Absurdly Sharp Blade: Subverted by the Z-Sword. Everyone thinks that it's unbreakable and stupidly sharp, but it's not, though the material it was pitted against was ridiculously sturdy.
Played with when King Cold believed that Trunks only managed to kill Frieza because of his sword (which probably does qualify for this trope). Amused, Trunks decided to let Cold test this theory and gives him the sword, knowing that Cold would attempt to kill him with it. When Cold attempts to kill Trunks with it, Trunks stops the blade with his hand and kills Cold with a ki blast to the heart.
Acrofatic: Fat Majin Buu and Dodoria, but just about every main character can fly and do acrobatic stuff, so it's kinda cheapened here.
There's still Yajirobe.
Acting Unnatural: Frog Ginyu was trying to steal one of the Dragon Balls. When Gohan spots him, he starts leaning against the ball and whistling nonchalantly, which only makes him more suspicious because he's a frog.
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: When Trunks recounts why he came back in time, and you get a feeling of the despair he must feel being the only defense for all the people against the Androids who have ravaged the entire world, leaving only a handful of people behind.
There is an inherent problem with translating directly from the manga page, which the original anime did. Primarily showing an explosion on the comic page takes up one panel with a half-second glance while it takes 90 seconds of the anime to animate (To say nothing of Talking Is a Free Action). To fit one manga into a half-hour show meant that there was plenty of padding and reaction shots. Dragon Ball Kai is cutting that down to a third of its original length and thereby allowing for a swift watch almost equal to reading the manga.
Of course, this itself is being mocked by many commentators such as the writer of Alternate Reality Dragon Ball Z— a great many fans are practically cheering about being given LESS of the show to watch, which would be any marketing expert's wet dream.
A particularly notable example is Vegeta; in his first appearances in the anime, he looked like this◊; as soon as he got to Earth, however, his armor was the blue-and-white color scheme we're used to and his hair had become black... which extends retroactively to events that take place well before his first appearance, up to and including childhood◊. No explanation has ever been given, but it seems to have been a mistake on the animators' part.
A mistake that was corrected in the remake, Dragon Ball Kai.
Adaptation Expansion: While the anime contains a lot of filler, it also contains a great deal of expansion of the story arcs, often for the purpose of developing the characters. The most positive version of this was the Saiyan Saga, which showed us the year that passed before the Saiyans arrived, as far as fleshing out Gohan's training and Piccolo's Heel-Face Turn as a result of his time with Gohan. Toriyama himself was also indirectly involved with some of the filler, with the anime's producers developing it based off of his suggestions.
As well as giving some actual screentime to, Tenshinhan, Yamcha, and Chaotzu before the Nappa fight. The latter three heroes also got a well-deserved Moment of Awesome when they thrashed the Ginyu Force as part of the training they received from Kaio-sama.
Actually, Toriyama was not as involved with the anime as some would think. He states in an interview that he "had faith" in the anime staff. He gave the occasional filler idea, such as Yamcha being a baseball player, but not much else.
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: Several, due to how the anime was ridiculously close to the manga at almost all times. One particularly jarring example though, happens in a filler scene at the end of the Freeza-saga: After Namek has exploded, Vegeta realizes that, now that both Goku and Freeza are dead, he's the strongest fighter in the universe, and is now free to take over the world. Gohan attempts to stop him, and the two have a brief fight which ends with Vegeta being stopped by Piccolo from delivering the final blow, before he flies off on his own. This entire scene is never mentioned again, and it completely contradicts his motivations in the very next episode, where he is back with the rest of the group, completely calm, and shown to actually want Goku brought back to life so that he may fight him again and prove that he is the better fighter. Heck, he's actually the one to give them the suggestion for how to revive him!
There's also a very significant difference between the manga and anime versions of Namek's explosion. In the manga, Goku is shown flying towards Freeza's ship with several Ginyu pods in sight. He finds the ship useless, flies up and says Namek's about to blow (and the view shifts to King Kai). In the anime, Goku is helplessly raging above the ship while we actually SEE the planet go up in smoke and supposedly take him with it without much doubt. Since we actually SEE his on screen death in the anime, his later explanation that he "found a pod, jumped in, hit the button and made it out of there" is certainly in line with the MANGA. As for the ANIME version, it's utter Canon Discontinuity/Retcon/Ass Pullinvoked considering how far they went to SHOW him dying.
One of the more infamous examples occurs in a filler episode of the Red Ribbon Army Saga. In this episode, a "Dr. Flappe" is credited as the creator of Android 8. Years later during Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Gero is revealed as the true creator of the androids. A later guide book would Handwave this by saying Dr. Flappe and Gero were partners on the android project.
Adipose Rex: The Big Bad of the first movie is King Gurumez, who's fat because the cursed rubies he's torn up his kingdom to excavate have given him an insatiable appetite...as well as turning him into a giant monster.
Adorkable: 16-year-old Gohan. Studious, sweet, socially awkward, and has a love of superheroes while failing to realize that the only person who thinks Great Saiyaman is cool is his 7-year-old brother.
Goku, Yamcha, Krillin (growing up with someone as goofy as Son Goku really rubs off on you), Goten and every lovable and goofy member of the Ginyu force is a rare evil example.
Smitty. Unlike his boss, he did have redeeming qualities and gave off a Punch Clock Villain vibe in his hesitance to shoot an unarmed man. It's implied in the original japanese audio that he only followed Van Zant's insane rampages because he's Zant's butler. The fact that his end at Super Buu's hands was one of the most horrifying in the series didn't exactly help either.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Bulma was infatuated with Yamcha early on when he was an arrogant rogue, then when he somewhat settled down, she decided that Vegeta (whom she fell in love with) who is as bad as it gets, tickled her fancy.
And in the meantime, she also had the hots for General Blue and Zarbon.
Subverted when she first saw Goku as an adult, who she also had the hots for, and Goku is as good a guy as it gets... only for him to get engaged on the same day with Chi-Chi.
