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Ranking Every Dragon Ball Anime Series from Worst to Best

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Dragon Ball Z stands as the pinnacle of the franchise, its iconic moments and cultural impact resonating globally. Dragon Ball Super reignited the saga with fresh concepts and characters, delivering epic battles and universe-expanding narratives. Super Dragon Ball Heroes, however, falls short, lacking depth and pacing, with negligible character development or engaging plotlines.

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series has profoundly influenced millions, though the quality varies across its six anime adaptations. While some nations fell for Goku’s early escapades with Bulma, Krillin, and Master Roshi in the original Dragon Ball, others, like the US, were first introduced to the saga through Dragon Ball Z. Debates about the best series abound, but one undeniably reigns supreme.

It all started with Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, which debuted in 1984, followed by the anime in 1986. The manga chronicled Goku’s journey up to his victory over Kid Buu, while the anime split into Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: Shallow and Hard to Recommend

Super Dragon Ball Heroes has been ongoing since 2018, totaling 54 episodes to date. Unlike its predecessors, it is an online-only series with episodes around 10 minutes long. While its longevity surpasses that of Dragon Ball Super, it caters mostly to die-hard fans.

This promotional anime, born from the popular trading card game, is rife with issues. Pacing and writing are its main downfalls, preventing effective character and plot development. Iconic characters are thrown together without building tension, resulting in a series that attempts to be epic but rarely succeeds.

The Next Generation Sidestepped in Dragon Ball GT

Dragon Ball GT aired from 1996 to 1997, spanning 64 episodes. It remains one of the most contentious entries. Lacking significant input from Toriyama, it was largely driven by Toei Animation and continued the story ten years post-DBZ. Despite mixed reception, it introduced memorable transformations and characters.

GT starts with Gohan’s daughter Pan and a child-like Goku, reverted by Emperor Pilaf’s wish on the Dark Star Dragon Balls. Early episodes are criticized for weak storytelling, though later arcs like the Baby Saga gained traction. Ultimately, GT’s inconsistent focus hampered its potential, yet its contributions like the Super Saiyan 4 transformation and overuse consequences of Dragon Balls remain fan favorites.

Dragon Ball Super: A Clever Revival

Dragon Ball Super, running from 2015 to 2018 with 131 episodes, revitalized the franchise. Positioned before GT in the timeline, it introduced deities like Beerus and Whis, expanding the universe dramatically. Its arcs, featuring warriors from other universes, re-energized the fanbase with thrilling battles.

The anime had an unconventional start, following the 2013 film Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. Initial episodes, plagued by poor animation, eventually improved, culminating in epic moments like Goku’s Kaio-Ken-enhanced Super Saiyan Blue and the climactic Tournament of Power. These scenes, capturing global audiences’ excitement, were pivotal in making anime more mainstream.

Dragon Ball Z Kai: A Refresh for New Audiences

Goku Garlic Jr and Pikkon in Dragon Ball filler
Ranking Every Dragon Ball Anime Series from Worst to Best 4

Dragon Ball Z Kai, airing from 2009 to 2011 and 2014 to 2015 with 167 episodes, streamlined the original DBZ. It condensed 291 episodes into 167, improving pacing and reducing filler. This remastered series introduced a new generation to Dragon Ball, though some fans missed omitted content like Vegeta and Gohan’s training.

Dragon Ball: The Foundation of a Phenomenon

The original Dragon Ball series, airing from 1986 to 1989 with 153 episodes, laid the groundwork for a global phenomenon. Chronicling young Goku’s adventures, it established the franchise’s foundation, with tournament arcs that influenced future series like Yu Yu Hakusho and Naruto.

Despite its age, Dragon Ball remains beloved for its pacing, humor, and martial arts depiction. Its escalating battles seamlessly transition into Dragon Ball Z, making it an essential watch.

Dragon Ball Z: The Franchise’s Zenith

Dragon Ball Z, running from 1989 to 1996 with 291 episodes, remains the franchise’s apex. Its cultural impact is profound, shaping multiple societies with its riveting battles and storytelling. Revealing Goku’s Saiyan heritage and escalating conflicts set a new standard for the series.

DBZ’s arcs, with unforgettable moments and contributions from legendary animators, continue to resonate. The series’ legacy is so significant that many nations mourned Toriyama’s passing, underscoring its global influence. While subsequent series have had their peaks, none have matched the zenith of Dragon Ball Z.

Source of Crunchyroll and Hulu.

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