It’s always tough being at the top. Being first means that there is an extra level of expectations. This sentiment applies to areas such as sports, entertainment, and politics among others. With Dragon Ball Z Kai kicking off the block, there is a level of expectation for it to grab viewers and help out the rest of the lineup. While it may be unfair to expect killer ratings all the time, DBZ Kai fans have the expectation that the show will always bring in solid viewing numbers. But looking at DBZ Kai as the only reason for the block to get commanding ratings isn’t realistic. It is predicated on a full hour of Family Guy at 11 p.m. So if I’m curious about how the show is doing in the ratings department, perhaps others are curious as well. It’s just that in April it appears that the audience for DBZ Kai has dipped.

I’m used to seeing the viewing numbers for DBZ Kai at around 1.4-1.5 million total viewers and an 18/49 rating at or above 800,000. Obviously, it’s not like that every week (with some 1.2 million total viewer days sneaking in), but I’ve become accustomed to seeing those kind of numbers for one of the most recognizable series in the country. Specifically this past month (April) the total viewing numbers have been lower at 1.3 million (compared to the months of Feb and March), which isn’t horrible by any means. In fact, the series has continued to sport a solid 18/49 rating in April. So by all accounts, the series is performing well and should make viewers feel positive about how the block has evolved. Typically, fans would not complain about these types of numbers after seeing some of the viewing numbers in 2012 or 2013. It’s almost as if I’m becoming greedy now. However, I was troubled by the low viewing numbers for the Hunter x Hunter English dub premiere. It would be irrational to blame the Saiyan Warriors for that, since Hunter x Hunter had a better debut night than One Piece, Parayste, and Kai itself. If anything, I chalk it up to Dimension W not keeping audiences engaged, but I wonder if fans might be getting tired of DBZ Kai, which could have played a factor in Hunter x Hunter not receiving a bigger boost.

It’s important to point out how viewing numbers are not exact and can’t be taken as gospel, like looking at statistics on TV numbers are pulled through statistical sampling all over the country, which means that not every TV set in the country is being recorded (which could be good or bad depending on where you are). The lack of precision can be annoying, as writers such as myself would prefer a more definitive method when calculating what’s being watched, and whether Toonami should be mindful of their ratings. But precise numbers are not available, leading me to suspect that these numbers are merely educated guesses. Another factor is that the viewing numbers do not include the fans who stream the block on It’s still the wild, wild West when it comes to streaming, and it will probably be a while before those totals are quantified for the general public to view. So there’s a huge part of the audience that’s not being calculated. It seems a bit unfair, and even silly, to go crazy if a series has had a low audience on a given Saturday (or any day).

So when did I start to notice a dip in DBZ Kai viewing? There were a couple of anomalies in late 2015, but it started right after the beginning of 2016 where two Saturdays largest audience was clocked at 1.2 million (Jan 2 and Jan 9). Some might think that’s this is the result of Toonami playing two marathons back-to-back, which killed the blocks overall momentum. However, since the Feb 2016, DBZ Kai has rebounded to have similar viewing numbers that I’m used to seeing. The 18/49 rating has been steady, which is much more important when dealing with advertisers. Even if the numbers have dipped slightly, I think DBZ Kai is doing enough to get eyeballs on the action block throughout the night, and should still be viewed as the series to start the block (You don’t even want to know how low the ratings were when Attack on Titan reruns started the block at 11:30 p.m.). In fact, I’ve felt that ever since DBZ Kai was first put into the lineup, the overall numbers have been better, and doubt that other series could do what it has accomplished (don’t forget before it officially aired on Toonami, Kill la Kill was going to start things off). So it’s been vital in helping Toonami continue to grow, and yes, I attribute that to Kai.

So why would I wonder if DBZ Kai is “losing” some fans? Maybe people are anxious about the status of the series, as we are inching closer to the Buu Saga. Imperfect Cell makes its triumphant return to Toonami this Saturday, giving off a vibe that we are nearing the end of what is attainable for those who buy home media releases. Where will Toonami go next if the Buu Saga isn’t available for the block to broadcast? How do people feel when speculating about DBZ Kai’s future? Are they excited that DBZ Kai might be exiting the block, or are they hoping for more episodes? I believe that Toonami will air the Buu saga, because it would be silly to cut out that whole part. This arc has been rumored to be completed and dubbed by FUNimation. So many fans believe that Toonami will get to premiere the Buu saga on its block, which in turn could attract more viewers (to the point where we’ll see the same numbers we’ve grown used to).

I’m just surprised at how low it can go when I see the occasional 1.2 million total viewers. It’s an attractive enough franchise to have two new movies recently debut, and a new series has been produced in Japan (more on that later). Many older fans fondly remember getting out of school to watch the old Dragon Ball Z series back when Toonami was on Cartoon Network. I can recall during high school that my teammates on the basketball team thought that DBZ and Samurai Champloo were the only “cool” anime series to watch. So maybe my nostalgia led me to think that it could reach a vast audience for such a long while. Life happens, you can’t watch Toonami every single time. So expecting massive 1.6 million+ total viewers is a bit irrational. It seems that more people simply have DBZ Kai on to help out Toonami, and not necessarily because they love the show. That makes me wonder if its popularity has waned, which isn’t something I want to consider.

If the audience is tired of the franchise, then there is more trouble on the horizon. Dragon Ball Super could be the series to take over for Kai once it finishes. Considering that it’s a series that is new to the U.S., fans might not be as indifferent to that one. Toonami Faithful already reported that Toonami Asia will be premiering an English dub for the new series later this year. In the US, Adult Swim Toonami may have a shot at getting the broadcast rights to play this series. This could also give a boost to the numbers. But that’s a bit far away to start contemplating now.

So maybe the new standard for this next couple of months is 1.3-1.4 million total viewers. Is that horrible? Of course not! Especially since it’s not known how many people are actually watching the block (we’re still just using Nielson’s statistical sampling, not counting streaming or DVR playbacks). It would just be a luxury if we saw the higher numbers that were achieved in parts of 2015. I don’t think DBZ Kai has lost any luster, considering that it would be tough for any show to grab viewers when the NBA and NHL playoffs are going on. Once those end, the viewing numbers will probably jump back up. Or maybe fans are growing tired of seeing a story that we all know so well. I remember most of the story arcs in Dragon Ball Z, and since Kai is simply a shortened version of the same series, its fans may have become complacent. Still, as I have stated before, not many shows can start Toonami as well, and DBZ Kai has done better than any other series for Adult Swim’s Toonami. So while I might be sounding the alarm prematurely, it’s something that I believe should be monitored throughout the year.

*All viewing numbers were grabbed from Colt Buhr’s Toonami Ratings articles, unless stated otherwise

C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for He was very interested in looking at the ratings for DBZ Kai, and wonders what else this could reveal. Feel free to follow C.J to talk all things Toonami on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris