With multiple spin-offs and stories over the years, Dragon Ball remains one of the most expansive worlds in anime. However, it can be a little confusing between so many shows like Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z Kai and Dragon Ball GT. And that isn't even taking into account the various manga spin-offs. Do the Dragon Ball Heroes manga or Dragon Ball Xenoverse canon? What's up with Dr. Slump or that manga where a fan wakes up as Yamcha? And what even is Neko Majin Z?
With all of that in mind, it's no surprise that many Dragon Ball Z fans may have skipped over or never even heard of Dragon Ball Minus, a manga that explores the past of the DBZ universe in a fairly controversial way. Now, we're taking a closer look at Dragon Ball Minus to see what it's about and figure out whether or not it's part of the franchise's canon.
What is Dragon Ball Minus?
Dragon Ball Minus: The Departure of the Fated Child is a 2014 special chapter that ties into the plot of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, another Akira Toriyama manga that Dragon Ball Super fans know is, in fact, canon to the main Dragon Ball Super timeline. The story follows Bardock, Goku's father, who is sent back to Planet Vegeta by orders of Frieza. Frieza has decided to eradicate the Saiyans once and for all in order to stop a Super Saiyan God from forming.
Bardock meets with his wife, Gine, and contemplates the future, in particular the future of his three-year-old son, Goku. Suspecting the worst will happen, Bardock steals a Saiyan escape pod and sends Goku off into the stars. At the same time, we also learn that Vegeta, Nappa, and Radditz are off on a far-away planet on a mission, keeping them far from Planet Vegeta when Frieza eventually decides to blow up the planet. In fact, Vegeta actually ignores Frieza's signal to return home.
Jaco, the Galactic Patrolman, learns of Goku's pod being sent to Earth, and is dispatched to arrive on Earth to protect the planet from the Saiyan threat. He travels there, though, as we learn from the events of his manga, arrives far, far later than intended.
Additions to the Dragon Ball Z Lore
Dragon Ball Minus brings a lot of important elements to the table for Dragon Ball lore. First of all, this manga is the first major appearance of Goku's mother, Gine, who until this point had never appeared. Many fans of the series has long theorized that Fasha (or Celipa, depending on your translation) from the Bardock - Father of Goku TV special was Goku's mom, but this special proved them wrong.
This manga also marks the first appearance of Kikono, one of Frieza's top scientists, who would later appear in Dragon Ball Super: Broly. He appears here unnamed, trying to assure Frieza that the story of a Super Saiyan God is completely unfounded. However, Frieza, reasonably, doesn't listen.
Dragon Ball Minus also manages to align plot points from old Z mythology to modern Super ideas, weaving in new pieces of lore to the old continuity in order to establish a more even even continuity. It's a retcon that serves a purpose: making sure fans understand that the new pieces of lore have always been a part of Z.
It doesn't take a hardcore fan, however, to spot a few major issues with Dragon Ball Minus. The biggest of all of them is how much it retcons from the original canon. Bardock - Father of Goku served as an anime prequel exploring the life of Goku's father. It presented Saiyan society as an apathetic, cruel race of warriors with no familial ties. Bardock barely remembers Goku exists mere days after his birth. He is cursed with the ability to see the future, which, in a way reminiscent of Cassandra in the Trojan War, means he knows exactly what disaster will befall Planet Vegeta, but no one will listen.
This is entirely unlike the Bardock in Dragon Ball Minus, who is in a loving romance with his partner, cares about Goku's future, and seems generally like a nice guy. Many fans were not happy with this depiction, since the original television special is often regarded as one of the high points of the original anime.
This is the one of the big controversies surrounding the Bardock special. The other is that the TV Special, Episode of Bardock, featured Bardock traveling back in time as a result of Frieza's attack, which somehow sending him back to the origins of Planet Vegeta and resulted in him kick-starting the legend of the Super Saiyan that would lead to Frieza destroying Planet Vegeta. This episode, thankfully, is non-canon.
Is Dragon Ball Minus Canon?
For awhile, Dragon Ball fans doubted if Dragon Ball Minus was canon, since it directly contradicted the far more beloved special from the 90s. But confirmation of Dragon Ball Minus's status as canon came in the form of one of the most widely seen Dragon Ball properties in years: Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
The theatrical film features direct references to Dragon Ball Minus, adapting segments of the manga into its running time. Most notably, it confirms that, Bardock and Gine did send Goku out from Planet Vegeta at that particular time, and that Frieza did indeed speak to his head scientist about the Super Saiyan God myth.
This confirmed, without question, that the events of Dragon Ball Minus are canon and that the events of Bardock - Father of Goku are non-canon. For long time fans, this news might be disappointing. Still, with the ever-evolving nature of Dragon Ball canon, it's vital that fans understand that just because something is non-canon doesn't mean it stops existing. After all, Dragon Ball Super: Broly also erased all the Dragon Ball Z movies featuring Broly from the canon -- though, that said, the movies were never canon to start with. Regardless of whether or not stories like these are part of Dragon Ball canon or not, all of these stories can have a major influence on whatever happens next in the Dragon Ball universe.