Dragon Ball’s timeline is a mess because of time travel?

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Posted by Dakota ‘DarkHorse’ Hills

Time travel is a very tricky subject to tackle in fiction because it exists as a concept in the real world and nothing more meaning all we can do is speculate as to how it could work.

Fused Zamasu was recently revealed as the next DLC fighter coming to Dragon Ball FighterZ, and it got me thinking about the timeline of Dragon Ball and how it really is quite convoluted and doesn’t make much sense. I was reminded of a video by the artist Plague of Gripes in which he goes through every branching timeline, but unfortunately the video no longer exists.

Very few examples of media have been able to use time travel as a narrative device unless it is the basis for said example. They both have their issues, but Chrono Trigger and Steins;Gate are my favorite stories involving time travel.

Dragon Ball’s story is not one based around time travel, but uses it in its plot on multiple occasions to give us Future Trunks and Cell in Dragon Ball Z as well as Goku Black and Future/ Fused Zamasu in Dragon Ball Super.

Goku Black’s existence itself is quite the problem in and of itself, but first we are going to tackle how Z introduced time travel and what rules it seemed to establish. In part two, we will delve into Super’s use of time travel with the gods and Goku Black/ Zamasu.

So Let’s begin with the Future Trunks/ Androids saga from Dragon Ball Z with obvious spoilers ahead.

The first thing we need to establish in regards to time travel in Dragon Ball Z is that their timelines are split meaning that Trunks’ future does not get fixed by travelling back and saving Goku/ defeating the androids in the past.

A successful mission for Trunks still leaves his timeline in ruins thanks to Goku’s death and Android 17 and 18’s rampage. If it were a merged timeline, Trunks would go home to a fixed future in which Goku and the Z fighters are still alive.

Trunks using the time machine to go back in time also creates a split or branch in the timeline which will become important later. The timelines can also play out slightly differently or be affected by time travel because Android 19 and 20 initially show up in the main Z timeline, but do not in Trunks’.

I wanted to base this article around Plague’s video, but it no longer exists meaning I’ll just have to give you one of the more interesting tidbits here. The main Z timeline we follow throughout the entire show is not the “original” because it has been meddled with by time travel.

Future Trunks’ timeline may be considered the originator (in the Z series at least) with the latest point of time that time travel was shown to be introduced. There are also whole timelines that we do not see or only very briefly see in Z which is how we wind up with Cell and two time machines.

Cell is a creation of Dr. Gero like his previous android creations, but is not activated/ grown until much later after Androids 17 and 18. He contains the DNA of the Z fighters, so he retains many of their attributes and moves and ultimately desires to absorb the other androids to become a “perfect” being.

The Cell that we see awakens in Future Trunks’ world, but meets a slightly different Trunks than we are first introduced to. This Trunks goes to the past, saves Goku, helps the Z fighters defeat the androids and returns home with 17 and 18’s blueprints to destroy them in his own timeline. This past timeline is presumably one that never sees Cell, or at least not past form one, and Goku is probably still alive because he wasn’t blown up.

With no androids left in this future timeline, Cell kills that timeline’s Trunks and uses his time machine to return to the past to when the androids would still exists which leads him to the timeline we know best. This future becomes one where the Saiyans are now extinct with Trunks’ death, the rest of the Z fighters have perished, but the androids and Cell are also gone.

From here, we proceed through the Cell saga where he is ultimately defeated by Gohan and Trunks gets a nice power up from fighting and training. Future Trunks then returns to his own timeline and destroys the androids and Cell by himself.

That I believe should bring us to the end of the time travel shenanigans found in Dragon Ball Z though I could be mistaken or made a few mistakes here or there.

We made it out of Dragon Ball Z with at least four timelines. How many more can we add with Super? Find out next time on Event HubZ.



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