All-Loving Hero: Goku loves life. All life. In full swing by the time of the Piccolo Junior arc of Dragon Ball, after which the only villains Goku himself is directly responsible for killing are Yakon and Kid Buu.
And even THEN he asked that Buu be reincarnated.
All There in the Manual: Lots of supplemental info on Saiyan biology, answers to plot holes and much more can only be found in the Daizenshuu books.
Chi-Chi in general. Let's not forget that, until #18 gets her upgrade (or, if we're going by natural ability, Videl) Chi-Chi is the strongest woman on the planet. No wonder Goku likes her..
Alternate Continuity: The Non Serial Movies of the original Dragon Ball series are direct retellings of earlier sagas distilled into movie format, entirely incompatible with the manga and anime series. The 10th anniversary special, The Path to Power is another continuity retelling Goku's origins with the Red Ribbon Army and Muscle Tower.
The movies are parodied amazingly during an in universe movie screened at the World Martial Arts Tournament which focuses on Mr. Satan defeating Cell. It even begins with Toei Pictures' trademark intro screen which involves waves crashing against rocks, and has the names of series staff (written in romaji) as an Easter Egg in the credits.
And then there's the What If? situations in the video games and the alternate timelines that Trunks, the Androids, and Cell come from.
The overall canon of Dr Slump and Neko Majin is also unknown as the crossover with Dr. Slump was mostly used to promote Dragon Ball. In the case of Neko Majin it is a parody of Dragon Ball that got brought into the franchise solely because Vegeta, Buu, and Goku appeared in the last three chapters, when the two series had no real connections before.
Piccolo tries to inflict this to Super Buu by destroying the door to the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. Apparently Buu has a grasp of this trope, and quite fittingly screams his way out.
Gohan sealing Garlic Jr in the Dead Zone also qualifies.
Also the likely fate of anyone who falls victim to the Evil Containment Wave, being trapped in an otherwise empty container until someone opens it back up.
And the Adventure Continues: The manga-ending is very non-conclusive and almost feels like the beginning of a new story until it just abruptly ends. Completely intentional on Toriyama's part. The movie Battle of Gods also contains several hints of greater things to come what with Beers never unleashing his full power, Goku losing the final battle, and the mention of Whis being even more powerful and the mention that the universe Goku and his friends live in is only one out of twelve parallel universes.
Animation Bump: The anime was animated almost directly from Toriyama's manga drawings, and, as a result, frames and images that come directly from the manga are noticeably more detailed than other frames.
In the remake of Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Kai, the designs of the characters during the opening, ending and mid-episode interludes all contain MUCH higher quality.
That's because those scenes are being freshly animated where as the episodes themselves are just remastered from the 1989 series.
It should be noted that in general, scenes chosen for use in Dragon Ball Kai are often the best animated sequences available from Z and is often at its best quality during the fights. This becomes a little jarring during the Goku vs Freeza fight, as the editing team was forced some of the more poorly animated sequences, thus the animation jumps from high quality to low quality and back occasionally during this fight.
Future Trunks went back in time to prevent the world being wasted by Androids, after the Z-Fighters were killed and Goku died of an alien heart disease.
King Piccolo threatens to destroy every city on Earth at random.
The Saiyans frequently wipe out lifeforms on a planet so it can be traded. Goku was sent to Earth for one of these missions before bumping his head.
Shortly after landing on Earth, Nappa levels a city.
The Namek Elder and the father of Kami/Piccolo were the only survivors of a storm on Namek some centuries before the Frieza saga. Over the course of it, Vegeta and Frieza wipe out all Namekians (then numbering in the hundreds), apart from Piccolo and Nail, before Frieza completely obliterates the planet.
After already wiping out entire cities by absorbing the life energy of humans, as well as blowing up several islands in the search for Android 18, at one point, Cell threatens to take down the entire solar system.
Majin Buu makes quick work of planets (though in his "fat" form, he mostly limits his devastation to humans on Earth, and "Super Buu" has a human extinction attack move), and after learning instant transmission, could wipe out all life in the "universe"(It should be noted that the main Dragon Ball universe only consists of four galaxies). The ultimate one is when while fighting Vegetto, he goes even further to threaten a multi-dimensional collapse when he suffers an epic Villainous Breakdown.
Arc Number: Seven. There are seven Dragon Balls and seven pops up elsewhere. The first series takes place over the span of 7 years, we see seven high ranked officers of the Red Ribbon Army (Red, Black, Blue, White, Silver, Yellow and Violet), the series takes place between 749 and 784 AD, we see seven non-fused Super Saiyans (Goku, Future Trunks, Vegeta, Gohan, Goten, Trunks and Future Gohan), seven androids (8, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and Cell), the timeskip between the Cell and Buu sagas is seven years and there are seven villages on Namek.
Arc Villain: Most of the standalone villains, notably Garlick, Commander Red and Pilaf.
Buu tries to absorb Vegetto, but the absorption fails and Vegetto (now split into Vegeta and Goku) releases all the victims Buu had absorbed previously.
The Supreme Kais weakened Kid Buu into Buff Buu and finally Fat Buu when he tried absorbing them. It seems inconsistent considering how high their power-levels are, but its explained that because they are pure good, and Buu pure evil, the two forces diffused each other.
This is actually a an Adaptation Induced Plothole. Only the Anime explicitly states that Buu got weaker with each absorption. The manga on the other hand, implies that the giant, hulking Buu is stronger, but Kid Buu is more dangerous because he's completelyinsane.
Ass Kicking Pose: Frequently. Parodied by the Ginyu Force members, whose poses are anything but asskicking.
The same applies for Gohan as the "Great Saiyaman".
Asshole Victims of Genocide: Freeza's genocide of the Saiyans was pretty bad, and Bardock's attempt to save them all and rebel against Freeza's empire was, without a doubt, heroic. But, we should always remember that the Saiyans themselves were violent, arrogant, blood-thirsty creatures who probably would have gone out and destroyed worlds anyway, even if Freeza wasn't in power. However, the only reason they were ever in a position to do so is because Freeza provided them with the means to do it in exchange for their service. They were not independently spacefaring, so you have the situation of a barbaric race being given technology well beyond their stage of development and thus never given the chance to grow out of their violent nature (or at least reign it in a little). In essence, they're an example of Gone Horribly Right for Freeza, who wiped them out to nip that in the bud.
