Dragon Ball (manga)

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Dragon Ball (ドラゴン ボール, Doragon Bōru), usually stylized as Dragonball, is a Japanese manga by Akira Toriyama. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump, a weekly manga anthology magazine in Japan, from 1984 to 1995. Beginning on September 15, 1985, it was collected into individual volumes called tankōbon. Beginning on December 4, 2002, the tankōbon was re-released as individual volumes called kanzenban. They included a slightly rewritten ending, all new original covers, and original color artwork from its Weekly Shōnen Jump run.

The story of Dragon Ball follows the life of Son Goku, a monkey-tailed boy who is loosely based on the traditional Chinese folk tale Journey to the West (西遊記, Saiyūki), from his life and adventures as a child all the way up to becoming a grandfather. During his life, he fights many battles and eventually becomes (arguably) the strongest martial artist in the universe. He is not without help, however, as the manga boasts a large ensemble cast of heroes and villains who provide the conflict that drives the story.


Main article: Dragon Boy

After the success of his previous manga, Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama wanted to break away from the Western influences common in his other series. Eventually, he created Dragon Ball – a re-developed version of a one shot manga he had created earlier named Dragon Boy. Dragon Boy was serialized in Fresh Jump and released in a single tankōbon volume in 1983. This short work combined the comedic style of Dr. Slump with a more action-oriented plot and paid homage to famous martial arts actor Jackie Chan. When he began work on Dragon Ball, he decided to loosely base it on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. Toriyama notes that his goal for the series was to tell an "unconventional and contradictory" story.

Plot and evolution

Main article: List of Dragon Ball manga chapters

A unifying component of the plot accompanying Goku's progression as a martial artist is his search for the eponymous Dragon Balls. They are one component of the universe, but are not the focus of most of the plotlines of the series. The Dragon Balls themselves are seven magical orbs which are scattered across the world. When assembled, they can be used to summon Shen Long, the Eternal Dragon, who will grant one wish within his limits. After the wish is granted, the Dragon Balls are scattered again across the world and become inert for one year. In times past, it would take generations to search the world and gather the Dragon Balls. At the beginning of the story, however, a 16 year old genius girl named Bulma Brief invents a Dragon Radar to detect the Dragon Balls and makes the process far easier than it is originally intended to be.

The story of Dragon Ball unfolds gradually over 11 years of publication. The tone and the style of the stories gradually changes to reflect the tastes of the readers and the editors of Shonen Jump in Japan. The early volumes of the manga (chapters 1-134) are primarily humorous fantasy stories, but they contain some minor sci-fi elements, much like Dr. Slump. Notable fantasy elements include not only the monkey boy Goku and the Dragon Balls themselves, but also many talking animal characters, unlikely martial arts techniques, and identifying characters as gods and demons. Despite the fantasy elements, the world does contain highly advanced technology including Hoi Poi Capsules, space-saving capsules which are pocket sized but can store almost any object (including cars, planes, and even houses), and other "near future" objects. The overall mood of the earlier volumes is light, with few deaths and an emphasis on adventure and humor.

A subtle but significant change in mood begins after Goku's best friend, Kuririn, is killed (the first of many deaths in this arc). This begins the Piccolo Daimao arc (chapters 135-194) in which the manga enters a darker tone compared to its earlier volumes.

Dragon Ball fully transforms into an action-based shōnen manga at the onset of the Saiyan arc (chapters 195-241). Starting with the introduction of Goku's first child, Son Gohan, things begin to take a much more serious and harder sci-fi approach. Many characters who previously had fantasy origins (including Goku and Piccolo) are recast as aliens from other planets. Advance space travel, alien threats, and powerful cyborgs and Artificial Humans take center stage instead of more fantastic villains.

After the defeat of Vegeta and the conclusion of the Saiyan arc, the survivors of the vicious Saiyan attack head off to Planet Namek to resurrect their friends. This begins the Freeza arc (chapters 242-329). The Freeza arc is noteworthy for introducing the first Super Saiyan, now a staple of the series. It also sets the tone for more awesomely powerful characters. For example, the antagonist Freeza is first said to have a battle power (the series' futuristic measure of a fighter's speed and strength, i.e., one average Human is listed as 5) of 530,000. He then transforms into a more powerful form at which point his battle power is over 1,000,000.[8] After two subsequent transformations, he reveals that he is still only using a fraction of his full power.

