It's hard to deny the cultural impact of Dragon Ball Z, it took both Japan and America by storm and inspired an entire generation of artists and creators. Dragon Ball Z lives in the hearts of '90s kids, finding its way into American pop culture and firmly remaining as a staple since it first premiered. But, nostalgia and re-watches can only do so much, for both Japan and America, and people wanted more. Sure, we got Dragon Ball GT, but that's pretty much hated by everyone, especially Toriyama himself, who had no involvement.
But, there was a new hope in 2014 and 2015, two Dragon Ball Z movies that were said to be canon, a first for the series. Those movies were the base of even better news, a new Dragon Ball series! Dragon Ball Super is now over 120 episodes and counting, pulling in fans for new adventures of Son Goku and friends. There are ways that Super has improved upon Dragon Ball Z, mixing and updating things to great success, but it also has a few shortcomings, things that make it worse than Dragon Ball Z. With that in mind, here's eight reasons that Dragon Ball Super is better than Dragon Ball Z, and seven reasons it's worse.
15 BETTER: BIGGER WORLD
Dragon Ball Z was already a step up from the original Dragon Ball series, taking things in a much more action-heavy, sci-fi direction. Goku learned he was an alien, other aliens showed up, along with androids, a bio-android and the god of gods. As if the scale of things wasn't high enough in Dragon Ball Z, Super took things even further.
We learned about the gods of destruction, then we learned about alternate universes, the super dragon balls and even the omni-king, Zen-Oh, an adorable but powerful deity that resides over all universes. An ever-expanding world is a signature of Dragon Ball and Super has continued to increased the scale of the franchise, introducing wonderfully high-concept ideas and characters. Super has raised the scale of things far more than Z did, bringing things to insane levels.
14 WORSE: ANIMATION
The animation for Dragon Ball Super is, to but it bluntly, pretty bad. Animation is a arduous and difficult process that requires a lot of time and manpower to complete. Who's to say what the reasoning behind Super's less than stellar animation, perhaps a low budget, perhaps time constraints, but we know one thing for sure, Dragon Ball Z had much better animation.
When the show was first announced, fans were excited to see a new Dragon Ball Series with modern animation, a full-length series with the same quality of animation seen in the animated cutscenes of various video game installments. But, they were disappointed to find out that the animation has quite a few shortcomings. However, as the series went on, it found ways to make its limitations work (much like Z did) and there are bursts of amazing animation reserved for the most intense fights/moments.
13 BETTER: CONSISTENT CONTINUITY
Akira Toriyama didn't really plan ahead when writing the Dragon Ball manga, something that actually resulted in some of the best parts of the series. That said, it also resulted in quite a few continuity errors due to him forgetting past events or elements of the story. While fans might love Toriyama's signature writing style, it could definitely benefit from some concrete continuity and attention to detail, something that can be seen in Dragon Ball Super.
Though there are still a few minor slip-ups, the continuity of Dragon Ball Super is pretty dang solid, and you can feel a general sense of planning out from the writing, though there's still some of that signature chaos. We're not sure exactly how the writing process goes for Super, since it's not based on a manga, but we think it's improved upon Dragon Ball Z by having some long-term planning and attention to detail.
12 WORSE: BORING FIGHTS
As exciting as the world of Dragon Ball has gotten with the addition of Super, there's definitely one thing that isn't as exciting: the fights. Now, it's not like the fights are impossible to watch, every battle has its highs and its lows; it's just that the lows can get pretty boring at times, especially in wider shots.
In Dragon Ball Z, nearly every fight was exhilarating; even if it was long, every punch had weight and every ki attack was a flash of intense excitement. Even when things zoomed out a bit and all we would see were invisible, hyperspeed clashes, they wouldn't last long, and destruction to the environment was still exciting. In Super, zoomed out moments like this last far too long and often look liked recycled animation, adding little to the fight besides filler, one of the results of the poor animation.
