The Dragon Ball collab post of the century has finally arrived!
After much ta-do and ta-da, bloggers Scott, Leth, and I have finally completed this collaboration post in honor of the “podcast-that-wasn’t.” (What podcast, you ask? Check it out!) Before you jump in here, I’ll direct you to Scott’s posting of part one wherein my fellow bloggers and I discuss Dragon Ball proper, our experiences with the franchize, and DBZ’s Frieza Saga! (Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you’re done…) (^ω~)
If you’ve already read part one, it’s time to pick up on part two below! For easy reading, we’ve color-coded our contributions thusly:
Scott (S) (Mechanical Anime Reviews): orange
Shoujo (SJ) (Shoujo Thoughts: Otaku Ramblings): pink — That’s me!
Leth (L) (Lethargic Ramblings): blue
Now, let’s jump back into the waters of Dragon Ball with our discussion of Z’s…
S: This saga was incredibly long. Oh man, especially when it came to an entire season of our characters versus Freiza, but it was all powerful and fun stuff. There are so many fun dynamics here. Seeing Vegeta team up with Gohan and Krillin to do that alliance of convenience thing against the larger threat of Freiza and his forces is just stuff of greatness. Especially when they are fighting with each other up front and then betraying each other when it came to the dragon balls later on. All this combined with the unique personalities of the Ginyu force and you have the stuff of legends.
L: The Ginyu Force were fantastic. Poses and all!
SJ: Oh, my gosh. The Ginyu Force! How could I forget them! And now I’m thinking about DBZ Abridged… I’m sorry, Scott. Please continue. ^_−☆
S: And then there is Goku. Man, Goku goes through some stuff too. He does his Goku hero thing which involves him saving the three mentioned above when they are up against the Ginyu force. Fantastic stuff there too, but seeing the body switch ability was something that messed around with Goku’s fighting expectations. Even when Ginyu couldn’t find the the way to unlock Goku’s abilities, it was still something we haven’t seen in this show before.
Last but not least, Freiza. Do we really need to say anything about him? Everyone knows who he is. Freiza is only the most popular villain that has come out of the Dragon Ball franchise for a lot of good reasons. His many transformations, his personality, his lack of understanding of time. Love Freiza to death. You can see why he came back in Super. I guess the super saiyan thing is here too with the build up to it throughout this season. Really impactful during this arc because it’s something special and came through emotional impacts, but ruined when everyone else was able to do it. Still a memorable moment though. On to you guys now.
SJ: I too want to reflect on Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation. That is WAS built up to for the whole series, that it WAS intended to be the highest achievable power form, that it WAS prompted by Krillin’s death, that it WAS only the pure-of-heart Goku that could do it… honestly, those things made it the best transformation for me in BDZ, period. Goku became the Legendary Saiyan in his enormous sorrow and rage over Krillin’s death, and that was an incredible moment, but it’s been undermined so many times in the series since then. (Like, why wasn’t ChiChi killed stupidly by Buu enough to drive Goten into a new level of power, and while we’re at it, WHEN DID GOING SS1 BECOME SO SIMPLE A CHILD COULD DO IT?? Yes, I know that Gohan could as an *older* child, but he’s also supposed to be this literal prodigy intended to surpass even Goku—before Toei had it’s way, thanks guys.) The increasing transformations really watered down the enormous impact of that first SS moment.*
*Just as a note, the power increases during the Cell Saga didn’t bother me; they were merely unnamed increases in power and ability, but not significant enough to warrant a separate transformation. I also enjoyed how a specific type of increase had consequences on Future Trunks as a fighter, but this isn’t the arc wherein to discuss that. ☆〜（ゝ。∂）
(Still SJ, sorry it’s blue): And yeah, Scott, you’re correct about the emotion! One of my favorite scenes in all of DBZ happens within this arc: Vegeta, in the throes of death, mourning his losses and what he had become.
SJ: Check out this video, guys.
