Dragon Ball: Top 10 Scariest Moments, Ranked | CBR

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has been able to persevere as such a foundational anime staple because of the many different sensibilities that it engages in. Dragon Ball has reached a point where its chaotic action sequences and bewildering transformations receive a lot of attention, but the series effortlessly navigates through different genres despite starting as a series catered more toward gag comedy.

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At the same time, there are some incredibly tense and terrifying moments that occur during Dragon Ball, which make for a helpful reminder that sometimes the scariest scenes in anime don’t take place in horror series.

10 The First Trip To Namek Is Actually A Horrific Hallucination

Any anime that runs for as long as Dragon Ball is bound to face periods of filler every now and then. Dragon Ball’s approach to filler installments is very much a mixed bag. One of the more maligned experiments with original anime storytelling involves Krillin, Gohan, and Bulma’s first trip to Planet Namek. They learn that they’ve actually been brainwashed by a pair of disturbing aliens, Raiti and Zaacro, who very nearly accomplish their scheme. The whole Fake Namek detour is highly disposable, but the implications behind it and the nature of Raiti and Zaacro’s true forms are chilling.

9 Spopovich Dominates Videl In Battle

There is some absolutely brutal violence that’s present in Dragon Ball, which a lot of the time can come across as more palatable and sanitized due to the exaggerated nature of these battles and the inhuman nature of enemies. One of the most vicious fights in the entire series occurs at the start of the Buu Saga when the Majin-possessed Spopovich brutalizes Videl in the World Martial Arts Tournament. This is such a frightening encounter because of how outmatched Videl is, and Spopovich’s ruthless nature makes it seem like he might actually finish Videl off.

8 Demon King Piccolo Regains Youth

The wish-granting Dragon Balls allow the series’ heroes to achieve incredible things, but there’s always the risk that someone evil will successfully summon Shenron and get their selfish desires to come true.

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Dragon Ball’s Demon King Piccolo makes such an impact because he truly feels alien in nature and like a demonic entity. King Piccolo stands out because he assembles the Dragon Balls and is able to get his youth restored, not to mention the destruction of Shenron afterward. All of this marks a dark turning point where a villain has never achieved so much power.

7 Cell Survives His Self-Destruction

Each of Dragon Ball’s major villains can feel impossible to overcome during certain moments, but Cell consistently demonstrates how much of an upper hand he has over Earth’s greatest heroes. Goku has to resort to a desperate last-ditch effort when he teleports a self-destructing Cell off of Earth and onto King Kai’s Planet. The gambit saves Earth, but Goku passes away in the process. It’s absolutely chilling when it’s revealed that Cell is resilient enough to regenerate from self-destruction. With Goku now out of the picture, Cell seems more frightening than ever. Thankfully, Gohan steps up to the plate.

6 Golden Frieza Destroys Earth

By the time that Dragon Ball Super comes along, the audience has been able to grow quite accustomed to how Toriyama’s series operates. The Earth is frequently in jeopardy, but nobody expects the planet to actually meet its end or for the villains to win. This makes Golden Frieza’s successful destruction of Earth come as such a terrifying surprise. In the moment, it feels unprecedented, and it’s unclear how the heroes will overcome this tragedy. Admittedly, Whis’ Temporal Do-Over reduces the impact of this plot twist, but for a few seconds, it truly looks like all hope is lost.

5 Imperfect Cell Absorbs Innocent Civilians

Dragon Ball seems to be at its most comfortable when it leans into action tropes and conventions, but one of the strongest sequences from the whole series is when it fully embraces horror.

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Perfect Cell is a very sleek, polished antagonist, but his introductory Imperfect form comes across more like a creature from a David Cronenberg movie. Imperfect Cell’s insect-like appearance becomes more distressing after he starts using his tail to drain the life out of innocent humans. It’s some of the most frightening imagery that’s ever been present in Dragon Ball.

4 Krillin Dies For The First Time

It’s a sad fact that the characters in Dragon Ball have grown quite accustomed to the deaths of their loved ones. Both death and resurrection have become vital aspects of the series, but it’s totally fresh and frightening when Krillin is killed by Tambourine. This is the first major death to truly rock Goku and friends, and it’s unclear if Krillin will in fact get revived later. It’s an important reality check for Goku, which hits harder after it pushes him to retaliate in such a violent manner.

3 The Androids Kill All Of Earth’s Heroes

An absolutely grim revelation that Dragon Ball teases is that there’s a future timeline where essentially all of Earth’s heroes are killed by the activation of the deadly Androids. Goku and company are able to prevent their present timeline from facing a similarly bleak fate. However, Future Trunks’ discussion over the horrors that he’s faced includes some very frightening visuals. This look into Future Trunks’ fractured timeline contains a brutal montage where the Androids murder all of Dragon Ball’s heroes. It’s terrifying to watch them all struggle and meet their ends.

2 Goku Black Kills Goku’s Family

Dragon Ball Super manages to create a genuinely compelling mystery during its nihilistic stretch of Goku Black Saga episodes. Zamasu turns out to be the vindictive perpetrator who triggers a beyond ambitious plan that results in him nearly successfully erasing all of the mortals in existence. It’s frightening to witness an evil doppelganger of Goku who has no qualms hurting the people the hero loves. This is at its worst when Zamasu first acquires Goku’s body. His family doesn’t even have time to process what’s happened before Goku Black eliminates them.

1 Buu’s Human Extinction Attack Nearly Wipes Out Earth’s Entire Population

Plenty of Dragon Ball’s biggest villains have showcased just how evil they are in various ways. Frieza gets a ton of credit for the many planets that he’s destroyed, but Buu quits playing around when he initiates his Human Extinction Attack. This comprehensive energy maneuver kills nearly everyone on the planet. A villain has never caused this degree of death in the past, and since it feels like Dragon Ball is in its end game, there’s an extra level of finality over it all. It’s unclear if Earth’s population will get the opportunity to revive itself.

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