Autodoc: The healing tanks used by Freeza's forces.
Avenging the Villain: Piccolo Jr. is out to avenge the death King Piccolo, his father/reincarnation, at the hands of Goku and he actually does fulfill this goal.
Awesome but Impractical: The third stage of the original Super Saiyan form (also known as "Ultra Super Saiyan", gives a huge boost in power, supposedly as much as a Super Saiyan 2. Unfortunately all the muscles that come with it drastically decrease speed, making it practically impossible to actually hit your opponent. Goku and Vegeta both realized that the second form was useless due to the loss of speed, and Cell calls out Trunks for using such a foolish technique.
This becomes an Ironic Echo when Cell bulks up massively in his fight with SSJ2 Gohan. To top it all off, Trunks lampshades this as Gohan is dodging everything Cell throws at him, remarking that Cell could probably put the hurt on Gohan if he ever managed to hit him.
Another could also be the Spirit Bomb. Considering it takes a long time to gather enough energy to use and that Goku is left defenseless while doing so, it is difficult to use in actual combat. Usually, live bait is used to help him. It was used three different times.
Vegeta: He gets hit with it, but by the next episode he's up and kicking ass again. It takes Gohan falling on him (while transformed) to finally get Vegeta to say "No mas.". The rest is history.
Freeza: He also gets hit with a massive one. However, it does little more than cut his tail in half and hurt his left eye. He gets up, shoots Piccolo through his lungs and kills Krillin in the span of about two minutes. Although if that hadn't happened, we wouldn't have Super Saiyan Goku.
Buu: It's finally decided that THIS is the ONLY way he's going to be defeated. Goku positions himself and the designated live bait (Vegeta, Fat Buu, and Mr. Satan) proceed to keep Kid Buu busy. Goku finally unleashes it but somehow Buu is STILL able to fight it off and Goku doesn't have any strength left to force it with his own ki. The final wish is to restore Goku's strength and he finally manages to put it away with a blast of his own helping it along.
Needless to say, the Spirit Bomb is very awesome, but it has never SOLELY gotten the job done.
The Super Saiyan 3 form can also be regarded as this, as it gives the user incredible power, but at the expense of so much energy that on two occasions it leads to the user running out of juice at a critical moment.
The full powered form of Piccolo's Special Beam Cannon takes a full 5 minutes to power up. He only uses it once against Raditz before using a weaker, but faster version of it throughout the series. Fortunately by that point his Power Creep has made up for the difference.
The non-Potara Fusion: The silliness of the dance aside, it leaves performers vulnerable to incoming attacks. If it's done incorrectly (and in the heat of a battle, a screw-up is nigh-inevitable) leaves the newly created warrior hideously deformed and unable to do anything worthwhile, making them a liability. And if it is done correctly, the incredibly powerful fused warrior has all of thirty minutes to defeat or disable his opponent before the effects wear off.
In Dragon Ball GT Vegeta's Super Saiyan 4 form depends greatly on Bulma's Blutz Wave Generator... which gets destroyed on battle.
Also in GT, Gogeta, arguably the strongest being in the whole universe by that time, only lasts about 15 minutes (half the time it takes a normal fusion) before the fusion collapses into Goku and Vegeta once again due to the immense power spent.
Ax-Crazy: All forms of Majin Buu, especially Kid Buu.
Nappa as well. He's a complete Hair-Trigger Temper, and nearly loses his sanity while fighting Goku.
Badass Normal: Mr. Satan and Yajirobe are the only fighters with no grasp of ki.
Yajirobe fights an enraged kid Goku to a standstill, single-handedly kills one of Piccolo Daimaou's minions in a single strike, and manages to cut Oozaru Vegeta's tail off when Gohan and Krillin failed to.
Which, in turn, gives him a chance to show off just how badass Mr. Satan really is.
Goku's acknowledgment of Mr. Satan at the end, despite the latter's comic relief status, is legit.
It should also be pointed out that Mr. Satan legitimately won the World Tournament. The Z Warriors were either dead or dealing with the fate of the universe at the time.
In the manga, by the time the Buu arc kicks in, Krillin is acknowledged as the most powerful human being in the world. While he is fairly superpowered at this point it's all just because of rigorous training. Of course, all characters that are still relevant by then are hundreds of times stronger than he is.
It really should be mentioned that, during the last portions of the Frieza saga, he was second weakest person on Namek (with the useful in a different way Dende being the weakest). Despite this, he was able to slice of a portion of Frieza's tail, and, had he taken the initiative of attacking Frieza after blinding him, could have cut the tyrant in half.
Colonel Silver of the Red Ribbon army is probably the most triumphant villain example. By real world standards he was strong, fast, skilled and cunning - his only mistake was going up against a Saiyan.
Of course at that point, Col. Silver didn't know Goku was an alien. Nobody knew Goku was alien. Goku didn't know he was alien!
According to Daizenshuu 7, there are 4 timelines in the Dragon Ball universe.
The Bad Guy Wins: The Cell Saga. No really. Even though Doctor Gero can only watch his triumph from Hell, he is the only villain in the entire Dragon Ball franchise to have got exactly what he wanted; the death of Son Goku at the hands of his creations.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Subverted in Dragon Ball Kai. Due to the show airing on a morning timeslot, they had to censor baby Goku's penis and balls, but did so through Scenery Censor.
Batman Can Breathe in Space: Certain aliens are able to survive without air. Saiyans aren't one of them. Doesn't stop Bardock from flying into space to confront Freeza and speak to him, too.
In some filler episodes, Vegeta is seen flying between planets without a spaceship or any apparent breathing apparatus.
Also when Vegeta blows up the planet Arlia in a filler episode, he and Nappa hang out in space just standing in their open pods.