The Androids arc (chapters 330-420) introduces Future Trunks Brief, a mysterious half-Saiyan half-Human from a destroyed future world where all of the Z Warriors are killed by evil, seemingly unstoppable, war machines called Artificial Humans, and the enigmatic and villainous Future Cell, who is made from the cells of most of the heroes as well as some of the villains. This arc is notable for being the only arc in which Goku does not defeat the main villain, but instead Gohan defeats Future Cell. In this arc, Gohan surpasses the level of Super Saiyan and reaches the stage of Super Saiyan 2 in order to defeat Cell.

After Goku's death, he is allowed to keep his body and train in the Next World. Seven years pass and Goku gets stronger, while Gohan's power decreases. Uranai Baba allows Goku to return to Earth for a single day, which marks the start of the Majin Buu arc (chapters 421-519), the final arc of the manga. The beginning of this final arc concentrates on a teenage Gohan. All of the male Saiyans manage to reach the level of Super Saiyan at least (including Fusions). Gohan can still use Super Saiyan 2 and Goku and Vegeta obtains this transformation. The final level of the Super Saiyans, Super Saiyan 3, is reached by Goku and later by Gotenks. A considerable number of fusions also take place to add to the series, such as Son Goten and Trunks Brief fusing into Gotenks and Goku and Vegeta fusing to create the single most powerful character in Dragon Ball – the invincible Vegetto. During this series, Super Boo manages to increase his own power by absorbing Gotenks, Piccolo, and Gohan. Kid Boo also succeeds where the villains Vegeta, Freeza, and Cell had previously failed and destroys Earth. Earth and everyone that was on it when it was destroyed are later restored by using the Namek Dragon Balls, and Kid Boo is destroyed by Goku's Genki Dama only after taking on Goku, Vegeta, Mister Satan, and Mister Boo.

Ten years after the defeat of Kid Boo, he is reincarnated into a Human being of pure good named Oob. Goku asks Mister Boo to cheat so that Goku and Oob can have a match against each other. After the match, Goku decides to go to Oob's Village and train him to his full potential so that one day they can have a match to decide who is the strongest fighter in the universe (currently Goku). Oob's Village later receives money from Mister Satan. To say goodbye, the heroes that appear in the manga (excluding minor characters) wave to the reader and a large 'THE END' sign is seen floating.

After completing this series, Toriyama had a break before making a gag manga called Neko Majin.This story features many elements and a few characters from Dragon Ball, including Mister Boo, Vegeta, and Goku.

Recently, Toriyama and his studio have begun developing Dragon Ball Online, an MMORPG follow-up to the manga, with Bandai Namco Games and NTL for release in South Korea and Japan. The game will act as a direct sequel to the manga, and Toriyama will be supervising all aspects of the game, from storyline and setting to character and location designs. In a press conference in South Korea on February 14, 2008, Kazuhiko Torishima, the director of Shueisha (and Toriyama's original editor), stated that Toriyama had immersed himself in creating character designs and providing editorial supervision for the game for the past five years.

Story arcs

Recurring themes

For all its martial arts bravado, the story of Dragon Ball centers primarily around a theme of redemption, generally through exposure to the "pure" ideals of Goku and Gohan. Nearly every major character in the manga entered the series as a villain but was, through one method or another, converted to the side of good. (Often, this would entail a temporary team-up to defeat a greater foe, but somehow the former enemies rarely found the motivation to begin fighting again.) This theme was evident from the beginning (with the conversion of Yamucha, Oolong, and Puar), and continued even to the last saga (with the acceptance of Mister Boo). This style of redemption is not unique to Dragon Ball (it is often seen even in American comic books), but it is significant that it persisted even through other major shifts in style and tone.

English distribution

In the U.S., the manga was first released as two American-style comic books starting in 2000: Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. (The split corresponds to the two different anime series, though the original Japanese manga does not distinguish between them. See below.) This style of release was unsuccessful due to its large size and expensive cost ($2.95 for an issue of 2, later 3, chapters), and both series were canceled in 2002. The Dragon Ball Z comic was transitioned into a launch title for the new U.S. edition of Shonen Jump starting in January 2003. In parallel to these releases, Viz released the 42 volumes (nearly matching the first Japanese set) in English.[citation needed] Viz titled the second part of the manga Dragon Ball Z to reduce confusion for American audiences.


