The end of Mystical Adventure, when Upa gets the courage (from Goku) to ask Shenron to revive his father. More of a "so happy, it's sad" moment really. What really makes this scene is the song "Dragon Ball Densetsu" playing over it.
When the Masked Fighter is revealed to be Grandpa Gohan in the Fortuneteller Baba Saga. Goku begins to cry as he hugs his grandfather. Bulma even says "Gosh, even Goku's crying!". A rare occasion indeed.
This is even sadder when Goku thinks he'll be reunited with his grandfather again, but realizes that Grandpa Gohan can't and has to return to the afterlife.
It gets even worse when adult Goku sees Vegeta transform into a Great Ape and makes the connection about what happened to his grandfather. He realizes that HE was the Great Ape that accidentally killed Grandpa Gohan, and says that if he loses the fight and dies, that he'll personally apologize to him in the afterlife.
Vegeta breaking down and crying Manly Tears as he lays dying, his heart punctured by Frieza, telling Goku the story of how their entire race was slaughtered like animals by the galactic tyrant.
Vegeta:"Kakarot... listen... Destroy... Frieza. He made me what I am... Don't let him do it to anyone else... Whatever it takes... Stop him... please..."
The fact Vegeta is reaching out to Goku with blurred vision from tears makes this all the more poignant. This is directly after he's told Goku that Frieza took him when he was just a child and used the threat of killing his father to keep Vegeta under his thumb... and then did so anyway.
In both examples, the true Tear Jerker moment of the scene is that Vegeta, even when dying, does not ask for Goku's pity, but simply for his vengeance as he reveals the evil the Saiyans did under the manipulation of Freeza, making the viewers realize that they were loyal to him, but Freeza killed him to protect his own megalomaniacal agenda.
This scene is made even more powerful considering what Goku said right after Vegeta's death:
Goku:"Goodbye, Vegeta. You weren't as cold-hearted as you thought you were. A heart of stone couldn't have shed tears like that. You must have been holding them back your entire life. (sadly)I'm the only one left.(creates a grave) Now I see. You weren't grieving for your own death, or the death of our home planet, you were grieving because he (Frieza) made you what he wanted you to be! You never had a chance to decide for yourself! (lays Vegeta to rest) Well, I still respect you. You may have made a lot of mistakes, but now I see that they weren't all your fault. You had the fiery will of a Saiyan. Please share that with me now, because I need it. Thank you for saving my son's life and buying time for me to recuperate. I will do all that I can to carry out your wish. (turns to Frieza) Vegeta's right, you have no honor! For him, and for everyone else you've destroyed, I am going to finish you!"
The original version is even more moving, as it is a pivotal point in Goku coming to respect and take pride in his Saiyan heritage.
Goku:"To think that a man as yourself would shed tears... and to beg... what you endured must be unimaginably frustrating. I understand... moreso than having your entire race murdered; it is to have your free will and pride ground under his feet; a pain I cannot start to imagine. I hated you so much, but I've always respected you for proudly defending your race's honor... Now lend me some of that pride, for I am a Saiyan who grew up on Earth!(turns to Frieza) For the Saiyan race you exterminated, and for all the Namekians you murdered, I shall defeat you!"
Piccolo:"Pathetic... to think that the Demon KingPiccolo should fall protecting a child... I have been... contaminated by the decency... of both you and your father... Gohan... though I have been... cruel towards you... you remain the... only person who has ever spoken to me... with kindness... These last few months with you were not that bad... Please don't die... Gohan..."
It's even sadder in English (Ocean dub, kept by Funimation until Kai) version, especially one of Piccolo's last lines:
Piccolo (while shedding tears):"Gohan, you're like the son I never had..."
"Son Gohan... it is not a sin to wage violence for a righteous cause... some people simply cannot be reasoned with. Let your feelings flow free, and unleash your power. I understand your pain, but there is no need to hold back any longer... The forests and animals that I love so dearly... Please protect them for me... I'm counting on you."
Goku's second death. His Heroic Sacrifice might not get you, but Gohan's anguish afterwards certainly will ("It's all MY FAULT!"). The episode is aptly named Gohan's Pain.
The real Gut Punch comes when you realise that Gohan, by this point in the series, had started to call Goku "Dad" or the more formal and mature "Father". He's still in his Super Saiyan 2 form, he just literally kicked the shit out of Perfect Cell and caused him to have a Villainous Breakdown. But, just for that one moment, he snaps back and becomes the scared little kid that he was back in the Saiyan Saga.
