When I was in high school and college, Dragonball Z was one of my favorite shows. Thanks to Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block, I was able to experience to adventures of Son Goku and his martial arts ass-kicking friends as they saved the earth time and time again. The show had fantastic action, occasional bursts of humor, and a good heart. Unlike so many other heroes, Goku’s good heart and attitude was often able to gradually swing the villains onto his side, just in time to combat the next set of villains to attack the world. When was the last time that Superman managed to convert Lex Luthor? I didn’t think so.
But if there is one thing you can say about the series: it is long. Goku’s battle against Freeza probably lasted longer than most relationships. And that is where Team Four Star comes in: they edit, re-dub, and re-imagine Dragonball Z as a kick-ass comedy in small and amazingly watchable parts, called Dragonball Z Abridged. They’ve been at it since 2008 and are only around half-way through the series. But that made me wonder: when will they finish? And, more importantly, when will they get to some of my favorite parts? (Goten and Kid Trunks!)
Thanks to the power of math, I have some pretty good answers. Read on for more!
How Often Are They Released?
Don’t worry! All of the answers are here for you, if you want to skip ahead. But before I get to the good part, I want to take a look at some of the other interesting stats about DBZA.
Dragonball Z Abridged‘s first episode was released in May of 2008 and since that time, they have released 51 episode videos (46 numbered episodes, a few with multiple parts), adapted five Dragonball Z movies and three TV specials, plus released countless other tie-ins like video game “Let’s Plays” and production videos. Just looking at the episodes and specials of the abridged series, they are releasing a new episode a bit more often than once every month and a half.
By pulling together all of the episodes (the main series, the super-compressed Kai Abridged series, and the films), we can get a pretty good picture of how they are doing. Despite some recent delays, Team Four Star are getting even better over time: episodes are more regular and the trendline is sloped a bit downward: more episodes, more often! At least a bit, anyway.
That said, the overall picture is pretty consistent with a new bit of DBZA content roughly every forty-two days. Most of the time (84%, if you really want to know), that is a new episode, but are you really complaining about getting a special or a film? I don’t think so.
The biggest outlier here is way back in 2010: there was a 228-day gap between seasons one and two. Who can blame them! The gap after the Freeza finale was only 79 days, but frankly if they need a rest after the end of a season to recuperate and work out the next set of plotlines, a few months doesn’t hurt anyone. The shortest gaps are between the multi-part episodes parts, as you would expect. Sometimes several of those come out in the same week.
How Long Are The Episodes? How Much Abridging Do They Do?
A wise person once said that it’s not about quantity, but about quality. But that person never tried to graph the quality of a 51-part series, so I’ll settle with the next best thing: episode length.
Ignoring again the films and specials (which tend to be longer), the average length of a Dragonball Z Abridged episode is 10:05. The shortest of these by far is “Celloween”, the 2014 Halloween special. In fact, Team Four Star does not consider that a real episode, but I count it anyway as it fits in the series narrative rather than being outside of it (like the music videos). I respect there could be differences of opinion here. The longest episode (14.5 minutes) is “News of Future Past”, episode 34, for no discernible reason. Trunks is just awesome, apparently.
Movies and specials are nearly twice as long, averaging somewhere around 19:24. I saw “somewhere” because Christmastree of Might and Bardock Abridged (the first two specials) are currently unavailable on the TFS site and I am unable to check how long they are.
One good explanation why “News of Future Past” is the longest so far is that it is just part of the pattern that Abridged episodes are getting longer overall. But even better, when you combine the last two graphs you get a very fun picture: episodes are getting longer and produced more often. Awesome!
One facet even more interesting to me is how many episodes of the original series go into each DBZA episode. Obviously this has to change based on the pace of the show and the whims of the team, but looking at the show as a whole I think we can get a pretty good idea. We could do the simple math: episode 46 of the abridged series corresponds to episode 149 of the original, therefore each adapted episode covers a bit more than three real episodes. But how has that changed over time?
