Dragon Ball Z was a stable of after school TV in my house. Part of the family routine and something we all enjoyed during dinner. I vividly remember dropping my fork the moment the terrifying villain Freiza was sawn in half by his own attack. When Goku attained a level of power that no one thought possible. Super Saiyan. How far we have come from that Wednesday afternoon so many years ago. I remember commenting to my sister that I didn’t think the show could get any better. That it had hit it’s peak. A few weeks later, a now partly robotic Frieza lands on Earth. Prepared to destroy the planet and prove that he was indeed the strongest in the universe. Problem is, Goku hadn’t yet made it back to Earth. With the exception of the other Fighters, who had either fallen to Frieza or knew they stood no chance, Earth was defenceless. And then a stranger arrived.
A purple haired teenager, complete with a denim jacket sporting the Capsule Corp logo on his sleeve, and a sword equipped to his back. So far, every new character that showed up was either a one off or a villain. But this kid didn’t look like a villain, and he was too well designed to be a one off. So, who was he?
And then he went Super Saiyan. Another Saiyan had arrived, one that could slice Frieza and King Cold in half without breaking a sweat. The other fighters are noticeably on edge, as is the audience, when he powers down and just walks casually towards them. This mysterious stranger tells the group that Goku will land nearby shortly and that they should wait with him.
As the story carries on, we learn that this mysterious stranger is actually the future son of lead character Bulma, and once villain and Prince of the Saiyan’s Vegeta. The half-Saiyan Trunks. That already seemed insane. Why would Bulma and Vegeta ever have a kid together!?
Over time, we learned that Trunks had come back in time because a greater evil was coming. One that dwarfed even the power of Frieza and was set to turn the world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. One that Trunks had grown up in largely alone. Raised by just his mother and the watchful eye of an older Gohan. As a young man, Trunks had watched the world fall apart. His father had fallen, as had the rest of the main series fighters and Earth was practically defenceless against the force of the Androids. Trunks had come back in time to warn them and to save Goku’s life. In Trunks’ timeline, Goku had died before the Androids awoke from a remarkably normal cause. Heart failure.
Trunks’ warning gave the cast of characters two years to prepare for the fight of their lives.
Despite being strong and fast, Trunks was well spoken and respectful. Overly cautious and frequently on edge. Trunks’ personality and mannerisms are heavily reminiscent of that of an older Gohan. Strong but very aware of what he could do. Walking on egg-shells. Not to mention the world he grew up in. This is a young man who has gone through hell, seen people he cares for die, and lived to tell the tale. One who feels the weight of everything that has happened and knows the value of life. This is even explored well in the film, The History of Trunks (1993), in which we see his world up close and personal.
When the time comes for the Androids to arrive, leading into the greatly celebrated Cell arc, Trunks comes back in time again, to fight by the hero’s side in order to ensure a better future. When he comes back, he is met by a very strange sight. Himself. He arrives back in the present timeline to find Bulma holding a baby, one that will someday grow into the young man from the future.
Skip forward past the Cell Games arc, and that baby is now a young boy. Brash and arrogant. Overly confident and convinced that with the exception of his father, no one could beat him. This is Kid Trunks.
Despite being the same person, Future Trunks is the kind of person Kid Trunks would look down upon, despite the age gap. With Future Trunks’ kinder demeanour, and cautiousness, Kid Trunks would consider him weak. The same way he looks down largely on a now teenage Gohan. That in an error of peace, the fighters have gone soft in the eyes of this young kid, especially one that idolises his warrior prince father.
Trunks works as an example of nature vs. nurture. While both are strong and capable fighters, even with Kid Trunks being significantly younger than his future counterpart. But with the difference in personality, had their designs differed you would be forgiven for thinking they were two different people. While the state of the time they grew up in is a major factor in both of their identities. It’s their relationship with their father or father figure that perhaps defined them the most. As stated before, Future Trunks grew up in a wasteland. A world that lived in fear of the Androids. Specifically, Androids 17 and 18. He was raised by his mother, with an older Gohan keeping an eye on them both. In a world were the Z-Fighters no longer stand, Trunks grew up asking his mother what his father was like. Why would you ever tell a child that their father was at one point a monster? The malevolent prince of a warrior race that once tried to destroy them all. Future Trunks would hear stories of his father, the noble prince as he stood against the Androids along side the other fighters. With Gohan as his trainer and mentor, Future Trunks holds respect for the father he never knew, but largely takes on the mannerisms of Gohan. On edge and nervous, but very respectful.
Kid Trunks on the other hand, grew up in a time of peace. The Androids and Cell defeated, and the world at ease even after the death of Goku. Kid Trunks was raised by his father and mother. Vegeta training the young boy to be a proud warrior, but still giving him the freedom to be a kid since there was little to no danger threatening the planet. His arrogance and lack of respect for Goku is heavily influenced by Vegeta’s own views. Telling the boy that since he is of royal blood, that he should look down at a commoner like Kakkarot (Goku’s birth name) and his family. Being the son of the prince, Trunks thinks himself better than most, even attaining the level of Super Saiyan at a young age. Even his friendship with the young Goten, the youngest son of Goku, is phrased as a competition.
Trunks is an interesting and unique character within the Dragon Ball mythos. Both versions of him. Both versions have an interesting amount of depth to them. While they have met in none-canon video games, it will be more than interesting to see the pair united in the current Dragon Ball Super.