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I grew up on Dragon Ball, and as such, I always thought the watch order was pretty straight forward. However, recently it has occurred to me that…Well, if you know nothing about Dragon Ball, it is not straight forward at all. Do you watch original Z or should you choose Kai? Do you need to watch ten tons of movies or no? GT before Super or at all?
Yeah, okay, so it has gotten unexpectedly complex and there are newer anime fans that are just now getting into it. So, the question is, how do you watch the Dragon Ball series in order?
Much of Dragon Ball can be separated into canon or not canon. By canon, fans mean that the particular series or movie primarily followed the original manga series and was made with input from the creator – Akira Toriyama. For the most part, the Dragon Ball anime series is of a canon nature. There are some important exceptions, however.
First, Dragon Ball GT is considered non-canon. Akira Toriyama had little to no input on the series and was not happy with how it turned out. There are moments in the more current and canon Dragon Ball Super in which it seems they are trying to connect it to the canon, but for the most part, almost every fan will suggest to skip GT entirely.
Other non-canon entries include some of the movies which will conflict with things that occur in the canon story line. Generally, most people don’t bother to watch ALL the movies, as there are many, but there are some canon movies that fill in important details (and have awesome fights).
As you may (or may not) know, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai are the same thing. Kai is essentially a remastering of the events in the original DBZ series. It features less filler, much better pacing, and additional dialog that was present in the manga. As it is also newer animation, it looks better in some spots.
As in the original DBZ some fights could take literally ten episodes to conclude, it is probably better to just watch Kai. The filler in DBZ was fun sometimes, but it is a lengthy watch overall. So, in essence, it is really up to you. You won’t miss any crucial details by choosing Kai.
If you want to get the best possible viewing order from the Dragon Ball series, but you don’t need it to be chronological. Here’s what we suggest:
You may also want to watch Battle of the Gods and the Resurrection: F movies purely because they are pretty cool, but they also have arcs in Super. So you won’t really miss out, but the movies do have more detail.
On the topic of movies, there are a lot we didn’t include because they are not canon. However, many of the DBZ movies are very fun to watch, the Broly movie in particular. Broly did technically become canon, but there’s not really a good place to wedge that into the watch order.
Why you would want to try and watch Dragon Ball in chronological order, I don’t even know. Do you hate yourself? Are you okay? Do you need someone to talk to? Anyway, this tosses canon out the window and includes all the movies, GT, and Super in the closes possible timeline, even though the timeline of some movies conflicts with that, thus why they are not canon. I’ve also included episode number for the original Dragon Ball Z, not Kai, because if you want to watch everything, damn you gonna watch everything.
THE CORRECT DRAGON BALL WATCH ORDER:
1. DRAGON BALL
Dragon Ball Series Collection
An anime adaptation of the first 194 chapters of Akira Toriyama’s anime, Dragon Ball follows the adventures of series protagonist Goku as an alien child recently arriving on earth, as he discovers more about it, meets new friends and overcomes new challenges.
While there are some films set before this time that delve into Goku’s parentage, it doesn’t make sense to watch them yet as it isn’t quite relevant.
Dragon Ball establishes many of the overarching series themes and characters including Krillin, Bulma, Master Roshi, Piccolo, and the Martial Arts Tournaments that regularly occur.
It also reveals why the series is called Dragon Ball and variations of that: the seven Dragon Balls of a planet can be used to summon a mighty, all-powerful dragon who can grant a wish.
Earth’s dragon is called Shenron, and we see him quite a lot as the series progresses.
2. DRAGON BALL Z
Dragon Ball Z Series Collection
Perhaps the most famous of each of the series, Dragon Ball Z runs almost twice as long as Dragon Ball, adapting the next 370+ chapters of the manga and introducing many iconic villains to the franchise including:
It isn’t all villains though, as new heroes join the Z fighters as we progress through the Dragon Ball Order.
As our beloved heroes develop, Villains become allies and allies become villains, while our heroes begin families and their children join the ranks of the Z fighters.
Dragon Ball Z introduced more than just new villains and heroes, though, with new themes such as time travel, and the ability to become Super Saiyan becoming very important to the future plots of the series.
Dragon Ball Z continues to be the most heavily adapted in video games and holds a special place in the hearts of many anime and manga fans.
Similarly, Dragon Ball Z was the series to make its soundtrack highly popular, with over 20 soundtracks being released in the Dragon Ball Hits collection.
