So, having watched the 62 episodes so far of Dragon Ball Z, and having learned a lot more about the characters and situations on this show, I have to admit, I still have a lot of questions as well as speculations and observations.
I realize that in the first installment of this article series, I kind of left something out... when I started watching the show originally, it was in the seventh saga, which started on episode 195 (yeah, over 130 episodes from where I'm currently at). By the time I started watching, Gohan has become a teenager, and has a younger brother, Goten (who looks just like he did at six or seven, just like Gohan looked like Goku at that same age). Things have progressed even more than that, however! Vegeta, who up to the point I watched is definitely one of the bad guys, is an ally of the Z-Fighters (I wouldn't go so far as to call him a friend, he's still an asshole, to be honest), and has married Bulma, believe it or not, and they have a son named Trunks (yes, characters have weird names on this show). I don't remember seeing Yajirobe in the show at all at the point I'd watched before, but there is a character named Hercule (in the version I saw before) who was called Mr. Satan in the original Japanese version of the show (and I believe the remastered version I'm watching restored his name) who is just as much of a jerk, thinking he's the most powerful fighter in the world. If I recall, he was introduced during one of the parts of the Cell Saga (there were actually two parts of this, Imperfect Cell and Perfect Cell were the fifth Saga, and the Cell Games was the 6th Saga). He's considered the world's strongest man and best fighter by the rest of the world, but he's not capable of defeating the last of the Z-Fighters.
There are other surprises, too... Krillin, who had been bald in all the previous episodes, now has a full head of black hair! And there are more surprises than that for the character whose catchphrase seemed to have been "...and I still haven't got a girlfriend!"
But obviously, we are nowhere near all of that by the point I've watched the show.
In the first part, I called Goku the Japanese Superman, and that analogy fits pretty well. Both of their home planets are destroyed, they were both sent to Earth in a spaceship, where they were found by humans who raised them as human, but they developed powers beyond those of mortal men, and their powers increased as they got older, including flight, super strength, and an energy blast (Superman has his heat vision, while Goku gains multiple blasts).
The Saiyans are sort of the equivalent of the Phantom Zone villains who'd come to Earth to threaten us multiple times, while Frieza and some of the other villains later in the series are more like Mongul, Darkseid, and other villains from the comics (not that their powers match up at all).
So, where does this put the other characters? Do they have counterparts in the show? Chi-Chi, Goku's wife, isn't that much like Lois Lane... and the closest counterpart to Vegeta would probably be Mon-El, although he didn't start out as an enemy and became an ally, so that doesn't work, either. One could argue for Piccolo being like J'onn J'onzz, but that's pretty superficial. Not only that, none of the other Z-Fighters have parallels to any JLA members at all. Then again, I wouldn't expect that Japan would've gone to that much of an effort to copy Superman entirely, putting a Japanese spin on him.
One joke that's often made about DBZ is that fights always take a long time... multiple episodes, in fact. It's kind of funny, because sometimes it feels like half of the episodes in each Saga is building up to the biggest fight, sometimes taking place over a year (like in the Saiyan Saga) and sometimes over months (such as the journeys to Namek), but then you get to the big battles, and they'll take place over as many as 10 episodes (sometimes longer), but you get the impression they're only supposed to last maybe an hour or so (unless otherwise mentioned, like when the characters are just trying to give Goku time to arrive).
There is an awful lot of time spent with the villains demonstrating their powers and the heroes just standing there reacting to them, instead of doing something about it. Maybe it's just because they can restore things with the Dragon Balls, but they don't spend much time in the early stages of things trying to keep the villains from killing lots of people and destroying lots of stuff! It's kind of crazy, because even Krillin, who's not as powerful as Goku, has as his signature attack the Destructo-Disc, which he attempted to use on Raditz... and Raditz would've been cut in half by it if he hadn't dodged, so that had to be a pretty powerful attack, considering Raditz gave Goku a hard time the first time they fought. Yet, Krillin seems to hold back a lot in later fights.
There's a lot of situations where it seems to me that things could've gone a lot easier for our heroes if they'd take a second or two and think, to boot! There very rarely is any kind of strategy going on, and no matter how powerful the villain is, they seem to insist on taking turns fighting them one by one, instead of saying, "Hey, this guy's really powerful, maybe instead of each of us fighting him and letting him kill us or knock us out, let's team up against him!" It's as though the other characters know they aren't the main hero, and have to let Goku deliver the final blow.
