Watching this right around the same time as BATTLE OF GODS is an odd experience. Obviously, there’s a ‘bookend’ quality: seeing Pilaf, Mai and Shu finally meet Goku and Bulma for a revenge scheme that’s been decades in the making (both in the show and in the real world). Maybe it feels a little like time travel, since I only had to wait a few days for that pay-off…
And I can’t ignore the fact that BATTLE OF GODS largely centers on Bulma’s 38th birthday, with many characters harping on how old she’s gotten. Of course, the gag is that 38 really isn’t actually that old, at all; but juxtaposing the two stories together nevertheless underlines this episode with an oddly melancholic tone. When you see a grown women with a husband and children, fretting about her age, and then see her as a teenager meeting her first boyfriend, it’s hard not to think about how complicated her life’s going to get.
Likewise, I didn’t realize that Goku lost his tail this early. As such, all the unstated details of Grandpa Gohan’s death are a lot more ominous, since we know that tail’s going to carry far graver significance in a few hundred episodes. Further, with the foreknowledge that the tail represents Goku’s Saiyan heritage - - and the appearance of the Saiyans is what marks this series’ drastic tonal shift - - you really have to read Yamcha cutting that tail off as him just temporarily delaying the inevitable. Like, it’s almost like Gohan’s tail is what eventually draws Raditz to Earth.
In a weird way, these developments make me think of SCUD: THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN, since that comic likewise put the tropes of Saturday Morning Cartoons through a cracked mirror; and also had the trouble psychology of adulthood often intruding on that fantasy. I never thought I’d ever liken DBZ and SCUD, but that’s the fun of doing these retro reviews, isn't it?