Goku's goodbye to his son. Considering how infamous Goku is for being gone a lot of the time, and the whole Arranged Marriage thing, there are always people skeptical about how much Goku cares about his wife, and sometimes even his son. But after saying goodbye to his friends, and getting ready to teleport...
The moment leading to Tien Shinhan's Heroic Sacrifice in the Saiyan Saga certainly fits in. As the battle gets intense against Nappa, an injured Tien sees his friend Chiaotzu, who has already died, saying sorry for not being strong enough before fading away. Tien then regains the strength to stand on his feet:
Krillin:(teary-eyed) "Poor Tien, he used up his life and that attack didn't even faze him! Goku! Please hurry!"
And before that... Yamcha's death, especially the moment when Krillin goes over and confirms that, yes... he's dead. You first see his loyal companion Puar crying against the TV, calling out to him... and then the POV switches to a shivering, pale, almost BSOD-ing Bulma... who then screams Yamcha's name in utter horror before fainting into Master Roshi's arms.
Watching warrior after brave warrior that we have come to love during Dragon Ball being slaughtered by Nappa during the Saiyan Saga. Particularly heart-wrenching is the Senseless Sacrifice of Chiaotzu, whose Superpower Meltdown didn't even scratch the Saiyan brute, much less hurt him. It was a wise narrative choice on Toriyama's part for Vegeta to not have personally killed any of the heroes, allowing the possibility of redemption in the audience's eyes for the Warrior Prince.
This is even more moving in Dragon Ball Kai, considering that Chiaotzu knew that he couldn't defeat Nappa and that he had been revived with the Dragon Balls once, and wouldn't be able to be revived again, but the real moving moment is what Chiaotzu says right before he dies:
Chiaotzu:"Tien, just... just don't let him kill you."
The real heartbreaker is watching Chiaotzu knowingly sacrifice himself in an attempt to prevent Tien from dying, but shortly afterwards, seeing Tien using the last of his energy to try to avenge Chiaotzu's death and dying in the process.
After the Saiyan Saga, watching everyone mourning the loss of the fallen Z-Fighters and moving the coffins with their bodies onto the ship. This scene is made even more powerful with the beautiful song playing in the background of Dragon Ball Kai.
Surprisingly enough, one of the most powerful ones in the franchise happens during Dragon Ball GT. Because the Black Star Dragon Balls have not been returned to Earth, the planet is set to explode. Though the Z-Fighters have managed to evacuate everyone to the nearby Planet Plant, Piccolo decides to remain on Earth, as the Black Star Dragon Balls are too dangerous, and if he dies, they will be permanently destroyed, ensuring that nothing like this ever happens again. If Goku's reaction doesn't get the waterworks flowing, then Piccolo and Gohan's last talk (which Piccolo concluded with "Take care, my son") and Gohan's anguished "MR. PICCOLOOOOOOOO!!!" - surrounded by a completely oblivious crowd, no less - will.
Bardock's final words to Goku in spirit as he heads towards Earth in the English dub is also one big tearjerker. The music doesn't help one bit:
Bardock:"Kakarot, thank you for helping me. You were right. It wasn't too late to make a difference. My only regret is that I never got to hold you in my arms when I had the chance. Goodbye, my son, and take care..."
Double Gut Punch points for Bardock's goodbye to Kakarot being similar to Goku's goodbye to Gohan in the Cell Games Saga. Namely, they both end with "Goodbye, my son".
Grandpa Gohan finding Kakarot in the forest and giving him his name. It's more powerful in the Japanese version with the music and the narrator saying:
Narrator:"And thus begins the great adventure that is... Dragon Ball."
Let's just say that you'll never see the original Dragon Ball anime the same way again after watching this special...
Every single time Krillin dies.
From the original series: Krillin's first death at the hands of Tambourine, and Goku finding his corpse. My word.
"Death 1.5", where he's gored by Frieza's first transformation, but is barely saved by Dende. Especially with how long it took him to expire.
Although, it was a Heroic Sacrifice as he acted as a decoy to protect his family, which definitely has some emotional merit. It gets really sad when you realize his sacrifice ended up being All for Nothing, since 18 and Marron were the VERY NEXT victims of Super Buu shortly afterwards.
The senseless murder of Bora by Mercenary Tao. This was the first (on-screen) death of the entire series. Watching Upa run to his dead father while crying, and a furious Goku charging at Mercenary Tao choked plenty of people up.
