With the western release of Dragon Ball Xenoverse, let us take a look back at the long history of Dragon Ball and rate all 29 sagas (basically story arcs) from the worse to best (which yes, includes anime filler sagas and Dragon Ball GT).
Which Sagas hold up still as classics that helped create modern day anime? Which sagas bring cringe worthy shivers to even the most hard-core of fans? Let's take a look together and find out.
Spoilers ahead of course and for clarity, I will be using the original Japanese names for many of the characters because these are the names I'm most familiar with.
With the transformation of Boo to Super Boo, Our heroes must literally combine their powers together if they want any chance of defeating him.
Our first stop comes near the end of the Boo arc as well as the original Dragon Ball manga where many consider the quality of the manga to have dropped significantly. Though there was still a lot to like about the Boo arc, the Fusion saga unfortunately has more flaws then it does positives.
First there was Gotenks who was amazingly annoying with his cocky attitude and constant need to show off (at least with Vegito, he was intentionally wanting to annoy Super Boo). Then there is all the convenient coincidences such as the Porta rings, Gotenks being able to go Super Saiyan 3 and Old Kaioshin's training. Though coincidences are not new for the series, they became massively overkill in this saga.
But ultimately, the entire saga feels pointless and unlike our next saga on the list, you can't use the excuse of filler. You could easily have Good Boo and Evil Boo turn into Kid Boo and all you would need to change is having a way to get Good Boo back which could have easily been done. This result in making the viewer feel like they have wasted their time, something a show should never allow to happen.
Also, I never understood why when Good Boo was removed from Super Boo, why he turned into Kid Boo instead of turning back into Evil Boo?
Garlic Jr. has escaped the Dead Zone and seeks revenge by capturing Kami and turning the entire world into Makyo-seijin.
This saga does not exist in the original manga and was created for the anime. This was due to it having caught up with the manga and they needed time to create breathing space.
However unlike the Fusion saga, it doesn't feel as pointless as there are amusing parts (such as meeting the Former Kami) and character building, especially with Kami and Kuririn that helps contribute to understanding their actions later on in the Android and Perfect Cell sagas respectfully.
But on the other hand, this saga has a lot of stupid in it such as Maron and Icarus which brings the overall saga down.
With most of the Z fighters out of commission and the Dragon Balls no longer an option, Gohan, Bulma and Kuririn head into space to find planet Namek in search of their Dragon Balls. However, unbeknownst to them, the tyrannical Freeza is also on the hunt and is willing to do anything to get the Dragon Balls.
The problem with most of the Namek Saga is that it feels like filler waiting for Goku to recover so the main action can begin. This results with a lot of waiting, swapping of Dragon Balls and fights that don't really go anywhere.
This arc also contains one of the most pointless power boosts in the form of the Great Elder unlocking Gohan's and Kuririn potential, only for them to get their asses kicked in their next fight.
One positive of this saga was the introduction of the Ginyu Force, which we will go into much more when we get to the Ginyu Saga.
Having fully defeated the Red Ribbon Army, Goku goes to the Fortuneteller Baba to find the location of the last Dragon Ball. But Baba won't tell him, unless he defeats her five greatest warriors.
On the one hand, the anime filler for this arc is actually really good such as Goku going to the demon realm and the brief interaction with him and his dead Grandfather was really heartwarming.
On the other, the rest of this arc is really bad. Baba's fighters are interesting I'll give them that, with Akkuman being the best out of the five. But the fights are honestly not that great and the payoff is rather weak.
Arriving on the planet M-2, they find the creature baby, a genetically artificial parasite created by the Tsufuru-jin in order to wipe out the Saiya-jin and begin their Universal Tsufruization Plan.
Many of you may be surprised that this is the first GT saga to appear on this list. However my main issue with this saga comes down to one simple thing. They undermine the redemption of the Saiyans.
This saga retcons the Tsufuru-jin from being a peaceful race that was wiped out by the Saiyans, to the alien race equivalent of Seele. Like Parallax in the Green Lantern comics, it's a lame way to take the blame away from the Saiyan by making the Tsufuru-jin evil and thus, making the Saiyans genocide justifiable.
The whole gang is back together again to compete in the 25th Tenka'ichi Budōkai. Even the dead Goku who is allowed to return to earth for a day.
In theory, this would have been great. Bringing back the Tenka'ichi Budōkai from the first third off the series and just having a good old fashion fun tournament.
In practice, it ends up being really flat, lacking the intensity of the 22nd and the 23rd or the comedy of the 21st. It also doesn't help that we never truly saw it to its full conclusion due to the Majin plot taking over.
