The “Dragon Ball” franchise is a cornerstone of the anime world, with “Dragon Ball Z” (DBZ) often hailed as a defining series of the ’90s, introducing many Western viewers to the genre. Then came “Dragon Ball Super” (DBS), bringing back the beloved characters with new transformations and expanding the universe further. The debate over whether DBS surpasses DBZ is a spirited one, with each series offering its own unique merits.
The Evolution of Dragon Ball
“Dragon Ball Z” set the benchmark with its epic sagas, from the Saiyan battles to the Buu saga. It solidified the franchise’s global popularity and introduced iconic moments and characters that have become a part of the cultural lexicon. DBZ’s storytelling was serialized and saga-focused, with long, drawn-out battles and significant character development, particularly for its protagonist, Goku.
“Dragon Ball Super” picks up where DBZ left off, but with a modern twist. It introduces new deities, universes, and foes, such as the Gods of Destruction and the enigmatic Goku Black. The power scale ascends to new heights with transformations like Super Saiyan God and Ultra Instinct. DBS also benefits from updated animation techniques, providing a sleeker and more vibrant visual experience compared to the hand-drawn charm of its predecessor.
Storytelling and Pacing
DBZ is known for its intense pacing and dramatic narrative, with battles that could span multiple episodes. This pacing was a double-edged sword; it built tension but was often criticized for being overly protracted.
DBS offers a faster-paced narrative, with arcs that are more concise. This pacing is better suited to the modern anime viewer’s preferences, but some fans miss the deep, suspenseful buildup that DBZ perfected.
Character Development and Nostalgia
DBZ provided deep character arcs for its heroes and villains. Characters like Vegeta and Piccolo experienced profound changes, endearing them to audiences worldwide.
DBS continues to explore its characters but in a different light, often focusing on fan service and nostalgia, bringing back favorite characters and transformations while introducing new ones. However, some fans feel that the emotional depth of DBZ’s character development is not as prominent in DBS.
The Power Struggle
One of the key elements of any Dragon Ball series is the display of power and strength. DBZ’s power levels and transformations were groundbreaking at the time, but they were also more grounded, with clear progressions and limitations.
DBS pushes the boundaries of power to cosmic levels, which adds an element of excitement but also raises the stakes so high that some fans feel it undermines the relatability and suspense of the battles.
The cultural impact of DBZ cannot be overstated. It was many viewers’ first anime, and its influence extends beyond the screen into merchandise, games, and conventions.
DBS, while popular, hasn’t quite reached the same level of cultural phenomenon, partly because it’s building upon the legacy of DBZ rather than creating its own from scratch.
Is “Dragon Ball Super” better than “Dragon Ball Z”? It’s a matter of personal preference. DBZ’s nostalgic weight and its role as a genre pioneer make it a timeless classic. In contrast, DBS’s modern storytelling, faster pacing, and willingness to push the franchise to new limits have also earned it a dedicated following.
Both series have their strengths and weaknesses, and both are essential chapters in the “Dragon Ball” saga that continue to inspire and entertain fans around the globe. Whether one prefers the classic feel and depth of DBZ or the brisk pace and cosmic scope of DBS, the “Dragon Ball” franchise remains an enduring and beloved part of anime history.