Tenshinhan vs. Kuririn
So here it is... The classic Dragon Ball debate that has lasted to this day. Maybe it's because of my Tenshinhan bias that this debate seems to stand out the most to me. It does seem like it is one of the more debated aspects of Dragon Ball (SSJ3 Goku vs. Gohan seems to pop a lot too). These sorts of debates come up because most of Dragon Ball has a very clear indication of power tiers between characters. It is also made pretty clear when characters are around the same level too (like with Tenshinhan vs. Goku in 22nd TB or Goku vs. Piccolo Daimao). With Tenshinhan and Kuririn, there's a little bit more vagueness as we get further into the DBZ era (after Grand Elder's power-up specifically). Both sides of the Ten vs. Kuririn debate are very set in their ways. I was surely set in my ways when I was younger. I'm going to try my best to tackle the issue in the fairest way I can (but let's face it, I have a Tenshinhan shrine, Haha). I will start by saying that I don't believe either argument from both sides can be considered absolutely conclusive. That's part of the appeal of this debate for me though. It feels just as mysterious as Tenshinhan himself. The fact that a "lesser" character like Tenshinhan even sparks such a debate is a result of just how cool he is. My Power Levels section of this site has power level explanations that tie-in directly to this Vs. Kuririn section. Please read both pages for a complete comparison.
Table of Contents
Comparisons of Power Before Kuririn's Grand Elder Power-Up
We can all agree when Tenshinhan is introduced, he rivals Goku almost exactly. Goku and Tenshinhan are in a tier above Kuririn, Yamucha, and Chaozu. I would still put Kamesennin in Ten's and Goku's tier, although Kamesennin states he probably would have lost to Tenshinhan. Piccolo Daimao shows up and Goku and Piccolo Daimao are in a tier above Tenshinhan. It's still quite clear Tenshinhan is #3. 23rd TB, Piccolo Jr. and Goku are still the top tier. Tenshinhan vs Kami-sama is a little vague. Tenshinhan tells Yamucha there is no shame in losing against Shen (Kami-sama in human body) and that Piccolo and Shen are way beyond normal human ability. I'm leaning towards Kami-sama being more powerful than Tenshinhan with that statement. Tenshinhan is still at least #4. Kuririn vs Yamucha is vague to me in 22nd-23rd TB. It feels like they're on a similar level, but I would guess Kuririn has the slight edge judging by his performances in both Tenkaichi Budokais. That is clearly Toriyama's intent, as we have power levels revealed in the Saiyan Arc. Tenshinhan is 250. Kuririn is 206. Yamucha is 177.
The precedent for the power scaling is set for these characters. Goku > Piccolo > Tenshinhan > Kuririn > Yamucha > Muten Roshi. This tier seems consistent as we go back into DB and the tier change with Roshi is blantantly told by himself, stating that his students surpassed him (23rd TB). As we go forward, if there is ever a time when a character surpasses another (when a scale has already been established), Toriyama goes out of his way to make sure it's known. There's a few instances that come to mind. Piccolo states Vegeta may have surpassed Goku at the beginning of the Android Arc. Piccolo surpasses both Vegeta and Goku when he merges with Kami-sama, which is apparent with how he can stand toe to toe with an Android. Cell also mentions Piccolo is the only one of Z warriors that can rival an Android. It's made very clear that the power scale was changed in the story (or at least points out there is the possibility of a change in the case of Vegeta surpassig Goku). There are never clear indications with Tenshinhan and Kuririn's scale being changed (until Yamucha's statement in the Buu saga which I'll get to later). There are still moments in DBZ where I can infer Kuririn surpassed Tenshinhan (if only briefly). I'll get to that later as well.
Let's obviously analyze the Saiyan arc first. Even though the Daizenshuu (official guide books) has Tenshinhan at 1,830 and Kuririn at 1,770, they state this 1,770 as Kuririn's "full power". It's not clear if that means Tenshinhan's full power is 1,830. Perhaps it's just because they also list Kuririn's suppressed power of 1,083, so the distintion had to be made. Even if 1,830 is Tenshinhan's full power he's still more powerful at this point, but not by too much. Again, this is just Daizenshuu's writers interpretation of the manga and series. In manga, the Saiyans say Tenshinhan is over 1,200 (because he defeated a Saibaimen of 1,200), and they also know at this point the "Z fighters" can change their battle power at will. So the only way to determine who is stronger without the use of the Daizenshuu is by looking at the performances against the Saibaimen and Nappa. The Saibaimen battles are hard to compare because Tenshinhan's battle was started under Vegeta's direction to have 1 on 1 battles. After Yamucha is killed, Kuririn gets angry and unleashes an attack that he even states was his full power. The attack sends ki blasts at all Saibaimen and Saiyans. 1 Saibiamen evades. Vegeta and Nappa are shown to be completely unharmed. Kuririn's full power ki blast does less damage than the Kikoho to Nappa. You could say the reason for this is because the blast was divided to multiple targets, but you could also say Tenshinhan was near death during the Kikoho, using only one hand.