I will admit the Junior Division stuff was really fun though and the growing relationship between Gohan and Videl was really well done so it's not all bad. Just that it could have been better.
Gohan, now a teenager, decides to use his powers for good and so, he becomes Satan City's protector as the Great Saiyaman!
For many, the Great Saiyaman saga is the worst and the lowest point of all Dragon Ball and I can see why. The plot is cliché, the tone is very different from the rest of the Dragon Ball Z anime (though more in line with Akira Toriyama other works) and nothing really happens.
On the other hand though, it makes sense that Gohan would want to be a superhero given what we saw of him as a kid. The actual design of the Great Saiyaman costume is very nice and Videl is pretty damn awesome.
I think the problem is that the idea is an interesting one and could have played well into Dragon Ball lore, but the execution was ultimately not very good.
I also should mention the anime filler material with Goku in the afterlife which was very fun to watch and did a good job of expanding the other world and the Dragon Ball universe as a whole (so much so that this anime filler was made canon with the manga).
A secret revealed! Babidi and his minions search for the evil Boo and it is up to our heroes to stop them. But can they survive the dangers of both his spaceship and his mind control?
The first half of this saga is kind of hilarious in that it is basically a bad fan fiction where the heroes just wipe out every threat they see in about 5 minutes (and no that isn't an insult to fan fiction writers, there are many great works out there).
As for the second half, it is basically one anti-climactic battle between Goku and Vegeta due to it being halted before it could naturally end because of Boo's awakening.
So why is this higher than others? Mostly because of the pure spectacle of the fights, which are impressive and the enemy design are a great change of pace.
Cell has absorbed Android 17 (boo!) and is after his sister to become perfect. However, Vegeta and Trunks return to kick bio-mechanical ass!
Damn it Vegeta, why does anyone allow you to make decisions? They never work out and always end with you being unconscious with dirt in your mouth.
This is the biggest problem with this saga, everything that goes wrong in this saga is because of Vegeta stupidity. But the fun thing is that he gets his comeuppance for his idiocy.
Fun times all around!
Perfect Cell is born! In his wake, he announces the Cell Games to quell his boredom. In a shock, Goku forfeits and calls for his Son Gohan to fight in his stead. Can Gohan defeat the Perfect Cell?
This saga should have been a classic. Gohan becomes Super Saiyan 2, the fights with Cell are amazing and the finale is one of the series best.
So what's the problem?
Mr. Satan is a character that did nothing in the saga but drag it down with his constant annoying bragging and interruptions. Though he would improve later on, here he was just insufferable.
Worse is that in the anime, they not only decided we needed to see more of him but needed to see his students and promotional agent as well and believe me, they are somehow worse.
A young woman named Bulma is on the road looking for the Dragon Balls, ancient magical items that can grant one perfect wish. Her journey leads her to discover a strange boy deep in the woods and with it, the beginning of an epic tale.
The very first saga of Dragon Ball (unless you count Dragon Boy… or Journey to the West). A time when Yamucha could kick Goku's arse and was actually a credible fighter. A time when all the characters had a purpose of existing and contributed to the plot. A time where Goku can just send a rabbit man to the moon to mine for cheese using his magic pole and nobody questioned it
This is a curious case because I don't really know what to do with it. Looking back at this saga, it's funny to see how different everything was to the point if you named these people differently and gave Goku different hair, you wouldn't be able to tell it was Dragon Ball at all.
Goku, still on his worldwide search for the Dragon Balls meets his match with the powerful General Blue. The Red Ribbons Army Navel General.
The General Blue saga is mostly fun and seeing Goku and co, fight of a robotic xenomorph pirate was incredibly enjoyable.
The weakest part of this saga comes from the Dragon Ball/Dr. Slump crossover that happened. Though not exactly bad in anyway, it is not as good as it could have been and was done better later in the Dr. Slump Remake.
Also, in a great show of class, Toei decided to make General Blue, one of the few openly homosexual characters into a paedophile. FUNimation decided to do one better and make him a paedophilic rapist. Again, really classy.
Goku participates in his first ever tournament. However a strange but familiar figure may prove to be a serious challenge.
This is the first saga where fighting was an important part of the story and it's a good one, with a lot of comedy and action. They do a good job making all the fighters have very unique fighting styles and designs.
However, the best part of this saga is in the final fight with Goku and Jackie Chun (really Muten Roshi) and the epic way Chun was able to defeat Goku's Oozaru. I'm also glad they didn't overuse the Oozaru as it would not appear again until Gohan turned into it long after this.
The human race all but extinct, the entire universe in danger. Goku and Vegeta have to make one last stand to defeat Kid Boo or everyone in existence is doomed.
