After Kazuhiko Torishima, Toriyama's former editor during Dr. Slump and early Dragon Ball, expressed dissatisfaction with first Androids #19 and #20 and later Androids #17 and #18 as villains, Toriyama created Cell. Toriyama has expressed some kind of regret regarding the design of Cell, calling it tedious to draw all the little spots on his body. In addition, he did not initially plan for the character to be able to transform, but gave him this ability after his then-current editor Yū Kondō described Cell as "ugly." Toriyama intended for Cell's second form to last longer than it did; Kondō found the form to be silly and urged him to hasten the first appearance of the next transformation.
Cell originally evolves from a cicada-like form into his Imperfect Cell (不完全体セル, Fukanzentai Seru) form, which is still insect-like in appearance. Both his first form and his second Semi-Perfect Cell (半完全体セル, Hankanzentai Seru) form have a long tail that ends in a stinger-like appendage and allows it to absorb other organisms. The tail recedes under his wings in his final Perfect Cell (完全体セル, Kanzentai Seru) form, although he then uses it to spawn Cell Juniors (セルジュニア, Seru Junia), minuscule childlike versions of himself. After his supposed death, Cell returns even stronger, in a form often called Super Perfect Cell (超完全体セル, Chō Kanzentai Seru) or Revived Cell (復活セル, Fukkatsu Seru).
Cell is an artificial life form (referred to as a "Bio-Android") created by Doctor Gero's supercomputer from the cells of the universe's strongest warriors, possessing the genetic information of Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo and Frieza in an underground complex beneath Gero's secret laboratory. Cell is designed to evolve into the "perfect" being by absorbing two Androids, #17 and #18. The Cell that appears as the primary antagonist of his titular arc is from the future, awakening after his development is complete to find that the Androids have been destroyed by Trunks. After he kills Trunks, Cell uses his time machine while regressing into an egg to travel back four years, to before the androids appeared, arriving in the present timeline. After hatching and metamorphosing from his larval, cicada-like form into his insect-like Imperfect form, Cell kills off thousands of people and absorbs them to increase his power in preparation to absorb the Androids. After he's managed to absorb the energy of entire cities of people, Cell finds Android #17 during his fight with Piccolo, Cell breaks Piccolo neck  before Android 16 holds the mechanized villain off. However, he is able to make an opening to absorb #17 and evolves into Semi-Perfect Cell, quickly dispatches 16, but he is unable to absorb #18 thanks to the intervention of Tenshinhan , who holds him back at the cost of his own life force before being rescued by Goku, along with a surviving Piccolo.
Cell tries to find Android #18, destroying islands to intimidate her into showing herself, but before he can destroy the island that #18 is hiding on, Vegeta appears and utterly destroys him. At the brink of defeat, Cell talks Vegeta into letting absorb Android #18 so he can give him a better fight, and upon doing so, he assumes his final form, which is much more human like . In this form, Cell easily defeats Krillin, Vegeta, and Trunks, but spares all of them so that they can come to his own fighting tournament, the Cell Games (セルゲーム, Seru Gēmu) to find a worthy opponent to face him, intending to destroy Earth when he wins and wanting to enjoy the fear he causes in others.
A week later, in the first round of the Cell Games, he quickly defeats Mr. Satan before moving onto Goku, who quits upon realizing Cell is stronger than him. Goku then nominates his son, Gohan, as Cell's next opponent, to everyone's surprise. Though Gohan puts up a good fight and proves himself his father's superior, Cell easily takes the upper hand due to his pacifistic nature. Wanting to avoid killing Cell if he can help it, Gohan warns Cell that if he is pushed too far, he will lose control of his anger and kill him, which only drives Cell to torment him further, excited to see this power. He spawns Cell Juniors (セルジュニア, Seru Junia), miniature versions of himself who begin to fight the heroes, causing Gohan's rage to slowly swell. It is only when Cell mercilessly kills Android #16 after he had encouraged Gohan to fight that Gohan snaps, transforming into a Super Saiyan 2. Gohan effortlessly, violently kills all the Cell Juniors, and then proceeds to effortlessly overpower Cell, aiming to prolong his suffering, dealing so much damage that Cell regurgitates Android #18 and reverts to his previous form. In desperation, Cell tries to self-destruct and destroy the Earth, but Goku sacrifices himself to ensure that Cell detonates elsewhere.