There's a much earlier, and often ignored example of when Goku used used Nyoibou to extend and put Boss Rabbit and his Mooks on the Moon. You can likely excuse Goku for him holding his breath, but the rabbits?
The manga was in a much more comedic setting at the time, and Toriyama once stated he just didn't care. That only made thing worse when you think about the rabbits when Master Roshi (as Jackie Chun) later blew up the moon.
Freeza survives in space with half his body and head missing. This is suggested a trait of his species. Cell, with Freeza's cells, can also survive in space.
Broly is strongly implied to have this ability as well.
Vegeta and Bardock didn't "breathe in space" for long. It's probable that the Saiyans cannot actually survive in space, but their superior physical abilities and ki powers grant them the ability to withstand vacuum exposure for a limited amount of time.
Beam-O-War : This series is likely the Trope Codifier.
Beam Spam: Vegeta in particular is notorious for using this... to little effect.
Become Real People: Subverted. Krillin tries to use the Dragon Balls to wish Androids 17 and 18 fully human, but this is beyond the dragon's power. He settles on removing the bombs inside their bodies instead. 17 and 18 are actually augmented humans who are still able to have children.
Better Than New: Goku and Vegeta frequently sustain life-threatening injuries, only to quickly come back stronger than before they were injured (and remain stronger going forward). A natural ability of Saiyans, what doesn't kill them quite literally makes them stronger. This is shown at one point by Vegeta ordering Krillin to blow a hole in his chest so he can be healed and become stronger. While he doesn't become as strong as he'd have wished, he still gets a huge power boost. Referred to by fans as a Zenkai, this ability is the first part of why the Saiyans are able to become so unconscionably powerful. It also explains the power of training being so exponential for them.
Cell, bearing Saiyan genes, ends up regenerating into Super Perfect Cell after his own self-destruction, with enough of a power increase to turn what was a Curb-Stomp Battle for Gohan into a nearly-hopeless struggle for the fate of the entire universe.
Between My Legs: This shot is used very often in the anime, often in fight scenes.
Beware the Nice Ones: Son Goku and especially his eldest boy Son Gohan: People in this universe are nice because they can afford to be nice.
Beyond the Impossible: The Supreme Kai thinks this when he finds out how powerful the earth Saiyans are. To explain: this guy is the series' equivalent of God and yet his power level is nothing compared to them.
Special honors to Vegetto who is the only character to retain all his power and gain an even greater speed advantage due to his size after being turned into a Coffee flavoured jawbreaker by Buu. This was supposed to make him helpless and harmless like it did everyone else. If anything this is where Buu gets his worst and most embarrassing beating.
Big Bad: Emperor Pilaf, Commander Red, Master Shen, Piccolo, Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, Buu, and a few others thrown in-between.
Big Damn Heroes: Piccolo pulls this off for Gohan in nearly every DBZ movie before the post-Cell timeskip.
Bilingual Bonus: Shen Long is Chinese for "Dragon God." The names of almost all his alien characters - along with Bulma's family and Piccolo and his minions - are straight English or derived from it. And apparently according to Toriyama, Vegeta and Trunks use English for their attack names because he thought it sounded "more alien."
In the FUNimation dub, Majin Buu mispronounces "Saiyan" as "Saiya-jin" once.
Even Goku is such a gigantic blood knight that, while about to slam a spirit bomb into Majin Buu to finally kill him, he explicitly says he wants him to reincarnate just so he can fight him again!
Cell, having Saiyan cells, loved the thrill of fighting, and even held a tournament, the Cell Games, just so he could fight Earth's strongest. Although, he isn't too fond of fighting stronger enemies; witness his reaction to being on the wrong end of a Curb Stomp by Gohan.
Body Horror: When Majin Buu enters Vegitto's body through his mouth to take control of his body, Vegitto's muscles become grotesquely enormous.
Boobs of Steel: Pretty much inverted completely. The female fighters (Eighteen, Videl, etc.) tend to be modestly endowed, while the non-fighters (such as Bulma) are fairly stacked.
Played straight with Ranfan, a finalist of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. Her entire fighting style revolves solely around flashing her boobs as a distraction (which being a Shonen manga it always works) given how she had battled her way through the Elimination round without anyone discovering her secret weapons she must logically be a very skilled martial artist when fighting fair.
Boring but Practical: Solar Flare/Taiyoken. This attack blinds the opponent temporarily by having the user emit a light as bright as the sun. It has only failed ONCE, and that was against Omega Shenron, it works on everyone else, guaranteed. It only gets used every once once and a while for some unknown reason when the strategy of "Blind enemy then kill them while they're trying to recover" is a legitimate strategy.
Comes close to being played straight with Goku, especially in the original series. When you've already established that your hero is mostly bulletproof (bullets apparently sting like the dickens, but that's about it) putting him against the gun-toting Red Ribbon Army soldiers is pretty much a Foregone Conclusion about who's going to win. Even then, though, the Curb Stomp Battles usually end up being fun to watch anyway.
Both Sides Have a Point: In the Namek Saga, Chi-Chi and Gohan have an argument when Gohan wants to go to Namek. Chi-Chi made a good point when she said that Gohan should be having fun as a kid instead of trying to be an adult, and Gohan also had a point since his priority was Serious Business.
Bowdlerise: In the first dub, having to meet standards for syndicated kids' shows, the villains were always threatening to blast people into another dimension, scenes of wanton destruction accompanied by throwaway lines implying nobody got hurt, and Tien says that his arm can grow back after Nappa breaks it off. The second dub, while the voice acting wasn't exactly stellar early on, thankfully reduced the amount, allowing death and even keeping small amounts of blood, if inconsistent.
Also, in the first dub, extra objects are written to cover all nudity, both front and back. The only thing that was different is Recoome's buttocks. While the first dub had a black strip of clothing covering his butt in a few episodes, the cloth strip is missing in the second dub. And this was shortly before Vegeta used the Coup de Grâce to finish off Recoome.
