A lot of times, when I’m watching a shonen, I really have to picture a needle hovering above some audience-diving dial that’s only got two sections. Most of the time, that needle’s pointing to “All-Ages." These serialized plot has all the intricacy, genuine surprise and relative sophistication that you need to hold anybody’s attention - - young and old - -over a substantial, long-form narrative. Sometimes, though, that dial swings back to “Boys Adventure” because the show's reminding you that you’re still watching kids’ stuff at the end of the day.
Granted, there’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it’s worth bringing up as DBZ takes a plotting pit stop to indulge in what feels less like filler and more like a disposable Saturday morning one-off. Seriously, I half-expected this to end with BRAVESTARR-style PSA where Goku and Gohan are in an office, recapping the episode’s events to the audience before spelling out the moral to them. In this case, I suppose it's about not judging a book by its cover (or whatever).
Of course, the funny thing about kids’ stuff is that its definition varies wildly depending on local mores. To wit, watching this specific version of DBZ has been rather amusing for its inclusion of all the little ticks - - Gohan pulling out his pee-pee for a tinkle every episode, Ox King’s chain-smoking, Bulma lighting her friends up with an automatic pistol - - that’d be deemed unacceptable for children’s broadcasting outside of Japan. Hell, even the broad strokes of plotting - - like Goku’s brutal murder and Gohan’s abandonment in the desert that technically counts as child abuse - - put this in a precarious position of appropriateness that you really just don’t find outside of shonen.
On a smaller note, I’m sure Gohan’s voice actress never, ever wanted to say “Waaaah!” again for the rest of her life once she got done with this series. Oh boy. It's like breathing for the character!
Watch this episode, "The Strangest Robot" here and decide for yourself, then read my comments on the previous episode here.