In defence of the Buu Saga

Dragon Ball is a franchise that has had its ups and downs. When it is good, it is iconic. When it is bad, its pacing grinds to a complete halt and nothing happens for a dozen chapters. No place is that more obvious than in the Buu Saga, which was when creator Akira Toriyama, the king of playing fast and loose with the plot, started throwing just about anything at the page to see if it would stick.

The Buu Saga isn’t the worst of Dragon Ball

The Buu Saga, derided as it often is, is not the worst of Dragon Ball’s sagas. That honour goes to the Red Ribbon Saga, which just goes on and on and accomplishes nothing. However, The Buu Saga still never reaches the heights of the best parts of the franchise. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some redeeming qualities, though.

The Great Saiyaman Arc

Dragon Ball Buu Saga

This isn’t the first time that I’ve celebrated the adorable goofball that is Gohan. It probably won’t be the last, either, the new movie promising to feature him quite prominently. After a childhood spent fighting aliens and saving the world from uncomfortably handsome green monsters, he finally got the chance to embrace his life’s true passion – being a nerd. The Buu Saga opens up with Gohan going to a real high school with real teenagers and talking to a girl his own age for the first time. It is exactly the kind of slice-of-life wholesomeness that the series needed at that point.

Gohan shows up in a city and does what every teen boy would do if he had the chance. He gets himself a super-suit and goes to punch bad guys into orbit. Sure, it doesn’t really have any payoff in the long term and never follows through on the promise that Gohan would become the main character, but that doesn’t make this section of the Buu Saga any less fun.

Mr. Satan and Majin Buu

Buu Saga Mr Satan and Magin Buu

No one could have guessed when the Buu Saga opened up that Mr. Satan would become the emotional core of the arc, but here we are. Spurred on by the world’s collective belief that he was the one who saved them all from Cell, Mr. Satan reluctantly goes to find Majin Buu shortly after the giant pink monster dispatches his cricket overlord. Expecting to find a monster bent on world domination, Mr. Satan instead finds a being of incredible power that doesn’t know right from wrong because they were never taught right from wrong.

Toriyama doesn’t often do heartwarming scenes, which is why the interactions between Majin Buu and Mr. Satan stand out so brilliantly. Mr. Satan, being a father, recognises someone who needs guidance rather than to be defeated. More interestingly, he recognises someone who has the capacity for good rather than just the evil they have committed up to that point. Mr. Satan takes it upon himself to save the world by simply giving Majin Buu a chance to be a good person, and that was great to see.

Videl

Dragon Ball Buu Saga

Of all the disappointments in the Buu Saga, this one hits the hardest, because Videl is one of the best characters in Dragon Ball. A skilled martial artist thanks to her father, Videl is just a teenager but has already taken up her place as protector of the city. Without Gohan’s superpowers, she puts herself on the line to save people. No secret identity. No fancy suit. Just a young woman being badass.

Videl drives the plot forward at the start of the Buu Saga. Forcing Gohan to teach her to fly. Making him take part in the World Martial Arts Tournament. On some level, she knows she is in over her head but she doesn’t care because she’s not in the business of losing.

I love every moment Videl is on screen, which is why it is so frustrating when Toriyama suddenly remembers he doesn’t actually know how to write women and pushes her to the background so Goku gets to be the hero again. Our girl deserved better than that, but it was fun while it lasted.

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