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Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks (known in Japan as Zetsubō e no Hankō!! Nokosareta Chō-Senshi • Gohan to Torankusu; lit. "Resistance to Despair!! The Remaining Super-Warriors, Gohan and Trunks") is a one hour-long TV Special that is part of the Dragon Ball Z series of anime. It originally aired on TV in Japan on February 24, 1993, between episodes 175 and 176. Funimation Entertainment dubbed it into English and released it for the first time in English on October 25, 2000. The special was re-released in a remastered box set bundled with Dragon Ball Z: Bardock – The Father of Goku in May 2008. Roughly a year later, FUNimation released a remastered single version on September 15, 2009.

The History of Trunks tells the story of Trunks and his life during the time where the Androids have the world under siege. It is unique among Dragon Ball movies/specials since it is actually based from a brief chapter in the Dragon Ball manga, called "Trunks The Story - The Lone Warrior". The special changes several key plot points for drama (For instance, in the manga, Trunks was capable of transforming into a Super Saiyan from the get-go.)

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Easily the darkest of the franchise, History of Trunks effectively serves as a Deconstruction of the various tropes present in Dragon Ball, and shows how the lack of the Dragon Balls would cause the series to swerve right off into the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.

For the Dragon Ball Z Abridged version, see here.

This special has been readily available in the West since 2000, and recaps events told by Trunks when he is first introduced in the main story, so spoilers will be unmarked.


