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Franchise / Dragon Ball

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Dragon Ball is a Japanese media franchise created by Akira Toriyama. It began as a manga that was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1995, 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 both was based on and literally named after 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 has someone gathered and used the Dragon Balls than they have to be sought out again. On top of all this, Goku is training up to fight in the periodic "Strongest Under the Heavens" tournament. The series is generally broken down into several arcs, with Emperor Pilaf, the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament, the Red Ribbon Army, the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, Demon King Piccolo, and the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament, plus a few filler mini-arcs, comprising the original Dragon Ball anime series, for a total of 153 episodes. After defeating these major threats to the world, Goku finally wins the tournament on his third attempt and goes 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, whereas it continued uninterrupted as Dragon Ball in the Japanese (and every other version in the world) manga. The reason is that the Dragon Ball Z period featured a change in showrunner, as well as some of the animation team (and the author thought it would be ending soon)... on top of undergoing a massive plot realignment and tone shift that significantly alters the arc of the story. At the start, it is revealed that Goku is not simply a boy with a tail but one of the last of an alien race called 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) have to fight progressively more powerful villains. Although Goku and his martial arts skills (which let him and his friends fly, throw energy blasts, and occasionally read minds) dominate the battles, the story is actually 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 (Frieza in the dub), Cell, and Majin Boo (or Majin Buu in the dub, or Djinn-Boo in the manga). Both Dragon Ball the manga and Dragon Ball Z the anime comes to a triumphant conclusion after 519 manga chapters and 444 anime episodes (plus two TV specials) after Gohan is married and his own daughter Pan enters the "Strongest Under the Heavens" tournament.


Since the original Dragon Ball saga was a mega-hit, Dragon Ball GT was created as an anime-only continuation by Toei Animation, with some character designs and initial input by Toriyama. GT was not as well received, lasting 64 episodes before cancellation (although this was still much longer than originally intended), bringing the original era of Dragon Ball anime to an end at 508 episodes plus 3 TV specials, although the status of GT as part of the canon has been hotly debated since, with fans on the fence on where it lies. After the release of new material written by Toriyama himself starting in 2013, GT is now officially an Alternate Continuity.note 

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, and its overwhelming influence on not just Japanese but global popular culture, is impossible 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 aged 10 to 18, with older adults not really in the picture.

There are many non serial movies (only a few could be wedged into the series' timeline) that were 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, and until Super retconned GT out of canon, the same went for the made-for-TV Dragon Ball GT movie. They returned to this well for the seventeenth one to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the franchise, and they did a web special in 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Shonen Jump. There have also been several TV specials and OVAs within the franchise, mostly based on the Dragon Ball Z portion of the story.

To date, there have been three live-action adaptations: The American-made Dragonball Evolution, which came out in 2009 and was the only officially licensed one, the earlier, campier, Taiwanese Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins, and the most loyal Korean-made Dragon Ball: Fight for Victory, Son Goku!.

In the early 2000-aughts, the manga was re-released in Japan as the "Kanzenban" or "Perfect Edition," with brand-new covers drawn by Toriyama. This split the 519 chapters across 34 volumes instead of the original release's 42. The Kanzenban also 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 initially only covering the material from the Saiyan arc to the Cell Games arc with almost no filler or padding. In 2014, Kai resumed but on a much lower budget, with different music, and including a lot more filler than the previous run.

Dragon Ball 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 was another spinoff, this time a one-shot, 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 differently 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 not long after the defeat of Kid Boo. The movie hit Japanese theaters on March 30, 2013. Two years later, Toriyama worked with Toei again to bring about a direct sequel to Battle of Gods, titled Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’.

Later in 2015, 18 years after the end of GT, Toei announced that the franchise was going to get a new TV anime called Dragon Ball Super. Premiering on Fuji TV on July 5, 2015, the series at first simply retold the events of Battle of Gods and Resurrection 'F' before moving on to its own new material.

The franchise's impact on shonen manga is unparalleled, to say the very least. Although not the first to employ the vast number of tropes that it is most associated with, it became the de facto face of them (especially outside its home country where, for many, it was the first anime anyone ever saw and an introduction to both the shonen battle genre and anime 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 three series of the Aughts which are often considered the most direct of its spiritual successors: Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach.

Works include:


Related Anime/Manga

  • Dr. Slump (1980-84) - Crossed over in the original series during the Red Ribbon Army arc. The '90s Dr. Slump anime also had its own crossover episode. And Dragon Ball Super had both a cameo by Arale in one episode and a full episode crossover.
  • Dragon Boy (1983) - two chapter series the served as a prototype for the series
  • The Adventures of Tongpoo (1983) - one-shot that also inspired parts of the series
  • Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (2013-14) - Stealth Prequel set before the first series. The title character would later return for Super. Also part of the Galactic Patrol Series are:
    • Sachie-chan Guu!!
    • Jiya
    • Dragon Ball Minus: The Departure of the Fated Child - one-shot featured in the collected volume covering the time period before Goku was sent to Earth

Spinoff Anime/Manga

Animated Films

Crossover Specials

Live-Action Films


TV Specials

Tabletop Games

  • Dragon Ball Z The Anime Adventure Game (1999-2002) - A Tabletop RPG published by R. Talsorian Games using the Fuzion D6 system.
  • Dragon Ball Collectible Card Game (2008)
    • Dragon Ball Super Card Game (2018) - A relaunch of the original Collectible Card game, adding Super-era elements and characters.
  • Dragon Ball Kai: Fight Battle the Dragonball World (2009)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Perfect Cell (2018)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 (2018)
  • Dragon Ball Super: Universe Survival (2019)
  • Dragon Ball Z - Smash Battle: The Miniatures Game (2020)

Video Games

Crossover Games

Additional Pages


Video Example(s):


Dragonball Z - Vegeta Matches Frieza

Frieza expects to overwhelm Vegeta, but when their powers are equal the energy has no where to go but into the ground.

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