It’s said that upon gathering all seven Dragon Balls, a great dragon will be summoned to grant any one wish the heart desires. Or two. Or three. The finer details vary– not just by dragon, but by story arc. Akira Toriyama isn’t the most consistent of writers even if surprisingly tight continuity is one of Dragon Ball’s greatest strengths. He’s an author who seemingly forgets little detail in-between arcs.
Given how he wrote the series week to week for ten years without ever re-reading his work until after the fact, however, this is a bit more forgivable. It’s also part of the franchise’s charm. There is an ebb and flow to both Dragon Ball’s quality and tone. This can naturally result in some pretty dumb wishes, but when Toriyama’s on his game, Dragon Ball can churn out some pretty inspired wishes.
20 DUMBEST: Pilaf And Company Wish For Youth (Super)
For the most part, Battle of Gods is one of the better stories in the franchise. Akira Toriyama’s passion for the series clearly shows, and BoG’s plot plays out like a love letter to Son Goku and the world of Dragon Ball. It isn’t without its flaws, however. Most notably, Pilaf and company dominate a frustrating amount of the film’s runtime.
Worse yet, they’re not quite depicted how they were in the original series, de-aged to children so they can better play off Trunks and Goten. It’s charming at first, but it very quickly loses its luster. Worse yet, the Super manga establishes that Pilaf’s wish for youth ultimately played a factor in damning Future Trunks’ timeline.
19 SERVED A PURPOSE: 17 Revives The Multiverse (Super)
The Tournament of Power certainly suffered from taking place in a period of Dragon Ball history where, realistically, nothing too serious could happen. With the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai and Oob right around the corner, there was no chance of Universe 7 actually being erased.
Quite cleverly, though, the end of the arc recontextualizes the Tournament of Power entirely. Upon 17 reviving the entire multiverse, it’s revealed that Zeno was going to erase everything if any other wish were made. Not only is this appropriately Dragon Ball in an arc that otherwise wasn’t, it’s just one of the series’ smarter twists overall.
18 DUMBEST: Dende Brings Piccolo To Namek
Dende, Gohan, and Kuririn should have known better. Piccolo should have known better. Kaio, the literal Lord of Worlds and someone with a seemingly vast knowledge of the universe, should have known better. Simply wishing Piccolo down to Namek without specifying a location is a dumb wish from a pure logical perspective.
That said, though, had Dende wished Piccolo to where they were on Namek, Piccolo never would have been able to merge with Nail and he never would have been able to push Freeza hard enough to transform into his third and final forms. With a smarter wish, Goku may have arrived to fight a Freeza who already slaughtered his friends.
17 SERVED A PURPOSE: Everyone’s Memories Of Boo Are Erased
Despite how lighthearted the Boo arc is compared to both the Freeza and Cell arcs, the story itself is quite dark. Majin Boo not only wipes out most of the planet, he outright destroys the Earth near the arc’s finale. Not just that, Bobidi actively and openly hunted down Goten, Trunks, & Piccolo while Boo decimated the planet.
Naturally, with Boo redeeming himself by the arc’s end, there was no real way he could integrate himself into the main cast without issue. This wasn’t a Piccolo or Vegeta case where they technically hadn’t done anything too bad (on-screen.) Wiping everyone’s memories is a clean way of getting around that.
16 DUMBEST: Yamcha Revives Everyone Offed By Cell
This is a dumb wish for two reasons. The first, most obvious reason, is the fact that Yamcha should have known Goku wasn’t coming back to life. Not only because Goku wouldn’t want to, but because Shenlong had already revived Goku once before. The second, more subtle reason, is the fact that Yamcha specified Cell.
While 16, 17, and 18 never intentionally hurt anyone in the main timeline, Dr. Gero and 19 more or less wiped out an entire city. Those people didn’t get to come back to life because Yamcha just needed to say Cell.
