Rumor Guide

Our Rumor Guide here at Kanzenshuu is an extensive collection of articles with comprehensive, well-researched, well-documented deep-dives into some of the most prevalent rumors in Dragon Ball fandom. There is always more to every story, so be sure to follow along with any additional links provided throughout the articles!

Tenshinhan is a Descendant of
the Alien Three-Eyed People

Rumor Status
(Though this is only ever mentioned in ancillary material)

The Earth of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon World is filled with humans, anthropomorphic animals, and even the occasional dinosaur. Some of them can shapeshift. Some of them have colored hair. Some of them are even robots!

So why would a human on Earth with three eyes (one who can sprout extra limbs) raise any eyebrows? It turns out that ancillary printed information suggests that Tenshinhan may, in fact, have some distant alien ancestry!

“Daizenshuu 101”

Before actually getting to the information itself, a “Daizenshuu 101” crash course may be necessary:

  • Yes, the series of ten Daizenshuu — Japanese guide books from 1995-1996 contemporary with the end of the original manga serialization — are official publications released by Shueisha, the ultimate rights-holder of the Dragon Ball franchise
  • The Daizenshuu are what you might classify as “coffee table books”: premium-style releases (the original seven volumes are hardcover) classifying and recapping various bits of information across the full breadth of the franchise, from illustrations to in-universe categorizations to merchandise overviews and beyond
  • Yes, Akira Toriyama “approved” of the Daizenshuu (if you want to extrapolate that out from his opening comment in Daizenshuu 7 where he says it would have been nice to have had these volumes while he was working on the series)
  • We have no idea if Akira Toriyama actually sat and read each and every word across the hundreds and hundreds of pages in the ten Daizenshuu, but that sure seems unlikely
  • Expanding on and further clarifying things: no, Akira Toriyama did not himself personally write all of the entries across the hundreds and hundreds of pages in the ten Daizenshuu
  • Under the aforementioned supervision by Shueisha, the Daizenshuu were written and produced by Caramel Mama, a magazine and book agency in Japan founded by Tsuneo Matsumoto (himself originally the president of Akira Toriyama’s fanclub)

With that out of the way, let’s dig in!

Daizenshuu Descriptions

The first mention of alien ancestry (that we are aware of…) for Tenshinhan — blatant SEO pull here, but “Tien” if you’re solely familiar with an English dub that uses that name — comes from the fourth Daizenshuu (the “World Guide“) where in the “Individuals’ Unique Characteristics” section, it states for Tenshinhan:

Descendant of Aliens Who Use Special Techniques
From sprouting arms from his back, to splitting into four, he uses techniques that don’t seem like those of an Earthling. And that’s precisely it: Tenshinhan is a descendant of aliens — the Three-Eyed People — and possesses a peculiar, atavistic physiology.

Earlier — in fact, just pages before this — in Daizenshuu 4, Tenshinhan appears in the main “Earthlings” (地球人 chikyū-jin) category alongside other “Martial Artists” (武道家 budōka) in the illustrated “Racial Groups” breakdown. That said, there is a bit of wishy-washy convenient illustration design placement going on here, as Yajirobe and Bora (along with Upa) are placed in the standard “Human-Type” (人間型 ningen-gata) sub-category on the next set of pages.

The takeaway here — and more on this later — should be that Tenshinhan is not a full, 100% alien completely removed from Earthling-Human biology; rather, he is descended from an alien “Three-Eyed People” (though the precise genetic makeup is unknown) and beyond this heritage he is otherwise a fairly standard martial artist human being on Earth alongside his peers.

The “Three-Eyed People” information resurfaces later in Daizenshuu 7 — the “Large Encyclopedia” — where, in the “World View For DB” section, the “Racial Groups” sub-section explains:

The world of Dragon Ball has many racial groups that came from many different planets. However, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is a story that mainly deals with just three of them: the Saiyans, the warrior race; the Earthlings, of which there are many sub-types; and the Namekians, who are greatly attuned to nature. The encounters between these three distinct races are what form the story of Dragon Ball. Let us then analyze the biology and the historical relationship between these three races.

