Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular anime series of all time. The original Dragon Ball manga is the second best-selling comic series of all time in Japan, with over two-hundred and forty million copies sold. The series continued on in the form of video games when the Dragon Ball Z anime concluded, before eventually being revived in a series of new films and Dragon Ball Super.
It must have been very tempting for production companies in North America to try and bring Dragon Ball Z to the west, in the hopes that it would find the same success that it had its homeland. The success of Pokémon prompted some ill-advised attempts at turning Dragon Ball Z into a cartoon that could be shown to kids in America.
It must have been a tough job to cover up the objectionable material in the Dragon Ball franchise. Dragon Ball Z opens up with the main character being murdered, while Dragon Ball features a lot of inappropriate behavior involving kids. This meant that the series had to undergo some of the harshest and most ridiculous censorship in the history of television.
We are here today to look at the numerous ways in which the Dragon Ball Z franchise has had to be censored outside of Japan.
From the many changes to Goku’s original death scene to the dub that brought the wild west to Dragon Ball Z, here are the 15 Things That Needed To Be Censored In Dragon Ball Z!
15. Goku’s First Death
The English dub of Dragon Ball Z that helped put the series on the map was performed by the Ocean Group. They were given the difficult task of introducing the English-speaking world to Dragon Ball Z whilst skipping the original Dragon Ball.
Goku is killed within the first few episodes of Dragon Ball Z, as he sacrifices his life so that Piccolo can use his Special Beam Cannon to kill Raditz. This involves a hole being blasted right through the two Saiyans in a grisly fashion.
The death of Goku has been censored numerous times throughout the history of the series. The original English dub didn’t show the hole being blasted through Goku and removed most of the blood from the scene. The Dragon Ball Z video games have also censored this scene in the same way on many occasions, as did Dragon Ball Kai.
14. Yamcha & Piccolo’s Biodegradable Corpses
One of the most infamous changes made in the Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z was turning the concept of death into being sent to “Another Dimension.” Every attack in the series involved teleporting the victim to another reality.
This idea was dropped in later dubs, though the characters still used every euphemism possible for death, rather than outright saying that someone had died.
The “Another Dimension” concept gave the dubbers an excuse to remove the corpses from the show, with the explanation that the body was traveling to its new destination. This was the explanation given for Goku’s corpse fading away after his death. The same thing happened to Piccolo’s body when he died fighting Nappa.
13. Swords Into Sticks
Swords are a common sight in video games. The appearance of a bladed weapon doesn’t usually cause any concern on its own, but rather the bloodshed that it can commit. This is also true for a lot of kids cartoons, with numerous famous characters wielding swords in battle.
Dragon Ball Fusions might have the strangest case of video game censorship of all time. This is because all of the swords in the North American version of the game were turned into sticks. Characters like Future Trunks and Tapion now wielded deadly tree branches in battle.
What makes this censorship even more baffling is that Dragon Ball Fusions had a Teen rating, which means that swords should be more than appropriate for the age group. The relatively strict original English dubs of Dragon Ball Z never removed Future Trunk’s sword, so why did Dragon Ball Fusions?
12. Bulma’s Trigger Finger
Firearms have never been effective weapons against the Z-Fighters or their opponents. The series wouldn’t have been as fun if Goku took out King Piccolo of Frieza by popping a cap in them.
The regular army would sometimes take a shot at the villains during the filler episodes of the anime, but they couldn’t even scratch the likes of Nappa or the Androids.
Dragon Ball established from the very beginning that guns wouldn’t work on the martial artists of the setting. We know this because Bulma pulls out a gun and shoots Goku, which results in the bullet bouncing off of him.
11. Gohan’s New Head
The “Rock the Dragon” opening of the Dragon Ball Z anime is a case of blatant false advertising over the content of the series. This is because almost all of the footage shown during this intro comes from the Dragon Ball Z movies and never actually happens during the show.
One of these movie scenes shows Gohan transforming into his Great Ape form. This scene actually comes from Dragon Ball Z: Tree of Might, as Turles holds Gohan’s face and makes him look up into the sky.
It seems that the idea of a grown man holding a child’s face in a forceful way was considered too much, as the original English dub of the movie changed things in an incredibly stupid way.
10. Goku’s Quest For The Balls
There are several scenes involving Goku in the Dragon Ball anime that would be considered inappropriate for western audiences. These include the numerous scenes where he appears without any clothing on, which had to be censored over when the Dragon Ball anime was finally dubbed into English.
The reason these scenes exist is due to Japanese culture considering clothless children to be a symbol of innocence and naivety about society, which makes sense in Goku’s case, considering that he grew up in an isolated environment.
Goku had never met a female until he met Bulma, which meant that he was totally unaware of the differences between men and women. This resulted in a scene where Goku removed Bulma’s underwear and is shocked to discover that she doesn’t have male genitalia. This was (unsurprisingly) removed from the English dub of the series.
9. Jeice’s Aussie Insults
It’s common for different regional accents to be used in anime productions, even if it doesn’t make sense for the person in question to have the accent. We have seen numerous examples of demons, aliens, and extradimensional beings using mixed accents from our world.
Dragon Ball Z was no different in this regard. Jeice was an alien from a faraway galaxy, yet he spoke with a Liverpudlian accent in the Ocean dub and an Australian accent in the later dubs.
It might be due to Jeice’s Australian accent that he was allowed to use “wanker” as an insult in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi. This is considered to be a swear word in Britain and Australia, which is why the word was cut out of Jeice’s introduction in the sequel to the game.
