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Franchise

  • Archive Panic: The manga ran for 42 volumes and 519 chapters for 11 years. The anime spans for 508 episodes, counting 153 episodes from Dragon Ball (covering volumes 1 to 16), 291 episodes from Dragon Ball Z (167 episodes in the Dragon Ball Kai recut; covering volumes 17 to 42), and 64 episodes from Dragon Ball GT (anime-original content). Currently it has an ongoing series in the form of Dragon Ball Super, which has 131 episodes as an anime and 8 volumes as a manga. There's also the 20 theatrical films, 4 specials (all of which have both anime and manga versions),note  2 short films, hour-long crossover with One Piece and Toriko, 2-part OVA serving as a strategy guide for one of the video games, dozens of said video games (some with their own unique characters and stories), 1 volume Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (a Stealth Prequel), various spin-off manga (such as Dragon Ball SD), various guidebooks, and tons of other content that's still being documented.
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  • Awesome Art: Akira Toriyama is considered to be one of the greatest mangaka of all time for a reason - Dragon Ball's art is consistently gorgeous and brilliantly panelled.
  • Badass Decay: While many of these characters don't complete theirs until DBZ, they do have a noticeable decline in effectiveness as the series goes on:
    • Master Roshi: At the start of the series, he is stronger than Goku. He even beats Goku during the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. By the Piccolo Jr. Saga, he is Demoted to Extra, and he stays that way through DBZ. This was intentional to show how his students were steadily surpassing him.
    • These days, Yamcha's mostly known for getting his ass kicked a lot. Most fans forget that when he was first introduced in the series he gave Goku his first real fight and defeated him when Goku ran out of energy from hunger near the tail end of the fight.note  The only thing that preventing him from finishing the fight was that Bulma happened to wake up and Yamcha ran away because of his crippling fear of pretty girls. He was also the first person to use a ki technique and ended up saving everyone from Goku's Great Ape form at the end of the story arc.
  • Broken Base:
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    • Dragon Ball vs. Dragon Ball Z is a not as commonly debated over in the 21st century, but it still happens. Now, when the entire Saiyan concept and the "Z shift" first landed in Japan for the Japanese fanbase back in the 1980s...
    • Comparisons between GT and Super were bound to happen. Some complain that GT was moving the pace forward by its second episode while Super takes its time to cover the events of two films, which in turn draws out the old laundry list of GT's narrative flaws. Overall, most agree that right now it is impossible to compare Super with GT since Super is ongoing while GT ended decades ago. However, since the start of the Champa Saga, most fans have considered Super to be superior to GT. Even before the end of the retellings, some thought Super was better than GT simply because of the character interactions, characterizations, and the fact that Super gets to benefit from twenty years of technological advancement in animation production.
  • Can't Un-Hear It:
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    • In Latin America, anyone who has heard the Mexican dub growing up will tell you that Mario Castañeda is the official voice of Goku, the same with René García as Vegeta and Laura Torres as Kid!Goku and Kid!Gohan, reason why not many have enjoyed the dubbed version of Dragon Ball Kai for the change of cast.
    • For Brazilian fans, Wendel Bezerra is very strongly associated with Goku as a grown up. Even when you hear him as Jackie Chan, it's not easy not to think of Goku.
    • While there's been more than one English dub for the franchise, the Funimation voices are the ones most Western fans prefer, with Sean Schemmel's Goku and Christopher Sabat's Vegeta standing out as the most iconic. Stephanie Nadolny's distinctive voice is also closely associated with Kid Goku and Kid Gohan, to the point that some fans took issue when she was replaced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, starting with Dragon Ball Z Kai.
  • Continuity Lockout: DBZ averts this by not relying too heavily on the original manga's events and explaining them when necessary. On the other hand, GT is borderline incomprehensible without watching DBZ first. Super isn't quite as bad about it as GT, but it still rides on the events of DBZ pretty hard, and the Future Trunks arc especially would be incredibly confusing if one hadn't seen DBZ.
  • Creator Worship: Fans love to make fun of Toriyama's lack of planning, forgetfulness, and his tendencies to leave behind his human characters, but make no mistake that the fanbase loves him and are skeptical of any work that doesn't have his involvement. This love extend to other manga authors like Eiichiro Oda who practically worships him.
