Akira Toriyama is often accused of making up Dragon Ball as he went along– and he did, but why is that a bad thing? In fact, one can very easily argue that Dragon Ball’s improvised nature is exactly what gave it its charm. Without Toriyama’s on the fly writing style, the series would lose much of what made it an instant classic.
At the same time, there are consequences to this style of storytelling. While it’s sustainable for quite a while, it does start to show its cracks. For Dragon Ball Z, that happens around the time Dr. Gero appears. Toriyama’s writing gets a bit sloppier and storylines that had some semblance of build up end up on the cutting room floor, unresolved.
10 Tenshinhan’s One-Sided Rivalry
Goku’s rivalry with Tenshinhan resolved itself as soon as he defeats him in the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, but Tenshinhan’s rivalry with Goku never resolves itself. Tenshinhan carries that rivalry all the way to the very end of the series. When Goku dies during the Cell Games, Tenshinhan outright says he’ll never see anyone in the supporting cast again.
It’s strange, but it does technically resolve his arc. Until he comes back at the end of the Boo arc and Goku comes back to life. As long as Goku is alive, Tenshinhan’s arc can’t be resolved. It’s a strange consequence of Toriyama seemingly killing Goku off for good at the end of the Cell Games.
9 Yamcha’s Pursuit Of Love
From as early as his introduction in Dragon Ball’s first story arc, Yamcha has always wanted to find love, settle down, and get married. It’s the whole reason he wants the Dragon Ball in the first place. In finding love through Bulma, his arc seemingly comes to close early on. But Yamcha keeps appearing and his relationship with Bulma keeps falling apart.
By the Cell arc, they’re long broken up and, while Yamcha has a girlfriend by the Cell Games, there’s no indication he’s settled down by the Boo arc. It’s honestly rather sad all things considered. For as much as joke Yamcha is in the fandom, he’s one of Goku’s oldest and closest friends, loyal even when he knows he can’t contribute meaningfully.
8 The Cell Arc’s Butterfly Effect
It’s not explained how, but Future Trunks traveling back in time ends up creating a butterfly effect where Dr. Gero and 19 arrived instead of 17 and 18. Then it’s implied that Dr. Gero and 19 were the original Artificial Humans from Trunks’ timeline and he just missed them. But then Trunks outright confirms it’s a butterfly effect scenario.
And it’s never mentioned again. That’s the last of the butterfly effect in Dragon Ball. How else was the main timeline changed? The original series’ implication was that the Boo arc didn’t happen in Trunks’ timeline, but DBS just has it happening later, making the whole butterfly effect scenario all the stranger.
7 The Earthlings Train With Kaio
Yamcha, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, and Chaozu were never going to learn the Kaioken or Genki Dama. Neither was Piccolo for that matter. Even before they all got to Kaio’s planet, it was obvious that these characters were only going there to play catch up. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite pan out like it should have.
Piccolo arrives on Namek and pretty much immediately needs to merge with Nail to justify him fighting Freeza. By the time the others are revived, it seems like they did virtually no training. There’s nothing suggesting any of them are any stronger. The anime does add some filler with the Ginyu Force here, but it’s messy to say the best.
6 Piccolo’s Heavenly Insecurities
Piccolo, rather understandably, has to build himself up quite a bit before he can muster the courage to merge with Kami. Despite his redemption arc, Piccolo still had demonic roots. Going to Namek and merging with Nail brought him closer to his heritage, but it only makes sense that Piccolo would still attach himself to Daimao.
While Piccolo and Kami do ultimately agree to fuse together, the resulting Namekian never laments or comments on the process. It’s very strongly suggested that Piccolo is the dominant personality, as well, so it isn’t as if merging with Kami would just wipe away all of Piccolo’s insecurities. At least not logically.
5 The Heart Virus Epidemic
While informing Goku of the future Artificial Human invasion, Trunks very casually mentions how the heart virus Goku contracts ended up chipping away at a good chunk of his timeline’s population. While the butterfly effect is confirmed to have affected the main timeline, the inner workings of Goku’s heart virus are never mentioned again.
The fact that Goku gets the virus in the main timeline does prove it exists, but the outbreak just doesn’t happen like it’s supposed to. It’s entirely possible that it all happened in the background, but it seems more likely that Toriyama knew that adding a heart virus outbreak on top of the Artificial Humans invading would just muddy the Cell arc further.
4 The Rest Of The Red Ribbon Army
Given how bombastic Goku’s assault on the Red Ribbon Army base is, it’s safe to assume that he took out the entire army during his invasion. While Dr. Gero disproves this in the Cell arc, said assault on the Red Ribbon base doesn’t actually involve Goku getting rid of the entire army. Several characters are very much alive by the time Goku finished off Black.
Violet is a special mention as she’s basically introduced in the manga right when Goku is attacking the base. She appears for a single panel and then promptly disappears from the story. Goku never fights or sees her. This is to say nothing of Blue’s right hand man who was supposedly still alive after Roshi dealh with him. The real Red Ribbon remnants are still out there.
3 18’s Devilish Extortion
The Majin Buu arc is quite unlike any other arc in Dragon Ball Z. It’s very much divided in a before and after period. Once Buu himself makes his formal introduction, the arc takes on a different tone and goes in a different direction. This does mean that many of the plot threads being developed beforehand are left hanging.
It’s certainly debatable whether or not 18 blackmailing Mr. Satan is even a storyline worth pursuing, but the fact that Toei decided to follow up on this in Bio-Broly does speak for itself. Even then, though, the plot isn’t resolved in either the main series or the movie continuity.
2 Whatever Happened To Lunch?
Contrary to popular belief, Akira Toriyama did not actually forget Lunch (Launch in the English dub.) Rather, he wrote her out rather casually at the start of the Saiyan arc. Bulma mentions that Lunch had gone off to search for Tenshinhan and that was that. She appears in some anime filler, but she never crops back up again.
This originally wasn’t unresolved, however. During the Boo arc’s final Genki Dama, Toriyama had intended to include Lunch giving her energy to Goku. For whatever reason, Toriyama changed his mind and replaced Lunch with No. 17. This in itself brought with it a minor plot inconsistency and left Lunch to the wayside.
1 Everything Surrounding The Garlic Junior Arc
Logic dictates that the Garlic Junior filler arc uses Dead Zone as a basis, but the problem with accepting that at face value is the fact that Dead Zone can’t happen within the anime’s continuity. The movie takes place before Raditz arrives, but Goku has already reunited with Kuririn, Roshi, and Bulma at this point.The anime tries to act like the film can be casually placed prior to the start of Dragon Ball Z, but that’s simply not possible. As a result, Garlic Junior’s appearance makes little to no sense. Worse yet, the anime mostly just expects viewers to have watched the first film without actually clarifying where he came from. Without context from a film that can’t even fit into the anime’s own canon, there’s no real resolution to Garlic Junior’s character.