The Dragon Ball order continues with…
3. DRAGON BALL GT
Dragon Ball GT Complete Series
Controversially, Dragon Ball GT is the first series not to adopt any of Akira Toriyama’s popular manga and suffered as a result.
It had a short run over a couple of years, amounting to over 60 episodes that act as a sequel to Dragon Ball Z and featuring original characters and storylines from Toei Animation, it lacked some of the magic that made the original series so special.
While many fans unfairly declare GT as being “non-canonical” and therefore not counting towards the overall mythology of Dragon Ball (Similar to some of the anime films, which include “What-if?” scenarios), Dragon Ball GT did actually involve Akira Toriyama, in that he gave the series its name, with the GT standing for Grand Tour.
He went on to refer to it as a “side story”.
Dragon Ball GT wasn’t bad, though, and should definitely form part of the Dragon Ball order.
It was perhaps most famous for introducing the Super Saiyan 4 form, which was a popular design that has not been used since, along with the Black Star Dragon Balls and Black Star Dragons.
It is worth mentioning that GT was more popular outside of Japan, and continues to receive love and attention in video games of the Dragon Ball series, where you’ll often find GT characters.
4. THE DRAGON BALL FILMS
The OVAs (Original Video Animations) should form an important part of the Dragon Ball Order, as without them you will not meet Son Goku’s parents, popular villains such as Janemba and Broly, and miss out on some epic fight scenes and fusions.
There have been 20 animated films in the Dragon Ball universe, wow! While not all of these movies directly follow the story of the anime, they all offer their own unique adventure with Goku and friends, and are definitely worth watching for fans new to the franchise! In order of release, the movies are:
Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies
Dragon Ball Curse of the Blood Rubies
Dragon Ball: Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle
Dragon Ball Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle
Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure
Dragon Ball Mystical Adventure
Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone
Dragon Ball Z Dead Zone
Dragon Ball Z: The World’s Strongest
Dragon Ball Z The World’s Strongest
Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might
Dragon Ball Z The Tree of Might
Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug
Dragon Ball Z Lord Slug
Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge
Dragon Ball Z Cooler’s Revenge
Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler
Dragon Ball Z the Return of Cooler
Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13!
Dragon Ball Z Super Android 13!
Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan
Dragon Ball Z Broly
Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound
Dragon Ball Z Bojack Unbound
Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming
Dragon Ball Z Second Coming
Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly
Dragon Ball Z Bio Broly
Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn
Dragon Ball Z Fusion Reborn
Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon
Dragon Ball Z Wrath of the Dragon
Dragon Ball: The Path to Power
Dragon Ball Z the Path to Power
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
Dragon Ball Z Battle of Gods
Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’
Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F
Dragon Ball Super: Broly
Dragon Ball Super Broly
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Live-Action film adaptation called Dragon Ball Evolution, which is best forgotten.
Since 2013, the films have met and exceeded the Dragon Ball Z timeline (ignoring the events of Dragon Ball GT) and have introduced new characters such as the Gods of Destruction and their angels, who go on to become important characters in…
5. DRAGON BALL SUPER
Dragon Ball Super
A true sequel to Dragon Ball Z, and this time written by series creator Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Super has enjoyed enormous success and enjoyed five major storylines before going on hiatus, though it is widely believed it’ll soon return to our screens.
The story arc concerns the understanding that Goku and his friends are now by far the most powerful fighters on earth, and to find new challenges they’ll need to look at the wider universe in which they live.
It does not take them long before new threats arise, and Goku, Vegeta, and the Z fighters must defend earth once again.
The pinnacle of this results in the “Universal Survival Arc” which has been enormously popular, and introduced the first non-Super Saiyan transformation in a long time: Ultra Instinct, in which Goku is able to meet and exceed the powers of the Gods he has met and fought.
While Dragon Ball Super introduces a whole host of new villains, it does bring back old favorites like Master Roshi and the Kais, while series villain Frieze returns, this time to fight for the forces of good.
Dragon Ball Super and its associated films should form an essential climax to the Dragon Ball Order and your viewing pleasure, as it represents everything fans of anime, manga and Dragon Ball have come to know and love.
RECAP OF DRAGON BALL SERIES IN ORDER
If you’re new to the Dragon Ball anime universe, there is a lot of catching up for you to do. But take your time and enjoy watching the Dragon Ball anime series in order. We suggest you start with Dragon Ball, then move to Dragon Ball Z, followed by Dragon Ball GT, catch some of the Dragon Ball Films, and lastly finish with Dragon Ball Super.