There was once a time when it was taboo to kill off a cartoon character. Because most cartoons are made to be lighthearted and fun (not to mention being mainly geared toward children), killing off an animated character was seen as dark and inappropriate, too mature for the child demographic. Then anime came along and changed everything. With its excessive violence and often mature situations, anime introduced a more severe and realistic side to the cartoon genre.
But with all that violence came a hard truth: people can die, even our favorite characters. Of course, that’s not to say that every anime has made a habit of killing off their characters, but it’s also not uncommon. At one point in time, mainstream anime (such as Sailor Moon) was still hesitant about incorporating death into its stories, refusing to take any chances on losing their child demographic. When Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z hit American TV screens, it introduced the concept of revival with the help of some magical wishing orbs⏤the Dragon Balls. Incredibly, the anime has somehow managed to find a workaround that allowed it to show a slightly grittier side of life, all while maintaining a PG-13 rating.
Over time, several of the anime’s Z fighters have died in battle only to be revived with Dragon Balls. Even the main character, Goku, has died at least twice during his reign as the most powerful martial artist on the show. But what about the other Z fighters who aren’t quite as strong as Goku? Many of them are usually killed to serve as inspiration to the Saiyan hero, providing the much-needed anger and resolve he needs to win impossible battles with the almost invincible villains that he encounters. Out of all the deaths that have affected Goku, none has been quite as painful as the loss of his best friend, Krillin.
In the Dragon Ball series, fans have always seen Krillin as the weakest link among the Z Fighters. The villains have felt the same way, which is probably why he’s one of the first and relatively easiest targets on a villain’s kill list. The little bald guy who’s been Goku’s best friend since they were kids can never seem to catch a break when it comes to getting killed. In fact, if we’re going to get technical about it, Krillin has been getting the short end of the death stick (no pun intended) since the Dragon Ball series started.
He was first killed by Tambourine⏤King Piccolo’s son⏤during the King Piccolo Saga of the Dragon Ball series after the villain kicked him in the head and crushed his frontal lobe. Then, in the Frieza Saga of the Dragon Ball Z series, he died again after Frieza caught him with a Death Psycho Bomb and blew him to smithereens. Years down the line (in the anime), Krillin was turned into chocolate and eaten by Majin Buu during the last chapter of the Dragon Ball Z series, The Majin Buu Saga.
And let’s not forget the alternate timelines! In the Future Trunks timeline, Krillin is murdered by the Androids along with the other Z Fighters that perished in the Android saga. Even in the infamously disliked Dragon Ball GT, Krillin is killed after a brainwashed Android 17 shoots a photon flash through his chest.
So how many times has Krillin died?
As far as the canon timeline goes, Krillin has died three times. If you count his other deaths in the alternate timelines and Dragon Ball GT, then he’s died at least five times throughout the anime’s existence.
That’s a lot of dying, but if you’re going to be best friends with a super-powered alien martial artist who tends to fight every sadistic villain in the universe, then you might want to accept the fact that you’re going to die more than once at some point in your life.