The later years.note How late? This image includes Tarble, Vegeta's little brother, who wasn't introduced until 2008, a full 13 years after the manga originally ended.
Dragon Ball Z is the anime adaptation of the second half of the Dragon Ball manga. While the manga kept its original name throughout its run in Japan, the anime's title was changed from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z in 1989, and the focus had changed from a martial arts comedy to more serious epic battles (and Akira Toriyamathought it would be ending soon).At the start, it revealed that Goku was not simply a boy with a tail but one of the last of the alien race, the Saiyans. He was sent into space shortly before the Saiyan planet was destroyed (shades of Superman). Goku and his friends, reinforced by former enemies (a recurring theme) had to fight progressively more powerful villains. Although Goku and his martial arts skills (which let him and his friends fly, throw energy blasts and read minds) dominated the battles, the story was mostly about Goku's son Gohan and how he faces the challenges. Running seven years and nearly 300 episodes, the series can be broken down into the four primary big bads of the series: Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, and Kid Buu. Both Dragon Ball the manga and Dragon Ball Z the anime came to a triumphant conclusion after Gohan is married and his own daughter Pan enters the "Strongest Under the Heavens" tournament.Followed by the controverisal Dragon Ball GT. There was also a MMORPG continuation known as Dragon Ball Online that existed for a while. Also had a 2009 recut, Dragon Ball Kai.This page is under construction. Tropes for this show are listed under the umbrella Dragon Ball page for now until the separation is complete.
In the Saiyan Saga, Chi-Chi having no idea where Gohan was for a long period of time and having no way to contact him.
Also, Goku and the others (Krillin, Bulma, and Master Roshi) watching Gohan (as a 4 year old) getting kidnapped by Raditz.
Gohan gets his own when he grows up. After a traumatizing childhood where his mistakes have gotten people killed, Battle of the Gods has him getting drunk and making a mistake that nearly gets his wife and daughter killed. He's Immune to Bullets, but instead of catching them when he's shot at, he deflects them, only for the ricochet to hit Videl, who can be injured by bullets and who also happens to be, unbeknownst to Gohan, pregnant.
Vegeta's death after Frieza gives him a no holds barred beatdown. Vegeta has been despicable for sixty-something episodes, and has just killed a village full of cute alien children and their big brothers. You'd expect a character of this type to die in a spectacular explosion, then never be seen again. But instead, we get a lengthy final speech about his genuinely horrendous childhood, and see Vegeta crying as he begs Goku to kill Frieza and avenge their people. Then Frieza gets impatient and shoots him (like almost everyone in the series, he gets better).
Subverted with Frieza's death. A few minutes before his death, he is split in two parts by a reverse attack. He is dying and asks Goku for mercy. Although Goku was aware of all of the horrible things Frieza did, he still manages to show some sympathy and gives Frieza some of his energy. However, Frieza immediately used it to try to kill Goku (again), which fails.
Each one of the main heroes and main villains are pretty badass.
Pikkon from the Other World is probably, one of the biggest secondary badasses in the franchise. He defeated Frieza, Cell, and King Cold on his own. Not to mention that almost defeated Goku in the Other World.
Butt Monkey: Yamcha, Krilin and Gotenks. Even Goku at times. Frieza, King Cold and Cell became this in Hell.
Can't Catch Up: It doesn't matter how much ass the cast of Dragon Ball kicked in the original series. In this series, nearly everybody has a hard time keeping up with the Saiyans.
Cerebus Syndrome: Stating with the Saiyan saga, it's no longer the sweet story of Dragon Ball and much more graphic.
Arguably the story was heading this way with the King Piccolo saga (the first to feature major character deaths and a cataclysmic scenario). The Saiyan saga just raised the stakes a bit (even Goku died briefly).
