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Beginner's Guide to Dragon Ball Z

Nostalgia for any anime fan

Dragon Ball Z. Just uttering those words to just about any anime or manga fan will bring about nostalgia. Hated and loved for over 20 years, the DBZ anime was the first juggernaut of its kind. The series is known around the world and would easily be one of the first 5 titles mentioned if someone was asked to name an anime off the top of their head. In addition, this anime was the primary gateway for the previous generation of anime fans. The original Dragon Ball manga and anime have even greatly influenced current sh ōnen anime and manga ( One Piece, Naruto, Bleach). The man behind it all, Akira Toriyama, has been influenced by Walt Disney, Osamu Tezuka, and Jackie Chan. His most notable anime/manga work besides Dragon Ball is Dr. Slump. Toriyama stays active to this day working on video games, doing one-shots for Shueisha, and running his studio (Bird Studio).

The Dragon Ball Z anime takes place in the Dragon Ball manga from volumes 17-42. In Japan, that section of the manga ran in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump from May 1989 to August 1995. Viz Media licenses the manga in the US and released the aforementioned volumes from March 2003 to June 2006 under the title Dragon Ball Z to prevent confusion for the English audience. Viz is now re-releasing the manga in VIZBIG editions (3 volumes in 1). The anime, done by Toei Animation, aired in Japan from April 1989 to January 1996. FUNimation licensed the anime for dubbing in the US and the series aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami from September 1996 to April 2003. In addition to the anime there are 2 specials, 13 movies, an anime-only continuation ( Dragon Ball GT), and a currently airing reboot ( Dragon Ball Z Kai). As if all the anime wasn’t enough, there have also been art books, collectible cards, numerous video games, and a US live-action adaptation ( Dragonball Evolution).

The Story

Goku has settled down and started a family with his wife Chi Chi. Trouble is never too far off in his life, though. A mysterious and powerful alien named Raditz comes to tell Goku that he will give him time to start killing humans so the Earth can be sold. On top of that, Raditz states he is Goku’s older brother and they are Saiyans, a nearly extinct superpowered alien race! Raditz then kidnaps Goku’s son, Gohan, which leads Goku to team up with his nemesis Piccolo in a 2-on-1 fight against Raditz. But even as the three fight there are 2 more powerful Saiyans heading to Earth so they can get their hands on the Dragon Balls. Can Goku save the day as always or has his strength and luck reached their limit?! (Guide covers the Saiyan Saga which is episodes 1-36 (approximately))


The Characters

Goku is the main character and hero. As a kid he trained with Master Roshi along with Krillin but eventually comes under the instruction of King Kai. He had no idea he was from outer space and thought it was natural that after every battle he got stronger. He is an expert martial artist and has competed numerous times in Earth’s World Martial Arts Tournament. While Goku isn’t the brightest person-he’s actually quite silly-he does not hesitate to fight in order to protect the Earth and his friends. He also has a MASSIVE appetite.
Krillin is, well, short and bald. He trained under the tutelage of Master Roshi with Goku. By Earth’s standards he is pretty strong and he also competed in the World Martial Arts Tournament with Goku. Luck isn’t always on his side in a fight but he will continue if he can muster the strength. Besides Goku, Krillin provides the most comic relief.  
Piccolo is…green-with antennae! He was formerly named King Piccolo during the World Martial Arts Tournament. He is the other half of Kami. He used to want to rule the world but now he is a member of the Z Fighters. To prepare for the arrival of the Saiyans he trains Gohan and becomes friends with him.
Gohan is the son of Goku and Chi Chi. Since Goku is a full Saiyan, he is only half. He is a big crybaby who cannot control his power. Therefore, he trains under Piccolo. Gohan is always full of surprises though, especially since he has a tail! Like father like son. 
Tien is a former rival of Goku’s in the World Martial Arts Tournament. He has 3 eyes and is a master of some unusual techniques. He trains under Kami to prepare for the Saiyans. His companion is Chiaotzu. 
Chiaotzu may be tiny but he has some interesting powers of his own. He also trains under Kami and is best friends with Tien. 
Yamcha is a bandit turned good. He also competed in the World Martial Arts Tournament. Though his hair and clothes change a lot he loves using his Wolf Fang Fist. To prepare for the Saiyans he joins the others to train with Kami. 
Yajirobe is a fat man with a samurai sword. He’s not a fighter and his method of training is eating everything in sight. He has some helpful shining moments of his own though. 
Master Roshi aka the Turtle Hermit, trained Goku and Krillin. He has won multiple World Martial Arts Tournaments and even created the Kamehameha Wave. Despite his accomplishments and being wise, he is a dirty old man who lives on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. 
Bulma Briefs is a technical genius who used to go on wild adventures with Goku and Krillin. While she isn’t helpful in a fight she created the Dragon Radar, which is able to locate the Dragon Balls. 
Kami is the Guardian of the Earth and creator of the Dragon Balls. Long ago he dispelled the evil in him, which became Piccolo. He has helped the Z Fighters over the years and trains them to prepare for the Saiyan threat. He is aided by Mr. Popo and Korin
King Kai lives on a tiny planet at the end of Snake Way in Other World. With the help of his companions, Bubbles (a monkey) and Gregory (a grasshopper), he trains Goku to the extreme in preparation for the Saiyans. He is very wise and powerful and finds himself hilarious. 
Vegeta is the Saiyan Prince. He is very powerful and ruthless and has grown tired of taking over planets inhabited by weaklings. When he hears about the Dragon Balls he decides that he and his partner Nappa will go to Earth to gather them for a wish. 
Nappa is Vegeta’s partner and fellow Saiyan. On top of being really big and bald, he is quite powerful as well. He’s also not very bright and likes destroying stuff. 
 Raditz is Goku's older brother and another full-blood Saiyan. He, like Vegeta, will say whatever he needs to in order to get the upper hand in battle. Not much is really know about him though since he is the first villain of the series.

