Son Gohan, especially as a teenager. He's such a sweet, friendly, good-natured guy, yet also very studious, and he gets into many embarrassing social situations, and he has questionable taste in fashion and, er, superhero poses.
Yamcha was adorkable during his teenage years but he grew out of it a little as he got older. Yamcha was afraid of girls and super awkward around them when he was a teenager, even though his dream was to fall in love and get married. He even wanted to use the Dragon Balls to make it so he would not have panic attacks around girls anymore.
Kid/Teen Chi-Chi (the former moreso), because of her massive crush on Goku and her constant blushing and crying. You can't help finding her Adorkable.
Goten. Gohan's friendly, good-natured hyperactive brother. His innocence and childish personality is what makes him adorkable.
Goku. Huge goofball with a high voice. Having to grow up by himself, isolated from a lot of the world, he was very childish and adorably curious and oblivious to a lot of things as a child, such as love, or even what girls were like. And even though he wisened up as an adult, he still retained a lot of his adorably goofiness and childishness.
Well, "hate" is probably too strong of a word, but in the U.S., while DBZ is a cultural icon, the original series is far more obscure and mostly known only by fans of the franchise. In parts of Asia and Europe, it's Dragon Ball that's the better known of the two.
Kid Trunks (and Gotenks) got this bad when the Buu Saga first aired in America. Viewers didn't take kindly to the fact that he ended up replacingFuture Trunks. In his home country, Kid Trunks is just as popular as Future Trunks. In fact, Trunks/Gotenks was rated as the third most popular character◊ in a fan poll taken during the Buu Saga, just a hair below Vegeta and handily beating out Gohan and Piccolo.
Masako Nozawa as Goku. In Japan, her performance is iconic and beloved because she voiced Goku in the original Dragon Ball, where he was a child or young teen for most of the series, and her voicing adult Goku is a result of the Grandfather Clause and attempting to keep the character familiar. In regions such as English speaking countries and Latin America, DBZ was exported much more successfully than DB and Goku debuted as an adult, voiced by a man. As such, fans accustomed to such dubs are more divided on Nozawa's performance because, rather than seeing it as the character keeping his beloved voice actress even while growing up, they see it as an awkward instance of a fully grown, manly hero sounding like an old lady, hence the derisive Fan Nickname of "Granny Goku". While Nozawa has her fans in the West, her performance is a rare and interesting case of North American anime fans outright rejecting the original Japanese voice en masse. This reaction is debatable for the other members of Goku's family, but none moreso than his father Bardock, whose Japanese performance, which is identical to Goku's, is derided even among some fans who enjoy Nozawa's performance as Goku. And then there are Western fans that enjoy aspects of Nozawa's performances but find them to be a mixed bag overall (i.e. praising Goku's voice when calm or serious and enjoying Goku Black's original voice for that very reason, but finding Goku's screaming and/or goofy tones in Japanese to be annoying and/or unfitting).
Inverting the name of the trope a little bit, there's the Falconer replacement score for DBZ. While it's kind of divisive in English-speaking countries, it still has a significant amount of fans. Outside of that demographic, however, finding such fans is nearly impossible. Even finding people who just feel neutral about it can be a challenge. It definitely doesn't help that the original Kikuchi score was used in all other dubs (many of them which started airing long before the Funimation dub did), meaning there's no Nostalgia Filter for them.
Archive Panic: The manga ran for 42 volumes and 519 chapters for 11 years. The anime spans for 508 episodes, counting 153 episodes from Dragon Ball (covering volumes 1 to 16), 291 episodes from Dragon Ball Z (167 episodes in the Dragon Ball Z Kai recut; covering volumes 17 to 42), and 64 episodes from Dragon Ball GT (anime-original content). Additionally, Dragon Ball Super has 131 episodes as an anime and thirteen volumes as a manga. There's also the 20 theatrical films, four specials (all of which have both anime and manga versions),note The 2008 Jump special, the Trunks special/bonus chapter, the Bardock special/Minus chapter, and Dragon Ball Episode of Bardock. two short films, hour-long crossover with One Piece and Toriko, two-part OVA serving as a strategy guide for one of the video games, dozens of said video games (some with their own unique characters and stories), one volume of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (a Stealth Prequel), various spin-off manga (such as Dragon Ball SD), various guidebooks, and tons of other content that's still being documented.