  • Cult Classic: The series gets this treatment in the United States due to being ignored for the anime that only adapted the second half of the story, DBZ.
  • Escapist Character: Son Goku. He is an All-Loving Hero who is The Ace and Hope Bringer among his friends and the universe at large. He is consider one of the strongest beings in the universe, regularly defeats super-powered aliens, androids, demons, and even gods, and can learn about any technique by just seeing it once. The fact that he was born weak and gained his strength through good old-fashioned hard work on top of being extremely talented endear him to a lot of people, which is part of why he is seen as a better main character than his son, who much more down to Earth. There's reason why he became the Expy to many modern day Shōnen protagonists and often compared to Superman.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Few topics on the Internet can match the volatility brought about by the question: who would win in a fight between Goku and Superman? Fan art, essays, and ridiculously detailed videos have been created in an effort to answer this.
    • With Saint Seiya fans in Latin America, particularly Brazil, where both were Gateway Series for anime and manga, leading to discussions among both fandoms about which one was the best.
    • Dragon Ball has a rivalry with One-Punch Man for the same reason as Superman. There have been wars over whether Saitama is stronger than Goku or vice versa. Ironically, One Punch Man is an affectionate parody of shonen tropes with characters being expies of Dragon Ball characters (e.g. Boros). Still, that doesn't stop fans from comparing who is stronger of the two.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • Quite the overlap has formed between fans of the Dragon Ball franchise and those of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. A major part of this is that both series' abridged series are in close collaboration with each other, but on the official side of things, the mid-2010s saw both franchises get new anime installments in the form of Dragon Ball Super and Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, both seen as major returns to form for their respective series. It also helps that they aired concurrently for a good chunk of their runs, broadcasting new episodes within hours of each other each week.
    • Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball have a wide shared or at least friendly fanbases in the Americas and Europe, one often seen as something of a Distaff Counterpart to the other. It was probably spurred by the two airing on many of the same channels and blocks, sometimes right after each other. It helps that both have enough similarities for the fanbases to find common ground, but different enough they aren't seen as competition. To a lesser extent, fans of Dragon Ball have also enjoyed Saint Seiya and YuYu Hakusho (and vice versa).
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Special mention to Europe (especially France, United Kingdom and Italy) and several countries in Latin America, where the Dragon Ball franchise is not only probably the most popular anime in history, but also a full-blown pop culture classic. The fact that it became popular in those territories way earlier than in the U.S., definitely helped.note 
  • Ho Yay: Has its own page.
  • Moral Event Horizon: See here.
  • Signature Scene: See here.
  • Win Back the Crowd: Seems to creep up in the motivation behind a lot of the franchise's offerings ever since the dreaded Dragonball Evolution, from the recut and re-dubbing of DBZ via Kai, the reintroduction of new content started with the animated films Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’, and even stretching into the new series Dragon Ball Super with one of Dragon Ball Evolution's actors (James Marsters, who portrayed Lord Piccolo) returning for the Funimation dub in a much better received lead villainous role as Zamasu.
  • The Woobie: Has its own page.

Original Anime and Manga

  • Accidental Innuendo: Not technically in the series itself, but in the FUNimation theme song: "Rising, rising, mesmerizing, unbridled ecstasy!"
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Well, "hate" is probably too strong of a word, but in the U.S., while DBZ is a cultural icon, the original series is far more obscure and mostly known only by fans of the franchise. In Asia and parts of Europe, it's Dragon Ball that's the better known of the two.
  • Angst? What Angst?: At the start of the series, Goku is alone in the mountains, never seeing another person until Bulma ran him over. His grandfather, the only family he has ever known, died years before the main story, crushed to death by a giant monster. And as far as Goku knows his biological parents abandoned him in the woods. Yet, Goku shows no distress about any of this, even smiling when explaining being found in the mountains. Even saying his grandpa is dead provoke little emotional response, except when talking about how he died. Bulma even ask how can he be so cheerful.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: In the anime, when General White describes Murasaki, we see a scene of him being absolutely badass and destroying several opponents without getting hit. But when he actually does meet Goku, he can't even hurt him in a significant way. Also consider that he's sandwiched in-between two opponents who actually do provide a challenge for Goku.
