Dragon Ball Z is a show unlike any other. One of the greatest fighting anime of all time, it helped pave the way for the eventual anime craze that would hit Western audiences like an out of control Kamehameha. When you have a TV show about space aliens engaged in violent, intergalactic battles, all for the sake of either mankind or the universe, it’s important to also have some interesting characters to go along with people getting punched in the face.
There’s Goku and with a myriad of awesome supporting characters like Piccolo and Vegeta. All the gnarly heroes in the world don’t mean much though without exciting villains to challenge them and threaten their way of life. DBZ is notorious for having bizarre and powerful bad guys. There are demons, space pirates, evil genies, and psychopathic androids. How people remain sane in Dragon Ball Z is anyone’s guess. Out of these antagonists, the malevolent android Cell is not only one of the coolest, but one of the deadliest. With a convoluted and mysterious backstory, his appearance in DBZ forever changed the landscape of the anime. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 dark tidbits you might otherwise not know about the villainous Cell.
15 HE KILLED TRUNKS TWICE
Cell died three times thanks to the magic of time travel. Trunks, the son of the Saiyan Prince Vegeta, would die twice; both times at the hands, or tail, of Cell. Again, time travel was involved. You might have forgotten, but there are three different versions of Cell. The Cell we know comes from a future timeline the audience never saw. The Future Trunks of that timeline was successful in deactivating Androids 17 and 18, but the Cell of that timeline, realizing he couldn’t absorb the androids and become Perfect, decided to travel to a point in history where they were alive.
Cell kills this version of Trunks since this Trunks never trained in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. Cell steals Trunks’ time machine, travels to the main timeline, and kills Trunks again towards the end of his fight with Gohan. Don’t worry if it sounds confusing. It is.
14 AKIRA TORIYAMA HATED DRAWING HIM
Cell is one of the best-remembered villains in Dragon Ball Z. His insect-like design stood out and defined the character as much as his personality did. It’s difficult to imagine Perfect Cell looking any other way. Yet Akira Toriyama, the creator, writer, and artist of Dragon Ball Z, didn’t like drawing Cell. In fact, while he had no problems drawing the likes of Frieza, Goku, or practically any other character, Toriyama found drawing Cell to be an arduous task.
What was so harrowing about the job? It was the spots. Taking the spots on Cell’s body for granted is pretty easy, but Toriyama had to draw each one whenever the character appeared on the page in the manga. There are literally hundreds of spots on Cell and taking the absurd amount of time to draw them is the prevailing theory about why Cell never made a cameo later.
13 HE DRINKS HIS VICTIMS
Death and violence are common in Dragon Ball Z. It’s to be expected when you make a fighting anime about superpowered aliens. Over the course of the show there’s been a large number of surprisingly gruesome scenes, many involving either the death or injury of a person or persons. Videl getting beaten half to death by Spopovich comes to mind, but Imperfect Cell and his proclivity for absorbing people is one of the worst things ever.
The android would absorb energy of his victims by effectively drinking them by way of his scorpion-like tail. When seen on the show, they are some of the most disturbing moments in the entire franchise. Cell stabs an unlucky soul with the sharp end of his tail, slurping up their insides until they they shrivel on the outside, practically melting. They then turn into saggy heap of skin and bones, before disappearing completely.
12 HE PSYCHOLOGICALLY TORMENTS HIS ENEMIES
There’s no way around it; Cell is a horrifying monster. Even when he doesn’t look like a grotesque bug that just escaped a science lab (which is exactly what he was), it’s not necessarily his power that makes him scary. Created by Dr. Gero with the DNA of different heroes and villains in Dragon Ball Z, Cell’s personality is also based off an amalgamation of these characters. When he gets sinister and menacing, Cell’s Frieza, Vegeta, and even his King Piccolo (because since he has Piccolo’s genes, he also has King Piccolo’s DNA) genes really shine through.
Any of those three characters were particularly known for tormenting their opponents and are each masters of psychological warfare. Frieza especially delighted in offering false hope to his victims; Cell enjoys toying with his foes. Cell knows he’s the big man on campus and loves scaring the heck out of people.