This one is here for pure spectacle of the final fight with Kid Boo which thanks to the stakes, help contribute in making it one of the best fights in anime.
But let's not forget the ending which really was not a good way to end the manga (so much so that they had to redraw it for later releases). It really comes across as Goku abandoning his family for someone he only just met. It's just strange and it really should have just ended after Kid Boo was killed.
There has been a Prison Break Out in Hell and all the old villains head to earth to mess things up.
Again, another one here because of pure spectacle and boy is this an interesting one for that. I just love big the scale of this saga is and all the little moments like Vegeta and Nappa meeting again, The Android siblings and the Goku/Freeza/Cell fights.
There isn't really much else to say about this one.
With Goku's first tournament finished, he heads out to begin looking for his Grandfather's Dragon Ball. What he doesn't realize though is that the Red Ribbon Army, a ruthless organization are after the Dragon Ball as well.
The Red Ribbon Army are really the first serious threat in the series as Pilaf was more of a joke villain and Jackie Chun was never really going to truly hurt Goku. It's thankful then that the Red Ribbon Army make a great first impression here with both Colonel Silver and General White being pretty memorable characters.
What I also like about this Saga is that we get to see our first pacifist with Android 8, something we would never really see afterwards which is slightly disappointing.
Goku has been turned into a kid and the earth is going to blow up! It's up to him, Trunks, Pan and Gill to save it by going into space.
I know a lot of fans might be angry to see this saga so high on the list but let me explain. I really like the banter between the four main characters as it gives us a lot of character development that had been lacking in the Boo arc.
I like the adventurers tone and the strange planets they go to. I like little thing like Vegeta moustache:
And I know this going to be controversial but GT had the best Japanese intro:
So hate me if you must but I like this saga.
One last thing, can someone please explain to me why FUNimation thought it was a good idea to cut this saga out of the original Western release? That was just dumb.
With Trunks warning, Goku and co. train for three years to prepare for the coming of the Androids. But not everything is right with Goku.
First of all, I love the filler episode with Goku and Piccolo learning to drive, it was both funny and did a good job humanizing the two.
Secondly, I like the design of all five androids (though technically three of them are cyborgs) with my favourite having to be Android 17 who I'll admit I had a crush on when I was younger.
Third, I'm not the biggest Vegeta fan so it was really fun to see him get his arse kicked so badly.
That is all.
Freeza, is pissed! The Namekian Dragon Balls are gone and his chances at immortality destroyed, All Freeza can do is torture those who took that away from him. Can Goku achieve the legendary Super Saiyan in time?
This is probably the most well-liked saga within the fandom and it's not hard to see why. With the fight with Goku and Freeza being one of the most influential in anime, the series would not be as well loved without it.
However, I can't put it in the top ten because of a few little faults, with the main one being the anime filler, dear god the anime filler was bad for this saga. The most notorious being Freeza saying the planet is going to blow in 5 minutes but in reality it takes 1 hour 24 minutes and 55 seconds to do so.
Also, thank god Broly is officially not canon with the main series because all those movies did was undermine the importance of this saga with an incredibly weak villain.
The Son of the Demon King reveals himself to Goku and he's here to kick some monkey but!
The Piccolo Jr. Saga marks the end of many things in Dragon Ball. It's the last saga that would be more fantasy based then the science fiction that would take over the series. It marks the end of the original Dragon Ball anime before it turned into Dragon Ball Z and the last time we would see the Tenka'ichi Budōkai until the World Tournament saga years later.
What makes it special is we see how much Goku has grown as a character since the beginning of the manga/anime. He's still a bit clueless of some customs yes, but you can see the maturity and discipline he has achieved. This is probably shown the best when he spares Piccolo's life, an action that ultimately for the best.
Silence spreads across the land as one by one, humanity is absorbed into Imperfect Cell whose only goal is to achieve his perfect form.
What do you get when you cross the Blob, Alien and Dragon Ball together? Imperfect Cell.
This saga is unique in how suspenseful it is compared to the rest of the series which really helps in making it memorable. I think the best way to explain is to show you this clip form Team4Star's Dragon Ball Z Abridged to see what I mean:
Boo is awakened from his slumber and by the orders of Babidi, begins turning everyone into candy to eat.
This is another one you maybe scratching your head to why it is so high up on the list.
Well one of the reasons are that I like Boo's design as it's the complete opposite of what you would expect him to be. Think about all the main villains after the Commander Red Saga:
They are all thin, muscly men so seeing this big pink blob is a great change of pace. Of course they ruined that by turning him in another thin, muscly man later on but that's another story.
