began as a manga
written by Akira Toriyama
, chronicling the adventures of a cheerful monkey boy named Son Goku, in a story that was originally based off the Chinese tale Journey to the West
(the character Son Goku was based on Sun Wukong
, in turn inspired by Hanuman
). The manga was soon adapted into one of the most popular anime
productions ever made.
The story follows Goku and a huge cast of friends and enemies as they search for the magical Dragon Balls that can make any wish come true. Of course, no sooner had someone gathered and used the Dragon Balls than they would have to be sought out again. On top of all this Goku was training up to fight in the periodic "Strongest Under the Heavens" tournament. The series is generally broken down into the following sagas: Emperor Pilaf, the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament, the Red Ribbon Army, the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament (Tenshinhan), Demon King Piccolo, and the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament (Piccolo Jr), with minor filler plots. After defeating these major threats to the world, Goku finally won the tournament on his third attempt and went off to get married.
After that, the anime (and the American version of the manga from that point) experienced a name change to Dragon Ball Z
, while it continued uninterrupted as Dragon Ball
in the Japanese (and every other version in the world) manga. The reason was the Dragon Ball Z
period had a change in focus from martial arts comedy to more serious epic battles (and the author thought it would be ending soon
). At the start it revealed that Goku was not simply a boy with a tail but one of the last of the alien race, the Saiyans. He was sent into space shortly before the Saiyan planet was destroyed (with shades of Superman
, Golden Bat
, and Prince of Gamma
). Goku and his friends, reinforced by former enemies (a recurring theme) had to fight progressively more powerful
villains. Although Goku and his martial arts skills (which let him and his friends fly, throw energy blasts and read minds) dominated the battles, the story was mostly about Goku's son Gohan and how he faces the challenges. Running seven years and nearly 300 episodes, the series can be broken down into the four primary big bads
of the series: Vegeta, Freeza, Cell, and Majin Buu. Both Dragon Ball
the manga and Dragon Ball Z
the anime came to a triumphant conclusion after Gohan is married and his own daughter Pan enters the "Strongest Under the Heavens" tournament.
Since the Dragon Ball
saga was a super-hit, Dragon Ball GT
was created as an anime-only continuation by Toei
, with some character designs by Toriyama. GT
was not as well received, lasting 64 episodes before cancellation (although this was still much longer than originally intended), and its status as part of the canon has been hotly debated since, with fans on the fence on where it lies.
At one point Dragon Ball
was turned into an MMORPG
by Netmarble, simply titled Dragon Ball Online
. It was only released in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea
. The game had three playable races: Saiyan Hybrids
(called "Humans" in-game
), Namekian, and Majin. The servers and website for the game were closed in 2013.
The success of Dragon Ball
is hard to dispute — it became one of the biggest hits ever in Japan, it was the series that popularized manga and anime the most in Europe, Americans always have an idea of what it is when they hear its title, most Latinos and Americans who grew up during the 1990s have watched it, it's still running on TV internationally and merchandising is alive and well. It is sometimes derided for being simplistic and for drawn-out multi-episode fights with little story progression. However, one must keep in mind that the show is primarily aimed at kids and teens age 10 to 18
, with older adults not really in the picture
There were many non serial movies
(only a few could be wedged into the series' timeline) released at least once a year, three set in the Dragon Ball
timeline and thirteen for Dragon Ball Z
. Two made-for-TV movies were made for Dragon Ball Z
, which are technically in canon. There was also a seventeenth feature film based on the original series produced to commemorate the tenth anniversary
of the franchise, as well as a web special in 2008 produced to commemorating the 40th anniversary of Shonen Jump
. There have also been several TV specials and OVA's within the franchise, mostly based on the Dragon Ball Z
portion of the story.
To date, there's been three live action adaptations
: The American-made Dragonball Evolution
, which came out in 2009, and the earlier, campier, Taiwanese Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins
and the Korean-made Dragon Ball: Fight for Victory, Son Goku!
In the early 2000s, the manga was re-released in Japan as the "Kanzenban" or "Perfect Edition," with brand-new covers drawn by Toriyama. This condensed the original 42 volumes down to 34, included all of the original color pages, and every other issue included a booklet with a drawing by current, popular Shueisha artists, talking about how much Dragon Ball
had influenced them. The final volume in 2004 included a new, adjusted ending written and drawn by Toriyama.
From 2009-2011, Toei aired Dragon Ball Kai
(Dragon Ball Z Kai outside Japan
), a "refreshing
" of Dragon Ball Z
from the Saiyan to the Cell Games arcs with almost no filler
. In November of 2012, it was announced that the Japanese voice cast will resume work
, continuing with the Buu Saga.
Now also has a spinoff
manga called Dragon Ball SD
in Saikyo Jump
by Naho Ooishi which began on December 3, 2010, some 26 years after the first chapter of the original series was first published in Shonen Jump
. As of June 21, 2011, there's another spinoff called Episode of Bardock
, also by Ooishi; later in the same year the Bardock short received an animated adaptation
, and Shueshia started to reprint brand new copies of the original manga, in its original 42 Volume glory, although with a different stylized logo.
In 2012, Toei Animation started reworking on their classic animated adaptations, with brand new productions. Dragon Ball
wouldn't be left out of the party, and it was announced that Toei was working on a new movie named Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
. Toriyama was directly involved with the writing and it was to be set after the Buu Saga. The movie hit Japanese theaters on March 30, 2013.
Needless to say, its impact on shonen manga is, well... unparalleled — to say the very least, its influence now impossible to not
see in almost any work in the subgenre. Although not the first to employ the vast number of the tropes that it's most associated with, it became the de facto face
of them (especially outside it's home country where, for many, it was the first anime anyone ever saw
and a introduction to the genre in general). To this day, the shonen genre, and various anime in general that use elements from it, pay homage to, or parody, this series and continue its legacy. For proof, one need only look as far as these three series — often considered the most current and direct of its spiritual successors: Naruto
, One Piece
, and Bleach
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