Awesome Art: Akira Toriyama is considered to be one of the greatest mangaka of all time for a reason - Dragon Ball's art is consistently gorgeous and brilliantly panelled.
These days, Yamcha's mostly known for getting his ass kicked a lot. Most fans forget that when he was first introduced in the series he gave Goku his first real fight and defeated him when Goku ran out of energy from hunger near the tail end of the fight.note The guide DAIZENSHUU 2 directly lists him as the winner in the battle records section. The only thing that prevented him from finishing the fight was that Bulma happened to wake up and Yamcha ran away because of his crippling fear of pretty girls. He was also the first person to use a ki technique and ended up saving everyone from Goku's Great Ape form at the end of the story arc.
Vegeta. A strong badass who gets more development than Goku or a whiny adult who keeps getting his ass kicked as a result of aiding the villain resulting in several Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! moments? There is also his extreme Karma Houdini case.
Yamcha. A cool badass who just has bad luck, or someone who can't win a fight?
Krillin. A similar argument is made against him as the one against Yamcha. Is he a good fighter who tries his best, or a fighter who is too Overshadowed by Awesome and needs to leave the fighting to more competent characters?
Buu, especially to American fans. Is he an interesting and threatening villain with varied personality changes and unique abilities, or a whiny, childish brute that doesn't cover any territory previous villains hadn't already done better? To be fair, the Arc Fatigue that the Buu Saga went through does nothing to earn him any popularity points.
The Saiyan race as a whole. There's one camp that says the Saiyans are great and the original cast were too boring, and another that feels the Saiyans are boring and one-dimensional characters compared to the original cast and hates them for it. Most fans split the difference and say that the Saiyans were cool and interesting, but that the series shouldn't have shafted the Earthling cast.
Mr. Satan/Hercule: Hated by many due to his Small Name, Big Ego tendencies and his knack for taking credit for the Z Fighters' work, though others find him a humorous Joke Character. Some take the stance that he was unlikable at first but redeemed himself in the Buu Saga by getting Fat Buu to stop killing people, beating up the two gunmen that shot Bee the dog, and providing a huge assist in the final battle with Kid Buu. Notably, he's much more popular in Japan than other countries.
Bulma. While she has plenty of fans, many found her constant whining grating. This was especially troublesome in the Namek Saga, because unlike all the other instances of Bulma complaining, it was in an arc where she was completely unnecessary. It got even worse in Super due to her being much more involved in that series than before while her importance to the plot of the episode often varies between her being negligible or not.
Is Chi-Chi a good mother who was just concerned that her children will follow their father's lifestyle or is she a harpy who robbed Gohan of reaching his true potential?
Gotenks. A Badass Adorable who brings good humor to the series, or the worst parts of Goten and Trunks amplified. Toriyama admitted he simply created Gotenks as a means to create comic relief. Still, Gotenks' personality got a lot of negative feedback in contrast to how a child Gohan took fights very seriously to fit the atmosphere. A third camp argues that Gotenks' personality flaws at least make sense given that Goten and Trunks are more like typical bratty little boys in comparison to the polite, studious kid Gohan was at that age.
Beerus proved a popular antagonist on his introduction in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods for providing a wildly different and fun villain, but he was also criticized by those who found less him interesting than previous villains, annoying, and to be a Karma Houdini given he does whatever he feels like while getting no commupance for it. This continued with his later appearances, with some fans liking his fun antics and Character Development in Dragon Ball Super. Beerus' critics dislike him for his presence killing tension note Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F for example suffered from Frieza's threat diminished given that the movie made it clear Beerus could kill him at any moment on top of appearing when his presence doesn't add anything besides comic relief. Not helping things is that the best received plots since Beerus' introduction have been the ones where his involvement is kept to a minimum.