Brawler Lock: Goku does this with Freeza, Cell, and Vegeta. The former two during their respective arcs, and the latter during the Buu arc.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the 8th chapter of manga Son Goku sends Yamucha in the air with his punch but Yamucha bounces off the frame's border back to the ground.
In later chapters there are a few instances, where different characters refers to the fact that it's a manga, such as discussions of acceptableness of dirty jokes in a manga for children.
One that stuck in the anime: Gohan addresses the audience near the start of the Buu arc that Krillin grew his hair out after quitting fighting.
During the Majin Buu arc, Krillin notices that the author is cheating by recycling panels (to be exact, Goten and Trunks's fusion training sequence is reused over and over) and Toriyama himself pops out behind him to apologize.
As he's the closest thing this show has to a Deadpan Snarker Krillin in general tends to be the king of this. At one point when a random fighter in a Tournament was being obnoxious and underestimating the Z Fighters power, Krillin remarked that the guy "had one-shot character written all over him."
Break the Cutie: Mostly Gohan, but Goten and Pan aren't exactly left out. Another example occurs late in Z with the Supreme Kai's comrades/True Companions getting taken out by Buu, and his mentor is killed right in front of him.
Chaozu's merciless wrecking at the hands of Nappa, followed by a tearful farewell and a kamikaze explosion. Which was pointless.
Future Trunks also has this moment when all of the Z-fighters except Gohan die, and even more so when Gohan dies.
Break the Haughty: One of the most common trends involving Vegeta - he spends large parts of the storyline reveling in his own egotism and power, only allowing his opponents to manipulate his arrogance and humiliate him. Due to stubbornness, his haughtiness broken several times before the lesson actually sinks in - it takes realizing that his actions have possibly doomed everyone he cares about for him to actually start to become truly humble. Somewhat.
Also happens to Gotenks, who has something like Vegeta's arrogance mixed in with a childish bravado and Jerkassery. He means well, but he's too caught up in how magnificent he thinks he is to listen to other people or act wisely. Minutes after his first appearance, this results in him being outsmarted by Majin Buu, beaten to a pulp, and then forced to watch helplessly as an army is slaughtered while he can't do a thing. It hits hard, but doesn't sink in - arguably, it never does... at least not to him (it does somewhat to Goten and Trunks, but when they fuse they act... differently).
Brick Joke: Early on (in volume two of Dragon Ball), Oolong comments that Goku's amazing qualities have to be due to him being an alien. Fast forward a decade or so...
This was a complete coincidence and not a true brick joke, though. At this point the series was still at gag martial artist manga status, and given the fact that he's known for his forgetful nature, there's no way this was something Toriyama had planned all along.
However, Major Metallitron scans Goku, and it says in a corner he's not human, though doesn't know what he is. Which happened in the Red ribbon arc.
Very early on in the series, Goku, Bulma, and Oolong run into the Boss Rabbit Gang. After Goku beats up two of the grunts, they call in their boss who threatens to turn them all into Carrots. Later in DBZ, we learn Goku's Saiyan name is based off the word "Carrot." Maybe Toriyama is an Unreliable sourceof information?
Brother Chuck: Almost all of the original characters from Dragon Ball vanish completely by the end of the Buu saga. Akira Toriyama has admitted that for some of the characters it was simply because he forgot they existed, like Lunch.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Bulma. Taken more literally in Playboy Bunny outfit when she and Goku encountered Monster Rabbit. Her father, Dr. Briefs, also qualifies.
Muten/Master Roshi definitely counts. Imagine an elderly pervert being titled "The Invincible Master" of martial arts.
And then there is the Ginyu Force. Frieza hires them as enforcers to take out Vegeta and retrieve the Dragon Balls. After seeing their entrance, full of ridiculous camp, dumb poses, and flowers, you may think he's made a huge mistake. Until you watch one member of the team beat Vegeta like he was nothing, without ever dropping the camp.
Goku and Piccolo save a bus full of children in episode 125.
Imperfect Cell stops and and absorbs an entire bus full of rugby players in one episode, and when Vegeta fights Android 18 he inadvertantly blows up a truck full of paperclips.
Butt Monkey: Krillin and Yamcha. This is lampshaded in Dragon Ball Z Abridged where there is an actual tally of how many times Krillin is treated like a butt monkey (the "Krillin Owned Count").
Also lampshaded in the World's Strongest movie/special. After Piccolo and Gohan are repelled by the Big Bad, Krillin flies in to take a shot, only to be knocked away before landing so much as a single punch, at which point we hear him thinking "Nope, didn't think so..."
Some of the villains such as Ninja Murasaki and Guldo would qualify.
Much of the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament contains flashbacks and comparisons to earlier in the series to juxtapose Goku as a Child and Goku as a Teenager going on Adult. This ranges from Goku's first meeting with Chi-Chi after asking her to marry him, to more subtle things like Jackie Chun/Goku knocking Yamcha/Chi-Chi out of the ring without touching them.
Calling Your Attacks: Played straight most of the time. Future Trunks averts this - he's silent during his initial fight aside from normal speech. (And on top of that, his attacks don't actually have names until the video games.)
In at least some cases, it seems to be necessary. Captain Ginyu's body switching attack apparently doesn't work unless he can actually vocalize the "CHANGE NOW!"
Good aversion from Goku: he used Kamehameha quickly, without calling it, to block a mouth blast from Nappa. It's the only time he's ever used it without calling it.
Blink and you miss it: Called out very early on by a Wolf who fought Yamcha in the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. This what at a time where the only named Techniques were the Kamehameha, Yamcha's Wolf-Fang Fist, and The Janken Technique.
Canon Immigrant: Because of how impressed Toriyama was with the Bardock special, Goku's father gets a cameo later on in the manga.
Can't Catch Up: Takes this concept and runs with it. If you didn't have Saiyan blood in you, you might as well not have shown up to the fight for all the good you'll do.
