TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season One.

Alrighty, so I finished re-watching the first season (The Saiyan and/or Vegeta Saga) of Dragonball Z. Season One has never been my favorite season, though I do have some things I do really like about it. You don’t necessarily need to have seen Dragonball to follow Dragonball Z, though it helps.

The series picks up 5 years after the end of Dragonball. Piccolo had been defeated, and Goku and Chi-Chi are married and have a four-year-old son named Gohan (after Goku’s grandfather). But when an alien named Raditz, who turns out to be Goku’s older brother, shows up wondering why Goku hadn’t destroyed the planet yet, Goku learns all about his mysterious past. Goku is a Saiyan, one of the most powerful races in the universe. They are planet dealers, leveling planets and selling them to the highest bidder. But the Saiyan’s home world was destroyed, leaving only four Saiyans alive—Goku being one of them. He had been sent to Earth as a baby to get it ready by killing everybody and getting it ready for sale, but hit is head and forgot everything. He thus becomes the world’s protector instead.

However, Raditz still wants the mission to go through as planned, but not if Goku and his friends have anything to say about it. Raditz kidnaps little Gohan and forces Goku to act. Piccolo, still alive and well, is forced to team up with his mortal enemy to kill this Raditz guy, because he’s way too powerful for either of them to take alone. And they barely do it, but not without Goku dying in the process, as well as Gohan showing some innate power. They also discover that two other Saiyans—Nappa and Vegeta (Prince of all Saiyans)—have heard everything due to a transmitting device and are on their way to Earth to find the Dragonballs and wish for immortality.

So now everybody has one year to train and get ready to face the two even more powerful Saiyans. Piccolo takes Gohan under his wing, because he feels the kid can come in handy. Krillin, Tien, Choazu, Yamcha, and the cowardly Yajirobi train on Korin Tower with Kami, while Goku must travel the seemingly endless Snake Way in Otherworld to train with King Kai before being wished back to life with the Dragonballs in one year’s time.

Okay, so the first 5 or 6 episodes are the only ones that deal with Raditz (and really only the end of the first episode… the rest is introductory). Then for about 15-20 episodes after that, it gets a bit repetitious. Piccolo leaves Gohan to live on his own for 6 months to get over his spoiled-ness and to toughen up. Goku travels through Snake Way; in fact, it’s really bad when he spends numerous episodes traveling Snake Way, then falls off and has to start back over from the beginning.

For me, that’s one of the biggest things I didn’t like about the first season: It’s way too slow. The first episode kinda drags introducing Gohan and getting lost in the woods, but then Raditz shows up and it picks up considerably. But that only lasts for a few episodes. Then nothing happens for the majority of it afterward. The bulk of the saga is spent prepping to train for Nappa and Vegeta. The main focus is on Gohan living on his own and his evolution as a person. And that part I really liked, even if, as I said, it got repetitious later on. The thing I didn’t like, though, was that once all of that was said and done, it basically skips the actual training. Goku gets to King Kai’s and there’s a few episodes of easy training, and Piccolo finally starts personally training Gohan, where there are a few introductory episodes. And the others get to Korin Tower—again, a few intro episodes. But after that, there’s a huge jump forward in time and training is over. So it’s like we spent all that time getting ready to train, and almost no time showing the actual training.

But I’m sure I understand why this was done. They were saving the fun action for when Nappa and Vegeta showed up. And this is where the season really picks up. While Nappa and Vegeta aren’t the most entertaining villains (again, another reason I’m not big on the first season), the fights are great to watch. Vegeta is better when he does like Piccolo does and joins the good guys later on in the series. The constant rivalry between Goku and Vegeta later on is more entertaining than he is in the first season.

But what I love about the first season is the relationship between Gohan and Piccolo. Gohan was always my favorite character (until the Cell Saga ends, and then he just gets lame. I never got big into the Buu Saga and all of those, though mostly because I think I started getting more of a social life around the time they were airing those episodes). Anyway, I loved Gohan’s evolution from a whiny little four-year-old kid into one of the most powerful fighters in the series. And then there’s Piccolo’s evolution from evil baddy to father figure. And all of that starts in this season.

As far as more of the technical things, the first season was never known as the best with voiceover or scripting. In fact, it’s incredibly cheesy at times, in both aspects. But from what I remember (and what I’ve read), it gets better as it goes on. And the animation is great. There are a couple issues here and there (Vegeta’s hair), but otherwise, it’s top notch. The action is bright and fast and amazing. And watching the uncut version, there is even some good blood and whatnot that I didn’t see originally growing up.

I know I said some negative things about the season, but it is really enjoyable. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, and other moments where you just have a huge grin on your face because something awesome is either happening or about to happen. And I think this series is where I got my inclination to end chapters in my books with massive cliffhangers, because almost every DBZ episode (especially those when there are epic battles going on) ends with something insane (“Will the world blow up? Will everybody die? Find out next time… on Dragonball Z!”). And the thing is, these are real cliffhangers, because those examples may sound like jokes, but those things can and do happen in this series. The show is known for characters dying (only to be resurrected to die again later) and for massive landscapes and/or entire planets being destroyed. I would get annoyed sometimes, because I’m re-watching these on DVD via Netflix, and I’d get through the last episode of a disc and get impatient when I realize I’ll have to a wait a few days before I get the next one.

The first season ends at a weird spot (nothing really conclusive… actually already having started up the next adventure), but I can’t wait to start the next season. The Frieza Saga is one of the longest sagas, and although it’s known for its episodes of nothing but powering up and things never seeming to come to an end, I’m excited. It’s the season that introduces the Super Saiyan, which is awesome. So once I’ve finished season two, expect more of my thoughts!

As for now… completely ignore the Dragonball Evolution “movie” and go out and rent Dragonball Z (or something like that).

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