Dragon Ball vs. Dragon Ball Z is a not as commonly debated over in the 21st century, but it still happens. Now, when the entire Saiyan concept and the "Z shift" first landed in Japan for the Japanese fanbase back in the 1980s...
Comparisons between GT and Super were bound to happen. Some complain that GT was moving the pace forward by its second episode while Super takes its time to cover the events of two films, which in turn draws out the old laundry list of GT's narrative flaws. Overall, most agree that right now it is impossible to compare Super with GT since Super is ongoing while GT ended decades ago. However, since the start of the Champa Saga, most fans have considered Super to be superior to GT. Even before the end of the retellings, some thought Super was better than GT simply because of the character interactions, characterizations, and the fact that Super gets to benefit from twenty years of technological advancement in animation production.
Who makes the better Goku — Masako Nozawa in the original, or Sean Schemmel in the most well-known English dub? Is Nozawa a charming fit for the character due to the Grandfather Clause carrying over from Dragon Ball, or does she simply not work because Goku is no longer a little boy and turn him into a (retroactive) age-displacedNaruto clone? Does Schemmel improve Goku and make him more likable, or does he simply make him more watered-down and generic, even after the character started being dubbed more faithfully? Some fans, whether they prefer either version of Goku or like/dislike them both, at least acknowledge that they work well for their respective target audiences (as American Kirby Is Hardcore is in play). Similar comparisons with Nozawa's other characters are also debated, such as Kyle Hebert for adult Gohan or Sonny Strait for Bardock. It's generally agreed that Nozawa provides the performances that basically define the Son family, and most of the debate in the west comes from whether adult men sounding boyish breaks the Willing Suspension of Disbelief too much and is too distracting, and whether the more distinct and unique English performances are an improvement.
In the same vein as Nozawa's Goku are Frieza's original English female voice actors, Pauline Newstone and Linda Young. Some fans grew up with the voices and find that they rather fit Frieza as a creepy, effeminate villain, while others find them to be very grating and poorly-acted, particularly compared to Frieza's Japanese voice actor (Ryusei Nakao) and later English voice actors (Chris Ayres and Daman Mills). Notably, while Nozawa herself is considered a Sacred Cow for her raw talent and how she's stuck with all her Dragon Ball characters well into old age (even among those who dislike some or all of her DB voices), Newstone and Young hold no such status and it's considered acceptable to criticize them and their Frieza voices more harshly.
Dragon Ball Minus. A refreshing new view on Goku's backstory and his family before coming to Earth, or an inferior origin story that is too much like Superman and should have never taken the place of the beloved Bardock Special?
Whether or not the movies before Battle of Gods should be canon. Supporters note that the existence of such Ensemble Dark Horse like Cooler, Gogeta, and Tapion should be enough to justify them, and scenes such as Goku's Dragon Fist leave a sizable impact on the franchise. Detractors note, however, that most of the movies have severe trouble fitting into the timeline, and are often just alterations or flat out copies of previous arcs.
How heroic is Goku? Thanks to some Adaptational Heroism from both Toei and Funimation, most fans tend to see Goku as a typical goody two shoes hero like Superman, which often leads straight to Fandom Rivalry between the two. Others who have taken Toriyama's interview about Goku and his other less than flattering moments to its most extreme conclusion view Goku as an amoral, coldhearted prick who only cares about fighting and doesn't care about anyone else unless they can give him a good battle. There is a third group that admits that Goku can be slightly self-centered, but is ultimately a good and an unambiguously heroic person who will protect others even if it means sacrificing his pride and a good battle.
Goku's parenting skills. Does he do his best with what he knows and has his heart in the right place even if he does fall short most of the time, or is he a neglectful parent who is a horrible father and husband because he "abandoned" his wife and children several times? This comes from Culture Clash, as Goku is not seen as a bad father in Japan or rest of Asia, even Europe. Also, Gohan never thinks Goku is a bad father, ever. There was one case when Goten thought his dad was a coward for not saving Gohan and Vegeta, but that's it. As soon as he saw the Super Saiyan 3 form, his respect for his father was rekindled. His sons adore him the way he is, and Goku, especially in the English dub, does not hesitate to voice his belief, faith and love for his sons.note This has mainly been exasperated by fans of the Abridged, who's take on Goku being an abusive parent had skewed views so bad it leaked over to the original series, and TFS themselves have even apologized for causing massive Fan Dumb, not expecting the belief to explode as much as it did.
