Emperor Pilaf is a short imp who desires to take over the world using the Dragon Balls, having many dreams of ruling the world. His two most significant henchmen are Shu and Mai. It is implied a couple of times early in the Dragon Ball series that he has other minions as well, but they are unseen. Pilaf seems to command considerable disposable resources; in the episode "The Flying Fortress – Vanished!", Colonel Silver characterizes the Pilaf Gang as being "probably some reckless millionaires looking for kicks."
The original base for his forces was his castle in the Mushroom Forest. When Goku turned into a Great Ape and destroyed it, he got a new base which was a flying fortress, which was later shot down by Colonel Silver's troops. One significant thing they later acquire is the Pilaf Machines, which are giant battle robots they use to fight Goku making them a bit closer to Goku's strength in battle.
The legendary King Piccolo was released from his prison by Pilaf, which ultimately backfired when he took over and made his own forces. The Pilaf forces return to interrupt Goku and Chi-Chi a couple times on their quest for the Bansho Fan.
Dragon Ball Z
Before the events of the Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the Pilaf Gang gathered all the Dragon Balls themselves and wished for youth. They have also apparently become very poor between the events of Dragon Ball and Battle of Gods, as Pilaf says "Our next goal is wealth!" and "I'm sick of living in poverty!" In the film, they appear turned into children and they sneak into Capsule Corporation, where Bulma's birthday party is held, in order to steal the Dragon Balls. Among the prizes they each find something to interest them: a plane and castle for Pilaf, ten years worth of ham for Shu, a diamond for Mai, and finally all discover the Dragon Balls. However, they are interrupted by Trunks, and then Goten, whom terrifies them because they believe him to be Goku. Bulma does not recognize them and invites them to the party as a result. They are also there when the Dragon Team face the God of Destruction Beerus.
Six months later, the Pilaf Gang are scouring for the Dragon Balls again and they encounter Tagoma and Sorbet. They are forced to give them the Dragon Balls so they could revive Frieza. Though Frieza is ultimately revived, in the film fortunately the second wish that Sorbet intended to use to resurrect King Cold, was stolen by Shu who wished for 1,000,000 Zeni making the Pilaf Gang rich in the process which infuriates Sorbet.
Dragon Ball Super
In Dragon Ball Super, Shu uses up the Dragon Balls second wish for money while Mai uses up the third wish for ice cream preventing Sorbet from using either the second or third wish (as only a single person was revived with the Dragon Balls first wish: Frieza) to resurrect King Cold. Mai and Shu however both point out how they could have made a better wish (Mai points out he could have wished for more Zeni, while Shu criticizes her wish for ice cream), only for Pilaf to become despondent over not getting to make a wish, though Shu and Mai cheer him up by pointing out that they can enjoy the money and ice cream together with him. The Pilaf Gang unknowingly witness the return of a far greater villain than King Piccolo, Mecha Frieza who appears alive but in pieces much to their horror and amazement. Pilaf himself finds Mecha Frieza's eye which he hands over to Sorbet. Though they help resurrect Mecha Frieza, Shu and Mai's wishes prevent King Cold's resurrection which Sorbet noted to Frieza after his body was completely healed, though Frieza himself preferred his father remain dead thus he left the Pilaf Gang alone during Frieza's revenge.
In the "Bonus Story" special chapter of the Dragon Ball Super manga drawn by Toyotarō shows how and when his counterpart Future Pilaf asked Shenron to make them younger. The request was made in Age 767, moments before Piccolo dies by the hands of the androids, consequently causing Future Kami to die too and making the dragon balls turn into stones. It can be assumed that the same wish was made in the "normal" timeline, at the same age and same time, with the only differences being that Shenron didn't disappear since Piccolo did not die and that Bulma, Baby Trunks and Gohan did not appear after the wish was made, as they were not searching the Dragon Balls.
During the "Future" Trunks Saga, the Pilaf Gang and Trunks are inside of Capsule Corporation trying to solve a math problem given by Trunks' teacher. On lunch break, it is revealed that Trunks invited them. Trunks then grabs Mai's hand and the two run to the roof, and the two develop feelings for each other. Pilaf Gang and Trunks witness the appearance of Future Trunks' Time Machine where they find Trunks' unconscious adult future counterpart who had fled to the past to seek help to combat Goku Black. They are confused by Future Trunks' resemblance to Trunks and Pilaf wonders if Future Trunks is another child of Bulma's that was the result of some kind of scandal. However, they are shocked he is the future version of Trunks. When Goku Black destroys the Time Machine the Pilaf Gang act as a fire brigade to put out the fire. Later, Future Trunks holds Mai's hands, and tell her a story of her future counterpart though she fails to realize it. Mai then falls in love with Future Trunks making Trunks jealous and helps Bulma with the rest of the Pilaf gang to repair the Time Machine. After Goku, Vegeta, and Bulma return from the future, Mai notices Future Trunks isn't with them.