Looking at the battle with Nappa; intersestingly, it almost feels like Piccolo had the least impressive performance out of Ten, Kuririn, and himself. It's assumed Piccolo is still stronger though. Going by the anime, Tenshinhan seems to have the most impressive showing. Kuririn and Tenshinhan are both able to draw blood on Nappa. Tenshinhan's only attack that connects is the Kikoho (which is a surprise attack). It damages the Saiyan armor and causes light scuffing and at least some blood on leg. Kuririn has several successful hits. The following only connect from surprise attacks; 1 hit after Piccolo's initial surprise hit; 2 hits in succession after Kuririn surprise attacks Nappa (who is going for Gohan). Kuririn's most impressive feat, in my opinion, is that he baits and evades an attack from Nappa (Tenshinhan is shown he also has this capability to dodge Nappa's attacks right after he had his arm severed). Kurinin's move created space he needed to get off a Kienzan. Kuririn was able to draw blood with Kienzan on Nappa's cheek. Nappa saw it coming but didn't realize he needed to dodge it until Vegeta told him to.
Kuririn could easily be considered a trickier and more crafty of a fighter. Tenshinhan is much more direct and traditional in his approach to fighting. I'm mainly comparing power levels though in the section of the website. I think the key difference I see when determining who is more powerful in the Saiyan Arc is looking at how Ten and Kuririn handle Nappa's attacks. Tenshinhan has his arm punched off! Tenshinhan is still able to dodge an attack right after this. Tenshinhan takes another hard hit sending him to the ground. After those attacks, he is able to get up and fire a Kikoho with one hand (causing a little bit of damage too). Kuririn is incapacitated by the effects of a single ki blast (that actually hit below him after he dodged). That's just the manga. If you look at what Tenshinhan did in the anime, and the attacks he took... He withstood the most beating of anyone. Tenshinhan is shown to be more durable than Kuririn in this battle. I think it's safe to assume Tenshinhan is still more powerful than Kuririn at this point. Having underwent the same training, there's no reason Kuririn would have quietly surpassed Tenshinhan in this arc. Same logic we use with assuming Kuririn and Tenshinhan didn't surpass Piccolo. If nobody hints to such a change in power tiers, it doesn't ever really happen in DB. Daizenshuu writers felt the same way and gave Tenshinhan a higher battle power.
Kuririn does survive a couple of strikes from a battle-worn Vegeta. Impressive. He takes some pretty severe damge from the 2 hits though. Hard to compare that to Tenshinhan without knowing what a battle-worn Vegeta would do to Ten. We just know Nappa was able to completely incapacitate Kuririn with an energy blast that didn't even connect. But let's move on to Freeza Arc. Kuririn gets some nice moments for himself here. Gohan and Kuririn who are both shown to be 1,500 in the manga (as they release their ki against 2 Freeza soldiers) take Dodoria by surprise with a kick each. We're shown surprise attacks in Dragon Ball are effective against enemies much stronger. Dodoria is at 22,000 according to the Daizenshuu (and that is a reasonable power level in relation to Vegeta). In my Power Levels section, I use this instance of power level discrepencies to help explain how Tenshinhan could actually affect 2nd form Cell.Back to Top
Comparisons of Power After Kuririn's Grand Elder Power-Up
This is where it starts to get a little ambiguous. Kuririn for certain is above 10,000 after his "potential unlocking" by the hand of Grand Elder. This is the same day Tenshinhan arrives on Kaio-sama's planet for training (although Kuririn does get the unlock after they arrived). At this moment, it is safe to assume Kuririn has surpassed Tenshinhan. Gohan and Kuririn fight Gurd of the Ginyu Special Squadron, but they accomplish nothing. Vegeta has to "save" them. Kuririn is completely immobile from a single kick from Recoom. That makes sense because Recoom is probably around 40,000 power level at this point. Kuririn and Gohan get into fight with Ginyu in Goku's body, who is at 23,000. They're able to hold their own (mostly blocking and dodging), which makes sense with their "above 10,000" power levels.