As divisive as her voice may be for non-Japenese fans, Japanese fans just can't imagine Goku (nor Gohan, nor Goten, nor Barduk, nor Goku Black) with a voice that is not Masako Nozawa's. Considering she's been in the voice acting business for far longer than the vast majority of Dragon Ball fans have been alive, and that, despite her voice being so associated with Goku, she's far from being a Pigeon Holed Voice Actor in Japanese media, even calling it a massive achievement would be an understatement.
In Latin America, anyone who has heard the Mexican dub growing up will tell you that Mario Castañeda is the official voice of Goku, the same with René García as Vegeta and Laura Torres as Kid!Goku and Kid!Gohan, reason why not many have enjoyed the dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z Kai for the change of cast.
In Spain there was the same case with Alberto Hidalgo, Vegeta's voice. For all the problems and criticisms that the Spaniard dub of the series has, Hidalgo was one of the few actors who was considered a perfect casting choice, and his voice became truly iconic for Spaniard fans. However, Hidalgo decided to retire from voice acting in 2017, half-way through Dragon Ball Super, and fans haven't been exactly kind to his replacement, the much younger-sounding Paco Prieto.
For Brazilian fans, Wendel Bezerra is very strongly associated with Goku as a grown up. Even when you hear him as Jackie Chan, it's not easy not to think of Goku.
Impressively, despite its drastic difference and status as a fan work, the same reaction has been had to several of the Dragon Ball Z Abridged voices, especially Perfect Cell, the Fountain of Memes himself.
Continuity Lockout: DBZ averts this by not relying too heavily on the original manga's events and explaining them when necessary. On the other hand, GT is borderline incomprehensible without watching DBZ first. Super isn't quite as bad about it as GT, but it still rides on the events of DBZ pretty hard, and the Future Trunks arc especially would be incredibly confusing if one hadn't seen DBZ.
Creator Worship: Fans love to make fun of Toriyama's lack of planning, forgetfulness, and his tendency to leave behind his human characters, but make no mistake that the fanbase loves him and are skeptical of any work that doesn't have his involvement. This love extends to other manga authors like Eiichiro Oda, who practically worships him.
Cult Classic: The series gets this treatment in the United States due to being ignored for the anime that only adapted the second half of the story, DBZ.
Designated Monkey: Son Gohan. After the Cell Saga set up him becoming Goku's successor, the Buu Saga had suffer from Badass Decay. While it appears as though he will have his power unlocked by Elder Kai, he fails to defeat Majin Buu thanks to Gotenks being absorbed by Buu, and then gets absorbed by Buu himself. By the movies he's demoted to the sidelines and can barely maintain Super Saiyan, supposedly because he wasn't keeping up with his training, and despite the movies having a shorter time skip than between the Cell and Buu Saga, he's become even weaker. His fans weren't pleased with him being treated this way.
Escapist Character: Son Goku. He is an All-Loving Hero who is The Ace and Hope Bringer among his friends and the universe at large. He is considered one of the strongest beings in the universe, regularly defeats super-powered aliens, androids, demons, and even gods, and can learn about any technique by just seeing it once. The fact that he was born weak and gained his strength through good old-fashioned hard work on top of being extremely talented endears him to a lot of people, which is part of why he is seen as a better main character than his son, who is much more down to Earth. There's reason why he became the Expy to many modern day Shōnen protagonists and often compared to Superman.
Specially outside the U.S., and specially among people who prefer the original manga to the anime adaptation, some people really take issue whenever Dragon Ball Z is called "the sequel to Dragon Ball", since that's not how the story was originally conceived. The manga never used DBZ for its title in Japan and most other countries, and it was always presented as a single series. Also, by the time the anime got its name changed, the manga was almost reaching the Frieza Saga. The fact that in Japan DBZ was marketed, not as a sequel, but as a rebranding to signal that (at the time) the show was thought to continue for only one, two seasons more, tops, doesn't help the issue.
