I've lived in Mexico for a few years and grew up watching various anime. For some reason, many of them such as Dragonball weren't as popular in the US and many European countries back then. It's only since the turn of the century that this franchise hit the US.
I stopped watching the series years ago. This has mainly to do because I didn't really like the English dub of DBZ with lot's of cuts and a complete new soundtrack. It's just recently that I rediscovered the whole franchise through the internet and my conclusion is that these original series from the DB trilogy are actually much better than DBZ.
If you don't like DBZ & DBGT or think they Jumped the Shark at some point, it's probably due to one of these reasons:
-The characters grew ridiculously strong and got stronger every minute.
-The battles became long and monotonous.
-Too much time was wasted in having people stare at each other explaining the plot which wasn't always that interesting.
-The villains got too far fetched (Majin Buu is a great example).
-Several characters lost its importance.
-You don't like these kind of anime at all.
Except if it's the last one, I think you're probably going to prefer the original DB cause most of these aspects weren't nearly as exaggerated. This show is in its essence an adventure story based on an old Chinese tale called A Journey to the West. It revolves, in this case, around several martial artists so it does contain a lot of fights. What differentiates this show from its successors is that, since this is where it all began, none of the characters were too Godlike to start with. The fights were therefore not only way shorter (a few episodes at max) but also funnier and more interesting. It wasn't all about who's the strongest one? The reason why I prefer DB above DBZ is almost the same one as why I never really liked the English dubbed DBZ. It really became too over the top at one point and I felt like they tried to make the show cooler than it already was.
Another characteristic that DBZ and DBGT lacked is the atmosphere. Most of this anime takes place in a fictional type of China with a plot which belonged to the fantasy genre. In DBZ however, it switched over to science fiction and most of the fights took place in open fields.
The last aspect is the characters. Of course, Goku is the protagonist, but this series also introduced a lot more iconic characters with all unique aspects. The antagonists on the other hand were also much more interesting since most of the weren't actually "super villains". At the beginning you had Pilaf who was basically a comic relief followed by the Red Ribbon army containing several kinds of bad guys and ending up with Piccolo Daimaoh who, up to date, is my favourite DB villain.
I still like DBZ but sometimes I really wonder whether it would've been better for them to quit much earlier because I was a bit disappointed by the way it ended.
One other thing. It's only now when I realize that this anime is definitely not meant for little children, it's meant for everyone who likes anime. Some parts, I enjoy more than I used to because of the mature sense of humour. If you want to watch it, look for uncut versions.
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