The real reason why Gohan never became the main character

Image: Toei Animation

At the end of the Cell Saga in Dragon Ball Z, Gohan had become the strongest Z fighter. With Goku’s demise at the end of the Cell Games, it seemed that Gohan will take over Goku’s mantle as the main protagonist in the series. And as we all know. That never occurred. So what really happened? This article will give you a conclusive answer to this question.

Hearsay and rumours about this have spread throughout the dragon ball community. 

People have said Toriyama wanted to make Gohan the main character in the Buu saga. But was forced by fans or the ‘death threats’ he received to shift it back to Goku. 

Nobody knows where this rumour emerged from, but nonetheless, it’s still a talking point among fans today.

Gohan in Dragon Ball Z

Image: Shueisha

In the title page of Dragon Ball manga chapter 421, Kame-Sen’nin (Master Roshi) breaks the fourth wall to announce that ‘the story of Dragon Ball will continue’. This was mentioned just before the start of the Buu saga in Dragon Ball Z. Akira Toriyama, through Master Roshi states that Gohan will take Goku’s place. So following this, it does seem like Toriyama was going to make Gohan the lead, so what changed?

In the Buu saga, Gohan had his potential unlocked by the elder kai, which gave us the hot-shot Ultimate/Mystic Gohan. But in the end, he was absorbed by Majin Buu and it was Goku who delivered the final blow to Kid Buu. 

This is Toriyama’s official take on Gohan in his Daizenshuu 2 interview:

Interviewer: And then the Cell arc ended. Did you think that everyone felt you would put Gohan into the leading role?

Akira Toriyama: I intended to put Gohan into the leading role. It didn’t work out. I felt that compared to Goku, he was ultimately not suited for the part.

When Akira Toriyama says ‘not suited’ it doesn’t mean Gohan wasn’t popular enough. As Toriyama was writing his story in the manga, he realized that Gohan wasn’t the guy to continue the series. That’s why he switched gears and brought Goku back. 

Image: Toei Animation

If you think fans changed Toriyama’s mind, you’re wrong about that too. In a popularity poll that was conducted in Weekly Jump Issue 12 in 1993 (end of the cell games), Gohan was the most popular character, followed by Goku. Since Gohan was more popular than Goku at the end of the Cell Saga, fans would have stood in support of the former and not against him. 

Some fans have even stated that it was Toriyams’s ever insidious editor who forced him to switch from Gohan to Goku. There is no real evidence to this either. On the contrary, Toriyama states Fuyuto Takeda – the editor during the Majin Buu arc, was more lenient compared to his previous editors. If Takeda forced Toriyama to make such a drastic change, he definitely wouldn’t have said that about him. 

Dragon Ball Super

In Dragon Ball Super, Vegeta states that Gohan has the most potential out of them. Had he continued training, he would easily surpass them. However, in DBS, the only time we saw Gohan being impressive in combat was during the Tournament of Power arc. His fight with Dyspo was the highlight of his performance in the ToP. Even though he helped out against Moro, Gohan was sidelined for the majority of the arc. 

In a more recent interview in Dragon Ball Super Volume 1, Toriyama and Toyotarou address why Gohan never became the main character once again.

At the time (End of Cell Games) Son Gohan was turning into the main character, wasn’t he?

Toriyama: Yeah! I figured Goku was getting old, and it was time to switch over to the next generation.

Toyotarō: That’s what Goku himself said in the Majin Boo arc.

Toriyama: But drawing Gohan’s daily life made me gradually realize he likes studying more than fighting (laughs). Later on, he even lost his dōgi (laughs).

Toyotarō: Now he’s fulfilled his childhood dream and become a fine scholar. 

Image: Toei Animation

It wasn’t the complaints from the fans nor the rumoured ‘death threats’ he received. It was Toriyama, the creator itself, who took his call and made Gohan a scholar and not a fighter. 

It is also pivotal to note that Akira Toriyama is a discovery writer. He starts writing a story without knowing the exact way it will end. So it’s safe to say that Toriyama wanted to make Gohan the main character, but decided against it because he thought that the character wasn’t suited for the part.

Goku’s unconditional desire to fight opponents and becoming stronger at every turn is the pinnacle of Dragon Ball’s story. From the very beginning, Goku’s son has shown his reluctance to fighting. And that’s why Goku has remained the main character of the show.