Various Races
In the Dragon Ball world, there are a variety of different races, like the ones outlined below. The Earthlings, the Saiyans and the Namekians are the three main ones. The Yardratians and the Metamorians are races that possess special abilities. There is also the Three-Eyed People, said to be the ancestors of Tenshinhan. There are also inhabitants of planet Nikochan and planet Ukakaume that have settled down in Penguin Village. Besides all these, in the animated productions there is also a great number of different races of all shapes and sizes spread throughout the Universe, like the Tsufruians, the Brenchians, the Bepperians, the Zaltians, the Makyouians, the Rittons, the Shartians, the Tubians, the Kanassians, the Meatians, the Coonians, the Outerians, the Arlians, the Conutsians, the Shamoians, the Beansians, the Ikondians, and the Hera Clan. In diagram #1, you can analyze the historical relationship between the Earthlings, the Saiyans and the Namekians.

Elsewhere in Daizenshuu 7, the makeup of Earth’s inhabitants is covered in a little pie chart, which notes that — as of at least Age 784 (the timeframe of the 28th Tenka’ichi Budōkai) — Earth is comprised of 75% human-type (人間型 ningen-gata), 17% animal-type (動物型 dobutsu-gata), 7% monster-type (モンスター型 monsutā-gata), and 1% that is half with another race (他種族とのハーフ tashuzoku to no hāfu).

The fourth Chōzenshū — a series of updated guidebooks released in 2013 based on the original Daizenshuu content — adjusted this chart. Additional profile pictures are added to each section — notably including Tenshinhan alongside Gohan — and the “half” note is updated to include those half, a quarter, and in those of more general or distant alien ancestry/heritage/makeup.

A NOTE ON “hāfu”
While the term is fairly commonplace in Japanese culture and society, some historical baggage can be brought along with the loanword hāfu. It is being presented here with regard to Dragon Ball as appropriately as possible within the confines of this very specific context. It is worth reading up more on the subject!

The Alien Peoples’ Name

The phrase used here in reference to Tenshinhan is 三つ目人 (mitsume-jin), literally meaning “three-eyed people.” In Dragon Ball fandom past, this has been adapted as “Triclopse” (incidentally also used in the English translation of the manga 3×3 Eyes) and “Triclops”; it is worth noting that a katakana spelling of トリクロプス (torikuropusu) is not used in Japanese when referring to Tenshinhan. “Tricyclopeans” may be a worthwhile localization of the name.

The phrase 族 (zoku) or sometimes 一族 (ichizoku) is generally used in Dragon Ball materials to mean “family” or “clan,” such as with the “Freeza Clan” (フリーザ族) or the “Hera Clan” (ヘラー一族). If you see reference to the Three-Eyed “People” or “Family” or “Clan” — just know they’re all one and the same, but “clan” is not necessarily implied in the actual Japanese text.

The somewhat-widespread adoption of “Three-Eyed Clan” that you often see out there may be something one of our own co-founders accidentally created by either misreading or misremembering the actual name many years back. This spread to the ends of the Internet tracing back to and thanks to older, informal forum posts here on our site. Thankfully, most external articles seem to have updated to the more-accurate “Three-Eyed People” terminology since then.

Somewhat amusingly, the fact that Tenshinhan has three eyes is never actually attributed to his Three-Eyed People alien ancestry; it’s always his techniques that are attributed to his heritage.

Prior Source(s)?

There tends to be very little information/fact-based material in the Daizenshuu that is itself original to the Daizenshuu. Even for things like the “Hera Clan” for characters like Bojack and Zangya, we have been able to track down prior, actually-primary sources.

In the case of the Hera Clan, the “original” source is actual dialog from the 1993 Super Famicom video game, Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 2. In conjunction with the game, the clan was also name dropped in its respective strategy guide as well as contemporary V-Jump descriptions of the day. Check out Podcast Episode #0484 for a guided audio tour through this Hera Clan research!

This isn’t the case for the Three-Eyed People… that we know of. It is entirely possible that there is a random splash of text somewhere inside maybe a 1987 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump that is the “actual” original source. If there is, we haven’t seen it… but we don’t own every single issue, so it’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack! We have not seen any legitimate citation for anything prior to the Daizenshuu inclusion, so if you have a lead, by all means let us know!

The Suzuoki Reference

Alongside that train of thought — that there might be some kind of prior reference/knowledge out there before the Daizenshuu tidbits — is a somewhat curious offhand reference from Tenshinhan’s original voice actor, the late and great Hirotaka Suzuoki.

