The Dragonball Z saga arrives at its most darkest and disturbing chapter in the fourth volume of the Dragon Box set, collecting the episodes that span the Android and Cell sagas. By warning Goku and pre-empting his fatal heart condition, Trunks had hoped that his future, in which two Androids devastated the planet, would change for the better. However, he was unable to predict the consequences of time travel and brought an even greater evil back to the past.
Volume four begins with the arrival of Androids 19 and 20, who immediately murder and terrorize the helpless citizens of South City. First to arrive is Yamcha, who is quickly dispatched much to the horror of Goku, Krillin and Piccolo. Although Goku is able to inflict a beating on Android 19, the warrior is quickly winded after the virus begins attacking his heart. At the mercy of Android 19, Vegeta comes to the rescue and, after showing off his ability to become a Super Saiyan, easily destroys 19 and forces 20 to flee to his hidden laboratory in order to activate Androids 17 and 18. The pair show an independent streak and much to the surprise of our heroes, both destroy 20 before activating another to help them with their mission: to find and kill Goku.
While the warriors formulate a plan and Vegeta stubbornly pursues the Androids, Bulma contacts Trunks and tells him about the discovery of a second time machine that has been hidden in the woods for four years. Investigating the machine, Krillin finds a hatched egg as well as an empty, insect-like husk. Frightened by this strange development, our heroes begin hearing reports of entire city populations disappearing without a trace. Piccolo flies to one of the cities and finds a creature who calls himself Cell, who not only has knowledge of every warrior on Earth, but can also use their special powers and attacks. During a fight, Cell reveals that he was created by Android 20 and in order to achieve his ultimate, perfect form he must absorb Androids 17 and 18.
While the third volume of the Dragon Box set felt like an uphill climb on a mountain made of molasses, the pacing in volume four is quicker because thanks to more action and plot and less brooding and reliance on filler material. The Android saga is considerably more interesting than those that came before it and fans of Vegeta will be happy to know that he plays a prominent role and his ability to become a Super Saiyan has enlarged his already planetary-sized ego. The villains are more interesting as well because they are less “Mwah-ha-ha, I’m evil!” and more, “I am evil because I can punch you into next week.” The Androids are cool and cold in their mannerisms, a nice change of pace from all the yelling and screaming of other villains. Volume four isn’t completely free of filler episodes and when the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (a room where one day equals a year) makes an appearance, the show really stretches a twenty four hour period of time. Still, it is not nearly as bad as the six hours of filler from the previous box set.
The animation seems to have gotten better since the Frieza Saga, as the characters look more defined than they have before and the quality of the picture is cleaner. Although repeated frames of animation are still present, it seems less frequent. Many of the series’ characters have gone through significant changes and it is nice to see the show reflect that. Just as Dragon Ball seemed to push away from being a children’s show towards the end of it’s run, so does Dragonball Z, as the violent content moves further away from its original young teen-friendly presentation. The Android and Cell Sagas represent the darkest episodes of the series and up until now, the violence has been limited to a few explosions, busted limbs, and bloody mouths.
The first episode of the set establishes the level of violence the viewer will expect, as Yamcha’s defeat involves a slow motion impalement through the chest by Android 20, leaving his hand a bloody mess and a puddle underneath Yamcha’s feet. Vegeta suffers from a savage beating by Android 18, leaving his arm broken and blood flying from his mouth. During a nightmare sequence, Goku watches as Android 17 uses Trunks’ own sword against him, the opposite end covered in blood. When Cell appears and begins absorbing innocent people into his body, he does so in what has to be the most excruciating way possible: He stabs his stinger into the victim and literally drains them from the inside, which causes the poor fellow to melt and shrivel away into nothing. The sequence involving this process is very unsettling and may be too much for younger viewers.
I consider the Android and Cell sagas to be a reward for sitting through the slog that was the Frieza saga. The pacing is better, the action is bigger and better, characters change and mature and Vegeta becomes even more insufferable (albeit in an entertaining way) than ever. Viewers should be prepared for Dragonball Z at its most sinister and violent (at least, until the Majin Buu Saga).