Whether Dragon Ball is a franchise you got into through the original Dragon Ball series or through Dragon Ball Z, eventually, you no doubt tried watching the other series. Many fans are able to enjoy both series just fine, but others have found themselves more divided between which they like better. That’s because regardless of how much you enjoy watching Goku’s adventures throughout the years, the two classic Dragon Ball shows are also drastically different from each other.
The original Dragon Ball started out heavily inspired by the story of Journey to the West, and had a strong focus on martial arts. Dragon Ball Z introduced a new style filled with rock music, energy attacks, and a fixation on epic battles over characterization. Which show was better? That’s up to personal preference. Decide which series is for you as we discuss the 15 Biggest Differences Between Dragon Ball And Dragon Ball Z.
Just as Goku had grown up by the end of Dragon Ball, so too had its original viewers. The first series had strayed from its lighthearted humor by the time King Piccolo showed up, and had had started diving into darker plotlines like the death of Krillin. With Goku now an adult in Dragon Ball Z, it only made sense his playful days would be behind him in many ways, and he’d have to face even more of the serious situations that Piccolo was the harbinger of.
DBZ definitely demonstrated that change of tone, even early on. Characters were beaten bloody with a lot more frequency and were suddenly prone to cursing. Characters like Tien sustained gruesome injuries, like when he lost his arm in a fight against Nappa. And the death toll was amped up significantly, with Goku, Yamcha, Chiaotzu, Tien, and Piccolo all dying very early on into the new series. The message was made loud and clear early on: this was a series that would explore some darker territory.
In Dragon Ball Z, everyone knows that losing a fight is but a temporary setback. Thanks to things like the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, the ability to fuse, senzu beans, and the Dragon Balls, a major boost in power is something that’s easily attainable. And anyone who got into the franchise through DBZ knows that power levels are everything. It doesn’t matter how effective an attack looks unless it’s coming from a Super Saiyan or a fusion of two gods, or some similarly overpowered person.
It wasn’t always that way, though. In Dragon Ball, fights were about pitting techniques against each other, and one character having to get innovative to find a counter to a seemingly unstoppable attack. It made battles more of a learning process than an exercise in brute strength, and it was honestly a more interesting way for fights to happen. Sure, DBZ’s power ups are cool, but it effectively eliminated the potential for a new challenge to come forward at any time. Now, unless you can destroy a planet, you’re nothing.