Dragon Ball is a long and storied series. Over the years, it has told many tales with many characters. These story arcs have become some of the most iconic in all of anime, and they have transformed how anime stories are structured. But the question is: which one is the best?
This is not gospel, of course. Which of Dragon Ball’s story arcs is the best one is entirely up to the individual viewer. Feel free to let me know which one you think is best in the comments below!
Between all four anime series attached to the Dragon Ball name, those being ‘Dragon Ball‘, ‘Dragon Ball Z‘, ‘Dragon Ball GT‘, and ‘Dragon Ball Super‘, there are many stories and many characters. While each one does connect and lead into one another (save GT and Super), they do work as stand-alone stories. These arcs are:
- The Pilaf Saga
- Goku’s First World Tournament
- The Red Ribbon Army Saga
- Goku’s Second World Tournament
- The King Piccolo Saga
- Goku’s Third World Tournament
- The Saiyan Saga
- The Namek/Freeza Saga
- The Android/Cell Saga
- The Buu Saga
- The Baby Saga
- The Super 17 Saga
- The Dark Dragons Arc
- The Battle of Gods Arc
- The Resurrection F Arc
- The Universe 6 Tournament
- The Goku Black Arc
- The Tournament of Power
I’d include Broly, but that’s technically movie. So I can’t do that. As much as I’d love to.
We’re going to go from my least favorite arc to my absolute favorite. Where they place will depend entirely on how well they fit my personal criteria. These criteria being:
- Story: is the story clear, well-paced, and compelling? Is the ending satisfying? Does it lead into the following arc well?
- Character: are the characters, new or otherwise, well written and interesting?
- Action: the simplest criteria; are the fight scenes good?
With all that in mind, let’s start with the worst Dragon Ball arc of all time:
The Resurrection F Arc: ugh…
Be honest. You thought the GT arcs were going to sit at the bottom, didn’t you?
Resurrection F as a movie was decent. The first half was excellent, though the second half suffered from a lack of tension or narrative weight. Unfortunately, the anime series didn’t do it any better. In fact, it did even worse.
The new characters introduced in this arc are some of the worst in Dragon Ball. They don’t do anything, die quickly, and don’t impact the story in any good way. The new transformations are even worse, lacking any weight that the prior transformations in the series had. The action was absolute dog shit, thanks in no small part to the absolutely terrible animation. Worst of all: it didn’t do anything to lead into the next arc.
Resurrection F is easily the worst arc in the series. It failed on basically every level. It single handedly killed Super for me. If not for a friend I had in high school, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this. Most of the same can be said for the next arc:
The Super 17 Arc: Such a Waste of Time That I Don’t Even Have a Bad Joke For This Segment’s Title
This one only just edges out over Resurrection F.
Everything in this arc is a complete fucking mess. No character undergoes any meaningful development. The action is absolute dog shit, featuring some of the worst action scenes in the entire franchise. Worse yet: the events have nothing to do with the arc that came before or after it. If you skipped this arc, you would miss absolutely nothing.
So why is this one above the Resurrection F arc? Well, the answer is quite simple. This arc didn’t ruin a fairly decent movie. That is all. Moving on.
The Battle of Gods Arc: A Stain on a Wonderful Movie
Battle of Gods was, before Broly became canon, the best Dragon Ball movie we’d ever gotten. It had a very simple and incredible story, introduced some of the best characters in the series, those being Whis and Beerus, gave us a cool new transformation for Goku in Super Saiyan God, and had some truly incredible action. The events opened the story up for further exploration, which led to the the Resurrection F arc.
Shame the TV version dropped the ball.
While the TV run of Battle of Gods did capture the magic of the Super Saiyan God transformation and the characters of Beerus and Whis (even if they aren’t quite as strong as they were in the film version), it didn’t manage to capture the film’s perfect action and pacing. Watching it was an absolute slog from beginning to end.
Just watch the movie. It is far better in every regard.
The Baby Arc: if I’m being honest, its entirely because Super Saiyan 4 looks cool
Holy shit does this one drag! The just goes on and on before the main antagonist is even introduced! And when he is, the story goes from simple and boring to convoluted and frustrating! Baby’s origin story is an absolute mess, and his personality is only matched by his design.
Luckily, the arc is made up for via the decent action, as well as the impact of the Super Saiyan 4 transformation. While Goku getting his tail back is stupid, the actual transformation itself is pretty awesome! It has some great visuals, especially with the Great Ape and the Earth.
Shame Majin Uub didn’t have the same impact.
The Dark Dragons Arc: A Dropped Ball Incarnate
This could have been one of the best arcs of all of Dragon Ball. The concept of the Dragon Balls transforming into the heroes final challenge is incredible! Plus, it gave us Nova Shenron, the single strongest character in all of GT! We even got the first canon (remember when GT was canon?) appearance of Gogeta.
