The Dragon Ball Z anime does a great job at remaining faithful to the story and ideas of the original manga. It’s a very accurate adaptation of the manga and is a great way to experience the story. However, that doesn’t mean that every aspect of the manga was perfectly captured. There will be moments where the anime isn’t able to maintain the spirit of the original material. These deviations can range from game-changing to minor insignificant details.
Whatever the case, the fact is these alterations exist in the Dragon Ball Z anime. With so many writers, these additions were inevitable. The most common change is the introduction of filler episodes. These are events exclusive to the anime and never happened in the manga. The main purpose of these filler episodes is to pad out for time and make the series longer. For the most part, the filler episodes don’t add much to the Dragon Ball universe. They are usually comedic but without the writing and expertise of the main author, Akira Toriyama. That has led to many fans disliking the direction of these extra episodes.
Other than that, some other changes were made to fit the new medium. Some things that come across great in written form, won’t be the same in animation. It was up to Toei Animation to re-work the manga into a form that would be suitable for an anime. In this list, we’re going to take a look at some of the changes made to the manga during the animated run of Dragon Ball Z.
In the original manga, Future Trunks is shown to be a Super Saiyan before Gohan’s demise. He can be seen training with Gohan as a Super Saiyan while preparing to fight the Androids. It’s a small change with huge consequences.
The anime special, History of Trunks, changes the timing of the transformation for added dramatic effect. He is unable to transform until he witnesses his mentor’s (Gohan) demise. The surprise and rage at that moment are what cause Trunks to attain the transformation.
The manga version of Goku doesn’t bother fighting Kid Buu in his Super Saiyan 2 form like the anime. He transforms directly into a Super Saiyan 3 without wasting any time.
While this does make the fight shorter, the anime version had a great build-up to it.
It’s part of the Saiyans’ nature to test themselves against their opponents. It makes perfect sense for Goku to try out his Super Saiyan 2 form and see how he matches up against a powerful enemy.
Dragon Ball Z had a special episode about Bardock. It detailed the life of Goku’s father and even gave us a peek at a baby Goku being sent to Earth. It’s a great special that shows the audience how awesome Bardock is as well as clearing up the mystery of Planet Vegeta’s destruction.
This is not the case in the manga, which doesn’t detail as much about Bardock and the Saiyans. There is a flashback about the destruction of the planet, but we don’t get to see Bardock conquering other planets with his friends. Nor do we see Goku being sent to Earth.
Future Gohan is portrayed to be much stronger in the animated special. He is shown to be able to competently fight both Android 17 and 18. He does eventually reach his limit as the two androids destroy his arm and the rest of him soon after.
The manga Future Gohan only gets to fight against Android 17, who also happens be holding back a lot. It’s clear they buffed Future Gohan a bit for a better story. Or they made the androids weaker. Either one works.
Bardock gets to play a major role in Dragon Ball Z in the Father of Goku special episode. This story tells the tale of Bardock gaining the ability to see the future. He realizes that Frieza wants to destroy the planet. However, no one believes Bardock and he’s left alone after his friends perish.
Bardock finally confronts Frieza but is completely outmatched. The confrontation ends with the destruction of Planet Vegeta. Bardock as a character receives an important role in the story. It’s a huge step up from the manga where he is barely mentioned at all.
The Dragon Ball anime added in fillers to pad out the story. One of those fillers is the Garlic Junior arc which takes place after the Frieza Saga but before Future Trunks arrives.
Garlic Junior was originally the villain of the first Dragon Ball Z movie, Dead Zone.
This arc wasn’t that great and just a waste of time. It’s good that Dragon Ball Kai cut out this filler arc. Garlic Junior isn’t a very impressive villain. His gimmick is that he’s immortal and has to be sealed away in the Dead Zone. It’s a boring bunch of episodes that you should probably skip.
Videl figured out the secret identity of the Great Saiyaman almost instantly in the manga. She then tricked Gohan into revealing himself just to make sure that her hunch was correct. All of this based on an injury she saw the Great Saiyaman receive.
In the anime, it takes much longer for her to figure it out. Once she does, Videl uses the information as blackmail to force Gohan to enter the World Martial Arts Tournament. It seems that Videl had a sharper mind in the manga when compared to the anime.