Inside the U.S., you have an, admitedly less common, but not any less enraging case with people who call the original Dragon Ball "the prequel to Dragon Ball Z.
Few topics on the Internet can match the volatility brought about by the question: who would win in a fight between Goku and Superman? Fan art, essays, and ridiculously detailed videos have been created in an effort to answer this.
With Saint Seiya fans in Latin America, particularly Brazil, where both were Gateway Series for anime and manga, leading to discussions among both fandoms about which one was the best.
Dragon Ball has a rivalry with One-Punch Man for the same reason as Superman. There have been wars over whether Saitama is stronger than Goku or vice versa. Ironically, One-Punch Man is an affectionate parody of shonen tropes with characters being expies of Dragon Ball characters (e.g. Boros). Still, that doesn't stop fans from comparing who is stronger of the two.
Kakarot/Goku's pod lands somewhere else. This may be another location on Earth, like Capsule Corp or Kami's Lookout, or another planet entirely.
Raditz is sent to Earth with his younger brother.
Fanfics centered around Gohan like to feature him in high school, where Videl tries to expose him as Saiyaman, and, through a bunch of events that never happen in canon, falls for him.
A subset of the Gohan/Videl fics includes Gohan's class being invited to Capsule Corp, at which point the universe conspires to expose Gohan's secrets as quickly as possible.
The fandom has also produced Gohan fics on the premise that "Gohan trained after the Cell Saga, and subsequently killed Buu." And there are equal amounts of fics that pair him with someone other than Videl.
A common theme is to have Pan/Bulla become Super Saiyans (with any of the remaining transformations). In fact, all the half-saiyans, and saiyans with unexplored aspects (Tarble, Gine, Bardock's team) are prone to fanfictions where they get to interact with the main characters/get their transformations.
Also very prominent are the "humans becoming useful" fics. Given Yamcha, Krillin, Tien and Chiaotzu pretty much were unable to catch up due to The Worf Effect, some fics work to subvert that and give the characters new powers to somewhat or outright completely catch up. These fics tend to throw the usually looked down upon characters a bone and even get them hooked up. Like for instance, Tien finally gets with Launch, or Yamcha finds love in a girl who has flirted with him in the past, such as Maron, Hasky or Raven/Pasta.
In general, Dragon Ball and pretty much all of its successors in the Battle Shonen genre: One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Fairy Tail, My Hero Academia, etc, etc. Albeit friction isn't unheard of, and friendliness between said successors isn't nearly as common, Dragon Ball fans tend to gladly follow the later generations in the genre, and are happy to see Toriyama's legacy continuing on and even evolving. Fans of these later entries tend to also enjoy Dragon Ball and express a profound respect for it as the series that started it all and still use it as the gold standard in many respects.
Quite the overlap has formed between fans of the Dragon Ball franchise and those of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. A major part of this is that both series' abridgedseries are in close collaboration with each other, but on the official side of things, the mid-2010s saw both franchises get new anime installments in the form of Dragon Ball Super and Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, both seen as majorreturns to form for their respective series. It also helps that they aired concurrently for a good chunk of their runs, broadcasting new episodes within hours of each other each week.
Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball have a wide shared or at least friendly fanbases in the Americas and Europe, one often seen as something of a Distaff Counterpart to the other. It was probably spurred by the two airing on many of the same channels and blocks, sometimes right after each other. It helps that both have enough similarities for the fanbases to find common ground, but different enough they aren't seen as competition. The fact that several seiyuu worked on both shows (and counting dubs, quite a few English VAs worked on both Kai/Super and Sailor Moon's 2014 re-dub) doesn't hurt either. To a lesser extent, fans of Dragon Ball have also enjoyed Saint Seiya and YuYu Hakusho (and vice versa).