Why Watch?

The Dragon Ball Z series is very long (291 episodes) and contains a considerable amount of filler. The plot is simplistic as it follows a typical shōnen formula but the story overall is fun. The fight scenes are really cool and fast-paced since everyone is superpowered. There are a variety of characters to enjoy and a reasonable amount of comedy. The animation very much suites the series and while it’s not really detailed it has its better moments. Dragon Ball Z includes blood, violence, some language, and some nudity for a TV-PG/TV-14 rating. The boxsets and movies are released uncut and can be found on DVD and Blu-ray. The sub version has a number of well-known VAs and they do a wonderful job. The dub has been hated and loved along with the series itself and contains a few noticeable voices as well with VAs such as Sean Schemmel as Goku and Chris Sabat ( Alex Louis Armstrong and Roronoa Zoro) as Piccolo, Vegeta, and Yamcha.


Dragon Ball Z wastes no time getting into the action and that’s great. There is a big cast to enjoy and while the series takes quite a bit of time to watch and is deemed somewhat childish, just sit back and enjoy. You can watch the no-filler Kia but for the extended fights and more comedy, watch the original.
-Will McQuigg ( sotyfan16) is your everyday anime/manga enthusiast. You can also find him on Twitter ( bildo_88)

Eyzon March 16, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
@SSJjanemba said:
" it pains me to see there are still ppl who havent seen dbz "
Well, you can't expect kids to watch it amongst the many many many other new stuff that is coming out each year :/
Sad, but true.
SilverZeoon March 16, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
The anime that still is good no matter how bad the dub reedits it.
Supreme Marvelon March 16, 2011 at 1:33 p.m.
When I've got the majority of my university work out the way. I'll write up the Dragon Ball Z page.
Theresonlyoneon March 16, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.
I love dbz i grew up watching it. (well the cut up edition that was shown in the UK for CN) and as much as I love it, it's pretty bad as anime goes. I owe this series, Tenchi and Gundam for introducing me to anime. 
The less said about GT the better...
PatVBon March 16, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.
Man, I forgot how much I love DBZ. Sure, it's pretty silly and half of each episode is just guys charging their power, but something about it made me fall in love with it as a kid. I stopped watching some time in the Buu saga, because it got too goofy for my tastes, but I do still adore this show.
Droon March 16, 2011 at 10:44 p.m.
I've gotta represent DBZ. Toonami was the only anime available for years where I live, and although I didn't actually watch a ton of DBZ (had trouble because I'd always miss a few episodes, and had to just deal with holes in the storylines), it was fuckin awesome. 
The toys had to be the best part, though. The battles my friends and I had with the action figures were truly the stuff of legend.
Also, Dragon Ball was the first manga I read (along with Ranma 1/2). My mom works at a school library, and she had the manga available, so when I'd go in to work with her sometimes before I was old enough to stay home alone (especially during the summer), she'd tell me to read them. 
I also used to read the monthly Shonen Jump that she'd get (which was always ahead of the full-volume releases, so I could jump ahead back when the Naruto manga first came out). 
I was fairly lucky, I guess, because I had access to all this stuff at a young age, and I was ahead of the curve in a lot of respects. So I'm sort of like an OG of anime/manga fans for my generation.
sotyfan16on March 17, 2011 at 1:26 a.m.
I totally forgot about the action figures! I had a bunch of them (I think they are in storage now) and use to play with them as well. I haven't read any of the manga though.
Supreme Marvelon March 17, 2011 at 8:58 a.m.
I remember CNX channel. It was so awesome! It has a lot of animé and Asian films. When I'd come home from school I'd put that channel on and watch some kick arse animé or some Asian film that I've not seen before. Miss that  channel now.
MagikGimpon March 17, 2011 at 4:36 p.m.
I haven't seen any of it (apart from over 9000) but I know enough to know it's shit.
Supreme Marvelon March 17, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
@magikgimp said:
" I haven't seen any of it (apart from over 9000) but I know enough to know it's shit. "
Seeing and knowing are two different things. Don't knock it until you try it.
Ryokanon March 18, 2011 at 11:12 p.m.
Yeah, except that DBZ was one of the first of his kind. 
He predate Eva and Ghost n the shell, and he has paved the way for the other. 
Now don't make me say what I haven't said : the filler are kind of bad and waaay too many. The 8 episode/5 minutes countdown to explosion of namek are silly. 
But all and all, it's still awesome for it's age. It's hard to denied that DBZ was one of the most dynamic anime of his age. When you see it, you have to remember that DBZ has at almost twenty years ! 
To compare this anime with Eva and Ghost in the shell is rather unfair.  
mydeathlywayson March 19, 2011 at 1:14 p.m.
I hate to see people who haven't seen DBZ before. Though the original DBZ was my favorite among any other DBZ, I loved the Sayian Saga and Majin Saga.
Supreme Marvelon March 19, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.
If you don't wanna watch the fillers watch Dragon Ball Kai.
KaiokenKidon March 20, 2011 at 10:11 p.m.