However, Cell is able to survive thanks to his unique physiology, which allows him to regenerate from a special nucleus in his head and grow more powerful whenever he has almost been killed, returning to his Perfect form even stronger than before. He easily kills Trunks, and when Vegeta attacks him in retaliation, he easily swats him aside. Before he can kill him, Gohan takes the blast in his place, which breaks his arm. With victory in his grasp, Cell decides to destroy the planet with one last Kamehameha, claiming he has the power to destroy the entire Solar System. Assisted by his father in spirit, Gohan retaliates with his own Kamehameha, ultimately overpowering Cell with Vegeta's help, destroying his cell nucleus and killing him once and for all. Mr. Satan, however, takes credit for the victory and becomes a hero.
Upon being resurrected by the Dragon Balls and returning to the future, Trunks destroys Androids #17 and #18, though realizes from his time travel that Cell is likely to emerge soon. Three years later, Trunks is confronted by the Cell of his timeline, who plans to kill Trunks and use his time machine in the same way his alternate self had. Future Cell realized Trunks traveled back already and learned of him in the past but thinks Trunks is no match for him. However, Trunks showcases his newfound power and easily kills him, finally bringing peace to the future.
In filler episodes of the anime, Cell makes numerous cameo appearances, usually as comic relief. Cell tries absorbing two siblings, but is prevented from doing so by Krillin, giving chase to the three and nearly killing Krillin before he notices Piccolo and Tien Shinhan on the way and escapes. In his posthumous appearances, he is shown causing trouble in Hell along with Frieza, King Cold and the Ginyu Force. He is defeated by Goku and Pikkon and sent to prison, and is later seen watching Goku's battle with Majin Buu on a crystal ball, openly wondering why Goku quit against him and then went on to fight Buu, whom he acknowledges to be a stronger opponent than himself.
Dragon Ball Super
A few years later, When Trunks travels back to the past again, Trunks reacts in confusion to seeing Goku alive as he remembers his death from Cell's self-destructing. Goku is able to inform him of his resurrection that occurred after. Not long after, Bulma is revealed to have retained the Time Capsule that Cell had stolen from Trunks to return to the present timeline. Cell is remembered by Trunks when he notes the differences between Gohan as a child, in particular when he fought Cell, and him as an adult upon meeting him for the first time in years. An illusion of Cell appears in the Forest of Fear to Krillin and Goku, attacking the pair and growing in size before Krillin concentrates and dispels the illusion by confronting his fear.
In other media
In Dragon Ball GT, after Goku is sent to Hell by accident, he confronts both Cell and Frieza, whose bodies have been rendered temporarily immortal due to the upset in the balance between the two worlds. Though Cell and Frieza trap Goku with their new joint attack and freeze him using a witch below them, they too are frozen after foolishly venturing down to gloat at him, and due to being dead, they cannot thaw out like Goku did. Goku accidentally breaks the ice Cell and Frieza are trapped within to pieces, implying that Cell and Frieza have been erased from existence. However, in a future scene, Frieza and Cell are seen being taken away in a jail cell with tape over their mouths. Cell and Frieza also appear in the GT live action show, with new forms.
Cell appears in a TV ad for Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, questioning why he is not in the film while Frieza brags that he is, Cell then remarks that Frieza only has a non-speaking appearance.
Cell appears in a number of video games as a boss and playable character, most notably the Budokai, Budokai Tenkaichi and Raging Blast series. He is also a playable character in the Dragon Ball Z: Collectible Card Game. In several games, Cell has forms that have been created specifically for the installment.
In the 1995 game Dragon Ball Z: Super Battle, after Goku defeats Cell, he gives him a Senzu Bean and allows him to live, Cell promising to return and win.
In Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, Cell has a nightmare where he accidentally absorbs Krillin and becomes Cellin (セルリン, Serurin), with the form leaving him weaker. In the 2003 game Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2, Cell is revived by Bobbidi and becomes a Majin, his appearance being altered with the letter "M" on his forehead alongside black lining appearing under his eyes. This form is short-lived, as Majin Boo terminates Bobbidi, with Cell being absorbed afterward by Boo.
In the 2005 video game Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi, Cell defeats Gohan and confronts Super 17, defeating him when the two conflict over a shared interest in killing Goku.
In the 2015 game Dragon Ball: Xenoverse, Cell appears as a mentor for the player, teaching the Perfect Kamehameha, Perfect Shot, All Clear and Gravity Impact to the player. Within the context of the game's story mode, Cell defeats Gohan until the player intervenes in their fight, and the version of the character from Trunks' timeline is able to reach his Perfect form thanks to Towa's strengthening, though he is destroyed by the player and Trunks.
In the 2016 game Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Cell shows up in his Perfect Form and fights Trunks, also meeting Android 16 for the first time and fighting alongside him. Cell is able to reach his Perfect form after defeating both Piccolo and #16 and absorbing #17 and #18 at the same time. When an empowered Android #17 fights Piccolo, Trunks warns the player Cell that succeeding in absorbing him would mean an even larger power boost than in the main timeline. Cell himself shows up empowered, easily dominating Android #16. Cell later fights alongside the corrupted Cell Juniors, and welcomes Metal Cooler to the Cell Games.
In the 2018 game Dragon Ball FighterZ, Cell defeats Android 18 and is confronted by Goku and Krillin while aiming a beam at her and Android 21. After being defeated, Cell uses the Solar Flare to escape. Cell laments his lack of power before being confronted by Frieza, who offers him a deal where the two divulge information to each other. The player becomes connected to Cell after Goku is shot by Android 21, and fights Android 21 while controlling Cell's body. Cell escapes from Android 21 with another Solar Flare, and the player returns to Goku from the strain on Cell's body
Norio Wakamoto has been Cell's Japanese voice actor in every single piece of Dragon Ball media.
Travis Willingham was Cell's English voice actor from 2009 to 2014 because of Clarke's unavailability
Norio Wakamoto is the Japanese voice of Cell and revealed that when he voiced the forms of Cell, the first form is monster-like, he used a raspy voice which he said was a pain. He toned it down for the second, and by the final form he was able to perform comfortably.
In the English Funimation dub, Cell is voiced by Dameon Clarke. Clarke considers Cell one of his more "fun and entertaining" characters. Sometime around the release of Resurrection 'F', in which Frieza returned, Clarke said he began receiving questions about a film featuring Cell's return, which he himself supported.
Cell is among one of the most powerful antagonists of the original manga. Possessing the genetic material of the some of the world's strongest fighters, he is a master martial artist with superhuman strength, endurance, and speed. He can fly, create energy beams and forcefields using his ki, a form of energy derived from his own life force, and with his stinging tail, he can absorb others, either stabbing them with the tail to dissolve them or engulfing them within it to consume them. It is by absorbing others that he increases his own power.
Cell has access to the abilities of those whose cells he was created from, including the Kamehameha, Goku's signature technique, Tien Shinhan's Solar Flare, Vegeta's Galick Gun and Frieza's Death Beam. Thanks to his Namekian cells, Cell can regenerate portions of his body shortly after they have been destroyed, which he demonstrates during his battles with Android #16, Vegeta, Goku, and Gohan. In the manga, Cell states that he can regenerate so long as a nucleus in his head remains intact, though this is contradicted by an earlier scene in which Cell regenerated after having the top half of his body, head included, destroyed. This is retconned in the Funimation dub, in which Cell states that he can regenerate from just a single cell. After his near-death experience, he gains the ability to use Instant Transmission, another technique of Goku's, which allows him to teleport by placing his fingers to the center of his head and thinking of his intended destination.