I cry very real tears over this scene. It breaks my heart, and drives home the depths of Vegeta’s character, his suffering. No one should ever go through what Vegeta went through even as a little child, but it happened, and his Saiyan nature In combination with psychological trauma and how he was raised molded him into the multi-faceted villain—and ultimately even family man—he would become.
Listening to Chris Sabat flawlessly deliver that highly emotional monologue is also a testimony to the man’s overwhelming acting ability. Truly, I wish I could capture how very much the moment means to me, but I fear for once that words are lacking. ❤ THIS SCENE GIVES VEGETA MEANING, and it’s deeper meaning than one expects within this Shounen fighter, and I… I just love it.
Well, I gotta go re-watch that clip and bawl my eyes out. Leth, do you have anything to add?
L: I most certainly do, Shoujo!
So I’ll get straight to the point with this one, the Namek Saga, or Frieza Saga which is how I’ve always referred to it, is my favourite arc in the series and also one of my favourite arcs in any fighting Shounen series.
It was a lengthy arc for sure, but not unnecessarily so, and it managed to top the already dire and chaotic stakes of the Saiyan Saga to insanely new heights. To start with, Goku isn’t even present for a large portion of the arc and is lagging behind, recovering and training, while Gohan and Krillin are sent to Namek on their own to find the Namekian Dragon Balls and combat any threats that get in their way.
The bad news? The threat they encounter is not only far more powerful than Vegeta and Nappa, but he’s also far more psychotic and terrifying and has an entire gauntlet of powerful henchmen for our heroes to deal with. Like Scott, I really appreciated that Toriyama made Vegeta into a reluctant hero original Dragon Ball style. Seeing a powerful, old nemesis team up with our heroes to take down a common enemy was some amazing stuff, as Vegeta was far more evil, self-serving and less goofy than the villains that came before him which made his dynamic with our heroes even more interesting and entertaining.
The Ginyu Force were incredibly silly villains, but every one of them was also unique and brought something new to the table. One of my favourite moments was when Captain Ginyu swapped bodies with Goku and we had to watch Gohan and Krillin struggle against the techniques and power of Goku which was a whole new kind of ordeal. Naturally they manage to overcome it because Ginyu is a little daft, but it remains one of my favourite parts of the series because again, it presented a situation that seemed impossible for our heroes to overcome.
Which brings me to Frieza, the big bad of this arc and the reason why I love this part of Dragon Ball Z so much. Frieza is terrifying. Not just by Dragon Ball standards, but by Anime standards. While most main villains tend to have some funny personality quirk or sad backstory to justify their actions, Frieza does not. He is simply pure evil. He has no reason for being a bad guy other than he just likes to do bad things and is a power hungry monster who will stop at nothing to prove that he is the most powerful, most threatening, most tyrannical being in the entire universe. And he’s awesome.
While there are other villains who show up later on in Dragon Ball Z who dwarf Frieza in terms of power level, he’s always felt like the scariest and most terrifying villain in the series in spite of that. The characters were scared of this guy and seemed far less confident in taking him down than they ever did with the likes of Cell and Majin Buu despite them being far more powerful. And every time they managed to overcome him, he just kept coming back in a new transformation, even more powerful and threatening than before.
It’s become a bit of a meme that the fight between Goku and Frieza lasted far too long for its own good, but I honestly loved every second of it and have rewatched more times than I can count. It showcases everything that’s amazing about Dragon Ball Z and its fights and keeps getting more exciting with every phase and is full of unforgettable moments. One of my favourites being the part where Goku spends ages charging that insanely large Spirit Bomb and Frieza has no idea what he’s up to the entire time. When he noticed that insanely large ball of energy in the sky and looked genuinely terrified for the first time in his life as it was hurled towards him, I screamed so darn loud with excitement because it was so hype! Even today that moment still gives me chills!
And of course, there’s the Super Saiyan transformation where Goku finally fulfils the legend we’ve been hearing so much about and ascends to a new form in a scene that is so iconic that I’d dare say it’s become one of the most iconic moments in Anime history.
