[Throwback Thursdays] Dragon Ball Z review and characters - Kamehameha!


  • Episodes : 291
  • Genre : Shounen, Action, Adventure
  • Airing Date : April 1989 - January 1996
  • Producers : Toei

Dragon Ball Z Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

Dragon Ball Z takes place right after the defeat of Demon King Piccolo at the end of the original Dragon Ball series. Earth’s two strongest warriors, Goku and Piccolo’s son (also called Piccolo), have entered a grudging alliance, and the planet has returned to peace. This all changes when incredibly powerful warriors called Saiyans start landing on earth! The series is an epic which follows Goku and Earth’s other heroes as they face stronger and stronger enemies, from intergalactic warlords, to evil space magicians!

How can anyone adequately describe Dragon Ball Z? True it’s a story of endless epic fights, but at the heart of it is Goku, an implacable character who always tries to make friends of his enemies. Though it’s the continuation of the Dragon Ball anime, Dragon Ball Z eclipsed the original series as one of the most popular and recognisable anime out there. As usual the series is bolstered with spin-offs and movies which add life to the Dragon Ball universe created by the manga. Despite being released almost 30 years ago, Toei is by no means done - a new series called Dragon Ball Super has begun airing in 2015 after years of rumours!

Who does Dragon Ball Z cater to?

Dragon Ball Z is for fans of manly-man anime. That’s anyone who likes huge muscled fighters overcoming insane enemies with nothing but their bare hands (and huge explosions!). Anyone who enjoyed Naruto but wants less feels and more action will appreciate Dragonball Z; no punches are pulled here, think bloody battles and endless transformations!

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

Dragon Ball Z was a pretty revolutionary anime when it first hit TV screens, with its appeal resting mainly in its brilliant characters, and also its atmosphere. Even today, it has some of the most interesting characters, and some of the coolest transformations. The legendary “super-saiyan” transformation set a trope which is still referenced in many anime today, and even the weirdest looking villains had to be taken seriously! One thing which distances it from other anime (especially at the time), is that the characters age and move through life as we watch, meaning we constantly meet new characters and places! As mentioned before, Dragon Ball Z doesn’t really leave anything to the imagination in its action scenes either, making it more appealing than other softer fighting series.

Dragon Ball Z Trailer

Dragon Ball Z Main Characters List

Son-Goku

Voice Actor :Masako Nozawa (JP) / Sean Schemmel (EN)

Brought up in the middle of the woods by his “Grandpa”, there was always something a little odd about Goku. At the beginning of the series it’s revealed that he is in fact a saiyan, sent as a child to conquer Earth! Something obviously went wrong there, as Goku grew up to be a happy-go-lucky guy who loves fighting and eating, not to mention Earth’s number one protector. The laid-back exterior is dropped when anyone threatens his friends or his family.

Vegeta

Voice Actor :Ryo Horikawa (JP) / Christopher Sabat (EN)

Known as the Prince of Saiyans, Vegeta once tried to destroy Earth. Goku’s arch-nemesis, the two start as ferocious enemies, though eventually they become uneasy allies, and maybe even friends. Vegeta is fiercely competitive, and vows to be the strongest warrior in the universe.

Son-Gohan

Voice Actor : Masako Nozawa (JP) / Kyle Herbert (EN)

Goku’s eldest son, Gohan prefers to study than to fight. Despite this, he becomes a fearsome warrior when his family or friends are threatened, and often lets his rage get the better of him.

Piccolo

Voice Actor :Furukawa Toshio (JP) / Christopher Sabat (EN)

Son of the Demon King, Piccolo is the original badass. He mentors Gohan from a young age, and later Goten and Trunks. He often grasps situations before the other characters, and becomes frustrated quickly with other characters when they don’t focus on the problem at hand. Though a man of few words, has a soft spot for Gohan.


Contains Spoilers

Dragon Ball Z Review

You might think I’ve been a bit over the top with my descriptions of Dragon Ball Z so far, but hopefully I can persuade you now why this is one of the best anime of all time (in spite of its shortcomings).

First let’s have a little context. As mentioned before, Dragon Ball Z was something new and exciting when first released. Though Hokuto no Ken (also by Toei) was the original popular “manly-man” anime, it was held back by its stagnant initial storyline and poor animation quality. Enter Dragon Ball Z! Gone are the weird high pitched squeals of Kenshiro and co, replaced by manly roars which accompany fearsome blows and energy attacks! No more repetitive cardboard enemies, instead fearsome villains who are sadistic and evil to the core!

