, but the most iconic use is when Gohan beat Cell during the finale of the Cell Saga. The Father-Son Kamehameha remains one of the most awe-inspiring moments in the entire franchise, turning the tide against Cell in one abrupt moment. It also represents Goku's legacy. Gohan fires the move, with Goku's essence working alongside him. It showcases a passing of the torch -- the son using his father's iconic move to save the day.
Through every transformation or new form, the Kamehameha remains just as exciting as when Master Roshi used it to obliterate mountains and the moon back at the start of the series. It isn't Goku's only weapon against his adversaries, but it is one we'll continue to see.