I admit it, I am a sucker for a good (or even a bad!) fighting movie or television show – I love movies like Warrior and Ip Man, and I grew up loving TV shows with martial arts like Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I’m not sure I can think of a TV show or movie that has ever gotten me more hyped than Dragon Ball Z.
As a kid, I remember running over to my grandma’s house every day one fall to watch the recently renewed English dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network’s Toonami afternoon block – she had cable at the time, and my family didn’t, and with the show right in the middle of the epic Frieza Saga, I didn’t want to miss any of it. DBZ quickly became one of my favorite shows and has provided me with some pretty epic moments and memories. Today, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite moments from Dragon Ball Z!
Trunks First Appearance – We’re first introduced to Trunks in the “The Mysterious Youth” episode, originally released on December 4th, 1991, and re-released in English on September 4th, 2000. Initially, we’re not exactly sure who this “mysterious youth” is, but he shows up just in time to opposed to tyrannical Frieza, freshly repaired from his defeat at the hands of Goku on Namek (more on THAT epic moment later…). But along with Frieza, his father King Cold is there ready to exact revenge on the Z-Fighters for Frieza’s aforementioned defeat.
As an audience, we’re thinking “look man, there’s no way this kid is gonna stand up to Frieza AND his dad!”, especially when you consider we just came off the Frieza Saga, which was dozens of episodes worth of our fighters overcoming incredible obstacles to finally beat Frieza. However, Trunks goes Super Saiyan (only the 2nd Super Saiyan transformation we’ve seen at this point) and dispatches Frieza and his father in pretty much a single episode, and with a single stroke of his epic sword. This was such a monumental moment, not only because Trunks is a super rad character, but because we see what once was the most powerful enemy in the whole Universe get taken down with a single attack!
Vegeta’s Sacrifice – Look, there are so many times I’ve watched this show and got a little misty-eyed, not gonna lie – and the sixth episode of the Majin Buu Saga, “Final Atonement” originally released on August 24th, 1994 and re-released on November 13th, 2001, was certainly one of those misty-eyed moments. In one of the most heartbreaking and moving displays in the show’s history, Vegeta made the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to save the people he loved the most. Now, this typically isn’t unusual in shows or movies like this – the good guys often make a hard decision to save their friends, family, the human race, etc. But… Vegeta isn’t exactly one of the “good guys”, in fact, he spent quite a long time in DBZ being a legit antagonist. But his character arch in the Buu Saga was epic.
Prior to his epic sacrifice, Vegeta let the sorcerer Babidi take control of his mind during a martial arts tournament, which provided him with a great deal more power than he had before, but essentially making him an evil henchman to Babidi. Vegeta then blows up an entire section of the arena the tournament is in, killing several fans. In the subsequent episodes we see Vegeta attempting to use this power to fight the show’s main protagonist, Goku, but eventually, a true nemesis is revealed in Majin Buu. Buu proves too strong for the Z-Fighters, and in a final show of Saiyan pride, Vegeta overcomes the evil mind control to take on Buu himself. Knowing he won’t win in a conventional fight, Vegeta blows himself up, killing himself and Buu in the process. Vegeta’s epic sacrifice is short-lived, as Buu regenerates to continue wreaking havoc on the Z-Fighters, but the incredible sacrifice from the Prince of Saiyans was super epic, nonetheless.
Goku’s Sacrifice – We’ve got another Z-Fighter making the ultimate sacrifice on my list, this time around it’s near the end of the incredible Cell Saga, and this is our first (of two) mentions for Dragon Ball Z‘s main protagonist, Goku. In an episode first released on June 2nd, 1993 and re-released in English on December 19th, 2000, we see Goku needing to take matters into his own hands as Cell begins a self-destruct mode in a last-ditch effort to defeat the Z-Fighters and destroy Planet Earth. Nobobody is able to stop it, including Goku and his powerful son Gohan, who could have defeated Cell prior to the self-destruct.
Goku realizes, as he looks at his friends and family awaiting their imminent demise, that he can utilize one of his unique abilities, Instant Transmission, to teleport himself and whoever else he’s touching – which, of course, he intends to use to teleport himself and Cell to a faraway planet to explode a safe distance away from Earth. This selfess sacrifice is very much in Goku’s character more than it was for Vegeta, but unfortunately the outcome is still the same – not only does Cell survive and Goku doesn’t, but Cell regenerates even stronger than he was before, retaining some of Goku’s abilities (including the Instant Transmission) in the process. Cell returns to Earth to finish the fight he started, where he faces off once more against the powerful but grieving, Gohan. Which leads us to…
Gohan vs. Cell – This final showdown between Gohan and Cell is incredible. I mean, it really goes back even before the “A Hero’s Farwell” episode, where Goku sacrifices himself, as Gohan goes through a great deal of training and epic transformations to become powerful enough to face off against Cell, the perfect organism, the perfect fighter. Turns out, thanks to Gohan’s incredible strength, Goku’s support from the afterlife, and a little help from his friends, Gohan is able to overcome this perfect soldier. In a battle that, in typical DBZ fashion, spans multiple episodes, we see Gohan getting the beat down pretty hard. At one point one of his arms is injured so significantly that he can no longer fight with it, and has to fend off Cell one-handed.
At this point, Goku begins encouraging and empowering Gohan telepathically from the afterlife, which allows Gohan to summon the most incredible Kamehameha Wave we have ever seen, which slams into a similar blast from Cell. The beams collide and create a massive crater as they push against each other. It appears, though, that Cell has the upper hand – which springs the remaining Z-Fighters into action, sending various attacks at Cell. None are powerful enough and Cell is able to deflect them with ease, until Vegeta summons all his remaining strength to blast Cell, distracting him long enough for Goku and Gohan to overtake Cell with their Kamehameha. I literally got chills writing all of that down, so that gives you an idea how awesome I think that moment was!
Super Saiyan Goku – It’s tough to really hammer down #1 favorite moment for things in TV, movies, video games, etc, but in a list that wasn’t necessarily in any order, I can honestly say this DBZ moment is my favorite and is easily one of the most epic moments in Dragon Ball Z history in general – and that moment comes during the final showdown between Goku and Frieza at the culmination of the Frieza Saga. “Transformed at Last”, first released on June 12th, 1991 and later re-released in English on October 18th, 1999, was the moment many fans, myself included, were waiting for. The episode sees the Z-Fighters, mistakenly believing Frieza to be dead, getting overtaken once more by the evil foe. Frieza unleashes a series of attacks, first at Goku, and then at Krillin, Goku’s best friend. Unfortunately, the blast lands on Krillin, exploding and killing him.
This action sends Goku truly over the edge, as he uses his anger and grief to fuel the most epic and historic transformation we had ever seen, and for many fans it’s THE most historic transformation – and that, of course, is Goku becoming a Super Saiyan. The now-iconic spiky golden hair, the green eyes, the glowing radiant aura around him, Goku has become far more powerful than Frieza, or anyone else could have imagined. The newly transformed Super Saiyan proves to be too much for Frieza, and in the end is able to defeat him once and for all (kind of?) and escape the exploding planet. Now, while I admit there are some seriously rad moments that happen throughout the show’s run, this will go down as the coolest and most historic moment in my books.