Dragonball Z

Dragonball Z: Abridged Episode 54 Review

The hum before shit hits the fan.

The Cell Games are presented to us as a combination of a threat and promise, which is appropriate, given both that cursory knowledge of the original series makes it clear that the games (and all the highs and lows associated with them) have been coming, and that Cell himself is setting them up as a corrupted version of the Dragonball Universe’s most famous and wholesome events, the World Martial Arts Tournaments.

Sometimes, having never seen the original show puts me at an interpretive disadvantage. This is definitely one of those times. Not having seen the original show here means that I can’t dissect the significance of this corruption, or understand it any further than simply knowing that it’s there. As such, I’m going to simply move on to the rest of the episode, but I invite discussion and exploration in the replies and reblogs, as I’d be very interested to know what might be going on at a thematic level.

The majority of this episode is not focused on the introduction of the Cell Games, however. It is instead focused on developing our heroes as they rest, specifically developing Trunks, Vegeta, and Krillin further thanks to their shared failure to stop Cell. Krillin particularly is shown to be more compassionate than we’ve ever seen him before, as he befriends Android 16 and takes him back to Dr. Briefs for repair, where we gain insight into the processes that make 16 the bird loving, Goku-murdering construct that he is.

Chi Chi is also given special attention in this episode. I have been defending Team Four Star’s portrayal of Chi Chi as deep and nuanced since I began reviewing this show, as they have consistently coded her to be overbearing towards Gohan, yes, but overbearing because she understands the actual stakes of allowing a child to be involved in battles for the fate of the world. Now, finally, a year later, Team Four Star is given a chance to make that subtext into text, and they do so wonderfully, with Chi Chi giving a speech to our heroes about her desires for him to have better than a life of fighting and surviving off prize money.

It’s this moment of characterization that, when contrasted with the Chi Chi of Gohan’s nightmare, makes it clear why the nightmare is so horrifying. Nightmare Chi Chi, though only briefly appearing, has none of the underlying love or hope for Gohan that are present in his actual mother. Instead, she is replaced by a monster that threatens him with intense disappointment, listening to none of his concerns and refusing to accommodate his desires to fight.

It’s fitting then, that the ultimate monster in Gohan’s nightmare is his own father. Goku has yet to listen to any of his son’s concerns about fighting, constantly spurring him into dangerous situations with the implicit threat that he will be disappointed in his son if he doesn’t come out of them a better fighter (as evidenced by his extreme method for triggering Gohan’s first transformation into a Super Saiyan). Gohan’s nightmare is watching his own father tear away his greatest sources of support, calmly murdering both Piccolo and the mother who loves him.

Goku and Cell are the same threat to Gohan because both are putting him into danger that he wants no part of.

Rating: 4.5/5

If you enjoyed this review, consider supporting me on Patreon.

Stray Observations

Keep reading