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After Vegeta lets the incomplete Cell go to absorb Android 18, Trunks attempts to stop Cell. When trying to escape Trunks' onslaught and get closer to Android 18, the incomplete Cell used the Solar Flare technique to blind Trunks and the others.

Solar Flare is a good technique to be used when the fighter attempts a quick getaway. However, in this case, Cell is still in the same area and it is made obvious that he attempts to absorb Android 18. Why can't Trunks sense Cell's energy level at this point? Why can't he sense Krillin's energy level to judge where Cell will end up going and prevent Cell's completion?

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You are right, Cell ends up using Solar Flare.

It is hard to get a definitive answer (because the question is pretty speculative), but I will argue that:

  • Solar Flare has been shown to be incredibly disruptive every time it was used - in the manga, everyone affected by it was made helpless for at least ten seconds - having Trunks stop in mid-air because of it is not inconsistent with previous uses of that ability;
  • I do not remember any character in Dragon Ball that could fight effectively while blinded, or without using his eyes - by implication, it means that there is nothing to suggest that ki sensing could replace eyes if someone was blinded. However, even if you find an example of someone that did fight without his eyes, you would still have to find something that Trunks would be capable of doing it;
  • The time that Cell took to absorb Android 18 was extremely short - I mean, if you look at the sequence depicted in the manga, it goes:

    1. Trunks blasts Vegeta to distract him;
    2. Trunks begins flying towards Cell, who is a few steps away from Android 18;
    3. Cell uses Solar Flare;
    4. Everyone is blinded;
    5. Cell gulps Android 18 down;
    6. The cloud generated by Trunks' blast around Vegeta dissipates;

    I mean, damn, how long did it take Cell to absorb Android 18 after blinding everyone? 3 seconds? The disruption from Solar Flare clearly seems to be enough for this purpose.

However, I agree that the scene, as depicted in the anime, does not really make sense, as Android 18 and Krillin attempt to fight against Cell, while Trunks and Vegeta are completely forgotten about. It could be argued that they were affected more strongly because they were closer to Cell when he used Solar Flare, but that explanation seems dodgy.

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  • Vegeta did attempt to get in Trunks' way - but Trunks defeated Vegeta. This is after Vegeta taunts him saying he is too weak to be tough with his own father. After that - Cell used Solar Flare when he finds Trunks is as strong as Vegeta and Cell will lose in a fight in his incomplete state
    – mustard
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 0:06
  • @mustard: I rewrote the answer after taking a new look at the anime and the manga. I have the impression that the manga scene makes a good deal of sense, but the anime scene is a lot more plot holey.
    – neothoron
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 21:53

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