The Pilaf Gang is shocked to see Goku has been badly injured and help carry him to the infirmary. After Goku recovers and the Dragon Team are trying to come up with a way to defeat Future Zamasu and Goku Black, Piccolo suggests they use the Evil Containment Wave and explains how Master Roshi attempted to use it to seal King Piccolo which causes the Pilaf Gang to recall the time they and Piano witnessed the very event Piccolo spoke of in a brief flashback during which they are depicted as their adult selves. After the future multiverse is erased by Future Zeno, Future Mai is the only survivor of the future Pilaf Gang, as Future Shu and Future Pilaf where either killed at some point by either Future Androids 17 & 18, Goku Black, or Infinite Zamasu, and their souls erased by Future Zeno when he used Erase to destroy Infinite Zamasu and the future multiverse, leaving Future Mai, Future Trunks and Future Zeno as the only survivors from the alternate timeline. Mai and Future Mai meet each other while Future Mai and Future Trunks are staying in the main timeline, causing Mai to realize that Future Mai is her future counterpart and in a relationship with Future Trunks, causing her to shift her romantic feelings back to the Trunks of her timeline.
In the manga, Future Mai recognizes both Pilaf & Shu. She is happy to see them and Pilaf briefly inquires about his Future counterpart with Future Mai cryptically states "to think that you'll end up like that" implying his fate was not a pleasant one, though fails to directly answer his question presumably wishing to spar him the details. However, a new alternate future timeline is created by Whis (in the anime) or Future Trunks & Future Mai (in the manga) where Project Zero Mortals was prevented which Future Trunks and Future Mai take up residence in alongside their counterparts in said timeline though it is unknown if Future Pilaf and Future Shu are alive.
In Dragon Ball Super: Broly, they are with Goten and Trunks when he informs his mother Bulma of a break in at her lab along with the theft of the Dragon Radar and six Dragon Balls she had collected. Though the Pilaf Gang would appear to be the most likely culprits, security camera video proves that the thieves were two weak Frieza Force operatives sent by Frieza to procure the Dragon Radar unaware Bulma had already collected six Dragon Balls. Bulma asks the boys and Pilaf Gang to clean up the lab to keep them busy while she, Vegeta, Goku, and Whis head to the Ice Continent to find the last Dragon Ball before the two Frieza Force operatives which leads to a conflict with Frieza, Broly, and Paragus.
Dragon Ball GT
Pilaf and the rest are shown still together in Dragon Ball GT and accidentally use the Black Star Dragon Balls to turn Goku into a kid. Pilaf, Shu and Mai were later seen near their castle's ruins during the episode "Piccolo's Decision" when Goku took them to New Planet Plant before the Earth's explosion.
- Pilaf Gang
- Emperor Pilaf
- Unnamed spy – Mentioned in "The Emperor's Quest" when he sent a message saying that he spotted a glow in Skull Valley just before he disappeared and that may possibly be another Dragon Ball. Later, the spy called Pilaf on the telephone to tell him about Master Roshi in the episode "The Nimbus Cloud of Roshi".
- Mecha 7
- Pilaf's Guardian
- Paella Gang
- Master Shen
- General Tao
- Colonel Violet
- King Nikochan and his servant
- King Piccolo
- Buggy (Cross Epoch)
- Yamcha (briefly in Dragon Ball SD)
- Goten (gave them food when they were hungry in God of Destruction Beerus Saga)
- Trunks (gave them food when they were hungry in God of Destruction Beerus Saga; eventually became Mai's boyfriend)
- Whis (invited them to a meal when they were hungry in God of Destruction Beerus Saga)
- Sorbet & Tagoma (briefly forced to work with them in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’)
- Frieza (forced to assist Sorbet & Tagoma in resurrecting Frieza with the Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and the Golden Frieza Saga; also gave Mecha Frieza's eye to Sorbet)
- Future Trunks (Future Mai's boyfriend whom Present Mai briefly had a crush on before learning of his relationship with her Future counterpart)
- Brief family (started living with Trunks and his family due to Mai's relationship with Trunks; their old adversary Bulma tolerates their presence even after figuring out Mai's identity, presumably due to her interaction with Future Mai during the "Future" Trunks Saga)
- Pan (rescued them after inadvertently destroying their Pilaf Machine after they accidentally kidnapped her during the Copy-Vegeta Saga)
- Dragon Team (formed a friendly truce with their old adversaries following the God of Destruction Beerus Saga due to being too weak to oppose the Dragon Team and their friendship with Goten & Trunks; also assisted in repairing Cell's Time Machine during the "Future" Trunks Saga)
- Earth's Resistance (in the Dragon Ball Super anime, Future Mai and Future Trunks lead remnants of Earth's Military and protect the remaining survivors. The main timeline Pilaf Gang assists Future Trunks and the Dragon Team in rebuilding Cell's Time Machine. Future Trunks & Future Mai end up being the only survivors of the group fleeing to the Main Timeline temporarily after Future Zeno erases the future Multiverse, with Future Mai meeting the main timeline Pilaf Gang).
