When did Yamcha actually become the butt of Dragon Ball humor? We all know that Hercule is actually the weakest character in the series and that Yamcha can more than likely mop the floor with him. Maybe Yamchas life became laughable when the love of his life, Bulma, broke up with him to start a life with a Saiyan who has one of the worst hairlines ever featured on cable television.
Maybe he became a joke when after seemingly defeating a Saibaman henchman, the alien snuck up on him and self-destructed, killing both Yamcha and itself in the process. However, we seem to forget Yamcha’s origins, how strong of a character he actually is, and that he is actually an integral member of the Z fighters despite his willingness to fight after getting his ass kicked and/or dying during battle. Before we enter 2017 and start watching Dragon Ball Super on English television, it is time that we cease the Yamcha slander and recognize his importance and strength in the Dragon Ball universe.
If you started watching the series with Dragon Ball Z and did not take the time out to explore the original Dragon Ball, then you should definitely not have any opinion on Yamcha. He is actually one of the first villains that Goku encounters on his travels with Bulma. At 16, Yamcha was a desert bandit with a strong fear of women (happens to the best of us right?). Yamcha wanted to steal the Dragon Balls so that he could wish his fear of women away, but in the process, ended up falling for Bulma.
Now, here is where Yamcha completely fucked up his life. When the group is trapped by King Pilaf, Goku transforms into a giant ape as all Saiyans who possess a tail will do after staring at the full moon. Yamcha, with the help of Puar, manage to cut the tail off of Goku, transforming Goku back into his regular form and stopping his rampage. But, instead of going off with Goku to train with Master Roshi, he instead leaves with Bulma. And instead of Yamcha being Goku’s training partner, we get introduced to Krillin. If Yamcha had gone with Goku at this point, he would have been on the same training regimen as Goku and would have become much stronger in a shorter time. However, Yamcha’s ultimate goal was always to conquer his fear of women and get married. Bulma was his goal, but in turn, his training stunted because of it.
When Yamcha is eventually taken in as a student under Master Roshi, we see how strong he becomes. In the 22nd Martial Arts Tournament, he wipes the floor with the competition until he faces Tien. In his battle with Tien, Yamcha uses the Kamehameha Wave — Krillin did not even learn how to use it yet and he was a student before Yamcha. And although he loses the match, we see that Yamcha is a stronger and more adept fighter under the tutelage of Master Roshi. Despite his growth, Yamcha still has the desire to train alone after he trains as a group with Tien or Krillin for a short period of time before going off on his own, which evidently proves to be a setback.
At the same time, Dragon Ball has the tendency of setting Yamcha up for failure and making him look a lot weaker than he is by having him fight people that are way above his pay grade. For example, during the 23rd Martial Arts Tournament, Yamcha is forced to fight Hero, who is actually a vessel holding Kami, the guardian of Earth. Yamcha never stood a chance. And when he is killed by the Saibamen and dies in fetal position, he actually did not deserve to die. He won the fight, technically. He just died in a cheap way, which isn’t necessarily fair to Yamcha.
Yamcha took a lot more W’s then L’s despite the whole losing his girlfriend thing and dying. He was actually one of the best baseball players in Japan, quite possibly making a lot more money than you or I (on this writer salary) will ever see in our lifetimes. He, Tien, Piccolo, and Chiaotzu all crossed Snake Way in a far shorter time than Goku did and also received tougher training from King Kai than Goku received. He is responsible for wishing everybody back to life when Cell slides through and kicks everybody’s ass except for Gohan. Although he has the unfortunate luck of having to fight alongside some powerful people, Yamcha is one of the strongest human fighters on the planet. It’s not his fault he has to fight aliens and warrior apes.
Give Yamcha some credit. He made a couple bad choices in life, but which one of us doesn’t? If Floyd Mayweather or Muhammad Ali (God rest his soul) had to fight alongside the Saiyans, they would look weak in comparison too. Thankfully, there’s a spin-off manga in Shonen Jump Plus that imagines a world where Yamcha went off to train with Goku and Master Roshi instead of following his heart and traveling with Bulma. There has only been one chapter, but we already see the effect that the training has had on Yamcha’s growth. We all know Yamcha had so much potential to be great. Let’s get real and just hand the biggest Dragon Ball L to Chiaotzu. He blew himself up and Nappa didn’t even die. Come on son.