Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series is one of the most popular anime titles in the history of the medium. And while manga is also popular, anime has helped expand the cultural influence of Japanese animation when the West did not know much about anime. Now, the overall structure of the series isn’t overly complex, but there are a lot of different iterations of the series and fans are not always sure about the Dragon Ball canon. In order to help you a bit with the canon, we have decided to focus on Dragon Ball Z in this article, as we are going to bring you a complete list of arcs and filler episodes of Dragon Ball Z.
Dragon Ball Z arcs in order (at a glance)
Before we detailly explain them, here is a quick summary of all Dragon Ball Z arcs in order:
- Saiyan Saga
- Raditz Saga
- Vegeta Saga
- Frieza Saga
- Namek Saga
- Captain Ginyu Saga
- Frieza Saga
- Garlic Jr. Saga*
- Cell Saga
- Trunks Saga
- Androids Saga
- Imperfect Cell Saga
- Perfect Cell Saga
- Cell Games Saga
- Majin Buu Saga
- Other World Saga*
- Great Saiyaman Saga
- World Tournament Saga
- Babidi Saga
- Majin Buu Saga
- Fusion Saga
- Kid Buu Saga
- Peaceful World Saga
- Gods of the Universe Saga
- Gods of the Universe Saga
Now that you have a quick overview of the arcs in order, let’s take a more detailed look at them.
Dragon Ball Z arcs in order (fully explained)
This section is going to list all the major Dragon Ball Z manga and anime arcs and give you some basic info about their plots. The Dragon Ball Z arcs are going to be divided based on which source material they are taken from. The arcs are listed by the release date.
Now, since the Drago Ball Z manga itself wasn’t officially divided into arcs, but rather into events (which actually consist of arcs and mini-arcs), we are going to use a combined division from both the manga and the anime series to give you a proper overview of the series.
NOTE: Those arcs denoted with an asterisk (*) are anime-only arcs and are not considered canon.
1. Radiz Saga
Five years after the fight against Piccolo Jr., Goku has married Chi-Chi and had a son, Son Gohan. One day, Goku decides to go to the Kame House, to introduce his son to his friends, Krillin, Bulma, and the Kame Senin. Elsewhere, a mysterious warrior from space arrives on Earth in a space capsule, looking for a certain “Kakarot”.
With his tracker, he finds an energy signature, Piccolo’s, but he is not the one he is looking for. Then, he detects another force and goes there. When Goku arrives at the Kame House, he surprises everyone by introducing his son. Then the mysterious warrior arrives, saying that he has finally found Kakarot, i.e. Goku. He says that he is Raditz, that they are both members of the Saiyan race, and that he is his brother…
2. Vegeta Saga
Upon their arrival, the Saiyans Nappa and Vegeta immediately destroy the city they landed in. Vegeta, wanting to find the Dragon Balls, uses his tracker to determine the location of the strongest warrior on the planet, who he assumes is the one who killed Raditz. They go to Piccolo and Gohan. Piccolo and Gohan sense the powers coming, and also several other lesser powers, which are Krillin, Yamcha, Tenshinhan, and Chaos. The Saiyans arrive.
When Krillin arrives, Nappa recognizes Piccolo as being a Namek. Nappa and Vegeta also reveal that they came to Earth to use the Dragon Balls to become immortal, not to avenge Raditz’s death, and will leave peacefully if their wishes are granted without issue. The revelation about his true origin shocks Piccolo for a while, with Kami-Sama also realizing that his creation of the Dragon Balls was some sort of racial memory of his Namek heritage. Nappa decides to let the Saibamen defeat the fighters first, and plants seeds in the ground, which grow into six little green aliens…
3. Namek Saga
After the epic battle with the Saiyans, and as Krillin limps towards Goku, a ship arrives with Chi-Chi, Master Roshi, and Master Korin. Chi-Chi, not worrying about her paralyzed husband, only worries about Gohan who is much better. Goku is carried back to the ship, and the group then goes to collect the bodies of those who died.
After doing so, Krillin comments that it is possible to revive everyone with other Dragon Balls on Planet Namek, Piccolo’s home planet. However, King Kai informs them that a cataclysm occurred on that planet a long time ago and there are now just over 100 Namekians left. Bulma determines that it is possible to use the Saiyans’ spaceships to travel to the planet, but in an attempt to bring the ship to them, she blows it up…
4. Captain Ginyu Saga
Boter and Yuz continue to lose the battle against Goku. After dodging all of his attacks without any effort, he is able to get behind Boter, who was said to be the fastest in the universe. In anger, Boter attacks Goku with all his might, with Yuz helping him. Goku easily dodges their attacks, and with little effort, knocks Boter down (but doesn’t kill him), leaving Yuz the only remaining member.