At this point, we need to see how Tenshinhan fared in his 6 days of training. We can determine how far Tenshinhan progressed by looking at Piccolo. Nail tells Piccolo he doesn't know what kind of training he's had but he has "astonishing power". Whenever adjectives like that are used in Dragon Ball, the subject is always stronger than the one stating it. Piccolo has to be over 42,000 in 6 days of training. I pegged him at 58,000 which I think is still low, but just enough to warrant Nail's comment. Side note: 58,000 is kind of arbitrary, but if you add Nail and Piccolo's power and multiply by 10, you get Piccolo's essentially official power of 1,000,000 (official in the sense that he is able to force an over 1,000,000 PL Freeza to his next form). Toriyama likes to use simple multipliers as we've seen. Mainly, this just illustrates that Piccolo has to be at least 58,000. We're shown Tenshinhan and Piccolo can increase power in a similar fashion (Tenshinhan can increase about 7 fold in the same time Piccolo can increase 8 fold, as we saw in Saiyan Arc training). So if Piccolo increased from 3,500 to 58,000, he was able to multiply his power by over 16x in 6 days. You could say Tenshinhan could increase by about 14x in 6 days. 1,830 * 14 = 25,620. I would say Tenshinhan is at least 25,000 at that point, surpassing Kuririn in 6 days. I still think Kuririn has the potential to retake the lead on Namek as Vegeta says Kuririn and Gohan's power are increasing during fight with Freeza. Tenshinhan is getting over a 2x power increaes every day on Kaio-sama's planet. This is MUCH more than Goku was getting, but we're also shown Tenshinhan and the gang getting to Kaio-sama's planet much quicker and requesting more intense training than Goku (this is all still in the manga). These levels for Piccolo and Tenshinhan work well with the series-only spar with Tenshinhan, Yamcha, and Chaozu vs. Piccolo. They're able to respectably fight with Piccolo with their combined powers.
Before Vegeta fights 1st form Freeza, he makes a comment that noobody seems to realize the earthlings' battle strengths keep rising. He then says Gohan especially has a lot of hidden power within him. What does this mean? Maybe he's just trying to make sense of how they went from lower one thousands to over 10,000 in such a short time. Maybe the Grand Elder's potential unlocking takes time to fully unlock all the power. That's a bizarre reason. But maybe it's the reason the story needs to keep Kuririn relevant. Afterall, Tenshinhan is going to get 260 more days of Kaio-sama training and Kuririn needs some way to stay close to Yamucha (who also will have 130 more days of Kaio-sama training). V-Jump puts Kuririn's max power during Freeza Arc at 75,000. I don't buy it personally, but you could say Kuririn surpassed Tenshinhan again (or stayed above him) at some point in those 6 days. During the battle with Freeza, Kuririn is stabbed by 2nd Form Freeza. Dende heals him and Kuririn has his best moment in the Freeza Saga (perhaps of all time too). He surprises Freeza (who thought Kuririn was dead) with a Kienzan that slices off the end of Freeza's tail. This is impressive! Freeza is at about 1,000,000 at this point and Kuririn is at least over 10,000. Freeza is about 100 times stronger but the Kienzan is stable able to cut through. If Kuririn is at his V-Jump stated level of 75,000, that's just over 13 times difference in powers. Maybe that does make more sense for the Kienzan to have an effect (of course we don't know the physics of a Kienzan though).
Kuririn's supposed 75,000 PL makes a flaw with Vegeta's power level though. After Vegeta recovers with senzu bean from Recoom fight, Goku says Vegeta "might" be able to take on Jheese now. Since Jheese can be assumed to be around 40,000 to 50,000, we'd have to place Vegeta at about 50,000 to 60,000. Vegeta doesn't have any other signficant ways to boost his power before Freeza. It wouldn't make sense to have Kuririn stronger than Vegeta. Kuririn does make a comment before Vegeta fights Freeza that it seems like Vegeta has broken through another power ceiling. I can't imagine how Vegeta could have increased even more, but perhaps it was sheer will and anger towards Freeza. So maybe Vegeta is about 250,000, as V-Jump pegged him. That would allow him to be able to do a little bit of battling with Freeza form 1. Freeza even admits Vegeta may not have been entirely bluffing about his power. So maybe Kuririn at 75,000 isn't as ridiculous as it might seem. Really, the only thing ridiculous is the power boosts to suit the story. Haha.
This leads me to the infamous Ginyu Special Squadron on Kaio-sama's planet. Taking this series-only side story as-is, Tenshinhan would have to be at about Goku's level when he arrived on Namek (90,000). That's absurd. I know that. Haha! It's understandable why people find it ridiculous. I think the intent of this side-story is to show how Kaio-sama's training is keeping the dead fighters relevant while everyone else is getting robust power-ups. Side note: I actually think Kuririn and Gohan's Namek power-up was more to keep up with the Kaio-sama trainees because they would undoubtedly become quite powerful. Logically, this whole side-story would have worked perfectly fine a good amount of time after the fight with Freeza, because there's no doubt in my mind Tenshinhan could defeat Jheese and Butta by the time he was done with the 266 days of training (based on Piccolo's radical power-up in 6 days). It's just that it works better as entertainment to have them appear at the point they did in the series. People wouldn't quite care about the Ginyu Squad after Freeza was defeated. With that said, I think we can still make a little sense of it as-is. We can safely assume Jheese, Butta, and Recoom have about 40,000 as their power levels each (hence why Recoom can still pummel Vegeta at 30,000 but still have Vegeta do some damage). Perhaps the gravity is a factor for the Ginyu Squad who were just spending their time on Namek with normal Earth-like gravity. If Tenshinhan is 25,000 at this point, Jheese and Butta would have to be at about a 1/4 of their normal power (since Tenshinhan is able to split himself and defeat each with a 12,500-power level version of himself). This handicapping isn't that ridiculous to suggest, as we can see the drastic effects the 10x gravity has when people are first getting used to it. They can barely move. Remember, these are people who are normally able to move faster than light. If their movement is impeded as much as we're shown, handicapping the power to 1/4 isn't completely out of the question. If you don't care about "filler" as people like to call it, you can just forget about this whole side-story anyway. It's main purpose is to illustrate the effects of what Kaio-sama's training could have on Tenshinhan and company though. It shows they're still in the game, which has to be the case for what happens in the Android/Cell Arc.