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This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the manga story, Gohan is killed by Android 17 alone, who claimed that he didn't even use half of his power to beat Gohan the last time they fought. In the anime adaptation, Gohan is actually stronger than the androids individually. He is killed because 17 and 18 ganged up on him in a 2 vs 1 fight.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The TV special significantly expands on Trunks The Story, the bonus manga chapter it was based on. Most notably, in the manga, Trunks already became a Super Saiyan before Gohan died, while the TV special uses that pivotal moment for Trunks's first transformation after spending most of the special attempting to do so.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Gohan loses an arm during one of the battles in the many years of confronting the Androids.
  • As Long as There is One Man: Gohan's last words to the Androids before they kill him.
  • Bad Future: Good God. Only a third of the Earth's population remains, dozens of cities worldwide have been ruined, and all the Z-Fighters (with the exception of Chi-Chi, Ox-King, Master Roshi, Oolong, Puar, and Turtle) are dead with no way of bringing them back.
  • Big Damn Heroes. Averted. After the death of Gohan at the hands of Androids 17 & 18, Trunks was overcome with anger and grief and became a Super Saiyan. Trunks then spent the next few years training to avenge his fallen mentor. He eventually takes on the Androids as a Super Saiyan, and loses…badly. Keep in mind, by the time this fight occurred, in Future Trunks' timeline, more than half of the world's population had been wiped out by the Androids, all of the Z-Fighters were dead with no way of bringing them back, humanity was struggling to survive with Trunks being the last hope for the survival of what was left of mankind, and Gohan, who was much stronger than Trunks, had already taken on the Androids on many occasions and as a Super Saiyan and never won once.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Trunks is ultimately no match for the Androids and has to resort to traveling back in time to give the Heart Medicine to Goku that would prevent him dying from the heart virus. But in the end, this triggers the chain of event that would help him overcome the Androids and bring peace to his world.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Although the worldwide death toll has been constantly rising over the past dozen years or so, people in cities the Androids haven't attacked yet go about their day as if they never appeared. You can even find clothing stores with untouched and fresh clothes to buy at your leisure,
  • Crapsack World: This is the Dragon World without its Reset Button or Goku around to protect everyone. All the main heroes except Gohan and Trunks are dead, the human race is reduced to the thousands and are constantly living in fear of the androids, all major cities have been destroyed, and the remaining heroes are horribly outmatched no matter how powerful they become.
  • Creepy Twins: Androids 17 and 18 are this to a tee. They only show emotion when they are killing people.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dished out to every Z-Fighter, courtesy of Androids 17 and 18.
  • Darker and Edgier: Even by the dramatic and serious standards that Dragon Ball Z set, this TV special has a very dark and hopeless tone about it and even verged on being cynical.
  • Death Is Cheap: Averted, again. With Piccolo dying with the rest of the Z-Fighters when they took on 17 and 18 and no indication that Trunks and Bulma have any knowledge of New Namek's whereabouts to even be able to call on them, the Earth's Dragon Balls disappeared forever. And Goku died of natural causes so he couldn't be wished back with any set of Dragon Balls. So anybody that dies in this TV special's timeline, stays dead.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: This TV special is essentially Dragon Ball Z when Reality Ensues. The tropes that the show is most commonly known for such as Death Is Cheap, Heroic Sacrifice, Big Damn Heroes, Heroic Second Wind, Heroic Resolve and Dying Moment of Awesome are horribly torn to shreds. It also takes a knock at the Can't Catch Up Trope by showing just what happens when the hero they can't catch up with passes and can't be brought back; the heroes end up being hopelessly outclassed by the villains he usually kept at bay and die in droves.
  • Defiant to the End: Gohan played this trope as straight as possible. He sure as hell never backed down no matter how grim the outcome looked.
  • Determinator: Deconstructed six ways to Sunday. The many years of battling the Androids takes a physical and mental toll on both Trunks and Gohan. The fact they flat out refuse to stay in hiding for more than even a day and keep themselves safe and instead constantly fight the Androids creates no progress in actually defeating them. Hell, Gohan eventually loses an arm and becomes disadvantaged in battle and Trunks gets driven to near depression over the fact that they're constantly battling to save humanity and always losing.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Gohan's final battle against the Androids is this. His death finally makes Trunks ascend to a Super Saiyan, but Gohan is still dead and Trunks is now the only one left to fight the androids.
  • Downer Beginning: The TV special opens with Goku's tragic death from a heart virus, and the deaths of the Z Fighters at the hands of Android 17 and Android 18 around six months later on May 12, Age 767. The Z Fighters are unable to be wished back to life because the Dragon Balls are permanently unusable due to Piccolo's death, which also kills Kami.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone fears the androids. They are treated more like an unstoppable force of nature instead of killer machines.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The cruelest aversion and deconstruction of this trope ever. Gohan's attempts at invoking this trope did nothing to change the plot. Even when Trunks becomes a Super Saiyan as a result of his death, Trunks is still no match for the Androids. Gohan's death is even more meaningless in the manga version of the story as Trunks was already a Super Saiyan by the time Gohan died. And just to add insult to injury, in the manga version of the story it's strongly implied that only Android 17 had fought and curbstomped Gohan on his own as opposed him taking on both 17 and 18 at the same time and putting up a reasonable fight. So Trunks and humanity as a whole gained nothing from Gohan's supposedly epic and poignant final stand.
