Dragon Ball is revered as one of the foundations of the Shounen Jump-style Shounen Action genre, and is probably the most important series of its type. But at a daunting 508 episodes altogether, many casual anime fans will doubtless wonder: is it really worth my time? What the newbie should be aware of before diving in is that Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are really two series with very significant differences. (See the main article.) I much prefer the original series, but due largely to its TV broadcasting timeline, Z is much more popular in North America. Just look at the trope list, and the characters sheet, and everything else — there's a huge Z bias. But Dragon Ball is often the one looked at with more nostalgia in Japan, and for good reason. It's a fun, free-spirited, innocent adventure story with liberal doses of martial arts action and a weird but endearing mishmash of ancient Chinese themes, modern technology, and Akira Toriyama's bizarre personal touches (like Petting Zoo People). The Journey to the West references fall away fairly quickly. Goku's the originator of all those naive but loveable shounen protagonists, and his archenemy Emperor Pilaf is a ridiculous megalomaniac. Meanwhile, Z focuses much more on intense, dramatic battles, science-fiction settings and action, and drawn-out plot arcs. It's much more repetitive, and although the stakes and "power levels" in the battles are higher (and climb as the series marches on), that doesn't necessarily make them more interesting. Episodes infamously consist of lots of trash-talking and preparation and recycled animation, although the fights do get intense at times. Given the length of these shows, it's understandable if you pass them up due to their datedness and tiresome length. But if you're a newcomer, or have only watched Z, try watching Dragon Ball first. It's a lot more fun, and that's what counts. You will also understand the characters and situation much much more. (Frankly, the opening of DBZ is one of anime's great Wham Episode, but watching it before you've seen Dragon Ball ruins that.) As for Z... try watching the Abridged Series and see if it interests you. DBZ isn't as good as modern shounen series but it does have its moments.
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