Has one with the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since the release of Avengers: Endgame due to both franchises having similar time travel rules. Comments on a video regarding one of the two's time travel rules referencing the other are quite common to find in YouTube.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Special mention to Europe (especially France, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy) and several countries in Latin America, where the Dragon Ball franchise is not only probably the most popular anime in history, but also a full-blown pop culture classic. The fact that it became popular in those territories way earlier than in the U.S., definitely helped.note Although the anime was released in the U.S. in 1989, around the same time as Europe, it took a whole decade and several re-releases for it to really catch up in the early 2000s. By that time, Dragon Ball had been a massive juggernaut in Europe and many Latin American countries for years.
Jerkass Dissonance: Vegeta is a perfect example of this. He may be a badass with a big fandom, however if he was a real person, nobody would want to go anywhere near him, despite whatever redeeming traits he may have.
An OT3 that became a bit more popular is Android 17/Krillin/Android 18.
Goten/Trunks/Marron gained followers among those who can't imagine the two mennot being in a relationship but can see them with women as well. Marron is sometimes paired up in an OT3 with Pan and Bra as well, though it doesn't seem as common as pairing her with Goten and Trunks.
Future Trunks/Goten/Present-timeline Trunks.
Gohan/Videl/Future Trunks as well. Interestingly, this started out as an example of Ships That Pass in the Night, since Videl and Future Trunks had never met, and it was a fairly niche triad. But after Future Trunks and Videl met in Dragon Ball Super, they were shown to get along very well, and the threesome spiked in popularity amongst the fandom practically overnight.
Pan (who actually looks like a child) is prone to getting the aged-up treatment. As well as young Chi-chi, normally by way of having her adult self fill out her younger self's armor.
Young Bulma who was 16 years old in the original Dragon Ball will often be drawn with more buxom and hips.
The trend continues during Dragon Ball Super with the Saiyans from Universe 6, Caulifla and Kale. They are short, rather flat in their base form, lacking any sort of muscle definition (well, with the exception of Kale who goes full Broly, but her controlled form is the epitome of Amazonian Beauty). In fanart, however, they are drawn full Ms. Fanservice. Cabba, from the same universe, get this to a lesser extent, but mostly giving him more muscle (since he lacks any sort of muscle, looking like he has noodles for arms).
Accidental Innuendo: Not technically in the series itself, but in the FUNimation theme song: "Rising, rising, mesmerizing, unbridled ecstasy!"
Angst? What Angst?: At the start of the series, Goku is alone in the mountains, never seeing another person until Bulma ran him over. His grandfather, the only family he has ever known, died years before the main story, crushed to death by a giant monster. And as far as Goku knows his biological parents abandoned him in the woods. Yet, Goku shows no distress about any of this, even smiling when explaining being found in the mountains. Even saying his grandpa is dead provoke little emotional response, except when talking about how he died. Bulma even ask how can he be so cheerful. Justified in early Dragon Ball by the fact that it started off as a pure comedy.
Anti-Climax Boss: In the anime, when General White describes Murasaki, we see a scene of him being absolutely badass and destroying several opponents without getting hit. But when he actually does meet Goku, he can't even hurt him in a significant way. Also consider that he's sandwiched in-between two opponents who actually do provide a challenge for Goku.
Arc Fatigue: While not as bad as the DBZ arcs, the Red Ribbon Army Saga is the longest pre-DBZ arc and can take quite some time to sit through, particularly in the anime where there is a plethora of filler to drag it out even longer.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Penguin Village episodes. The segment is actually a crossover with one of Toriyama's other works, Doctor Slump. However, to fans who don't get the reference, it comes off as being simply bizarre.
Breather Boss: Pilaf and his gang play this role at the end of the Fortuneteller Baba Saga, which is also the only time they're directly fought against. Goku at this point has gone through the Red Ribbon Army, Tao Pai Pai, and Baba's fighters, so the trio is a cakewalk in comparison, and the only thing they succeed in accomplishing during the whole fight is burning off the lower half of his gi.
