I seem to be asking a lot of questions lately, but honestly these questions have been playing on my mind for many (and I mean many) years now. Dragonball Z was a hit show back when I was a kid and I was devoted to it, tuning in every tea-time when a new episode aired. But something that annoyed me was the fact that the series did seem to fall into a repetitive cycle that became somewhat predictable, and slightly boring. One of the series biggest problems after “The Frieza Saga” was finding a good story to tell, accompanied with a menacing villain for the Z-Fighters to face. But once you’ve introduced a universal tyrant and a power that steams from a legend where do you go from there?
Allow me to share with you my thoughts on where I believe the series went wrong through not knowing when to quit.
Overpowered CharactersDragonball started off fairly simple, especially when it came to villains such as Emperor Pilaf and the Red Ribbon Army, so it didn’t require characters to have extremely high power levels. This only started to become a big deal when Piccolo was introduced, becoming the first major threat through intense power levels and threat value. From there the villains simply got more powerful through the usual anime/manga trope of needing a more powerful villain to outdo the last.
Dragonball Z started off fine and simply created villains that realistically outdid the last, with Raditz being the next big enemy after Piccolo with Goku and Piccolo having to combine their powers to defeat him. Nappa and Vegeta naturally where even more powerful, to which Goku learns new techniques during his time training under King Kai. Then we are introduced to Frieza who is the most powerful being in the universe. Of course each character needs to become more powerful after each battle with Frieza’s henchmen in order to survive the next but in the end Frieza proves to be too powerful, until Goku becomes the Legendary Super Saiyan.
But after that we hit a brick wall because what can you do next? You’ve faced the universe’s greatest threat, and Goku has gained the power of a legend, you’d think that would be a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately the show would continue to go on even past the point it shouldn’t. My biggest gripe with “The Android Saga” is its unrealistic nature. How can Androids be more powerful than Frieza? It makes no sense whatsoever. Trunks cannot defeat Android 17 and 18 but he can travel back in time and kill Mecha Frieza (who is supposed to be stronger than his 100% transformed state) and his father, King Cold, who realistically should be stronger than Frieza. How?!
It’s understandable that the Androids should be quite strong because Dr. Gero, their creator, surveyed the Z-Fighters and analysed their fighting patterns so that his creations had a strategic advantage. But, it is stated that Dr. Gero has no idea what Super Saiyan is when he comes into contact with Goku so that means the Androids would not, and repeat, would not be stronger than Goku because he has an ability that they weren’t designed for and would be inferior. Plus how can they be stronger than Frieza?!
Then comes Cell. Even Cell shouldn’t be stronger than Frieza. The specially designed Android would be very strong, and a handful due to knowing all of the Z-Fighters moves but would that necessarily make it stronger? No. Having the Z-Fighters combat techniques doesn’t make Cell stronger, merely well equipped. Plus technically it shouldn’t know about Super Saiyan because Dr. Gero couldn’t have surveyed the battles on Namek where the Z-Fighters gained stronger techniques and were up against powerful opponents. Even when Cell became Perfect Cell it shouldn’t have reached the power level that it did because all it was doing was combining itself with Androids 17 and 18 who shouldn’t have been all that powerful to begin with.
Then this obviously brings me to the heroes and their overpowered nature. The Legendary Super Saiyan was at first a brilliant concept but quickly divulged into a cope-out element through the idea that it could be ascended by further transformative states. So we got Super Saiyan 2, Super Saiyan 3, Super Saiyan 4 (if you count Dragonball GT as canon) and now in the latest series of films and show Dragonball Super we have Super Saiyan God Form. You get the picture. It’s absolutely absurd in how these characters can reach all these stupid power levels, to which only makes the narrative more complex in how strong everyone is and how unrealistic each enemy has to be now because of the scale we’ve reached.
Over Expanding the DBZ Universe
After “The Cell Games Saga” Dragonball Z went towards expanding its own universe through Goku’s time within Other World after he died for a second time. It was an interesting scenario where we got to see more of the Kai’s, how Other World is structured and how other warriors from different regions can come together and train. But it was spoilt a lot when Cell tried to return so soon after his death at the hands of Gohan, though the premise was made cool by the fact that he broke Frieza, King Cold and the Ginyu Force out of Hell as well. But alas, the trope of overpowered characters returned as character Pikkon defeats Cell, Frieza and King Cold with more ease than Trunks. What the hell DBZ?!
This eventually leads to the introduction of the Grand Kai’s, the Kai World and Majin Buu. Majin Buu becomes the next big threat for the Z-Fighters to fight and to be fair is a brilliant successor to Frieza and is believable in his strength and power due to being created by a wizard in Other World and was able to combat against the Kai’s. It’s simply a shame that we have a repeat of the creation idea, following from both the Androids and Cell, and eventually the annoying creator who deems themselves controller of the unstoppable is killed to allow the creation to run amuck. I believe we should’ve just skipped over Cell and gone straight to Buu because at least then it would’ve had a clear progression of plot. You could’ve had it where Goku died on Namek, and stayed in Other World exactly how it happens at the end of “The Cell Games Saga” and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
But it’s still fair to say that the expansion of Other World and bringing in Gods, which has been over done in Dragonball Super and its respective movies; Battle of Gods and Resurrection-F. The original premise of the show was quite simplistic with certain supernatural and science-fiction elements imbedded into the structure gradually, allowing for a well structured narrative and universe. But by the time of “The Majin Buu Saga” everything just gets out of control and I do actually feel like its a completely different series. Usually when you look back at the first series of a show and see how far it’s come it is a good thing, a sign of progression, but with DBZ it’s simply baffling at how much the series has changed for the worse, adding in too many elements that didn’t need to be there and overall ruining the structure, tone and characterisation of a once brilliant manga.
