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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.
 

Verdict

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)

Daniel_Newton moderator on Dec. 18, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.

@SuperTiencha said:

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

Dude, most people watched Z before Dragon Ball, because we were kids when it first aired, we hadn't heard of Dragon Ball (because in the west that didn't air until after Z, I believe) and we really didn't care. We just wanted to watch dudes with crazy hair punching each other through mountains.

Maybe you should actually think about what you're asking before you ask it, you might find the answer is actually pretty obvious.

SuperTienchaon Dec. 19, 2012 at 9:40 a.m.

Ya but that was back then. Now the original series is commonly available and there shouldn't be a reason to start with Z.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Dec. 19, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.

@SuperTiencha: Ah, I suppose I took your question a little out of context, I just took it at face value and thought "Hey! I watched Z first and so did lots of people!", sorry about that.

Still, the tone of Dragon Ball Z is pretty different to Dragon Ball, so there are probably some people who would watch Z and ignore Dragon Ball because of their own preferences, I guess.

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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