Goku tells Yuz that he should leave the planet instead of staying there. Yuz decides to accept the offer and leaves the battlefield, leaving his comrades behind. Vegeta does not hesitate to kill Boter and Rikum. Vegeta tells Goku that he is too soft to be a Super Saiyan. Meanwhile, Yuz arrives on Frieza’s ship (Freeza had left to get the password to the Dragon Balls). He tells Captain Ginyu of all his loss. Captain Ginyu, angry at the deaths of his men, flies to the battlefield to exact revenge…
5. Frieza Saga
With Namek’s fate at stake, the Grand Patriarch sends the young Namekian Dende to give Krillin and Gohan the password that will summon Porunga, the Namek Dragon. Meanwhile, Frieza arrives at the Patriarch’s house where he finds some Namek warriors, whom he kills all but Neil, and is unable to get the Patriarch to tell him the password.
When Frieza is about to kill him, Neil warns Frieza that if the Patriarch dies, the Namek Dragon Balls will no longer be usable. As a distraction to give Dende more time, Neil takes Frieza to a field to fight him. Frieza is impressed that Neil’s max power is 42,000, but he surprises Neil by saying that his power is 530,000, but he says he won’t use his full power against him…
6. Garlic Jr. Saga*
Before the Garlic Jr. Saga, Garlic Jr. was trapped in the Death Zone, but managed to escape thanks to the power of his planet, Planet Makyo. Garlic Jr. returns to Earth to exact revenge on Goku and his friends for sending him to the Death Zone. He joins the Spice Boys and finds the Aqua Fog, a powerful fog that controls the minds of everyone on Earth to become demons.
Life on Earth for the Z Fighters was returning to normal after the battle between Frieza and Goku on Namek, but Goku has yet to return to Earth. Garlic Jr. arrests his mortal enemy, Kami-Sama, and his servant Mr. Popo, in a bottle. Battles during the Garlic Jr. take place on the Sky Platform, where Piccolo and Gohan fight Garlic Jr. and his team of Boys Seasoning…
7. Trunks Saga
A year and a half after the destruction of Planet Namek, several of Dragon Ball Z’s characters begin to return to their normal lives. They are still waiting for the day when Goku will return home. Gohan, who is worried about when his father will come home, starts to relax in his studies and his mother calls a private tutor. However, she discovers that the teacher is abusive and kicks him out of the house when he insults Goku and Gohan. Meanwhile, Vegeta returns to Earth after failing to find Goku…
8. Androids Saga
An organization known as the Red Ribbon Army tries to find the Dragon Balls. As part of their plan to gather the Dragon Balls, the Red Ribbon Army hires Dr. Gero as its main scientist. Dr. Gero then builds a series of powerful Androids. Although, in the anime version of Dragon Ball, Dr. Frape is introduced as the creator of the Androids, he is later revealed to be just the co-creator of Android 8. Goku is eventually forced to destroy the Red Ribbon organization to protect the Dragon Balls, inciting Dr. Gero to seek revenge against him.
Dr. Gero is not mentioned in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z until the Trunks Saga, where the titular character Future Trunks warns Goku that Dr. Gero survived the attacks on the Red Ribbon when Goku was a child and created a new group of Androids to try to destroy Earth. Trunks also reveal that Goku will die of incurable heart disease before he has a chance to face the Androids…
9. Imperfect Cell Saga
Piccolo arrives on the Sky Platform, asking them to fuse together so they have the power to defeat the Androids. At first, Kami-Sama is undecided about the fusion, and Piccolo is angry. He then sits down, waiting for Kami-Sama to make his decision. Time passes and Kami-Sama realizes that Earth is being threatened by a force even greater than the Androids.
He had known about this threat for four years, and now it has emerged, terrorizing thousands of people. Kami-Sama then agrees to merge with Piccolo, and they continue using Piccolo’s body. However, they merge, and regain the identity they lost long ago and also the vast wisdom and knowledge of Kami-Sama, becoming a Super Namek. Because of the fusion, the Dragon Balls and Shenron cease to exist. With the knowledge of the new creature, Piccolo goes to investigate the threat…
10. Perfect Cell Saga
The saga continues and Cell has now absorbed Android 17, completing his transformation into his Semi-Perfect form. As Androids 16 and 18 escape to an island far away, Tenshinhan is determined to stop Cell as long as he can by releasing his New Kikouhou. Tenshinhan launches several Kikouhous at once, giving him all the energy he has until he falls to the ground very weak. Although they managed to hold him down for quite some time, the Kikouhous had no effect on the monstrous Cell.
