Dragon Ball Z

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The Dragon Ball Z logo (English manga)

Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボール Z, Doragon Bōru Z) is the long-running sequel to the popular shōnen anime Dragon Ball. Though it is based on the second part of the Dragon Ball manga, it is called "Dragon Ball Z" in the United States to reduce confusion for American audiences. The anime is a close adaptation of the manga, though due to its considerable length it also features characters, situations and backstory which were not present in the original. (This "filler" material is generally considered non-canonical and occasionally contradicts itself.)

Specifically, it follows the adventures of the adult Son Goku who defends the earth against assorted villains. While the original Dragon Ball anime followed Goku through childhood into adulthood, Dragon Ball Z continues his adventures until he is a grandparent. The distinction between the two is significant in that Goku's earlier adventures were largely comedic, while as an adult the series takes on a dramatic and decidedly serious tone.

The anime first premiered in Japan on April 18, 1989 (on Fuji TV) and ended on January 31, 1996. In the U.S., the series ran between 1996 and 2003, though not always on the same networks or with continuity of dubbing. It aired in the UK, albeit with the same dubbing problem, on Cartoon Network between 1999 and 2002, and the final few episodes ran on CNX in 2002, before that channel relaunched as Toonami, on which it is repeated daily.

After Dragon Ball Z, the story of Son Goku and friends continue in the anime-only series Dragon Ball GT. That series was not based on a manga by Akira Toriyama and many fans reject it as an entire series of "filler." Toriyama's humor/parody manga Neko Majin Z features several concepts introduced in Dragon Ball Z (several Dragon Ball Z characters even make various appearances), but that manga is designed as a parody and not a true continuation of the series.


Plot Summary

Son Goku, the protagonist, is an extremely powerful martial artist who is simpleminded and kindly. After a visit from his previously unknown brother Raditz, he discovers that he is an alien (specificallly a saiyan or saiya-jin) that was sent to Earth to destroy it. When he informs Raditz that he has no intention of doing this, Goku and his friends become the erstwhile defenders of the Earth from the oncoming invasion by more of his kind.

As the series progresses, Son Goku, his son (Son Gohan) and their companions age, get immensely stronger and fight increasingly more powerful and sinister villains. Many of the main characters die, are resurrected, get married and/or have children. The series progresses dramatically throughout its entire run.

Many important facts were introduced into the series that add a different, more Sci-Fi oriented, story arc to Dragon Ball Z from its predecessor:

  • Son Goku is an alien from Planet Vegeta. This is the source of his previously unexplained abilities and why he has a tail (which was later removed and not seen again until the next series, Dragon Ball GT).
  • Son Goku's enemy from the first series, Piccolo, is an alien from Planet Namek. He is the product of Kami (guardian of Earth) splitting himself in half to purge the evil from himself.


The Dragon Ball Z series can be (somewhat) logically broken into 4 series, which can be broken further into sagas, based on the current enemy or theme:

Saiyan Series:

  • The Saiyan Saga (Renamed to the Vegeta Saga in the Funimation Redubs)
Frieza Series: Cell Series: Buu Series:


There are quite a few Dragon Ball Z movies made based on the popular series. Although some can be counted as side stories (gaiden) that happen between sagas, many are based in their own universe and have nothing to do with the series timeline. These movies include:

  1. Dead Zone (Return My Gohan!)
  2. The World's Strongest (The World's Strongest Guy)
  3. The Tree of Might (Ultimate Decisive Battle For Earth)
  4. Lord Slug (Super Saiyan Son Goku)
  5. Cooler's Revenge (Best of Strongest Verses Strongest)
  6. Return of Cooler (Warriors Clash! The 10 Billion Powerful Warriors)
  7. Super Android 13 (Extreme Battle! The Three Great Super Saiyans!)
  8. Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan (Burn Your Spirits to the Max!! Close Battle, Violent Battle, Super Bloody Battle)
  9. Bojack Unbound (The Galaxy is in Danger! The Super Awesome Guy!)
  10. Broly: The Second Coming (Dangerous Partners! Super Warriors Never Rest!)
  11. Crushing Super Warrior! I Am The Winner! (Not released in English)
  12. The Rebirth Of Fusion! Goku and Vegeta! (Not released in English)
  13. Dragon Fist Assault! If Goku Can't Do It, Who Can? (Not released in English)