8. Nam Received A Race Lift
Dragon Ball Z has been censored on a few occasions due to concerns over character designs being racist. Mr. Popo was turned blue in certain dubs of the show, due to the belief that his design was inspired by the “blackface” stereotype.
It seems that there were fears over Nam’s design being offensive in one of the Dragon Ball video games. Nam had a dark skin tone and wore a mixture of ceremonial Indian garb and clothes worn by Buhdisst monks. He was actually one of the strongest fighters during the early parts of Dragon Ball, yet he was shown as being clueless about the concept of water being free.
7. Guldo’s Death Was Censored Twice
Guldo’s death at the hands of Vegeta was censored in the original English dub of Dragon Ball Z. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering that the scene was already censored in the process of adapting the show from the manga.
In the Dragon Ball manga, Vegeta killed Guldo by tearing his head off with a strike, which left a stream of viscera behind. This was considered to be too violent, so it was changed in the anime to Vegeta cutting Guldo’s head off with a blast of energy.
In the English dub of Dragon Ball Z, Guldo’s head was kept on his body by shoddily painting it on in the edit. This death is important, as it was last time anyone was said to have gone to “Another Dimension.”
6. The Stars Of Censoring
Dragon Ball Z is a series with a lot of punches and kicks. Indeed, punching and kicking are what the series is all about.
This put the people at the Ocean Group in a bit of a pickle, as they had grown concerned that they would get into trouble for showing characters being directly punched in the face. Blocking melee attacks was fine, so long as the hit didn’t connect.
In order to stop direct hits from being shown, the Ocean dub put large obnoxious stars over the scenes where characters hit each other, to stop the moment of contact from being shown.
Dragon Ball Z wasn’t the only show that did this, as cartoons like Justice League Unlimited also used white flashes when a hit connected, in order to prevent showing the actual moment a blow was struck.
5. General Blue’s Long Lost Brother Defense
Akira Toriyama’s most popular non-video game related work outside of Dragon Ball Z is an earlier manga he created called Dr. Slump. It seems that Toriyama was still very fond of his work on Dr. Slump while creating Dragon Ball, as he established that the two series existed in the same world.
It’s surprising that Akira Toriyama would allow the anime to hint that one of the characters in Dragon Ball wanted to molest a character from Dr. Slump.
When General Blue travels to Penguin Village, his car breaks down, which prompts the arrival of Obotchaman, who is a robot that resembles a young boy. General Blue makes it clear that he is attracted to Obotchaman and almost tries to kiss him. General Blue asks Obotchaman out to dinner and even promises to buy him clothes before Obotchaman leaves.
4. Tien’s Regeneration
The Saiyan Saga is one of the darkest story arcs in Dragon Ball Z. Nappa is responsible for the deaths of several members of the Z-Fighters, even though they do little damage to him in response. Nappa also murders innocent civilians, journalists, and soldiers in the filler episodes of the anime.
It was up to the Ocean Group to tone down the severity of Nappa’s actions, which was helped by the “Another Dimension” concept.
One of the strangest attempts at toning down the violence of the Saiyan Saga involved Nappa’s attack on Tien that tore off his arm. Tien almost immediately says that his arm will grow back, which wasn’t present in the original Japanese version of the episode.
3. Cargo’s Escape
The Saiyan Saga was brutal, but it didn’t show the death of any children. All of the characters who perished during the fight against Nappa were adults, even though Chiaotzu could be mistaken for a child.
The same cannot be said for the Namek Saga, as we see Namekian children being brutally murdered by Frieza’s men. One of these was Cargo, who is the brother of Dende.
Cargo was killed by Frieza in the Dragon Ball manga and Dodoria in the anime. The audience is then shown an image of his still-smoking corpse. Cargo would later be revived by the Dragon Balls.
Cargo’s death was totally censored in the Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z. His death is not shown, with Krillin commenting that he dodged Dodoria’s attack. Dodoria later comments that Cargo managed to escape from him.
2. Oolong’s Incredibly Comfortable Underwear
The early chapters of Dragon Ball were far more sexualized than the later parts of the story. As time went on, the story shifted to buff men and the earlier obsession with female fanservice was all but forgotten, save for a few rare cases (like Maron).
The obsession with the underwear of underage girls presented a problem for the English localizers of Dragon Ball. They often had to tone down or remove references to the perverted behavior of certain characters, such as Oolong or Master Roshi.
One of the things that couldn’t be changed was Oolong’s wish (the first of the series) where he interrupted Pilaf by asking for a pair of panties. The dub changed his wish so that he now asked for a pair of the most comfortable underwear in the world.
1. The Three-Eyed Cowboy
The death of Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z had its tone totally changed in the Ocean dub. In the original Japanese version of the episode, he willingly sacrificed his life, even though he was aware that Shenron couldn’t bring him back a second time. The dub changed Chiaotzu’s dialogue in a way that suggests that he can come back.
Tien’s response to Chiaotzu’s death was radically different in the first English dub of the show. Tien originally apologized for failing to protect Chiaotzu, before sacrificing his life with a Tri-Beam attack that fails to work.
In the Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z, the pathos of Tien mourning his friend’s death is replaced with some bizarre references to the wild west. Tien prepares for his final attack by saying “Looks like I’m back in the saddle, what luck, this three-eyed cowboy is going for ONE LAST RIDE!”
Tien must be a bigger Clint Eastwood fan than he ever let on in the show.
Can you think of any other times that scenes from Dragon Ball Z were censored? Sound off in the comments!
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