Do you know what I’m not a huge fan of? Retconned plotlines. You know, when a franchise releases some extra content in the form of a movie or an OVA (Original Video Animation) and it’s well received by the fans, only for the creator to exclaim how it’s technically not part of the canon storyline (in this case: Bardock) and acts as filler? One Piece is extremely guilty of doing this, with practically every movie connected to it being retconned out of the canon. But it especially sucks when the thing being disregarded as non-canon is an entire character, like in the case of Dragon Ball.
Look, Bardock is still canonically Son Goku’s dad, that was never going to be up for dispute. He is canon as an individual character. But his appearances have been so far and few in between, that it’s hard to pinpoint what aspects of him are intended to be canon and which ones aren’t. This is further convoluted when you consider the fact that his biggest appearances, Bardock: Father of Goku and the Bardock Special, have already been deemed as separate from canon.
But how do you even go about discerning what constitutes canon? For argument’s sake, stuff is considered canon to a story if it is deemed so by the creator of the source material. If they created it or participated in its conception in some way, it’s automatically canon unless stated otherwise. In this case, anything that Akira Toriyama, the mangaka for Dragon Ball, directly worked on. And while the Father Of Goku and the Bardock Special were TOEI Animation exclusives, the manga is all him.
So, does Bardock make an appearance in the said manga? Let’s unravel this plot through another session of Lore Analysis! This is where we take an in-depth look at the history of some of the most popular stories in the Otaku world to answer some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). While we might not get a concrete answer, there is always a subtext to sift through and predict where the plot is heading. So, let’s dive right in and see where Bardock fits in the official Dragon Ball mythos.
Father Of Goku Goes Way, Way Back:
Our first look at Goku’s parentage came in the form of a TV special movie, named Dragon Ball Z: Bardock – The Father Of Goku, which aired in 1990. So, we have known about the parents of one of the most iconic protagonists in anime history for a while now.
It was meant to be a prequel to the original Dragon Ball Z series, setting the stage for the events that led to the eventual decimation of the Saiyan race and had Goku landing on Earth as one of the last survivors. In this movie, Bardock is a Saiyan that is capable of seeing into the future and was, like, Planet Vegeta’s ‘chosen messiah’ or something.
But it’s this ability that set off the warning bells in his head regarding Frieza, making sure Goku was far away when the massacre happened. And really, that is the only short glimpse we get into Bardock as a character, but it was enough.
After that, we did get a special sequel episode by TOEI, but that one was officially deemed as a filler. But in both, Bardock is painted as this super strong warrior that heroically battles Frieza head-on.
Bardock’s Appearance History Is Complicated (But He’s Still Canon!):
The real kicker came in the form of the manga, Dragon Ball Minus: The Departure Of The Fated Child, which was a direct contrast to the Father Of Goku, despite it being virtually the same story. It was Akira Toriyama’s writing Bardock into canon after a little over two decades.
It brought forward the idea that Kakarot aka Goku wasn’t sent to Earth to conquer it, but rather to save himself. And it took the sacrifices of his loved ones to get him there.
With this special, we learned that Goku wasn’t from some super powerful lineage. His mother, Gine, wasn’t impressive either, beyond the two sharing a more loving bond which wasn’t considered a norm. While his dad was surprisingly compassionate for a ruthless Saiyan, he was a lower-ranking warrior.
With Toriyama-san at the helm of this project himself, Bardock had finally become canon.
How Dragon Ball Super: Broly Erases Established Canon:
But it never hurts to have extra reaffirmation. When the movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, came out it went on to retcon Father Of Goku as non-canonical to the official timeline.
As it explores the timelines, we see the plot of Dragon Ball Minus play out. Gine is present in the movie, Goku was slightly older than just an infant when everything transpired and even Raditz, Goku’s brother, gets a spotlight. The only nod to Father Of Goku we get is in the scene where we see Bardock right in front of Frieza’s ship, as he’s consumed by the Supernova blast.
But in the end, Bardock as a character is canon to Dragon Ball, even if it’s a couple of decades later.