As previously mentioned, the Dragon Ball manga is published as both "Dragon Ball" and "Dragon Ball Z" in American editions. Originally, both of these releases were censored for nudity and some graphic content. By the end of 2004, all "Dragon Ball" manga had been released almost uncensored (Mister Popo's lips were removed), including rereleases of the previously censored Volume 1 through Volume 3. The "Dragon Ball Z" manga remains censored, although many volumes (prior to Volume 17) are technically uncensored since they did not contain any objectionable material.

  • Mister Popo's lips and other dark-skinned characters were edited because of complaints made by Carole Boston Weatherford.
  • Middle fingers were edited into fists.

In 2006, Viz began releasing a second, A-rated (All Ages) edition of the series sans some nudity and profanity.

  • The name Mister Satan was edited to "Hercule".
  • Firearms were edited into "laser blasters", though a pistol-armed robber was able to shoot a character without being censored.
  • Alcohol, drugs, and sexual innuendo were edited.

VIZ BIG, VIZ KIDS, 3-in-1 Editions

In 2008, Viz began releasing the VIZ BIG Editions of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. These releases were larger in size and had 3 volumes put together in each book that featured color in chapters that Akira Toriyama originally put color in.

These releases are also more edited and censored, and have many instances were Bulma's breasts are not shown. One notable example is in the 9th chapter where Bulma is taking a shower. In the the 2003 English release, this scene was kept unedited. In the VIZ BIG Editions, soap suds were placed to cover her entire chest as well as her butt. Another edit was in Chapter 16 where Oolong shows Muten Roshi Bulma's breasts while in the form of her. Like the shower scene, it was left unedited in the 2003 releases, but in the VIZ BIG Edition the top of Bulma's bunny costume is made to look like it is coming down before the breast is revealed.

Relation to the anime

Both the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime are based on the same original Dragon Ball manga. Dragon Ball follows Goku's adventures as a child up to his marriage – roughly the sagas that had the most fantasy and humor elements. Dragon Ball Z takes up the story 5 years after Dragon Ball leaves off with the introduction of Goku's young son, Son Gohan, and the arrival of a new, more powerful foe. Dragon Ball GT was a project started by Toei Animation to continue the story from where Dragon Ball Z left off and is not part of the original manga. As such, its canonicity is frequently a topic of debate among fans.

There are additional differences between the North American edition of the manga and the North American edition of the anime, but those are primarily due to differences in translation. For example, the character of Lunch in the manga is retranslated as "Launch" in the English dubs of the anime. Similarly, the names of "Goku" and "Gohan" lack the family name "Son" in the English dubs of the anime. In general, the translation of the manga is considered to be closer to the translation of the English dubs of the anime as factors such as mouth movement are not taken into consideration.

The 'Z' in Dragon Ball Z is rumored to have many meanings. The official meaning, as stated by the author, is that the letter was chosen because it was at the end of the alphabet, echoing Toriyama's desire that the series end soon. Other, fan-given "Z" theories include the naming of the ensemble group of main characters as the "Z Warriors" or "Z Fighters" in episode titles and promotional materials (they are never referred to that way in the anime itself) or based on the "Zenkai Power" theme song in the ending credits. Another interpretation is that Toriyama handwrote the title as Dragon Ball 2 and somebody misread the figure '2' as a 'Z'. It is notable that the 'Z' of Dragon Ball Z is pronounced "Zed" in the Japanese opening song "We Gotta Power".

Throughout most of the writing of the manga, the anime was being written and produced just behind the point where the manga was being concurrently published. While this led to getting the episodes released rapidly, the pacing resulted in a large amount of filler material needing to be added to the anime to flesh out the episodes to keep them from catching up. There are many instances in the anime where backstory which was filled in by the anime writers was directly contradicted by backstory written later in the manga. In a very small number of cases. however, the inverse was true – backstory added in the anime was accepted in the manga. Most notably, the character of Bardock (Goku's father) was originally an anime-only creation.

Relation to Journey to the West

There are many parallels between Journey to the West and Dragon Ball.

