Following the Android Saga, with Dragon Ball Z veering more into science fiction than ever, Goku and the Z Fighters had to contend with the arrival of Cell. A synthetic warrior designed by Doctor Gero as his final revenge from beyond the grave, Cell came to the prime Dragon Ball timeline imperfect, requiring the cores of Androids 17 and 18 to reach his perfect form, leading to an epic, worldwide hunt packed with plenty of twists and turns. Running from DBZ episodes 140-152 and leading right into the Perfect Cell Saga, here are all the biggest plot twists from the Imperfect Cell Saga, one of the most pivotal in the series' history.
Piccolo Fuses With Kami
When Piccolo was first introduced toward the end of the original Dragon Ball, he was a committed antagonist, intent on avenging his father Demon King Piccolo by killing Goku and forcibly fusing with the Guardian of Earth Kami as the two shared the same Namekian life force. While Piccolo's plot was thwarted by the end of Dragon Ball and he began the path toward heroic redemption at the start of DBZ, this development would be revisited during the Android and Imperfect Cell Sagas.
Realizing he was no match for the Androids alone, Piccolo proposed fusing with Kami, even if it meant the neutralization of Earth's Dragon Balls as a direct consequence. While Kami mulled over this offer, the rise of Cell and the villain's role absorbing thousands of humans to increase his power ultimately convinced Kami to accept, resulting in the two Namekians becoming one in Piccolo's body. This effectively made Piccolo one of the strongest Z Fighters at that time.
When Piccolo later tracks down Cell at Ginger Town, where the villain has horrifically absorbed the entire population to add to his power, he stands as the clear physical superior of the two thanks to his significant power boost from fusing with Kami. However, while Piccolo appears to hold the advantage initially, he's shocked when Cell attacks him with a Kamehameha Wave, distracting him long enough for Cell to cripple one of his arms.
Cell reveals that, unlike the Androids, he is an organic being that possesses the genetic material from all the Z Fighters, Frieza, King Cold and the Saiyans that visited Earth at the start of Dragon Ball Z to become the ultimate warrior. This means Cell is capable of performing other signature attacks, including the Spirit Bomb and Piccolo's own Special Beam Cannon.
With Cell continuing to stay one step ahead of the Z Fighters while absorbing thousands of victims to increase his power, Piccolo decides to proactively prevent Cell from reaching his perfect form by destroying one of the Androids first. Challenging Android 17 to a one-on-one duel, Piccolo quickly surprises his opponent by being much stronger than their last skirmish, though he begins to tire against the synthetic warrior.
However, this plan proves to backfire for the Androids and Z Fighters, with the high power level Piccolo emits during the showdown attracting Cell, who shocks everyone by suddenly appearing in the middle of the fight. While the Androids are confused by Cell, unaware of who he is or what his programming entails, it quickly becomes clear the new villain has already become stronger than he was during his first fight against Piccolo, as he easily overpowers both Piccolo and Android 17.
Android 16 Steps In to Fight Cell
Ever since he was activated in Doctor Gero's lab by Androids 17 and 18, Android 16 remained a silent, stoic figure that refused to participate in his companions' rampage. Instead of taking on the Z Fighters shortly after the Androids' arrival, 16 was more interested in admiring the beauty of nature around him, a trait that informed most of his actions while he accompanied his similarly synthetic counterparts.
When it became clear that neither 17 nor Piccolo could stop the villainous Cell, Android 16 stepped up in a big way. And in an epic battle, 16 quickly proved himself much stronger than the others, holding a clear advantage over Cell -- until his opponent shiftily outmaneuvered him and absorbed 17 before 16 could react in time.
Tien's Last Stand
With Piccolo down and Android 16 the first victim of the upgraded Cell after the villain absorbed 17, Android 18 was saved from absorption for the time being from an unexpected source: Tenshinhan, one of Dragon Ball's classic characters. Despite being physically far weaker than Cell in his new form, Tien nonetheless makes a valiant last stand to buy 18 enough time to escape from the hulking villain.
Fueled by his own life force, Tien fired a series of Tri Beam Blasts that sent Cell spiraling back down to Earth while 18 fled the scene. Even Cell was astounded that it was Tien, a fighter he'd quickly dismissed as comparatively weak, that cost him his final victory. Fortunately, Goku was able to save both Tien and Piccolo from Cell's wrath in time, though Android 18's escape would be somewhat short-lived.