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Recap / Dragon Ball Z Saiyan Arc

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The Saiyan Arc is seventh arc in the Dragon Ball manga and the first arc in the Dragon Ball Z TV adaptation.

Short Summary

Set a few years after the end of the original Dragon Ball story. Goku comes to visit his friends at Kami House and introduces his son, Gohan. The happiness of his reunion is short lived however when an alien who calls himself Raditz arrives and reveals Goku's true origins. After Raditz kidnaps Gohan to use as a bargaining chip against him. Goku is forced to team up with his old adversay Piccolo to fight Raditz. They succeed but at a high cost and it turns out Raditz was just the precursor to a much bigger threat on the way.

Main Summary (events from filler are in italics)

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Four years have passed since the battle with the revived Demon King Piccolo. In that time earth has enjoyed a period of peace. Peace which would quickly be shattered when a meteor-like pod crash-lands on earth. Inside it is a man with long hair, heavy body armor and a device on his eye that can tell how strong someone is. This man makes short work of a farmer, then begins his search for a man named Kakarot.

Piccolo, on the other hand, has been training in the mountains, only to quickly encounter the alien. Piccolo shows off his power, but the alien doesn't even feel it. But before the alien can attack, he finds someone else.

Meanwhile, there's a party on Muten Roshi's island, and Bulma, Kuririn, the turtle, and Roshi himself are there. Lunch and Tenshinhan are nowhere to be found, and Bulma outright refused to let Yamcha come along, the first signs that their relationship is starting to fail. And soon, the man of the hour shows up, Son Goku himself! And he's brought a kid along with him, which everyone (including the audience, unless you started with Z) is shocked to find out is his son! The boy even has a tail and the Four Star Dragon Ball on his hat. Naturally, the former makes everyone wonder if the kid, named Son Gohan after his grandfather, has anything odd happen to him at night. Like when he sees the full moon. They go to bed early, so it's no issue.

And Goku's family tree becomes a lot more complicated when the alien arrives on the planet, calls Goku Kakarot, and reveals himself to be his older brother Raditz.

But Goku doesn't remember any of it. After all, he suffered head trauma as a child, which Roshi explains gave the formerly wild baby Goku amnesia. Raditz is all too quick to explain. Raditz and Goku are part of a race of ruthless killers called the Saiyans. They make a business out of selling planets. In particular, they're in the business of cleaning off the planet of life. Don't expect to have to deal with any more of them, though, a meteor wiped out their home planet, leaving only four survivors.

Goku, however, doesn't owe up to Raditz' expectations. He doesn't have the propensity for bloodlust, has cut off his tail, and is absolutely disinterested in continuing the family traditions. But then Raditz notices that kid there with a Saiyan tail. If Goku won't join them, perhaps he will...

Goku resists, but it doesn't go well. Raditz steals Gohan and offers an ultimatum: prove his loyalty by killing 100 humans or his son dies. He then leaves Goku to think about it. Naturally, Goku is ready to face Raditz and get Gohan back. It's a tough day for the other humans. After all, both have died against the original Demon King Piccolo and can't be brought back with the Dragon Balls. Nonetheless, they elect to help him for his sake. But before any action can be taken, Piccolo shows up and proposes the two team up.

Raditz imprisons Gohan in his pod for making too much noise, but finds out that there's a high power level coming from it. Obviously the thing on his eye (a Scouter, for those keeping score) is broken. Except it doesn't seem to be, since Goku and Piccolo show up, and their power levels are just fine. With the two being that strong and the readings being accurate, could the kid's power level be just as high as it says it is? In order to properly get ready for the battle, Piccolo and Goku take off their weighted training gear, increasing their power levels. Still, Raditz is more than enough for them, with just one energy blast tearing off Piccolo's arm. To top it off, the other two Saiyans Raditz was talking about? They're stronger than he is!

Goku doesn't have anything up his sleeve, but Piccolo's been saving an attack that he can do with one hand. The problem is it has to be charged, but Goku managed to at least fight Raditz to a standstill. Use of both the Kamehameha and Piccolo's attack, the Makankosappo, increases their power levels, making Raditz realize the Scouter's useless. Despite this, the first Makankosappo misses, but Goku is able to get the upper hand when he grabs Raditz' tail, remembering how it caused him pain earlier.

Radtiz, faced with the pain, begs Goku to let him go, saying he's purified, and Goku agrees. He's rewarded with an elbow in the eye, and a set of broken ribs. But before the violence can continue further, Gohan bursts out of his pod, displaying an incredible power, headbutting Raditz for massive damage! But that power goes away, and Raditz decides he's too dangerous to be left alive. But before Raditz can murder Gohan, Goku pulls a Full Nelson on him, ready to perform a Heroic Sacrifice just to stop him. This time, the Makankosappo is successful, leaving the two Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by the beam. Goku will be fine, though; the Dragon Balls can bring him back to life. But Raditz hears this fact from Piccolo and reveals his Scouter is also a radio, leading to his comrades, Vegeta and Nappa. Nappa indeed wants to bring Raditz back to life, but Vegeta decides to wish for their own immortality instead. Along the way, they remark on the fact that Half Saiyan Hybrids possessing incredible power.

So let's recap, shall we? Our Chaste Hero has a son. Our strange tailed human is an alien. And now he's dead. And we've only just begun. Are you on the edge of your seat? (If you were raised on Z first, your answer is probably "no.")

In the afterlife, Goku is met with King Enma, who determines he should go to heaven, and with a little help from Kami-sama, sends him to train under Kaio-sama to defeat the other two Saiyans, who will be on earth in one year. To do this, he must travel the million-mile road of Snake Way. It's a bit of a hard task, even without taking into account Goku getting lost twice, once on a trip to hell, the other in a palace that gives him enough food to fatten him up to be eaten by a giant snake.

Bulma takes the scouter to try and reverse-engineer it. As she's testing it out on Kuririn, Roshi and the turtle, Yajirobe shows up to tell Kuririn to bring Tenshinhan (who's out in the wilderness having to deal with Lunch), Chaozu (who's with Ten) and Yamcha (who's now a professional baseball player) for some training. Piccolo, meanwhile, takes Gohan to train him how to use his power. His... training, if you can even call it that, mostly consists of forcing Gohan to survive in the wilderness. It goes about as well as you'd expect; Gohan gets stuck on a mountain after nearly being eaten by a dinosaur, and Piccolo has to bail him out twice. Once when he gives Gohan some rotten apples, the other when Gohan sees his first full moon... and goes Oozaru. Piccolo quickly puts two and two together from Raditz mentioning the power of the tail, and takes out the moon... again. And since this isn't a universe with Magic Pants, Piccolo gives Gohan some new clothes, and a sword for good measure.

What follows is a long period of training, both for Gohan and for the others. Gohan goes on adventures in the wilderness before starting his training for real, and the Z Warriors go into the Pendulum Room to take on some illusion Saiyans, losing horribly. Goku eventually makes it to the end of Snake Way, where he encounters Kaio's planet. After mistaking his monkey Bubbles for him, Goku meets the actual Kaio-sama. Problem is, the gravity on the planet is extremely high, ten times that of earth. It's perfect for training, though. Kaio has an odd training regimen, consisting of telling jokes, catching Bubbles, and smashing a lightning fast cricket Gregory with a hammer before learning two powerful techniques: the Kaio-Ken and Genki Dama.

But even when Goku's revived, he can't come back in time for the arrival of the Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa. They demonstrate their power by "saying hello," that is, wiping out an entire city with just two fingers. Vegeta scolds Nappa for it, though, because what'd happen if one of the Dragon Balls was in that city?

At a secluded area, Gohan, Piccolo, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, Chaozu, and Yamcha face off against the Saiyans. Nappa reads their power levels, but Vegeta reminds him they mean nothing since they can be hidden. Besides, there's a much better way to test their power compared to Raditz: Saibaimen, cultivated lifeforms with Raditz' power level. Tenshinhan is the first to go, and succeeds, before Vegeta blows up the Saibaiman he was fighting. Kuririn offers to go next, but Yamcha decides to take one for the team, since Kuririn can't be brought back. And take one for the team he does, getting blown up by a Saibaiman in a Double KO. Kuririn decides to not take any chances, and blows up the rest of the Saibamen, except for one that Piccolo kills.

Nappa decides it's time to begin his assault, picking Tenshinhan as his first victim. And Tenshinhan takes a lot of hits, to the point of losing an arm. Chaozu, in an attempt to stop him, blows himself up, and since he's already been brought back once, he's dead for good. Kuririn and Piccolo try their hands at taking him on, but that doesn't work, either. Angered at Chaozu's death, and seeking to avenge him and keep him company in the afterlife, Tenshinhan fires a Kikoho at Nappa, draining the last of his energy. Even a three hour delay isn't enough for Goku to show up, and when Gohan becomes Nappa's next target, Piccolo takes the blast head on, which means Kami-sama dies, which means the Dragon Balls vanish. It's the Darkest Hour for the earth: Our beloved cast from Dragon Ball is either dead or dying, they can't be brought back to life, and nothing our heroes are doing is doing any kind of lasting damage to Nappa.

And that's when Goku shows up at last. And he is not happy about the whole thing.

After finding out that Goku's power level is somewhere between over 8000 and over 9000, Goku totally dominates the fight with Nappa, to the point where Vegeta outright orders Nappa to give up. But when he tries to finish off his work on Gohan and Kuririn, Goku uses the first of the techniques he learned from Kaio-sama, the Kaio-Ken, which multiplies all his capabilities, enough to break Nappa's back. Vegeta decides he's had enough of Nappa's failures, and kills him outright, calling him dead weight.

Taking the fight to a mountain range, Vegeta taunts Goku by saying that he's basically gutter trash. Goku throws it back at him, saying that even the lowest can surpass the elite with enough hard work. The climactic fight involves a lot of power being thrown about, with Vegeta every step of the way. This forces Goku to push his Kaio-Ken to level three, putting a strain on his body. Vegeta gets hit so hard, he outright decides to blow up the planet with his Gyalic Cannon. But Goku has a Kaio-Ken Kamehameha waiting for him, leading to an epic Beam-O-War, Goku being the victor, but severely drained.

Vegeta only has one resort: to go Oozaru and finish off Goku. But the moon isn't around! That's okay, Vegeta has a method which he can use to simulate one, which leads to the tables being turned very quickly. Upon seeing the transformed Vegeta, Goku remembers how his grandfather was fatally stepped on by a large nocturnal gorilla, and assumes that Vegeta was this monster. A confused Vegeta then explains that all Saiyans can transform into a gigantic ape upon seeing the full moon, so long as they have a tail. Remembering how his grandfather warned him to never look at the full moon, and how Kami made Goku permanently remove his tail in exchange for restoring the moon, our hero realizes that he was the giant monster that killed Grandpa Gohan and destroyed the Tenkaichi Budokai stadium! Tearing up, Goku promises to apologize to Grandpa Gohan when he meets him again in heaven, knowing that this is a fight he can't win. Goku eventually tries the Genki Dama, by gathering energy from all around the planet, but that doesn't work, mostly because he needs to stand still to use it, which Vegeta refuses to let him do. Even Kuririn and Gohan II's interference isn't helping at all... but then Yajirobe cuts off Vegeta's tail, reverting him back to normal. He's still a colossal threat, but a little teamwork and a Genki Dama with Kuririn substituting the firing does the job.

...or so we think. Vegeta survived that, too! Thankfully, Gohan's tail regrew, and that power ball's still there, so Gohan can transform and crush Vegeta (he gets his tail cut off again shortly afterwards; Oozaru's don't tend to stay transformed long in this series.). And he's still alive! But he's decided to cut his losses while he's at it, and summons his space pod to leave earth.

Kuririn won't have it, though, and is about to use Yajirobe's katana to kill him. Goku, however, has other plans. He wants to fight him again! Such a good opportunity can't be wasted, right?

Now what happens? The cast we've followed for years is either dead, useless or hospitalized. And the monster who caused it all is still alive. Is there any way to bring our fallen comrades back from the dead?

Find out on the next exciting arc of ''Dragon Ball Z''!