By the end of the series, even the final big bad Super Buu is desperately trying to play catchup with the Saiyans. Gohan was able to effortlessly defeat Super Buu without the need (or ability) to transform. Later, when Buu had absorbed Gohan and obtained his power, he was easily beaten by the original Super Saiyan form of Vegetto, who was probably capable of at least one and probably two more levels of Super Saiyan transformations on top of that. The only reason there was any tension at all for the final battle against Kid Buu was that Goku and Vegeta didn't want to fuse again on PRINCIPLE.
It should be pointed out that Vegetto was able to handle Buu even before transforming.
That's actually only in the anime. In the manga, Vegetto transforms immediately after forming, implying he might not have been able to get the job done without doing so.
Really, this trope applies to anyone who isn't Goku and Gohan (and anyone who isn't fused with them). The series reaches a point (arguably around the time Perfect Cell shows up) where not even Saiyan blood is enough to make you relevant.
Not even Goku himself is immune to this, as of the new Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods movie. First, Goku in his Super Saiyan 3 form is defeated outright by Beers, the main antagonist, with what amounts to a light tap on the neck. He appears to close the gap later on after obtaining the even stronger Super Saiyan God form, until its revealed that Beers was only using 70% of his power.
The fighters of Dragon Ball lampshade it after Krillin, Roshi, and Chiaotzu's resurrection.
Master Roshi: Goku is something very different from you and I, and Kami has obviously recoginized it. To be honest, I'm chopped liver in comparison to that monkey-tailed boy.
Cheated Angle: Besides Goku's hair, the Dragon Balls themselves always have the stars in the same configuration and always facing the camera.
Chekhov's Gun: The Spirit Bomb. Goku learns it in the Saiyan Saga, and it does alright. Nothing to write home about, really, but it did send Vegeta running. Frieza just shrugged it off, so it didn't seem like a big deal. Then, 10-12 in-universe years later in the Buu Saga, Goku uses one to completely eradicate his opponent, an unstoppable being of literal pure evil that once came back from being turned into so much smoke.
To a degree, Goku showing Goten and Trunks how to become a Super Saiyan 3 in the Buu Saga.
This was a filler scene in the anime, but either way.
The artificial moon that Vegeta created to turn Oozaru during his fight with Goku in the Saiyan saga winds up playing a significant part in his eventual downfall.
That weird language Shen (Kami) and Piccolo were speaking in the 23rd Tenka'ichi Budokai? It's actually Namekian, the language of their native planet and Bulma learned to activate the starship that Kami came from to travel to Namek, with Krillin and Gohan, and is needed to use the Namekian Dragon Balls and make wishes to the Namekian Dragon God, Porunga. In a spectacular instance of a Meaningless Villain Victory, Freeza found the latter out the hard way.
Uranai Baba reveals that she can bring the dead to the world of the living for 24 hours at a time in the Red Ribbon arc. About ten real world years later in the Buu arc (approx. 25 years in-universe), this becomes a plot point as she allows Goku to spend 24 hours with his family, and then again to allow Vegeta to fight Buu again.
The Shunkan Idou ("Instant Transmission") technique that Goku learned in Yardrat. He demonstrated it to his friends in the beginning of the Android/Cell arc, and would use it to make an Heroic Sacrifice and the save the world from Cell's Suicide Attack.
He also completely masticates everything that surrounds him in the Latin-American dub. His performances as a Large HamDeadpan Snarker are some of the most hilarious highlights of the series in this version.
The Chew Toy: Supreme Kai, in spades. His introduction is very impressive, but it doesn't last long - most of his contribution to Majin Buu Saga is driven by plan after plan to save the universe that goes horribly wrong in some way or another, while constantly humiliating or injuring him, beginning with him having no idea how outclassed he is. He quickly becomes more of a joke than a revered character, and then just when his last plan goes belly up, his ancestor shows up to save the day and calls him a "shoe shine boy" rather than a hero. Kai simply responds with all the pathetically sad disappointment of a child being told he can't measure up by his father. While the rest of the characters respect him, it seems the universe hates him... which is ironic, given that he's the highest form of god there is.
Videl's Chickification is unsurprising as she's pretty much a female Krillen. She's a Badass Normal who is certainly strong but is hopelessly outclassed by the impossibly powerful beings surrounding her. The fact she goes from being on top of the world to being insignificant over the course of a few weeks can't possibly be good for her confidence.
Chivalrous Pervert: At times, Oolong. In the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament, Bulma is standing on Oolong's shoulders to observe the elimination round while wearing a rather short skirt. One of the fighters scares Bulma and she loses here balance pulling Puar down and falling to the ground. Puar is scared and has latched on to Bulma's face, and Bulma is now scared and is flailing about. Cue Oolong staring at Bulma's Panties. And then a larger group of random men. Oolong alternates between trying to block their view and getting a peek himself.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Goku, which causes him to go out of his way to help people - in combination with his Spirited Competitor personality (which often drives him to seek out new and interesting challenges) this tends to lead him into bigger and more interesting adventures... and as the series goes on leads to him missing a lot of time with his family. Lampshaded by Chi-Chi at the end of the Buu saga.
Chi-Chi: "Can't he stop saving things just for one day so we can be together as a family?"
He ends up passing this tendency on to Gohan, who can never stand by knowing someone's in danger without rushing in to help - occasionally accompanied by Unstoppable Rage. This is a major reason beyond adopting his Great Saiyaman persona.
Clark Kenting: Master Roshi's "Jackie Chun" disguise involves removing his sunglasses and putting on a bad wig, and that's it. Several characters do manage to either figure it out or come close to figuring it out, but he always manages to somehow convince them that he's not Roshi after all.
With Goku you could accurately predict where they are in the battle by measuring how much its been damaged. Or even the saga itself.
Actually true for everyone to various degrees.
Cloudcuckoolander: Bulma's parents. Bulma herself sometimes skirts on this from time to time.
Collectible Card Game: Three of them, with honorable mention of DBZ being the theme of a set of Ani-Mayhem. The first game was surprisingly popular and well-liked, lasting for several years and covering all of Z and GT.
And spawning a video game as well.
