The Big Picture

  • Dragon Ball Z was a pioneering force that inspired future shōnen battle anime, such as Naruto and Jujutsu Kaisen.
  • The Red Ribbon Army Androids were a compelling group of villains with distinct appearances, abilities, and personalities.
  • Dr. Gero, Android 16, Android 17, Android 18, and Cell are some of the most notable android characters in Dragon Ball Z.


Dragon Ball Z was a pioneering force for shōnen battle anime, serving as the inspiration and blueprint for future generations of exciting shows. Without Dragon Ball Z, there would be no Naruto, Jujutsu Kaisen, or many other iconic anime series. One of DBZ’s greatest strengths is the variety and creativity of its many villains, which include everything from world-conquering alien emperors to ancient and eldritch magical beings. However, the most interesting group of villains created by Akira Toriyama is the Red Ribbon Army Androids, the antagonists of the Android Saga. These androids had distinct appearances, abilities, and personalities that made them equal parts exciting and threatening for audiences. With unconventional naming conventions, it can be difficult to keep track of who’s who among the androids, so here’s a rundown of the most notable androids in Dragon Ball Z.

Dragon Ball Z TV Show Poster

Dragon Ball Z

Release Date
September 13, 1996

Cast
Christopher Sabat, Scott McNeil, Sean Schemmel, Brian Drummond

Main Genre
Anime

Genres
Action, Adventure, Anime

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
9

Dr. Gero — Android 20

Dr. Gero, also known as Android 20, from 'Dragon Ball Z'
Image via Toei Animation

Dr. Gero is the cold-hearted scientist responsible for creating the androids. Gero was the head scientist and founding member of the Red Ribbon Army who designed the group’s weapons and technology. After the Red Ribbon Army is defeated by Goku in Dragon Ball, Gero goes into hiding and begins planning his revenge on the man that destroyed his organization. Using tiny drones, Dr. Gero studied the greatest fighters seen on Earth and collected DNA samples from them in order to create the fearsome androids with the goal of getting revenge on Goku. In Dragon Ball Z, Gero is one of the first androids to attack the Z-fighters as he began this years-in-the-making vendetta against Goku. In pursuit of immortality, Gero has his brain removed from his organic body and placed into a robotic body, making him Android 20. Unfortunately, there is folly in some of his own ideas, as he is eventually killed by Androids 17 and 18, who he could never fully control. However, the lasting effects of his technological innovation are felt throughout the saga as his androids, including his secret project known as Cell, continue to wreak havoc.

Android 8

Android 8 from 'Dragon Ball'
Image via Crunchyroll

Android 8 was the first functional android created by Dr. Gero and was the only one to appear in the original Dragon Ball rather than Dragon Ball Z. Android 8 was a member of the Red Ribbon Army but ended up defecting from the organization. Though he was technically functional, Android 8 was seen as a failure because of his good-hearted nature and kind personality, which led him to befriending Goku and leaving the Army to live a peaceful life.

Android 16

Android 16 from 'Dragon Ball Z'
Image via Toei Animation

Similarly to Android 8 before him, Android 16 possessed a peaceful disposition that was not the original intent for Gero’s creations. Dr. Gero specifically modeled Android 16 after his deceased son but was entirely robotic, with no organic parts. Despite being created specifically to kill Goku, Android 16 never displayed personal animosity towards the fighter. Instead of being a ruthless killing machine, Android 16 had a sweet love for nature and animals that was in stark contrast to his towering physique and combat-oriented purpose. Gohan connects with Android 16’s nonviolent personality, endearing him greatly to the hulking android. The impact of Android 16 on the young Saiyan could not be overstated, as it was 16’s death at the hands of Cell that ultimately pushed Gohan over the edge and into Super Saiyan 2.

