Arguably the most loathed section of the Dragon Ball Z anime, the Garlic Jr. Saga has come to a close here on Dragon Blog. In only ten short episodes, it has managed to make fanboy and fangirl teeth gnash alike in how reportedly awful it is; But is it deserving of all the flack it gets, or is the Garlic Jr. Saga a misunderstood gem? Well, before we move onto the
All my previous reviews of the older Sagas can be found at these links; Dragon Ball, the Goku era (DB episodes 1 - 81), Tenshinhan Saga/22nd Tenka-ichi Budokai (DB episodes 82 - 101), Piccolo Daimao Saga (DB episodes 102 - 123), Piccolo Junior/23rd Tenka-ichi Budokai (DB episodes 124 - 153), Saiyan Saga (DBZ episodes 1 - 36), and Freeza Saga (DBZ episodes 37 - 107). If you're curious about how my rating system works, check out the beginning of the Goku era review.
Now get to Karin Tower and start climbing, because we're going to the Heavenly Realm!
Garlic Jr. Saga
Rating: Poor (1 out of 3)
The Garlic Jr. Saga is a direct sequel to Dragon Ball Z: Return My Gohan!! (DBZ Movie 1), and that's honestly the first strike against it. DBZ Movie 1 was never meant to be an anime canon story. It couldn't have happened, no matter how you slice it; Before Raditz arrives in DBZ episode 1, nobody aside from Goku, Chichi, and Gyumao even know of Gohan's existence. Yet in movie 1, everybody at Kame House knows about Goku's son. And it can't have happened after Raditz, because Goku is dead and Gohan is trained by Piccolo. So that's how the Garlic Jr. Saga begins - by creating the biggest plot hole in the Dragon Ball anime canon.
There's a lot of strange decisions made, like that. Kami inexplicably offers Piccolo the position of God in the first episode, even though Piccolo is still kind of considered his evil half. It's never brought up again, nor explained why Kami thought this was a good idea. Later on in the story, we're introduced to a handful of generic minions who are never really named on-screen, and with character designs so boring they might be from a DBZ parody. Also, Garlic refuses to kill Kami in the beginning of the story, because he wants the Dragon Balls to revive his father. However, when Piccolo/Kami are dying later on, he doesn't seem that bent out of shape, saying he'll revive his pop some other way. And of course, at one point a bad guy grabs a Kienzan and it does nothing to him. Y'know, the attack that sliced Freeza's tail off like it was butter, and turned a mountain into a hill. But most offensive of all the inexplicable elements of the Garlic Jr.; the party configuration.
We just sat through 70 episodes of the Freeza Saga, wherein Gohan, Kuririn, and Piccolo were featured heavily. As much as I love these characters, and wouldn't want them not in this story, it is a massively missed opportunity to bring back the classic B-Team from Dragon Ball. Yamcha is featured in the story, but is quickly made irrelevant. Yajirobe is used for joke fodder. And Tenshinhan and Chaozu never show their faces, except during a Kuririn wedding fantasy.
Where the fuck is Lunch, anyway?
The actual story itself is pretty straight forward. Garlic Jr. has returned and wants to become God. So he beats up and kidnaps Kami and Mr. Popo, then turns everyone on Earth into Demons. Only way to stop them from being demons is to pour a special holy water on everyone infected. This beginning part of the story is pretty lame, if I'm being honest. It's mostly Piccolo pretending to be evil while beating up on Gohan. The saving grace here is how awesome it is to hear Shigeru Chiba voice Garlic Jr. (Better known as the voice of Raditz and Pilaf.) However, once Kami and Mr. Popo are released, the story gets considerably better.
The true strength of these episodes kick in once Kami-sama is trying to save humanity. This Saga is about Piccolo and Kami, everything else is just secondary, so if you like Namekians (as I do), you'll enjoy yourself. But then it all comes to an abrupt end when Garlic Jr. opens another Dead Zone, and Gohan locks him in it... again. They could have done a lot more with these episodes. But I honestly don't think they cared enough to, so whatever.
Is this the worst Saga ever? No. Is it the worst I've reviewed so far? Yes. (But the truly awful episodes of Dragon Ball Z are still on our horizon.)
Also, I like the Kuririn/Maron subplot. Sue me.
Also, I like the Kuririn/Maron subplot. Sue me.
The fights are pretty well directed, though there's not a lot of emotional investment here. During the first half of episodes, all the fights are either against mind controlled opponents, or against opponents pretending to be mind controlled. The second half gets better, but Garlic's minions are never truly threatening. Garlic is the real star here, and his fight against Piccolo, Kuririn, and Gohan at the end of this Saga is actually pretty fucking cool. But needless to say, I'm not ranking the fights this time.
For whatever reason, I remembered these episodes looking much worse than they did. While there are some stinkers in this batch, about half of these episodes have some really pretty moments. And one episode in particular, episode 112, is absolutely gorgeous. Nothing else to really say about this that I didn't cover in my last review of the Freeza Saga. Dragon Ball (Z) will never again look as consistently good as it did during the 22nd and 23rd Tenka-ichi Budokais, yet it's still satisfactory for an aging weekly serial.
There's no new or original music for this Saga, yet the music is still one of the stand out parts of these episodes. Why? Well, aside from a lot of classic pre-Z music cues making their return in these episodes, the Garlic Jr. Saga is very clever when it comes to using the soundtrack from DBZ Movie 1. During moments that parallel the original movie, relevant tracks will play like reprisals. Some stand out moments happen during the first episode in particular - Garlic Sr.'s theme playing during the flashback of him summoning his army of demons, and Piccolo's introduction music from Movie 1 playing as he's introduced at the end of episode 108. Also, the completely fucking awesome Piccolo battle music that plays as he kicks the crap out of Sansho in Movie 1 returns, only this time when he's kicking the crap out of Gohan. They're little details, but great touches.
I struggled with giving Garlic Jr. Saga its rating of 1 out of 3, because I actually enjoyed myself while watching it, despite all my problems with it. I haven't watched these episodes since I was 14, and I've only seen them in the original Japanese once before, when I saw them on the International Channel as an 11 year old. (It was the first complete Saga I ever watched in the original language.) That said, I gave much, much higher quality Sagas a 2 out of 3 rating, so Garlic Jr. by no means deserved my pity. But if you've never watched it, or never watched it in the original Japanese, you should do yourself a favor and give it a chance; There's good stuff in here, despite the bad. And hey, it's still Dragon Ball.