But why should you care about all this? History is cool, but many anime with better animation or better stories have been released in the 20 years since Dragon Ball Z you say? Because Dragon Ball Z is still one of the most exciting Shounen/Fighting/Adventure anime out there!

To start, Dragon Ball Z features some of the most frenetic and bloody battles of any anime. Characters are punched straight through the chest, smashed to a bloody pulp, or obliterated with massive energy attacks. There are no annoyingly invincible characters, with Goku being killed before the end of the first story arc! This makes for some interesting situations, such as the defense of Earth by the other Z fighters against Nappa and Vegeta.

The characters too, are pretty awesome! At the heart of the anime is Goku, fresh from his victory over King Piccolo he is still a little rash and immature. Though his laid-back nature doesn’t really change, we see Goku mature into a family man who has a profound love for his family and the planet which has become his home. This love is infectious it seems, as even the evil Vegeta comes to love an Earth woman, and even his newfound home (just a little). This shows one of the best things about the series; the characters’ relationships aren’t flat, and are always changing, whether it be Goku and Vegeta’s blossoming friendship, or Piccolo’s paternal feelings towards Gohan.

As well as the character’s personality developing, their powers and appearance also change over the course of the series. Unfortunately for the heroes from the original series, this is limited to the Saiyans, and even badass Piccolo takes a back seat in later story arcs. However this doesn’t change how awesome it is when Goku first turns Super Saiyan in his battle against against Frieza, making him seem a lot less undefeatable. It’s not just the heroes that become insanely powerful, the enemies also go through some crazy transformations! They don’t get boring or repetitive either, with the three main villains having distinct powers and reasons for transforming, with Cell requiring the two androids to transform, or Kid Buu appearing when the “Good Buu” is taken from inside Super Buu.

The changing characters drive the story, and with the exception of major battles, the story is pretty fast paced. The principle is simple; enemy appears, kills a load of people, good guy transforms, enemy is defeated. Despite this simple formula, there are plenty of elements which keep it feeling fresh. New characters are always appearing, and the setting is rarely static, with episodes set on strange planets and realms. In fact this leads on to one of Dragon Ball Z’s strongest features; the design.

The anime is based on the designs of legendary manga artist Akira Toriyama, and doesn’t disappoint when exploring the alien planet Namek, or when characters unleash a devastating energy attack. One of the coolest things about the anime is that it isn’t limited to a particular aesthetic. There is a strong sci-fi presence, with androids and space ships, but also magical realms such as the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. All of these locations and elements have really distinct and memorable design, and also make the anime a lot fresher each time a new arc begins.

As well as the characters and design, Dragon Ball Z has a few extra elements which make it a killer anime! One of these is the music, especially the opening and ending themes, with the most memorable being sung by Kageyama Hironobu (a.k.a. Mr. DBZ). Also it’s one of those rare anime with a respectable English dub, with Vegeta and Piccolo becoming slightly cooler than the original voiceover.

So does Dragon Ball Z disappoint in any way? Looking back through the rose-tinted glasses of my childhood, I would say no, but of course there are a few things which stand out to any anime fans. The major sticking point is the length of the anime, particularly battles which last many episodes in a row without adding anything to the story. Also, despite the development of relationships between the characters, they do appear one-dimensional at times, particularly the indomitable Goku, though some characters have been treated to incredible back-stories with later releases (Future Trunks!).

I’ve tried to be pretty objective with this review, but of course Dragon Ball Z is one of my favourite anime of all time! Here are some of my personal highlights to hopefully rouse feelings of nostalgia for this classic!

1. Gotenks Fusion

We saw Piccolo fuse with Nail, but it wasn’t until Gotenks that Fusion became cool. Two little brats became one of the most powerful characters in the series, making it particularly hilarious to see them playing volleyball with one of the most powerful villains!

2. Trunks Kills Frieza (again)

It’s impossible to dislike Future Trunks; the poor guy leaves everything behind, including his mum, to prevent Goku from dying in the past. Before saving Goku however, Trunks turns super-saiyan and destroys Frieza’s mechanised body with one swipe of his sword.

3. Vegeta’s Sacrifice

After living on Earth for some time, Vegeta’s dark nature seems to ebb away. However after his encounter with Babidi reawakens the evil in his heart, and drives him to unspeakable acts. This all changes when he tries to sacrifice himself to destroy Majin Buu, but not before making a heartfelt confession of his love for his family (The feels!)


That’s all for my Dragon Ball Z review! Let me know what you think in the comments!

Adam

Writer

Author: Adam

I think I do too much sports to be an otaku, but I like science, anime and video games too much not to be a nerd. Currently working in a lab in Japan's least Japanese city.

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