Dragon Ball Z, the series that made groaning and big spikey hair a part of every character’s power up routine. With power that is on a universal scale, the fights in DBZ were some of the most epic in all of anime. I still remember seeing Goku vs Vegeta for the first time and their epic energy beam struggle that set the tone for the series. There have been many an anime that have tried to duplicate tropes from the classic series, but few that did so in their own unique way. The following are the best anime series that are in many ways similar to Dragon Ball Z.
In a series where Soul Reapers keep the peace by dispensing of humans that have turned into Hollows, this may not sound entirely DBZ like. But if you look at Ichigo Kurosaki and the various transformations he goes through throughout the series, then this would be like Goku and his training and powering up over the years. It turns out, that other characters in Bleach can tap into their Bankai which releases hidden power from their Zanpakuto’s, giving them a SSJ like boost in their abilities. The characters range from quirky to serious and each have their signature attacks that they call out much like in DBZ.
Bleach is one series with plenty of filler episodes much like DBZ, but the ones that aren’t are some of the most action packed, character centered ones around.
A show about a would be ninja with a hidden power inside him whose dream is to become the Hokage so that he finally gets respect from his fellow shinobi and Leaf Villagers is my number four pick. Like DBZ, Naruto and his friends train while not on missions to further improve themselves. Unlike DBZ, the more complex, emotional side of each character. In other words, just about every main character cries at some point in the show, although when Might Guy does, it’s more tears of joy for the joy of youth that he witnesses when training his students. In each ninja lies Chakra, which is like Ki, except most characters can’t sense another’s Chakra unless they’re a sensory type ninja.
This is somewhat debatable however, as early in the series, I remember Kakashi say “wait, I know this chakra” when Naruto first experienced his Nine Tailed Fox power trying to take him over. At any rate, Naruto’s own drive to get stronger, as well as eat a lot like Goku and having a Vegeta like rival in Sasuke all have Dragon Ball to thank for the influence.
3) My Hero Academia
A series about people born with special abilities called quirks that they choose to use for good or evil purposes comes in at number three. Main protagonist Izuku Midoriya is one born without a quirk, but later gains one from All Might, the world’s greatest hero. Izuku or his hero name Deku trains and gets stronger along with his friends and rival Katsuki Bakugo. Deku’s goal is to become the world’s greatest hero like All Might whose power grew weaker over time after he gave Midoriya his One for All quirk power.
Maybe it’s just me, but Izuku reminds me of Gohan as a kid in many ways. Their both smart and wimpy at first but must overcome their fear and surpass their limits. And during one fight, Deku unleashes a power that looks an awful lot like SSJ except with green spikey hair instead of golden yellow. With a cast of quirky and powerful characters who save the world, MHA definitely has the feel of DBZ, especially in the fights.
2) One Piece
The most popular anime series about pirates who eat demon fruit to gain powers is firmly at the number two spot on the list. Monkey D. Luffy is like Goku in terms of personality and big appetite. He’s a pirate with a rubber body that can stretch like Piccolo and who seeks the One Piece so that he can become the King of the Pirates. The One Piece is basically the Holy Grail of treasure, but of course, there are plenty of bad pirates who want that rare booty as you can imagine.
Luffy and his rag tag crew gain strength training through the series. Although, that’s not the only way to get stronger in this world as they find and consume demon fruit to get a sort of RPG like power up or ability. Luffy can transform into various Gear Modes much like Goku who has different SSJ forms. Yet unlike Goku, the power up is a result of eating the fruit, not getting angry. Training does come into play however, and the over-the-top battles that ensue in One Piece are colorful and fun to watch much like in DBZ.
1) YuYu Hakusho
Yusuke Urameshi is the brash high school who is part demon but doesn’t know right away. If that isn’t Goku vibes asides from the attitude, Yusuke and friends fight in tournaments against demons of various classes. After dying, and then being brought back to life he learns what would become his signature move, the Spirit Gun from Genkai. Definitely an ode to Goku training with King Kai and learning the Spirit Bomb and Kaioken techniques.
This shows action like DBZ is top notch, especially in the tournaments. It’s a series with cringe and serious moments, yet with plenty of humor from Yusuke and best friend Kazuma Kuwabara. Even many of the voice actors from DBZ such as Justin Cook who voiced Raditz and Super Buu and Linda Young who voiced Frieza (pre-DBZ Kai) lend their talents as Yusuke and Genkai in Yu Yu Hakusho. Sure, their may not be space travel or fighting alien martial artists, but this series comes close to watching Dragon Ball Z without actually watching it.
Well, there you have it. 5 awesome anime that are like Dragon Ball Z in some way or another. Yet, they took what was great about the classic series and transformed it (see what I did there) into something unique to their brand. It’s hard to imagine not one anime that has been influenced by Dragon Ball. Whether it be art style, enduring characters, or a unique world, Dragon Ball Z has many followers that try to duplicate this, but only a select few have succeeded.