- Dr. Gero (Pilaf briefly hires Dr. Gero to work for him as a scientist in the main story of Dokkan Battle)
Video Game Appearances
The Pilaf Gang appears in several video games, including Dragon Ball: Shenron no Nazo, Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury, Dragon Ball GT: Transformation, Dragon Ball: Origins, and Dragon Ball RPG: Shōnen-hen.
Using their combined Pilaf Machine, the Pilaf Gang is a boss in Dragon Ball 3: Gokuden, Dragon Ball Z: Super Gokuden: Totsugeki-Hen, Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, Dragon Ball: Origins 2, and Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans. The Pilaf Machine is a playable fighter in the Japanese and European Wii versions of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, as well as in all versions of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3.
In Dragon Ball: Origins, in the bonus level 6-5, Pilaf rebuilds his castle and attempts to eliminate Goku before he becomes too much of an obstacle. In the bonus level 6-6: "Pilaf Must Be Stopped", after the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament, the Pilaf Gang gets Ranfan to join them in their rebuilt castle, and they terrorize a nearby village together before being stopped by Goku.
In Dragon Ball: Origins 2, in the bonus level 8-4, the Pilaf Gang kidnap Senbei Norimaki and Turbo Norimaki, and oblige them to repair their Flying Fortress and Pilaf Machines. In sub-episode 8-6: "Pilaf and Red Ribbon", the Pilaf Gang hire Colonel Violet to lead them to the Red Ribbon Army Headquarters' control room and find a surviving Red Ribbon Battle Jacket; Pilaf using the Battle Jacket and his two henchmen using their Pilaf Machines are defeated shortly later by Goku. In the bonus level 8-7, they get King Nikochan and his servant to repair and improve their flying fortress' nuclear reactor before confronting Goku, but they are defeated once again. This bonus level ends with Pilaf telling that he needs to find a fighter stronger than Goku, and then a flashforward shows Pilaf finding the Electric Rice Cooker where King Piccolo is sealed.
In Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, the Pilaf Gang piloting Machine Pilaf appears as a playable character and enemy during certain quests. Emperor Pilaf also appears as a random enemy during certain quests who is searching for Incredible Gems and will use the Machine Pilaf to defend his treasure. If defeated, 10 Incredible Gems will be awarded to the player.
In Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission, the Pilaf Gang piloting their Pilaf Machine appears as a playable character.
- The Pilaf Gang are an example of the classic anime cliché of recurring comedic villain trios that originally spawned from the Time Bokan series.
- They share many similarities with Team Rocket from Pokémon. Both are comical, bumbling evil trios consisting of two males, one human and one nonhuman, and 1 human female who work for a more powerful entity (Team Rocket serving Giovanni, the Pilaf Gang serving Piccolo), both have a leader who constantly gets annoyed by and abuses/lashes out at the others due to either their stupidity or their accidentally foiling their own plans and who, when enraged is feared by the others (Team Rocket's being Jessie, the Pilaf Gang's being Emperor Pilaf), both are the enemy of their franchises' respective child protagonists (Team Rocket's being Ash Ketchum, the Pilaf Gang's being Goku), both are cowardly when facing greater threats, both use transportation for travel and escape (Team Rocket's being their hot air balloon, the Pilaf Gang's being their ship), both use mechs and gadgets when confronting their enemies, and both have a goal of stealing a valuable possession of the protagonist (for Team Rocket, it's Pikachu, for the Pilaf Gang, it's the Dragon Balls). It should be noted that this is due to Team Rocket also being another example of the classic anime cliché of recurring comedic villain trios that spawned from the Time Bokan series. However the Pilaf Gang's original appearance in Dragon Ball predates Team Rocket's in Pokémon.
- Despite their evil intentions, the Pilaf Gang were not excluded from the wish to Porunga of bringing everyone killed by Majin Buu back to life. However compared to muderers like Van Zant and Smitty and dangerous villains like Dabura and Babidi, the Pilaf Gang are relatively benign villains who are more of a danger to themselves than the Earth (primarily due to their leader's bumbling nature and their lack of strength) or the Dragon Team having long been overshadowed by the likes of King Piccolo and Frieza.
- Them using the Dragon Balls to turn into kids in Super is a parallel reference to them accidentally turning Goku into a kid in GT with the Black Star Dragon Balls.
- It should be noted that both Pilaf and Future Pilaf both managed to mess up a wish to Shenron which is pretty rare as Shenron is usually very good at correctly granting wishes within his power. However this is likely another example of Pilaf/Future Pilaf's bumbling nature as despite succeeding in getting a wish, it ends up backfiring on Pilaf/Future Pilaf, Mai/Future Mai, and Shu/Future Shu.