top of page

Dragon Ball Z - Cell Saga

Ghouls are talking about horror in anime. Kicking off our series with a show that isn't often categorized as horror. Kat dives into the Cell Saga and what each villain represents in the show. Gabe argues the horrors of being a normal person in a DBZ world.

Joined by guest, Isaiah Luck aka Super Saiyan Tribble aka Senpai Savage. Follow Isaiah on social: Twitter @SuperSaiyanLuck or @ZenkaiStation

Sources in episode:


Dragon Ball Z's Cell Saga Horror and the Meaning Behind Other Villains Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

For this episode, we’ll be talking about one of my favorite animes, shows, things, period: Dragon Ball Z. This was my favorite show growing up, and the saga we’ll be covering is the only Dragon Ball Z saga I owned the DVDs for. The android/cell saga. I’ve watched this saga on loop countless times back when I didn’t have cable, Netflix or any other kind of service, and could only watch what I had DVDs for on a tiny 19” screen. This episode’s “facts” section will be largely developed from my own thoughts with as much “evidence” as I can find. Unlike our previous series’, there unfortunately aren’t peer reviewed articles written on the subject of Dragon Ball Z, so we make due with what we have. Why are we talking about Dragon Ball Z on a Horror media analysis podcast? Because Dragon Ball Z is horror. It’s villains are cruel, murderous, unrelenting, and the extremes of evils we see in real society. Where Dragon Ball is loosely based upon Journey to the West, information I pulled from the Dragon Ball Wiki, a 16th-century Chinese legend and one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, Dragon Ball Z plays upon more modern evils and fears.

If we take a look at other Dragon Ball Z villains, we can easily draw some comparisons between them and modern fears. With Frieza we see the evils of colonialism, and racism at play. With the androids we see our fears of technology surpassing us, and technology being used for things other than what it was intended. Majjin Buu could easily be tied to human consumption (i.e. capitalism) and the corruption of people in exchange for power (i.e. that scene where Vegeta basically says “F*** the family and all these people, give me power so I can kick Goku’s a**”). There is one villain that stands out for me and a lot of other people though, and that is Cell. In an article I read titled Dragon Ball: Cell Proves the Franchise Should Do Horror More Often written by Brandon Zachary from CBR, the author seems to agree with me. He describes Cell as a “completely different kind of threat, one the heroes should actually be scared of instead of eager to challenge. His unique abilities and design are all introduced in short order, done in service of making a threat actually feel frightening. It makes Cell stand out for the rest of the saga, his darker impulses being treated with a more sadistic and terrifying bent than villains like the chaotic Buu or the impudent Frieza.”

Cell could represent a lot of different fears of evils at play in modern society. There is a somewhat obvious comparison between the Android/Cell saga and one of my other favorite pieces of media, The Terminator. The use of time travel, evil robots without a moral compass destroying humanity, and the idea of the perfect killing machine. The creation of weapons that shouldn’t exist because they could destroy us all. There is something especially horrific about Cell though. It’s an uncomfortable feeling he leaves viewers with. His bug and reptile-like qualities, the phallic shape of his tail, and the very specific and cruel way he takes his victims. For me, what it really comes down to is the way Cell is a predator in a way other villains weren’t. Frieza was horrible, racist, narcissistic, and cruel. He murdered people for fun, and mostly just because he could. There is no question that he was EVIL. What makes Cell worse for me though is Cell murdered people for a purpose. He intentionally stalked his prey, and put himself at the top of the food chain. The fact he is EATING people for energy, for power, is a different kind of evil than Frieza. He was made with the sole purpose of achieving “perfection” by sucking the literal life out of humanity. The imagery shown of him draining people, and the creepy smile on his face as it happens is horrific. When you add in the Phallic shape of his tail, and the very clear disregard of consent with absorbing the androids, a new level of horror is achieved. Cell is a creep, a monster, and 100% a horror villain. This may be one of the reasons Cell is one of the only Dragon Ball Z villains that doesn’t come back, that doesn’t get a redemption arc. There’s something so awful about him that makes him irredeemable and someone you’re fine with never seeing again.


Media from this week's episode:

Dragon Ball Z Director: Akira Toriyama

Summary by IMDB: The adventures of Earth's martial arts defender Son Goku continue with a new family and the revelation of his alien origin. Now Goku and his allies must defend the planet from an onslaught of new extraterrestrial enemies.


bottom of page