You can ignore the series-only content all you want, but it does exist within this show that we all care so much about. The writers have a deep understanding of these characters and Toriyama's intentions. They're privy to information we are not. They're also producing this product! I don't quite like how dismissive of "filler" people are. There are great character interactions in "filler" that flesh out things in sometimes very satisfying ways. Anyway, if Tenshinhan is able to achieve a power of 25,000 in 6 days. What could he be capable of 260 days later? I have a lengthy explanation in the Power Levels section, but I arrived at him being around 250,000 (including likely training in the 8 months until Freeza arrives on earth). 250,000 is basically the level he would need to be (without gaining too much power during the 3 years of Android training) to eventually have enough power to do what he did to Cell form 2. What is Kuririn doing in this time? We aren't shown. We know he's not training for 260 days with Kaio-sama (I'll still give Kuririn some power gains after Freeza and put him around 100,000.). Tenshinhan stated his intentions before training with Kaio-sama. He knows he can't keep up with Goku, but he says if he masters the technique and adds a few twists of his own he can avoid another humiliating defeat. Tenshinhan is dedicated as always and still views Goku as his measuring stick. I thought it was reasonable to peg Kuririn above Tenshinhan in the 6 days on Namek. After this, I can't work out how Tenshinhan can't be well above Kuririn at this point in the story.
The Androids arrive. Yamucha is impaled with 20's hand. Goku, Piccolo, Tenshinhan, and Kuririn go to his rescue. Goku tells Kuririn to take Yamcha to get senzu bean. Why would Goku specifically ask Kuririn? The only logical reason is he wants the 3 strongest to remain to fight the Androids. He knows Kuririn is a brilliant and crafty fighter. He knows Kuririn can be extremely brave too (he has cowardly moments too). The only logical explanation to me is that Goku knows Tenshinhan is more powerful. I suppose you could reason Goku is protecting Kuririn, but I don't think that's in his nature to pick and choose which friends he'd rather protect. You might ask why he has Gohan take Bulma and Yajirobe earlier since Gohan is likely stronger than Kuririn and Tenshinhan. That's his young son, and probably wants to see what these Androids are capable of before endangering him. Fast forward to Piccolo defeating Android 20. Tenshinhan has an interesting comment in manga and series that he doesn't like seeing Vegeta and Piccolo so strong, but he's relieved for now. Tenshinhan is continuing to judge himself against against a particular tier (he always looks above himself). Right now it's Vegeta >= Goku (had he not gotten sick) > Piccolo > Gohan > Tenshinhan > Kuririn > Yamucha. Yamucha is below Kuririn because Yamucha is the one that takes Goku to his home, stating that he realizes he's probably the least useful. If Kuririn did surpass Tenshinhan, wouldn't Tenshinhan have something to say about it? He judges himself with others above him like Goku, Piccolo, and Vegeta. He is never shown to have anything to say about Kuririn as fighter in Z or Super.
Piccolo, Tenshinhan, and Kuririn start looking for Dr. Gero's lab and Kuririn complains about the cold. Tenshinhan tells him he's cold too but to ignore it. Piccolo says Earthlings are so inconvenient. Tenshinhan is obviously considered an earthling (something I'm going to talk about later). Kuririn acting more animated towards the cold doesn't really mean anything, but it's just another thing in a long line of hints that seem to favor Tenshinhan. If nothing else, it shows Tenshinhan has priorities straight and is taking the situation much more seriously. Then we have Vegeta fighting Android 18 later. Trunks goes to save Vegeta and Android 17 quickly dispatches him. Piccolo and Tenshinhan instantly follow to attack 17. Piccolo gets kicked to the ground and 17 dodges Ten's punch. 17 then starts choking Tenshinhan out. Piccolo goes to attack 17 again, causing 17 to drop Tenshihan and nearly punch through Piccolo. It's a badass moment. Interesting that 17 would take his time with Tenshinhan when there are greater fighters in the mix still. 17 can't consider Tenshinhan too out their league. Tenshinhan survives 17's chokehold for a little bit of time. Kuririn was too scared to move during all this. What is the author trying to convey here? Just that Tenshinhan is more brave? That's one way to rationalize it. The moments in the Android Arc just keep piling up though that suggest a power tier with the Z warriors.