In the “Special Voice Actor Roundtable” from the final supplemental Daizenshuu, Suzuoki drops a nod to Tenshinhan’s ancestry:

Hirotaka Suzuoki: Tenshinhan appears partway through; you really feel pressure when you start participating in a series that’s already in-progress. But with Dragon Ball, I was able to to relax and insinuate myself smoothly, in a good way. You know, he started out as an enemy.

Masako Nozawa: That’s right. He was so despicable. (laughs)

HirotakaSuzuoki: So, in the studio, Mako-san would say things to me like, “what a loathsome jerk.” (laughs) Tenshinhan is different from ordinary humans, but his interactions with Chiaotzu showed his humanity, so I wasn’t very conscious of him not being an earthling.

The question here is: if there’s no reference to Tenshinhan not being a bog-standard human in the actual original text, where did Suzuoki learn this information? While it’s possible that he read the earlier Daizenshuu volumes prior to their release, it’s more likely that information was provided to him during the original production of the show to better aid and inform his performance.

Later References

Much like the Hera Clan, Tenshinhan’s “Three-Eyed People” ancestry gets referenced in more “modern” Dragon Ball material.

Tenshinhan’s character profile in booklets accompanying home video releases tend to list his “Three-Eyed People” ancestry, beginning with the Toei / Pony Canyon Dragon Ball Z “Dragon Box” release in 2003. This same information later made its way to FUNimation home video releases in America, as well.

Tenshinhan’s character profile in the 2011 video game Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 mentions his alien ancestry by way of the Three-Eyed People, which (like prior material) it loosely links to his mastery over sophisticated techniques beyond that of normal Earthlings:

The Raging Blast bio actually notes the 三つ目族 rather than the 三つ目人, which even we missed on first review! Whether the game writers misremembered or misinterpreted the original is unknown, but certainly worth noting!

Other Tidbits Worth Mentioning

There are a slew of tangentially-related tidbits regarding Tenshinhan and his three eyes, which (hopefully!) we can quickly summarize (and summarily dismiss where appropriate):

  • The “third eye represents spiritual awakening” belief/trope is widely speculated and theorized for Tenshinhan, but that certainly never shows up in the actual story itself (and considering his introduction as an assassin-in-training, doesn’t seem particularly relevant)
  • … despite this, the American-produced Legacy of Goku II video game actually proposes this when scanning Tenshinhan with a scouter (side-note to the side-note here: the crew at Webfoot incorporated lots of fandom into their games, including the legendary fansub translation “I am the instrument of your defeat!” from Dragon Ball Z movie 12 into the dialog of Buu’s Fury)
  • … and though it’s not stated in the series itself, Akira Toriyama does actually (somewhat) address this in a fan Q&A session printed within the first issue of Viz’s Shonen Jump magazine back upon release in 2003:

    What’s up with the third eye on my main man Tenshinhan? Is Tenshinhan human? –Charles Moyer, California; Evan Coltin, Via Internet
    In certain parts of Asia, beings with a third eye on their forehead are thought to be godlike and are said to possess the power of true seeing. It seems that Tenshinhan, who was raised by the evil Tsuru-Sen’nin [Crane Hermit], lost the ability to use the myriad powers of his third eye for good purposes.

  • Though he is not exclusive to the tale, fans who haven’t actually read Journey to the West (and even some who have) seem to like theorizing that Tenshinhan is based on Erlang Shen, but beyond the third eye there is really nothing alike between the two. Tenshinhan’s introduction by Toriyama into the series is long past his Journey to the West-inspired story beats (though the anime staff occasionally referenced it in filler material beyond this), and Toriyama himself has never stated any kind of connection between the two.


Though not stated within the actual series itself, supplemental material explains that Tenshinhan has some amount of alien “Three-Eyed People” ancestry within him, which helps explain some of his more advanced techniques and martial arts prowess. He is still a human being that lives on Earth… just with a little “extra” in there tucked away somewhere.

Near as we can tell, this information first pops up in Daizenshuu 4, but considering that much of the information in these books have indeed been printed somewhere prior, there may be something out there — perhaps tucked away in an old issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump — that we just haven’t come across yet.

More often than one might expect (or hope…), the question of Tenshinhan’s underlying “race” or “heritage” isn’t even about him in a bubble, but generally to prop up one side or another in determining whether he or Kuririn is the strongest “human” on Earth…

…which is not the topic of this article!