The first Score of the games (they made two) still has fans who buy, sell, trade, and play the game AND it inspired the community to create an online CCG based around fixing the rules and broken play styles.
There is also a card-based battle game on the Gameboy Color called DBZ: Legendary Super Warriors. There are 125 cards in this turn-based game, some cards can be only used by specific characters. There is also a super-rare card with 'AKIRA' written on it in Japanese. To get this card you must win all of the story mode battles without losing a single match (resetting the gameboy does not count, as long as progress is not saved as a loss).
Combat Commentator: There is a recurring character who fills this role whenever a World Martial Arts Tournament is taking place. It seems like he has been announcing every single World Martial Arts Tournament since his introduction in the story during the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. It's interesting to note the gradual change in his physical appearance as the plot progresses, with him being first introduced as a blonde, clean-shaven young man wearing a suit and sunglasses, and on the next tournament he grows a mustache, and on his most recent appearance, on the Buu Saga, he has a lankier physique and a more proiminent widow's peak on top of his mustache. This characters is also perhaps the only human other than Goku's friends who knows that it was the Z warriors, and not Mr. Satan, who have saved the Earth from all the dangers that threatened it.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Before they go extinct, they Saiyans are a fairly powerful race. After Freeza kills them, the surviving members start growing exponentially in power until they're the most powerful beings in the universe.
Luffy and Toriko and their allies able to last against an enemy Goku and the Z-Fighters had difficulty against.
Luffy and Toriko being able to damage the Akami whereas Goku needed his Super Saiyan forms to do so.
Convenient Decoy Cat: Krillin, Gohan and Dende are trying to hide from Vegeta, who just learned to detect ki. When he sensed Dende's small ki, a dolphin jumps off the water, leading him to think that was the ki he sensed and leave.
Dr. Briefs tries to give one to Goku (so he can go to Namek), even though he only needs a bare-bones transport.
Crapsack World: Namek after Frieza showed up (and in the past, as the backstroy also tells of weird weather patterns on Namek that killed many or drove them off, which was the main reason Kami was sent to Earth)
Curb-Stomp Battle: Probably the most famous example is Trunks coming to earth from the future and utterly destroying former Big Bad Freeza in one episode. It previously took Goku & Co. an entire saga of fighting him, whittling his body down to nothing, and then ensuring his death by allowing a whole planet to explode, only to watch in horror as he was resurrected by his even more powerful father via robotic technology! After all of that, there's no argument that Frieza had this trope coming to him.
Arguably the last leg of Goku and Frieza's battle was a curb-stomp battle. Goku managed to be far more powerful due to his transformation while Frieza was getting weaker. In addition Goku scared Frieza so badly that when he faces Trunks and Trunks transforms into a Super Saiyan Frieza has what can best be described as a panic attack.
And the only way Trunks can top that is by defeating Frieza's father with even less effort!
Actually, King Cold was weaker than Freeza, by Freeza's admission and according to Cold's bio in Daizenshuu 7, stating him to be "somewhat inferior" to Freeza.
In the Freeza saga, Vegeta usually suffers one of these every time he fights a new stronger opponent, only to come back and deliver one in return after healing and growing stronger due to his Saiyan genetics.
Also in the Freeza saga, Freeza curb-stomps every one of the good guys including Goku until watching Freeza kill Krillinpushes himover the edge.
In the Cell saga, Androids 17 and 18 do this to everyone until one of the good guys becomes strong enough to fight them. By that time it becomes too late as Cell arrives and raises the bar even higher.
Cute Is Evil: Majin Buu. Naturally the fat pink guy is a genie who destroys the world.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Both the Kaioken and the Spirit Bomb can kill the wielder (the Spirit Bomb can destroy the world if Goku's not careful).
The Mafuba/Evil Containment Wave. The original and classic Dangerous Forbidden Technique, seen specifically in the original series. Using it would allow you to seal someone (usually an baddie or Big Bad) inside of a small household object like a little jar or a electronic rice-cooker. However it always kills the user (with the sole exception of when Kami does it and Piccolo reverses it on him, and it's likely only because both weren't human that they didn't die from it), even if it fails, like Muten Roshi does when trying to stop Piccolo Daimaou.
Another possible candidate for this in a different fashion is also the dub-named "Devilmite Beam", which allows the character Akkuman to use a single move to kill anything with a speck of evil in their hearts as long as they can't regenerate themselves (luckily Goku is pure-hearted, so it fails to work on him). It doesn't have any ill effects, but it's probably considered forbidden in a different way.
Tenshinhan's Kikou-hou or Spirit Cannon is also very definitely this: a Cast From HP technique that reduces the user's lifespan every time it's used. It's powerful enough that Tenshinhan was able to temporarily stop second-tier-Cell from attacking when no one else could even touch him, to allow for the Saiyans to finish their training in the Room of Spirit and Time. This, of course, caused Tenshinhan to very nearly die (he was saved by a Senzubean, as usual).
Darker and Edgier: Dragon Ball Z wants you to know it'd darkier and edgier than its predecessor, doing so by killing someone off on-screen in the first six minutes. While it was only a farmer who's been shown for about two minutes, it's far earlier than the first on-screen death in Dragon Ball (a random store owner during the Red Ribbon Army arc).
Dark Lord on Life Support: Taopaipai and Freezer from Dragon Ball Z were both rebuilt as half-cyborg, after Goku severely damaged them, in order to survive (both had several parts of their bodies replaced by mechanical components because of the damage sustained).
David Versus Goliath: Discussed in the Ocean dub version of one Dragon Ball Z episode ("Time's Up!"), when Piccolo tells Gohan, "Remember the story of David and Goliath..." before they sense a premonition that Goku is approaching.
Dead Alternate Counterpart: Both versions of Goku contract a heart virus. Unfortunately for Future Goku, he dies from the virus. Later, most Z fighters from the alternate timeline are killed, except Future Gohan, by Android 17 and 18. Future Gohan gets killed thirteen years later.
Dead Guy Junior: Goku's son Gohan, named for Goku's adoptive grandfather. And Pan's grandson Goku Jr., named for her grandfather.
