Thanks to its legacy now being reduced to over 9,000 memes and loathsome usernames like SonOfGoku86 polluting various forums, Dragon Ball Z doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for its cultural impact.
It was the first anime to catch on with a younger UK audience, and the inevitable gold rush out East that followed to find the next big hit ensured Japanese animation became accepted rather than a curio.
Yet revisiting Dragon Ball Z makes you question how it ever caught on. On an entirely shallow level, the animation and look of the show has aged significantly, yet a bigger problem lies beyond that – the pacing is awful. To keep itself from rushing ahead of the manga storyline, Dragon Ball Z had to forcibly slow itself down, yet it crawls along at a glacial pace regardless. Dragon Ball Z has all the time in the world and gleefully squeezes every last drop of patience from the viewer, submerging you in exposition, idle chatter and conversations that go nowhere. Much of the series is spent knowing what battles are going to take place, but wondering when they’re ever going to happen.
Fans will appreciate the treatment here for two reasons: it has been digitally remastered so Dragon Ball Z here looks as good as it likely ever will do; and more importantly, the censorship issues that dogged the original run have long gone – references to death are left in, for example. It’s a minor thing, but it counts.
Dragon Ball Z paved the way for other anime to follow in its path, and they all brought something new – better pacing (Pokémon), stronger characters (One Piece), sophisticated storylines (Naruto) and so on. Going back to where it all started makes Dragon Ball Z look poor in comparison.
As a historical artefact, Dragon Ball Z is a great curio for those who want to see where the UK anime explosion began. But as an actual anime? Only SonOfGoku86 will have the necessary nostalgia specs to enjoy what’s on offer.