Angry that Android 18 managed to escape in the midst of the distraction, Cell wishes to kill Tenshinhan. Meanwhile, on the Celestial Platform, Goku and Gohan sense what is happening on Earth. Just as Cell is about to kill Tenshinhan, Goku appears using Teleport. Goku’s quick appearance leaves Cell distracted, and Goku manages to catch Tenshinhan and also Piccolo, who appeared in the river, barely alive. Goku teleports back to the Sky Platform just as Cell would attack him. Piccolo and Tenshinhan receive a Seed of the Gods while Cell searches for Android 18 on the islands nearby…
11. Cell Games Saga
The saga begins with Cell announcing the Cell Games, which will take place 10 days after he announced it on TV. Goku and Gohan exit the Room of Time, as a Super Saiyan Full Power. Gohan’s appearance surprises the Z Fighters, especially Chichi and Piccolo, as he is more muscular and taller than before. Using Teleportation, Goku visits Cell in the tournament arena to see him and understand his power. He then heads back to the Sky Platform where the others are waiting.
They ask Goku if he thinks he can defeat Cell, but Goku calmly replies that he doesn’t, and Cell will likely defeat him. This leaves the others surprised, and they don’t understand why Goku said that. Piccolo then reminds Goku that he and Gohan can go back to the Room of Time for one more day, but Goku refuses. Again, the others are surprised. Goku tells them that he and Gohan will train outside the Room so as not to strain their bodies too much. This leaves Vegeta agitated, who becomes angry that Goku is always one step ahead of him, and wonders what secret Goku is hiding. Goku and Gohan then visit Master Korin and ask if he can determine if Goku’s power can take on Cell…
Majin Buu Saga
12. Other World Saga*
Goku vs. Paikuhan. At first they’re just warming up, but things start in earnest when Paikuhan takes off his heavy training clothes and Goku goes Super Saiyan, even using Kaio Ken while still Super Saiyan. The fight is even, until Paikuhan appeals to his two best techniques: the Hypertornado and the Thunder Flash; With this last one he almost annihilates Goku but he manages to resist it, and on the third attempt, he discovers the moment in which Paikuhan is helpless while he executes her, throwing him off the mat with a Kamehameha.
When Goku goes to receive the award, Grand Kai announces that both Goku and Paikuhan hit the ceiling during the fight, which is prohibited by the rules, so both are disqualified. Although the truth is that, seeing the powers of Goku and Paikuhan, the Great Kaio Sama seriously doubted if training him would be useful or not. Ultimately, both Goku and Paikuhan decide to continue training even harder, promising to fight again later on.
13. Great Saiyaman Saga
Seven years later, on Earth, Gohan is a 17-year-old, and has stopped training to focus on his studies. His mother decides he needs to study to get into college, so he goes to high school. It is revealed that the town was named in honor of Mr. Satan after he said he defeated Cell. Gohan becomes the city’s true hero by defeating criminals in his Super Saiyan form, earning the title of “Gold Warrior”.
He does this so people won’t recognize him. On his first day of school, he sees a bank robbery and transforms. At school, he meets Videl, the daughter of Mr. Satan, who usually takes care of these kinds of problems in the city and is helped by the police. She is immediately suspicious of Gohan and thinks he might be the “Gold Warrior” because he looks like him. Afraid of getting caught, Gohan asks Bulma, who is now married to Vegeta, to make him a costume that hides her identity while he fights…
14. World Tournament Saga
The 25th Tournament Saga follows several of the Z Fighters and some minor characters competing in the 25th Martial Arts Tournament. Gohan is blackmailed by Videl into participating so that she won’t tell anyone that he is the Great Saiyaman. The tournament begins; first the Children’s Division and then the Adult Division. Goten and Trunks, who are in the Children’s Division, easily defeat their opponents and make it to the finals. In the final round, they fight each other. Both boys cheat, such as using energy attacks on each other.
They are apparently evenly matched as the audience watches in surprise, and Chi-Chi and Bulma fight over which child will win. In the middle of the battle, as Trunks holds Goten from behind, Goten transforms, thus breaking the pact not to transform. Mr. Satan is horrified to see that the boy looks like the blond warrior who defeated Cell. Trunks bets Goten that he can beat him without using his left arm, and this gives Goten an advantage. In the end, Trunks wins by transforming and using an energy beam to push Goten out of the arena, making him the Child Champion…
15. Babidi Saga
The story continues from the 25th Tournament Saga. The Z Fighters are still looking for Spopovich and Yamu. They arrive at a ship and secretly watch as Spopovich and Yamu meet up with Pui Pui, followed by the Demon King Dabura and the wizard Babidi. Babidi takes the energy the two fighters brought him and kills them.
