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
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.
Here’s some crappy instagram photos of my redone merch shelf, featuring a DIY shelf that I made out of boxes because I’m too broke to buy proper shelving. I lined it with manga pages from a free manga magazine to make it pretty. Gohan and Piccolo figurarts are actually on top of my oldschool TV rather than on the merch shelf, cuz I’ve got too much merch for even one expanded shelf to hold.