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Differences Between Dragon Ball Z USA and Dragon Ball Z Japanese Version

Differences Between Dragon Ball Z USA and Dragon Ball Z Japanese Version

Differences Between Dragon Ball Z USA and Dragon Ball Z Japanese Version

Many anime series reach mainstream audiences and achieve unexpected success, but the popularity of Dragon Ball Z is something of another level. This entertaining series is one of the most popular anime series ever, and if that wasn't enough, it played an essential role in how anime reached America.

This anime helped start the trend of anime dubbing in the 1990s. It also played a significant role within the industry. Even so, it doesn't mean that when it began, it was the best thing ever. For example, the dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z has an ambivalent reputation, and it is easy to see that when the English version got a bit more airtime, the quality changed a lot.

That is why today, we will show you some differences between the original version and the Dragon Ball Z dub version.


The USA version deleted and edited episodes

We think the most significant change in the Dragon Ball Z English version is that earlier episodes have been edited and spliced to speed up the story and avoid conflicting storylines. The first 67 episodes of Dragon Ball Z were compressed into 53 episodes, which naturally eliminated lots of content, whether it was considered "important" or not. This is where Gohan's early adventures are the most affected, which thankfully, the reworked episodes and the release of Dragon Ball Z Kai permitted Funimation's dub to clean up. 


References to death have been removed, and crude violence was censored

Dragon Ball hasn't been the only victim of this type of censure. Lots of other anime have suffered the same fate in their dubbed versions.

In this case, the first DBZ episodes before the Funimation studio took over the reins from Saban are harsh in terms of changes and censorship. This was mainly because of how the action is presented in a children's show. It is known that Goku's Road to Hell was changed to HFIL, Home for Infinite Losers. (A silly name, if you ask us. It was a change that didn't make any sense since the only "bad" word was hell).

Fortunately, the voiceover slowly allows for more violence, even when previous sagas omit the mention of death altogether, and instead, they use the euphemism "Another Dimension." Footage of any physical violence and gore will also be edited to cover the more brutal scenes.


There's a new soundtrack

Anime generally no longer alters the music of the series, and the intentions of the original project are respected by leaving such crucial aesthetic elements untouched. However, licensing original anime music costs money, and in the days when anime dubbing was in its infancy, sometimes it was more profitable to compose entirely new soundtracks.

The dubbing of Dragon Ball Z saw various talents experimenting with this. Most would agree that the original music and soundtrack of Dragon Ball Z is hard to resemble, but Funimation's work with Faulconer gained more fondness over time.


Apparently, and according to Vegeta, Goku's father is a scientist

Let's face it. No one knew how popular DBZ would become, especially in America. Because of that, sometimes the translation wasn't the best, and the characters would say any meaningless thing just so it could fit the character's mouth movement.

The thing is, carelessly thrown dialogues could have contradicted later storylines and character traits. An example of this is Goku's first fight with Vegeta. He creates an artificial energy moon that lets him transform into an ape. He claims this is a trick invented by Goku's father, a scientist. This was a lie since the series reveals that Goku's father, Bardock, was the scum of the earth to Vegeta.

It's an especially funny fact, and the fans now remember it as some kind of internal joke.


Changing the physics

DBZ is full of practical attacks whose composition has been changed and looks harmless but are much more significant. One of Goku's most remarkable powers is the Instant Transmission technique. This technique allows him to transfer himself into another person's energy signal. In the Dragon Ball Z dub, Goku is said to move at the speed of light through instantaneous transfer. Even so, the Japanese version treats Goku's abilities quite differently, as speed doesn't matter. It says that he does not move that fast but is literally teleported to a location. Then, what is the truth? We believe this doesn't change the plot that much, but c'mon, what was the necessity to make these sudden changes? Was it a bad translation? We're glad that today, these types of mistakes don't happen as frequently.


The names of some characters have changed

One of the most understandable changes in anime dubbing is the slight change in character names. Cultural differences between languages play a big part in this, and in the Dragon Ball Z sequel, the names of these dubbed characters have become much more specific. In the Spanish dub, they had to change Chi-Chi's name. The reason behind this was that the literal translation was "boob." So it's not weird for dub versions to change the name of their characters.

It happened in the English version too. For some characters, such as Tien and Krillin, the changes are more clumsy and superficial. However, there are other, more deliberate changes. One of the most mocked ones is that Mr. Satan DBZ was changed to Hercule. Again, this was probably because of censure, but it almost borders on the ridiculous.


Nudity is censored

Some of the dub changes may seem completely unjustified, but nudity, for example, is acceptable, especially considering that American and Japanese television use different classifications and customs. Moments like those are rare, but DBZ does have some minor nude characters, such as Gohan after his transformation into an ape. Some examples where the character's body is hidden due to censorship are actually original and require a significant amount of digital color to make the changes noticeable.

It was a significant change, but believe us, nobody complained about not seeing naked kid Gohan. We think this type of change is irrelevant if you compare it to others in the list that literally change the entire plot.


Androids have different origins

It's easy to be confused with so many things changed, leaving some fans deeply disappointed. Discussing any differences between cyborgs and androids may seem pretentious, but Dragon Ball Z decides to. The Japanese version tells us that Dr. Gero kidnaps people, experiments on them, and transforms them. The English version takes a different approach, with Gero saying they are entirely artificial, causing controversy later in the anime.


Replacing the theme song

Replacing the background music of an animated series is an option. Even so, it's not that common. There is some respect for the opening and closing music of a series. It is often treated as a summary of the anime's content and plays an important role in setting the tone. Dragon Ball Z's dub of the infamous rock number "Rock the Dragon" is ambitiously edited, but it pales in comparison to the anime's original opening song. There is something great about singing "CHA-LA HEAD CHA-LA" from the top of your lungs, and it's a shame that this was changed.

The anime changes this mistake as time goes on, but some title scenes keep being awkward.


The names of the attacks are reinterpreted

DBZ has many strong attacks, and we know them for the weird names some of them have. Some of them can be especially long, but we are used to it now. The thing is, many attacks were shortened in the early dubbed versions. Maybe it was to make it easier for the fans to remember them, but it didn't work in the long term.

For example, Piccolo's Makankosappo, which translates directly as "Demon Impaling Light Killing Gun," was not used in the series' tame dubbing because it was too strong a name. The sound of Special Beam Cannon is now the norm, but it does not change that it is completely random. Changes like this were expected, but the editing of the first Dragon Ball Z dubbing was very poor. Vegeta's Galick Gun was called "garlic gun" to better fit the name of the strange food used by many characters. Still, fans that knew what the original name was were baffled. (And they made Dragon Ball Z art mocking this).


As you can see, lots of things can change when adapting an anime to another language. Because of differences in culture, today anime fans consider this normal. Still, times have changed, and anime is a more developed industry than twenty years ago.

There are fan dubs and official dubs, and most of the time, the actors give the best of themselves to accurately depict the character's voice. It's also the case for the dialogue: sometimes the dialogues have original Japanese words if the literal translation sounds weird. We hope this compilation of ten differences between these two versions of Dragon Ball Z has been of your liking. 



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