  • Film Noir: The lighting of the second and final act of this film is the dominated by the shadows of urban decay, only occasionally broken by flashes of lightning, dim lamps and dying sunlight.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Gohan dies fighting the Androids. Trunks turns Super Saiyan and travels back in time to change the past.
  • Gray Rain of Depression:
    • When Trunks finds Gohan's dead body and transforms into a Super Saiyan.
    • Averted in the original manga story where Trunks finds Gohan in a pool of his blood, it's not raining when he finds him and doesn't transform into a Super Saiyan as he already achieved the transformation prior to Gohan's death.
  • Handicapped Badass: Even after Gohan loses an arm during the many years of battling the Androids, he can still kick some serious ass and even take on the Androids at the same time with just one arm and still put up a real fight. He was still brutally murdered by the Androids, but he sure as hell didn't die without giving it a go.
  • Hero Killer: Android 17 and 18 own this trope. By the time the special ends, they've killed all the heroes except Goku, who died six months earlier from a heart virus, and Trunks, who is mostly lucky.
  • Heroic Resolve: Trunks and Gohan never learned how to stay down even with the odds stacked against them. This ultimately proves to be their greatest flaw and eventually leads to Gohan being murdered, leaving humanity even more defenseless, and Trunks spending several days in the hospital in critical condition.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Deconstructed. Gohan knocks out Trunks to prevent him from taking on the the Androids with himself and risk dying. But because he goes alone it makes it even easier for the Androids to kill Gohan, and he wasn't exactly putting up much a fight prior to confronting the Androids alone. And because Gohan dies, it only make the job of defeating the Androids an even more impossible task. And with no one to train Trunks anymore, it take years before Trunks feels strong enough through his own self training methods to take on the Androids again… and he still loses and very badly.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Another deconstructed trope. Gohan, why did you take on the Androids, let alone on your own, just after recently nearly dying and losing an arm?! Did you actually think some sort of miracle would happen and you'd win out of the blue?
  • Hope Bringer: This, just like many Dragon Ball tropes, gets Deconstructed. Since Goku's death, almost no one has any real hope of beating the androids. The deaths of the Z-Fighters only solidifies this. Gohan tries to become everyone's hope, even going as far as to wear a replica of Goku's gi to encourage himself, but is held back by being an inexperience fighter battling two opponents and is ultimately killed by the androids. However, this is later Played Straight with the Time Machine. Bulma even writes the word 'Hope' on it.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: At the end of the special, Gohan is dead and despite all the progress Trunks made he still can't beat the androids. Bulma, however, spent her time creating a Time Machine to send Trunks back into the past so he can give Goku the medicine that will save his life and warn him about the androids. The very last scene is Trunks taking off in the Time Machine to his journey to the past, kicking off the events of the Androids/Cell Saga.
  • Hope Spot: Gohan manages to overpower both of the Androids in a Beam-O-War and knock them down. It changes nothing. The manga actually twisted the knife further; while Gohan puts up a decent fight in the special and stronger than the androids individually, he never stood a chance in the manga. Despite losing an arm, Gohan feels that due to his Saiyan genes, he should be strong enough to defeat the androids. 17 then reveals that up to that point, he'd been using less than half his actual strength.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Android 17 revealed he was invoking this trope prior to battling Gohan, much to his understandable horror.
  • I Work Alone: Do not take on the Androids on your own without a strategy or without having monster strength. You will not survive. Or at the very least, you will be hospitalized with very serious injuries. Gohan is proof of that. And no, you can't be brought back to life if you die.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Because of the nature of the story, the androids are never made to pay for their crimes. When Trunks does tries to avenge Gohan's death, he is nearly killed. It will be another three years after the special ends before the androids get their just desserts.
  • Killed Off for Real: Many major characters. Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin and Kami just to name a few. It would be a much easier task to determine who wasn't killed.
  • Last of His Kind: Trunks and Gohan are the last beings with Saiyan blood at the start of the special. By the end, Trunks is the last one left if you don't count Tarble.
  • Last Stand: Deconstructed. Gohan doesn't kill either of the Androids before he dies and because he doesn't, humanity is in an even more hopeless situation as the only one who is left to defend Earth and humanity from extinction is Trunks. And he wasn't nowhere near as strong as Gohan was. Let alone as strong as the Androids. So in a nutshell, Gohan's Last Stand only made things worse.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Trunks is on the receiving end of this from Android 17 and 18.
