Saturday, 27 September 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 17: The Cell Games Begin Review (Akira Toriyama)


So it’s pretty clear what Akira Toriyama’s doing at this point: recycling the hits. And, to be fair, it actually works! And, of course, it’s his series, his characters, he can do whatever the hell he wants. 

Cell is essentially Freeza, what with his many transformations unlocking higher levels of power, not to mention his lizard-like appearance. And then Toriyama goes back even deeper into the well (is that a thing?), by reviving the classic Strongest Under the Heavens tournament from the original Dragon Ball series!

Trunks goes Super Super Saiyan (Toriyama is imaginative in all but names!) and fights Cell before realising that he’s sacrificed speed for strength and Cell is still undefeatable. Like Vegeta in the last volume, Cell bizarrely decides to back down and let everyone power-up to their full strength to take him on in a one-on-one Royal Rumble-type match: everyone vs Cell! If they lose, everyone on Earth dies!

Even though readers of the series at this point shouldn’t need to know that the only saviours in this world are the Dragon Ball characters, Toriyama acknowledges the wider world by sending the army (there’s only one, just as there’s only one King of the World!) against Cell. Predictably, it doesn’t work, but it spurs Son Goku on to reinstating a new Kami-Sama of Earth. 

When Piccolo merged with Kami-Sama, the world lost its god and all of the Dragon Balls, so Son Goku decides to remedy that by bringing a new Namekian to Earth. The kid from earlier in the series, Dende, reappears to become the new Kami-Sama and once more there are Dragon Balls on Earth! 

There’s a funny new character introduced called Hercule who’s the martial arts champion of Earth, and who becomes the self-appointed hero who’ll beat Cell and save the world. He’s there for yuks but also to show how beyond human ability the Dragon Ball cast have gone. Kuririn’s expression when Hercule brings out some tiles to smash as a show of his strength says it all - “I don’t believe this…” 

It’s a little detail but I really liked that Gohan chose Piccolo’s outfit as his battle dress. Piccolo was Gohan’s mentor when he was even younger and it’s a nice show of respect from Gohan to honour Piccolo’s role in the person he has become. Piccolo seems to like it too, grinning slightly at the gesture (he’s the Demon King, he can never smile or show emotion!). 

For the first time this volume has a backup story focusing on Trunks’ life in the future. We see an adult Gohan training Trunks to become Super Saiyan as well as the destruction wrought by the androids. It doesn’t really add anything to what we already know about Trunks so it feels superfluous and dull - filler, basically. All we’re seeing is what he told us before in earlier volumes. Maybe if we’d seen this when he first appeared it’d be more interesting but not at this point in the story. Especially when we know that nothing they do in the past affects this future anyway, so they’re all doomed no matter what! 

So, at Volume 17 (or Volume 33, counting the original 16 volumes), we’ve come full circle to once more have another martial arts tournament. And, actually, I’m kinda looking forward to it! These were always the best parts of the Dragon Ball series and, now everyone’s been training and has new powers, the fights look like they’re going to be a lot of fun. 

Volume 17 is a lot of prepping for the next couple volumes but it’s still a really entertaining read. We get to see a lot more of Goku than we have in previous volumes, and there’s more focus on the world outside of the fights. Excellent stuff from Toriyama - Dragon Ball Z is back on track!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 17: The Cell Games Begin

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