Of the many Z-Fighters who protect Earth in the various Dragon Ball series, Krillin is probably the least respected. In fact, that might be putting it mildly. Lots of characters on DBZ get their butts kicked with regularity, but somehow only Krillin has picked up a reputation as a total punching bag. The jokes about Krillin getting beat up are so popular that the renowned fan parody Dragon Ball Z: Abridged keeps an on-screen count of the amount of times that Krillin gets “owned” throughout the series, and it reaches the dozens.
To say that Krillin is the worst Dragon Ball character, however, would definitely be a mistake. Despite his many beatings, Krillin has still managed to remain a fan favorite from his debut in the manga as Kuririn in 1985 to his role in Dragon Ball Super. Convincing fans that Krillin is a great character is not a difficult task, as he’s given folks plenty of reason to love him over the years. Making the argument that Krillin is the best character in the Dragon Ball series might seem tougher, but there are actually a litany of compelling reasons Krillin is the most admirable and well-developed character in the entire saga.
He’s Around For The Entire Saga
Krillin has been present for more of the Dragon Ball saga than anyone other than Goku. Krillin first showed up in the 25th issue of the manga in 1985, and he’s been by Goku’s side pretty much ever since.
Krillin was featured in the rest of Dragon Ball, all of Dragon Ball Z, the non-canon Dragon Ball GT, and the revival series Dragon Ball Super. Unlike other long-term characters like Bulma and Yamcha, Krillin did not really shrink into the background, but remained ready to fight whenever Earth needed protecting.
He Often Fights Way Above His Weight Class
As a (mostly) ordinary human, Krillin eventually found himself outclassed by most of the characters around him as the Dragon Ball franchise progressed. As a species, human beings have much a lower power potential than aliens like the Saiyans or Namekians. Therefore, Krillin’s power levels hit a ceiling long before most of the other Z-Fighters.
Despite this disadvantage, Krillin continued to throw himself at opponents far above his league whenever the situation called for it. Krillin attempted to take on foes as powerful as Frieza, the androids, and Perfect Cell, all because his friends needed help. That makes Krillin a true warrior, and an all around commendable character.
He Motivates Goku’s First Super Saiyan Transformation
Krillin’s reputation as a punching bag who dies often is, weirdly, part of what makes him so awesome. Krillin has died on numerous occasions, including once during the original Dragon Ball series, but his most famous death occurs in the Frieza Saga.
The purple alien tyrant sadistically murdered Krillin in an attempt to infuriate his best friend, Goku, a move Frieza would come to regret. The death of Krillin enraged Goku like never before, prompting his first transformation into a Super Saiyan and the eventual defeat of Frieza.
He’s The Strongest Human On Earth
Krillin is obviously not the strongest character in the Dragon Ball saga, what with all of the Super Saiyans and fused Namekians flying around. However, according to series creator Akira Toriyama, Krillin is the “strongest among the Earthlings.” That means that if you discount all of the Saiyans, Namekians, androids, and other non-human beings, Krillin is the strongest fighter in the series.
That puts him above characters like Yamcha and Tien, and it's impressive no matter how you slice it. Krillin remains in training for much of the series, always pushing himself despite not having the same raw potential as his non-human colleagues.
He Rescues Gohan From Frieza
Krillin is undoubtedly Goku’s best friend, and he’s also one of his most trustworthy allies. There is probably no one Goku trusts more with the life of his children, which is why Gohan has been left in Krillin’s care on more than one occasion.
Krillin proved himself as the world’s best babysitter a few times, like when he attacked the intergalactic warlord Frieza to save Gohan’s life. Krillin had already been impaled by Frieza’s horn, but he got back on his feet and launched a Destructo Disc just in time to save Gohan and cut off the villain’s tail.
He Marries The Coolest Lady In The Series
The Dragon Ball series, especially Dragon Ball Z, centers mainly around fighting, and thus there isn’t always a ton of time for romance. Goku shares barely any scenes with his wife, Chi Chi, despite having a pair of kids with her, and Bulma and Vegeta’s courtship occurs mainly off-screen.
It could be argued, in fact, that the most successful relationship in the entire saga is between Krillin and Android 18, a deadly beauty who seems entirely out of his league. Krillin proves himself a hero on several occasions during the Cell Saga, risking his life to rescue 18 and using the Dragon Balls to remove the self-destruct feature hidden within her body. This leaves Android 18 smitten with the diminutive dynamo, and the two eventually marry and have a daughter.
His Character Design Has Real Martial Arts History Behind It
Series creator Akira Toriyama put a decent amount of effort into researching actual martial arts history in creating Dragon Ball. The characters’ fighting outfits are fairly accurate representations of real karate gis, and some of the techniques seen in their battles are legitimate, energy waves aside.
Real martial arts history definitely played a role in the design of Krillin, particularly the design of his head. Krillin shaves his head bald and wears six tattoo dots on his forehead, both of which are meant to invoke real-life Shaolin monk traditions.
The Destructo Disc Kicks Butt
Most of the fighters in Dragon Ball Z have their own signature special move. The Kamehameha Wave is undoubtedly the most famous, and there’s plenty to be said about Vegeta’s Final Flash, but the most badass special move of all probably belongs to Krillin.
The Destructo Disc doesn’t have the explosive capabilities of some of its fellow energy blasts, but it more than makes up for it with precision and deadliness. The sharp edges of the Destructo Disc make it a tool that lives up to its name, and it’s been used to sever many a body part over the course of Krillin’s countless battles, including the tails of both Vegeta and Frieza.