Dragon Ball: Demon King Piccolo Arc (Episodes 113 – 122) Review

The Demon King Piccolo arc comes to a close (though there is a lengthy bit of part-canon, part-filler still to come after it…) with the big rematch between Goku and the titular Demon King and once again it contains a lot of tropes that would become the norm once a Z gets added onto the anime’s title, but the first few episodes are filler-rific, so… it’s not all good (though that also rings a bell in terms of DBZ…). Let’s take a look then!

Synopsis:

Krillin, Master Roshi and Chiaotzu all lie dead thanks to the acts of Demon King Piccolo, who now heads to the palace of the Earth’s King to complete his quest for world domination. Unbeknownst to him however Son Goku lives, and he may just have a way to gain power enough to defeat him…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Demon King Piccolo picks the big winner! … Of the “Who will die first” lottery, admittedly, but still! Hooray!

I’ll admit that there isn’t a lot of good in the first few episodes here, but what I do like is seeing Demon King Piccolo himself actually succeed in taking over the world, a feat so few villains ever actually do. He takes out a bunch of Royal Guards and then blows up a large chunk of the city with a single blast (the first time power on that scale has been seen in the series, by far!) forcing the King of Earth to submit. Piccolo soon appears on TV and not only decrees that all prisoners be set free and be allowed to do whatever they want but also that he’ll be holding a yearly lottery with the “winning” region of the planet being completely wiped out by him each time. He randomly selects West City, where Bulma’s parents still live at Capsule Corp. HQ, and goes to leave when he is confronted by Tenshinhan, who believes he has mastered the Mafuba wave.

Sadly before he can get close enough to the Demon King he’s confronted by Drum, a new underling Piccolo spits out right then and there. Ten struggles to get past the new beefy foe so goes for the Mafuba anyway and only catches Drum, but Piccolo saves his new spawn before he can be sealed. Mysteriously Ten doesn’t die (the actual reason being he didn’t do the move in the Manga so the anime team made up some nonsense about him not completing the move or something, but hey-ho…) but just before Ten is killed Goku arrives in the first “Goku arrives just in time so save his friends” scene and kick’s Drum so hard in the face his eyes pop out, in a rather uncharacteristically gruesome showing. Goku has received a massive new power up thanks to drinking some magic water (I’ll get to that later…) so squares off with the Demon King for their big rematch.

Piccolo and Goku mid-duel. (I couldn’t think of anything funny, sorry…)

This fight is once again one of many firsts, including the first time someone is punched into a building causing it to collapse, the first time the in-fight dialogue includes lines about the other holding back their true power leading to a powering up scene, and the first “this character is clearly dead, nobody could survive that! Wait… there is alive after all!” scene. It’s fun to see just how much this showdown influences the future of the series. Highlights include Piccolo being punched and landing on top of his old ally Piano, killing the aged tetradactyl-looking thing in one shot, Goku curving a Kamehameha wave around Piccolo to hit him in the back, and Piccolo wiping out the entire surroundings and replacing it with a massive crater with an Explosive Demon Wave, Goku only being saved by Ten using his flying technique to take him off the ground. In the end Piccolo takes Ten hostage and begins launching rocks at Goku’s limbs, which is rather horrible looking, and then he takes to the sky to deliver the final blow but Goku fires a Kamehameha into the ground with his one good arm and launches himself so fast at the Demon King that he ploughs right though his chest, the shadow of his Oozaru / giant ape form appearing in the background implying he’s tapping into his true Saiyan power, at least retrospectively (possibly by this point Toriyama may have made the decision about Goku’s origins, but given his track record I tend to doubt it…)

As he dies Piccolo spits out one last egg, one that contains his “son” that he hopes will grow strong and get revenge. Yajirobe arrives just in time to catch a falling Goku. Ten then approaches and says despite all the losses they’ve suffered (and now can’t wish back due to Shenlong being dead) he’s looking forward to the next tournament so they can fight again. Goku giggles and says he’ll lose (brutal, but let’s face it, yeah…) and heads back to Korin Tower with Yajirobe…

The Bad:

Get ready to see this EXACT shot a lot…

It’s safe to say the first few episodes are a bit of a chore. In the Manga Korin tells Goku about the “Choshinsui” Water, or “Ultra Divine Water” that he promised him last time but it turned out to be a trick to train him actually exists and then gives it to him, telling him there is a chance of death when drinking it. In the anime? Goku and Yajirobe are sent through a portal to an icy cave where they have to fight ice monsters, visions of friends and an entity known only as “The Darkness” in order to reach it, “The Darkness” being the thing that warns Goku of the potentially deadly side effects. This takes a good three episodes and is very rarely entertaining (though seeing Goku fighting an evil spirit version of Master Roshi is quite fun…) This is also interspersed with scenes from the Royal Palace of Piccolo being a bit of a dick, Snow and Eight from the Red Ribbon Army arc trying to help wounded citizens and scenes of Goku’s friends… not doing much. There was one moment where super-innocent Snow grabs a rifle and aims it at Piccolo but doubts it would do much good and puts it down. That was again a small highlight in a quagmire of boredom…

Tenshinhan looked at Yamcha and Krillin and actually thought it wouldn’t happen to him, but everyone is Goku’s to save in the end…

Oh and the fight between Ten and Dum was pretty badly filler-fied as well. As mentioned in the Manga he didn’t even get a chance to use the Mafuba (hence why he lived) but not only do they add that scene but they took the one panel where Drum punches Ten in the lower back and repeat that panel in animation a good three or four times which just looks ridiculous. Why Drum is so focused on punching Ten in a very specific place that causes him to strike a very specific pose I can’t tell you but it really looks stupid. This is about the only time expanding a fight scene results in the same manga panel being repeatedly reused that I can think of, so thankfully it seems they did learn there lesson, even if silent staredowns become the new norm instead…

Also in terms of the actual canon story having Goku get a power boost by drinking some water Korin had lying around was extremely lazy writing, and having Tenshinhan reduced to failing to beat an underling and having to be rescued by Goku already still disappoints today. Couldn’t they have Ten just manage to beat Drum (hehe) but be unable to touch King Piccolo, leading to Goku arriving? … Ah well.

Overall Thoughts:

That’s what I call a “decisive victory”.

Goku and King Piccolo’s big showdown is a great watch and so significant in Dragon Ball lore given all the tropes it establishes, but a lot of the lead-in to the fight is a bit of a downer. Hell, not matter which version you experience, Manga or Anime, Goku’s power-up here is the worst offender for lazy writing (Gohan and Krillin’s power-up in the Frieza arc coming a close second…) Still, the main event takes up most of the time, and is still well worth watching so I can’t rate it too harshly…

One thought on “Dragon Ball: Demon King Piccolo Arc (Episodes 113 – 122) Review

  1. Neutrastaff February 15, 2022 / 12:25 am

    King Piccolo a.k.a. Piccolo Daimao is the most serious villain in the original Dragon Ball. He was definitely the strongest enemy Goku had fought up to this point and he had clear goals and things he wanted to do, which was world domination. I know the RRA wanted that too, but Piccolo was much more dramatic with it, especially how he went after the heroes sending his children/henchmen to assassinate them so they wouldn’t interfere. Overall, this was probably the most extreme arc in the original Dragon Ball due to the weight of the threat. Then again, the tension here does ease you in to the next series and it gradually fades out the comedic parts for science fiction drama.

    Liked by 1 person

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