Goku, when he wasn't defeating armies on his own armed with only a magic pole and a flying cloud, he was transforming into a giant Ape and destroying anything in his path, using air to one shot his opponents, kicking peoples asses with rock-paper-scissors, using his tail to fly like a helicopter, flying into the air and punching holes through demon aliens with only one arm and using his power pole to sodomize a ninja. And this stuff happened when he was a child. As an adult, he reeked of awesomeness, so much so that him just powering up nearly destroyed the planet.
Tao Pai Pai killed General Blue with his tongue and he did this during his debut in the series. His crazy awesomenes then goes to a whole new level when he taps a pillar and breaks it out, while leaving the building completely intact then throws the pillar and jumps onto it while it's moving. Tao Pai Pai's only comment on that matter is, "Who needs a jet when when we've got a perfectly good pillar."
The announcer for the World Martial Arts Tournament, so much so that when he didn't appear in the Cell Games Saga, some fans got quite irate. Fortunately, he makes his return in the Buu Saga.
General Blue, for being pretty much the only competent member of the Red Ribbon Army - starting at the point where he strangles an electric eel to death while it's still electrocuting him. There is also the fact that he is the first villain to almost kill Goku in a straight fight.
The villain who follows Blue, Tao Pai Pai, who kills Blue with his tongue and is the first villain to flat-out defeat Goku, not to mention the first legitimate Knight of Cerebus the series has ever had, before even Piccolo.
Demon King Piccolo for being the Knight of Cerebus that turned Dragon Ball from a lighthearted adventure series, to the action-pack drama we know it today. He is also one of the most cunning villains in the show who outwitted the heroes and never succumb to holding the Villain Ball like many later enemies. Even Toriyama himself says that Piccolo is still his favorite villain.
Akkuman/Devilman for having what could be considered the most powerful attack in all of Dragon Ball/DBZ. Hell, he was even a playable character in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (where he even gets his own what-if story), Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure and Dragon Ball: The Revenge of King Piccolo.
A lot of the manga's gags having Kid Goku often run around stark naked as well as the early Running Gag involving him patting other characters in the crotch because he couldn't tell their gender otherwise can be unsettling with the knowledge that Gerard Jones, who wrote the English adaptation of the manga for Viz, was arrested for possessing child pornography in 2016.
The first thing Bulma does upon meeting Goku is shoot at him. Come Dragon Ball Super, the Bulma of the alternate future was killed by a villain in Goku's body.
Early in the manga, Bulma asks Goku about his parents, and Goku answers that he doesn't remember. Depending which media of his Origin Story you preferred, Goku was sent to Earth out of pure luck (Bardock the Father of Goku) or his parents sent him to Earth for his protection, but the end result that he loses his memories of them (Dragon Ball Super: Broly). The latter is even harsher with his mother Gine's last words to him were "Don't forget us, Kakarot!".
Given what Dr. Gero did to avenge the fall of the Red Ribbon Army it makes Commander Red's real goal even more disturbing.
Oolong's off-comment about Bulma not having a pretty death does happen later on as she ends up one of the victims of Super Buu, being turned into chocolate and eaten alive.
Master Roshi's destruction of the moon to reverse Goku's Great Ape transformation becomes horrifying when one remembers that's where Goku dropped off Boss Rabbit and his goons, though supposedly Toriyama said in an interview that Boss Rabbit and his goons got off the moon somehow.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: Kami allowing Goku's friends to use the Dragon Balls to wish back those killed by King Piccolo and his men despite the fact that it's only a few days since the balls have been used is already courteous enough of him but what makes it even more heartwarming is that in Dragon Ball Z, it is revealed that the Dragon Balls cannot wish back multiple people if over a year had passed. In other words, Kami willingly broke the rules specifically so that the heroes can undo the horrors the King Piccolo had done as a way of atoning his own actions for inadvertently creating his evil half in the first place.
Inferred Holocaust: While the Dragon Balls are used after the King Piccolo Saga to revive everyone he killed, including those killed by his offspring, during his reign Piccolo abolished all laws and released all prisoners, encouraging the people to sow chaos and mayhem. There's no telling how many were killed or otherwise victimized during this period of terror.
