The first series, Dragon Ball, followed our hero Goku as he fought bad guys and gathered up the fabled Dragon Balls. Once together, they could summon a great dragon who would grant one wish. The next series, labeled with a "Z" to represent its ultimate nature, follows Goku as he discovers his origin as an alien originally sent to exterminate all life on earth.
Dragon Ball Z is a pure expression of everything that's great about anime. It's got everything: mystical martial arts ... to sci-fi spaceships and teleportation ... to normal people in modern clothes having comical adventures. Humor, tragedy, conflict, it's all there. It's also some of the worst anime has to offer, with storylines considered padded even by the sluggish standards of the genre, and nonsensical plot twists that make you wonder "did I miss something earlier?"
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