If you grew up in the 1990s in North America and your first encounter with Japanese culture didn’t come from Pokemon, it almost certainly came from Dragon Ball Z. One of the most-watched animes of all time, Dragon Ball Z pulled off the rare feat of being a sequel that was more popular than its predecessor. DBZ, as the cool kids called it, combined extreme violence with flashy visuals and the kind of outrageously over-the-top dramatics that have since become an anime cliché. Its main character, Goku, was at one point a hero whose popularity was on par with the Batmen and Spider-Men of the world.
However, like many childhood staples from the 1990s, Dragon Ball Z doesn't hold up when revisited today. It’s a viewing experience that mixes cringe-inducing regret with a genuine astonishment that you invested so much of your life in watching this compilation of brightly-garbed men shouting at each other. Watching Dragon Ball Z today is the kind of thing that makes you realize that your parents were definitely right to think that you were a weirdo. Read through these arguments about why Dragon Ball Z sucks and vote up the ones you agree with.
Villains Quickly Become PowerlessPhoto: Toei Animation
Dragon Ball Z opens with the arrival of Raditz, Goku’s long-lost and incredibly powerful Saiyan brother. Despite it taking both Goku and Piccolo defeat Raditz (a feat they just barely managed), the next major antagonists to attack Earth carry with them plantable Saibamen that are each as powerful as one Raditz and the Z Fighters take them down with ease. The villainous Frieza has an awe-inspiring power level of one million, but by the next story arc, he is easily dismantled by a brand-new character from the future. Eventually, young children are able to beat once all-powerful foes like Cell and Frieza with one arm tied behind their backs. Each new phase of the story renders the threats of the past laughable, which makes it hard for the show to gain any sense of history.Is this a good point?
The Useless Side CharactersPhoto: Toei Animation
Dragon Ball Z made an admirable attempt to carry over the majority of the characters that were established in its precursor series, Dragon Ball. However, it didn’t really make an effort to find anything meaningful for all those characters to do. DBZ involves fighters with the power to destroy worlds, yet tries to shoehorn in plots involving talking turtles, shapeshifting pigs, and Krillin. Totally-normal human Bulma even accompanies the team to alien planet Namek, where she provides the essential service of annoying Vegeta and getting into mortal danger. Most of these side characters’ screentime revolves around them watching the more important characters do stuff on television.Is this a good point?
Dying Permanently Doesn't Even Matter Because the Afterlife Is Pretty SweetPhoto: Toei Animation
Despite all the loopholes, some characters still managed to die and stay dead for awhile. Even that wasn’t much of a consequence, however, thanks to the establishment of one of fiction’s most diverse afterlives. Some of the potential afterlives in the DBZ universe include life as a happy cloud, adventuring on a giant snake road, or training on King Kai’s planet with a monkey and a talking cricket. Even their version of Hell is relatively tame. Best of all, the afterlife is full of fighting tournaments, which just so happen to be the favorite thing of most of the show’s characters. Dying might actually be better than living in this world.Is this a good point?
Things Escalate Way Too QuicklyPhoto: Toei Animation
The tendency for former villains to become quickly obsolete is emblematic of one of the major flaws at the core of Dragon Ball Z: escalation. Everything in DBZ escalates in a ridiculous, exponential fashion. The “Over 9,000” meme refers to Goku’s power level, which astonishes Vegeta and Nappa. One story arc later, we meet Frieza, with a power level of one million. Soon thereafter, Goku and Vegeta each had children that were born with power levels well above that. Even one of the coolest parts of the show, the Super Saiyan transformation, was rendered ridiculous by continually more powerful versions that came up whenever the plot demanded it.Is this a good point?