When Buu is screaming at Mr. Satan to take his pet dog Bee and leave, he knows what's happening, he knows he can't stop it, and he's desperately trying to keep his friends from getting hurt, It's just heartbreaking.
Good Buu:"Go away. Take Bee and go. Run." (Mr. Satan seems shocked, then bemused) Mr. Satan:"What do ya mean, Buu? I'm your friend!" (Walks up to Buu and reaches out to him, but Buu swats it away) (Steam explodes out of Buu's head) Good Buu:"GO! NOOOOOOW!" Mr. Satan:(clearly scared out of his wits) "R-r-right! Okay!"
Later, we see Mr. Satan's last, desperate attempt to help his friend:
(Mr. Satan runs out of Buu's house with Bee in his arms) Mr. Satan:"Buu! Please! Let me try to help you!" Good Buu:"GOOOOOOO!"
And it does, leading to a mass-murdering, gluttonous brute who later, after absorbing Piccolo, gives Gohan a really nasty Hannibal Lecture and then reverts to its Omnicidal Maniac-self. One has to wonder if Good Buu was being forced to experience this with no way of preventing it.
Also, Master Roshi's failure to re-seal King Piccolo with the Mafuba, leading to his eventual death.
Also Future Gohan's death and Future Trunks's first Super Saiyan transformation.
Eric Vale's brilliant performance makes that scene incredibly powerful, which makes the moment truly unforgettable.
Goku leaving during the Buu Saga. He's managed to pass on the fusion technique, but now his time on Earth is up and he has to go back to the otherworld. We see Goten speechless, and giving him one last hug, and trying so hard not to cry, and it's all set to ridiculously relaxing music. GOD JUST RIP MY HEART OUT WHY DON'T YOU.
What happens to poor Bee, Buu's dog. That was before Buu managed to heal the dog, of course. The scene is what led me to hate guns.
Same here. The worst part of the whole ordeal was seeing Good Buu's devastated expression of shock and trauma as he saw his dog Bee get shot. It's the first time his eyes were open when he WASN'T responsible for a violence act, which made this scene both a literal and figurative eye-opener for the recently-reformed Good Buu.
The Human Extinction Attack is both this and seriousNightmare Fuel, especially its aftermath as Piccolo, who tried to buy Goten and Trunks time to master the Fusion Dance by suggesting that Super Buu go kill some humans, falls to his knees in despair after watching Buu casually locate and exterminate every last remaining human on Earth with one attack.
It gets worse when you consider that the only people who survived Buu's attack were those on Kami's Lookout and Korin's Tower, those skilled enough to dodge and, most heartbreakingly, Mr. Satan and Bee. Some fans have taken them surviving as Good Buu's final act of defiance against Super Buu.
The definite example is the final episode of Dragon Ball GT: "Goodbye, Goku... Until the Day We Meet Again". Goku being forced to leave Earth after saving it for the umpteenth time... and after all that effort against that arc's Big Bad, with the majority of the cast not even aware that he has to leave them for a good century, was really depressing.
Actually, that's not what happened. She simply lost him in the crowd. He left at the end on his Kintōun/Flying Nimbus.
Oh god, yes. That was basically 20 minutes of tears for me.
A scene during GT's Baby Saga: It's right after Goku becomes a Super Saiyan 4 for the first time and goes to confront Baby Vegeta. He finds Bulma with him and calls out to her. Unfortunately, she's already been turned into a Tuffle and shouts at Goku not to speak to her, calls him her enemy and tells him that he will soon be killed, all the while with this distorted, evil grin on her face. Yes, it's all the result of Baby's brainwashing, but when you think about it and realize how far back Goku and Bulma's friendship goes (I mean, the whole series started with them!), it really is very sad to watch.
Grand Elder Guru's second and final death. Despite the happy ending (living just long enough to appoint Elder Moori as his successor, most of the Namekians coming safely out of the struggle on their home planet, etc.) the reactions of his fellow Namekians (and the few Earthlings involved) surrounding him as he fades away with a smile on his face just adds that extra touch of emotion.
His first death was particularly moving, especially with the Bruce Faulconer music playing as you saw Dende crying and Guru's lifeless body sitting in his chair.
Dende's death by Frieza on Namek. It was sad enough watching his brother Cargo killed by Dodoria earlier, but this took it to a whole new level.