After sensing the Z Fighters watching them, Dabura and Babidi plan to bring in the Z Fighters to drain the energy needed to revive a powerful being sealed in an egg. Dabura faces off against the Z Warriors and easily kills Kibito. After a quick fight, Dabura manages to turn Krillin and Piccolo to stone with his spit. Dabura then heads back inside the ship leaving the other Z Fighters wondering what to do next. Supreme Kai explains that in order to return Krillin and Piccolo to their normal forms, they must defeat Dabura…
16. Majin Buu Saga
Majin Buu was prevented from destroying Earth because Supreme Kai confronted and killed Bibidi before he could free Majin Buu. With no one able to cast the spell to release the egg, Majin Buu has been sealed since then. Supreme Kai considered trying to destroy Majin Buu while he was in the egg, but considered it too risky as he had a good chance of unintentionally releasing him. Bibidi, however, left one of his doppelgängers, Babidi, who knew all of his original form’s spells, minus the spell that frees Majin Buu.
But several years after Majin Buu’s sealing, with various schemes, Babidi manages to free Majin Buu in the previous saga…
17. Fusion Saga
We’re introduced to the bad Majin Buu, who looks like a very thin, purple version of the good Majin Buu. Bad Boo kills one of the hunters with an energy beam and then confronts good Boo. They fight fiercely, but the good Boo is no match for the bad Boo, as he has lost a lot of power by splitting up. Desperate, good Boo tries to turn bad Boo into chocolate, but bad Boo blows the lightning back at him.
Good Boo is turned into chocolate and eaten by Bad Boo, who then transforms into an incredibly powerful Super Buu form. Terrified, the other hunter shoots Boo with a machine gun, but does not affect him. Majin Buu turns into liquid and enters the hunter’s throat, causing it to expand and explode. Boo regenerates, and sees Mr. Satan and Bee. He tries to attack them but suddenly stops. After a few moments, he says Mr. Satan, and fly away. Seeing this, Mr. Satan realizes that the good Boo is still inside this new Majin Buu…
18. Kid Buu Saga
After Majin Buu transforms into his Pure Form, Majin Buu’s first target is Earth, which is destroyed with a single bolt of energy once his transformation is complete. Gohan, Piccolo, Goten, and Trunks all die in the explosion. Mr. Satan, Dende, and the dog Bee are the only survivors. Kibitoshin saves them with the Teleport and they go to the Sacred Planet of Kaiohshin.
Vegeta is angry at Goku because of his children’s unnecessary deaths and that they cannot be revived because the Dragon Balls were destroyed with the Earth. They then remind them that they can use Namek’s Dragon Balls, and Kibitoshin can take them there. Old Kai is against it because it goes against the rules of nature. Goku reminds him of his promise to date a woman from Earth and Old Kai agrees…
19. Peaceful World Saga
Following the defeat of the Majin-Boo threat, a party is being held at Bulma’s house in the big city of the Western Capital. However, Son Goku is worried about a dinosaur egg, so Chi-Chi gets fed up and leaves him behind. As he looks at the egg, Goku is reminded of his gentle grandfather. Meanwhile, at Bulma’s party, things just aren’t the same without Goku there. Just as the party is almost over, he finally shows up, happy that the egg made it out safely, and even Vegeta can’t help but smile.
On Tuesday, May 7, 784, ten years after Majin-Boo’s defeat, it is revealed that Son Gohan and Videl are married and have a daughter, Pan. Son Goten and Trunks are upset about being forced to enter the twenty-eighth World Martial Arts Tournament tomorrow. Only little Pan is eager to go. Goku tells Vegeta that someone strong will be at the tournament, the reincarnation of Majin-Boo, with whom he will set out on their new adventures together as martial artists.
Gods of the Universe Saga
20. God of the Universe Saga
Episodes: 2 movies (canon)
Boo’s threat has been stopped, and peace has returned to Earth. But, Beerus, the god of destruction, wakes up from a long sleep of 39 years and decides to go in search of the divine Super Saiyan, an overpowered warrior who should offer him a fight to his measure, that’s what the Oracle Fish predicts to Beerus.
Beerus then begins his quest with the surviving Saiyans of Earth. He then meets Son Goku at the northern Kaioh, who offers the god of destruction a fight, but is then beaten with disconcerting ease. Goku being of no help in his quest, Beerus then heads for Earth in the hope of finding this divine Super Saiyan…