What was the first anime you watched? Well, you specifically might not have started with Dragon Ball Z like a large portion of anime fans (particularly in the United States), beginning with the mainstream series packed with action and an overwhelming amount of transformations and power-ups. It’s a highly acclaimed show, one that a ton of weebs believe everyone should watch, and is almost always at the top of recommended animes for beginners. Although, fans of the show can never agree where the show’s final significant antagonist falls within the boundaries of legendary or underwhelming. When comparing the Buu Saga to Frieza’s and Cell’s, it gets difficult to compare the pink, gum-like character to the two that preceded him. And, well, it might be my opinion, but the saga as a whole doesn’t contain the same amount of impact for some fans as the other two.
When looking at the other two behemoth storylines, Frieza is easy to argue as the top villain in the series after destroying the Saiyan homeworld and killing Krillin, resulting in a reaction from Goku that gave fans perhaps the best Super Saiyan transformation in the entire show. Plus, Frieza eventually surpasses Buu in strength after developing his Golden Frieza mode, but for the sake of this post, we’ll only focus on the events that took place in DBZ- and unfortunately- even though Frieza’s actions on Namek left an everlasting impact on the Z Fighters that Cell and Buu couldn’t possibly hope to replicate, Buu was always the strongest villain within DBZ. Then, there’s Cell, the villain that sought to be the perfect fighter and challenged anyone on Earth to beat him. He was power-hungry, absorbing Chi and gaining energy after absorbing several of the show’s characters following their defeat. He was a villain that pushed every characters’ already mammoth potential, laying the groundwork for Gohan to mature and grow into a warrior capable of surpassing Goku, but Buu was still stronger.
Now, is strength the only thing worth noting when comparing these villains? No, and that’s why I typically tell people that the Buu Saga is possibly the worst of the big three, but Buu himself is possibly the best villain. The reason why I tell people that is because it almost seems like the fight against Buu is dragged out even longer than the fight against Frieza, with little plot development going on. At least captivating subplots take place around the fight against Frieza, but with Buu, it doesn’t feel the same as the subplots themselves seem as if they are developing at a snail’s pace. Then, there’s the action-packed fight against Cell that feels like it’s the fastest of the big three as Gohan proves himself as Goku’s son. Now, the main determiners if a fan likes the Buu Saga or not generally comes to how a particular fan feels about two things- Gotenks and how Buu beat Gohan. Gotenks is a very hit-or-miss character within the show, with some finding him hilarious and others believing him to be outright annoying. For me, I didn’t mind Gotenks, I just hated how long and boring his fight against Buu felt at times.
As for Gohan, a large portion of fans wanted Gohan to be the one to take down Buu and surpass his father. Of course, this would heavily alter the events of Dragon Ball Super, but one could easily make the argument that the show would be better if it ended in such a way. Others, however, believe that Goku is the true king of the Z Fighters and that he should stay that way, and to be honest, there’s a solid argument for that as well. Goku, much like Superman, is a character that was created to be the strongest there is, and when someone gets close to surpassing him, he pulls another circus act of a technique out of his ass, recreating that power gap. To me, Gohan had his moments, and even as sad as I am about his current state in Super, I still believe that Goku is the one that should be portrayed as a god amongst men (or perhaps a god of gods even). One of Gohan’s dreams growing up was to catch up to his father, and quite honestly, if he had done so, Gohan would be exponentially less interesting afterward. To put this into focus, I like to use Cyborg in recent years.
Sure, I understand that not every anime fan reads comics, but Cyborg was a Teen Titan striving to join the Justice League, and he eventually did so. However, when a character reaches their goal, you have to immediately give them another or the character can potentially go flat. As evidence, Cyborg had a self-titled series in DC’s Rebirth event, and, the comic got mixed reviews along with his appearances in recent Justice League titles, leaving some fans feeling underwhelmed as the character doesn’t seem to have the same drive or motivation from his earlier years. So, if Gohan were to surpass Goku in the Buu Saga, what would be next? Would Gohan be more or less interesting? What would his next goal be, and what if Goku surpassed him yet again almost immediately? Whatever your responses are, it’s undeniable that if this decision had actually been made, the Dragon Ball universe could have lost some of its value entertainment-wise instead of gaining it for some fans.
So, when it comes to arguing which saga is the best out of the big three, I think it’s wise to stick to the argument between Frieza and Cell due to the inconstancies in opinion and some of the faults of Buu’s saga, but when it comes to the villains themselves, Buu has a legitimate claim for the top spot. Now, when comparing villains, I think Cell sort of falls behind the other two, not because he’s less interesting, but because he sort of popped up, stole everyone’s powers, and left after being beat by a kid. Yet, I know some are saying Buu popped up from out of nowhere, but Cell simply didn’t have the same effect as the other two major villains. Frieza practically set up the entire show and made several appearances that horrified every member of the Z Fighters- and as for Buu, he killed every Z fighter alive at the time before destroying Earth, and that’s where Cell falls behind, because as a villain, he failed to create as big of an impact through his actions.
Then, there’s Frieza, who could very easily be argued as the best villain within the anime to date (including Super). Yet, some fans still prefer Buu or even Cell over the conqueror of worlds, and of course, it’s all based on preference and personal biases. However, when trying to look at these characters objectively, given the impact both Buu and Frieza had, I believe Cell starts to fall behind when compared to the other two. But with comparing Frieza and Buu, I think it simply has to be decided by the individual due to the main question being, “do you prefer a villain who is calculated and knows how to strip his opponents down? Or do you prefer a mindless monster that slaughters everything in its path?”