11 BETTER: CHARACTER MOMENTS
The Dragon Ball fandom tends to be a bit split on the fillers of Dragon Ball Z; some fans love them, some could do without them. Regardless of your opinion, there's one thing to love about the fillers, they provide a lot of great character moments. Dragon Ball Super adds a lot more of these human moments.
These great character moments stem from the good balance between conflict and peace in the series. In the more peaceful moments, there are a lot of quiet episodes that, while they might not have the excitement of an action-packed battle, they still show us how much the characters mean to each other and who they are outside of martial arts and protecting the world. We also get to see Vegeta be a great dad/husband and Piccolo be a uncle/babysitter to Pan, and who doesn't love that?
10 WORSE: DRAWN OUT
This is a problem that both Z and Super have, but the latter is much worse. Though there are times when battles and stories last far too long in Dragon Ball Z, they are still exciting for the most part. For example, Goku and Frieza's fight might have lasted 18 episodes, but it was action-packed and exhilarating from start to finish. While Super's story arcs and battles might actually take up less time than Z's, Super's just feel longer.
Dragon Ball Z was pretty infamous for drawing out battles and sagas, many fans (and haters) even joke that Goku takes multiple episodes to charge up a Kamehameha. But joking (or astute observations) aside, these fights are still exciting and don't feel long. The fights and sagas in Super are definitely interesting, just not all the time, and even the shortest of boring fights and sagas feel long at a lot of points.
9 BETTER: RAISING THE STAKES
Like we already said, one of the greatest things that Super has over Z is the expanded world, and with that expansion comes raised stakes. Instead of Goku fighting warriors that want to take over the planet, warriors that are mortals and have mortal bodies, he's now taking on Gods. Goku fights the god of destruction, Lord Beerus, by becoming a god himself, the kind of stake-raising that Toriyama is loved for, made even better in Dragon Ball Super.
He also takes on a supreme kai in his body in the future Trunks saga. Even when Goku isn't fighting actual gods, he's facing off against alternate universes for the entertainment of gods. In the second instance of this, it is also for the survival of not only himself, but of everyone in his universe in the current the Universal Survival Saga, raising the stakes to their peak.
8 WORSE: NERFED CHARACTERS
Despite the fact that the stakes of battles and sagas are raised higher than they've ever been, the characters seem to have taken a step back in terms of power. Goku can still go Super Saiyan 3, and he's achieved new levels of Super Saiyan, as has Vegeta, but overall it feels like the Z-fighters are weaker.
Perhaps the reason for this is because at the end of Z, the characters were meant to be the most powerful they'll ever get, so in order for there to still be stakes at all, they have to face opponents just as tough as them, making their power perceivably lower. Whatever it is, the fights seem to be less like clashes between forces of nature, and more like the fights seen in the later sagas of the original Dragon Ball, at least at certain points.
7 BETTER: INTERESTING OPPONENTS
Even though the fights in Super can get a bit boring, the opponents are anything but. Sure, Cell was different from Frieza, as was Buu, but they all kind of had the same schtick: transformation-based power ups. Really, all they brought to the table was a high power level. Granted, it resulted in some crazy battles, but it's easy to see how things could have easily grown stale.
Super doesn't have this problem, as the foes that the Z-fighters face are much more interesting. There are the likes of the alternate universe Saiyans, which brought female Super Saiyans to the franchise, as well as most of the tournament of power fighters, nearly all of them brandishing some unique ability that is more than just a high power level. Even the origins and motivations of characters like Goku Black are much more interesting than the villains in Z.
6 WORSE: SIDELINING BUU
At the end of the Buu saga, Majin Buu, who was the innocent version of the alien villain, was given a second chance to be good. It was thanks to Mr. Satan that Buu learned to be a good "person," and even though his childish behavior can lead to destructive tantrums sometimes, he is far from the villains that Kid Buu and Super Buu were. Thus, he continued the Dragon Ball trend of villains becoming allies.