11 HE KILLED GOKU
Goku has faced a wide range of opponents, but few of them can boast to have killed the Saiyan warrior. While Goku died sacrificing himself to fight Raditz, he also died years later thanks to Cell. After Goku surrenders to Cell, Gohan is pulled into the fight. Once Gohan turned Super Saiyan 2, he was totally winning. Rather than finish Cell quickly, Gohan purposefully dragged on the fight to make evil android suffer.
A completely overwhelmed Cell didn’t take kindly to losing, so in one final gamble, opts to blow himself up, taking the Earth with him. Before he can detonate, Goku sacrifices himself again, teleporting himself and Cell away to King Kai’s planet, where Cell explodes, killing Goku. It’s funny, because this means Goku’s only ever died on his own accord.
10 HE'S TERRORIZED MULTIPLE TIMELINES
Cell is one of the strongest villains in all of Dragon Ball Z. Furthermore, his and the android threat lasted a staggering number of episodes. No matter what the Z-Fighters pulled out of their hat, it never seemed quite enough to end the cybernetic threat. Cell killed thousands, if not millions of people, and threatened to destroy the entire solar system at one point.
As bad as the bio-android was, it’s nowhere near as bad as the fact that he didn’t just exist in one timeline. One world wasn’t enough for the Machiavellian monster. In a future timeline where Trunks defeated the Androids, Cell continued going on a murder spree until he realized he’d never be Perfect. He then murders Trunks and time travels to the main DBZ timeline, prepared to absorb the still living androids, while simultaneously wrecking havoc and instilling fear in the world all over again!
9 HE'S THE ONLY MAJOR FOE GOKU HASN'T BEATEN
Much of Dragon Ball Z is made up of side characters trying to survive long enough until Goku shows up. Once Goku arrives, what typically follows is an epic battle that shakes the foundation of the planet. It’s easy to forget that Goku hasn’t killed the majority of the villains he faced in Dragon Ball Z. While he certainly defeated Frieza, the Ginyu Force, and even killed the creature Yakon and later Majin Buu, he had no part in beating Cell.
The two characters fight, but Goku knew he wouldn’t win and only fought to give his son Gohan an edge so he could watch how Cell moved in combat. Even when Goku journeys to the afterlife in filler episodes and encounters Cell again, he still doesn’t get a chance to defeat the villain. Instead, it’s the hero Pikkon who does the deed.
8 HE'S CURRENTLY IN HELL
People die in the Dragon Ball franchise…a lot. This happened enough that eventually viewers got to see where it was characters when they perished. Turns out, they went to either a good Hell or a bad Hell. At the Cell Saga’s climax, Cell and Gohan engage in an epic Kamehameha beam struggle. Gohan (obviously) wins, killing Cell and sending him to Hell, or the Other World, according to the censors. Oddly, Cell, along with nearly every other Dragon Ball Z villain, has kept his body in the afterlife, a reward usually only given to someone pure and noble like Goku.
Even in death Cell was an arrogant and evil jerk, fueled by his passion to try and kill Goku, despite them both already being dead. He didn’t succeed and in Dragon Ball GT, Goku would find himself in Hell once more, battling a newly improved Cell, but to similar results.
7 HE KILLED CHI-CHI
During the "Cell Saga" in the Dragon Ball Z anime, there’s a filler scene that’s conventionally referred to as “Gohan’s Nightmare.” It’s actually one of the more brutal moments in DBZ and needed to be censored rather heavily. There are also a number of plot holes in Gohan’s dream, but more on that later.
While Gohan sleeps in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, taking a break from his training with Goku, he suddenly has a terrible nightmare. In it, Cell has made his way into the Camber, where he proceeds to brutally murder both Piccolo, and Gohan’s mother, Chi-Chi. It’s a harrowing and rather unsettling moment, despite it just being a dream. What doesn’t work about “Gohan’s Nightmare”, since we know some of you are already mentioning this, is that Gohan had never seen Cell before. How he was then able to dream of Perfect Cell is a major inconsistency.
6 FUTURE GOHAN'S VOICE ACTOR ALSO VOICES CELL
Voice actors have an important job; they bring the anime we all love to life. Dragon Ball Z was blessed with having magnificent cast of voice actors, some of whom played more than one role. There are multiple examples of this in Dragon Ball Z, like with Christopher Sabat. In the English dub he did the voices for Vegeta and Piccolo. Cell’s voice actor has an amusing history in the franchise.