I also like Satan's development in this saga. As I said before, he ruined a lot of the Cell games with his annoying tendencies so it was great we finally made him go away from those and see him being more caring and mature.
Ginyu is Goku? Goku is Ginyu? What?!
The placement of this saga always confused me, why does it start with Bāta getting killed instead of the introduction of the Ginyu Force like every other Saga?
Either way, Ginyu is one of my favourite Dragon Ball villains, with both his charm and sophistication (at least in the original Japanese version) mixed with his love of dance and his body change power. A good watch and it changes the pace with our heroes trying to preserve Goku's body while having to defeat Ginyu at the same time.
Goku is so ever more close to getting all seven Dragon Balls. But Commander Red hires the deadly Tao Pai Pai, the greatest assassin on earth to take him out.
Another great villain, Tao Pai Pai is interesting in what he did to Goku, both physically and mentally.
Physically, he was the first one to fully defeat Goku that wasn't a tournament where he wasn't in any real danger. Hell, Goku would have been dead if it wasn't for dumb luck.
But mentally, it was the first time Goku had a goal that wasn't self-serving. Nearly everything he did before this was because he was either tricked into it or for his own needs. But once Bora is killed by Tao and Upa is left an orphan, he begins to truly care about others and swears to Upa bring his father back. It's both great to see him grow as a character and it makes his ultimate defeat of Tao Pai Pai the ever more sweeter.
They were warned that overuse of the Dragon Balls was a bad idea but did they listen? No and now the Shadow Dragons have come to mess things up.
Poor GT, it was sad to see how little love you got. Sadder still because they finally addressed one of the biggest problems with the later half of Dragon Ball which was the overuse of the balls to solve every problem.
It was clever for them to use an off the cuff comment from Old Kaioshin and turn it into a saga. It was clever how the Dragons each represented a wish and their personalities are based on what those wishes were.
But most of all, I like the epilogue as it is a far better ending to Dragon Ball then the original ending in the Kid Buu saga was.
It's tournament time again and this time, mentor fights mentor as Roshi and Tsurusen'nin bet which student is better, Goku or Tenshinhan?
This is the best Tenka'ichi Budōkai saga in all of Dragon Ball, with the right amount of comedy, threat and action that these tournaments need to succeed.
This is also a time where the anime filler improved upon the source material and made it something special, with the tournament now taking place over the course of a few days rather than one day which really gives time to develop Tenshinhan's character and fully understand why he would change sides.
Goku has a brother? Goku is an alien? Goku is dead? Two Powerful Aliens are coming to kill us all?!
This is the saga that many of you probably saw first due to the Ocean Group deciding to start here (why was that again?).
Like I mentioned before, this was the first to be heavily based in Science Fiction which isn't a bad thing as the series could have easily become tired after a while if they stayed the course. It was also clever for them to create the character of Gohan as it helped Piccolo and Goku grow as characters while at the same time, become an interesting character in his own right.
Freeza alive! Both he and his father King Cold head to earth to seek vengeance on our heroes. But a mysterious figure has also come. Is he friend or foe?
You may be really surprised to see the Trunks Saga at number 2, given that it is one of the shortest. Well, most of it comes from how it sweeps the rug under you. You would expect Goku to come in the last minute, save the day and fall to the ground hungry. but no! This pair of Briefs comes to save the day instead!
Also remember that this came out before everyone could become a Super Saiyan, so seeing someone other than Goku become one was a shock to see.
One thing that has always intrigued me though is with King Cold. As we saw with Freeza and Kurīza (as well as Cooler if we count film material), the form we see Cold in is clearly not his true form and thus was never at full power. I've always wondered what King Cold at full power would have looked like and If Goku and Trunks could have been able to defeat him.
Kuririn is slain by a minion of Piccolo the Demon King and in his rage, Goku fires off to murder the demon and feast on his bones.
So finally we reach my favourite saga of all of Dragon Ball, The King Piccolo Saga.
It was the first saga to be mostly serious rather than the more comedic nature of the earlier sagas. It's the first saga to have a world threatening enemy with Piccolo Daimaō. It was the first where we didn't have the comfort of knowing everything could be undone as Piccolo had blew up Shenron.
But it was also the saga where Goku became who we would know him as. As mentioned before, the Commander Red Saga was the first where he first began to truly care about others. The King Piccolo saga is the one where he learns responsibility and to truly understand death. When you see him about to fight Piccolo, you can see the pure rage in Goku's eyes that would be later seen in the Freeza and Vegeta sagas.
Hope you've enjoyed this list and remember, you don't have to agree with me & feel free to make your own lists or opinions in the comments.
Have a nice day (: