Dragon Ball Z has had an insane history in North America, originally premiering in the west in 1996, with the company Funimation purchasing the series and working with Saban Entertainment to bring the now legendary franchise to more homes but this partnership came with a caveat in the form of some seriously bonkers censorship. In a story such as Dragon Ball, which features some bloody battles and plenty of death throughout the episodes, the lengths that Funimation originally went to in order to "sterilize" the series have to be seen to be believed!
In this breakdown, we're hoping to walk through some of the wilder examples of censorship to Akira Toriyama's series that, luckily, are no longer a part of the anime today! The series was originally canceled via Saban, but was luckily renewed thanks to the original episodes airing on Cartoon Network's Toonami, giving us the anime we know and love today here in the West. With Saban, Dragon Ball Z was definitely censored to appeal more to Saturday Morning Cartoon viewers, eventually finding a new home and maturity on cable!
What was the craziest censorship you can recall from Dragon Ball Z? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly on Twitter @EVComedy to talk all things comics, anime, and the world of Dragon Ball!
Perhaps the most glaring piece of censorship in the early version of Dragon Ball Z had to be the eradication of death itself. Ironically enough, these early episodes are some the bloodiest of the entire series, with the Saiyan Saga featuring a good portion of the Z Fighters suffering brutal deaths. Instead of saying that the characters died, Funimation instead would say that characters would "go to another dimension" and at the point of "death", their bodies would simply disappear. Unfortunately, "another dimension" wasn't the only way that death would be avoided.prevnext
"Don't Worry, I Can See Their Parachutes"
Aside from saying that characters were jettisoned to an alternate reality rather than dying, one of the most infamous scenes had to be when Tenshinhan uttered the now famous words of "I can see their parachutes". When Nappa and Vegeta arrived on Earth, numerous cuts had to be made to make it seem to appear that the pair weren't killing people in their wake, which they did frequently. In fact the first time they landed, they blew up an entire city, which was brushed away as "happening on the weekend, so the buildings were empty".
When Nappa blew up a nearby helicopter, in the original series, the people within were killed, but in the censored version, Tenshinhan notes that he could see their parachutes (even though no parachutes were seen in the shot).prevnext
Home For Infinite Losers
This one is truly brilliant. As fans of Dragon Ball know, the afterlife is a big part of the series, with Goku learning the likes of Kaioken and the Spirit Bomb. Before he made his way to King Kai, Goku took a detour to hell itself, but "hell" was not something that was going to fly for the censored version of the anime. The editors were able to change the lettering of "Hell" to "HFIL", thus creating the infamous "Home For Infinite Losers".prevnext
Punching is the bread and butter of the Dragon Ball series, as well as energy blasts, but even the contact of knuckles to faces was something that the early censors of the series didn't think would fly. How they would avoid this was by either flashing the screen at the point of contact or even going so far as to draw an explosive image to censor the hit.prevnext
Nudity Is A No No
This one's understandable, as the early episodes of the anime series saw Gohan frequently losing his clothing, mostly thanks in part to turning into a giant ape in the face of the real moon, or a false one that was created by Vegeta. The censors found unique ways to cover up nudity, such as the image above that shows a piece of Vegeta's clothing covering up Gohan. Even with television today, this is probably something that would still be censored.prev