The Frieza Saga is, in my opinion, the best arc in Dragon Ball Z and even after all these years, it remains one of the best arcs across all fighting Shounen series. My only real complaint with this arc, which may be a tad controversial, is that I feel it could have served as a perfect ending for the series. Goku overcomes “the most powerful being in the universe”, brings his friends back to life and fulfils the legend of the Super Saiyan which was implied to be some sort of “end game” for the series. Apparently, Toriyama originally intended this arc to be the ending of the Manga until Shonen Jump said no and he was forced to make more arcs. I don’t know how true that is though, but it would have worked perfectly as an ending to the series in my opinion.
That all being said though, I do really like the later story arcs in spite of that and I wouldn’t change them for the world. More on those later!
SJ: This saga is the most nostalgic one for me, and as such I’m sure I’m willing to overlook just about anything wrong with it; I love the plot, I love the characters that are introduced, and I love the (wait for it) character development. (Surprise?)
It’s the arc from which SO MUCH evidence that Goku, bumbling as he may be, loves his family, loves ChiChi. Here are a few of my favorite clips, for good measure.
While this characters did have to become stronger in ways that might have devalued the initial Super Saiyan transformation, I can say confidently that, of all the times this ascendance occurs, this is the least problematic. I don’t think it did so at all, really. The characters may be stronger than they were as Super Saiyans originally, but their transformation hasn’t modified their form. Really, it’s more of our characters getting used to exercising their current power to its utmost. Goku and Gohan learn how to maintain the ascended state, Trunks learns the drawbacks that come with channeling too much power without accounting for loss of speed…
S: I feel like the series was more focused and at its best when Freiza was the main bad guy. It really tied everything together and gave Dragon Ball Z it’s own focus.. That being said, I love almost everything about the Android/Cell sagas too. I like how Future Trunks set the tone of the series in the beginning by appearing out of nowhere and beating a new and refurbished Freiza. It was a huge note that Freiza is now the end all, be all in this world. Especially since he brought the doom of the Androids.
Speaking of Androids, the whole affair felt a little unfocused. I mean, we got two sets of androids and then Cell. Where do all these villains come from? That being said, the transition between each set of androids and Cell made everything worth it. I don’t know how, but Toriyama made the mess of multiple sagas work together somehow. It’s just great stuff and works amazing.
L: Like Shoujo, the Android and Cell Sagas are also the most nostalgic for me, mostly because they aired at the time where I started to get really into Dragon Ball Z and it became a huge part of my life.
I guess I’ll start with the complaints though. I was never a fan of how they kind of devalued the Super Saiyan transformation. Trunks having it was fine, because he was from the future which made it feel more justified, but Vegeta? And then Gohan? Suddenly we have four “legends” all at once despite the fact it was only meant to happen every 1000 years or whatever.
Like Scott, I also wasn’t too keen on how unfocused things felt and while I liked the villains, they weren’t Frieza and it felt weird seeing the main villains constantly being swapped out in favour of another, more powerful one. Part of the reason for his lack of focus and the constantly changing villains was again due to meddling from Shonen Jump though, so it’s not something I’m too annoyed by. It ain’t Toriyama’s fault and he did a great job pulling it all together in the end.
Future Trunks was awesome, and watching him take down a revived Frieza with little to no effort was incredible. It was something else to see this completely new character wipe the floor with the tyrant who just spent the entire last arc tormenting our heroes with his near unstoppable power. And the news that an even worse threat was on the way? Damn. Intense stuff.
Cell was also a really cool final villain for this arc and while he wasn’t as menacing or charismatic as Frieza, he was still pretty awesome in his own right. I especially liked how he had the abilities of all of the Z-fighters, and even Frieza, for his own personal usage. It made his battles more interesting and unpredictable.
SJ: Oh, my gosh, yes. Future Trunks is to this day one of my favorite characters. It might sound silly since it wasn’t explicitly stated, but Trunks wants so badly for this father he has never known to love him, to want him. And he’s shocked when he encounters this Vegeta who is seemingly much “worse” than his mother ever conveyed. He takes it upon himself to save her life and his own from the hovercraft explosion when his dad is literally RIGHT THERE and could not be bothered. He sees how imperfect and selfish his father is and has to come to terms with that, but this arc is actually one of the largest for Vegeta’s development as well. He sees and interacts with his son as a man. And then it happens; Cell shoots him, and everything falls apart in his mind, and it’s the first time his world has been rocked. There are so many versions of that scene, and while I prefer Vegeta’s monologue in the original, the pacing of Kai seems much more organic.
