Welcome to Part II of “Why the Buu Saga Might Not Suck”! This time, the thesis is that the Majin Buu Saga presents an encapsulation of Dragon Ball in both its whimsical and serious aspects.
The Buu Saga is a bit silly. There isn’t really a way to get around that. It goes hand-in-hand with it being a slight parody of the entirety of Dragon Ball. It’s a bit jarring after the Cell Saga, in which a small boy saves the world after losing his father and the major villain-turned-antihero who never cared for anyone learns that he cares more for his son than for his own safety. Saiyaman comes on the scene more child-like than Gohan ever was, even at age five. Buu also spends an inordinate amount of time turning various things, mainly people, into candy. However, this is within the same series in which an anthropomorphized pig saves the world by wishing for a hot girl’s underwear. The childishness of late DBZ recalls the childishness of early Dragon Ball, providing a certain degree of closure. The end recalling the beginning allows the series to come full circle, to acknowledge what it was in the face of what it is.
Yet, despite this silliness, the serious aspects are still there. The danger is greater than ever in this saga, continuing the pattern of the rest of the series. Dragon Ball started as a quest for Bulma to get boyfriend, escalated to saving the planet, then galaxy, and finally the universe. It makes sense that after Freeza and Cell would come a monster that threatened existence itself. It’s exaggerated, but hasn’t Dragon Ball always been? Freeza blew up a planet, then Trunks cut him in half with little to no effort. The level of danger that Buu presents is roughly the level that can be expected from a series that has such an exponential growth of threat.
The seriousness of the character development also remains. This is displayed most prominently in Vegeta’s arc. Vegeta began the series as a man who disdained others to the point of killing his only comrade for failing. As previously mentioned, by the Cell Saga, Vegeta shows that he actually cares for another person. His development continues in the Buu Saga with the Saiyan prince willingly sacrificing himself, coolly and logically, for not only his family, but also his arch-rival. Later, he chooses to fight against Buu, knowing that he will probably lose and that to lose means to cease to exist. The character development in the Buu Saga alone is dramatic. It mimics the redemptions arcs of the other former villains, but goes further (largely because Vegeta was rather exceptionally villainous in his debut). By continuing the theme of redemption, which recurs again and again throughout all of Dragon Ball, the Buu Saga is able to connect the previous sagas together. The drama involved in Vegeta’s death also shows that, even in the fact of early Dragon Ball-style whimsy, the seriousness of DBZ is still present. The Buu Saga does not forget the grave aspects of DBZ even as it adds in the more child-like aspects of Dragon Ball.
These aspects combine, allowing the Buu Saga to reflect the whole of Dragon Ball (Z). The sillier aspects recall a time when “panties” was practically one of the main characters. The increased danger and character development, however, are themes that carry throughout the whole of the series and are especially present in DBZ. The Buu Saga affords us a retrospective of the series as a whole, rather than as discrete sagas. In both seriousness and whimsy, the Buu Saga draws on themes and tones that were always present in the series, allowing us to look back and let go.