Character Development: In the beginning of Dragon Ball, Goku literally had no idea what boobs were (he thought Bulma had a butt on her chest). Near the end of the Majin Buu saga, Goku is literally using Bulma's breasts as a bargaining chip to get Old Kaio-shin to go along with their use of the Dragon Balls (to the ire of Vegeta, who suggested that Goku offer his own wife's breasts instead).
Cold-Blooded Torture: This is one of Frieza's main methods of fighting. Kid Buu seems to do this during his fight with Vegeta.
Darker and Edgier: While the Saiyan saga was pretty dark, the Frieza saga was probably one of the darkest sagas throughout the franchise, with characters being tortured or suffering severe injuries. Not to mention Frieza's death, which is still pretty graphic. However, in the Cell saga, the violence softened and marked a lighter tone.
Nonetheless, any episode antagonized by Frieza, Cell or Super Buu/Kid Buu is darker and edgier compared to other episodes.
The episode of the fight between Videl and Spopovitch is quite dark and graphic, as well.
The Broly movies, as well.
Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The titular Dragon Balls allow any number of people to be brought back from the dead, but only if they have never been brought back to life before. This results in every major Z Fighter and lots of Earth's population being revived after being killed. The Namekian Dragon Balls circumvent the "only once" rule, allowing numerous characters like Krillin and Goku to be revived multiple times, but only allows one person to be brought back per wish.
Additionally, whilst most people are manifested in the spirit realm as disembodied clouds, many characters whose good deeds were considered great in life are allowed to keep their physical body (or a copy of it) after death, albeit with a halo. This, in addition with Goku's Instant Transmission technique which allows him to travel even between life and the afterlife, means that after his death, he is still pretty much free to do what he wants and give a big two fingers up to King Yemma and all the other supposed "gods".
Eldritch Abomination: Majin Buu is an immortal, and almost indestructible creature of magic with a body that can take any shape and the ability to alter matter (for example, he can turn people into food). He can also absorb people for their power and abilities.
Janemba is the best example as he is literally a creature from another universe (other world) and can distort reality while playing havoc with the laws of life and death.
Enraged By Idiocy: Vegeta is this throughout the whole series— one of the most intelligent characters in the series, he has spent most of his life dealing with Nappa, and gets extremely pissed at him for being an idiot in his fight against Kakarot (to the extent that he murders him in cold blood for being an embarrassment), and then constantly expresses anger at the perceived stupidity of most of the other Z Fighters (while ironically allowing the Android/Cell situation to escalate to a point where Cell manages to kill Goku).
Filler: The anime was particularly infamous for it. Kai avoids much of this, cutting the length of the original series down by more than half of the original running time. However, some filler parts remain, Kai mostly just excised the purely filler episodes (of which there are many)
Final Boss: Kid Buu is the final villain to be beaten.
Climax Boss: Despite this, Super Buu is actually the strongest and most intelligent villain overall. He has to be taken down via internal sabotage, upon which he reverts to Kid Buu, who blows up the Earth while everyone is knocked out from the earlier struggle with Super Buu, resulting in everyone except Goku, Vegeta, Mr. Satan, and Dende suffocating in space.
Good Is Not Nice: While Vegeta may have eventually turned good, he was never nice (although his sense of camraderie for Goku during their fight against Kid Buu is rather touching).
Gory Discretion Shot: Piccolo is turned to stone by Dabura, and only returns to normal after Trunks has knocked over the statue. When Trunks realizes what he just did, he's the only one who gets to see the gory details. The poor kid goes Blue with Shock and begs Goten and Krillin not to tell - except Piccolo's already back on his feet.
There were many earlier examples as well. When Bulma first met Goku she tried to shoot him, to no avail. When Raditz first landed on Earth a farmer tried to shoot him only for Raditz to catch the bullet and throw it back at him, killing him.
Subverted in the heros Saiyans. Ironically, none of the Saiyans is blond, but when they reach the Super Saiyan state, the hair turns blonde.
Android 18 when she turns good.
