Wonder no more, as we reveal the origins of Akira Toriyama’s creations!
Yamcha. This fierce desert bandit learns the error of his ways after meeting with Goku and Bulma early on in their journey, trying to rob them as they pass through Diablo Desert. Thanks to his own custom fighting style and his powerful Wolf Fist moves, Yamcha was even stronger than Goku as a child, and almost defeated him in battle – until he spotted Bulma, which triggered his crippling fear of women! Although he joins the heroes under duplicitous reasons, intending to steal the Dragon Balls and the powerful wish they grant for himself, he becomes a trusted ally and another disciple of Master Roshi.
Puar. Yamcha’s best friend and accomplice in his bandit days, Puar is a shapeshifting cat-like creature who learned to transform at the same school as Oolong. Their personalities are completely different though, with Puar being far more sensitive and understanding. Despite not being a fighter, Puar manages to use ‘his’ powers to help Goku and co. against the Red Ribbon Army. Why the brackets around his? Akira Toriyama has said that when he was penning the Dragon Ball manga, he envisioned Puar as male, but in the anime series, the character has always been voiced by women and referred to as ‘she’.
Upa. A human from the Karinga tribe, Upa becomes a close friend to Goku after the monkey-tailed boy saves him from Red Ribbon Army’s Captain Yellow. With Toriyama basing the tribe on Native Americans, Upa is a skilled hunter and outdoorsman despite his youth, and accompanies Goku on the hunt for the Dragon Balls for a time. Although he lacks any real superpowers, he manages to hold his own in a fight, and though he eventually returns to his people, Upa and Goku remain friends for life – he even appears in cameos in Dragon Ball Z and GT!
Commander Red. A small but cruel man, Red leads the Red Ribbon Army in pursuit of the Dragon Balls. Frustrated by his forces’ many defeats at the hands of Goku, he has resorted to increasingly desperate measures to dispatch the mighty young warrior, including hiring the murderous Tao. His entire motivation for seeking out the Dragon Balls is to wish to become taller, making the evil acts committed in their pursuit even pettier.
Mercenary Tao. A highly efficient and sadistic killer-for-hire, Tao doesn’t just view his assassination work as a job but as a personal hobby. He slaughters Upa’s father, Bora, and has no qualms about killing children, as evidenced by his willingness to take on a contract on Goku. He’s tremendously skilled in the arts of death, at one point proving himself to Commander Red by defeating his subordinate, General Blue, using only his tongue. Like most bullies though, Tao can’t stand it when a target can hold his own or even overpower him, and proves himself a complete coward when faced with a stronger enemy.
Fortuneteller Baba. Perhaps a familiar – if unexplained – figure to fans of Dragon Ball Z, Fortuneteller Baba is actually Master Roshi’s older sister. Where Roshi devoted himself to martial arts, Baba was a mystic, channelling her clairvoyant abilities through her crystal ball to see the future. Neither of the ancient siblings have gained wisdom with age though: where Roshi became a lecherous recluse, Baba has become supremely rude and arrogant, presuming her abilities make her better than anyone else. She also possesses the ability to bring the dead back to life for a single day, which has emotional repercussions for young Goku.
Dragon Ball the original series, box three, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.