No Fate But What Cell Makes

Time travel and deadly robots are both common sci-fi cliches. So it’s probably no surprise that both of them are used heavily in the Terminator franchise, and in the Cell arc of Dragon Ball. But I believe the similarities between these two series go beyond mere coincidence.

In explaining these similarities, I’ll obviously have to spoil major plot points from both series. So, be warned, if that’s actually a concern to anyone. But note that I’ll only be referencing the first two Terminator movies, since everything else was produced long after Dragon Ball ended.

The Terminator was originally released in 1984. Dragon Ball also began its run in late 1984, with very few science fiction elements. But in early 1986, there was one apparent Terminator reference in the Red Ribbon Army arc of Dragon Ball: a large, muscular, humanoid robot with spiky hair and sunglasses.

The Terminator Sgt. Metallic

But the bigger similarities began in 1991, when Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released, and Trunks made his debut in Dragon Ball. Trunks bears a resemblance to John Connor from T2, at least as far as their hair styles.

John Connor Trunks

That’s just a cosmetic similarity, though. In the plot, Trunks is more analogous to Kyle Reese from T1. Both of them are young men from an apocalyptic future that was ravaged by machines. They travel to the past to warn of these machines, and to prevent the death of a savior: Trunks wants to stop SON Gokuu from dying of a natural disease, while Kyle wants to stop John Connor’s mother from being killed before he is born. Incidentally, Trunks is also secretive with his information, to make sure his own parents still give birth to him.

Some of the animation staff may have noticed the same connection between Trunks and Kyle, because there’s an anime-only Trunks flashback sequence that seems fairly similar to a Kyle flashback from T1. Both of them walk through dirty tunnels lined with weak civilians.

Kyle Flashback Trunks Flashback
Kyle Flashback Trunks Flashback
Kyle Flashback Trunks Flashback
Kyle Flashback Trunks Flashback

But there’s one big thing that suggests this can’t all be a coincidence. Kyle Reese arrived in the past on May 12th. Trunks warned that the androids would appear on May 12th. (Now you know why I’ve posted this today!)

May 12th in The Terminator May 12th in Dragon Ball

Angsty young time travelers, deadly humanoid robots, AND the date May 12th? That would be a hell of a coincidence. My personal theory is that Mr. Toriyama may have been inspired by the first Terminator movie during the promotional hype for the second, but I have no way of ever proving or confirming it.

Of course, I’m not saying that Dragon Ball completely ripped off the Terminator series, because in the end they’re just similar plot elements taken in a different direction. The eventual debut of Cell especially sets things apart, because he’s an arrogant bug monster!

Oh, and here’s one other interesting parallel. Android #16 has a Schwarzenegger-ish build and a pacifist nature, similar to the T-800 in T2. In the end, both machines get destroyed, and a little boy (Gohan, John Connor) cries for them. But I would hardly call those Dragon Ball events Terminator-inspired, because Dragon Ball itself already did the “boy and his pacifist robot friend” story back in 1986 with Gokuu and #8! So if anything, T2 would’ve been the one inspired by Dragon Ball in this case.

On a completely unrelated note, I found this dude who looks like Ultimate Gohan while taking screenshots. Also, the song from the Tech Noir scene in T1 has been stuck in my head for two days now.

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Categories: Dissection, Television

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