Identical Grandson: Played almost completely straight with the male members of the Son family. With the exceptions of Son Gohan, Sr. (who wasn't biologically related to Goku) and Raditz (Goku's brother), Goku's biological father and his sons bear an incredible resemblance to him (Goten much more so than Gohan). In the Japanese version they all sound alike as well.
Played straight with Vegeta, his father and his brother (Tarble). Averted with Vegeta's children (although they both look a lot like their mother).
Idiot Ball: Every character seems to get this at some points, but no more so than Androids 17 and 18 during the beginning of the Cell saga. Sure, you could forgive them for not believing Cell was a threat initially (since up until that point, they'd curbstomped every opponent). But once learning that said monster wanted to absorb them, and watching him kick the crap out of Android 17 and Piccolo (who had shown himself to be at least as powerful as 17), 16 and 18 decide that instead of escaping, they'd prefer to just watch.
And then Tien jumps in and immobilizes Cell with his Tri-Beam (and could equally be accused of carrying the idiot ball himself whilst watching the previous fight; if the Tri-Beam had enough power to pin Semi-Perfect Cell, he probably could have taken down Imperfect Cell), 16 and 18 take about 10 minutes to actually bother escaping, waiting until Tien had almost killed himself from overexertion.
And then again, when Vegeta fights Cell, 16 and 18 decide that escaping is decidedly less important than watching Vegeta kick Cell around.
Goku's hick tendencies are considerably downplayed as the series progresses and becomes more actionized (although he did do some dumb things, such as giving Cell a Senzu Bean and not killing Majin Buu while he had the chance).
Inaction Sequence: Very common of the fanbase is the immense amount of talking, taking several episodes to gather enough energy, or just flat out delaying fights for a later time.
Killed Off for Real: Goku in Future Trunks' timeline. He died of a heart virus, which meant that he couldn't be wished back with the Dragon Balls (neither Earth's set nor Namek's allow a person to be brought back if they died of natural causes, which is what a virus would technically count as).
Android #16. The Dragon Balls couldn't bring him back (presumably) because, as a completely artificial being (unlike #17 and #18 who were, to an extent, human), he was never "alive" in the first place. Therefore when Cell killed him, he killed him for good.
Frieza in his saga. Mainly considering he was quite an evil villain in his time.
Cell. He is a man-eating bio-android whose hunt of the androids is played very dark and compared to the other androids, he lethally more competent.
Super Buu/Kid Buu. He murdered or caused the deaths of nearly the entire cast, the entire human population, and blew up the Earth, the being something no villain had ever succeeded at prior. Not to mention numerous planets after that. A sharp contrast to Fat Buu, who was child-like and mostly played for laughs, even while destroying things.
Broly, though appearing in the non-canon movies, manages to be the darkest villain of the franchise. While Frieza and Buu have some comedic traits, and Cell, who while taken very seriously before his demise, was repeatedly ridiculed in Hell after his demise, Broly is an disturbingly straight example, as he has no comedic or cartoonish traits. His Ax-Crazy behavior makes him even more frightening.
Laughably Evil: Frieza is pretty evil, but he has some hilarious lines.
For example, during the final battle with Cell, Mr. Satan, his students, manager and two news casters are present. Occasionally, the show cuts to them to give a break from the battle for some comedy.
While the Buu saga eventually became Darker and Edgier, with genocide and the possibility of galactic destruction, it starts off very goofy. Great Saiyaman, anyone?
Master Of All: Every fighter either is this or aspires to this. The one attempt to specialize (by Trunks, during the Cell Saga) results in Crippling Overspecialization. Other than that, speed, strength, invulnerability, and ki control all seem to increase proportionally with power level. Some less-powerful characters are said to be greater strategists, but this is inconsistent and tends to be a bit of an Informed Ability in any case.
