Dragon Ball Z is a series that features body disintegrating ki blasts, genocidal space tyrants, and limb severing Destructo Disks. So, one could be forgiven for assuming it didn’t feature a lot of censorship. However, the version of DBZ that we see in North America is not, in fact, the same as the original Japanese content. Countless alterations were made to the beloved series in order to make it “friendlier” for American audiences, especially given that it was marketed as as children's programming.
Much of the content cut from the American broadcasts of DBZ had to do with its excessive levels of violence. After all, the series does center around various characters battling to the bloody death. Despite this premise, enough edits were made to make a convincing case that all of this deadly fist fighting was just a bunch of horsing around.
Beyond that, some of the censored bits (like those involving nudity and sexuality) make sense, while other choices are truly bizarre. Of course, in the modern age of the Internet, there’s nothing stopping North Americans from checking out all the forbidden footage. It's up to you to decide whether you can handle it.
Master Roshi's Massive Adult Entertainment Collection
Even North American audiences got the picture that the honorable Master Roshi, creator of the Kamehameha Wave, was a major pervert. Roshi’s creepiness around younger women was all the evidence anyone needed to know he was a lecherous fellow.
However, Japanese audiences got frequent visual reminders of his horndoggery through the constant presence of a porno mag somewhere in Roshi’s vicinity. Censorship rendered these as just generic magazines or newspapers, free of titillating covers.
The Apparent Racism Of Mr. Popo
“Mr. Popo does not lie!” Except about his true origins, it would seem. The original version of Mr. Popo was a borderline racial caricature, with his deep-black skin and oversized lips. This was a bit much for North American audiences, who had already gone through their “troublingly racist cartoon characters” phase.
Popo was recolored to blue for most American releases of the series. This was a close parallel to the changes that were made to the Pokémon Jynx, for identical reasons. Blue or black, Mr. Popo still remained a lovable guy who was surprisingly badass.
The Red, Red Blood
As you can imagine, a series centered around martial arts is going to include a fair amount of blood. The characters of DBZ duke it out to the death, and generally have a solid amount of plasma leaking from them at any given time.
Characters get impaled, lose limbs, and just generally suffer inordinate amounts of bodily harm. However, many American censors wanted to cut this element, and so they recolored much of the blood. Usually, this resulted in the characters looking they were sweating ridiculous amounts, and/or drooling uncontrollably.
The Visits To Hell
The characters in Dragon Ball Z die. Like, a lot. Even the series’ protagonist, Goku, dies in the first story arc. This sends Goku on a journey through fiction’s weirdest afterlife. This mostly consists of running along a giant, floating road floating in the clouds. Goku is warned not to fall off the road, and so of course he ends up doing exactly that.
This leaves our hero in Hell, where bodybuilding devils try to torture him before he makes a bold escape. The demons wear shirts that outright say “HELL,” but the American censors changed that to “HFIL,” which supposedly stood for “Home For Infinite Losers.” Creative!