  • In the original story, the priest, Xuanzang, and his company search for the legendary Buddhist scriptures in the West. In Dragon Ball, Bulma and her company search for the legendary Dragon Balls.
  • The equivalent to Sun Wukong of the original texts is Son Goku in Dragon Ball.
  • The equivalent to Xuanzang of the original texts is Bulma in Dragon Ball (though later it can be argued to be the role of Kuririn).
  • The equivalent to Zhu Wuneng of the original texts is Oolong in Dragon Ball.
  • The equivalent to Sha Wujing of the original texts is Yamucha in Dragon Ball

Some ideas from Journey to the West are borrowed later in the series.

  • Goku's Nyoibou (or Power Pole) comes from Sun Wukong's magic staff that can change to any size anytime he sees fit.
  • Goku finds himself in a place reminiscent of the pillars of Buddha's palm, the location which Sun Wukong's rampage was finally put to an end.

Influence on other series

  • In the anime Excel Saga, Nabeshinlll teaches Pedro and Sandora to reach a certain powerful afro level, similar to the level of Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT. They also must use a technique called the Nabehameha, a direct parody of Muten Roshi's "Kamehameha".
  • In the manga Eyeshield 21, Yukimitsu performs the Taiyo-ken while dressed as Tenshinhan.
  • In the OVA Puni Puni Poemy, Poemi is shown with a collection of Dragon Balls.
  • In the manga Yu Gi Oh, the main character, Yugi Mutou, relates the Millenium Puzzle's power with wishes granted by the Dragon Balls. Also, in the anime version there is a Dragon Ball shown on a poster.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic must collect the 7 Chaos Emeralds, similar to the Dragon Balls. Once collected, Sonic turns into Super Sonic, a transformation similar to that of a Super Saiyan.
  • In the manga "Bastard!!", their is a part of the series where Angels evolving/powering up is a tribute to the wacky Fusion Dance of Dragon Ball's Gotenks.
  • In an episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Sasshi fights in a martial arts match while dressed up as Bruce Lee, and near the end, transforms to a Super Saiyan and performs a yellow version of the Kamehameha.
  • In Masakazu Katsura's manga DNA², the main character can turn into a Super Saiyan-like state, gaining golden hair and the ability to use special abilities. Many people consider this to be a plagiarism of DBZ, but it was actually suggested to Katsura by Toriyama himself.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Cartoon Network series, Mandy is shown to eat a Chicken-Ball which makes her transform into a Super Saiyan.
  • In Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon the Hero, Goemon, after finishing a certain training, goes into the "Sudden Impact" state in which his hair grows bigger and its color becomes yellow
  • The manga series Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo had many references to Dragon Ball and a one-off chapter making a parody of it. It had Tokoro Tennosuke and Don Patch recreating the first battle between Goku and Vegeta, respectively, but the order and development is messed up.
  • The anime and manga series "Yu Yu Hakusho" has various characteristics similar to Dragon Ball Z, such as the fighting and abilities.
  • Masashi Kishimoto states in his manga Naruto that he was influenced by Toriyama as he has always admired Toriyama's works. Kishimoto included a picture of Arale he drew in elementary school. Small references to Dragon Ball are also occasionally made in Naruto (such as manga episode 150 "Start of the training". On page 7, Chiaotzu's "mask" can be found between other masks for sale in a store).
  • Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece, stated in an interview that he was a big fan of Dragon Ball. He stated that it was Toriyama that influenced him and that he holds Dragon Ball in high-esteem. Toriyama is a self-professed fan of One Piece, which he was introduced to by his children.
  • In an episode of the Kids Next Door series on Cartoon Network, Number 4 relates his fight with the Delightful Children From Down The Lane to Goku's fight with Freeza in a flashback.
  • In the manga "Black Cat", the character Sven has a cell phone charm of Frieza's head.
  • In the anime "School Rumble", there is a scene in which Harima Kenji transforms into a Super Saiyan-like form and fights with Karasuma Ooji.
  • In the episode "Shnitzel Quits" of Chowder, Shnitzel briefly turns into a Super Saiyan-like state and he gets stronger.
  • In the anime "Sgt. Frog", the character Momoka is split into a good and evil version of herself and reunites the two halves in a synchronized swimming team, spoofing the Fusion Dance, and the narrator even states, "I do love it when they reference DBZ".


See also

External links