Dragon Ball is one of the most beloved series for anime fans. However, if you haven’t seen a single episode or read any of the manga, getting into the series can seem totally overwhelming! Figuring out the order to watch Dragon Ball can seem like a homework assignment. After all, Dragon Ball is a huge media franchise consisting of Manga, Anime, Feature Films, and Video Games.
A Little Background on Dragon Ball
The franchise began in 1984 when Akira Toriyama began publishing the Dragon Ball manga in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan. A “manga” is simply a Japanese style of a comic book or graphic novel. The manga introduced us to Goku and other key characters and had its initial run from 1984 to 1995. It’s the source material for the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime, as well as the jumping-off point for the entire series.
As far as anime goes, there have been official Dragon Ball TV series, spin-off series, and animated films released in theaters. All of this has led to Dragon Ball becoming one of the highest-grossing franchises in history, with over $20 billion in revenue as of 2018.
It is one of the most successful anime and managed series of all time, and continues to run to this day, over thirty years later.
As a result of its long history, it can be confusing for anime fans to know the correct order to watch Dragon Ball, (sometimes stylized DragonBall), so we’re going to break it down for you today.
The Correct Dragon Ball Watch Order:
1. Dragon Ball
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
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:
- Saiyan’s Raditz
- Majin Buu
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
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: Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle
- Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure
- Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone
- Dragon Ball Z: The World’s Strongest
- Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might
- Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug
- Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge
- Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler
- Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13!
- Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan
- Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound
- Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming
- Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly
- Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn
- Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon
- Dragon Ball: The Path to Power
- Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
- Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’
- 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
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 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.