The Saiyan Arc has the following tropes

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  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Piccolo flashes back to Raditz telling Goku about the significance of the tail when figuring out what caused Gohan to turn Oozaru. In the Manga, there is a panel with Piccolo listening in on their conversation. The anime doesn't have this.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Nappa's evil, yes, but he seems to care for his own. In fact, he's the one who suggested bringing Raditz back to life.
  • Alien Invasion: Three aliens, known as the Saiyans (Saiya-jin in Japanese) have invaded Earth.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Tien's attempt at fighting Nappa concludes with the latter punching off the former's forearm.
  • Arc Hero: Piccolo.
  • Arc Villain: Vegeta.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: First shown when Gohan turns into an Oozaru and goes berserk. Vegeta later weaponizes this by turning into an Oozaru himself but due to being more experienced, he keeps his sense of self. Ultimately it's Gohan's form that defeats him.
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  • Bloodier and Gorier: Tenshinhan and Piccolo lose arms, Goku and Raditz get a big hole in their chests, a Saibaman explodes graphically, and blood is everywhere. Not to mention all the killing going on in this arc.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Raditz, Nappa, and the Saibamen are dead, Vegeta is defeated, and the Earth is saved. However, half of the cast is dead (including Kami, which means no more dragon balls), and the planets worth of people already killed by the Saiyans will never be revived, nor will the inhabitants of that continent that Nappa scorched. Not to mention, Vegeta himself is still at large. It's telling that rather than ending in triumph, the last shot of the arc is the four remaining heroes lying on the floor in a pool of their own blood, unable to move under their own power, having just survived the onslaught.
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  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Nappa and Vegeta regard Piccolo as this, regarding information on the Dragon Balls. That said, they're not aware of exactly how Piccolo is tied to the Dragon balls, and they later change their minds on letting him live when they learn of Goku's revival, and decide to just go to Namek for another set of them.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Yajirobe. He outright avoids most of the fighting against the Saiyans, but is there to chop off Oozaru Vegeta's tail, and saves Gohan's life by slashing Vegeta in the back.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: In a sense, the arc is one for Gohan. Within a year, he turns from a crybaby to a Kid Hero.
  • Desperation Attack: Vegeta's explosive shockwave was a last-ditch attempt to kill the remaining Z-Fighters. It blows them away, but ultimately fails. It's largely because at this point, he's running on fumes, and it was impressive enough he was himself even still alive after everything he took at this point.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Goku isn't a monkey boy with a tail, he's an alien. Goku didn't turn into an Oozaru when looking at the moon because he's weird, it's Saiyan biology. Averted with Piccolo though; while he is an alien, his father was also still a demon (as he's literally Made of Evil and people he killed didn't pass on to the afterlife). Just not one from Earth.
    • Techno Babble: What Vegeta's explanation of Brutes Waves amounts to.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole:
    • In the Saban/Ocean dub, Tien explicitly states that his arm can grow back after Nappa punches it off. While this doesn't cause any problems later on in the story, it implies that Tien isn't exactly human, considering that the only races in the manga who could regenerate lost body parts were Saiyans (with their tails) and Namekians (with their arms). This conflicts with his human status from the rest of the story, all because Ocean needed to bowdlerize his injury to maintain a family-friendly rating.
    • Also in the Ocean dub, Vegeta mentions that the fake moon was created by Goku's father, who was a brilliant scientist. Turns out, they picked the wrong character to assign the role to, given how Bardock turned out to be. Now no longer an issue as of Funimation's redub and the Kai dub.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The Saiyans are presented as an independent threat from the very beginning, which makes this arc very hard to reconcile with the Retcon of the next arc that Freeza was in command the whole time. This is especially apparent when Vegeta's internal monologue (as well as the out-of-universe text on the volume's opening page) calls him the strongest in the universe.
