Vegeta, of course, believes he's better than everybody else, and will take as much time as he can in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber to get the strength needed to defeat Cell all on his own. But Goku, who has just left the chamber with Gohan, seems to know better. He shares that Cell is still much stronger than him, but he's not worried for some unexplained-at-this-point reason (though we all know what it is). Instead, he would prefer to just relax... because living with friends and family is the most important thing in these dark days.
Unfortunately, this opens the beginning of the season up to more filler. While there is a fun inclusion of an old Dragonball villain (like, from the original series), it's mostly a wasted cameo in a wasted episode (he does come back for one more, but again... not important on the whole). There are little bits here and there that clue in to what's to come, but mostly, the filler is... well... filler--out of place and unnecessary.
Luckily, the unimportant filler only lasts a few episodes before trading off for what I can only describe as "important filler." In other words, the occurrences in these episodes are important, but you still feel like they're wasting time in getting to the point. Dende returns to the series as the new guardian of Earth and creates new dragonballs, and then Goku goes off to hunt them down. While it's essential to know he found them all, the actual journey shown is mostly pointless. There's also an introduction of a new character, Mr. (Hercule) Satan. He's almost purely comic relief, being the martial arts champion of Earth, which really doesn't mean anything. He's cocky and ignorant, leaving those who actually understand what's going on to blink mutely and call him an idiot (which they do... over and over and over again). And it's honestly funny the first few times they do it. But then they keep doing it. And he just keeps talking. And you finally get to a point where you want to punch the guy so we can move on with the story. It does this even after the Cell Games have already started.
But once Goku steps into the ring--aside from the Hercule/Mr. Satan, well, asides--the action picks up considerably (in comparison, anyway). It's a bummer that the first 1/3 of the season is mainly a waste of time, but the last 2/3 really make up for it.
Goku's fight with Cell is beyond epic, and ends in such an awesome move, you'd think it'd be the end of it. But alas, I knew better. Goku's had a plan all along, and it never included him being the one to defeat Cell. Also, the actual "tournament" portion of the Cell Games only lasts a couple episodes once Goku's fight begins, which is sad, but I suppose understandable (what evil super-being is going to restrain itself to the rules of a martial arts tournament and fighting ring?).
But this season was never about Goku. His time to shine has passed. Now it's all down to Gohan, who has matured greatly over the seasons, and is no longer the scared little boy from the beginning. He's an incredibly powerful warrior... who just has to tap into his hidden power and unleash it on Cell.
And once he does... we begin the greatest episodes of the entire series. Gohan never says much
after this point, but he doesn't need to. He lets his actions and demeanor speak for him. Everything about him has changed, and you can tell from the look on his face and the way he holds his body. And how else do they show his power? By changing up the style of fighting. Through the seasons, if somebody gets more powerful, they'll show it in a punch or kick that doubles the target over. It's one strong, focused hit. But Gohan's power is different. It's very minute, but you can see it if you pay attention. Instead of these "stationary" hits, Gohan will hit/kick hard, but also fast. His moves don't stick, if that makes sense. It's hard to explain in words, but you'd know it if you saw it.
Even Hercule/Mr. Satan gets a bit of development around this point and does something useful, and the news crew also gets on him about basically being an idiot. On a similar note, Chi-Chi's father also finally yells at his daughter for her whining and complaining about how Gohan and Goku are just mindless brutes and how "saving the world" won't get Gohan into college, etc. Though it doesn't mean much, as Chi-Chi stays her annoyingly stubborn self. But at least he did it. Somebody needed to.
But anyway, everything gets thrown on the table now. No more holding back. Cell shows his full potential, even to the point of showing off his "acquired" special moves one after the other. And then Gohan gets his first Kamehameha of the series. I personally would have saved it until a little bit later where it would have meant more, but oh well.
But it all culminates in what has to be the single best episode of the entire series, "Save the World." Everybody helps out for once, and both Gohan and Vegeta have the final character developments both characters have been leading up to the entire series. And in one move, we have my favorite moment on the show, as it mixes a change in Vegeta, Gohan proving himself as the ultimate fighter, great animation, and some of the best music on the show... all rolled into about a minute or so.
There are only a few more episodes after this (strangely enough, they split up the episodes onto two discs, putting only 3 on each, which is a total waste). Personally, I feel this would have been the best place to end the series. Vegeta's had his redemption, every fighter has shown his worth, character development for everyone has reached its peak, and Gohan has taken Goku's spot as Earth's hero. It even gives an ending to Future Trunks' story and original purpose. Everything is perfectly smoothed out and given a peaceable ending. There couldn't possibly be anywhere else to take the show... right?
Wrong. With not one, not two, but three seasons left, Akira Toriyama apparently saw a lot of places to take the story (and with it, only about half its audience). By the time these final sagas aired, the majority of the show's original audience had grown up and out of it--another reason they should have just ended with Cell. And for whatever reason, maybe to try and find another core audience--who knows?--the show changes drastically in feel. This season ends with a tease about "Otherworld," but besides that, there's no real inclination of where the show would be going. I know a little bit, of course, but not everything. Let's just say that of the following sagas, I've seen very little. I know of only a few things and how they turn out (some big, some not so much), so the bulk of the following three seasons is going to be mostly a surprise to me.
So with that said, until next time...