Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
The restoration has only just begun. Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z continues into its second season, with the Namek and Captain Ginyu sagas in high definition.
Gohan, Krillin and Bulma have launched into space, heading to Piccolo’s home planet of Namek to use their Dragon Balls. Their ship is the one that Kami used to land on Earth before. King Kai, who helped train Goku in the previous season, informs our heroes that a cataclysm befell the planet, and now only around 100 Namekians remain. Goku is still recovering from his battle with Vegeta.
Let’s talk about filler, again. In the manga, Bulma takes the two fighters directly to Namek. In the anime, this journey suffers delays: on an invisible ship of child refugees, which becomes the first canonical reference of Frieza; and then on ‘Fake Namek’. This involves our heroes going around collecting what they think are Dragon Balls. It is revealed that this is an illusion induced by two creatures, who are stuck on the planet, based off reading Bulma’s mind. This takes considerable time.
Vegeta has reached a planet owned by Frieza, the emperor who employed the Saiyan trio from the first season. After recovering from his injuries sustained in his fight against Goku, Vegeta wants to head to Namek as well. Just as Vegeta discovered the existence of the Dragon Balls from listening to Raditz’s communicator, Frieza has learned of the Dragon Balls and their wish-granting powers from monitoring the Saiyans’ communications. Supported by his two lieutenants, Dodoria and Zarbon, Frieza searches for the Namekian Dragon Balls.
Back on Earth, Goku is healed by a Senzu Bean. Dr Brief provides a spaceship, based on the original Saiyan pod, with a 100-times gravity machine but not a cappuccino maker. Goku begins his training at multiples of Earth’s gravity, as he heads to meet his friends who have already arrived on the planet.
With three groups searching for the Dragon Balls, Frieza’s plan quickly goes awry. As Frieza orders the execution of children, Gohan and Krillin step in to save the last Namekian of one village, Dende. Dedoria then chases after Gohan and Krillin, and then is killed in battle by Vegeta.
After an initial defeat, Vegeta also kills Zarbon. Frieza summons the Ginyu Force: a semi-secret team of elite mercenaries, and a parody of Super Sentai teams, including dance poses. This team seem unstoppable, until Goku’s ship arrives on the planet.
The pace of the season can feel somewhat slow, but the sequences are great to watch, particularly in high definition. The scene where Goku powers up to maximum, watched by a horrified Captain Ginyu and Jeice, shows an artistic height.
Bruce Faulconer and his team begin their brilliant soundtrack for Dragon Ball Z, starting in the 68th episode ‘Ginyu Assault’. The driven theme for the Ginyu Force is often played during the latter end of the season.
When filler is excised, the season has enjoyable writing: where each character, particularly the anti-hero Vegeta, has clear motivations and acts towards their goals. This second season builds strongly on the first, with the third season focused on the machinations of the emperor Frieza.