When did dragon ball z come out ? Dragon Ball is one of the most popular, not to mention extensive, anime franchises of all time – and for newcomers, the wealth of content can make it slightly tricky to know the best order to watch Dragon Ball in.
Having first aired in 1986, the original series (which is based on the manga of the same name) has spawned a huge number of spinoffs and sequels devoted to the Super Saiyan including Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super and the most recent entry to the franchise: Super Dragon Ball Heroes.
Aside from the series, there are also a number of movies and television specials that confuse matters further, and then there’s the complication that not all the series are necessarily considered “canon”. Much like trying to watch Naruto in order, all of this makes it quite difficult to know how to watch the Dragon Ball series in order.
How to watch Dragon Ball in chronological order
While this method might be frowned upon by hardcore fans, one way to watch Dragon Ball in order is to go in chronological order in terms of the time scale of the story.
This order does not take into account whether each series or film is considered canon or not – hence why some fans would say it isn’t the best way to watch – and as such, it includes a lot of content.
Meanwhile, a note that we have included Dragon Ball Z but not Dragon Ball Z Kai, given that the two series are essentially the same thing. (For reference, Dragon Ball Z Kai is a remake of the earlier series, telling the same story but with less filler and some new dialogue as well as updated animation.)
How to watch Dragon Ball in order by canon
If you want to skip all the Dragon Ball that isn’t considered canon, i.e the series and films which don’t follow the events of the manga and were made without any input from creator Akira Toriyama, then there is an alternative watch order below.
The entries considered non-canon include the series Dragon Ball GT in addition to the majority of the films. Then you also have to make the choice of whether to watch Dragon Ball Z for the more extensive experience or Dragon Ball Kai for the more refined approach.
- Original Air Dates: February 26, 1986 – April 19, 1989
- Number of Episodes: 153
- Number of Sagas: 3 (Son Goku Saga, Red Ribbon Army Saga & Piccolo Saga)
- Number of Arcs: 9
- Main Villains: Mercenary Tao, King Piccolo & Piccolo Junior
Much like some of the humor, the animation in the original run of Dragon Ball is starting to show its age a little, though this is perhaps to be expected given that it’s now more than three decades old. The stories explored during the series’ 153 episodes remain thoroughly enjoyable, however, as too do the characters who feature in them.
When combined with his childlike innocence, Goku’s immense power makes him an incredibly intriguing protagonist, while characters like Master Roshi and Krillin provide viewers with both humor and wisdom in equal measures. Dragon Ball is also a little more grounded than its many sequel series, with much more of an emphasis placed on martial arts than on ki blasts and energy balls.
Dragon Ball also introduces many of the key characters that are found in later series and so should be interesting to those who’ve only ever seen Dragon Ball Z. In particular, Bulma, Tien, and Krilin all play much bigger roles than they do later on, so fans of those characters would do well to check the series out. Of course, the same also holds true for those who are new to the franchise, as it’s where Akira Toriyama’s epic story first begins.
Dragon Ball Z
- Original Air Dates: April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996
- Number of Episodes: 291
- Number of Sagas: 4 (Saiyan Saga, Frieza Saga, Cell Saga & Majin Buu Saga)
- Number of Arcs: 19
- Main Villains: Frieza, Cell & Majin Buu
For most westerners growing up in the nineties, Dragon Ball Z will likely have served as their first real introduction to anime; and what an introduction it was. Though the Saiyan Saga starts out quite slowly, things really begin to ramp up once the Z Fighters arrive on Namek, and, aside from the odd filler saga here and there, they don’t really slow down until the very end of the series.
With iconic Dragon Ball villains including Frieza, Cell and Vegeta all making their debuts across Z’s 291 episodes, most consider the series to be the very pinnacle of the Dragon Ball franchise. In retrospect, it did have a few issues when it came to pacing, though some will argue that this only helped to elevate the suspense. For those with less patience for padding, however, there is thankfully a viable alternative.
The impact that Dragon Ball Z has had on the world really is phenomenal, with many people able to recognize the likes of Goku and Vegeta despite not being fans of the show. The series also spawned a number of fantastic video game adaptations, with titles like Super Butoden and Ultimate Battle 22 helping to establish the trend of adapting anime into fighting games. Of course, there have been a few Dragon Ball Z RPGs over the years as well, but these are very much in the minority.
Dragon Ball Z Kai
Original Air Dates: April 5, 2009 – March 27, 2011 & April 6, 2014 – June 8, 2015
Number of Episodes: 167
Number of Sagas: 7 (Saiyan Saga, Frieza Saga, Androids Saga, Cell Saga, World Tournament Saga, Majin Buu Saga & Evil Buu Saga)
Main Villains: Frieza, Cell & Majin Buu
Despite the Dragon Ball manga having a sizeable headstart over the anime, it really didn’t take too long for the latter to catch up. As a result, viewers were forced to sit through several filler arcs to prevent the show from overtaking the source material. This can be seen quite a lot throughout Dragon Ball Z, and is one of the main reasons why Toei Animation opted to release a revised HD remaster of the series in 2009.
The Saiyan, Frieza, Androids, and Cell sagas were broadcast back-to-back over the course of two years, with the World Tournament, Majin Buu, and Evil Buu sagas arriving four years later. Though some found enjoyment in the original series’ filler content, many consider Dragon Ball Z Kai to be the better of the two series and the definitive way to enjoy the core content explored throughout Z.
Interestingly, despite serving as an abridged retelling of Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z Kai actually boasts three more chapters. This is because the series isn’t separated into arcs like the ones which came before it, with each of the seven sagas effectively serving as one big continuous arc. The total episode count is a lot lower though, with only small amounts of filler surviving to help push certain episodes past the 20-minute mark.
Dragon Ball GT
Original Air Dates: February 7, 1996 – November 19, 1997
Number of Episodes: 64
Number of Sagas: 4 (Black Star Dragon Ball Saga, Baby Saga, Super 17 Saga & Shadow Dragon Saga)
Main Villains: Super 17, Baby & Omega Shenron
Dragon Ball’s creator, Akira Toriyama, had once planned to have Gohan take over from his father as the franchise’s main protagonist. Despite the young Saiyan’s heroics during the Cell Games, however, neither viewers nor readers ever really warmed to him in the same way that they did to Son Goku. As a result, Dragon Ball GT, which Toriyama himself had very little involvement with, instead opted to use a young Goku as its main hero just like the original series.
If the circumstances that led to Goku once again becoming a child weren’t bizarre enough, the fact that he occasionally reverts back to his adult form is puzzling to say the least. That said, some of the storylines in GT weren’t actually half bad and one or two of the fights were every bit as epic as the very best offerings from Z. It still remains the black sheep of the Dragon Ball family, however, and isn’t considered canon due to Toriyama’s lack of involvement.
One of the most notable things to come out of Dragon Ball GT was the incredibly divisive Super Saiyan 4 transformation. Though it still isn’t considered canon, the ape-like transformation has since gone on to appear in numerous Dragon Ball video games as well as another non-canon Dragon Ball series, Super Dragon Ball Heroes. Love it or loathe it, it’s hard to argue that it’s not an original idea, though having Goku inexplicably become an adult again while using the form was a strange design choice, to say the least.
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