Dragon Ball began as a 1984-1995 manga series written by Akira Toriyama, chronicling the adventures of a cheerful monkey boy named Son Goku, in a story that was originally based on the Chinese tale Journey to the West (the character Son Goku was inspired by and directly named after Sun Wukong, in turn inspired by Hanuman). The manga was soon adapted into two popular anime series, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. It also received two anime-only sequels, Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super, the latter considered in continuity with the manga.
In the first half of the Dragon Ball manga (which served as the source material for the Dragon Ball anime), Goku and a huge cast of friends and enemies search for the magical Dragon Balls that they could use to make a 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 "Tenkaichi Budokai" tournament.
The series is generally broken down into the following story arcs (not counting filler): 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 in between. After defeating these major threats to the world, Goku, now a young adult, finally wins the tournament on his third attempt and goes off to get married.
The series spanned four theatrical films, the last of which was released as part of the series' tenth anniversary in 1996. They're fast-paced retellings of the first four Story Arcs, never going past the appearance of King Piccolo.
The second half of the Dragon Ball manga was adapted into the Dragon Ball Z anime.
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