  • Arc Fatigue: While not as bad as the DBZ arcs, the Red Ribbon Army Saga is the longest pre-DBZ arc and can take quite some time to sit through, particularly in the anime where there is a plethora of filler to drag it out even longer.
  • Ass Pull: The existence of the Ultra Divine Water straight up comes out of nowhere, and retcons Korin's teachings. Originally, the Sacred Water was part of a myth created that hid the real method of getting stronger; trying to catch Korin. When Goku lost to Demon King Piccolo and needed something to make him strong quicker, Korin is suddenly revealed to of actually had something that matched the stories around him, but refused to give it to Goku because it would potentially kill him. It's clear that Toriyama needed a way for Goku to get stronger, but because of how the pace of the arc was going, couldn't find another way for Goku to defeat Piccolo, and so invented the Ultra Divine Water to fix that. It's especially jarring since this was the first time Goku was handed a power-up instead of training and earning his power, which feels disconnected from the themes of the story.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Penguin Village episodes. The segment is actually a crossover with one of Toriyama's other works, Dr. Slump, but to fans who don't get the reference it comes off as simply bizarre.
  • Breather Boss: Pilaf and his gang play this role at the end of the Fortuneteller Baba Saga, which is also the only time they're directly fought against. Goku at this point has gone through the Red Ribbon Army, Tao Pai Pai, and Baba's fighters, so the trio is a cakewalk in comparison, and the only thing they succeed in accomplishing during the whole fight is burning off the lower half of his gi.
  • Crazy Awesome:
    • Goku, when he wasn't defeating armies on his own armed with only a magic pole and a flying cloud, he was transforming into a giant Ape and destroying anything in his path, using air to one shot his opponents, kicking peoples asses with rock-paper-scissors, using his tail to fly like a helicopter, flying into the air and punching holes through demon aliens with only one arm and using his power pole to sodomize a ninja. And this stuff happened when he was a child. As an adult, he reeked of Crazy Awesome, so much so that him just powering up nearly destroyed the planet.
    • Tao Pai Pai killed General Blue with his tongue and he did this during his debut in the series. His crazy awesomenes then goes to a whole new level when he taps a pillar and breaks it out, while leaving the building completely intact then throws the pillar and jumps onto it while it's moving. Tao Pai Pai's only comment on that matter is, "Who needs a jet when when we've got a perfectly good pillar."
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The announcer for the World Martial Arts Tournament, so much so that when he didn't appear in the Cell Games Saga, some fans got quite irate. Fortunately, he makes his return in the Buu Saga.
    • General Blue, for being pretty much the only competent member of the Red Ribbon Army - starting at the point where he strangles an electric eel to death while it's still electrocuting him. There is also the fact that he is the first villain to almost kill Goku in a straight fight.
    • The villain who follows Blue, Tao Pai Pai, who kills Blue with his tongue and is the first villain to flat-out defeat Goku, not to mention the first legitimate Knight of Cerebus the series has ever had, before even Piccolo.
    • Demon King Piccolo for being the Knight of Cerebus that turned Dragon Ball from a lighthearted adventure series, to the action-pack drama we know it today. He is also one of the most cunning villains in the show who outwitted the heroes and never succumb to holding the Villain Ball like many later enemies. Even Toriyama himself says that Piccolo is still his favorite villain.
    • Akkuman/Devilman for having what could be considered the most powerful attack in all of Dragon Ball/DBZ. Hell, he was even a playable character in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (where he even gets his own what-if story), Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure and Dragon Ball: The Revenge of King Piccolo.
  • Evil Is Cool: Piccolo and his father, King Piccolo. They're just both completely badass. King Piccolo is one of the first villains to be competent, as he's a Hero Killer several times over, and Piccolo Jr. almost defeated Goku in the 23rd Budokai.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: A lot of the manga's gags having Kid Goku often run around stark naked as well as the early Running Gag involving him patting other characters in the crotch because he couldn't tell their gender otherwise can be unsettling with the knowledge that Gerard Jones, who wrote the English adaptation of the manga for Viz, was arrested for possessing child pornography in 2016.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Given what Dr. Gero did to avenge the fall of the Red Ribbon Army it makes Commander Red's real goal even more disturbing.
    • Oolong's off-comment about Bulma not having a pretty death does happen later on as she ends up one of the victims of Super Buu, being turned into chocolate and eaten alive.