The next key moment in favor of Tenshinhan is after Piccolo's original fight with Cell (This is the new Piccolo re-merged with Kami). Piccolo tells Trunks and Kuririn to destory their own timeline's Cell in the Lab. He has Tenshinhan stay with him to look for Cell. You can see where I'm going with this, but why wouldn't he pick Trunks over Tenshinhan? Piccolo now has the vast knowledge of Kami. Piccolo is easily the smartest and most wise character in Dragon Ball as this point. I'd reason that he knows Trunks has a higher familiarity with technical/scientific things and Dr. Gero in general. He may know Trunks might find something of use in Dr. Gero's lab and have a decent understanding of it. Wouldn't he then pick the next strongest to hunt Cell with him? Maybe he just believes Tenshinhan is known to be more focused and seems to have a higher alertness towards subtle variations in ki (that will be needed hunting Cell). Maybe he doesn't think Kuririn would be of use in a fight with Cell. It seems he wanted the smarter guys to go to lab. Haha. Not to be mean to Tenshinhan, but I would consider Kuririn smarter on most things. Tenshinhan is intelligent of course, but he's got a single track mind (martial arts). I could also see someone reasoning that with Piccolo being the strongest, he'd want to balance out the 2 groups in terms of power to be safer. I question that though, because he deliberately talks about his pair trying to find Cell. The other pair are just going to a lab to destroy it. The Androids are hunting Goku, not going back to the lab. Interesting to note that Tenshinhan is the first between him and Piccolo to notice a slight distrubance in ki (Cell absorbing people).
So you have the 2 most perceptive characters (Goku and Piccolo) in the world of Dragon Ball each favoring Tenshinhan to Kuririn. What more does Toriyama need to point out to make it clearer? Well, he's going to have Tenshinhan somehow stop 2nd form Cell. Keep in mind Kuririn essentially has no test of power or even an attempt to fight yet in this Arc. But Tenshinhan is shown a test of power. He is able to completely control 2nd form Cell. This is honestly absurd. It seems way too big of a feat for Tenshinhan, but he does do it. Think about the power tier at this point in the story. 2nd form Cell > Android 16 > Piccolo, Android 17 >= Android 18 > Vegeta > Goku >= Trunks > Gohan > Tenshinhan > Kuririn > Yamucha. It's insane what Tenshinhan does. Piccolo's finishing move does less damage to 1st form Cell. Piccolo is tired at this point though after a fight with 17 and then Cell. Android 16 is even stronger than Piccolo, and a direct punch to 2nd form Cell's face doesn't cause even a flinch. Talk about a showing of power! This Shin Kikoho is something incredibly fierce. In my Power Levels section I explain how this could be possible. Long story short, Tenshinhan has to at least have a power level of 1,000,000 for this to be feasible. Do we really think Kuririn was able to go from about 75,000 during the battle with Freeza to over 1,000,000 in about 3 years and 8 months training with Kamesennin? I suppose the same could be asked about Tenshinhan, except Tenshinhan had otherworldly training. Every occurrence I laid out during this Android Arc seems to point to Tenshinhan being stronger than Kuririn. Toei and its writers seem to think so too, as they always seem to give Tenshinhan's moments a little more length and flare from that of the manga. The Shin Kikoho lasts from the end of one episode to the beginning of next. In the series, we see Yamucha and Kamesennin at the Kame House in awe of the power of the Shin Kikoho. Kamesennin refers to it as an "enormous ki".
Kuririn finally does something for the first time when he angrily attacks Perfect Cell after absorbing 18. He unleashes a flurry of attacks (throws a Kienzan in the show at Cell's neck that dispurses). Cell isn't even paying attention. Then he decides to kick away Kuririn. Kuririn survives because Trunks gives him a senzu. Nobody is expecting Kuririn to be able to cause any damage, but it's impressive he survives a Perfect Cell kick. One-shots against Kuririn seem to be a recurring theme I've noticed. He does always seem to go up against some of the most powerful enemies. He's shown to be fearful a lot, but seems to always end up being brave in the end. Kuririn's only real test of strength is when the Cell Juniors fight everyone. The manga doesn't show much of the fighting with Cell Juniors. Kuririn misses an attack and is basically one-shotted again. Toriyama makes a point to show Kuririn then Yamucha and then Tenshinhan go down in that order. Probably doesn't mean much though.
