The Dragon Ball Z anime follows the source material closely, however, there are a few important changes. Here are the most important.
Given the fact that the Dragon Ball Z anime is the most popular form of media for the brand in the West and Europe. it is entirely based on Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga series. The Dragon Ball Z anime, unlike many American comic-to-screen adaptations, closely follows the manga’s source material, with multiple identical copies of key moments and panels from the book.
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Despite this, there are a number of important differences between Toriyama’s original work and its anime adaptation, some of which relate to the tale, some to the character designs, and still others to the format in which the Dragon Ball story is presented. Taking all of these distinctions into account, this list details the most significant variances between the franchise’s two mediums. Here are the 15 Most Significant Differences Between the Manga and Anime Versions of Dragon Ball Z!
#1: The Manga Is Black And White
Begin with an entry that will come as no surprise to manga fans but may be surprising to those who have never read a Japanese comic book before: the whole Dragon Ball manga series is published in black and white. While many Western comics (especially those published by Marvel and DC) are now available in full colors, the bulk of manga series in Japan are still available in black and white.
Although it may take some time for new readers to acclimate to the lack of color, it rapidly becomes inconsequential and does not detract from the enjoyment of the series. In addition, color versions of the manga have been made in recent years.
However, turning a black-and-white manga into a full-color anime has resulted in some minor debates about whether the show’s designs accurately reflect Akira Toriyama’s original goals for each character’s appearance. For example, because of a one-off drawing by Toriyama, some fans believe Chi-hair Chi’s was supposed to be blue like Bulma’s.
#2: Gohan Returns To Fight Frieza
The transformation of Goku into a Super Saiyan during his battle with Frieza is undoubtedly the most memorable event in the franchise, yet there are numerous variations between the manga and anime versions of this fight. One such inconsistency is Goku’s defeat by Frieza after he transforms, who plows him deep underground for a brief period of time.
As a result, Gohan is unable to sense his father’s vitality, and in the episode ‘Gohan Returns,’ the youth hurries back to assist his elderly father. This scenario is only shown in the anime; in the manga, the last stage of the conflict is just between Goku and Frieza.
Despite not being in the tale, Gohan fighting a fully-powered Frieza gives viewers a glimpse of the latent strength Goku’s son would later unleash and adds to the character’s aura of mystery.
#3: Z-Fighters Team Up Against Cell
At the height of Gohan’s ultimate battle against Cell, another significant character event that appeared in the anime but not in the manga series occurred. In this scene, the young Saiyan is embroiled in an epic Kamehameha battle with the bio-android, seeking a means to gain the upper hand.
In the anime, the Z-Fighter bystanders swarm around the squabbling couple, while characters like Yamcha, Piccolo, and Tien unleash their characteristic ki attacks in a last-ditch effort to distract Cell and give Gohan the upper hand. Cell’s concentration finally lapses when Vegeta gets involved, and Gohan’s technique begins to overpower his opponent.
Only Vegeta fights at this stage in the manga, with the other Z-Fighters remaining on the sidelines. This is sad because the team effort added to the scene’s feel-good factor and made the series’ weaker warriors feel slightly more relevant for a little period of time.
King Kai’s pet cricket may not be the most prominent or popular character in Dragon Ball Z, but fans of the anime series remember him fondly. Goku is famous for chasing the huge bug around Kai’s planet with a mallet as part of a high-gravity training routine to improve his speed and strength.
Gregory, as manga readers would know, is an anime-only creation, and King Kai used to be with his monkey Bubbles. However, it was Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama who proposed the addition of Gregory, believing that it would be beneficial for King Kai to have another friend to provide comic relief to the narrative.
And the character, did just that with his obnoxious attitude toward Goku and comical antics, illustrating that anime characters don’t have to be bad. He was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that he was Toriyama’s creation.
When Goku kills (again) at the hands of an exploding Cell, he awakens in the afterlife to find himself (again) with King Kai. The Saiyan protagonist does not appear again in the manga until he confirms his entry into the World Martial Arts Tournament after being permitted a single day in the world of the living.
Goku awakens in the afterlife to find himself (again) with King Kai after being killed (again) by an exploding Cell. After being allowed a single day in the land of the living, the Saiyan protagonist does not appear again in the manga until he verifies his entry into the World Martial Arts Tournament.
The anime, on the other hand, makes a significant detour. Here, King Kai brings Goku to the Other World to compete in a completely another fighting tournament, and the audience is introduced to a slew of new, anime-exclusive characters, including Namekian-like fighter Pikkon.
The tournament’s final battle between Goku and Pikkon cemented Goku’s status as a filler fan favorite while also implying that he had discovered a new level above Super Saiyan 2. As a result, the mini-saga had some worth, especially when contrasted to most other filler content. Many anime fans are astonished to hear that Pikkon was not included in the original manga.
#5: Snake Way
Not only did Goku’s second afterlife experience lead to a departure from the manga, but so did his first. Goku lands on Snake Way, an incredibly long road with the mighty King Kai at its end, after sacrificing himself to beat his brother Raditz. Toei immediately saw a chance to cram in some more content, and Goku’s animated journey down Snake Way contained numerous detours, including being hit on by a serpent beast and meeting two fiercely competing demons.
Fans of such scenes will be relieved to find that Goku’s journey down Snake Way is much shorter in the manga, taking place over a few chapters with only infrequent panels of the character running or flying to remind readers what he’s up to.
Although the quicker pace helps to maintain interest levels, the anime’s elongated version of Snake Way does help to further the sense of how ridiculously long the road is and therefore strengthens the aura of the man who sits at the end of it.
#5: No Garlic Jr.
The entire Garlic Jr. arc is another significant portion of the Dragon Ball Z anime that is absent from the manga series. After the Z-Fighters return from Namek without Goku, this villain arrives and sets out to avenge himself for being imprisoned in the Dead Zone in the Dragon Ball Z film of the same name.
Garlic Jr. makes the most of Goku’s absence, as does the narrative, by using the Black Water Mist to possess some of the Z-Fighters and their companions. Characters like Gohan and Krillin are given a chance to shine in a series increasingly dominated by Saiyan rivals Goku and Vegeta. Going into the Trunks saga, Gohan is given the greater build-up, which is beneficial considering his future role against Cell.
This mini-arc – and indeed the Garlic Jr. character in general – have no place in Akira Toriyama’s original manga series, which jumps straight from the Frieza material to the Trunks narrative.
#6: World Tour
Majin Buu is the most menacing and lethal foe in both incarnations of Dragon Ball Z, although the anime increased the scale of the villain’s destructive rampage. When the character is restored to its Kid Buu form, it becomes even more unrestrained and savage than any of its prior incarnations, intent on wanton destruction.
As a result, it isn’t long before Kid Buu decides to destroy the planet Earth entirely, forcing Goku to conduct an emergency Instant Transmission in order to save himself and a few others. At this point, the anime and manga begin to diverge.
On the page, Buu detects Goku and Vegeta’s whereabouts nearly instantly and rushes there. Buu’s search in the anime, on the other hand, takes a little longer, and he ends up destroying a number of other locales in the Other World before finding his target. While the additional destruction slows the fight’s tempo, it also makes Kid Buu appear more formidable.
Sexually explicit situations are a popular anime cliche, and authors can get away with considerably more in comics than they can on screen, just as they can in the West. This may come as a surprise, given that both the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime series have a number of notoriously filthy sequences. The moment in which a young Goku personally investigates Bulma’s gender or the multiple instances in which Master Roshi gets a nosebleed would have stuck with viewers, but rest assured, things get even worse in comic form.
When Yamcha is beaten up by an invisible opponent during Fortuneteller Baba’s Tournament, this is a prime example. Krillin thinks that the only way to help his friend is to expose Bulma’s chest, causing Roshi to bleed again and obliterating the invisible man. To avoid showing anything inappropriate in the anime, the sequence uses rapid editing and smart angles. The manga, on the other hand, embraces the R-Rated style wholeheartedly.
Given how prominent nudity is in the manga series, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that gore is also upped. Several sequences from the Dragon Ball Z anime are taken directly from the manga, but the violence has been considerably toned down, especially when it comes to the treatment of secondary people.
This is perhaps most apparent with the introduction of the Androids, ruthless artificial beings created exclusively for the purpose of killing and destroying. Android 20 (also known as mastermind Dr. Gero) drains the life out of a random old man by squeezing his neck like ripe fruit in one particularly violent manga scene. When Trunks returns to his own Timeline, a similar scenario occurs, with Android 17 killing a guy caught beneath a car in the manga, but Trunks arriving just in time to save him in the anime.
Although many fans would have liked a more mature anime adaptation, manga series are frequently more violent than their anime adaptations.
Many differences between Dragon Ball Z’s anime and manga mediums are due to the introduction of filler, as discussed in previous chapters. Filler, on the other hand, isn’t usually in the shape of full sagas or episodes; a lot of the extra anime-only content comes from elongating sequences with lengthy scenes of characters flying or powering up.
As a result, fans who watch the anime before reading the manga will be astounded by how swiftly the story progresses in comic form. Even the infamously long battle between Goku and Frieza is quite short.
#10: SSJ Goku > Frieza
As previously stated, the anime combat between Goku and Frieza was much slower, but the adaptation also changed several other aspects of the source material. The most prominent of these occurred after both characters had reached their full potential. Frieza bulks up to his own final stage with Goku in his newly acquired Super Saiyan form, and it’s here that the two incarnations disagree.
Frieza’s last chance in the anime gives the villain a way back into the fight, with both fighters on relatively even ground for a moment. The Super Saiyan transformation is depicted in a significantly gentler light in the original manga, with Frieza seeming utterly outmatched even after his frantic last mutation.
This move was presumably designed to allow the anime to get more mileage out of the battle and keep the fight from looking too one-sided, but it does detract from Goku’s famous new form’s status.
#11: Extra Fingers
In the Dragon Ball Z anime, alien characters were frequently given the wrong number of fingers. The Namekian Piccolo, a character initially designed by Akira Toriyama with three fingers, and a thumb were the first to demonstrate this. Piccolo was given a human-like hand with an extra fourth finger in the anime series.
Some fans assumed it was just an animation blunder that Toei had to repeat for the sake of continuity, but the same mistake would be repeated later in the series with both Cell’s first form and Majin Buu.
#12: Trunks Going Super Saiyan
Future Trunks’ backstory was warmly welcomed by fans in both the manga version. History of Trunks anime special, however, there were some differences between the two mediums. The scene is a turning point for the character and one of the most epic transformations in the entire series.
#13: It’s Over…8000?!
Indeed, in the manga series, the anime’s most famous phrase, the meme-worthy “It’s over 9000!” reads as “it’s over 8000!
Dragon Ball Super continues April 22nd on Adult Swim.
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