Dragon Ball and Naruto are two of the most popular franchises out there. Dragon Ball started a craze, helping to popularize anime and manga in the West as well as inspiring several other series. In fact, Naruto itself is inspired by the work of Akira Toriyama and his tale of Goku.
But, for all the good that Dragon Ball introduced into the world, there are always those who wish to knock it off of its pedestal. It is a great series, but there are other series that tell tales which are just as epic. And, to some, they are actually better. This is an argument that gets brought up quite often with Naruto and Dragon Ball. Did the newcomer manage to outshine its inspiration?
Some will say it’s not even close. But, if you break it down and look at specific components of each franchise, things may be a lot closer than you think.
Naruto vs Goku
When looking at the heroes, it’s difficult to decide who’s better. Goku is a Saiyan who crash landed on earth. He is a bit weird but is loved by most that he comes across and vows to protect this planet he now calls home. He’s powerful, and never one to run away from a fight. In fact, most of the series revolves around him seeking out and facing bigger and bigger challenges.
Goku has his tight-knit group of friends, but they often get caught in his crossfire. He’s not always the best at keeping those he loves alive, and some may say he relies a bit too heavily on the titular Dragon Balls (using them to wish his friends back on several occasions). He also has a penchant for dying, which isn’t what you’d expect from our strongest hero.
Naruto, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly loved by many people. In fact, he’s an outcast for the majority of the series. Thanks to the Nine Tails Fox spirit sealed inside of him, many view him as a monster, a walking catastrophe waiting to happen. Yet he still fights to protect all those around him because, no matter what, they are his people and he loves them. He’s the type to take the burden of his whole village upon his shoulders and fights for what he believes in, because that’s his ninja way. Power is a means to keep others safe in his eyes, not something that should be sought after for personal gain.
Naruto is also very good at keeping his friends alive, at least better than Goku is. There is reanimation in the Naruto series, but it’s nothing like the Dragon Balls, and it’s not something people ever really wanna do. So he makes sure to keep his friends out of harms way at all costs, and focuses on learning so it doesn’t happen a lot.
One thing you can definitely say about both, though, is that they are not against self-sacrifice. Often taking on huge threats to save the world. While Naruto is a bit of an outcast, it’s easy to see a bit of Goku in him in that regard. Their humor, and need to serve others shines through, making them both great heroes that anyone can look up to.
Although one inspired the other, the anime and manga of each franchise are quite different. There is a similarity in certain directions that the artwork takes. Charging up of power causes a bright glow, and there is a heavy dose of blasts created by either Ki or Chakra. But the way things play out is decidedly different.
Dragon Ball follows Goku and his pals on his quest to gain power along with acquiring all seven of the Dragon Balls. There’s more of an adventure where you don’t know where things may go. Fights are huge spectacles, often taking several episodes, though not all action-packed. Many fans love making fun of the fact that you can watch characters charge up their power for several episodes before a punch is thrown. I guess if you waited a long time for the big guys to finally go head to head, you can wait a few episodes more for fists to start flying.
Naruto, on the other hand, likes to get things moving along quickly. Yeah, there are long spaces between fights, but once they do get started, there’s a lot going on without all the charging. This doesn’t mean fights never slow down, it wouldn’t be anime if that didn’t happen. You’ll get your occasional monologues, and more than enough flashbacks, but it’s all a bit more action-packed.
Even with Naruto’s faster pace, though, Dragon Ball Z is known for having some of the best fights in anime (Buu Saga, anyone?). In that aspect, the Dragon Ball franchise shines just a bit brighter, but it isn’t a one-sided competition.
When it comes to games, both the Naruto and Dragon Ball camps know how to put on a show, especially when it comes to fighting. Fast-paced, over-the-top action is each franchise’s bread and butter.
Dragon Ball fighting games are known for meticulously bringing each character to life as players fight for supremacy. Dragon Ball Xenoverse even allowed players to create their very own warriors as they fought to save the timeline that fans know and love. Battling Frieza so he doesn’t kill Goku, saving Gohan from Cell, going toe-to-toe with Broly, those are scenarios that fans have dreamed of participating in. The Dragon Ball fighting games helped deliver on these fantasies over the years. Games outside of the fighting genre, though, didn’t fare as well. There were a couple of RPGs on the Game Boy Advance that shone, but everything else fell flat. You would think an open world adventure with the Z Fighters would be amazing, but not even that worked out.
Naruto is in the same boat, with the fighting games being the shining stars, and everything else being just okay. The most recent release, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, took players through the finale as the series’ biggest foes all stood up against you. It was thrilling and cinematic in ways that not many fighting games can pull off.
Even so, there’s no way anyone could say one series of games is definitively better than the other. Both provide a feel of what it’s like to be in the anime, alongside your favorite characters. It really just comes down to which characters you’d rather play as.
A series is often only as good as its characters. Both Naruto and Dragon Ball have extensive supporting casts, but only one series has a Vegeta.
Naruto’s cast is impressive. Powerful ninja from the past and present and like Madara, Hashirama, Jiraiya, Ten Ten, Tsunade, the list goes on. All are unique and bring something entertaining to the table. And watching each major character do battle is a treat itself. From beginning to end the side stories and people you meet will keep you engaged without ever falling short. It’s impressive for a series that has been running so long.
Dragon Ball’s cast, specifically Dragon Ball Z’s, is one of the most well-known in anime. Gohan, Goku’s oldest, is considered a favorite, Krillin is everyone’s favorite weakling, Piccolo is the world’s strongest babysitter, and then you have Vegeta. The prince of all Saiyans (of which there is only a handful) is easily one of the best characters to ever grace an anime.
He pulls off the cocky rival role better than Sasuke could ever hope to. Plus, when you get to see his love for Bulma (another amazing character who helped kick the series off) and his son Trunks (a badass who saves the world by traveling through time), he becomes even better. He has a full range of being. Going from rude, powerful murderer to loving, self-sacrificing friend at the drop of a dime if the situation calls for it.
While Naruto and Dragon Ball are relatively even in most regards, you gotta give it up for Vegeta.
So Which is Better?
It’s really a tough call to make. Both are stellar series that have amassed millions of fans with their journeys. Watching Goku become the protector that he is and seeing Naruto go from outcast to being loved and respected are truly great experiences.
One thing that can definitely be said for each, though, is that they managed to forge their own paths. Dragon Ball and all of its different series helped to mold childhoods for years and is still going strong thanks to Dragon Ball Super. It’s telling that each game is released to open arms and that everyone knows exactly how to pull off a kamehameha.
Naruto managed to rise above its inspiration and tell a story that is unique and just as inspiring as its predecessor. Over 700 episodes later, fans are still enthralled by this young ninjas quest to become Hokage and find acceptance from the world.
So, it all comes down to your preference. Do you like outcast ninjas or young aliens looking to make a difference? Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong.