As far as the world of (shōnen) anime is concerned, there is a group of anime known as the “Big Four”. Among them, Dragon Ball is considered to be the predecessor, while the remaining three – Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece – are considered to be the “Big Three”, since they all came out roughly at the same time, while Toriyama’s anime is a tad older. These four shows have certainly made an impact on the history of anime and that is why we at Fiction Horizon have decided to compare these four shows for you!
Bleach might be my personal favorite when the “Big Four” are concerned, but Dragon Ball’s overall legacy and cultural importance are what makes this anime so great and why we think that Dragon Ball is the better anime in this sceatio.
In today’s article, we are going to compare Bleach and One Piece. In the first two sections, we are going to give you an overview of the two series and their plots, while the final section is going to contain a comparison of the two anime series, in which we are going to reveal the reasons behind our choice. Enjoy!
Dragon Ball: An overview
Dragon Ball is a manga written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally published in the magazine Shōnen Jump, of the Japanese publisher Shūeisha, between 1984 and 1995. Its plot follows the adventures of Goku, a Saiyan warrior, whose purpose is to protect the Earth from other beings who want to conquer it and exterminate humanity.
As the plot unfolds, he meets other characters who help him in this purpose. The name of the series comes from some magical spheres that, when gathered, summon a dragon, called Shenlong, that grants wishes. On several occasions, they are useful both for Goku and his friends and for humanity, although they are also constantly sought by some evil beings.
The manga had 519 printed chapters compiled into 42 tankōbon volumes. Two years after its release, Toei Animation released an anime adaptation that spanned roughly the first half of the plot. After its transmission in 1989 on the Fuji Television channel in Japan, Toei premiered a continuation titled Dragon Ball Z, which incorporated the remaining content of the manga. A third anime produced by the same studio premiered in 1996. Called Dragon Ball GT, it adapted an unpublished plot in the writing of which Toriyama did not participate.
In 2015, Dragon Ball Super began its broadcast on Fuji Television; it was an anime that continues the events of Dragon Ball Z and that has a manga adaptation, published as of June of the same year in Shōnen Jump. The violence and nudity present in some episodes of both the anime and the manga caused censorship by the distributors in different countries.
Sales of the printed material, which surpass 160 million copies sold in Japan and between 250 and 300 million worldwide, led Dragon Ball to become one of Shūeisha’s most successful titles. Anime adaptations also achieved remarkable success; in 1999, for example, one of its chapters achieved a record audience in the United States on the Cartoon Network, with 1.7 million viewers.
Dragon Ball is considered one of the most influential and popular works of contemporary times, and has served as inspiration for other mangakas such as Eiichirō Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo and Hiro Mashima, creators of One Piece, Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tail, respectively. There is a product franchise about the created universe by Toriyama, which includes live-action and animated films, original animations, video games, trading cards, action figures and toys, among others.
Naruto: An overview
Naruto is a manga series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. The manga tells the story of a teenage ninja named Naruto Uzumaki, who aspires to become Hokage, leader of his village, with the purpose of being recognized as someone important within the village and among his companions.
The series is based on a one-shot that Kishimoto made in August 1996 for Akamaru Jump magazine. As of November 1999, Naruto is published by Shūeisha in the Japanese weekly magazine Shōnen Jump, being compiled since then in seventy-two volumes.
The success of the manga caused its plot to be adapted into an anime produced by Pierrot and distributed by Aniplex, which was broadcast on the television network TV Tokyo starting on October 3, 2002. The first season had a total of 220 episodes, with a sequel series, Naruto: Shippūden, airing from February 15, 2007.
In addition, Pierrot has produced nine films based on the series, both from the first and second seasons, as well as several original animations. Other pieces of merchandising include a set of light novels, art books, video games, and collectible cards developed by different companies.
On October 6, 2014, with only five issues remaining, the ending for the manga was announced, which concluded on November 10, 2014. Both the manga and the anime have reached notable distribution in other countries: the manga is published in more than thirty-five countries and the anime is broadcast in more than sixty.
VIZ Media was in charge of distribution in English, where it has become one of the company’s most successful publications. The delay involved in translation and adaptation has encouraged its distribution over the Internet (via scanlation and fansub) shortly after it appeared in Japan, which has led to the work being disseminated long before it was officially translated in other countries.