Android 17

Android 17 from 'Dragon Ball Z'
Image via Toei Animation

Android 17 was originally a human named Lapis who, alongside his older twin sister, was turned into a cyborg android by Dr. Gero. 17 has a reckless and thrill-seeking personality, finding entertainment in destruction and rebelliousness. Android 17 and Android 18 were awakened by Dr. Gero after his fight with the Z-fighters, but after a disagreement, 17 kills Gero in an act of rebellion before reactivating Android 16. In an alternate future, it is Android 17 and Android 18 who were responsible for killing most of the Z-fighters after Goku is incapacitated due to a heart illness. Only Gohan and Trunks survive their initial attack, but eventually, even the Super Saiyan Gohan falls to their might. In the main timeline, he and his sister are eventually absorbed by Cell, unwillingly lending the stronger android their power in order for him to progress to higher forms. After Cell is defeated, 17 is brought back to life and eventually settles down to become a park ranger protecting animals from poachers.

Android 18

Android 18 from 'Dragon Ball Z'
Image via Toei Animation

Android 18, formerly known as Lazuli, is the older twin sister of Android 17. Like her brother, she has a cool and confident demeanor, often paired with biting sarcastic remarks. She shows a soft spot for Krillin, even though the two are on opposing sides of the battle. However, during the Android Saga, she is far from the kinder person she eventually becomes. She is a ruthless and skilled fighter, capable of defeating Vegeta in Super Saiyan form. Like her brother, she is eventually absorbed into Cell, but is later released after his defeat. After the events of the Cell Games, Android 18 becomes far kinder, eventually marrying Krillin, having a child, and becoming a powerful member of the Z-fighters.

Android 19

Android 19 from 'Dragon Ball Z'
Image via Toei Animation

One of the least human looking androids, Android 19’s appearance was based on a doll that inspired Dr. Gero. Android 19 had the ability to absorb energy from his opponents, making him a dangerous and tricky fighter. He was easily the most loyal of Dr. Gero’s androids, working diligently with his creator and listening to his commands, even assisting the transfer of Gero’s brain into an android body. However, Android 19 had one of the briefest appearances for an android, as he was defeated by Vegeta in a ruthless beat down.

Cell

Cell in the Cell Saga from Dragon Ball Z

Cell was the triumphant and dangerous culmination of Dr. Gero’s extensive years of technological development. The Cell from Dragon Ball Z actually comes from another alternate timeline, where Dr. Gero and his supercomputer are able to create Cell as a contingency plan after their death. Cell was constructed with data taken from Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, and even Frieza, specifically created to become the “perfect being.” His unique design, a combination of the strongest fighters that were seen on Earth during Gero’s lifetime, made him one of the most powerful combatants in the entire series. He is first introduced with a bug-like appearance, often called “Imperfect Cell.”

After absorbing Android 17, he then upgrades into a brutish form known as “Semi-Perfect Cell,” before becoming his “Perfect” form when he absorbs Android 18 as well. Cell is arrogant, narcissistic, and completely obsessed with his goal of becoming the perfect being and the ultimate fighter. His uncompromising drive to achieve his ambitions pairs dangerously with his cunning and intelligence, as he also demonstrates strategic thinking that makes him unpredictable and hard to manage. Cell is also able to produce smaller versions of himself known as Cell Jr., which he sends out to attack the Z-Fighters. Because of his unique design background, Cell is able to use even Goku’s signature technique, Kamehameha, truly making him a godly combatant and the most formidable opponent in the series up to that point.

Gamma 1 and Gamma 2

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero introduced the first canon androids in several years: Gamma 1 and Gamma 2. The two androids were created by Dr. Hedo, the grandson of Dr. Gero, who is manipulated into working for the resurgent Red Ribbon Army. Both androids have a powerful sense of justice and a desire to be heroes, but are unfortunately misguided in their original ideals. Gamma 1, the elder of the two androids, is calmer than his more outgoing younger brother. However, despite their occasionally silly personalities, the two are so immensely powerful that Piccolo believed them to be on par with Goku and Vegeta.

Dragon Ball Z is streaming on Crunchyroll in the U.S.

Watch on Crunchyroll

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