I’ll never forget the period of time during which a bunch of my friends got super into Dragon Ball Z Abridged, a YouTube series that cuts up episodes of Dragon Ball Z and stitches them back together with loads and loads of jokes. It was a different era of YouTube, the internet, and my life; back when the series first debuted in 2008, I was a teenager. DBZA has been an internet fixture for ages. Now it’s over.
Fans were not expecting series creators Team Four Star to bring the series to a sudden close yesterday. As far as anybody knew, at least one more season—this one focused on Dragon Ball Z’s final arc, the Buu saga—was on the way. But Team Four Star decided that, after completing their homage-parody of DBZ’s Cell saga last year and spending some time away from the series, their hearts weren’t in it anymore.
“Many shows lose steam as time goes on as the creators extend their work far beyond its natural lifespan; we’re feeling that with this, and that’s a scary, depressing thought,” wrote director and editor Scott “KaiserNeko” Frerichs in a post on Patreon, noting that the team doesn’t just want to tear down and mock an arc of the show. “We don’t want to end up like The Simpsons, Dexter, Scrubs, just to name a few. And yes, we know, there’s more story to work with. But in all honesty... there just isn’t the emotional attachment and passion for the arc that drove the last three seasons.”
Frerichs and his fellow creators are also at their wit’s end with the process of creating the show. “We’re burned out on the original method, in general,” he said. “It’s been an absolute blast to bring DBZA to life, but after 11 years of the same project... it’s gotten oppressive. Which, again, is a scary thought.”
On top of all that, in the current, copyright-claim-happy era of YouTube, Dragon Ball Z Abridged poses an existential risk to Team Four Star that it didn’t back in the day.
“Copyright claims have put us at risk of losing that channel, and our livelihoods in jeopardy,” wrote Frerichs. “We have our employees to look out for; our friends, our colleagues, and doing right by them—by striving to create original, monetizable, copyright friendly content, that also carries our heart and soul as creatives—is undeniably important. We’ve thought about hosting DBZA on other sites, but nowhere has been safe, and worse, it would serve to draw attention away from our hub, which ultimately could lead to less views, less support, and either the scaling back or collapse of our company.”
Team Four Star has, so far, managed to avoid major clashes with big companies, but Frerichs said that he and his co-workers want to “live in a less gray area, without the Sword of Damocles above our heads.”
Some fans have reacted with the requisite “But they promised another season!” complaints, but many just seem thankful for all the episodes they did get, especially given that the Cell saga finale already felt like a proper sendoff. Some have also observed the impact that the series had on the internet comedy and voice acting scenes over the years, paving the way for countless other scenes to emerge. Ultimately, what began as a Dragon Ball-flavored knockoff of Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series—widely regarded as the first “Abridged” series on YouTube—took on a life of its own and spawned an entire fandom that helped keep Dragon Ball relevant during a spell when it wasn’t quite as entrenched in the cultural zeitgeist.
“I first discovered DBZA in 2008 while trying to find full episodes of DBZ on YouTube,” wrote one fan on the Team Four Star subreddit. “Ever since then it’s been consistently the best piece of entertainment on the internet for me. Kaiser, Lani, Taka, and the rest created something truly incredible, and they gave it to us for free. It was fun while it lasted, but it was always going to end, and at least it ended on such a high. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thanks and good luck to the whole TFS team. Ignore the people throwing hate at you. The overwhelming majority of your fans support your decision and your right to make it.”