Normally, villains aren’t supposed to retain their body in the Otherworld after perishing. That’s been a proven fact from the manga and even earlier episodes of the anime. However, the anime does end up changing this fact with a filler scene during the fight against Kid Buu.
This scene shows Frieza, Cell, and many of Goku’s villains watching the fight. They all seem to be quite annoyed at the fact that Goku has managed to win again. Funnily enough, Babidi seemed quite happy at Buu’s defeat. Regardless, such a scene should not be possible and didn’t exist in the manga.
The manga version of Vegito wasted no time and transformed into a Super Saiyan right after fusing. He didn’t spend as much time taunting Super Buu and got to business almost right away. The anime Vegito seems to be more of a jokester and plays around with Buu in his base form at first.
From the fight, it seems that even Base Vegito would have been enough to deal with Super Buu. However, the fight quickly turned into a one-sided victory for Vegito as he crushes Buu with ease. If it wasn’t for the others trapped inside Buu, Vegito would’ve ended the fight in a few seconds.
One of the funniest filler episodes from Dragon Ball Z would be the one where Goku and Piccolo try to get a driver's license. Chi-Chi is angry at the pair for being “useless” and forces them to drive cars. Absolute chaos ensues as their competitive streak shows up again causing Goku and Piccolo to race through the city.
This never happened in the manga as there wasn’t time for any filler content.
The manga was more focused on plot progression. The original run of the anime filled in some of the gaps between events with original stories. They don’t always pay off but in this case, it did.
Remember when Goku turns into a Super Saiyan 3 in front of Goten and Trunks? Yeah, another new scene that the anime invented which wasn’t in the manga. It’s possible the anime was trying to explain how Gotenks would eventually become a Super Saiyan 3. It makes sense for Goten and Trunks to experience the transformation once.
The manga doesn’t show this particular event. It’s not a big issue in the overall plot. However, the scene was a good addition as it does give some incentive for Gotenks to become a Super Saiyan 3. It’s still strange he manages to do it, but at least this time he has some idea of what his goal is.
The start of the Majin Buu arc involves Goku’s adventures in Other World. This includes an Otherworld Tournament where deceased people from all over the universe are competing for glory.
And a martial arts lesson from the Grand Kai.
This entire section of the anime is filler and non-existent in the manga. In that version, the Majin Buu saga starts with the Great Saiyaman storyline. However, the Otherworld Tournament does give us a cool fight between Goku and Pikkon. Also, Pikkon is pretty cool and should’ve made a comeback in Dragon Ball Super.
This is the main difference between the Dragon Ball anime and manga. The anime added in plenty of filler episodes, ranging from comedic to totally brand new arcs like the Garlic Junior episodes. As a whole, the fillers tend to be disliked by the community as they drag out the show and add unnecessary events and complications.
The fillers are also done by different writers, so it’s difficult to maintain a solid level of consistency and continuity. Some plot holes and characterization issues arise every now and then. When you notice something funny, it’s fair to assume that you’re watching a filler.
Vegeta surprises everyone with his Super Saiyan transformation. In the anime, this is dramatized. He says he went to space and trained against falling asteroids. It was during this moment he had a huge realization about his weaknesses and let loose the rage of a Super Saiyan.
This neat little backstory didn’t exist in the manga. It’s assumed that he achieved the form through some form of training but it was never specified. In some cases, the changes made by the anime can be good as they add a bit more spice or detail where it was previously lacking.
During the Saiyan history lesson from King Kai (and others), we learn about the Tuffles. They were another race who lived alongside Saiyans on Planet Vegeta (it was then called Planet Plant). They were a technologically advanced race while the Saiyans were still primitive.
The Saiyans, with their raw strength, defeated the Tuffles and took their tech.
That’s how the primitive Saiyan race managed to get their hands on spaceships and the special healing tanks. The Tuffles are never mentioned in the Manga. However, in the anime, they will continue to play a big role. Baby from Dragon Ball GT is a Tuffle creation designed to take revenge against the Saiyans and re-build the Tuffle race. By using humans instead. Genius!
In the anime, Future Trunks is already one of the few characters who actually gets stuff done without waffling on about pride and strength. Despite being a Saiyan, he is more eager to finish the job than letting things drag out. In the manga, this trait is further enhanced.