    • Master Roshi's destruction of the moon to reverse Goku's Great Ape transformation becomes horrifying when one remembers that's where Goku dropped off Boss Rabbit and his goons, though supposedly Toriyama said in an interview that Boss Rabbit and his goons got off the moon somehow.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • When Yamcha first gets a glimpse of the titular Dragon Balls, he confesses that he thought they'd be as big as dodgeballs. Come the Namek Saga in DBZ, we get introduced to a second set of Dragon Balls that happen to be roughly around that size.
    • Commander Red is voiced by Kenji Utsumi in the Japanese version, and desires to become taller. Utsumi later voices a Stalinist rogue GRU Colonel, yet later ends up defeated by someone who looks a heck of a lot like a tall version of Commander Red in Metal Gear Solid 3.
    • The scene where Pilaf blows a kiss to Bulma in the Pilaf Saga becomes hilarious when his Japanese voice actor, Shigeru Chiba, ends up voicing another silly villain who has a huge amount of Foe Yay/somewhat Yandere-esque traits towards his nemesis. And the villain's nemesis, Terra Branford, has an alternate costume that gives her a slightly similar appearance to Bulma.[[note]]In case anyone's curious, the alternate costume was based on her field sprite in her original game.
    • In the second episode of the anime, Bulma has this prophetic line:
      "I don't know what planet [Goku's] from, but it's not Earth."
    • In the 13th episode Oolong says this line:
      "So what's the deal, is Goku some kind of alien?"
    • During the King Piccolo Saga, the titular villain declares May 9th as Piccolo Day.note  Then May 9th gets recognised as Goku Day instead.
    • In the Red Ribbon Army saga, Goku gets antagonised by a ninja named Murasaki.
    • General Blue has this line: "And just when we were starting to have fun. Oh well I guess we're just going to have to go to the abridged version."
    • In the beginning where Goku met Bulma, after she told him about the Dragon Balls, she wants to wish for a prince. Guess who ended up in her life in Z?
    • Bulma said that when Goku was older, he was going to find her breasts impressive. 25 years later, he tells Old Kaioshin about Bulma's impressive breasts.
    • To prove his identity after growing a lot, Goku shows his friends his hair and says "Who else has hair like me?" As shown in the page image for Strong Family Resemblance, his father and second son have hair like him.
    • Wendee Lee and Michael McConnohie have appeared in the Harmony Gold dub of the first Dragon Ball movie. Now both are back in the Bang Zoom! Entertainment dub of Dragon Ball Super, and for bonus points, Lee's voicing Bulma again.
    • When confronting Tambourine about Krillin's death, Goku gets so mad that his hair, including that on his tail, stands on end. This won't be the last time Krillin gets killed by somebody voiced by Ryusei Nakao, either.
    • Demon King Piccolo's wish for youth would be co-opted by Pilaf and his henchmen.
  • Inferred Holocaust: While the Dragon Balls are used after the King Piccolo Saga to revive everyone he killed, including those killed by his offspring, during his reign Piccolo abolished all laws and released all prisoners, encouraging the people to sow chaos and mayhem. There's no telling how many were killed or otherwise victimized during this period of terror.
  • Informed Wrongness: Goku meeting Chi-Chi at the 23 Tenkaichi Budokai and not remembering her is treated as an example of him being an idiot. While Chi-Chi's identity is obvious to the audience, Goku had only met her once, over six years earlier. It actually speaks well of Goku that he remembers her at all. It's less blatant in the anime where he had seen her in a few filler arcs between then, but he had still only had two other meetings with her in the past six years.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Mai and Shu, especially when they're being verbally and/or physically abused by Pilaf. Their status as Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains also helps.
    • The Crane Hermit, Master Shen. He is an evil and bitter old man, but he's like that thanks to King Piccolo's cruelty. He watched his fellow students and friends be slaughtered by Piccolo's children and was then forced to watch his master humiliated by Piccolo himself. After witnessing the futility of being good and the failure of justice, he turned away from his master's teachings.
