What If Goku Defeated Perfect Cell Instead Of Gohan

When Gohan defeated Perfect Cell in Dragon Ball, it signified to passing of the torch from one generation of fighters to the next, with the son defeating an enemy made from every major foe his father ever faced. With Goku being the face of the series, however, there’s no doubt that the story would have been very different if Goku defeated Perfect Cell instead of Gohan. Undoubtedly, Dragon Ball‘s future would have changed significantly if Goku had been the one to defeat Cell in the end.

As Dragon Ball continued beyond the Cell Games, it became increasingly apparent that Goku wasn’t going to be retired so easily. Despite being built up during the arc and played up significantly during the Buu Saga, Gohan was never able to escape from his father’s shadow. With Gohan’s character falling by the wayside until the release of Dragon Ball Super: Superhero shunted him back into the limelight, viewers couldn’t be blamed for wondering if things really would have been all that different in a hypothetical scenario in which Goku had been the one to defeat Cell and continue his winning streak.

Had Goku been the one to finish Cell off in Dragon Ball Z’s third major storyline, the ramifications might have had some considerable ripples throughout the initial series. For starters, Gohan’s place in the story would have been drastically lessened at a much earlier point. But while the events of Dragon Ball Super may not be too different, the storyline to immediately follow Cell – the Buu Saga – would very likely be almost unrecognizable. In fact, if taken in a certain direction, it may not happen at all.

Goku Survives And Gohan Never Takes His Role

Right from the start, there’s one obvious change that would come from Goku defeating Cell instead of Gohan, in that Goku would still be alive. Had Goku actually become powerful enough to beat Cell on his own, he would have undoubtedly obliterated the biomechanical menace and lived to fight another day. It would have deprived the series of several of its most iconic moments as well, including the Buu Saga’s Super Saiyan 3 transformation, and the classic Father-Son Kamehameha.

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If Goku hadn’t died, then Gohan wouldn’t have wound up taking over his role as the Guardian of Earth. Even though he ironically took that role far more seriously than Goku ever did, despite the silly alter ego. With his all-powerful father around, Gohan wouldn’t have felt the need to take on that responsibility. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero even lampshades this, early on, as Gohan brushes Piccolo off regarding the possibility of any danger to the world with a remark about Goku and Vegeta being around.

Not much about Dragon Ball Super would be especially likely to change, given Gohan’s reduced role in that follow-up series without taking over his father’s role, even temporarily. However, it’s also worth mentioning that if Gohan never becomes the Great Saiyaman, then he may never become quite as close with Videl. Then there’d be no Pan. Considering Pan’s enormous role in getting Gohan to realize his potential, come Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, that entire film may be erased.

Worst Case Scenario: Majin Buu Wins

Super Buu's Human Extinction Attack in Dragon Ball Z

There are all kinds of ways the Buu Saga would have shaken out had Goku actually won against Cell. On the darker side, the pink terror of Majin Buu may actually have wound up winning. While Buu might have taken far longer to awaken, there would have been virtually nothing capable of even slowing him down throughout the arc. Goku’s death was instrumental as he learned the Super Saiyan 3 transformation and Metamoran Fusion while in Other World, meaning even Gotenks wouldn’t exist. It’s also probable that Ultimate Gohan would never come to be, as that power was an evolution of Gohan’s Super Saiyan 2.

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The Buu Saga earns a lot of due criticism for being overlong and bloated with unnecessary fluff. However, had Goku not died at the end of the Cell Saga, the Z-Fighters would be missing out on a number of key techniques used to slow Buu down. Worst of all, without the ability to really push Buu, the Majin would possibly have remained in his most nefarious, most intelligent, and arguably most dangerous Super Buu state, as that incarnation of the character was born of Buu being absorbed by his own evil half after ejecting it. Even if Vegito had still been formed to challenge Super Buu, which would be unlikely without the time to get there, he would almost certainly have been weaker than his canonical appearance, leaving Buu with no meaningful challenges.

Best Case Scenario: The Buu Saga Isn’t A Problem

Dragon Ball Super Majin Buu Sleeps

Despite those more realistic probabilities, Dragon Ball is still a comedy, and it’s far more likely in a real-world context that the Buu Saga would wrap up neatly. In fact, it might be far easier and shorter than the original storyline. In all, the Buu Saga may well have avoided those overstuffing criticisms while sacrificing some of the best elements. For example, if Goku never dies to Cell, then he’d be there to facilitate Vegeta’s character growth more steadily and possibly skirt the entire Majin Vegeta scenario. Without that, the iconic Final Explosion moment would never occur. More over, the Buu Saga itself might just not happen, given Majin Vegeta’s role in it.

Of course, then there’d barely be a story. In all likelihood, any number of contrivances could be managed to bring Buu into play. Once Buu is awake and wreaking havoc, the Z Fighters would need to come up with some way of dealing with him. There’d still be no Super Saiyan 3, no Ultimate Gohan, and no Metamoran Fusion. The upside is that against an enemy like Super Buu, who gains power by absorbing his enemies, that lower power threshold could be narratively significant. If Super Buu does still wind up happening, he may not be compelled to absorb as many of Dragon Ball’s heroes and become Buuhan, for example, trimming the fat from the entire storyline. With Vegeta still alive, the Potara Fusion could then come into play sooner and Vegito could just end Buu before he’s able to get the momentum to be a serious problem and maybe even skipping Kid Buu entirely.

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Ultimately, Goku’s death and Gohan’s role in Cell’s defeat were major staples of the series that allowed much of the Buu Saga to occur. While changing that dynamic might have trimmed much of the storyline down, it would likely have come with quite a few sacrifices of classic moments, such as the Father-Son Kamehameha and the Final Explosion. Even Pan may not exist to succeed Gohan if Goku swooped in to take the win as is so often the case in Dragon Ball.

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