Pop quiz, anime fans: Who is the only human who has not died by the end of Dragon Ball Z? The answer is, of course, your hero and mine: Mr. Satan (aka Hercule). That’s right. In a show where death means less than your average trip to the bathroom, Mr. Satan is the only one who makes it to the end of the original manga and anime run without biting it at least once.
What I’m saying is that clearly he is the strongest character, right?
Well, no. But he does occupy a vital place within the Dragon Ball universe. Even though he is viewed as a joke by many of the characters and fans, the show doesn’t work quite the same way without Mr. Satan in it.
Who is Mr. Satan?
Mr. Satan is, for longer than anyone else in the anime’s history, the reigning World Martial Arts Champion. Remember the tournament that was one of the main focal points of Dragon Ball before it became about aliens shooting lasers from their fists? Mr. Satan rose to fame as the champion of the 24th Tournament, which took place when the main characters were training to fight the Androids ahead of the Cell Saga.
So yes, he only won it because the main cast of fighters were too busy trying to save the world to take part, but he still accomplished a feat that, only a few years earlier, had been seen as one of the crowning achievements of Goku’s life. The fame and wealth that came with this victory made him one of the richest people on the planet, as well as cementing his status as one of the strongest people around.
It is worth noting, however, that this is the last tournament that Mr. Satan wins fairly. All subsequent victories were the result of him bribing his opponent in the final to let him win. But that first win was all it took for him to get sent to take on Cell — and to somehow convince the world that he took down the monster threatening to blow up the planet.
Why we need him
Most of Mr. Satan’s antics are played for laughs. The characters roll their eyes when he makes boasts of being the world’s strongest fighter, and he only ever shows any actual skill during flashbacks to the 24th World Martial Arts Tournament. With his behaviour framed in this way, its easy to view him as merely a fool or a clown. After all, that’s how he’s viewed by the main cast.
However, Mr. Satan serves to show the gap between even the weakest of the main characters (I’m looking at you, Yamcha) and the rest of the world at large. Mr. Satan is a legit martial artist and has the skill and strength to rise to the top of his field. When he shows up to fight Cell, the world at large earnestly believes that he is their best chance at survival.
This also shows how quickly the main cast has grown in strength and highlights how swiftly the story changed. Before Mr. Satan, the previous winner of the World Martial Arts Tournament was Goku, and that was only a handful of years earlier. When Goku won the tournament, flying was considered a highly developed and difficult to master skill. By the time Mr. Satan won it, everyone had been to space and back, and blowing up mountains was considered a decent warm-up.
Mr. Satan, in his first appearance, reminds the audience of this gap and how reliant the world is on Goku and his merry band. After claiming credit for Gohan’s victory against Cell, he also becomes the public face for their victories. To the world, he is the strongest fighter and their protector. Though he takes this mantle for selfish reasons, it has the added benefit of letting Gohan live a relatively normal life, not hounded by the demands of being known as the world’s saviour.
When Majin Buu shows up, its Mr. Satan who brings out the bit of good in the giant pink marshmallow monster. If it hadn’t been for some dude with a gun shooting Buu’s dog, the world probably would have had peace for a bit longer. However, Mr. Satan’s biggest contribution to the show during this point is convincing the newly revived people of Earth to share their energy with Goku for a giant Spirit Bomb.
When Vegeta first asks, people are both confused and annoyed at him. The Saiyan Prince is not, after all, a people person. Even Goku fails to rouse them to act, though the people he has touched over the years do come through for him. Its not until Mr. Satan chimes in that they agree to give their energy to the only Spirit Bomb in the series that actually did the job. Without Mr. Satan’s fame and charisma, Majin Buu would have been free to destroy world after world.
Mr. Satan might not be everyone’s favourite Dragon Ball character and he (narrowly) missed out on being included in our favourite Dragon Ball Super moments, but he is a vital foil to the main cast. He views the superhuman actions of the main cast the same way the audience should, with awe and disbelief. And, in his own way, Mr. Satan saved the universe, showcasing that everyone has the power to do something good. Sometimes it’s just a case of finding what your gift is, and using it for good.