Cell's strength progresses over the course of his self-titled story arc; at the beginning of the arc, in his Imperfect state, he is outmatched by Piccolo and is too weak to absorb the Androids. However, after he absorbs thousands of humans using his tail, his power grows to the point that he is easily able to best Piccolo and Android #17, absorbing the latter to progress into his next form, which quickly dispatches Android #16, an opponent equal in power to his previous state. This power is in turn eclipsed by his final, Perfect form. In this state, Cell easily toys with and defeats Vegeta, who had similarly overpowered his Semi-Perfect form, without even approaching anything near his full power. At full power, Cell is far stronger than even Goku and Gohan after the year they spent in the Room of Spirit and Time, with only Super Saiyan 2 Gohan proving capable of defeating him. After nearly being killed by his own self-destruction, Cell's Saiyan biology greatly boosts his power once more, allowing him to break Gohan's arm with a single blast and match his final Kamehameha with his own. In this form, he compares his power to that of a Super Saiyan 2 and claims to have enough power to destroy the Solar System.
Through his tail, Cell is able to create minuscule, childlike versions of himself known as Cell Juniors (セルジュニア, Seru Junia), which are also colored differently from him. They have a portion of Cell's power, as they were able to overwhelm most of the Z Fighters, as Cell would, but had trouble with Piccolo, Vegeta, and Trunks.
In 2004, fans of the series voted Cell the fourteenth most popular character for a poll in the book Dragon Ball Forever. In 2015, Jacob Yothment ranked Cell No. 3 on his list Top 10 Villains of the Dragon Ball Franchise, Shawn Saris of IGN ranked Cell No. 7 on the list Top 13 Dragon Ball Z Characters, and Otakukart.com ranked Cell No. 2 on the list Top 10 Dragon Ball Villains. In 2016, Cell was ranked No. 6 on the saikoplus.com list 10 Most Popular Characters in Dragon Ball Z.
Michael Zupan assessed Cell as the Dragon Ball villain with the most buildup, writing, "The Z Fighters throw everything they have at this character, and just when you think he's beat... he transforms into something more powerful." Dennis Amith of J!-ENT described Cell as "the toughest enemy that the team has fought yet" and liked how the efforts of the other characters trying to stop Cell is the main focus of that part of the series. J. Steiff and T. D. Tamplin used Cell as an example of the concept of "leveling up" in anime and believed Cell follows this concept well.
The concept of the Cell Games and its execution were criticized. D. F. Smith of IGN criticized Cell's decision to hold a fighting tournament instead of destroying Earth as a sign of the author having run out of ideas. Reviewer Josh Begley had disapproval toward the tournament as he believed it would feature "endless fighting and no real plot progression." Luke Ryan Baldock took issue with the tournament based season for its lack of plot and high amount of action.
^Dimps (February 24, 2015). Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: Oh, I'm sorry! Are you scared at my return?
^Dimps (February 24, 2015). Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: Did you bring your friend along for the ride? Is he from the past, too? I'm warning you, interfere and I'll exterminate you.
^Dimps (October 25, 2016). Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: So it would seem this stranger is my ally. You know, to be honest, I didn't think there were any more left alive...
^Dimps (October 25, 2016). Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Android 17: You gotta be kidding me!
^Dimps (October 25, 2016). Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Trunks: If Cell absorbs 17 in this state, he'll grown terrifyingly strong!
^Dimps (October 25, 2016). Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: Heh.. Ha ha ha... Very well. Allow me to welcome you to the Cell Games.
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Krillin: What have you done to my wife?!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: Well, if it isn't Goku and his annoying, nose-less sidekick...!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Krillin: Cell! You're through!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Cell: Solar Flare!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. ???: Ha ha ha! A sorry sight you were, Cell.
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Frieza: What say you to a deal? Tell me what you know... and I'll be happy to tell you what I know.
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Android 21: Don't tell me... You're the one who was linked with Goku earlier.
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Android 21: Very well... More fun for me, I suppose. And it saves me the trouble of hunting you down!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Goku: Wha? Hey, you're back!
^Arc System Works (January 26, 2018). Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco Entertainment. Android 21: But... judging from the amount of his fatique, the link won't hold much longer..