Dragon Ball Z: The Saiyan Saga’s 5 Most Stunning Plot Twists

Dragon Ball Z marked a major turning point in the history of anime. It is directly responsible for the medium's rise in popularity among mainstream audiences outside Japan and remains one of the most popular shonen series ever made. But it was also a turning point for the existing Dragon Ball franchise as the protagonist Goku had grown up, and the series matured along with him.

The first story arc of Dragon Ball Z was the now-classic Saiyan Saga, which introduced all-new villains who were terrifyingly strong and revealed shocking secrets about Goku's past. The Saiyan Saga had some truly remarkable plot twists, so here's a look back at five of the biggest surprises of all.

Goku Is Actually A Saiyan - And Has A Brother

The very first episode of Dragon Ball Z featured a number of shocking revelations. A small spacecraft crashed on Earth, revealing a spiky-haired man emerged who looked suspiciously like a bulkier version of Goku. When a human observer tried shooting this newcomer, he caught the bullet in his hand. This man was Raditz, the series' first major villain.

At Kame House, Goku was introducing his four-year-old son Gohan to his old friends when Raditz suddenly showed up and addressed Goku by the name "Kakarot." He explained he was actually Goku's older brother and that they were both part of a species of powerful alien warriors called Saiyans from the planet Vegeta. This was the first time either Saiyans or Goku having a brother were ever mentioned. While Raditz ultimately did not last long, Saiyans would eventually rival the Dragon Balls as the most important part of the series.

Toddler Gohan's Power Level Surpasses 1000

Gohan, just four years old at the start of Dragon Ball Z, was every bit as timid and helpless as most toddlers. Raditz kidnapped the boy to gain leverage over Goku, flying away and then locking Gohan inside his space pod. When Goku and his old enemy Piccolo teamed up to fight Raditz, they soon realized they were outmatched. However, little Gohan surprised everyone when he saw his father in trouble and broke free of the pod, shattering its metal hull. Raditz's scouter revealed Gohan had reached a power level of 1307.

In a rage, the young half-Saiyan lunged at Raditz, a corona of energy flaming around him. After headbutting his evil Uncle in the chest, Gohan's power level dropped quickly back to 1. Later, after Goku was killed defeating Raditz, Piccolo took it upon himself to train Gohan in combat, looking after the son of his one-time enemy.

A Saibaman Kills Yamcha

When the Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa came to Earth, the other Z Fighters all showed up to stop the two villains. But before the fight began, Nappa produced a tiny vial containing six seed pods. He poured them out onto the ground and they grew into Saibamen, short plantlike humanoids that were surprisingly tough and even more vicious. Since there were six Saibamen and also six Z Fighters, Nappa proposed that each of Earth's defenders fight against one Saibaman.

Yamcha was the first to fight. With his cocky attitude and confident swagger, he boasted of his abilities. The fight was intense as the two moved faster than the eye could follow, but Yamcha defeated his opponent with a final energy blast. However, the downed Saibaman suddenly sprang up, seized Yamcha, and self-destructed, killing them both. This showed just how hopelessly outmatched the Earthlings were, as Yamcha died before the fight against the Saiyans had even begun.

Tien And Chiaotzu Die Fighting Nappa

When Nappa joined the fight against the Z fighters, he and Tien went head-to-head, with the sinister Saiyan cutting off Tien's arm with a single karate chop. It was a brutal display of power that left the Earthling crippled. Then Chiaotzu came to his friend's aid.

In the year that the Z Fighters had spent preparing for the Saiyans to arrive on Earth, Tien and Chiaotzu had trained together ceaselessly. They were best friends. Chiaotzu clung to Nappa's back, self-destructing in a suicidal energy attack. When the smoke cleared, there was nothing left of Chiaotzu, but Nappa was still standing (or flying, to be precise). Tien tried to avenge his friend with one final powerful assault, pouring all of his energy into a Tri-Beam attack. He collapsed of exhaustion afterward, dying on the spot. Nappa survived, and while the two consecutive suicide attacks had hurt him, his injuries were not serious.

Vegeta Tries To Destroy The Entire Earth

Vegeta Attack Galick Gun Dragon Ball

When Goku finally arrived and joined the fight, he proved he was up to challenge of facing the other Saiyans. By then, Krillin and Gohan were the only Z Fighters still alive but both were terribly injured. Goku easily defeated Nappa, then turned to face off with Vegeta, using his powerful Kaio-ken maneuver to super-charge his ki. As the fight went on, it looked like the two Saiyans were an equal match. Goku tripled his Kaio-ken power, pushing his body to dangerous extremes. In response, Vegeta tried to destroy the Earth.

Flying into the sky, Vegeta surged with purple energy, unleashing his Galick Gun attack down on the Earth below, so Goku countered with a Kaio-ken X3 Kamehameha blast. The two beams collided but were perfectly balanced, canceling each other out. Then Goku increased his power further, using Kaio-ken X4 to overload his Kamehameha Wave attack. This sent Vegeta flying into the sky, alive but defeated.

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