Updated: Mar 14, 2021
If you’re like many Dragon Ball fans growing up, then you’ve probably watched Dragon Ball Z before any other DB series, mainly the original show that started it all. As DBZ first aired in the U.S before Dragon Ball did, certain characters have already been established and were big parts of the original series. However, for some characters, Z was the beginning of the end for them as main characters and the start of their journey into the realm of irrelevance. In this list, I pick out 6 Dragon Ball characters that became irrelevant the moment Raditz arrived on earth.
When Yamcha was introduced early on in Dragon Ball, he was a desert bandit who sought riches, but also something else. He met Bulma and learned about the wish granting Dragon Balls. He wanted to use them to wish himself supreme confidence and to lose his fear when around women. He and Bulma would get together and have an on again, off again relationship through the series. As far as his ability as a fighter, he was quite capable, yet not strong enough to win a World Tournament as Goku and Tien did so.
In Dragon Ball Z, while training for the Saiyan’s with Tien, Chiaotzu and Krillin, Yamcha definitely had some relevance being one of the strongest humans on the planet. He held his own against the Saibamen, until the one that jumped out of nowhere and kamikazed him. As Yamcha lay there on his side, dead in a hole, this signature pose would become a fixture in many fans minds in the form of funny memes.
Later he would fight and help defeat the Ginyu Force on King Kai’s planet. He even helped fight the Androids and Cell Juniors but would also get caught off guard when Android 20/Dr. Gero stole his energy. Yamcha’s irrelevance is cemented after the Cell saga when at that point and even before, the show became all about the Saiyan’s, specifically Goku and Vegeta. It turns out, that Yamcha’s most relevant, and meme worthy moment was getting blown up by a Saibaman.
In Dragon Ball, Chiaotzu was introduced along with Tien leading up to the 22nd World Tournament. He is a telepath and can even paralyze an opponent with telekinesis like he did Krillin during their tournament match. He was pretty OP during this time, as he and Tien were the first humans in the series to fly, something that is second nature for characters nowadays. He would eventually start to lose his relevance after the match, and furthermore when being killed by King Piccolo with a single Ki blast.
When Chiaotzu trained for the Saiyan’s in DBZ, none really expected much from him. He ended up sacrificing himself, hoping to take Napa with him in the explosion. But the brute had survived without a scratch on him. Chiaotzu would best Guldo, the weakest member of the Ginyu Force on King Kai’s planet. After that however, Chiaotzu wasn’t seen in a fighting role again. His confidant Tien would appear in the Android/Cell sagas and even in Super. After the Frieza saga, it shows Chiaozu cooking up a storm for Roshi and the others at Kame House and raising his hands up to help Goku with the Spirit Bomb. But as far as being a fighter, he has not taken part in the Android saga and thereafter and has been irrelevant for a long time.
4) Mr. Popo
When Goku learned the secret of his power pole to reach Kame’s Lookout in Dragon Ball, he meets Mr. Popo. Popo trains Goku, who can’t land a hit on him. He even swallowed the Kamehameha wave whole. But since he is eternally bound to the Lookout and to whoever is the current Kami, he isn’t allowed to go down to earth unless necessary using his magic carpet. It takes three years of training with Popo and Kami for Goku to surpass them both, and it doesn’t take long before everyone else does as well. Although Yajirobe surpassing him is a bit of a reach.
In DBZ, Popo becomes useful in training the earthlings Yamcha, Krillin, Tien, and Chiaotzu by sending them in the Pendulum Room where they fought lower class Saiyan’s from the past. This would prepare them for the upcoming fight with Napa and Vegeta, yet at this point, they were all stronger than Popo so there was really no point in training with him. After Dragon Ball, Mr. Popo would briefly only be seen gathering the Dragon Balls or talking to Kami at the Lookout. He never fights again, but since his place is at the Lookout to be the Kami’s attendant, this is intentional. As it is his destiny to be a totally irrelevant character.