  • Memetic Badass: Monster Carrot's Story-Breaker Power is often brought up by fans to point out that he could theoretically defeat any opponent. Nevermind that he's a spineless coward, if he can so much as touch an opponent he instantly wins.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Master Roshi has a few Aesops on training. All of these are applicable to life:
    • Training takes time. Goku and Krillin train every day for eight months, for several hours a day. They don't see results themselves for seven months.
    • Training is meant to challenge you; you won't get any better if it's easy. Goku complains on the first day that he's tired and asks Master Roshi if he can deliver the rest of the milk on Kinto'un. Master Roshi asks him if that would challenge his ability, and says that he would never get any better if it was easy.
    • It's okay to struggle. Toriyama isn't afraid to show how exhausted Goku and Krillin are. Krillin in particular can't meet Goku's raw power, but he doesn't give up.
    • Everyone needs rest, or balance your workload. Master Roshi might employ Training from Hell, but he always gives them the chance to recover. He includes a huge breakfast, a nap time, and a study time. Even the strongest guys in the world take breaks.
    • Training can be boring and frustrating. Goku and Krillin don't enjoy delivering milk and swimming with sharks, and Goku wants to learn the fun stuff right away. Roshi says they aren't ready.
    • Training works. By the time the tournament comes around, Goku and Krillin are in incredible shape.
    • And the one he spells out: Accept that even with all of your training, there is Always Someone Better. Master Roshi goes out of his way to ensure that Goku and Krillin get into the Tenkaichi Budokai, and that they do not become the Champion, or else they'd think they're the best and wouldn't need to train. He forfeits his match the second he realizes that they've learned this lesson.
  • Values Dissonance: Several of the jokes in the early parts of the manga when it was still largely a comedy have not aged well:
    • One very early chapter features Oolong drugging Bulma and trying to molest her in her sleep, which is Played for Laughs,
    • General Blue being a Depraved Homosexual is played absolutely straight, which would've been considered more acceptable for publication in the mid 80s. The anime makes Blue even worse by implying him to be a pedophile on top of being gay.
    • The manga's explicit depictions of nudity and sexuality in its early years fail to resonate well with Western audiences, particularly in America, due to the fact that most of the characters who are shown naked or involved in sexual activities are below the legal age of consent in much of the country.Note  The fact that Goku's genitals are shown more than anyone else's doesn't help, nor does the fact that Bulma once attempted to seduce him in exchange for his Dragon Ball.
    • Though he's most likely meant to resemble a Djinn, Mr. Popo's appearance is a point of contention for Western fans, since his pitch black skin and red lips make him look uncomfortably similar to a minstrel character. The actual black characters in the series aren't much better, since Toriyama tends to draw them with cartoonishly large, pink lips.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Upa was initially believed to be a girl, even by other characters.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: A lot of the pop culture references in Dragon Ball go unnoticed by the overseas fandom, so expies and parodies of old Chinese or Japanese film or TV characters became more famous because of this series than their original incarnations:
    • Goku was originally conceived as a parody of Sun Wukong of the classic Chinese fantasy novel Journey to the West, and his name is in fact identical to the Japanese approximation of Sun Wukong. Note that Goku being more well-known is only the case overseas; in China and Japan, Wukong is a widely-known mythical figure who has dozens of shows and big-budget films based on his adventures.
    • Many other characters in the first arc were meant as parodies of Journey to the West characters too, most notably Yamcha, Oolong, and the Ox-King.
    • Tao Pai Pai is nigh-identical in appearance and personality to Sheng Kuan, the main villain of the martial arts action film Snake in the Eagle's Shadow.
    • Chaozu is, in design at least, a Jiangshi, a type of undead Chinese vampire. Toriyama probably threw him in there because Jiangshi films were huge in China, Japan, and Korea at the time, and throwing one into your story offered it an automatic bump in popularity. This doesn't really translate to modern North American, South American, or European viewers.
  • Woolseyism:
    • In the Japanese version, the announcer mispronounces Goku's name by reading the kanji for Son Goku as Mago Gosora. In the English dub, where Alternate Character Reading isn't exactly a thing, it's localized as him mispronouncing Goku as gah-kay-ah. Viz's translation of the manga, meanwhile, takes a slightly different path by having the announcer misread "Son Goku" as "Song Oku".
    • Oolong's wish is "For the panties of a hot girl", but the English dub changes it to "The world's most comfortable pair of underwear!" which many people thought was actually funnier.
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