Dragon Ball vs Naruto: Which anime is better?
Before giving our final verdict. The things we are going to compare are going to be the plot, the characters, the depth, the animation, and the overall influence of the anime itself. The analysis is primarily going to focus on the anime and not the manga. Let us begin.
Among the “Big Four”, Dragon Ball and Naruto are perhaps the most similar in terms of plot and general concept. Both shows focus on martial arts and the usage of these arts, as well as other, “magical” skills is the focus of both premises. Both of these anime also combine the adventure element with a world-saving premise, although Dragon Ball has a much wider context to this than Naruto, especially in the recent iterations of the franchise.
There are a lot of similarities between these shows, with the main difference being that Naruto is a bit more self-contained, focusing on Naruto becoming Hokage (we’re not including Boruto here), while Dragon Ball is more of a generational story. It is difficult to pinpoint which show is better, mainly due to these similarities, but in our humble opinion, Toriyama ultimately did it better and that is why this point goes to Dragon Ball.
As far as the characters are concerned, Dragon Ball, like Naruto, focuses on one main protagonist – Son Goku – but as the stories progressed, Toriyama has added some other characters that came very close to Son Goku’s status, especially during and after Dragon Ball Z. The character development depicted by Toriyama is one of the things we adored about Dragon Ball.
This is especially due to the fact that, besides Goku, the other characters are quite well-developed as well, and the thing that has made Dragon Ball so popular is the fact that Toriyama has created some of the most iconic characters in the history of anime; whether they love Dragon Ball or not, most anime fans know about Krilin, Piccolo, Majin Bu, Master Roshi, Vegeta, and some other characters from the franchise. As far as Naruto is concerned, it is the characters that really drove this show and that made it so popular, despite the awesome plot.
The fans actually managed to connect with Naruto and the other characters who, despite stemming from a fantasy world, happened to be very realistic and relatable. Naruto’s character development was absolutely amazing and it is one of the main reasons that we all loved the show. Comparatively, it is really difficult to determine which of the two shows did a better job with the characters, which is why we label this as a tie.
In terms of depth, Dragon Ball is not as complex as, for example, Bleach, but it does tackle darker topics. The same, believe it or not, goes for Naruto. The adventure aspect of both shows is something that takes the focus away from darker topics, but having to save the world from extraterrestrial and divine threats is something that has given Dragon Ball a different dimension, a way of becoming deeper without having to become dark.
Naruto achieved the same goal by focusing on politics and different interpersonal struggles, thereby focusing more on questions of friendship and loyalty, than life and death, for example, which is a prominent theme in Bleach. Both shows also have a strong element of humor, which is present throughout the story to make the shows lighter in tone. This is also a category where a winner cannot be determined properly, which is why we decided to call it a tie.
In terms of animation and general technical direction, both shows are truly great, especially if you consider the fact that Dragon Ball is much older and was animated at a time when standards weren’t so high as now. Although both shows have gotten better with time, both Dragon Ball and Naruto have shown a consistent level of high-quality animation, completely appropriate with the highest standards of their respective times. Since both shows relied heavily on fighting, the animation had to be dynamic, which it was. This is best seen when compared to Bleach’s somewhat static animation during the first half of the show, which was below the level of Dragon Ball’s and Naruto’s, despite requiring the same treatment. This category is also a tie, as we couldn’t really pick the one show with better animation.
Dragon Ball is the cult anime that everyone knows about. It became the biggest anime in the West when it debuted and has since influenced and even “raised” several generations, both those who watched the show when it aired originally and those that have seen it at a later time. Naruto was and still is a thing, but the overall cultural and historical importance of Dragon Ball is really difficult to beat, especially since the latter combined the martial arts genre, a very popular cinematic genre throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with Japanese animation, while Naruto just built on that tradition. That is why this point, the one for the overall influence of the show, goes undoubtedly to Dragon Ball.
Naruto, as you could’ve seen, did not win in any category, while Dragon Ball won in two, with three ties. But even without this simple mathematics, it is quite evident that Dragon Ball is the better and more important work of the two. Naruto is a great anime, it has influenced a generation of fans and it has an enormous fanbase around the world, but the overall influence of Dragon Ball and the almost divine status it has in the history of animation is something that explains our choice in this article.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we have given you all the information you were looking for. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!