So what's the bad part? Well, Dragon Ball Super has yet to actually utilize the fact that they have access to one of the most powerful beings in the universe. They almost did twice, but both times, Buu was sidelined from fighting. In the tournament against Universe 6, Buu fails the written test, and in the tournament of power, he goes into one of his long-lasting sleeps and cannot compete.
5 BETTER: NO FILLER
Well, perhaps "no filler" isn't the best way to put it, since there are in-between episodes and arcs, but they're canon. The best way to put it is that Dragon Ball Super isn't adapting a manga, so it doesn't have to wait for chapters to come out by filling the time with original content. There are "in between" episodes in Super, but they are considered canon, while the filler of Z is often not.
The filler of Super is far better than Z's as well, since it has the great aforementioned character moments, like Goku getting a ki sickness that forces him to stop using his power for a few days. In this time, he spends more time with his family and settles down a bit, giving us a look into his resting life. That's just one of the many ways that Super has improved upon the filler of Dragon Ball Z.
4 WORSE: GOTEN AND TRUNKS
The youngest Super Saiyans had quite a bit of time in the spotlight in the Majin Buu saga. The two learned fusion so that they could take on Super Buu, thought their power wasn't enough in the end. Despite this, as things moved from Z to Super Goten and Trunks' roles in the franchise were severely diminished. Future Trunks has a role again (we'll get to him), but the two Saiyan kids have yet to do anything interesting in Super.
Sure, they had a small filler arc, but for the most part they are just as sidelined as Buu is. Sure, they're the kids of the main protagonists, but Gohan got a ton of screen time and story focus in Z. So why haven't the other Saiyan kids had as much time in the spotlight? Hopefully after the tournament of power, we might see more of them.
3 BETTER: FUTURE TRUNKS ARC
Though the younger version of Trunks has not received a lot of screen time, his future self got an entire arc focusing on him in Super. Where the android and Cell sagas feature Future Trunks heavily, they were more about the opponents and the training the Z-fighters did to face them. Future Trunks is a fan-favorite character and Super finally gave him his own well-deserved story arc.
In the arc, Trunks goes back in time once again to recruit the help of the Z-fighters, who are dead in his timeline, to save his future from the hands of a villain with Goku's face. The saga is dark and well-written, with some interesting twists and fights that make it one of the best sagas in Super so far. It was so good that the Super version of Future Trunks is arguably better than the Z version.
2 WORSE: REHASHING FILMS
The two "in canon" films were only canon for so long, as Dragon Ball Super came in and replaced them. It did this by re-telling the stories of the films in the canon of the series, with some slight changes and new (lower quality) animation. Though it's nice to know that these films are officially in the canon, the re-hashing of their plots feels a bit lazy.
It might be a first for the franchise to take characters and ideas from movies and introduce them into the main canon, but it could have been done in a better, less lazy way. Akira Toriyama can proudly boast that he never took ideas from movies and put them in the manga. Then again, Toriyama wrote both these films, so it's not exactly a cop out. Regardless, even though the stories are great, there was a better way to bring them into Super.
1 BETTER: HUMOR
The original Dragon Ball series had a lot more comedy than the follow up series. It was the simple adventures of a monkey-tailed boy and his friend searching for magic orbs that could grant them a wish, finding friends along the way. There were also plenty of laughs, gags and goofs, but that changed as the focus moved away from adventures into martial arts and epic battles. This was the overall tone of Dragon Ball Z, and though there was plenty of humor in it, it wasn't as much as its predecessor.
Super improved upon Dragon Ball Z by bringing back some of that signature Toriyama humor. Most of the humor comes from the in-between, character-moment-heavy episodes, Goku's naivety and poor social grace bringing a lot of the laughs. There are some laugh-out-loud moments in Super, giving the series a ton of much-needed breaks between tense stories.