Each year on April 16, fans and brands on social media — without fail — suddenly start wishing Dragon Ball‘s main character, Son Goku, a happy birthday.
There’s just one problem with that: there are zero statements for a concrete Goku birth date in any official publication.
These misplaced birthday wishes only started occurring within the last few years, so it seemed possible to track down where some of the confusion began, if not the actual origin itself.
The Search Begins
If you do a cursory search for Goku’s birthday in a search engine, the first result will likely be presented in an “answer box” (the “Featured Snippet” shown here on Google), an area that the search engine reserves in an attempt to directly answer your question without necessitating further clicks:
For many folks, that’s enough: they looked for an answer, the search engine gave them one, and there’s nothing more to ask, do, or say other than “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GOKU!”
It’s not enough, though, because anyone can rise to this position by publishing the right article at the right time, or even by gaming the system to hit a desired placement.
Who’s Saying April 16?
There are two prominent “sources” claiming April 16 as Goku’s birthday: ComicBook.com and Comic Book Resources.
(Note that we will not provide links to these articles, as that would play directly in to them appearing more authoritative and “accurate” in the eyes of search engines. They are neither authoritative nor accurate.)
An April 2018 article on ComicBook.com by Megan Peters entitled “‘Dragon Ball’ Fans Cannot Believe How Old Goku Just Turned” states (without any specific citations or references):
Today, Goku is celebrating his birthday as April 16 has rolled around. The date marks the hero’s canonical birthday, but things get trick from there on. If you go by the manga, Goku was born on this day in Age 736, but the anime claims the guy was born a year later on the that date. For canonical reasons, fans tend to base Goku’s age on the year provided in the manga, so that is his starting point.
An October 2020 article on Comic Book Resources by Saad Shoaib entitled “Every Main Character’s Age, Height, And Birthday At The End Of Dragon Ball Z” states (without any specific citations or references):
Now the whole info about Goku’s actual birthday is contradicting, as Toriyama forgot to clarify that important aspect of the Earth’s savior. His birthday in the manga is April 16, Age 736 but in the anime, he was born a year later at age 737.
Both articles use nebulous “in the manga” and “in the anime” statements as sources, but fail to provide anything more concrete (a chapter, an episode number, a piece of dialog, etc.).
What Are These Websites?
These websites are, by design, not based around actual journalism: writers and editors for these specific types of articles are given quotas to fill (e.g., 50 articles per week), and are expected to craft their articles in ways that are optimized for search engines in order to generate the most traffic possible. Accuracy is irrelevant.
(These styles of websites are often looked down upon even by sister companies.)
Either of these articles could have been — and still could be — updated at any time. We can only assume that the managing editors neither know nor care; it is actually in their best revenue-generating-interest to not edit the articles, as they maintain significant SEO placement and therefore ongoing, predictable traffic.
There is no incentive to be right, there is no incentive to be thorough, and there is no incentive to issue corrections.
So Where Did They Get April 16 From?
These authors clearly did not read the actual manga or watch the actual television series to get this information, because it does not exist there. It must have been referenced from some other source.
What About the Wiki?
First thing’s first: there is no “the wiki.”
At least until our own is up and running, when fans say “the wiki” they are generally referring to the wiki platform hosted by the entertainment website Fandom, previously sub-branded as “Wikia.” Various wikis under this banner are set up and hosted by Fandom for franchises ranging from Dragon Ball to Naruto to Star Wars to Harry Potter. These wikis are maintained entirely by unpaid fans, whose work is then monetized by Fandom.
Digging through the edit history on Goku’s Wikia article, one can observe that an edit war begins taking place in July 2017 following the random, uncited addition of an April 16th birth date by user “CapitaoApocalipt2005”:
It is this precise point in time that it is continuously added, removed, re-added, and ultimately sticks for a significant period of time.
It is worth noting that “CapitaoApocalipt2005” has zero other edits on Fandom‘s Wikia for the Dragon Ball franchise, and searching the name a little more globally reveals a banned MCU wiki account among little else.
(Some of this information was previously reported by Gabe Worgaftik in 2018 on The A.V. Club.)
So What’s Goku’s Actual Birth Date?
No official, specific birth date has ever been given for Goku! Not from Toriyama, not in the television series, and not in any supplemental publications.
The 1986 #37 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump — published 12 August 1986 in Japan — contained extensive character biography data for characters in the series, including specific birth dates for many characters. For example, Yamcha’s birth date of March 20 is first noted here; this date was referenced decades later in Dragon Garow Lee’s That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha.
This column does not, however, provide a specific birth date for Goku.
Some of the previous Fandom wiki edits included citations for books such as Daizenshuu 7, one of the Super Exciting Guide volumes, or even Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. Perhaps it goes without saying, but we will say it anyway: with all of the fluent Japanese speakers and translators here on staff, and with us owning literally all of this material for decades now, were any of these publications to actually reveal Goku’s birth date for the first time… we would have found it by now.
One extremely authoritative and regular source for character birth dates is Hisashi Sasaki, former editor-in-chief of Weekly Shōnen Jump and current vice president of the global Shōnen Jump brand. Sasaki frequently tweets out character birth dates, and it is notable that nothing comes from Sasaki on April 16th.
(This is in contrast to some of Shueisha’s own partners, who rather consistently get things wrong.)
OK… Now What? Why Can’t We Just Have Fun?!
It is indeed fun to celebrate character birthdays! It’s also fun to dig a little deeper, research into the primary sources, and figure out where all this stuff comes from.
And hey, if you are gonna have fun with it, you’ve gotta go all out and double-down on it:
Today is officially Goku's birthday. It's canon! Happy birthday to Goku. Retweet and share to wish our friend Goku a happy birthday! #OfficialGokuBirthday #GokuBornApril18th pic.twitter.com/s9BFWAbs4N
— mr realizes im on the jumbotron at the last second (@boring_as_heck) April 18, 2018