The scene where Goku first transforms into a Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Kai. It's not enough that Krillin gets launched up into the air and then blown up - worse if you notice the "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" frame of Krillin's chest heaving asthe energy ball expands to blow him up from the inside. Poor Gohan, who just lost an Honorary Uncle, is standing over the unconscious body of Piccolo looking like a deer in headlights while Frieza threatens his life next. Goku is off to the side with his back turned, shaking with rage, and the only words he can get out of his mouth are "You ruthless... heartless...BASTARD!I will... make you... SUFFER!" As if the impact of hearing those words coming from Goku of all people didn't do it, as soon as he transforms, he turns to address not Frieza, but Gohan, telling him to leave. Previously, it had seemed to mean "Get out of here, kid. This fight's going to get really ugly". However, the Dragon Ball Kai version drops a line that'll make you realize that Goku has no idea what's happening to him and doesn't even trust himself to not harm his own son:
Goku:"Do as I tell you right now, before I LOSE WHAT LITTLE SENSE OF REASON I HAVE LEFT!"
Mr. Satan tearing up when he finds the unconscious Good Buu after Kid Buu spits him out."Please, wake up... you're the only friend I have!"
And that line really puts Mr. Satan's entire character into perspective. Although his Fake Ultimate Hero status has made him essentially the most famous man on Earth, other than Buu, he has no friends.
Vegeta's Unstoppable Rage after Super Perfect Cell murders Future Trunks in cold blood.
In one scene during the Cell Games Saga, SSJ2 Gohan is fighting Super Perfect Cell with the Earth's very existence at stake. As his Kamehameha is being overpowered by Cell's, we see Goku speaking to Gohan and telling him how much he believes in him.
Buu:"You are Buu's best friend... forever and ever."
Bruce Faulconer helps to create a particularly heartbreaking one with one of Mr. Satan's conversations with Super Buu. In it, Super Buu has completely forgotten who Mr. Satan was and has been consumed by the evil that's taken hold of him. Mr. Satan is desperately trying to get Super Buu to remember who he once was by reminding him of his promise to not kill anymore, as well as how much he loved Bee, only for Super Buu to maniacally laugh in his face. Sad in both versions, but it was Bruce's music that really drives home how completely and utterly destroyed Buu's kindly side has become, as well as the sense of loss and desolation throughout the whole conversation. Have a listen here.
Goku's Heroic Sacrifice against Raditz was the very first Tear Jerker in Z, as it showed just how Darker and EdgierZ was - and considering how dark the King Piccolo Saga was, that's saying something.
#18's reaction after #17 murders Krillin had me bawling.
#18:(in tears, to Krillin's lifeless body) "I love you."
When Goku is fighting Kid Buu in the last few episodes. Throughout all of Dragon Ball, Goku never ever stopped fighting, never gave up, and wouldn't stop. This was the one time it was too much. Goku could NOT win. Pretty much the strongest anime character of all-time is getting his ass handed to him by a LITTLE PINK BUBBLEGUM KID. Goku stomped a planet-destroying tyrant into the ground, avenged his entire race, did pretty much everything... and he finally is bested by Buu... I cried harder than ever.
The speech Goku gives when trying to get Vegeta to fuse with him, especially Vegeta's reaction when he learns that Super Buu has murdered Bulma:
Goku:"Wake up! Majin Buu's eaten everyone we care about! Everyone is gone! Even Bulma! They've become part of Buu! They can't even die! I just thought the least we could do is put our old differences aside, just this once, and really work together! We owe that to our teammates! Our families, Vegeta! Our friends! Look, you've always talked about our Saiyan race, how we're the last of a mighty people. Well, it's time we accept we're starting a new race, one that can be just as strong, just as proud! But not if we're caught up in so much of our old birthrights to see what we have right in front of us! We've lost our old race, Vegeta! Let's not lose this one too!"
Filler it may be, but in the episode "You're My Guy... Krillin! The 101st Proposal", the final minutes are heartwrenching: watching Krillin realizing that Maron would have agreed to marry him, and then running off with another guy moments later, is bad enough, but the final scene where he tries to laugh it off with his friends, but the audience (and perhaps Gohan as well) can see the tears hidden behind the sunglasses, is just heartbreaking.
King Vegeta's death. The poor guy tries to rescue his young son from the clutches from Frieza and ends up dying an incredibly Undignified Death.
What makes it worse is that Vegeta doesn't even know how awesomely brave his dad was when he died. He probably thinks that his father was on the planet when it happened.
Ever since he was four, Gohan's childhood has been nothing but constant misery and struggle. Unlike his father, Gohan never wanted to be a fighter, he was just constantly pressured with the responsibility to do what no one else could.
The end credits music of Bardock - The Father of Goku, "Journey of Light", will reduce even grown men to tears by the end.