Cell intends to test out his new, perfect body in a resurrection of the World’s Martial Arts Tournament he’s dubbed the Cell Games. Vegeta pops a blood vessel when he realizes both Goku and Gohan have mastered being a Super Saiyan on a routine basis. Instead of reentering the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Goku and Gohan spend the next ten days studying, fishing, and eating spaghetti.
The self-proclaimed Martial Arts Champion of the World Mr. Satan illustrates his mighty abilities when he runs his mouth and is backhanded into the top of a mountain by Cell. After giving up to Cell in the opening bout, Goku calls out Gohan as the most powerful fighter on earth. Goku is so confident in Gohan’s abilities that he gives Cell a Senzu Bean.
Cell is in complete control of Gohan when Android 16 tries to self-destruct and destroy Cell once and for all, but Bulma and her father removed the bomb inside him when they fixed him up. 16 is destroyed by Cell and is nothing more than a severed cybernetic head. Gohan hypes his anger issues, which intrigues Cell so naturally he starts poking and prodding Gohan. When that doesn’t work he sprouts seven Cell Juniors to take care of his friends. The remains of 16 give Gohan a pep talk before Cell curb stomps him, but his words trigger Gohan’s transformation into the ultimate form of SSJ2.
Illustrating that he’s more powerful than Cell, Gohan chooses to make Cell suffer. Cell barfs up 18 after a punch to the gut and tries to self-destruct to destroy the planet after regressing back to his Semi-Perfect form. Goku sacrifices himself and uses Instant Transmission to teleport Cell to King Kai’s planet and saves the world once again. Cell returns in Perfect form and explains that he was able to regenerate from a single cell and his DNA absorbed Goku’s Instant Transmission technique as well as retaining the structure of his perfect form.
After killing Trunks and dealing with a pissed off Vegeta without much effort, Cell intends to finish off Vegeta but Gohan jumps in the way and loses the use of one of his arms. With the help of his father from beyond the grave, Gohan defeats Cell with a one-handed Kamehameha. As the Dragon Balls are gathered and everyone comes up with the plan to ask the Namekian dragon Porunga to revive Goku, Goku contacts them once again to say that he wants to stay dead for the good of the earth.
This saga really hit on both a personal and emotional level. When this was originally shown on TV, preparations for graduating from high school and getting ready for college kicked in right around the time Tien used his Tri-Beam attack on Semi-Perfect Cell. So finishing this saga was never really an option until now. Goku’s death, despite it being his second time around, is really emotional as well. Goku’s sacrifice is so ridiculously fearless and heroic. All of that combined with how he coaches Gohan even after dying with the help of King Kai, telling his friends that he wants to stay dead, and the way everyone tries so hard not to look at Goku’s death as a sad event is so heartwarming and tragic. Despite the flaws of the entire Cell Saga, in which there are many, the touching impact the conclusion has along with all of the incredible animation during lengthier fights compared to the Vegeta and Frieza Sagas is what makes this Saga so good.
With all of that said, this Saga screws around frequently instead of cutting to the chase. The ten days leading up to the Cell Games literally feels like an actual ten days as we mostly see Gohan catch up on his studies, Goku have rocks thrown at his head by Krillin, or the two Saiyans doing nothing but laze about. In the midst of all this, you have the timeline of Future Trunks to cut to every so often, recalling events of the series you’ve already seen a dozen times, jumping to new events from the past you haven’t already seen and a few from the present (mostly how Gohan got his name and other Gohan related stories, the return of General Tao, and bringing back the Dragon Balls by appointing Dende as the new Guardian of Earth), and Cell reminiscing of all of his hardships before becoming Perfect (some of those people he sucked out of clothes were actually kind of chunky and hard to swallow). The series tends to jump to these moments right when the action starts to get good, so it becomes immensely frustrating at times.
Meanwhile, you have the usual tomfoolery the series has become notorious for. When Chi Chi isn’t carrying, yelling at, or throwing the TV set she’s under the impression Goku is in a gang and doesn’t want Gohan to be any part of it. Him having blonde hair after emerging from the Hyperbolic Time Chamber only results in Chi Chi collapsing on the floor and bawling her eyes out while declaring her son is now a “punker.”
While still in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Gohan dreams about Cell showing up during his training and killing Piccolo and his mom even though Gohan said during the Perfect Cell Saga that he’d never seen him before when Goku was trying to push Gohan into going Super Saiyan for the first time. The original plan was for Tien and Piccolo to go into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber together when Goku and Gohan came out, but Tien eventually backs out stating that he doesn’t think he’d be a worthy opponent. The depressing thing is it seems like nobody cares about Tien’s statement as it’s never acknowledged and the discussion almost immediately jumps to Goku saying him and Gohan need to go pick up Chi Chi from Master Roshi’s. Poor Tien just can’t seem to catch a break despite being the hardest training human of the bunch.
Everyone seems to realize how powerful Gohan has become except for Gohan himself who is still full of doubt even after everything he’s gone through. It’s the worst kept secret of the saga. What makes matters worse is that Goku is a total chump about it. When Gohan takes a trip to the market to pick up some things for Chi Chi, he visits Chazke Village where an old man named Mr. Lao is having trouble with the men working for the shelter run by Mr. Borbonne that’s supposed to protect everyone in town from an attack by Cell. As Mr. Borbonne’s scheme to horde all of the townspeople’s money is eventually brought to light, his bodyguard the cyborg version of General Tao along with all of Borbonne’s henchmen attack. Mr. Lao takes care of the henchmen, but Gohan eventually steps in. Goku arrives soon after to see what’s taking Gohan so long to which Mr. Lao tells him that Gohan is incredibly strong. Goku then whispers, “But don’t tell him that okay?” and ends the remark with the most subtle wink ever.
The absolute worst parts of this Saga is Mr. Satan, his senior disciples Caroni and Paroshki, and Jimmy Firecracker the ZTV announcer since they’re all just so obnoxious. Satan is a total poser who does nothing but claim that everything is a trick and takes credit for defeating Cell when all he did was pretend to have a stomach ache because he knew he was out classed. It wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to hear from him so often. The only thing that makes it bearable is how much trash Krillin talks about him. If the guy who gets beaten up the most in every fight talks bad about you, then you’re probably pretty crappy. The only thing that would have been better is if Yamcha had chimed in. Vegeta’s line about, “That ridiculous man hasn’t realized his weakness. His stupidity is beyond belief,” is way more amusing than it should be.
Sources: dragonball.wikia.com, thedragonballblog.blogspot.com, tumblr.com, imdb.com, wikipedia.org, comicvine.com, funimation.com