  • Not So Invincible After All: What kills Goku isn't some powerful, new enemy, but a simple heart virus. The irony is lost on no one.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: As the rain falls on the final battle of Gohan's life, the film takes on a distinctly eerie and Film Noir aesthetic, replete with deep shadows only broken by flashes of lightning and dying sunlight. In particular, Trunks' hiding in terror among the shadows of the urban ruins bears a closer resemblance to a Slasher Movie than a Martial Arts Anime, complete with a spine-chilling Gothic Ominous Pipe Organ score in the Original Japanese Version to emphasize the hopelessness of his struggles.
  • Passed in Their Sleep: How Goku is depicted to have died to the heart virus. He dies in his bed and was most likely comatose given how main timeline Goku remained in a coma while he was ill.
  • Please Wake Up: Trunks tries doing this with Gohan when he finds the latter's corpse, but reality sinks in very quickly.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: While both of the Androids are mass murderous psychopaths, 18 shows some restraint, and scolds 17 for blowing up a clothing store since there will be no one around to give her clothes. Furthermore, when 17 begins joyriding and begins running over pedestrians, she told her brother to stop since there won't be anyone left for her to kill and make the humans live as much as they can.
  • Present Absence: Goku's absence is greatly felt throughout the special. He dies within the first minute leaving a gaping wound as the other heroes are mercilessly killed off by the androids. Gohan wears a replica of his father's gi in his memory and Bulma often talks about him, saying how he could have changed things if he had lived. A big part of the special is Bulma making the time machine to give Goku the medicine that will save his life. Piccolo's death is also a big plot point. With his final death, the Dragon Ball are forever render inert, making all deaths permanent.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: The Android's general behavior. At this point, they're just doing whatever for kicks and making games out of it.
  • Reality Ensues: The TV special loves this trope.
    • One of the supposed safe haven towns left on Earth has an amusement park, and considering how loud amusement parks are it doesn't take long for the Androids to find the amusement park and destroy it and kill all of it inhabitants.
    • When Android 18 goes clothes shopping and after she finishes raiding the store of all the clothes she wanted with the "consent" of the store owner and employees, Android 17 destroys the store and employees inside of it. What, did you actually think they would let them live? Remember, they're programmed to hate all humans, no exceptions.
    • You want to be the badass lone wolf and take on the enemy with the hope of pulling out a miracle or dying in a significant blaze of glory? Get real. Have a genuine strategy or damn well know you are definitely strong enough to win or things will end very badly. Gohan learned that the hard way. And ultimately him going out in a blaze of glory only made the difficulty of defeating Androids even more improbable for Trunks and it led to Trunks having to go back in time in a last resort to save his world. And that act also unwittingly made things even worse.
    • Trunks' attempts at bum-rushing the Androids on his own only results in him getting his ass kicked so bad he ends up in the hospital for days in critical condition.
    • Goku's death that sets up the sheer bleakness of the setting? Getting sick with a disease that claimed him and several other people. No matter how strong Goku may have gotten, the fact remains theres no way to fight off something like disease.
  • Reset Button: Averted, of course. Piccolo's death means the Dragon Balls are gone, preventing resurrections, and the senzu bean plant died out at some point, meaning injuries take a long time to heal, if at all. Trunks' attempts to use time travel at the end to act as the ultimate reset button.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: What Trunks plans on doing in regard to traveling back to the past.
  • Skyward Scream: An epic one happens when Trunks finds Gohan's dead body and transforms into a Super Saiyan.
  • Slasher Movie: The aesthetic that the final act of the film is "shot" in; eerily appropriate considering the antagonists are psychotic teenage serial killers.
  • Sole Survivor: Trunks becomes the last remaining protagonist after Gohan dies.
  • Smoke Out: At the beginning of their final battle, Gohan blasts the ground and briefly loses the Androids in the dust cloud it created.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Android 17 and 18 ruthlessly murder people for their own pleasure and kill all the Z-Fighters leaving only Trunks the sole survivor.
  • Time Skip: The movie fast forwards five years after Gohan's death at the hands of the Androids.
  • Time Travel: What Trunks is resorted to do in a last ditch effort to save the world.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening:
    • Gohan achieved the form when the androids killed Piccolo.
    • Trunks has one when he saw Gohan's dead body as a result from fighting the androids. It's even pictures in the trope page!
  • Troll: Android 17 and 18, during their fight with Trunks. It's clear from the get-go that they clearly outmatch him, so they spend most of the fight screwing around.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Trunks becomes shocked that no matter how hard he attacks the Androids, he can't even hurt them. At the same time, the Androids become annoyed that no matter how much they hurt Trunks, he won't just keel over.
  • You Will Be Spared: When a store clerk gives 18 nice clothes, she says out of gratitude that he will get to live today. 17 kills him seconds later, and 18 gets annoyed because he made a liar out of her.

 
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Alternative Title(s): The History Of Trunks

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Future Trunks Transforms

After Trunks finds his mentor Son Gohan dead after a battle with the Androids, he finally transforms into a Super Saiyan.

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