The Cell Junior fight is more interesting in the series. It's initially shown that Tenshinhan and Yamucha are able to block attacks. They also briefly miss on punches against Cell Jrs. Kuririn is able to dodge and misses with punches too at this point. Piccolo seems to be handling himself fairly well and tells Tenshinhan and Yamucha to go help Goku (since Goku has lost a lot of ki from Cell fight). Piccolo quickly helps by throwing his Cell Jr. into Ten's and then attackng Yamucha's. In a small, but awesome moment of teamwork, Tenshinhan and Yamucha grab Goku's Cell Jr. and knee it away. There's a cool little exchange of gratitude. Right after Piccolo helped Ten and Yamucha he goes to Kuririn's aid who has only been dodging the Cell Junior. Piccolo knocks it away, but Kuririn is knocked down with a kick shortly after. Then they show Yamucha and then Tenshinhan get knocked down right after that. Somehow Yamucha gets back up to miss a punch on a Cell Jr. He then has his arm broken. Tenshinhan, Yamucha, and Kuririn are all shown at various points going in and out of consciousness and getting beat up constantly. Goku is also beat up the whole fight. Vegeta and Trunks are able to be fairly competitive but take their share of ass-kicking. Piccolo is shown to be the most useful here. He was using strategy and not always going 1-on-1. It's an interesting fight. I especially love the moment of teamwork between Ten and Yamucha. It's hard to judge the tiers between Ten, Yamucha, and Kuririn based on this fight alone. The manga makes a point to show Kuririn, Yamucha, then Tenshinhan go down in that order though. I keep thinking why did Piccolo ask just Tenshinhan and Yamucha to help Goku in the anime. Why wouldn't he have asked Kuririn? It can't be because he thought Kuririn could handle himself, because he proceeds to help him right after that. And besides, it's still Tenshinhan, Yamucha, and Goku vs. 3 Juniors. To me it seems Piccolo just trusts them the most to be able to help Goku.
When Gohan gives Trunks the senzu beans to hand out, Trunks goes in this order: Kuririn, Yamucha, Tenshinhan. The series goes further to show Piccolo then Goku. You'd want to heal the most vulnerable first (Kuririn could just be before Yamucha because the Cell Junior seemed to want to particularly show Gohan the suffering of Kuririn). The series also shows Trunks call out Kuririn's name a couple times to see if he's all right before trying to give him the senzu (he notices he's still breathing). Later in the Cell Games (in the series only), we have a very clear indicator of power tiers where the Z warriors are shooting blasts at Cell to help Gohan. They get blown away in a specific order: Yamucha, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, Piccolo... Hmmm... seems to fall in line with order of power. You could say I'm reading too much into these "pointless" orders of characters, but when you're being hammered with this order of characters time and time again, it seems to paint a picture. Toriyama and especially Toei Animation have a clear idea in their heads of power tiers.
Tenshinhan is given his last epic moment in Buu Saga, deflecting Buu's blast that was intended to kill Dende and Mr. Satan. Gohan was unable to react to it, but Tenshinhan was. It's amazing. What's more amazing is that Tenshinhan could even out power a ki blast from the strongest Buu to that point. The ki blast had to be powerful and quick enough for Gohan to not be able to counter it. That shows some incredible concentration and power from Tenshinhan. The series shows Tenshinhan dodge a ki blast from Buu and attempt the Kikoho on Buu (of course this does nothing). Shortly after, Tenshinhan is knocked out with single kick from Buu (impressive he survived). Buu even calls Tenshinhan a "legendary fighter". Later in the Buu saga when everyone is giving their energy to Goku's Genki Dama, Tenshinhan says, "This is the ki that I have raised up through all of the training I've done." This just re-confirms Tenshinhan has alway been trying improve himself. My question after all this is: How does Kuririn who has settled down after the Cell Arc able to go around Tenshinhan (who is always training) in power?
There's only one thing Kuririn can be judged on in the Buu saga (I'm not counting the nobody, Punter, he faced in the tournament). It's not even something he does. It's something Yamucha says. This single comment has created this whole debate in my opinion. Had Yamucha not said this, I don't think there's any question who is more powerful (except for the brief moment on Namek of course). But before Kuririn is about to fight in the Tenkaichi Budokai, Yamucha reassures Maron that her dad "is the strongest in the world... among humans, that is..." This comment always confused me when I first read it. It doesn't make sense. I try to find reasons why he would have said something that seems to contradict everything we've previously seen. Here are the reasons I always came up with:
The next section of this page will go over that last bullet point, which has me leaning to it being the actual reason Yamucha stated this. Before that, I do want to point out that this interview, translsated by Kanzenshuu, has Toriyama agreeing with the interviewer that Kuririn is the strongest Earthling male, while also talking about Android 18 in previous question. I mention 18, because she is a human (therefore also obviously an Earthling) with Android 17. The way the interviewer phrases the question makes it seem like he's including 18's status as an Earthling. Why else specify Kuririn is the strongest Earthling MALE? Interviewer is of course ignoring 17 then (since it seems like characters that are no longer part of the story get ignored). Androids are biologically-altered humans. 18 can still have a baby with a human though. They're by definition, human. So Toriyama has to be thinking about pure humans in that question from the interviewer (or perhaps he's forgetting Tenshinhan and 17). Whatever the case, Yamucha's comment must be implying that Kuririn is the strongest among PURE humans. Humans with an 'asterisk' would include: Androids 17 and 18, Gohan, Goten, Trunks, and Uub (all more objectively powerful than Kuririn). Those characters are all born on Earth, which would make them all "Earthlings." I include Uub because the interview was after the manga was well over (Uub can't apply to Yamucha's comment though as he was not born yet). Uub is absolutely a male human (Earthling), but perhaps reincarnation gives him the Earthling with an 'asterisk' status (or Toriyama is forgetting about him). So I wonder if Tenshinhan would be considered an Earthling with an 'asterisk,' as I keep putting it, as well. I continue with this thought in the next section.