Dead Hand Shot: As Vegeta draws his final breath on Namek, his tear-blurred vision fades from his point of view, and we next see a close-up of his gloved hand falling onto the ground, followed by a shot of his body shivering with his eyes closed before becoming still and lifeless, followed by a gust of wind blowing on his body.
Deal with the Devil: Vegeta allowing himself to be possessed by Babidi. Babidi grants him a power-up in exchange for servitude, which turns him evil in the process. Unfortunately for Babidi, becoming evil again is part of what Vegeta wanted (as it would allow him to be unfettered by emotions) and he was able to resist Babidi's commands through force of will anyway, so he was able to have his cake and eat it. Interestingly, Babidi was also able to enslave the closest thing Dragon Ball has to the devil (normally a key player in this trope).
Death Is Cheap: Every single character, with the exception of Supreme Kai and Mr. Satan, dies at least once, and only two good characters have stayed dead permanently ( the Namekian Grand Elder and Android 16).
In short, this is the poster-series for this trope. There's a reason why the fandom doesn't so much as blink when somebody good dies-they'll be revived soon enough.
Averted in the case of Piccolo before his merging with Kami; if Piccolo dies so does Kami which means the dragon balls are also gone, then all deaths are final. After Piccolo and Kami fuse back into the same being Dende becomes the new guardian of Earth, meaning that if he dies then the same thing happens.
Also averted in Future Trunks' timeline, where Piccolo and Kami are dead and Dende is still on New Namek, therefore there are no more dragon balls.
Demoted to Extra: One of the reasons why some fans prefer the original series over DBZ is that while DBZ is an infamous offender of this trope, the original series for the most part averted this.
Basically, if you appeared in the original series at all and your name wasn't Goku, Piccolo or Krillin this happened to you. Hell, even Piccolo and Krillin were sort of getting there towards the end.
The abridged series has a scene that beautifully points this out.
Denied Food as Punishment: Played with in a filler episode when Chi-Chi threatens Goku and Piccolo not to feed them if they don't get their licenses. Also in the first series where Roshi proclaims that either Krillin or Goku will get dinner, whoever finds the rock that was thrown, and not both.
Detonation Moon: Many many times. It comes back several times though, for various reasons.
Deus ex Machina: The Dragonballs both subvert this and play it straight. It's played straight in that they can do anything, but they're never actually used to kill a villain directly. Their main use in Z is to revive people that the latest villain killed.
Deus Exit Machina: Hoooooo boy, this trope could really be called The Goku Effect. After the fourth or so time he is conveniently removed from a plot he could punch his way right through it gets just a little obvious.
Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Chi-Chi slaps Majin Buu, the scourge of the universe, in the face and gets turned into an egg and crushed in response.
Chibi Trunks also moons and flips off Broly in DBZ Movie # 11
Roshi to Broly in the first Broly movie
There's a title page in the manga that shows some of the heroes literally flipping off Cell.
Then again, in the anime, Mr. Satan stuck out his tongue, slapped his butt, and called Cell weak, while the reporter he was with proceded to flip Cell off. Luckily for the both of them Cell was able to ignore them.
During the Frieza saga (before Goku turned Super Saiyin) Goku caught Frieza's tail, and decided to say this to him:
Goku: Man, when's the last time you had a bath? Yeah, no foolin'. Woo, it's downright unpleasant back here!
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Demon King Piccolo does the unthinkable after getting his big wish and blows the Dragon into pieces with one shot. At that time in the series, that was pretty much equivalent to killing God.
Arguably this happens constantly from that point onward, as every villain after that is way stronger than Piccolo.
Disney Death: Probably an even more overused use of this trope than the trope namer itself.
Old Kai is sort of an aversion/subversion of this trope. While he does die when giving his life force to Goku, all that happens is he gets a halo because he's already in the place people go to when they die.
Dispense With The Pleasantries: When a squadron from the Red Ribbon Army comes to recruit Master Roshi, thinking he is a scientist, the leader of the group utters this phrase word for word after an extended conversation where Roshi is mocking the organization.
Ditzy Genius: Bulma. Especially in Dragon Ball and in the anime's Frieza saga.
Grandpa Gohan (after accidentally ripping off Goku's tail): Goku, does your backside still hurt?
Doing In the Wizard: DBZ kinda does this. It doesn't do away with fantasy elements completely, mind you, but it does explain Goku and Piccolo's powers as being alien rather than supernatural. It doesn't explain all the other weird stuff in the series though...
Double Standard: Trunks rightfully calls out Vegeta for not bothering to protect Bulma and baby Trunks when Gero attacks them, but no one reminds Bulma that she deliberately brought herself and her child into a battleground involving people who can blow up the entire planet.
The Dragon: Pretty much one per story arc, from Mr. Black to Commander Red all the way to Dabra to Babidi. The best example being Captain Ginyu, leader of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, The Ginyu Force, to Frieza.
Majin Buu is more or less this to Babidi; though in a subversion, since he starts out as an overgrown baby, Buu takes a while to realize how little power Babidi has. Majin Vegeta might also counts, and he does realize that Babidi is inferior.
Dr. Gero is inferior to (and killed by) his android creations, though his Dragon Cell never meets him, as Gero dies before he wakes up. Cell expresses admiration for Gero for being so smart as to create him, but it's reasonable to assume that, if Gero were alive, that would probably not have saved him.
In the Red Ribbon Army, there's Officer Black, who is much more competent and threatening than Supreme Commander Red.
For most of his first appearance, Broly is under mind control from his much weaker father Paragus, who led the Z Fighters to the planet to fight his son. When Broly is freed, he quickly disposes of him.
Played straight by The Ocean Group dub, during his first battle against Goku, Vegeta remarks that Bardock was an average fighter, but a brilliant scientist, and yet after this there's no mention of Bardock's influence or just what he did for the Sayans in the their scientific field; of course this remark about Bardock doesn't exist in the original manga nor the japanese dub of the anime.