Dragon Ball Z’s Most Underrated Fight – and What Makes It So Great

Ask a group of Dragon Ball Z fans to name their favorite fights in the series, and you'll most likely hear a lot of the same answers. Goku's battles with the respective sagas' big bads -- Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, and Buu -- often top fans' lists, with Gohan vs Cell and Piccolo vs Android 17 also proving popular picks. You might also hear some fights from the movies, such as Goku vs Cooler, the Z Fighters vs Broly, and Gogeta vs Janemba.

There's one fight that remains criminally underrated, however, and that's a fight smack dab in the middle of the Frieza Saga -- the Z Fighters vs Recoome. It makes sense why this fight is overlooked in some circles. After all, Recoome hardly ranks among Dragon Ball Z's most memorable baddies. While fans love the Ginyu Force as a collective, their individual members (Ginyu aside) aren't really designed to stick in the brain.

The fight also marks the third time -- after Drum and Nappa -- that the series has done the "big brute henchman overwhelms Goku's friends, then Goku swoops in and defeats them with ease" trope. It's a little overplayed at this point, and given that the fight comes in the middle of the arc between the subterfuge of the early portions and the drag-out battle with Frieza that dominates the last third, it's no wonder that it gets buried.

It's a shame, though, because otherwise, the fight has a lot going for it. It kicks off with a lusciously animated sequence by veteran Dragon Ball animators Hisashi Eguchi and Takeo Ide in which Vegeta unleashes an onslaught of attacks against Recoome. It culminates in Vegeta unleashing a new attack, the "Final Crash" -- a prototypical version of the legendary Final Flash he would later use against Perfect Cell.

After Vegeta fails, Krillin tells Gohan it's their turn to step up to the plate. Tag team battles are a rarity in Dragon Ball Z, making Gohan and Krillin's attempts at working with their former foe a treat for fans who pine for more collective efforts in the series. Even during such an overwhelmingly intense fight, Toriyama still manages to throw some solid character humor in. Between Recoome's absurdly hammy demeanor, Vegeta scolding a dumbfounded Gohan for saving his life, and Jeice and Burter's irreverent commentary from the sidelines, there are laughs to be had amidst the dread.

And Recoome doesn't forget to bring the dread where it counts. He may not leave a trail of bodies in his wake like Nappa, but he does manage to inflict some of the most grievous wounds in the series. Vegeta gets buried, Krillin is rendered immobile, and poor Gohan's neck gets snapped. The last one in particular is brutal even by Dragon Ball Z's standards -- between the fact that Gohan is a kid and the way the episode lingers on his injury, it makes for one of the most shocking moments in the entire series.

Which makes it all the sweeter when Goku does show up to save the day. It may not be the first time Dragon Ball Z creator Akira Toriyama has made his hero make the crucial save at the last minute, but it feels especially well-earned in this instance. The first act of the Frieza Saga is such an overwhelmingly dark chapter in Dragon Ball Z, in which Krillin and Gohan face insurmountable threats in hostile territory and are forced to rely on guile and trickery to survive up to this point. Goku's familiar brand of heroism and the ease with which he deals with Recoome is such a breath of fresh air that the repeated use of the trope isn't really an issue.

It makes sense that the second act of the Frieza Saga would get lost in the shuffle of the arc as a whole. To a lot of fans, the entire arc is one long build-up to the climactic showdown between Goku and Frieza. However, there are many, many memorable events that happen along the way that shouldn't be overlooked -- and the Z Fighters' struggle against Recoome stands out as one of the most underrated parts in all of Dragon Ball Z.

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