15 SERVED A PURPOSE: Dende Brings Back Planet Earth
A smart, practical wish that was always going to have to happen sooner rather than later. Boo blowing up the Earth certainly has weight, but there was no way Toriyama was going to allow Dragon Ball to wrap up on such a grim note. Predictability isn’t a bad thing, however, and Dende restoring the Earth through Porunga helps connect the entire universe for the grand finale. That this wish stems from Vegeta’s grand plan to save the universe also helps show how far he's come.
14 DUMBEST: Baby Revives His Planet
On paper, this is a pretty good wish. After an entire arc spent collecting the Black Star Dragon Balls to save the Earth, Baby claims them at the last minute and wishes for the revival of the Tsurufian planet. It’s a solid twist that really helps establish just how hopeless the situation is. Too bad GT doesn’t pull it off at all.
Ignoring the fact that the build up to this moment is both grueling and poorly done, the Tsurifian planet was originally Planet Vegeta. That, naturally, should come with some serious consequences, but it doesn’t even get a passing mention.
13 SERVED A PURPOSE: Kami Brings The Supporting Cast Back To Life
Piccolo Daimao completely vaporizing Shenlong is one of the most shocking moments in the franchise. By this point, the power scale hadn’t increased too high and Shenlong still seemed like an all-powerful being. For Piccolo Daimao to take him out effectively meant that every loss in the Piccolo Daimao arc counted.
Of course, Dragon Ball being Dragon Ball, this gets reversed, but it’s handled well and Goku has to earn everyone’s revival. Only in defeating Piccolo Daimao and becoming God’s student does Kami revive Shenlong along with the rest of the supporting cast.
12 DUMBEST: Sorbet Revives Freeza (Super)
Resurrection F does have its good points. Not only is it one of the more cohesively thematic Dragon Ball films– centering itself around personal failure– the brawl between Gohan, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, Piccolo, Roshi, & Jaco against Freeza’s army is one of modern DB’s highlights.
Unfortunately, the whole film’s premise revolves around bringing back the franchise’s most iconic villain in order to drag him through the mud. Freeza coming back so Trunks to make an example out of him served a purpose and had weight. Freeza coming back to fight blue haired Super Saiyans? Not so much.
11 SERVED A PURPOSE: Kuririn Removes 17 & 18’s Bombs
Kuririn’s a really good guy and this wish brings his arc to a very fitting close. After spending all arc head over heels in love with 18, Kuririn does the selfless thing and wishes for hers and 17’s bombs to be removed. He originally tries to wish them human, but he settles for less when Shenlong rejects his wish.
Either way, it’s a practical wish that shows that Kuririn wasn’t just protecting 18 because he loved her. He did it because he knew it was the right thing. Even if they can’t be together, doing something for her is enough for him. You’d fall for him, too.
10 DUMBEST: Dende Teleports The Namekians To New Namek
Alright, this wish makes sense on paper, but it has one vital flaw: Dende didn’t tell anyone where New Namek was. This causes a massive issue in Trunks’ timeline where the Namekian Dragon Balls are straight up not an option to fix the Earth. Goku sorts this all out in the main timeline, but this one wish ends up having massive consequences for Planet Earth in Trunks’ future.
9 SERVED A PURPOSE: Dende Brings Kuririn’s Soul To Earth
Fans often miss it, but Dragon Ball is very consistent when it comes to how resurrection works. Bodies need to be intact to some degree (though Gods can pull strings here) and the deceased are revived where their soul left the world. Considering Namek’s destruction, this would mean reviving Kuririn in the vacuum of space. Dende thinks it through, though, and Kuririn’s soul is brought down to Earth for resurrection.
8 DUMBEST: Pilaf Turns Goku Into A Child (GT)
Despite the level of vitriol this wish gets, turning Goku into a child for Dragon Ball GT didn’t have to be a bad thing. After all, this would be a fully developed and mature Goku in a younger body. He’d be held back and would have to rely on his skills over brute force. But Dragon Ball GT never seems quite sure of what it wants to do with Goku, and Pilaf turning him into a child is handled with less tact than Goku patting Chichi’s groin when they first meet.