To answer this, I’ve taken each episode of the abridged series and lined it up with its matching episode of the original. This is not rocket science: sometimes Team Four Star edits plot threads out of order to make a funnier or more interesting story. Just because an episode ends in a certain place tells us nothing about what is coming in the next episode. But, if we consider the latest that each episode shows us (within my ability to figure out what aligns with what), we get a view like this one:
This view makes it clear that most Abridged episodes adapted around three real episodes, but with some outliers. The highest real-to-adapted ratio is episode 31, “There’s Something About Marron”. Fans of the series will remember that this is the episode that short-circuited the whole Garlic Jr. saga because the Abridged Mr. Popo does not act in half measures. The view on the videos that adapted only one real episode each is a bit skewed by my technique: since I looked at the latest point the Abridged series made it by the end of each episode, I do not count backtracking and the re-ordering of material that TFS sometimes does to make a better or funnier product. The trendline here is also declining somewhat: Team Four Star is slowly adapting fewer real episodes per abridged one.
Since we know that episodes are getting longer, a better view of this might be to take the number of abridged minutes (rather than episodes) against the real show. That gives us an equally great number: each real episode of Dragonball Z is adapted into 3:14 of Abridged series. That is an 87% compression ratio!
Now Tell Me About My Favorite Part
From here, figuring out when we’ll get to our favorite parts is pretty trivial. I experimented with adjusting for the length of the episodes, but with episode length trending up and number of adapted episodes trending down, this may not be the best or most accurate way to move forward. So I’ll just take the simpler ratio calculation here and that should be “close” enough: a new episode (not movie or special) comes out every 47.49 days. We can use a similar technique to figure out roughly what episode number each will be.
That gives us some pretty good estimates: (updated 7/15)
- Ep 49 (Sep 2015): Cell becomes Perfect Cell
- Ep 50 (Oct 2015): Super Vegeta challenges Cell
- Ep 51 (Dec 2015): Trunks vs Cell
- Ep 54 (Jun 2016): Cell Games begin
- Ep 59 (Feb 2017): Cell is defeated!
- Ep 72 (Jan 2019): Majin Buu appears!
- Ep 77 (Dec 2019): Gotenks is formed.
- Ep 81 (Jun 2020): Mystic Gohan unlocked!
- Ep 90 (Oct 2021): End of Dragonball Z
Yes, that’s right: at the current pace it will take six years to get to the end of DBZA. But enjoy! They will be six fantastic years.
Notice that this measurement will never be perfect. For history sake, I previously predicted that Ep. 47 would be in March 2015, when it actually came out in May. But Team Four Star released Ep. 48 very quickly after, showing that on average this is a decent model, but individual episodes may be sooner or later than predicted.
What About Dragonball GT?
Six years is a long way away and we have no idea what Team Four Star will decide to do next. In fact, they have hinted in some interviews (though damned if I can find them now) that they would adapt the original Dragonball next. Personally, I hope they move on to GT and complete the story– and in the process perhaps make GT watchable. I still haven’t managed to get past the initial dragonball hunt. (I blame Kanzenshuu for failing to complete their “GT Review of Awesomeness” and stranding me.)
So, if they do GT next, when would THAT end?
- Ep 110 (Sep 2024): The End of GT
Wow. That is a long time from now, but it makes sense they could do the series in 20 episodes. Perhaps they would “Garlic Jr.” much of the beginning and end more quickly, but it’s difficult to say.
Since we’re imagining impossible things how about if they finished up with GT and then went back to do the original Dragonball?
- Ep 157 (Oct 2031): The End of Everything (Z, GT, and Original)
Now, if only we had a time machine…
(Ed note: This was written before Dragonball Super and it is no longer clear they would do GT next, rather than Super. We have a long time until we will find out!)
Where Do We Go From Here?
We all have a lot of waiting (or time traveling) to do before we get to the end of the series, but there is something we can do: help keep Team Four Star alive. They cannot make any revenue from the DBZA episodes directly (thanks to Fair Use, just be glad that the license holders are letting them do this at all), so they have to get ad revenue in other ways: through their other videos, the game playthroughs, the behind the scenes and news vids, and promotions like tee-shirts and similar. If we want them to keep making videos for fifteen years, they will need our support.
If you would like to check out the data that I used for this post, you can find a master Google Sheet here with all episodes, dates, durations, and more.
Watch their videos! Buy their shirts! Do whatever you can to help keep this amazing creative project going.
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