Before that though, I should mention the anime series does show Kuririn in a quite impressive feat against "Kid" Buu. Kid Buu instaneously moves to Dai Kaio-sama's planet and Kuririn decides to try to fight Buu. Kuririn actually slices Kid Buu in half from behind with a Kienzan. Due to Buu's "gooey" characteristics, this obviously doesn't affect him, as he easily rejoins his halves, but this is quite an impressive feat nonetheless. Kuririn also takes several hits and an energy blast from Buu and survives (he's dead already though). It's honestly astounding, and maybe too ridiculous to rationalize, but if we're counting series-only content, you could say this puts Kuririn over Tenshinhan in strength, as Tenshinhan was felled in a single kick by Buu. Kuririn is still concious after all this. Kid Buu also punches Mr. Satan in the face in the series and he's fine after it. Hahaha! It can also be easily argued that Kid Buu is not as strong as Buutenks (who Tenshinhan faced) though. Afterall, Gohan is beaten by Buutenks, and Goku won't even face Buutenks without Potara fusion. Goku, however, wants to face Kid Buu without fusion (and fights pretty well!). Vegeta is even able to stall Kid Buu. Anyway, Kuririn's feat against Kid Buu is such a quick little bizarre moment in the show; More bizarre than even the Jheese/Butta fight with Tenshinhan in the Freeza Arc. I guess both of those types of moments can't be used as definitive evidence in this debate.Back to Top
Does Tenshinhan Qualify as a Pure Human?
There is an interview with Toriyama where he is asked if Tenshinhan is a human. Toriyama doesn't answer directly. He states (translation is by Herms of Kanzenshuu.com):
Why wouldn't he just say he's human if he's human? It's pretty clear Toriyama doesn't see him as a normal human. If that wasn't enough, there is an interview in 1996 that appears in the Daizenshuu (TV Animation Part 3) where Tenshinhan's voice actor says (also translated by Herms):
I mean what more do you want? This Tenshinhan's voice actor alluding to the fact that he is aware Tenshinhan isn't an Earthling. This is in 1996. At the VERY least Toei Animation decided Tenshinhan wasn't a pure human (or Earthling). I have to assume they were informed by Akira Toriyama. How could they just make up some major detail about a fairly big character in the story of Dragon Ball? There must have been some dialogue or clarification from Toriyama. Or there wasn't, and they decided to be more direct and create an origin to explain Tenshinhan's unique characteristcs.
I've been using 'Earthling' and 'Human' pretty interchangeably up until this point, but the Daizenshuu guide book makes a distinction. Looking at Kanzentai.com's translations by Herms, the 4th Daizenshuu book uses the term 'Earthling' as the main category that includes under it: Martial Artist, Human-type, Animal-type, and Monster-type. Earthlings with a gift for fighting are listed as Martial Artists under the overarching 'Earthlings' category. Tenshinhan is categorized as a Martial Artist (Earthling) with Kuririn. Then the Daizenshuu talks about Earthlings with unique characteristcs where they say Tenshinhan is a descendent of aliens who use unique techniques. It talks about his otherworldly characteristics with his ability to split his body into separate beings and grow arms out of his back. Researching further, I see Herms' translation of the Daizenshuu character guide it says the following of Tenshinhan:
This kind of contradicts the category Tenshinhan was placed in before. They list Tenshinhan as a Martial Artist-type Earthling, but also say his characteristics can't be that of an Earthling. Researching on Rachel's Dragon Ball Page's, she has a translation of the 7th Daizenshuu book that shows additional information on Tenshinhan's descedents:
Interesting how this new term 'Triclopses' is just casually brought up in the Daizenshuu. I guess it also comes down to the translation. This is probably the same as "Three-Eyed People," just translated differently (as you'll see below in the picture from Dragon Box's Dragon Book).
