Versus: Was Dragon Ball Better Than Dragon Ball Z?

With Dragon Ball Xenoverse just days away from release and Dragon Ball Z: Revival of “F” set to premiere later this year, we couldn’t help but marvel over the fact the franchise has held onto so many fans’ hearts as long as it has. We here at Button Masher all share an undying affinity for Toriyama’s golden goose, but can’t agree on which of Goku’s journeys was best: Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z. Here, we settle it the only way we know how – with a good ol’ fashioned versus.

Dragon Ball Z is the reference point for all the high-action anime we have today.

Damion Collins

Dragon Ball Z is without a doubt the most popular and recognized anime on the planet. There’s nothing more awesome than seeing alien and human warriors battling at blistering speeds while destroying buildings, mountains and sometimes planets in the process. Dragon Ball Z has definitely paved the way for some of the great high paced action anime series we have today like Naruto and One Piece.

Z is a sequel to the original anime and manga, Dragon Ball, created by Akira Toriyama, which ran from 1989 to 1996. The anime kicks off 5 years after the events of Dragon Ball and ran for 9 seasons. Within those 9 seasons are countless memorable moments that fans of the show will never forget. One of the more memorable events is the epic first battle between Goku and Vegeta. This was one of the greatest battles in the series and showcased the iconic beam struggle with Goku’s Kamehameha and Vegeta’s Galick gun.


It’s hard to forget other classic moments like Goku vs Frieza on a dying Planet Namek. This is probably the most iconic battle in the entire franchise, spanning from Dragon Ball all the way to GT. On one side you have the tyrant Frieza who’s responsible for unspeakable actions during his reign including slaughtering the Saiyan race, wiping out planets, and torturing the Namekians in search of the Dragonballs. On the other side we have the hero Goku that discovers his people were killed off by Frieza and had his best friend killed right in front of his eyes by the tyrant. The death of Krillin is what ultimately set Goku off to transform into the Legendary Super Saiyan for the first time. This planet shattering battle between the two was of epic proportions and was definitely something to witness if you love well done anime fight sequences.

Dragon Ball Z is definitely one of the best anime of all time. I strongly believe it was Z that catapulted the franchise to new heights that Dragon Ball never reached alone. Akira Toriyama has taken notice of the high demand for new DBZ content, and in 2013 he released the 18th movie in the series, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of The Gods. The film was a major hit, and following that success Toriyama was inspired to revisit the world of DBZ once more to work on the sequel film, Dragon Ball Z: Revival of “F” set to release sometime in the coming months.


19 movies and 17+ games strong, DBZ’s longstanding popularity speaks volumes for which is the better show.


The smaller scale and lighter heart of Dragon Ball made for a more emotional journey

Corey van den Hoogenband

I can’t tell you that I didn’t adore every second of Dragon Ball Z. Making sure I was in front of the TV every weekday at 8PM was the closest thing to sacred ritual my ten year old self ever had. After going back and watching Dragon Ball like a prequel to DBZ, however, what I can tell you is that Dragon Ball was a far greater show.

Dragon Ball boasted a far more compelling and humorous cast of characters, and saw them take journeys fueled by personal motivations across diverse landscapes. Of course we’re dealing largely with the same characters, but by the time DBZ rolled around, the likes of Krillin, Yamcha, and Tien -who all at times posed genuine threats and played pivotal roles in moving the plot in Dragon Ball – were reduced to pointless comic relief characters compared to Goku and the Saiyans. The stakes were never as high as DBZ where planets seemed to always be one step away from blowing up, but that sort of made the characters and their struggles more relatable.


In creating Dragon Ball, Toriyama took influence from Japanese folklore and his own love for martial arts to craft an excellent fantasy tale, one with a clear trajectory and character development. With Z, Toriyama strangely converted the series into a science fiction / space story where most characters stayed stagnant (Adult Goku in episode 1 was no different from Goku in the series finale, for instance) and the story seemed to only advance by boss fight to boss fight.

As I mentioned before, raising the stakes so often in DBZ often led to a sort of character desensitization. “What? Krillin died a third time? Who saw that coming?” When Krillin lost his life in Dragon Ball, it shook up the entire show. The science fiction spin of DBZ quite literally alienated us from the characters, and the humour and character development of Dragon Ball was largely replaced with…well…charging. Charging energy for episodes at a time.


Dragon Ball Z was rad, but it was Goku and the gang’s formative years that really made us fall in love with these characters.


Do you prefer one series over the other? Do they blend together in your eyes into a single massive narrative? Where does Dragon Ball GT fit in all of this? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

1 comment

  1. He wasn’t inspired by Japanese folklore, largely not, the moon rabbit, okay a few instances, I think the only Japanese character that we got a name on was Yajirobi. That said his inspiration was the Chinese A Journey To the West, it was an adaption. The entire journey of Bulma meeting Goku, and many of the other characters are characters that you will find in the classic story/myth of a journey to the west. Almost every single fighter uses is Chinese gongfu, the many people with green uniforms and hats are a nod to the Chinese mao reveolution.

    The name of monkey in a journey to the west Sun Wukong, Son Goku.

    until space, or before Gohan if you will. The fights were much better, actual martial arts and cool techniques, just think about the devil that Baba summoned, he could’ve easily killed Vegeta and Nappa. I personally think that DBZ was watered down version of DB. People like to say the stakes were high, but the buildup was lazy, every single time. DB had better characters, more balanced characters, better character arcs, except for Piccolo turning good, that is alright. Yet I think that DBZ and Goky being an alien was perhaps the worst solution, it could’ve stayed mystical and strange, but hell, I still bought every manga and watched the anime.

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