Even if it was… y’know. Shit.]
This amazing premise flops incredibly. The story has horrendous pacing, blasting through events far too quickly before grinding to a crawl near the end. None of the Dragons, save the aforementioned Nova, have exceptionally good characters. And the action is really bad.
But to give credit where its due: it gave us the ending of GT. Which is the best ending the series has ever gotten. Fight me.
The Goku Black Arc: Almost SUBARASHI!!
Ho boy. Is this one fucking messy!
The story telling on display in this arc is incredibly up and down. At its best, it delivers some of Super’s best moments, such as Goku Black’s introduction, Zamasu’s introduction and turn to evil, Beerus destroying him, the return of Vegito, and so on. It features some solid action, even if most of it is forgettable at best. Zamasu and Black, while predictable and cliche, were decent characters that improved the arc immensely. Plus, Future Trunks is always a win.
Unfortunately, the story is a complete mess from beginning to end. The ending is an absolute disaster, easily one of the worst in all of Dragon Ball. It does nothing to build into the next arc, and does very little to build from the arc that came before it. No character undergoes any meaningful growth except for Zamasu, and the only one that does, Trunks, simply repeats the same arc that he underwent in the original.
But hey! At least we got the golden line “This man is not Black!” in the dub. That alone makes it all worth it.
TL;DR: this arc is a mess with some decent moments in it. The exact same of which can be said for every arc in Super. Including…
The Universe 6 Tournament: Not Quite Time to Make the Donuts
This was the first decent arc of Super. Yes, the action was still pretty bad, there was little tension, and most of the new characters were shit. But the pacing was pretty strong, and the few good characters were really good! Sure, it was disconnected entirely from the arc before it. But its events did sort of lead to the Goku Black arc.
Courtesy of everyone’s favorite divine service: GodTube. Which may be one of the best and worst things to ever happen in Dragon Ball. Its quite magical, isn’t it?
Hit and Cabba, along with Frost to a much smaller degree, were some of the best Super ever got. Hit gave us some of the best fights (and one of the best Fighterz characters), including the Kaoiken-Blue form (which was cool for that one fight and never again) and Cabba gave Vegeta some incredible moments of growth. They both made the show significantly better.
Plus, Frost made for some decent moments. Especially later on, when he got to play with Freeza. Which leads us to…
The Tournament of Power: KA KA KA KA KACHIDAZE…
While I do think that this is the peak of Super, I also believe that it is highly flawed. Jiren as an antagonist is boring at best, aggravating at worst. Most characters introduced in this arc are either forgettable or annoying, with only a spare few being genuinely good (Caulifla and Kale being the only ones I can actually remember). But the number of hype and iconic moments on display here are just so good!
Android 17, while him being as strong as he is doesn’t make sense, gets some incredible moments throughout the arc! Freeza is absolute gold here (HA HA FUCKING HA), Vegeta is as great as ever, Android 18 and Krillin get some great scenes (mostly 18), Roshi gets some of the best scenes in the arc, Gohan and Piccolo do some decently cool stuff, and Tien… gets completely shafted.
There is just no respect for my three eyed buddy.
Now, when I say I like this arc, I mostly do so for two reasons. The first is the music. ‘Ultimate Battle’ alone would make this the best music in all of Dragon Ball (fight me), but then we got ‘Limit Breaker X Survivor) for the opening and a myriad of other great tracks! Listening to this arc alone is hype as hell!
The second is Goku’s latest transformation: Ultra Instinct. I am of the opinion that this is easily the coolest form in the whole series. It had been built up to since the beginning of Super, and its paid off masterfully. The moment it was introduced, I was retroactively much more okay with the rest of the show.
*Side note: the Goku/Freeza/A17 VS Jiren fight at the very end is one of the best in Dragon Ball. If you disagree, you are objectively wrong.
If this arc had better pacing and a better villain, it would be on the higher side of this list. Unfortunately, its weak antagonist, poor pacing, and mostly lackluster cast drag it down very heavily. Its the best of Super, and therefor the best of today’s portion of the list. But its far from great.
Now that we’ve gotten through the riffraff, we can get to all the good stuff! I get to ramble for way too long about the Saiyan, Freeza and Cell sagas, along with all the World Tournaments! Unfortunately, that’ll all have to wait until next week.
I hope to see you then. I also hope that you’re not mad about my opinions put on display here. But I’m sure you’ll let me know one way or the other.
I’d ask you to be gentle, but I haven’t felt anything in years. If anything, I’d ask you to be especially brutal.