The Dragon Box North American release of Dragon Ball Z contains Dragon Books that are literal translations of the same books in the Japanese release. For character profiles they list everyone's race. They list everyone that you'd consider to be an Earthling as such accept for Tenshinhan. Here is the scan on the left (click on it to enlarge and see how everyone else is simply listed as 'Earthling'). Tenshinhan is listed as a "Descedent of the Three-Eyed People". This profile definitively claims that as his race, without mentioning Earthling at all. In the same guides, Gohan, Trunks, etc. are listed as "Half-Saiyan, Half-Earthling". It's clear to me Toei Animation sees Tenshinhan as not an Earthling (or at the very least not a pure Earthling). This would explain why we also see in their literature for modern releases (like Revival of 'F') describing Kuririn as the strongest Earthling. The official website is gone, but Kanzenshuu's news article still contains the content that states this.Back to Top
Dragon Ball Super's Additional Hints
Continuing with Revival of 'F' film (which I still consider apart of Super's era despite the 'Z' in its title), we can see plain as day, Tenshinhan is superior to Kuririn. Remember, Toriyama wrote the screenplay for Revival of 'F'. We're shown Roshi struggling the most against Freeza's soldiers. That makes sense. Kuririn is shown to get hit and has to be rescued by Gohan. Tenshinhan isn't shown to get hit once and handles everyone with ease. What is trying to be said here? It's so clear to me. So in the same film that shows Teshinhan performing objectively better, it also says Kuririn is the strongest Earthling warrior in the profiles. I can only rationalize this as Toei Animation sticking with their idea that Tenshinhan is in a different category than Kuririn.
Now when the series and manga cover content not directly written by Toriyama it gets a little hard to judge Tenshinhan vs. Kuririn. We see vast differences in the story-telling between the Dragon Ball Super series and manga. What does this tell us? It tells us that Toriyama's outlines are vague. Tenshinhan and Kuririn's elimations in the Tournament of power are completely different between the 2 stories. The common denominator is just the order in which they are eliminated. We can infer that Toriyama wrote that Kuririn goes 1st and Tenshinhan goes 2nd. We also know Roshi lasted longer than both, but that seems to be more intended as part of the story that is supposed to subvert your expectations. Clearly, Tenshinhan and Kuririn are stronger than Roshi. Although that can be questioned with Super's anime writers showing a possessed Roshi fight Tenshinhan and having Goku save Ten-san. Check out this tweet to the right from one of Super's writers, Yoshitaka Toshio, that addresses this. The same episode Goku suggests that Roshi was using his own strength though. It seems to me Super's writers aren't all on the same page, which has me further questioning the legitimacy of the anime.
Super's anime writers don't seem to follow any logical power scaling and I don't really accept it as canon in the way I still consider DB/Z anime as a canon. Super's anime doesn't follow Toriyama's storytelling very closely, as opposed to DB/Z anime which is very close. Revival of 'F' Arc in Super is quite different from Toriyama's screenplay. The manga seems to be the most consistent and logical, so I personally view Battle of Gods, Revival of 'F', and the manga for DBS as the main canon. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the series and am glad it exists, but the manga gets corrections directly from Toriyama as well as approval. I bet Toyotaro (manga artist for Super) is still probably working from loose outlines from Toriyama. That's why it's hard to really use it to compare Tenshinhan and Kuririn. There's also not really comparable feats. I just see some hints, as I've addressed, as to who is more powerful.
With regards to Super, I'll leave you with another interesting tweet from Yoshitaka Toshio, which further shows how the currents writer(s) view Tenshinhan's race. This also directly addresses why modern literature for movies and episode summaries refer to Kuririn as the strongest Earthling. This essentially negates the argument, "Kuririn is stated as the strongest earthling in character profiles, therefore he's stronger than Tenshinhan." Of course this only directly applies to the modern Dragon Ball stuff and not Toriyama's manga or interview I talked about earlier.
So after this massive collection of evidence I have presented, I find it hard to believe Kuririn could be more powerful than Tenshinhan. Looking at what Tenshinhan does in the manga, you can make a better case for him being stronger. Looking at the animated series, you can make an even better case for it. In fact, I don't think it's even possible to argue for Kuririn, looking at the series in isolation. This whole conundrum is only because of Yamucha's words in the Buu saga! It comes down to 4 viewpoints:
I used think is was #2 for most of my Dragon Ball life. I kind of feel like with all this non-human Tenshinhan stuff I've found, I'm leaning towards #3. I think Toriyama didn't view him as a pure human. At the very least, within Toei Animation's canon of Dragon Ball-Z-Super, Tenshinhan is stronger. I have to still say it is unclear within Toriyama's canon (which is the original canon obviously), but damn does it still feel like Tenshinhan is intended to be more powerful there too. Maybe Toei created this whole backstory because they couldn't make sense of Kuririn being stronger themselves. Haha! In conclusion, this mystery will persist until someone just directly asks Akira Toriyama who is the stronger of the 2. I kind of don't want that to happen though. Haha! I like the mystery of it. I like debating about it too! It adds mystique to the character and how we perceive him.