What people probably forget about Oolong from the original series is that he can shape shift into anything for five minutes. The first form that introduced to Oolong the Terrible was a giant demon who would go around kidnapping young girls to add to his harem of wives. And people still think of this as a kid show. When Oolong began traveling with Goku and Bulma, he easily became the comic relief of the group. There was one instance where he transformed into Bulma to try and seduce Master Roshi. Another time, Bulma gave Oolong pills that made him have diarrhea whenever she would say the word piggy, classic.
Aside from stealing Pilaf’s wish of world domination from the eternal dragon to wish instead for panties, Oolong really hasn’t done anything after to contribute to the main storyline. He’s no fighter, and even if he were to transform into Goku as a Super Saiyan, he wouldn’t have his power, only his own. Being a non-combatant character in this series usually puts one on the list of side characters who are irrelevant. And Oolong has been irrelevant since after the first season of Dragon Ball through Z and Super. And it may not be cannon, but in GT, Oolong’s panty wish from years ago gave birth to Oceanus Shenron. Which plays on the only relevant thing his character has ever done in Dragon Ball.
2) Master Roshi
The perverted turtle hermit first appeared in episode 3 of Dragon Ball and was a big part of the series. Aside from his perverted antics hitting on Bulma, he trained Goku and Krillin, followed by Yamcha and set them on the path for the World Martial Arts Tournament. He even entered two of the tournaments under the guise of Jackie Chun, and defeated Goku in the first instance. This taught his student the lesson that no matter how strong you may be, there is always someone out there who is even stronger. This set the tone for Goku’s character to train and continually improve throughout his life. Roshi did a lot for the series, whether it’s his quest to find a date or laying down his life to seal King Piccolo away in a sacred jar (he missed the jar), Roshi is one of the most endearing characters in Dragon Ball history.
Unfortunately, that would all change in Dragon Ball Z. By this point, his students have all surpassed him and he takes a back seat to them, lounging around on his island looking at his favorite nudity mags. Everything changes when Raditz arrives to find Kakarot, and Roshi doesn’t even try to help in the fight. And thereafter in Z, he doesn’t contribute to any more fighting. Unless you count him becoming an evil demon from the black water mist in the Garlic Jr. saga, that’s about it. In Super, Roshi become OP again as he fights the Frieza Force and even holds his own in the Tournament of Power. But in Dragon Ball Z, Roshi went from bad ass martials arts master to island lizard whose perverted ways are still intact, even though he has fallen prey to irrelevancy.
In the original series, Launch had a bad case of split personality disorder. On one side, she was a sweet blue haired young lady who hung out with Roshi at Kame House. The other side, she was a gun totting, blonde criminal who was in love with Tien. The sweet Launch was introduced to Roshi and became a permanent fixture of the island much like Turtle. She was also more of a side character but got a good amount of screen time as she cooked and cleaned for Roshi and went off on her bad adventures as blonde Launch whenever she sneezed.
By the time Dragon Ball Z came around, Launch was seen sparsely in the Saiyan saga as the blonde Launch who was in a bar when the Saiyan’s Napa and Vegeta had attacked and the earth was shaking. She then appeared in a Goku flashback when fighting Frieza, with her final appearance being during the Buu saga when a blue haired Launch raises up her hands to contribute to the Spirit Bomb. She would never get together with Tien, as he was never into her, blue haired or blonde. She was never that relevant really, but she was clearly written off as there was nothing more that could have been done with her character. Except maybe getting together with Tien, but it would’ve been forced, and unnecessary to the plot. At any rate, Launch was never seen again after Z, only in the Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot video game during some non-canon side quests. Otherwise, Launch’s irrelevance has been going strong for years, something people often forget.
Whether it’s doing something completely outlandish or laying down their life, the characters on this list were carefully pushed aside due to main character plot. Sure, many Dragon Ball characters aren’t what they used to be, but they will always have that one defining moment that people will remember them for.