Even though Krillin isn’t the strongest fighter in Dragon Ball canon, he is still the best Z-Fighter in the series, though the reason why is tragic.

Despite the fact that Krillin is nowhere near the most powerful Z-Fighter on the team, he has still proven himself to be Dragon Ball’s most important fighter (for one tragic reason).

When Krillin was first introduced in Dragon Ball canon, he was just a regular human martial artist who wanted to become the most powerful person on the face of the Earth. To do that, he knew he had to train with the absolute best: Master Roshi. Once Krillin tracked down Roshi and asked to be his student, he found that Goku–a kid he didn’t know yet–was already training with Roshi, which inevitably created a sense of healthy competition between them. Goku helped push Krillin beyond his limit (whether Krillin initially liked it or not) and slowly, the two became good friends–which is why it was so heartbreaking when Krillin was killed by one of King Piccolo’s minions, Tambourine. Just as Goku pushed Krillin to be the best martial artist he could through their training, so, too, did Krillin’s death push Goku to find a power deep inside himself to defeat King Piccolo–and this wasn’t the only time this happened. In fact, Goku was only able to unlock Super Saiyan for the first time following Krillin’s death by the hand of Frieza, proving yet again that the Z-Fighter’s sacrifice led to a fellow warrior reaching their full potential.

Related: Majin Buu is Dragon Ball’s Greatest Villain for One Sinister Reason

Krillin Inspires Other Dragon Ball Fighters… by Dying

Krillin getting killed by Frieza in DBZ.

In Dragon Ball GT episode 44 (written by Atsushi Maekawa, directed by Osamu Kasai, produced by Toei Animation), Android 17 has been corrupted by Dr. Gero and Dr. Myuu who made contact with the Android from hell. Their plan was to use 17 to take over the world, and in that effort, 17 was ordered to create as much chaos as possible while taking out the only beings on Earth who could stop him: the Z-Fighters. 17’s first fight was against Trunks, who was nearly killed during the battle and remained bedridden for some time afterward. Next, 17 moved on to his sister, 18, and her husband, Krillin. In this fight, Krillin was killed, but his death gave 18 the push she needed to fight back against 17, which eventually led to 18 having a major hand in his defeat after she teamed up with Goku.

Krillin’s death in classic Dragon Ball led to the defeat of King Piccolo, then his death in Dragon Ball Z led to the Frieza’s defeat, and finally, Krillin’s death in Dragon Ball GT led to the defeat of Android 17. While this trend indicates that Krillin’s deaths directly lead to Z-Fighters’ victory, it also proves one other thing: Krillin is loved by all those around him. The only reason the likes of Goku and Android 18 get so enraged by Krillin’s death that they are able to break through their previous power-ceiling to avenge him is because they love him so strongly. This shows that Krillin’s impact on everyone in his life is profoundly positive, making the thought of living without him so gut-wrenchingly terrible that the villain who took his life needs to die without question or compromise–and that’s exactly what happens every single time.

People die in Dragon Ball all the time, whether they be villains who need to go for the sake of peace in the universe, or other Z-Fighters like Yamcha, Tien, and even Goku himself. However, no other character’s death elicits the same visceral response from their loved ones like Krillin’s–making him Dragon Ball’s most important fighter, for an incredibly tragic reason.

More: Super Saiyan 4 Was Almost Dragon Ball’s First Super Saiyan God Form

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