He wastes no time with dispatching Frieza and King Cold in the manga. No conversations or banter. He rips into the duo straight away and saves the Earth from destruction. If only the others were as practical as Trunks. It would save the Z-Fighters a lot of trouble.
Speaking of Saiyan pride, Gohan is a great example. He had the chance to demolish Super Buu quickly and efficiently. Instead, he spent his time playing with his prey and making fun of him. Eventually, Super Buu absorbs Gotenks and the real fight begins.
Gohan gets stomped in the anime, but that doesn’t capture the true gap in power. In the manga, the difference between Buu and Gohan is better shown. You can actually feel just how strong Super Buu has become. The fight becomes a one-sided slaughter where Gohan barely survives. Only to be absorbed shortly afterward.
Piccolo has saved Gohan countless times, but there was a time he saved Goku as well. In the anime, Frieza was originally going to shoot at Goku. But Piccolo was there to push the Saiyan aside and take the blow himself.
This wasn’t the case in the original manga. Here, Frieza was aiming for Piccolo from the start. Sadly, no one was able to jump in for the poor Namekian, leading to his defeat. The change in the anime does add to the tension which ultimately leads to Goku’s transformation. But the original was fine and there was no need to change it.
The anime tones down quite a bit of the gore in the manga. The restrictions for TV shows are much stricter so there were certain scenes that had to be changed. Like Guldo getting his head sliced off by Vegeta.
In the manga, this scene is quite gory and has a lot of blood.
The anime tones down the graphic nature of the scene by a lot. He still goes flying off, but there’s less visuals involved. We also don’t see Vegeta explicitly using his hand to take off a part of Guldo.
This is easily the weirdest entry on the list. Some characters have different numbers of fingers. For example, Kid Buu only has a thumb and two fingers in the manga. However, in the anime, he has a regular set of 4 fingers and a thumb. It’s a very strange change to make.
One possible reason could be restrictions regarding the depiction of humanoid characters in TV shows. Since Dragon Ball Z was from a stricter time, it’s possible they were required to give all humanoid characters five fingers. Regardless, this is a small difference and will most likely go unnoticed when casually watching the show.
It’s no secret that fights in Dragon Ball Z are much longer than their manga counterparts. The main reason would be to give a sense of spectacle and epicness to the battles. In some cases, it works out great. Seeing Piccolo Vs. Android 17 in motion is awesome. However, there are some negatives.
Some fights can drag on for too long and lose some of their luster. They add filler scenes to the fight and have a lot of talking. At times, it can take you out of the action and ruin what should be an exciting moment in the show. A shame that every fight wasn’t done right.
In the manga, Gohan is never shown to become a Super Saiyan 2 while training with Gohan. The anime adds in this extra bit of foreshadowing by hinting at Gohan’s hidden powers. However, it wasn’t really needed.
At this point, we’ve seen Gohan’s rage boosts many times. We know that he has a huge level of power waiting to be unlocked. There’s no need to further hint that the battle with Cell will be going down a familiar road for the show.
The anime added many extra fights, including one inside of Super Buu. While Goku and Vegeta are trying to free their friends and family, they meet a miniature Super Buu. It’s the last obstacle as the Saiyans attempt to escape his body.
It’s a decent fight but not required.
All it does is drag out the arc and delay the inevitable final battle. In the manga, it’s a simple event. Vegeta simply rips out Fat Buu from inside Super Buu and they proceed to escape.
Not a single movie is based off any relevant manga material. All of them are new and original content made specifically to build off the popularity of the anime. Which explains the lack of quality when it comes to the Dragon Ball Z movies.
However, all of that is about to change. Akira Toriyama is heavily involved in the Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie. It’s going to be the first movie to be a part of the canon (and hopefully stay that way). The manga for Dragon Ball Super will even continue after the events of this movie.
One of the worst offenders when it comes to manga to anime transition. They turned an emotionally resonant moment into a drawn out and slightly boring segment. The original fight was a decent length, but it was all about the fight.
The anime version added a lot of filler like Gohan coming back to fight Frieza. Or Vegeta witnessing Goku in his Super Saiyan form. None of it is relevant and shouldn’t have been added. To top it all of, there are the infamous five minutes which seems to last an eternity.