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This article is about the 21st edited episode of Dragon Ball Z. For other articles with the same name, see The Return of Goku (disambiguation).

"The Return of Goku" is the twenty-first episode of the Saiyan Saga and the twenty first overall episode of the original Saban dub for the Dragon Ball Z series. It aired in first-run syndication on April 19, 1997.


Nappa emerges from the rubble, powers up a lightning aura around his body, and fires a Bomber DX at Gohan. At the last second, Piccolo throws himself in front of Gohan and takes the blast himself. Though he is still standing when the smoke clears, he falls to the ground, mortally wounded. Goku senses Piccolo's energy signal drop from afar.

With tears in his eyes, Piccolo reflects on his time with Gohan and thanks him for being his first friend, going so far as to admit he had come to look at him as the son he never had. Piccolo bids a farewell to Gohan and dies peacefully. At The Lookout, Kami bids a farewell to Mr. Popo, and dies as well, taking the Dragon Balls with him.

Enraged, Gohan powers up and fires a Masenko at Nappa, who hits the blast away but gets his arm numbed in the process. Drained of his energy, Gohan falls to his knees and, despite Krillin's pleas, refuses to run away from Nappa as he approaches. Just before Nappa can crush Gohan, Gohan is swiped out of harms way and finds himself on the Flying Nimbus; Goku has finally arrived.


Goku after arriving at the battle

Vegeta and Nappa give Goku a sarcastic greeting as Goku looks around and sees the bodies of Tien Shinhan, Yamcha and Piccolo, with Nappa mockingly telling him about Chiaotzu's fate and proudly announcing that he defeated them all. Goku begins to shake with rage and Vegeta sees his power level increase. However, Goku ultimately ignores Nappa's words and heals Gohan and Krillin by splitting his last Senzu Bean in half and giving them one each. Upon learning that Piccolo died trying to save Gohan, Goku advances on Nappa and vows to take him and Vegeta out.

Nappa over9000PIONEER

Nappa, shocked at Vegeta's reading of Goku's power

Goku powers up in his anger, stunning Vegeta and Nappa. To Vegeta's fury, Goku's power level has gone past 9,000, prompting him to crush his scouter. Nevertheless, Nappa mocks Goku's overpowering strength and challenges Goku, but he is struck down with minimum effort. Napa unleashes a furious assault on Goku but is unable to touch him. Goku retaliates with one punch to the stomach and brings Nappa down to his knees.

Major Events[]

  • Piccolo is killed by Nappa, sacrificing his life to save Gohan.
  • Goku arrives at the battlefield to fight Nappa.


  • Blood has been removed from all characters.
  • Piccolo's body fades away when he dies. In the uncut version, his lifeless corpse remains on the battlefield.
    • Note that in the later Westwood/Ocean dub of Vegeta's Respect, Piccolo's body is left intact.


  • There is a Dragon Ball episode with the same name.
  • In this episode Piccolo and Kami's bodies vanish when they die. Along with Guru, they are the only Nameks to die in this fashion. (In the uncut anime and the original manga, Piccolo's body does not disappear after his death, making Kami and Guru the only Nameks to die this way.)
  • In the scene where Baba arrives, Chi-Chi's machine gun is edited to sound more laser-like.
  • This episode is what began the famous internet meme, "It's Over 9000!"
  • As Goku walks towards Nappa and Vegeta (after giving Krillin and Gohan the Senzu Bean), there is a cutaway showing Vegeta in profile not wearing his scouter, and then in the next scene he is wearing it.
  • Mr. Popo says "Kami-san" in this episode, the only time Japanese honorifics are retained in the series.
  • When Master Roshi notes that Piccolo has died and therefore Kami and the Dragon Balls are gone as well, Bulma asks whether this means they'll need Dragon Balls from somewhere else. In the Japanese version and uncut dub, Bulma instead asks whether this means they can't bring anyone back to life.



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