Launch: What Happened to Dragon Ball's Forgotten Criminal?

Dragon Ball Launch feature

With an ever-expanding mythos consisting of multiple anime and manga series and animated films, Akira Toriyama's beloved Dragon Ball franchise has introduced an extensive cast of fan-favorite characters. One of the earliest recurring characters introduced was Launch, a seemingly innocent young woman who possessed a deadly secret. She had an alternate personality who was a hardened, violent criminal, and it popped up without warning, usually heavily-armed.

While she had a steady presence through Dragon Ball,  Launch was conspicuously absent at the start of Dragon Ball Z, only appearing in a cameo capacity as the anime series continued. Now, we're taking a closer look at Launch, her subsequent appearances and why Toriyama's said she largely disappeared from the later incarnations of the series.

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The Dual-Personality Criminal

When they were trying to get him to teach them martial arts early in Dragon Ball, Goku and Krillin had to bring him an attractive woman to keep him company. They encounter Launch, who was a wanted criminal in her blonde form. She frequently robbed banks at gunpoint and frequently got into heated firefights with local law enforcement. However, whenever she sneezed, Launch would transform into a meek, purple-haired woman leading Goku and Krillin to take her to Roshi's island leading to the start of her joining the main cast.

The group quickly discovered that Launch's abrupt transformations were linked to her frequent, unpredictable sneezes, with the blonde Launch reemerging and attacking them. Eventually, the blonde Launch grew to no longer attack Roshi and the others on sight, apart from the occasional comically violent outburst as the series progressed.

Launch in Dragon Ball

Launch would join Roshi and the others to assist Goku in his continuing fight against the Red Ribbon Army, leading a raid on their headquarters only to discover Goku had already defeated the entire para-military organization. Meeting Tien Shinhan at the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, Launch becomes instantly attracted to the three-eyed fighter and is later seen mourning Krillin's death at the hands of the monstrous Tambourine, even in her blonde state.

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As Tien prepared to follow Roshi's footsteps and face the Demon King Piccolo after the resurgent villain launched his bid to control the Earth, Launch swore to kill anyone who would do Tien harm though her bullets have no effect on Piccolo's henchmen. At the end of Dragon Ball, Launch is seen at the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament, watching Goku defeat King Piccolo's son bearing his name in the final round.

Launch's Final Fate

Launch is briefly seen at the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, still performing criminal heists while in her blonde form while continuing a romantic relationship with Tien, often interrupting his training with Chiaotzu. After the two fighters leave to train at Kami's Lookout in preparation for the arrival of Napa and Vegeta, Launch attempts to join them by climbing Korin's Tower. In her last major appearance, Launch is seen mourning Tien's death after his fight with Napa by drowning her sorrows in a bar.

Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama would reveal years later in an interview that he had forgotten about Launch following Piccolo's defeat, deciding that in the intervening years between Dragon Ball and Z that she had spent the time largely chasing after Tien. As Tien became more of an ancillary character, Launch was relegated to flashback appearances from the Dragon Ball era, with a small cameo at the end of Z giving some of her life-force to fuel Goku's Super Spirit Bomb to destroy Kid Buu. Launch's final appearance was in the animated film Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!, briefly seen attending a banquet thrown by Hercule as he opened a brand new hotel.

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