  • Enemy Mine: Goku teams up with Piccolo in order to battle Raditz. Piccolo later teams with Goku's allies as well, when the Saiyans turn out to be a much bigger threat than he is.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We are introduced to Raditz when emerges out of his space-pod to a confused farmer with a shotgun, and he catches the bullet fired at him, flicking it back to the farmer.
  • Foreshadowing: Averted. While it's commonly thought that Nappa's reference to a "Super Saiyan" foreshadowed the transformation that would become ubiquitous later, the term he used is actually different than the one used to refer to the transformation (the Japanese word chou instead of the Gratuitous English Supa) and was only meant in the context of powerful hybrid children. It's just a coincidence, as Toriyama hadn't thought up the concept yet.
    • And then there's this exchange that led to a rivalry encompassing the entire Z series:
    Piccolo (To Vegeta): You seem pretty confident. But I wonder how long you will keep that stupid grin on your face once Son Goku arrives.
    Vegeta: What's that? "Son Goku"? And who'd that be? Your ace-in-the-hole?
    Piccolo (chuckling): You can look forward to it.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Gohan. Apparently Half-Saiyan Hybrids are exceptionally strong.
  • Harmful to Minors: Look above for the Bloodier and Gorier trope. Now think about five-year-old Gohan's reaction when he sees most of that in one afternoon, and is expected to attack Saiyan behemoth Nappa. He (understandably) hides behind a rock.
  • Hero Killer: Aside from all the Innocent Bystanders, the villains take out Goku (who gets revived a year later), Piccolo, Tenshinhan, Yamcha, Chaozu, Kami, and Shenron. Ironically, the Big Bad (Vegeta) is the only villain who killed no one except for fellow villains (blowing up a Saibaman, exterminating Nappa, and preventing Raditz from being brought back), despite putting up by far the longest and hardest fight.note 
  • He's Back: Goku returns from the afterlife just in time to save Gohan and Krillin from Nappa.
  • Heel–Face Turn: For Piccolo, his training Gohan ultimately softens him to the point he gives his life for the boy.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D.: Tien suffers a fatal one after attempting one last attack on Nappa.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Goku does this at the beginning of the arc by holding Raditz long enough for Piccolo to shoot them both. Chaozu attempts against Nappa but it doesn't work, and Piccolo shields Gohan from a fatal attack from Nappa.
  • Hope Spot: Goku gives the ki he collected for the Spirit Bomb to Krillin, and with Gohan's help, it hits Vegeta, sending him into the stratosphere. As the three baske in their victory, Vegeta crashlands back into the battle. Krillin assumes that he's dead, and comments that although he was fiend, he at least deserves a burial. Vegeta quickly revives and responds that they'll be the ones needing graves, and attacks Krillin.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: In the Ocean dub only, this is the reason Goku gives for asking Krillin to spare Vegeta.
  • Killed Off for Real: Unlike a lot of the DBZ villains, Raditz never comes back. You'd think being Goku's brother he'd play a bigger role. Although...
    • Small Role, Big Impact: Believe it or not, Raditz is essentially the catalyst for the entire second half of the Dragon Ball manga. Had Raditz not remembered his little brother and come to Earth, the entire series would have been turned on its head: Piccolo and Goku would never have teamed up and thus Piccolo wouldn't have joined the Z-Fighters. He may have even remained evil, and continued on with a plan to terrorize planet Earth, had he and Goku not joined forces. Goku wouldn't have trained with King Kai, but merely at his own pace, and would have been far too weak to combat the androids by the time they arrived, assuming he hadn't already died from the heart virus he was to contract. Gohan would never been trained by Piccolo, and thus would never have become a fighter at all. Vegeta and Nappa would never have received the transmission involving the Dragon Balls, and thus would never have visited the Earth, thus remaining under Freeza's thumb — Freeza himself would also never have been killed, allowing the Cold family to continue terrorizing the universe. Despite being the weakest villain at the start of the series, Raditz coming to Earth is what allowed the Z series to be what it became.
  • Marathon Battle: The final fight against Vegeta lasts 14 chapters in the manga and goes through several distinct stages.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Goku breaks down once he realizes that he was the one responsible for Grandpa Gohan's death.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Unintentional, but Piccolo telling Raditz about the Dragon Balls informs Vegeta and Nappa who quickly make their way to Earth.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Power Ball Vegeta creates to simulate a full moon and transform into a Great Ape lasts for a few hours. However, it comes back to bite him when Gohan's tail grows back and he becomes a Great Ape himself. Bonus points in that it was Vegeta's own explanation of how Saiyans transform that gave Goku the idea of using that gambit.