Spoiling the Narrative
I think the previous section can be better expanded upon through talking about the narrative. I love “The Saiyan Saga” and “The Frieza Saga” because they felt well constructed, put together in a special way that told a brilliant narrative and it explored the character’s in a unique way. And above all it still felt faithful to the original series Dragonball. Yes it had incorporated a lot more science-fiction elements by this point, and even had the series going into space but it was a natural progression. Plus I enjoyed watching and learning about Goku’s past and how he was always an alien who was actually sent to destroy Earth rather than protect it. It goes a long way to explaining his meaning and how far he has come as a character through him finding a new life and purpose, thereby going against the savage nature of his people.
The introduction of Vegeta also added a lot to the mix and gave Goku his perfect rival. Vegeta as a whole is a fantastic character, to which I like more than Goku. He’s a badass and at first was totally ruthless but as the story went on we learnt that he was controlled by Frieza, stolen away from his father as a young boy and forced to work for him. Ultimately Vegeta finally acted out his plans to gain vengeance over the tyrant by robbing him of his wish for ‘immortality’ and killing him for destroying his race.
In the end you look back at his character and look at him in a different light. Also his death at the hands of Frieza is beyond tragic because Vegeta believed he was a Super Saiyan and could finally kill Frieza but ultimately is beaten down by the tyrant in a humiliating fashion, leading to the Saiyan Prince swallowing his pride by telling Goku the truth about his past. When he starts to cry that’s when you know he has emotion and was never truly a villain and this always makes me cry because it is both sad and beautiful, a perfect example of great character development.
Of course this leads to the grand battle between Goku and Frieza which has so much meaning because Frieza is the destroyer of Goku’s home, and above all, the destroyer of the innocence. This places Goku in his most heroic moment as he truly trials over evil in order to defend the entire universe. You can’t get much bigger than those odds and with the stakes so high and all the personal factors involved it was truly a spectacle that left you engaged from start to finish. And when he does become the Legendary Super Saiyan and finally defeats Frieza you have yourself the perfect conclusion for Goku’s character: he is the saviour of the universe having defeated the strongest opponent in the universe.
But alas they had to keep the show going and bring in stronger villains, and then make our heroes even stronger. But worst of all the show loses its meaning because there is no personal stakes anymore, and no real purpose behind the battles other than standard tropes. Goku had a personal grudge against Frieza, but with Cell and Majin Buu they became generic villains that he must stop because he is the good guy and they are the bad guy. The two villains don’t even wish possession over the Dragonballs, one of the core aspects of all the villains that came before, resulting in them becoming even more generic and bland by just wanting domination for the sake of destroying. Plus there is no further progression on Goku’s story-arc which was so well crafted throughout the “Saiyan” and “Frieza” arcs but were dropped afterwards because they were deemed done. I felt there wasn’t any real progression with the series after the defeat of Frieza and was going on for the sake of it.
Yes it was nice to see Gohan become a Super Saiyan, along with Vegeta. It was also nice to see Vegeta find a home on Earth and find love with Bulma, whom he eventually sacrifices himself for. But there were too many problems as the show went on, especially with the characters. Gohan was given the chance to take up Goku’s mantle after defeating Cell, giving us yet another perfect conclusion point but alas the series went on again and destroyed this aspect by turning Gohan weak after he became a college student (and don’t get me started on the Great Saiyaman). It’s fair to say that the narrative just kept going on and on and on, without any good reason and certainly without any of the great substance that came before. And what we were left with was beyond insulting…
Goodbye Hero, Hello Selfish Prick
Goku, the once great selfless hero of the series, became the most selfish person on the planet. From deciding to not return home when given the chance at the end of “The Frieza Saga”, to using King Kai’s planet to detonate Cell’s bomb (killing him in the process), to refusing to be wished back to life at the end of “The Cell Games Saga” (though to his credit he was thinking logically when considering the fact he attracts trouble and him remaining in Other World would perhaps keep the Earth safe, but still) and finally him abandoning everyone at the end of the series to go train with Uub. This trait made me lose a lot of respect for the character as he was no longer the person he started out to be and became a careless clown who only sought out to find the next best thrill through fighting. The fact that he got upset in Battle of Gods because he had to share his friends power instead of relying on his own strength to defeat Beerus says it all.
In conclusion I feel the reasons I stated above give enough reasoning to why this epic series should have ended with “The Frieza Saga”, the best possible moment for both the narrative and its characters. But of course, as always, these are just my thoughts and opinions. What do you think about this question and do you agree with me? Please share your answers and feelings either in the comment section below or on our Twitter Page!