DBZ and anime fandom

Dragon Ball Z was (and largely still is) one of the most popular shōnen anime series in the United States. Due to its length, associated varying production quality, creative devices, and sometimes overenthusiastic young fanbase, anime fandom at large has mixed reactions to the series. These range from simple lack of interest to downright vocal hatred of the series (or even of its fans) as overrated and superficial. While contributing much to the shōnen genre in Japan, some feel Dragon Ball Z has created a stereotype associated with anime at large in the West amongst those outside the anime community.

As it is closely associated with the stereotypical young, obnoxious otaku, some fans are even afraid to mention their interest in the series to others. However, many in their late teens were still watching Dragonball Z when the last episodes played on American TV. In contrast, less hatred tends to be espoused towards the original Dragon Ball series, perhaps because of its relative obscurity in America (at least until FUNimation released the anime domestically) and stronger mix of comedy and adventure. Many fans feel that the fandom of a new series in a similar genre, Naruto, shows some strong reflections to DBZ's fandom. The shows are usually compared in flame wars, although their premises are quite different.

Censorship Issues

One of the biggest criticisms of the series in North America from fans is the extensive amount of editing it faced, especially when broadcast on network television.

Dragon Ball Z was marketed to appeal to a wide range of viewers from all ages, and contains crude humor and occasional excesses of violence which are commonly seen as inappropriate for younger audiences by American standards. When it was marketed in the United States, the distribution company FUNimation alongside with Saban decided to initially focus exclusively on the young children's market, because the market for Japanese animation was still small compared to the much larger children's cartoon market. The series underwent many changes, with the removal of nudity and partial nudity, references to sex, alcohol, and smoking. For example, FUNimation digitally removed the cigarette from one character's mouth, and digitally pasted the word ROOT above a sign that said BEER to make it say "ROOT BEER". Many violent scenes were left on the cutting room floor, and others had wounds digitally removed, and blood removed or re-colored as spit. The dialogue was changed, removing references to Heaven, Hell, God, and death.

This amount of editing led to characters' speech not matching what occurred on screen, unrealistic and twisted plots with major holes, and obviously altered images. Combined with the replacement of the original musical score, these changes left many fans irate. Some Dragon Ball purists refuse to watch the American version of the show. One of the biggest points raised by critics of the editing of violence is that the removal of wounds, blood, and death from a show ultimately about fighting will encourage violence without showing any of the consequences.

Starting with the Ginyu Saga (3rd US season) on Cartoon Network, censorship was reduced due to fewer restrictions on cable programming. FUNimation did the dubbing on their own this time around with their own voice actors. Some censoring, of nudity for example, was still unavoidable. Subsequent DVD and VHS releases of those episodes were not censored in any way. In 2003, Funimation decided to redub the first two sagas of Dragon Ball Z, to remove the problems that were caused from their previous partnership with Saban. They will also be redubbing the first three movies that were also dubbed by the Ocean Group voice actors but were distributed by Pioneer. It was recently announced that the distribution of the redubs will start in April 2005.

Post 9/11

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Cartoon Network cut an episode of Dragon Ball Z where Gohan saves a plane from crashing, then later has to deal with a burning skyscraper office building, due to the obvious parallel imagery.

Uncut Version

In 2005, the Cartoon Network has started showing the uncut version, meaning that what was edited in the past is completely shown as it was for the Japanese. The fomy water is actually pure beer, Piccolo's blood during the battle with Raditz is completely pure red blood whereas the edited version showed green, and Master Roshi's lecherous attempts on Bulma is shown at it's fullest.

See also

External links

DBZ Navbar

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Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball GT
Saiyan Saga - Namek Saga - Ginyu Saga - Freeza Saga - Garlic Junior Saga - Trunks Saga - Androids Saga - Imperfect Cell Saga - Perfect Cell Saga - Cell Games Saga - Great Saiyaman Saga - World Tournament Saga - Babidi Saga - Majin Buu Saga - Fusion Saga - Kid Buu Saga

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