A while ago I found a “theatrical” version (read: fan-edited) of that scene. The context isn’t changed, but elements from the original and Kai are combined and music is added in. My favorite part is the internal dialogue when Vegeta goes berserk (all from the original material ABOUT HIM elsewhere in the arc).
When I watched it, it hit me so hard. It takes everything going on internally (and you know how much I love that!!) and brings it to audience attention. I truly believe when watching the original that THIS THEATRICAL shows what is going on in Vegeta’s heart behind the scenes, and it’s amazing. (Plus, everything that flashes through his mind is LITERALLY what he monologues about in the original, but they showed it in scene form rather than just stating it or worse, implying it!! His self-loathing and recrimination is ALL originally him.) Here’s the trailer if you want to cry:
S: Finally, can we talk about Gohan? I want to talk about Gohan. I know that Shoujo talked about all of those power ups better than I probably could, but let’s talk about the pay off called Super Saiyan 2. This was something that was built up during the entire series starting with Raditz. Gohan always had a hidden potential that came out of nowhere and it has either gotten Gohan and friends out of a lot of jams or it made each situation worse. Either way, Super Saiyan 2 was the pay off the show needed. I sometimes that Dragon Ball Z could have ended with the Cell stuff, but unfortunately….
SJ: You mean you weren’t impressed with the Pepto Bismol pink monster and totally out of character and canonically inaccurate material, Scott? 😛
S: I thought I was being subtle…
L: You’re not alone, Scott (kinda).
SJ: On the Gohan stuff, it’s such a shame what they did to him after a while. The Cell Saga was FANTASTIC for his character!! All that about him being the next generation of protector—-the beautiful combination of humanity and Saiyan heritage born of love between two races (much like Goku’s initial transformation, when you think about it!) resulting in incredible power—-only to later let it fall by the wayside… 😦 He didn’t want to fight, and I get that. Piccolo got it. Goku (eventually) got it. But still, Gohan fights not out of Saiyan vice/pride, but out of love for those he wishes to protect. Nothing about that equates with letting his skills fall by the wayside in Super. It isn’t in his character! The only time he did cave to that more vicious Saiyan side of himself (read: didn’t finish Cell when he had the chance), Goku died. Big deterrent there not to fall to that side of himself again, I should imagine. I think it scared him. What am I babbling about now? I don’t know. There’s just so much about Gohan that was left unexplored. (ALSO GT is a FanFiction. FIGHT ME.)
Now, if someone wants to talk about Mystic Gohan our discussion of the next saga, that probably wouldn’t go awry…
L: On the subject of Gohan, I really liked what they did with his character arc here. His hidden potential is something that had been hinted at since the very beginning of Z and seeing it finally come out in the form of a second Super Saiyan transformation was awesome! It made for an incredible final battle against Cell and allowed Goku to finally pass the torch to his son after sacrificing himself, which was super feelsy and had my bawling my eyes out as a kid. I was so sad!
Goku passing the torch to Gohan would have made for a perfect ending for the series in my opinion, as it not only symbolised the end of Goku’s journey as a hero, but it came at a time where every loose end in the series had been tied up in the neatest way possible. Gohan’s hidden potential was finally realised, Cell was defeated, Goku had passed on his legacy and even Vegeta had finally grown to abandon his pride and become a family man and generally happy resident of Earth.
But unfortunately, this was not meant to be. Because Shonen Jump! The Buu Saga was next and… Oh boy… I heard this is Scott’s favourite arc.
And, with Scott’s beautiful snek imitation, we close on this installment of the collaboration post! I now direct you to Leth for discussion of the Buu Arc, Dragon Ball Super, and more!
Contribute to our discussion in the comments below, and feel the HYPE!