Dameon Clarke is the voice actor of Cell in the English dub. He’s responsible for the confident, sophisticated voice associated with Perfect Cell. The evil android wasn’t Clarke’a only work in Dragon Ball Z however. He also played the part of Adult Gohan in the movie The History of Trunks. The movie provided our first time seeing or hearing an adult Gohan. And so Clarke wound up playing an alternate version of the character who killed Cell i.e. himself.
5 HE ALMOST WASN'T IN DRAGON BALL Z
The "Cell Saga" is one of the most important arcs in the entirety of Dragon Ball Z. Not only did it present a wide range of characters, but the Saga also introduced other Super Saiyan levels; most notably Gohan turning Super Saiyan 2. Since the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, Gohan’s hidden power had been teased incessantly; the "Cell Saga" brought it to a head. Delivering some of the greatest battles and moments in the series, imagining Dragon Ball Z without the "Cell Saga" is impossible.
Except Cell was originally never going to be in the show. Toriyama’s editor wanted a pair of androids to be the villains of the arc. However, he wasn’t pleased with Android 19 and 20, and he also wasn’t terribly impressed with 18 and 17. At a loss for time, Toriyama quickly came up with Cell. The rest is history.
4 HE'S DIED THREE TIMES
Death is pretty commonplace in Dragon Ball Z. In fact, nearly every character has died at least once. While Krillin and Goku are the heroes that die the most, Cell has been killed multiples times too. It’s weird to look back on the Cell Saga and see his first forms, since he’s typically remembered as being a powerful monster in his Perfect Form. On account of time travel in DBZ, Cell has actually died a thrice.
The first time was when Gohan finished him off with a massive Kamehameha. After their battle, Trunks goes to Dr. Gero’s laboratory, finds Cell as a baby organism and kills him then. The last time Cell died was again at the hands of Trunks. When Trunks returns to his future, he first kills the androids, then hunts down Cell in his Imperfect Form and kills him easily.
3 HE WANTED TO RULE LIKE KING PICCOLO WOULD HAVE
One of Cell’s more fascinating traits is the origin of his powers. Thanks to Dr. Gero, Cell was composed from the DNA of the strongest warriors on Earth or those who had made their way to the planet, including Frieza. Not only did Cell have their fighting techniques, but many of their personalities traits.
Cell is a braggart like Vegeta and enjoys fighting like Goku. In an interview, Akira Toriyama revealed a lesser-known factoid about Cell. Apparently, Cell did have ambitions to rule the Earth, at least before he realized Gohan would kill him, and got said desire from King Piccolo. King Piccolo was the demonic father of Piccolo, so Cell would also have King Piccolo’s cells. When King Piccolo was alive, his plan was to rule the planet through fear. Cell’s plan after he wiped out the Z Fighters would have been similar.
2 HE FUSED WITH FRIEZA
Fusion is a remarkably fascinating aspect of Dragon Ball Z. It opens up a chest of wonders for the show’s creators to play with and helps advance the story. Fan-favorite characters like Gotenks, Vegeto, and Gogeta, are all a result of fusion; it doesn’t matter that uses the Potara Earrings while the other relies on the comical Fusion Dance.
Fusion is used so rarely it’s a treat whenever we see two characters fuse on screen. One of the biggest highlights in Dragon Ball Z video games is fusing combinations of characters never realized on the show. Villains almost never get the fuse, but in Dragon Ball Fusions, Cell got his chance. At one point in the video game, Cell fuses with Frieza, creating Celluza. Though the character doesn’t do anything from that point, it’s still a nifty transformation and serves as some much needed fan service.
1 HE'S ONE OF THE LEAST POPULAR CHARACTERS IN DBZ
There are many characters in Dragon Ball Z, but like life, everything boils down to a popularity contest. That’s why, despite his dislike for the character, Akira Toriyama keeps Vegeta around; the Saiyan Prince is a fan-favorite character. In the totality of Dragon Ball Z, there are 84 characters who are relevant. When you have so many characters to choose from, some are going to be more liked than others.
Cell’s popularity is not as obvious as you might imagine. Few Dragon Ball Z fans have anything negative to say about him. Cell really was a fun addition to the show and helped Gohan reach Super Saiyan 2. In 2004 there was an official poll that asked for the characters of the Dragon Ball universe to be ranked. This was in celebration of the landmark Dragon Ball Forever book. Cell was ranked number 14. Make of that what you will.