Season 7 picks up right where the last left off. Goku, King Kai, Bubbles, and Gregory head for Otherworld and the Grand Kai's planet. There, we also get an explanation of the deity system. There are four regular Kai's, one for each of the four quadrants of the galaxy. King Kai happens to be king of the north quadrant. Grand Kai is over all of them, and is basically like God... a God that looks like an old man stuck in an 80s cliche. And then there's the Supreme Kai, who is like the God of God and everything else, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Remember a few seasons ago when I mentioned that there were mini-sagas every now and then? Sagas that are just fill and really don't mean much of anything to the over-arching story? Well, that's how the season begins... a 5-episode mini-saga about the Otherworld Martial Arts Tournament, a tournament suggested by the four Kai's to see which quadrant has the strongest fighter. But the only two the mini-saga makes any real fuss about are Goku and a Piccolo-esque guy named Pikkon (pie-con). Pikkon is so strong that he's able to take out both Frieza and Cell, who are making trouble in Hell, single-handedly.
After that whole mini-saga, we pick up with... another mostly pointless saga. But the story picks up years later back on Earth. Gohan is now a teenager and, although he had been home schooling for years, decides to try out high school... though the closest one is some 500 miles away in the newly renamed Satan City (renamed after Hercule Satan, the man who got all the credit for defeating Cell). While there, Gohan has some issues fitting in with the crowd, and accidentally catches too much attention from a girl named Videl, who happens to be Mr. Satan's daughter.
And what does Gohan decide to do? Become a superhero, of course. He
has to get out all his super energy somehow, right? So he dons a costume and becomes The Great Saiyaman (I'm not kidding), fighting thugs and stopping crime. It's so beyond lame and embarrassing, it actually makes the Ginyu Force bearable. Get this, besides the stupid positions he "shows off" in, he actually, at one point, does a rap. Seriously.
Other things that have happened over the years? Well, apparently Chi-Chi was pregnant before Goku died, and she had another son named Goten, who is friends/rivals with Bulma and Vegeta's son, Trunks (both of whom are already, at their young ages, Super Saiyans. Man, I remember back when Super Saiyans were rare and were hard to become, and Gohan was such a shocker due to being the youngest ever). Krillin actually, and bizarrely, grew out some hair and married Android 18, and they have a daughter named Maron (yes... Krillin named his daughter after his first girlfriend. I wonder how that conversation went with the wife).
In other words, Dragonball Z has become a sitcom. From the new slapstick opening credits to the overall tone of the season thus far, it's become nothing more than a family-friendly sitcom. Even the Otherworld Tournament was toned down considerably. Granted, it was a friendly competition, but still. Everything has gotten rather ridiculous... at least at the start.
Of course, the season does have somewhat of a point. Videl finds out Gohan's true identity as Saiyaman and blackmails him. Along with teaching her how to fly, she makes him enter the upcoming world martial arts tournament. Gohan tells all the others about this, as well, and they all decide to enter. And not only them. Goku gets a bit of present and is offered 1 full day on Earth to compete in the tournament, as well. And everybody is excited, including Vegeta, who now has yet another chance to fight him.
One of the better things about the mostly pathetic excuse for a season is Gohan's relationship with Goten. They're really the first siblings the show has had, and to show them interact is at least mildly entertaining. Also, the budding relationship between Gohan and Videl is nice, even though it's your classic case of falling for somebody like your mother (anger issues). Though once she gets a haircut, her personality seems to shift altogether. Seriously, it's like a whole different character.
After a few more episodes of nothing important, we get to the tournament... and continue to watch not much of importance. Though by this point we know that the newly formed "Juniors Division" will come down to Trunks or Goten, while the adult group will come down to either Goku, Vegeta, or Gohan (if the plot allows them to stay in that long). And then there's the mystery of who is actually gonna take down Hercule and show him for the lame fraud he is.
But finally, at the end of the final episode on the 4th of 6 discs for the
season, we get some semblance of a purpose. Two mysterious and potentially dangerous strangers appear and talk to Goku (well, one of them talks, anyway), saying that they traveled a long way to have this chance to fight him. The smaller one, Shin (the one that talked), for some reason totally freaks out Piccolo, and Piccolo can't figure out why he's so freaked out by this guy. Of course, he figured it out... and I won't give it away, but let's just say I've already brought it up once in this post.
After a whole episode dedicated to drawing numbers to see who is going to fight who instead of just getting to the fighting, we get our opening fights, including Videl versus a very large, scary man with a Russian-esque name I can't be bothered to remember (he's also with another smaller, though still large and scary man who looks similar and with a name I also can't be bothered to remember). And something is up with this guy, as he won't stay down (no pun intended). There's also some kind of connection between this guy and Shin, but what could it be?
Turns out, the whole thing is basically a setup for the rest of the series. At the very end of the final episode, we find out what's really going on. I'll save the details for the next season review, but let's just say it basically involves an ultimate superpower/evil (shocker). Unfortunately, the season ends there. There's no overall story arch that's tied up. The tournament hasn't ended. Nothing is closed. It's just... in the middle of everything. Even the Ginyu Force saga had an ending (the Ginyu Force was defeated). But this... nothing.
Overall, the season is one of those that is necessary (I guess), but it feels almost entirely pointless. Though in a strange way, chunks of it were still entertaining and fun. Most of those bits were the growing relationship between Gohan and Videl, as I'm a sucker for romance in these kinds of stories. Mostly, though, the season was all over the place, tonally and otherwise. It really doesn't pick up until the tournament stuff (the Earth one, not the Otherworld one), but even then it takes a bit. Though I must admit, the big Videl fight is actually painful to watch, mostly due to a mix of sound effects and the voice actress' heartbreaking screams. And that has to be one of the only times in the full series where the violence actually got to me. It wasn't all cool and special effects and whatever. It was brutal and crushing. But I digress.
Would I recommend this saga? If you're going to continue watching after the Cell Saga, you don't have much of a choice. It introduces all the new stuff and characters necessary for the remainder of the series. Honestly, I ragged on this saga a lot, but it (at least the latter half) isn't really all that bad. The Great Saiyaman stuff is painful, yes, but the tournament stuff is better. But you still have to get through the former to understand the character relationships of the latter. Though as it stands, it's probably one of my least favorite seasons thus far.