Characters are listed in order of appearance.
Son Goku is the hero of the story, and the hero of the Dragon Ball series overall. When we first meet him at the start of Dragon Ball, he is just a young boy, living in the cottage of his late adoptive grandfather. Living in the middle of nowhere, with little to no contact with anyone from the outside world, Goku has his world turned upside down when Bulma nearly runs him over. He never even met a woman before he met Bulma. Since he doesn't wish to part with his prized possession, a ball made of crystal left to him by his grandfather, he agrees to help Bulma search for the other balls of it's kind, known as Dragon Balls. Son Goku is incredibly strong despite his size and young age. As a result, he's nearly fearless of any obstacle that is put in his way. However, he does know when he is in danger, and he takes responsibility for the safety of those who accompany him.
Bulma is the person responsible for interrupting Son Goku's mundane life and dragging him around the world in search of the incredible Dragon Balls. Bulma has a very spunky, tomboyish, temperamental personality. She is quite spoiled and vain, is known for her extreme intellect, and is a genius inventor. Bulma is portrayed as the daughter of the family who owns Capsule Corporation. She'll do whatever it takes to get what she wants and she won't let anything stand in her way, not mountains, not monsters, not even pride. Bulma is capable of developing a number of gadgets and technologies that can assist her with the search for the Dragon Balls. When her radar leads her to Goku's place, she is in for a shock when she meets this strange young boy with incredible strength, a monkey's tail, and nearly no knowledge of the civilized world outside of his home. She is unable to convince Goku to part with his Dragon Ball, which he claims as a prized possession handed down to him by his grandfather, but she does convince him to accompany her to look for the remaining balls that she is missing. Bulma figures that the child's immense strength and bravery will prove incredibly useful to her quest.
Umigame is Master Roshi's friend and long-time companion. He is a good-natured lovable sea turtle that lives in the Kame House with the elderly hermit. When Son Goku and Bulma find him, he was in the wilderness, alone and lost. He was picking mushrooms when he got separated from his friends and had since been wandering around on land for over a year. Goku kindly takes on the task of returning him to the ocean, which he is very grateful for. It is Umigame who introduces Master Roshi to Bulma and Son Goku. Umigame does not care much for Master Roshi's perverse interests, enjoying honest interests himself.
Master Roshi, also known as Muten Roshi and Kame Sennin, is an extraordinary fighter, capable of amazing feats of strength beyond his advanced age. The "Turtle Hermit" is an ancient and wise martial arts master and the first character to wield the trademark Kame Hame Ha. Though he seems frail, he is a mighty warrior. Muten Roshi trained Son Goku's grandpa, Son Goku, Kuririn, and Yamucha. His home, Kame House, a shack on a small isolated island, serves as a gathering place for the Z Fighters and friends. He is bald, with a thick fu man chu and a thick mustache. Muten Roshi wears beach clothes or a martial arts suit and a turtle shell on his back. He usually wields a walking stick. His companions are usually Oolong, Umigame and Lunch.
Oolong is a shapeshifting pig, although he was expelled from shapeshifting training for stealing the teacher's underwear and lacks the ability to change his form for more than five minutes at a time without a break. With his shapeshifting, Oolong can look like anything at all. Oolong's normal form is of a humanoid pig, standing about three feet tall with pale pink skin. Initially, he dressed in the stereotypical clothing of the Communist Party of China, although later he tended to dress in trousers, button-down shirts, and suspenders. Like Master Roshi, he also enjoys smoking cigars, eating, and is a pervert, but considerably less so. His favorite hobby is collecting women's underwear. Oolong is cynical and cowardly.
Yamucha is a desert bandit; he ambushed Son Goku, Bulma and Oolong as they were travelling the desert in order to steal their money and capsules. When challenged by Goku, they fought each other until the presence of Bulma made him retreat due to his fear of women. Yamucha returned to their camp that night and, while spying on them, learned of the Dragon Balls and their ability to grant a wish, he then decided to steal their Dragon Balls and make a wish to overcome his phobia. He and his companion Puar broke into the group's van one night to do so, but were foiled when the orbs under the sheet which Yamucha thought were Dragon Balls were actually the breasts of a nude and sleeping Bulma, causing him to leave in a confused daze. He attacked again the following day, destroying the group's van with a panzerfaust, but was again challenged by Goku and retreated when Goku damaged his vanity by knocking one of his teeth out. Realizing that he couldn't beat Goku, Yamucha instead decided to let the group collect all seven balls and then steal them. He again came to the group, this time apologizing for his behavior, and gave them a car to make up for destroying their van; the car of course had a tracking device in it.
Often soft-spoken at times, Puar serves as Yamucha's constant companion. The two were originally a pair of desert thieves, robbing travelers whom would cross the area where they lived. On one such occasion, they finally meet Son Goku, Bulma and Oolong. The latter is recognised by Puar as an old schoolmate. After the meeting five of them team up and go on a hunt for the Dragon Balls, and eventually aid each other on later adventures. Though sharing an appearance to that of a mouse or cat, Puar is neither species, but is drawn a little bit to look like a cat.
Boss Rabbit, also known as Monster Carrot, was the chieftain of a gang called The Rabbits. All members of the gang except for him wore black fake rabbit ears. When two members of The Rabbits got beaten up by Goku, they called the Boss to come personally. His first move was to touch Bulma, and that immediately turned her into a carrot. Goku tried to fight back with his power pole, but couldn't because he was afraid that something would happen with Bulma-carrot. When Yamcha and Puar stepped in and managed to get the carrot from the rabbit, he was easily defeated, forced to turn Bulma back, tied up and brought by Goku to the moon. Together with two gangsters he had to make treats for children (allusion to a well-known folk tale that says rabbits live on the moon and make cookies). Unfortunatelly for the Boss Rabbit and his two pals, during the series the moon was destroyed several times.
Pilaf is the first major antagonist during Dragon Ball. He is a small, impish monster who craves nothing more than power and dreams of ruling the world. He is an emperor in that he has a crown and a castle. He rules over an empire known as the Reich Pilaf, however the only members of this evil empire are his two followers Shu and Mai. Pilaf acts much like a child would with a new toy, he acts as if he's king of the world all because of his "toys". Pilaf in fact has no special powers and usually keeps his henchmen in line through various torture devices he keeps in his castle home. If something bothers Pilaf, he will cry, whine, and complain like a baby until he gets his way. He collects all of the Dragon Balls once in order to take over the world, but his plan is foiled by Son Goku and friends.