Goku was based on one of Toriyama’s earlier characters named Tanton, a fictional protagonist who appears in a one-shot series called Dragon Boy.[4] In this story, Tanton’s odd physical characteristic was a pair of wings. When Toriyama decided to create Dragon Ball, he used Chinese author Wu Cheng’en‘s 16th century classic novel Journey to the West as inspiration for his own series. The name Toriyama adopted for the character is the Japanese romanization of 孫悟空 (Sun Wukong), who is the central character of the novel. To be creative with the character, Toriyama stated that he designed Goku to be a human boy with a monkey tail, instead of being a complete simian like Sun Wukong. He decided to do this because the tail would be visible even when Goku was trying to hide.[4] Though Goku is treated as a person from another planet, Toriyama initially had the idea to make him an earthling, but, with the introduction of new fighters from other planets, it was later established that Goku is a Saiyan. In order to advance the story faster, Toriyama gave Goku the ability to teleport to any planet in just a few seconds.[5]

Toriyama explained that Goku’s gi uniform is modeled after the robes worn by the Shaolin monks of China, being that he wanted Dragon Ball to take on a Chinese feel.[6] During early developments of the manga, various readers commented that Goku was rather plain, so the author changed his appearance and added several characters like Master Roshi and Krillin, then created martial arts tournaments to make the manga more fighting based. Since it was commented that Goku would surely win the tournaments, Toriyama made him lose in the first two tournaments that Goku participated in, however made him the victor in the third. With the ending of the Cell arc in manga volume 35, Son Gohan was meant to replace his father as the main protagonist; Toriyama thought that Gohan was unsuitable for that part so he avoided doing that.[4]

Goku is usually recognized by his uniquely styled hair, which never changes its length throughout the series except when in his Super Saiyan forms, in which his hair changes color and length based on the level he ascends to. This is explained by Vegeta to be a common characteristic of full-blooded Saiyans.[7] Due to his devotion to Earth, Goku prefers dressing in a gi uniform, and has refused offers to adorn the Saiyan battle fatigues, being that he considers himself an Earthling.[8] However, he is seen donning a Saiyan battle fatigues designed by Bulma, during the time he trains with Gohan in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber at Kami‘s Palace, prior to the Cell Games.[9] In his early childhood, Goku was first introduced in a blue outfit with red wristbands and a white belt he kept tied in a bow.[1] After his training with Roshi, Goku would receive his trademark orange outfit, blue wristbands, and a belt. During his training with Kami he would receive one similar to his trademark outfit; striped boots and black shirt which he would wear under his orange top. He is often seen to wear the in circled kanji of his training masters on the front and back his uniform; the first kanji being Master Roshi’s, “kame” (?, meaning “turtle”),[10] the second kanji being King Kai‘s, “kaio” (?, meaning “world king”)[11] and the third being his own kanji “Go” (?, meaning “wisdom” or “enlightenment”).[12] Eventually he stops wearing a kanji[13] and also wears a blue obi in place of his simple belt.[13] By the end of the manga Goku would begin wearing a new outfit made up of a blue slip-over top, gray pants and orange wristbands and shin ribbons.[14] By the Dragon Ball GT series Goku’s appearance was revamped featuring him with a blue fold-over top, yellow pants, pink wristbands, white shin ribbons, and a bronze complexion.[15]

Through constant training, Goku has achieved many abilities; aside from his great strength, he also possesses super speed,[16] reflexes and can perform energy blasts which are formed from chi. As a child Goku originally wielded the Nyoi-bō (如意棒, lit. “Mind Stick”?, renamed “Power Pole” in the English dub), a magic staff that extends and retracts on command which was given to him by his grandfather Gohan.[1] He also learns, through simple observation, Master Roshi’s energy blast technique the Kamehameha (かめはめ波, lit. “Turtle Striking Wave”?),[17] which then becomes his signature move. Originally Goku’s main means of conveyance was on a magic cloud called Kinto-un (筋斗雲, lit. “Candy Cloud”?, renamed “Flying Nimbus” in the English dub), which was given to him as a child by Master Roshi for saving Turtle.[18] After his training with Kami he learns to fly through the technique buku-jutsu (舞空術?, lit. “Air Dance Technique”) and uses the cloud less and less as the series progresses.


Goku in his regular state and Super Saiyan transformations. n_n

Another notable technique of Goku’s is an attack that multiplies the user’s chi for an instant, called the Kaiō-ken (界王拳, lit. “World King Fist”?), taught to him by King Kai.[19] However, Goku’s most powerful attack is the Genki Dama (元気玉, lit. “Good Spirit Ball”?, renamed “Spirit Bomb” in the English dub), a powerful sphere created by gathering chi energy from surrounding life forms, which he also learned from King Kai.[11] Goku also learns a teleportation skill called Shunkan Idō (瞬間移動, lit. “Instant Movement”?, renamed “Instant Transmission” in the English dub), which he learned from the inhabitants of a fictional planet called Yardrat.[20]

Goku is also the only Saiyan in the series to achieve all the Saiyan transformations seen in the manga. In Dragon Ball, he is able to transform into a gigantic ape called an Oozaru,[21] albeit after his tail is removed by Kami, he loses the capacity to achieve this form.[22] However, in Dragon Ball GT, Goku is able to use this transformation again after regrowing his tail using the Elder Kai‘s help.[23]

During the events of Dragon Ball Z, Goku becomes the first Super Saiyan in a millennium after being overcome with rage by the murder of Krillin by the hand of Frieza[24] and as the series progresses he achieves every single advanced level of Super Saiyan. Each transformation changes Goku’s appearance and enhances his abilities.

Goku can also fuse with Vegeta and create a warrior who has the combined power and skills of both. One method is by using the Potara Earrings presented to Goku by the Elder Kai, which results in a ‘perfect fusion’, creating Vegito.[25] The other method is by performing the Metamorese Fusion Dance, which creates Gogeta.[26]