Reserved and stern, Piccolo is considered one of Earth’s greatest heroes within the Japanese manga and animated series Dragon Ball Z. Piccolo has proven himself to be one of the more trustworthy and reliable members of Earth’s heroes, the Z Warriors. However, he hasn’t always been their ally; in fact, he was once considered one of their greatest nemesis. Piccolo’s transformation into a Reformed Hero speaks of how a man who was once bent on taking over the world can turn in the completely opposite direction and become a hero willing to die for the planet he once sought to ruin.
Piccolo’s sole purposes in life were to avenge the death of his father, King Piccolo, by killing Goku (the protagonist) and to fulfill his father’s plans for world domination. Piccolo made great strides in completing these goals and was given an opportunity to kill Goku when they both fought in the World Martial Arts Tournament. After an intense and grueling battle, Goku managed to defeat Piccolo and even spared his life. This act of mercy would open the door to the possibility of Piccolo changing his ways.
Piccolo’s change into a Reformed Hero was made possible due to two main events: Piccolo killing Goku and, in an ironic twist of fate, raising and training Goku’s son Gohan. When Goku’s evil brother Raditz arrived with the intent to destroy the Earth, Goku and Piccolo teamed up in order to foil his evil plans. At one point, Goku managed to grab Raditz’s tail which paralyzed him; this provided Piccolo the perfect chance to kill Raditz. Piccolo took advantage of opportunity to kill Raditz by shooting a beam that pierced through Raditz’ chest as well as Goku’s chest, killing them simultaneously. As he slowly died, Raditz told them that two more saiyans were on their way to Earth to use the mystical grant-wishing dragon balls in order to wish for immortality and destroy the Earth. With this new threat on the horizon, Piccolo took Gohan under his wing and began training him for this next battle. This allowed Piccolo a chance to form an actual meaningful relationship with someone; Gohan became not only a pupil to Piccolo but, in some ways, a son. This allowed Piccolo to have his defining moment when he shielded Gohan from a fatal attack, kills Piccolo instead. This selfless act showed a softer side to Piccolo and revealed his change into a Reformed Hero.
What is peculiar to Piccolo’s Reformed Hero character is that he had no real internal struggle. When Piccolo became a hero, he never wavered from this path. He didn’t even have any trouble fitting in with the other Z Warriors once he showed them just how trustworthy and reliable an asset he could be to them. His only motivation for being evil was to kill Goku. Once he accomplished this, he had no real reason to continue his evil ways; Piccolo never really desired to rule over the Earth and wanted to instead spend his time in peace and in seclusion from the outside world.
Piccolo is a great example of how some villains can change into a hero more easily than others. This is in part due to motivating factors in being a hero than in being a villain. For example, Piccolo sought peace and solitude more than he did chaos or power. He valued things that were more suited for a hero to fight for. This speaks volumes of how motivation can be a huge weighing factor for people when they must decide to do the right thing or the wrong thing. Ultimately, he demonstrates how even the worst of people can change from their evil ways and instead become the best that this Earth has to offer.
Toriyama, Akira, “Dragon Ball,” Weekly Shonen Jump, December 3, 1984 – June 5, 1995
Dragon Ball Z. Directed by Daisuke Nishio. Japan: Toei Animation, 1989-1996.