After the shocking cliffhanger (well, shocking at the time, Krillin being dead isn’t a big surprise as a show goes on…) we move on to the Demon King Piccolo arc, a story arc that has quite a few firsts that will become extremely commonplace as the show moves forward… plus the debut of Yajirobe! Who doesn’t like Yajirobe?! … Anyway, let’s take a look at the first ten episodes, shall we?
Krillin has been killed by a mysterious monster that also took a Dragon Ball and the Tournament Roster, leaving behind a mark that Master Roshi knows all too well…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Krillin’s first death… aww, everyone remembers their first time!
The arc kicks off right where the 22nd Tenkaichi Tournament left off as Goku cradles his friend’s head, soon jumping on his cloud and flying off to find the murderer. It’s at this point that Roshi finds a symbol left at the scene, the mark of the Demon King Piccolo. Roshi goes into his backstory a bit and says how many decades ago Piccolo nearly dominated the planet with his power and endless underlings but his Master Mutaito sealed the Demon King in a bottle at the cost of his life. Roshi then threw the bottle to the bottom of the ocean, so his return throws him into confusion. I like that someone speculates that maybe this was the Crane Hermit’s revenge but Roshi said that Crane was right there with him at the near-Apocaylpse and he’d never think about bringing that hell back (plus, off the record, it’d only been an hour or so since the tournament ended…) It really built the Demon King up as a threat well without us even seeing him. Goku catches up with Tambourine, Piccolo’s underling who’d killed Krillin, but is easily dispatched due to being exhausted and hungry from the tournament (which if you’ll remember was supposed to be a one day tournament…) Tambourine leaves thinking Goku dead, meanwhile Roshi, Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu head off to collect the Dragon Balls so they can wish Piccolo away as Roshi believes beating him is impossible, much to Ten’s curiosity. Bulma, the injured Yamcha and the rest head back to Roshi’s island and soon uproot the house and go into hiding, Bulma seals Krillin’s body in a cryo-pod so it doesn’t decay before they can bring him back (logical!)
Goku is unimpressed at his new ally.
We do finally join Demon King Piccolo and see that he was revived by Pilaf and his favourite duo so he could help them conquer the Earth, but they clearly got more than they bargained for. Piccolo gives Tambourine the mission of killing every martial artist on the planet just in case they know the same Mafuba technique that previously sealed him up, and he also gives birth to a new underling named Cymbal to gather the Dragon Balls so he can wish back his youthful body (also an old underling named Piano is … around). Meanwhile Goku revives and eats a large chunk of meat randomly cooking above a fire and encounters Yajirobe, who’s rightfully angry about Goku eating his meal. Yajirobe and Goku fight briefly, with Yajirobe’s strength and hard-head impressing our lead protagonist, but their fight is soon cut short by the arrival of Cymbal. Yajirobe takes on the Dragon-like creature and soon slices it in half, cooks it and eats the body. Damn… Yajirobe then tries to get some distance from Goku but he follows him as he knows the Dragon Ball Yajirobe randomly has around his neck will eventually lead to Tambourine and revenge…
Ladies and gentlemen: the first “powering up” scene in Dragon Ball history!
Soon this is exactly what happens and Goku easily wipes the floor with the mysteriously Frieza-sounding Piccolo spawn (in the Japanese version anyway…) and kills him. This leads to Piccolo arriving to fight Goku personally. While he’s initially taken back by Goku’s ability he soon, and for the first time in Dragon Ball history, powers up and then toys with his opponent until be beats him so bad his heart stops. Piccolo pops back up to Pilaf’s ship and heads towards Roshi, Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu, who have gathered up the rest of the Dragon Balls. Shortly after he leaves Goku’s heart mysteriously starts beating again so Yajirobe helps him up and agrees to take him to Korin Tower and Tenshinhan wishes to fight Piccolo head-on but Roshi gasses him unconscious so if his plan fails the future will have some hope. Piccolo arrives and starts toying with Roshi until the old veteran uses the Mafuba Wave and begins to seal the Demon King, but at the last moment he misses the container, meaning Piccolo is alive but Roshi dies due to the stress of the move, much like his Master. Piccolo summons Shenlong, kills Chiaotzu when he tries to interfere, gets his youth back and then actually kills the eternal dragon so no one can use the Dragon Balls to stop him.
The now younger and more powerful Piccolo disposes of Pilaf and co. (non-lethally, as a treat) and then heads to the Earth Capital to take out the King of the World. Bulma and co. arrive to see Roshi and Chiaotzu dead, and as Bulma seals their bodies Tenshinhan says he plans to learn the Mafuba Wave so he can do what Roshi failed to do and leaves. Meanwhile Goku and Yajirobe arrive at Korin tower…
A young Roshi and Crane Hermit try to fight back against Piccolo deep in the past. This was also filler, but fun filler at least.
There was a fair amount of filler. Some of it was fun, seeing Tambourine track down and kill a bunch of previous World Tournament competitors was fun, though they had him find Yamcha and be seconds away from killing him before Piccolo calls him off to avenge Cymbal. This was poorly planned filler as there would be NO REASON why Tambourine wouldn’t kill Yamcha in a split second before heading off to Goku rather than try to come back and find him later.
As a reverse, a bunch of filler showing Roshi, Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu collecting the Dragon Balls was mostly pointless and boring except one bit, where coincidentally a Dragon Ball was in the family home of someone Ten had previously crippled as an assassin-in-training, forcing him to try and atone for what he did and get down on his knees to beg and try to convince him he’d turned over a new leaf. It was about the only real time Ten’s backstory as a villain is brought up, and it works well to show how already the character has changed so much. … But yeah, most of the filler was still just that, and not very interesting to boot.
Roshi gives his life to seal King Piccolo, moments before missing the mark…
The start of the Demon King Piccolo arc is fun, with Goku being in real peril several times and featuring the death of several key characters. Some filler only served to slow the pace as it’s designed to, but overall as a first half of a story if works great because a now more powerful Piccolo is waiting for our hero, who hadn’t come close to beating the older version. That’s a good bit of set up!