Even if you know nothing about Dragon Ball Z, there’s a good chance you have heard the following phrase: “IT’S OVER 9000!”
Does it ring a bell? If you have spent time on the Internet in the last decade, then you have probably seen the quote pasted on memes or used to troll people in a comments section. Over the years, the Dragon Ball Z quote has transcended its original meaning and ubiquitous meme. It is ever-present, unusually versatile, and has a rather funny history trailing after it.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the meme’s context, then here’s a quick catch up. The quote was used by Vegeta in the episode “The Return of Goku.” In the episode, Goku returns to Earth after having been killed during an altercation with his estranged older brother Raditz. With Vegeta and Nappa having come to Earth in hopes of wiping out its citizens, the trio prepare to fight. But, when Vegeta uses his scouter to check Goku’s power levels, the warrior realizes that the latter fighter is strong.
So, when Nappa asks about Goku’s power level, Vegeta has a momentary breakdown. In the original Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z, the character’s voice actor then yelled the famous phrase, “It’s over 9000!” to Nappa’s dumbfounded surprise.
The quote lived in cultish obscurity for years before the Internet did what it does best: it made a meme. In 2006, a video was posted online which looped Vegeta screaming the phrase, and the meme was shared more than 13 million times - and that’s not counting its spinoffs.
For fans, the funniest part about the meme is the fact that is was a total mistake. That’s right! Vegeta’s cry isn’t a canon one because Brian Drummond said the wrong number. In the script, the actor was meant to say Goku’s power level was over 8000, but he misspoke during recording. When the creative team went over the anime’s lip-flaps, they decided the world 9000 fit the animation better than 8000 did.
In most other English dubs of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta’s dialogue has been corrected - but fans still prefer the Saiyan’s meme take. After all, if Goku does have a power level over 8000, then it could technically be above 9000 as well. And, when other properties like Sailor Moon and Pokemon start making references to the line, then you know it’s a good one.