Informed Wrongness: Goku meeting Chi-Chi at the 23 Tenkaichi Budokai and not remembering her is treated as an example of him being an idiot. While Chi-Chi's identity is obvious to the audience, Goku had only met her once, over six years earlier. It actually speaks well of Goku that he remembers her at all. It's less blatant in the anime where he had seen her in a few filler arcs between then, but he still only had two other meetings with her in the past six years.
The Crane Hermit, Master Shen. He is an evil and bitter old man, but he's like that thanks to King Piccolo's cruelty. He watched his fellow students and friends be slaughtered by Piccolo's children and was then forced to watch his master humiliated by Piccolo himself. After witnessing the futility of being good and the failure of justice, he turned away from his master's teachings.
Memetic Badass: Monster Carrot's Story-Breaker Power is often brought up by fans to point out that he could theoretically defeat any opponentnote Pity nearly everyone uses ki blasts and knows how to fly.. Nevermind that he's a spineless coward, if he can so much as touch an opponent he instantly wins.
Values Dissonance: Several of the jokes in the early parts of the manga when it was still largely a comedy have not aged well:
One very early chapter features Oolong drugging Bulma and trying to molest her in her sleep, which is Played for Laughs. Though Oolong wasn't fully reformed at this point, the fact that Bulma was fully aware that Oolong might try something like that makes her eventual acceptance of him feel unearned.
Similar to Oolong is Master Roshi. He frequently tells Bulma that he'll only help her out if she gives him a peek or fondle, which in after the #MeToo era would be considered coercion and when Bulma doesn't need a favour from him, he just helps himself to her. He also told Goku and Krillin that he'd only train them if they brought him a woman, making them complicit in his attempt to get a sex slave. Keep in mind this guy has enough physical strength to take on martial artists in their prime.
The manga's explicit depictions of nudity and sexuality in its early years fail to resonate well with Western audiences, particularly in America, due to the fact that most of the characters who are shown naked or involved in sexual activities are below the legal age of consent in much of the country.note Bulma, being 15 at the start of the series, is below the age of consent to begin with, and even when she turns 16, nineteen states, including movie and TV hub California, define the legal age of consent at 17 or 18. The fact that 11-year-old Goku's genitals are shown more than anyone else's doesn't help, nor does the fact that Bulma once attempted to seduce him in exchange for his Dragon Ball.
Though he's most likely meant to resemble a Djinn, Mr. Popo's appearance is a point of contention for Western fans, since his pitch-black skin and red lips make him look uncomfortably similar to a minstrel character. The actual black characters in the series aren't much better, since Toriyama tends to draw them with cartoonishly large pink lips.
"Weird Al" Effect: A lot of the pop culture references in Dragon Ball go unnoticed by the overseas fandom, so expies and parodies of old Chinese or Japanese film or TV characters became more famous because of this series than their original incarnations:
Goku was originally conceived as a parody of Sun Wukong of the classic Chinese fantasy novel Journey to the West, and his name is in fact identical to the Japanese approximation of Sun Wukong. Note that Goku being more well-known is only the case overseas; in China and Japan, Wukong is a widely-known mythical figure who has dozens of shows and big-budget films based on his adventures.
Many other characters in the first arc were meant as parodies of Journey to the West characters too, most notably Yamcha, Oolong, and the Ox-King.
Chaozu is, in design at least, a Jiangshi, a type of undead Chinese vampire. Toriyama probably threw him in there because Jiangshi films were huge in China, Japan, and Korea at the time, and throwing one into your story offered it an automatic bump in popularity. This doesn't really translate to modern North American, South American, or European viewers.
Oolong's wish is "For the panties of a hot girl", but the English dub changes it to "The world's most comfortable pair of underwear!" which many fans thought was actually funnier.
In the Japanese version, the announcer mispronounces Goku's name by reading the kanji for Son Goku as Mago Gosora. In the English dub, where Alternate Character Reading isn't exactly a thing, it's localized as him mispronouncing Goku as gah-kay-ah. Viz's translation of the manga, meanwhile, takes a slightly different path by having the announcer misread "Son Goku" as "Song Oku".