Even though Kai is far easier to watch, some of the filler comedy is pretty funny.
zaldaron April 5, 2011 at 5:48 p.m.
To the three people that replied to me:
1. I suppose you could say that Z paved the way for ghost in the shell and eva but only as a contrast, a kind of lord I don't want to be that.  I am here of course talking about in story, pacing, and plot.  I know nothing about animation style and honestly don't care to much.  What draws me to anime is story, plot, and philosophical nature (thus lain, texnolyze and hanibi remei being my favorite shows).  On the art vs story spectrum I am 100% story.  I come from novels (American sci-fi and fantasy mostly) not comics or manga (though I have gotten into MD Psycho which I REALLY hope is made into an anime)

2. Even in the 1980's there were better shows, but for me at least it wasn't until ghost in the shell and eva that anime got good.  Most of the things before then I just didn't like.  From 1980 to 2000 it went through a maturation process giving us some great stuff (and then it devolved to moe le sigh)

3. Characterization....???  Character  Yea I didn't see any of this in the show.  Bleach has more character growth than Dragonball Z ever did (and is a much better shonen show to my mind) I might have missed it as the ridiculously long pacing turned me off pretty quickly (one of the reasons I don't read American comics is the 40 years worth of back story). 

4. Not familiar with tv tropes though I have heard that quote somewhere before.  I suppose I should have added the word should to the quote.  I realize some art is meant to be totally escapist but I have a lot more respect and choose to spend most of my time around art that has a little bit more to say than that.  (I much perfer asimov to any D@D or Star Wars novel for example)

5. Sorry if the original post came off as trolling it was actually meant to be serious.  I have been around here for awhile now, and it does grate on me when people talk about how wonderful that show was when so many other better shows don't get the props they deserve.  (now and then here and there comes to mind THAT is a classic show). 
craigbo180on April 8, 2011 at 3:35 p.m.
Krillin is the best character in all of anime.
Ryokanon June 29, 2011 at 1:33 p.m.

Watch the Kaï version. The original anime version isn't entirely worthless, but the fillers are pain in the a$$.   
LewisLongshankson July 2, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.
@young_scott: Brian Drummond > Christopher Sabat. It is the only reason I keep clear of any English dub with the exception of Ocean. Once I do reacquire DBZ I will probably play it in Japanese.
DBZ_universeon Jan. 18, 2012 at 5:23 p.m.
Good article.... yeah Dragon Ball and Z were great and they still are... I still read the manga. but I think Broly should had been the last villian in DBZ... (after Buu) they started with a saiyan and they ended with a Legendary Saiyan...
SuperTienchaon Dec. 18, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.

What kind of dingus watches Dragon Ball Z before Dragon Ball.

Dig Deeper into Goku

Goku is one of the last members of the Saiyan race, sent to Earth as a baby and raised among humans. As a powerful martial artist, he defends Earth against the aliens who come to destroy it.

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