  • Physical God:
    • Kaio, the god of the galaxy and Goku's martial arts master for the arc. Until the Buu arc, we didn't know of any gods above him. On top of his magical abilities and duties he's very strong himself (Weekly Jump gave him a power level of 3,500, higher than any of the heroes except Goku; and he should be able to use Kaio-Ken x2 to boost that to 7,000). There's also King Yama, who judges the dead. Despite his enormously important role, in raw physical power he's only between Kaio and Raditz. Kami, Korin, and Popo also make appearances.
    • Vegeta is described as the strongest being in the universe, the strongest warrior of the strongest warrior race, and Kaio freely admits that he's stronger than him. He demonstrates this by being the first character in Dragon Ball with the ability to destroy a planet,note  as well as shrugging off Goku's Kamehameha which overpowered one of his own planet-destroying blasts. He also shakes the entire Earth just by powering up, causing storms to break out and mountains to crumble around him. It takes Goku surpassing the highest Physical God known in base and the heroes hitting him with numerous overpowered divine techniques to have the slightest chance at beating him.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: The saga features the inspiration for the trope when Goku confronts Nappa. Happens again when Goku faces off against Vegeta - Bulma from the Kame House uses the scouter to get an idea how strong both of them are, but the scouter ends up blowing up.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: For Yamcha, Tien and Chaozu. They train hard to help combat the Saiyans but Yamcha winds up dying before even facing Nappa or Vegeta to a surprise attack from cannon fodder. Chaozu blows himself up in a Senseless Sacrifice against Nappa and Tien winds up killing himself using his ultimate attack against Nappa that doesn't do anything.
  • Space Pirates: What the Saiyans amounted to, and what Kuririn calls them.
  • Sparing the Aces: This happens at the end of the arc, when Vegeta at Krillin's mercy is spared when Goku asks Krillin to do it, because he enjoyed their battle, and he wishes to fight him again.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Goku telepathically contacts Gohan and gets him to look at the artificial moon Vegeta created when the latter grew his tail back. Gohan then travels into a Great Ape, and Goku has him direct his rampage to Vegeta.
  • Taking the Bullet: Piccolo saves Gohan's life by standing in the path of a powerful ki blast from Nappa.
  • Time Skip: Continuing on from the original series which now sees Goku as an adult with his own child.
  • Training from Hell: Piccolo is a firm advocate of the Spartan Method.
  • The Hero Dies: Shockingly Goku dies at the beginning of the story in order to kill Raditz. Of course with the Dragon Balls, that's pretty much a moot problem and he uses the time in the afterlife to go train.
  • Wham Episode: If you've only seen the original Dragon Ball, this arc is that. The first part alone has Goku having a son, Goku being an alien, and Goku dying, and later on, most of the supporting cast from the original dies, too.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Krillin also calls Goku out for letting Vegeta escape after he's facilitated the deaths of their friends and beaten the living hell out of them. Goku just smiles and says he wants to fight Vegeta again. Granted, Vegeta turns into a valuable ally and Krillin pulls a similar trick two arcs later on his future wife, Android 18.
  • The Worf Effect: Raditz makes himself known by No-Selling one of Piccolo's strongest attacks, then proceeds to take Goku out with one kick during their first encounter. The actual battle with him has both fighters heavily on the defense and giving everything they have to stop him, with Goku ultimately dying in order to bring him down. And then it sets in just how screwed the Z Warriors are when Raditz uses his dying breath to reveal that he's the weakest of the three Saiyans.
  • You Have Failed Me: Nappa is killed by Vegeta for a truly humiliating loss against Goku.
    • Earlier, Vegeta did this to a Saibaman who lost its fight against Tenshinhan.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Kami realizes he and Piccolo will die during the battle with the Saiyans, although he does not know if it will be his life giving out from old age or Piccolo falling in battle that does them both end. The latter ends up being the case.
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