Merger of Souls: By putting his hand on Nail and later Kami, Piccolo absorbed them, gaining not only extra power but also their memories. This process was permanent; Piccolo's personality also seemed to underway slight changes after each absortion. A similar case was when Goku and Vegeta used the Potala earrings, becoming one; however, in this case, they split when they entered Buu's body, although it's the only way to split, and that fusion is otherwise permanent. The personality of the fused being seemed to be a mix of both Goku and Vegeta's personalities.
One of the Kids: Goku and Android 17 (the latter much more subtly than the former).
Out-of-Genre Experience: During the Saiyaman Arc, the series briefly turns into a teenage superhero story. All of the tropes are there, with Gohan leading a double life as a super hero while simultaneously having to survive high school, discovering romance and dealing with a bully all while trying to keep his powers secret.
In the manga, this genre shift lasts for about a week, at which point Gohan blurts out his secret identity during his first in-costume encounter with Videl.
Frieza single-handedly destroyed the planet Vegeta some years prior to the start of the series.
Vegeta and Nappa destroy the planet Arlia on their way to Earth. This anime-only scene is just for showcasing the Saiyans' power. It however across as a major Kick the Dog moment as Vegeta destroys the planet just after saving it from a tyrant, making it harder to see get a Heel-Face Turn.
Sadist: Frieza slowly kills his enemies rather than outright killing them as shown when he impales Krillin with his horns.
Cell too, to even greater degrees. While Frieza is satisfied with only just the physical suffering of his victims, Cell prefers to add the psychological element to his cruelty, terrorizing and destroying any chance for hope his opponent has, before killing them.
Kid Buu is a very sadistic Omnicidal Maniac. Even he has hinted he would to enjoy the death of every living thing that exists.
Nappa, in fact, he seems to have a sadistic joy with each act of destruction he performs.
Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Cell's way of eating people does this : After he stabs them, the victim's body is broken down into genetic material and absorbed inside of Cell, giving the impression that the victim is melting, and only leaving behind piles of clothing after the process is done.
So Last Season: During the Frieza saga, the Super Saiyan was built up as being the ultimate warrior, with there only supposedly being only one in the universe. Come the Cell saga, not only do four of the main cast have the ability to become Super Saiyan but its no longer enough to beat the main villain, but new, more powerful forms of Super Saiyan have to be introduced. Beyond that, in the Buu saga, even the kids are turning Super Saiyan, and the new forms of Super Saiyan (bar Super Saiyan 3, which had its own problems) aren't enough to beat Buu so the concept of fusion takes its place.
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Goku had some really close calls in Dragon Ball, only to die at the beginning of Dragon Ball Z. No guesses on how long that stuck.
Suicidal Overconfidence: Plenty of the series' Curb Stomp fights have this in spades, as characters have no idea what they're up against. Notable examples include Nappa against Goku, Vegeta against Frieza, Frieza against Super Saiyan Goku, Super Vegeta against Perfect Cell, and base-form Gotenks against Majin Buu.
They Killed Kenny Again: Krillin. Though to be fair, he died about three times where everyone else died about twice.
Third Act Stupidity: The Namek saga is notable for the guerilla-style tactics that the heroes are required to use throughout: Krillin and Gohan are no match for most of Frieza's elite henchmen, Vegeta is slightly higher up the power scale and ascends higher but is still forced to play it smart to outwit the godlike Frieza. By the end of the saga, Vegeta directly challenges Frieza in his final form. Even though he can sense ki and could probably sense just how utterly enormous Frieza's power was compared to his own.
Touch Telepathy: Several characters have demonstrated the power to read minds by touching another person's forehead, including Muten Roshi, Goku and Lord Slug. King Kai could share his telepathic link on contact.
Gohan isn't evil or villainous in any way, but it is scary when he is in the Super Saiyan 2 state.
You Can't Fight Fate: After being cured of the heart disease that killed him in the Bad Future, Goku dies a short while later anyway during the Cell Games (although unlike the bad Future, Goku always had the option to come back and chose not to).