There are numerous main characters in the series. To better understand the complexity of the series, the following is a brief explanation of each character.
Son-Goku, or simply Goku in the English version, is from a race of beings called Sayians. The Sayians send infants to other planets for conquest. Sayians have monkey-like tails which enable them to change in the light of the full moon into large, very powerful apes. Goku, however, accidentally bumped his head when he got to Earth and forgot to conquer it. He was raised by his adopted grandfather, Son-Gohan. Later, he accidentally kills his grandfather when in his ape form, although he has no memory when in this form and is never actually told he did it. Sayians also have great strength in their normal forms and an innate fighting ability. Goku had his tail removed by Kami (Toryama-b, 1989). Goku maintained a child-like naivety throughout the series.
Bulma Briefs befriended an 11-year-old Goku when she found him living alone in a forest. Bulma was on a quest to acquire the Dragonballs and talked Goku into coming with her. They remained friends throughout the rest of the series (Toryama-c, 2000).
Master Roshi, also known as the "Turtle Hermit," is the teacher, or sensei, of Goku and most of his friends. He is depicted as a "dirty old man," who taught Goku's grandfather, named Son-Gohan, and father-in-law, Gui-Mao in Japan or The Ox-King in English (Toryama-d, 2000).
Krillin is one of Goku's best friends. The unusually short Krillin is a former Shao-lin monk who left his order to train with Master Roshi. Krillin follows Goku on a majority of his adventures through the end of the Dragonball Z series (Toryama-e, 2000).
Yamcha began the series as a minor villain who was attempting to steal the Dragonballs from Goku and Bulma. Later, when he realized he joined in the quest for the balls and remained with the group (Toryama-c 2000). In the last "saga" of the "Z" series, Yamcha had given up fighting when he realized he could no longer compete with the other characters (Toryama-f, 1984).
The Ox-King and Chi-chi were introduced in the original Dragonball series. The Ox-King was one of two students taught by Master Roshi. His daughter Chi-chi later became the wife of Goku and mother of Gohan and Goten (Toryama-c, 2000).
Tienshinhan, or Tien for short, is a three-eyed human with magnificent power. He is the body guard for the young Emperor Chao-Tzu. Tien and Chao-Tzu were also originally villains but changed their ways and befriended Goku (Toryama-g, 1989). Villains changing sides is a reoccurring theme throughout the series.
Piccolo and Kame are two halves of the same person. The green-skinned warriors are from the planet Namek. Kame was intended to be the Guardian of the Earth, but the previous guardian said he had too much evil in his heart. Kame then split into two beings, Kame and Piccolo Diamo. Kame was then free to become Guardian of the Earth. Kame also created the Dragonballs, which would disappear if he died (Toryama-h, 1990).
Piccolo Diamo, being made of all the evil in Kame, was a villain through most of Dragonball. He was defeated by Goku in a martial arts tournament. Just before he died, he spit out an egg. The egg became Piccolo who was essentially the same as Piccolo Diamo, only considerably younger (Toryama-h, 1990).
Piccolo was also a rival of Goku's until the arrival of the Sayians: Radditz, Nappa and Vegita. To battle the Radditz, Piccolo fought with Goku. After Goku's death, he trained Gohan. Piccolo died while fighting Vegita, but was wished back to life with the Namekian Dragonballs (see Vegita.) Eventually he merged with Kame and became one being (Toryama-h, 1990).
Vegita, the Sayian Prince, originally came to Earth to conquer it. He was defeated by Goku, Gohan and the others, but his life was spared. Vegita returned to his base of operations to recuperate and plan his revenge against Freeza for destroying his home planet. Goku, Gohan, Krillen, and Bulma joined with Vegita to defeat Freeza, on planet Namek, to gain control of another set of Dragonballs. After this battle, Vegita went to Earth to train. Vegita had two children with Bulma: Trunks and Bra.
The Japanese version contained many violent acts, as would be expected in a martial arts series, and sexual innuendo. This creates a problem for airing the show in the United States. The problem being, sex and graphic violence can not be shown or implied in what is considered a "cartoon for children."
The Japanese version was aimed at the mid-teen (13-18 year-old) demographic, although it did attract an older, young adult (18-30 year-old) audience. This age group is generally considered to be able to distinguish between reality and fantasy while being old enough to catch the sexual innuendo (planetnamek.com-b, 2001).
The English version is aimed at a similar demographic, but the FCC will not allow much of the violence and none of the sexual innuendo in programs aimed at this demographic (Psaros-a, 2002). The original demographic appears to have targeted the correct audience. Funimation could have saved money by leaving the demographic alone and simply translating the original series instead of adjusting the series to appeal to a younger audience.