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!
The sheer popularity and immense influence of Dragon Ball is what makes this anime the best among the “Big Four”. Toriyama’s narrative has evolved since its debut in 1984 and despite One Piece’s popularity and quality, the latter just cannot measure up to the overall cultural significance of Dragon Ball, which is why we deem the show to be better.
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 series created by Akira Toriyama, inspired by the classical novel The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en’. It was published in Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine from 1984 to 1995 and later collected in 42 bound volumes from 1985 to 1995 by Shūeisha.
It is chronologically the fourteenth story of Akira Toriyama. The action takes place in an imaginary universe resembling Earth, The World, in which other works by the same mangaka are located. Thus, the author sometimes integrates characters belonging to a different story, hinting to the reader about the existence of a shared fictional universe.
Dragon Ball tells the story of Son Goku, from childhood to adulthood. Accompanied by many characters, he repeatedly searches for the seven Dragon Balls. These are magic crystal balls that allow, if they are together, to summon the dragon Shenlong appear, who is, thanks to a specific formula, able to grant the wish to anyone who speaks in front of him. Throughout his life, Son Goku is called upon to fight increasingly strong opponents, some of whom become allies.
The anime adaptation is divided into two distinct parts. These are separated according to the evolution of the main character: Dragon Ball portrays his childhood and Dragon Ball Z his adulthood. The first series has an incredible and zany overall tone (despite the tragic moments), the second, on the other hand, emphasizes the physical violence and the psychological development of the various protagonists, keeping only very occasional humorous breaks.
There are four other anime set in the same universe: Dragon Ball GT, which is an alternate sequel; Dragon Ball Z Kai, which is a new animated version of Dragon Ball Z stripped of fillers and elements that were not in the original manga (decreasing the count from 291 to 167 episodes); Dragon Ball Super, which is a direct sequel to the manga; and Super Dragon Ball Heroes, which does not follow on from the original manga.
One Piece: An overview
One Piece is an anime and manga written and illustrated by Eiichirō Oda and is currently the most purchased manga in the world. It began its publication in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump on July 22, 1997 and to date, a total of 99 volumes have been published.
On the other hand, Toei Animation has produced the anime that has been broadcast on Fuji TV since October 20, 1999 and is still ongoing, being one of the longest-running anime in history.
One Piece is the best-selling manga of Shonen Jump magazine (the most important, most respected and most popular manga magazine in the world), of the Shueisha publishing house and in history, in general, with more than 490 million copies sold worldwide; in Japan, it was the best-selling manga consecutively from 2007 to 2018, achieving a historical record.
In a survey conducted by the Japanese Culture Agency on the fifty best anime and manga in Japan, One Piece reached number 11. The anime has also received several recognitions. In TV Asahi’s 2005 ranking of the 100 most popular anime of all time, based on an online survey in Japan, One Piece peaked at number 6. In 2016 it was the 10th longest anime ever and the one that has reported the most earnings to its author, holding the Guinness record as the best-selling manga in the history of the world.
Toei’s production of the anime is known for being extremely faithful to the original anime, save for the filler content, added so that the anime could keep coming out while the manga was still being written. The series premiered in Japan on October 20, 1999, and more than 1,000 episodes have been broadcast so far, also being exported to several other countries around the world. Two crossover episodes with a joint adaptation with Toriko have also aired. The first one, which also resulted in the first episode of Toriko, aired on April 3, 2011.91 The second episode, which also featured the cast of Dragon Ball Z, aired on April 7, 2013.
Dragon Ball vs One Piece: Which anime is better?
Now that we’ve done the introductory part, we can continue with the analysis of these two shows. We’re going to analyze the shows through several categories 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.
The plot of Dragon Ball has the a lot of similarities with One Piece’s plot when the “Big Four” are considered, especially the first part, where Son Goku was still a child. The collection of the Dragon Balls has a lot of similarities with Luffy’s quest for the One Piece treasure and although Dragon Ball had a much more pronounced world-saving element, the narrative is still relatively similar. Still, while One Piece retained its basic structure throughout, Dragon Ball expanded its fictional universe, and not just by adding new plots and evolving characters, but by literally expanding the universe, with the most recent iterations of the show focusing on confrontations of a cosmic scale. Dragon Ball has even introduced a multiverse, while One Piece remained in its own world. The world-building Toriyama has given us is enough for us to give this point to Dragon Ball.
As far as the characters are concerned, Dragon Ball, like One Piece, 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. Still, the character development portrayed by Toriyama is one of the things we love about Dragon Ball. But, aside from Goku, the other characters are quite likable 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; most anime fans, whether they love Dragon Ball or not, know about Krilin, Piccolo, Majin Bu, Master Roshi, Vegeta, and the other characters from the franchise. As far as One Piece is concerned, the show does care about its characters, which cannot be denied, but when you write a 1,000-episode plot, then you have to put a lot of secondary narrative elements that put the focus away from the characters themselves. This is why One Piece is so different in this aspect. One Piece also has a lot of characters that are either stereotypes or just comical relief characters, even the main ones, which is not something that is overly present in Dragon Ball. This is why we give this point to Dragon Ball as well.
In terms of depth, Dragon Ball is not as complex as, for example, Bleach, but it does tackle darker topics far more than One Piece, which is a very go-lucky type of anime, with a lot of humor. 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. This is what One Piece lacks, but that does not mean that it is a bad thing; on the contrary, One Piece’s optimism is what made the show so popular and lovable. Also, the common themes of friendship, loyalty, determination, and not giving up are something that connects these two shows. Overall, we’d say that Dragon Ball is a bit more layered and deeper than One Piece, which is why we give this point to the former as well.
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. Still, Dragon Ball has not only done an amazing job with its animation, it has also shown us how it can evolve, as the recent iterations of the franchise have absolutely amazing animation. A lot of dynamics was necessary to fully animate these two shows, since they focus a lot on fighting and complex movement, which is why it was difficult to determine the winner. On the one hand, Dragon Ball has shown us how it can evolve and become better, while One Piece showed us what consistency looks like. In light of these two facts, we have decided to call this one a tie.
The overall influence of these two is difficult to compare because of Dragon Ball’s cult status. Namely, however good and influential One Piece might be, it will never even come close to the cultural importance of Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball is an anime that has influenced a whole generation of 1990s children and has become a synonym for anime for a whole group of people. Dragon Ball is, for a lot of people, the only anime they’ve ever seen, and even those who haven’t seen any anime know of Dragon Ball. One Piece is a global phenomenon, that cannot be denied, but it will never reach the level of popularity and influence of Dragon Ball.
The situation here is quite clear and there is little to debate here. Dragon Ball is the better and more important anime of the two. One Piece is good, it’s actually great and very popular, but the overall influence of Toriyama’s story and its almost half-a-century-long tradition is something that makes Dragon Ball the better anime.
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!