I seem to recall reading some time ago, when I first started watching this show regularly that the creator of DBZ (who of course, also created Dragon Ball) intended for this series to have Gohan as the star of it, putting Goku on the sidelines, since Goku was the star of Dragon Ball (did I mention before that this all began as a manga series, and then adapted to anime?), but the fans wanted more Goku.
Anyway... where was I? Oh, right. It seems to me that, no matter how powerful Goku is, if the other characters would strategize a bit more and go for their big attacks, catching the villains in a crossfire, they wouldn't need Goku so much. But since they keep taking turns, the villains are able to dodge the worst attacks fairly easily (it doesn't help that every single character on the show yells out their attack before launching it -- it even echoes).
It's been pointed out to me by several people who also watch the show that there's a lot of filler, especially when it comes to Bulma. Now, Bulma is kind of the brains of the operation, so to speak. During the first saga, she recovers a Scouter left behind by the Saiyans, and manages to reprogram it to display numbers in a form she can understand, and it works for her (Goku and the others can sense power levels). When the Namekian spacecraft is discovered, it's primarily her who manages to reprogram the voice-activated controls to respond to English instead of Namekian (which is a good thing, as a lot of Namekian words are homonyms to English words and phrases... "Piccolo," for example, means "Hello," and opens the doorway of the ship).
She spends a lot of her time during the trip to Namek complaining to Krillin and Gohan, especially when their ship gets messy with junk food wrappers and magazines -- none of which were caused by the two males, it's all her. She's also prone to breaking out into a crying fit at the drop of a hat (worse than Gohan used to be, to be honest), and she gets incredibly boy-crazy at times (when she learns that Yamcha was killed by Nappa, she gets very upset... they used to date, although they'd broken up, and she still had plans to marry him one day. Later, when Vegeta shows up, she thinks that the handsome Zarbon is there to rescue her, despite Krillin telling her otherwise). She's a worse example for women on the show than Chi-Chi is, because at least Chi-Chi can be excused by her concern for her son (although not so much for Goku, whom she sometimes treats like she doesn't care about him when she's mad at him).
None of the other females on the show so far are much better... Baba is an old witch with a crystal ball, and she's pretty ill-tempered herself. She mostly serves as a means of communicating with King Kai or others on the Other World. Then there's Launch, who was introduced in Dragon Ball, and only makes a few appearances in the Saiyan Saga. We first see the blonde-haired Launch, also known as "Bad Launch," when she's fleeing the police after robbing a bank. She's known for riding a motorized unicycle and possessing multiple machine guns that she fires willy-nilly. However, when Launch sneezes, she transforms into "Good Launch," who has blue hair and eyes, and is as innocent and nice as Bad Launch is evil. Normally, "Good Launch" is Master Roshi's housemaid of sorts, very happy to clean and cook, and completely unaware of Roshi is trying to cop a feel. Of course, if she sneezes, she changes into Bad Launch. There doesn't appear to be any explanation as to why she's like this, so one has to assume it's just part of the world they live in (although it's not uncommon in Japanese manga and anime for characters to have some kind of curse on them that causes them to change forms... the best-known example being a lot of the characters in Ranma 1/2, with the main character, Ranma, turning from a boy into a girl when he's splashed by cold water, changing back with hot water... while other characters tend to change into animals).
Later in the series, there's Android 18, who's a female android and a woman, but she is one of the bad guys... and by the time I'd originally started the show, there was Hercule's daughter, who starts out being pretty bitchy and a blackmailer, but eventually becomes a better, more positive role model. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One of the aspects of this show that's kind of unusual is the escalation of powers. Every single villain is way more powerful than the last one, and it seems that Goku and the rest have to constantly make themselves more powerful to deal with them. Like where I'm at now, Goku is training in 100 times Earth gravity to become stronger, and we know he's capable of even more (Vegeta says in an earlier episode about "Super Saiyans," and King Kai mentions that as well, although nobody's accomplished this yet... but I can tell you even Super Saiyan isn't the top level, it goes way beyond that). Consider this: Piccolo, who wasn't as strong as Vegeta was when they first met, was already capable of blasting the moon to smithereens with an energy blast. Goku must be capable of nearly destroying the Earth by this point!
Oh, there's a lot of destruction in this show. Frankly, it's amazing that the Earth hasn't been destroyed already, given the power levels in the fights already (for that matter, when Piccolo was training himself and levitating the pyramids in Egypt, he causes earthquakes that are felt all over).
I'm sure it's just going to get more and more destructive and ridiculous as I go, but honestly, it's still fun to watch! As I get further along in this series, I'll post again about what's going on and my thoughts.