Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ, DoragonbōruZetto?, commonly abbreviated as DBZ) is a Japanese animated television series produced by Toei Doga (now Toei Animation). Dragon Ball Z is the sequel to the Dragon Ball anime, which covers the first 16 volumes of a 42 volume Dragon Ball manga series created by Akira Toriyama, while Dragon Ball Z adapts the last 26 volumes of the original manga.
The Dragon Ball Z anime first aired in Japan from April 26, 1989, to January 31, 1996, and was dubbed in several countries around the world, including Latin America and in the United States. The American themes and soundtracks were composed and produced in part by Bruce Faulconer.
The series continues the adventures of Son Goku who, along with his companions, defend the Earth and other fictional planets against various supervillains. While the original Dragon Ball anime followed Goku through childhood into adulthood, Dragon Ball Z parallels his adult life with the maturation of his first child, Son Gohan. The series also gives focus to the evolution of his rivals, Piccolo and Vegeta, from evil to good, with the former's evolution ocurring early in the series and latter's spanning across the entire series. The separation between the series is also significant as the later series takes on a more dramatic and serious tone, with a number of villains either threatening or committing acts of mass murder or outright genocide.
After two unsuccessful attempts to release Dragon Ball in the US, FUNimation Productions Inc. (now FUNimation Entertainment) decided to create a dub of Dragon Ball Z, but was too poor a company then to distribute a series alone, so they teamed up with Saban (most likely due to the company's success in distributing another Japanese import, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and hired voice actors of the Ocean Group to handle the dialogue. This dub started airing in September 1996 on the WB. However, the US had more emphasis on censorship than Japan did, thus resulting in extensive editing of the series (cutting out the equivalent of 14 of the first 67 episodes-- almost 21%), including the complete removal of blood, nudity, language and references to character death ("sent to another dimension"). To many fans of the series, these edits actually made the series worse as violence was always shown without consequence. Eventually it was canceled in May 1998, due to low ratings.
In August 1998, the canceled dub was brought to Cartoon Network's new action-animated block, Toonami and it found new life through a wider audience. By 1999, FUNimation had earned enough money to distribute alone, so they continued dubbing the show with their own in-house voice actors and a newly commissioned musical score, starting directly where the cancelled dub left off. They also cut some of their previous restrictions, such as the inclusion of blood (to a small degree), though still edited some of the violence, in order to continue making it appealing to viewers of all ages, thus leading to the show receiving a TV-Y7-FV rating for fantasy violence.
The new dub of DBZ finally achieved the popularity FUNimation had been attempting for years to attain. It was such a success that it also greatly helped expand the anime market in the US. In September 2002, Dragon Ball Z was Number One on all cable TV (#1 program of the week on all cable television with boys 9-14) and the series ended its first run in April 2003. Currently the show still airs on Cartoon Network's Toonami Saturday night block.
The English dubs of Dragon Ball Z are noted for featuring dialogue not found in the original script, dubbing that results in minor changes to the original story, the replacement of the entire original musical score written by Shunsuke Kikuchi, and renaming many characters, terminology, and locations (i.e. Kuririn to Krillin, the Tenkaichi Budokai to the World Martial Arts Tournament, etc.). FUNimation selected composer Bruce Faulconer to create this original music score for episodes #54 (68) through the end of the series (episode #291), and this music is commonly referred to as the American Soundtrack for the series, which aired on the Cartoon Network, having aired since 1999 to the present.
In 2003, FUNimation began to redub the first 53 episodes that were dubbed by the Ocean Group voice cast, restoring them to the original 67. The distribution of the redubs on DVD, under the Ultimate Uncut Special Edition title, began in April 2005.
In the summer of 2005, Cartoon Network aired the uncut version of the first 67 episodes. This version used the original Japanese footage, with the exception of the Japanese opening and closing themes, and has an entirely new score of music. The uncut version also featured many scenes with blood that had been toned down or cut out entirely in the edits before, as well as mild language, profanity, sexual humor, and nudity. Generally, while some lines were maintained from the original dub, several mistranslations were also corrected. The uncut dub was given a TV-PG rating in contrast to the original dub's TV-Y7 rating.
International English version
Until 2001, other English speaking countries including the UK, Canada, Australia and Republic of Ireland received FUNimation's English version of DBZ, both the Ocean Group and FUNimation dubs. This changed when Episode 108 aired in the UK (also in The Netherlands); the English Dub switched to a version produced by the Blue Water studios. This version regained the original voice actors from the Ocean Group instead of the FUNimation voice cast. This version began airing in Canada in the autumn of 2001 from Episode 168, and ran through to the end of the series. It used FUNimation's own videotracks and its scripts, albeit with some changes. This version used music recycled from the Mega Man and Monster Rancher cartoons, as well as a few original pieces for the series by Jon Mitchell, Tom Keenlyside and David Iris. This version suffered from low production values and a rushed schedule. Many voices did not stay consistent through the series, and by the end few remained from the original 1996 cast. See below for a complete cast listing.
In the original Japanese version, Dragon Ball Z consists of four main sagas. In the English dub however, they are divided into 16 sub-sagas:
Majin Buu Saga
Captain Ginyu Saga
Garlic Junior Saga
Imperfect Cell Saga
Perfect Cell Saga
Cell Games Saga
Great Saiyaman Saga
World Tournament Saga
Majin Buu Saga
Kid Buu Saga
Filler is used to pad out the series for many reasons; in the case of Dragon Ball Z, more often than not, it was because the anime was running alongside the manga, and there was no way for the anime to run ahead of the manga since Toriyama was still writing it.
The company behind the anime, Toei Animation, would occasionally create side stories to either further explain things, or simply to extend the series. Filler does not come only in the form of side stories though; sometimes it is as simple as adding some extra attacks into a fight. For instance, many scenes in the anime appear quite protracted, featuring long shots of the characters faces and stand-offs lasting an entire episode and even spanning multiple episodes for a single fight. As the anime series was forced to expand 12-14 pages of manga image and text into 20-22 minutes of animation footage, these changes were introduced to fill the complete television timeslot or to allow the anime writers to explore some other aspects of the series' universe. The Garlic Junior arc, between the Freeza Saga and the Cell Saga, and the Afterlife Tenkaichi Budokai arc, between the Cell Saga and the Majin Buu Saga, are examples of this.