7 SERVED A PURPOSE: Goku Revives Bora
This is arguably the most important wish in the franchise as it’s what sets the precedent of characters coming back to life. Only the second one in Dragon Ball’s run, Goku manages to wish Bora back to life after spending the back half of the Red Ribbon Army arc hunting down the rest of the Dragon Balls.
After spending the first half specifically looking for his grandfather’s Ball, this moment clearly shows Goku’s growth. It’s also intimately tied to Tao Pai Pai’s introduction and Bora’s assassination, two moments that fundamentally change Dragon Ball.
6 DUMBEST: Piccolo Is Brought Back To Life (Super)
As if Resurrection F wasn’t bad enough, Dragon Ball Super’s adaptation of the film just makes everything so much worse. Not only does the movie’s simple plot drag to a crawl in an episodic format, the animation was at its absolute worst here. The arc also brought with it many strange changes, most notably Piccolo’s demise.
In a move that tastelessly parallels Piccolo sacrificing himself to save Gohan from Nappa, Piccolo sacrifices himself to save Gohan from a character who wasn’t a threat in the movie. Piccolo is revived off-screen because DBS doesn’t even want to pretend it has real tension most of the time.
5 SERVED A PURPOSE: Piccolo Daimao Wishes For Youth
Piccolo could have wished for immortality, but what’s the point of living forever in an old body? Piccolo’s decision to wish for youth also says a lot about his characters without needing to say much. He’s vain, but he’s confident– and rightfully so. Piccolo Daimao not only manages to destroy Shenlong, he’s responsible for Chaozu and Roshi’s demises. He even nearly defeats Goku, twice.
4 DUMBEST: Lord Slug Wishes For Youth
On the flip side, Lord Slug wishing for youth doesn’t do much for his character. He’s a carbon copy of Piccolo Daimao without any of the depth. He doesn’t even have that generic super-villain charm Daimao has. Instead, Slug just feels bland. It isn’t until he starts getting manic near the end of the film that his personality starts to shine through, but it’s not as if his wish contributes meaningfully to his character or the film other than reminding fans that Piccolo Daimao once existed.
3 SERVED A PURPOSE: Dende Restores Goku’s Ki & Stamina
In general, the Boo arc uses its wishes very creatively. More so than the rest of the series. The best example of this has to be Vegeta telling Dende to restore Goku’s Ki and stamina through Porunga. After using their first two wishes to bring back the Earth and its population, Vegeta sets the dragon aside while Goku finishes up the Genki Dama.
Unfortunately, with so much of his energy spent, Goku can’t push the Genki Dama through to Boo. That Vegeta thinks to restore Goku’s Ki is a nice character beat on his part while also a great way of incorporating the titular Dragon Balls in the series’ final major battle.
2 DUMBEST: Bulma Revives Everyone Offed By Majin Vegeta
This is an insanely dumb wish that was bound to happen sooner or later. Eventually, Toriyama would need to show the characters using the Dragon Balls too early. Narratively, it’s one of the Boo arc’s smarter story beats, essentially removing the Dragon Balls from the story early, giving added weight to the Boo arc as a whole.
That doesn’t really change the fact that it’s a dumb wish on Bulma’s part. Bulma saw Goku and Vegeta teleport away to fight, but she never saw the resolution. Either way, it’s clear that a Cell level crisis was unfolding so Bulma should have known to save the Dragon Balls for when they were needed.
1 SERVED A PURPOSE: Oolong Wishes For Panties
The first, and best, wish in the series: Oolong wishing for a pair of panties. Like all the best moments in Dragon Ball, this is a layered moment. On a surface level, it’s a really funny wish in an otherwise fairly serious chapter. Not just that, this moment caps off Oolong’s character arc. After trying to run all arc, he literally flies in the face of danger to save the world.
It’s also a cathartic wish that puts Pilaf in his place, something that carries a considerable amount of weight in the anime where Pilaf is a more active character.
Sources: Kanzenshuu.com, dragonball.fandom.com, My encyclopedic knowledge of Dragon Ball