What’s your favorite DBZ saga? With almost 300 episodes in the series, everyone has a favorite. How does it stack up when compared to the other sagas? And, most importantly, which one is the best ever? Which one is so awful everyone should just watch the highlights on YouTube instead of dragging their feet through it?
I think there’s a case to be made for why each saga is the best and the worst. Let’s break down the pros and cons of the main four story arcs:
Why It’s The Best: Right from the jump, baby Gohan is kidnapped. We get pulled into Goku’s family drama and introduced to the series’ primary enemy: Vegeta. This saga has a perfect build up and the other sagas after it are just copying all of the fun stuff we see here. It’s also important to note that Goku’s very first fight with Vegeta is one of the only fights in the entire series where Goku is evenly matched. Later in the show their rivalry explains that Goku is a teeny bit stronger. However, when you’re watching DBZ for the first time you really don’t know who’s going to win. That is NOT the case as the show goes on and makes the Saiyan Saga somewhat pure compared to the soap opera style, uneven pairings and fight scenes in the future. It’s good storytelling all around.
Why It’s The Worst: Vegeta is a different type of villain, but this whole saga is full of tropes and predictable plot twists. The Bad Guys are really, really bad guys. How do we know? They tell you about it. Profusely. Then they show it in the most over-the-top ways. They’re not above killing kids, killing each other, blowing up a whole planet out of rage. The motivations of the baddies in future sagas are more complex. This saga is kinda simple. Can Goku beat the Saiyans? That’s it. Not a lot of other stuff going on but this one fight and this one plot point. And since Goku’s the hero, you already know he’s going to win.
Namek Saga/Frieza Saga
Why It’s The Best: This is where DBZ’s cult classic reputation comes from in my opinion. We have an all-powerful, gender fluid, ambiguously gay villain/dictator/crazy person, a scrappy team of underdogs, a shady frenemy, and one incredibly long and multifaceted fight. That sentence alone just sounds like a good time! There’s interplanetary travel, Gohan showing us a glimpse of his true power for the first time, Super Saiyans, Bulma searching for the dragon balls again (a throwback from the original Dragon Ball series), backstabbing, double crossing, humor and all the stuff that makes DBZ fun to watch.
Why It’s The Worst: It is LONG. Good Lord, it goes on forever and ever. There are some episodes during Goku and Frieza’s fight where Goku is just shouting and leveling up. That’s it. The fight itself goes on for an unparallelled 4 hours. It’s tedious. At least the genocide of the Namek’s goes by in a flash and isn’t especially gruesome. After a re-watch, I don’t know how this saga held my attention for as long as it did when I was a teenager. You can fast-forward through half the action and still be bored with the lack of action. Reading a summary of the saga is a more productive use of time.
Android Saga/Cell Saga
Why It’s The Best: This saga is the unofficial ending of Gohan’s coming-of-age story. The Android Saga leads straight into the Cell Saga which is all about Gohan. This is his time to shine as a fighter and a hero. We get glimpses of what Gohan is truly capable of with Vegeta and Frieza, but it’s this saga that shows us how powerful he really is and how he lives up to the title of ‘Chosen One’. Gohan gets ragged on a lot in the DBZ fandom for not being strong enough. As Goku’s son, it was his destiny to walk in his father’s shoes and become Earth’s greatest hero. Gohan doesn’t save the world in a flawless fashion. He makes arrogant mistakes along the way. However, this saga is thoroughly entertaining and introduces some of the fandom’s most beloved characters like Trunks and Android 18.
Why It’s The Worst: There’s just too much going on in this saga. We start out with the death of another villain, then we’re taken into the bleak alternative future timeline and as if that wasn’t confusing enough Future Trunks decides to stick around in the present as four different Bad Guys come in (and out) of the picture. While there is never a dull moment, it almost has too much action and leaves you wanting a summary so you can understand everything that happened.
Why It’s The Best: This is a fangirl’s dream saga. Children, lovers, normal day-to-day life and all the good fluffy stuff has been interrupted by the new Bad Guy in town. The saga takes place some years after all the Android stuff has finished. You can write a lot of fanfiction about the things that transpired in that time gap. When we return Gohan is older and hotter, Vegeta and Bulma are being adorably domestic together (in their own weird way) and everything is a little bit funnier. A little bit lighter. Of course, until Buu comes. He presents a challenge we’re sure will be entertaining and it is. We also get another amazing Goku versus Vegeta showdown in this saga and it’s almost better than their first big showdown. Unlike the other sagas however, when Goku saves the day at the end – he really has saved the day. That’s all folks!
Why It’s The Worst: The Buu Saga is almost as obnoxiously long as the Frieza Saga and less meaningful in the grand scheme of things. Buu is an annoying and wretched enemy. He’s here to destroy everything just because he can. There’s no larger story that he plays into unlike the Androids and Frieza. Dragon Ball Z could have ended after the Android Saga. The focus appears to still be trained on grown-up Gohan, but once the tournament begins the focus shifts a little bit to the ‘next generation’ of fighters (Goten and Trunks) and then back again to Gohan. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the catalyst for the whole saga is Vegeta, everyone’s favorite baddie, going back to his baddie roots.
If this saga were meant to be solely about Vegeta, then maybe it could have worked better. His story arc is thought-provoking, emotional and comes full circle. Vegeta fans tend to love this story arc, but creator Akira Toriyama has been clear in the past that Vegeta is one of his least favorite characters which explains the lack of focus in a way. So what’s a fangirl to do? Skip all that mundane tournament crap in the beginning and get to the grand finale, that’s what.
So do you agree with my assessment? I personally think the Saiyan Saga is the best and the Buu Saga is the worst, although all the sagas have good parts and bad parts. Leave a comment telling me why you agree or disagree!
NOTE: The Summer of DBZ blog posts will end in January. Look for the last two posts in November and December. Next month, we’re breaking down the best villain ever – Vegeta!