Dragon Ball Z remains one of the most iconic and well-received anime ever, but that's not quite the case with its first sequel. Dragon Ball GT was seen by many as failing to capture what made its predecessor such a hit. At the same time, the ending for GT was something of a perfect cap on the franchise.
Comparatively, Dragon Ball Z's ending seemed to be simply setting things up for more adventures. It was clear the "peaceful world" that it concluded with wasn't meant to last, whereas it certainly was in the future post-GT. Here's a look at how both anime ended things for the franchise -- and how the worse overall series had a better finale.
Dragon Ball Z and GT Ended the Franchise in Similar but Different Ways
The final episodes of Dragon Ball Z are known as the "Peaceful World Saga," taking place after the defeat of the evil Majin Buu. Set a few years after the previous episode, the Son family's new status quo has Gohan married to Videl and fathering a young daughter named Pan. From there, things end for the franchise when Goku meets a boy named Uub at the World Martial Arts Tournament. Uub is actually the human reincarnation of Majin Buu, following Goku's request that the villain get a second shot at life. Goku is also looking toward the future, wanting a new guardian to protect Earth in the event that he isn't there. Saying goodbye to his friends and loved ones, Goku heads off with Uub to begin the boy's training after seeing his great potential.
In Dragon Ball GT, the dragon Shenron notes that the energy of the Dragon Balls has been depleted, requiring them to be recharged. Goku, who had been turned into a child from a wish that Emperor Pilaf made, departs with Shenron to begin a journey that revitalizes the mystical objects. Before he does so, he says his goodbyes to everyone he cares for, including a nostalgic bout against the now much older-looking Krillin.
Many years later, the elderly Pan takes her grandchild Goku Jr. to the World Martial Arts Tournament, where he competes against a descendant of Vegeta. In the crowd of spectators, Pan notices none other than her grandfather Goku, who's now apparently back to being an adult. She gives chase to reunite with him, but loses him in the throng of people. Walking alone, Goku recalls his life, with the series ending on a still image of Grandpa Gohan holding Goku as a baby.
Dragon Ball GT Had a Better Ending Than Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball GT had many faults, most of which stemmed from the series being unable to figure its own tone and scope. It initially tried to emulate the more comedic adventures of the original Dragon Ball, but considering it followed up the action-packed nature of Dragon Ball Z, this simply didn't go over well with fans. Nevertheless, one fault that GT didn't have was its final episode, which was honestly much better than what Dragon Ball Z ended on.
As mentioned, the end of the "Peaceful World Saga" felt like the set-up for further adventures between Goku and the other Z-Fighters. Thus, it could be seen as less of an ending and more of the start of a new beginning. In the case of Dragon Ball GT, it truly felt like an ending that celebrated how far the franchise had come. Keep in mind that Piccolo had died by the end of GT, giving an even greater feel of finality. There was a sense by the final episode that things would never return to their old status quo and it was time to say goodbye.
Plus, by ending with Goku flying off while thinking of Grandpa Gohan, the series in a way came full circle. Thus, while GT as a whole wasn't up to the standards of its predecessors, the ending not only made up for its shortcomings, but also made for a better finale than Dragon Ball Z.