Should You Watch ‘Dragon Ball Z’ or ‘Kai’?

Should You Watch Dragon Ball Z or Kai

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series is one of the best and most popular series in the history of manga and anime. We know that the series started off as a manga following the adventures of a young Son Goku who, by the time the original story ended, was an adult who defeated Piccolo and brought some peace to the world. But, the story continued in Dragon Ball Z and several other sequels, of course, with Goku again having to defend his planet against new threats. But, while Dragon Ball Z was popular, it also had a lot of filler content, which is why a sublimed version titled Dragon Ball Kai was released. Which one should you watch?

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Dragon Ball Z is the original sequel to Dragon Ball. The series followed an adult Goku as he, with his friends and family, faced new threats, like Vegeta and Frieza. The series was exceptionally popular, but the anime contained a lot of fillers, and there were problems with the dub.
  • Dragon Ball Kai is a spin-off series that is basically Dragon Ball Z but without the fillers. The series was heavily reduced and focused on the canon plot, which is why not all fans are fond of it that much.
  • If you’re wondering which to watch, it is recommended that you check out the uncensored original Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z, as it is a complete experience, despite the fillers, than Dragon Ball Kai.

The original Dragon Ball Z was a mess for several reasons, and that is why a lot of fans cheer for Kai

As fans of the franchise will know, Dragon Ball Z was a big mess when it first aired outside of Japan. There weren’t many issues in Japan, but Japanese broadcasters took much more liberty with its content back in the day, and such boldness could not be reflected in the States, as Dragon Ball Z was primarily a children’s show. And while we have to say that some European viewers could see the unedited version, American viewers did not have that benefit.

Once it reached the States, Dragon Ball Z was heavily censored and edited, creating a “Frankenstein-version” of the original Dragon Ball Z that the US viewers could see. The Japanese version has a healthy amount of blood and gore, cursing, and even negative behavior by the protagonists themselves. This was heavily edited in the States, as the American producers did not want to have such a selfish protagonist as Toriyama portrayed Goku in the original.

This is why the American version of Z was more of a superhero saga than anything else, and that significantly reduced the quality of that version.


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The classic Dragon Ball Z broadcast and dub mitigated some of that influence. Goku was often called the “Japanese Superman” for a reason, and the American editors made it seem that way, which does make sense, but it ruined the quality overall. What was left was a very strange series, which is why many fans prefer Dragon Ball Kai, as it was never that messy.

The series came out much later, remedying some of the issues, even when the Western version is concerned. It did not improve the show overall and was not even close to the original Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z, but it helped fix some issues, which is why people actually like it, which is a rare phenomenon in the world of anime.

The soundtrack is a major issue, as there are a lot of changes

One of the major points of discussion is the soundtrack. Namely, the original Western dub of Dragon Ball Z had a completely original soundtrack that was wholly different from the Japanese one, while Kai kept the original Japanese soundtrack. And while the dubbed soundtrack might have been more appropriate for Western fans at the time, it doesn’t make any sense anymore; Kai does remedy that, but that is why we advocate going back to the original Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z, as it will bring you the whole experience.

The animation is more or less the same

Regarding the animation, there is not much that we can add here. There won’t be much clarity or resolution change for an average viewer. If one were to compare Kai to the original release, the differences would be noticeably more stark, but that isn’t an issue anymore. Even for the English dub, the original has been out of circulation for a while.

In the early 2000s, a remastered Dragon Ball Z DVD set was released, which had better image quality and widescreen compatibility. Midway through, the original English dub switched studios and used new voice actors for every character, which means that even the original Z was heavily improved to be on the same level of quality as Kai.

Viewers found it confusing at the time, but in the long run, it made sense. This was ultimately fixed in the remastered version of Dragon Ball Z, where the Funimation cast once again dubbed the entire series.

In the end, you should definitely watch Dragon Ball Z if you’re a first-timer

Regarding the conclusion, it all comes down to a person’s preferences, but we’re definitely more fond of the original Dragon Ball Z series than Dragon Ball Kai. Sure, as we have explained above, Z has a lot of problems – fillers, the dub was heavily censored – and some of them were remedied in Kai, but the experience is not really the same. If you can get your hands on the original Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z, that would be great, but even the edited version is a much more wholesome experience.


Dragon Ball Z vs. Dragon Ball Z Kai: Which One Is Better?

Regarding some objective parameters, like the soundtrack and the animation, there isn’t much difference as Kai wasn’t a remaster of the original Dragon Ball Z anime series; the series simply kept the original elements and reduced the filler content and some of the edits. But while it does work as a standalone story, it’s not the same. It doesn’t have the same feel as watching the original Dragon Ball Z series as a whole, and you’ll definitely miss out.

Yeah, it’s filler content, but it was originally part of the broadcast, and we honestly think that you should give it a go, especially if you’re a first-timer. If you’re new to the series, we definitely think you should watch Dragon Ball Z. Still, if you’re someone who’s coming back to the series and who’s seen the original series, meaning that you just want to refresh your memory, you can watch Dragon Ball Kai to get a digest version before you move on. And that is our honest opinion.

You can check all the differences between Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Kai in our article. Also, if you want to watch something like Dragon Ball Z, we have a list of 10 best anime just like it.

Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

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