|Created by||Akira Toriyama|
|Original work||Dragon Ball (manga) (1984–1995)|
|Book(s)||See Companion books|
|Films and television|
|Film(s)||See List of Dragon Ball films|
|Traditional||Dragon Ball Collectible Card Game|
|Video game(s)||See List of Dragon Ball video games|
|Soundtrack(s)||See List of Dragon Ball soundtracks|
Dragon Ball (Japanese: ドラゴンボール? Hepburn: Doragon Bōru) is a Japanese media franchise created by Akira Toriyama. The initial manga, written and illustrated by Toriyama, was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1984 to 1995, with the 519 individual chapters collected into 42 tankōbon volumes by its publisher Shueisha. Dragon Ball was initially inspired by the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West. The series follows the adventures of the protagonist, Son Goku, from his childhood through adulthood as he trains in martial arts and explores the world in search of the seven orbs known as the Dragon Balls, which summon a wish-granting dragon when gathered. Along his journey, Goku makes several friends and battles a wide variety of villains, many of whom also seek the Dragon Balls.
The Dragon Ball manga has been adapted into two anime series produced by Toei Animation: Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, which together were broadcast in Japan from 1986 to 1996. Additionally, the studio has developed 19 animated feature films and three television specials, as well as two anime sequel series titled Dragon Ball GT (1996–1997) and Dragon Ball Super (2015–present). From 2009 to 2015, a revised, faster-paced version of Dragon Ball Z aired in Japan under the title Dragon Ball Kai, in which most of the original version's footage not featured in the manga is removed. Several companies have developed various types of merchandising based on the series leading to a large media franchise that includes films, both animated and live-action, collectible trading card games, numerous action figures, along with several collections of soundtracks and a large number of video games. As of November 2014, the franchise generated $5 billion in merchandise, making Dragon Ball one of the most merchandisable anime based media franchises of all time.
Since its release, Dragon Ball has become one of the most successful manga and anime series of all time. The manga's 42 volumes have sold over 156 million copies in Japan and more than 240 million copies worldwide, making it the second best-selling manga series in history. Reviewers have praised the art, characterization, and humor of the story. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest manga series ever made, with many manga artists citing Dragon Ball as a source of inspiration for their own now popular works. The anime, particularly Dragon Ball Z, is also highly popular in various countries and was arguably one of the most influential in boosting the popularity of Japanese animation in Western culture.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Production
- 3 Media
- 3.1 Manga
- 3.2 Anime series
- 3.3 Films
- 3.4 TV specials and other animations
- 3.5 Video games
- 3.6 Soundtracks
- 3.7 Companion books
- 3.8 Collectible cards
- 4 Reception
- 5 Cultural impact
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The series begins with a monkey-tailed boy named Goku befriending a teenage girl named Bulma, whom he accompanies to find the seven Dragon Balls (ドラゴンボール? Doragon Bōru), which summon the dragon Shenlong to grant the user one wish. The journey leads them to the desert bandit Yamcha, who later becomes an ally; Chi-Chi, whom Goku unknowingly agrees to marry; and Pilaf, an impish man who seeks the Dragon Balls to fulfill his desire to rule the world. Goku then undergoes rigorous training regimes under the martial arts master Kame-Sen'nin in order to fight in the Tenkaichi Budōkai (天下一武道会?, "Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament"). A monk named Kuririn becomes his training partner and rival, but they soon become best friends. After the tournament, Goku searches for the Dragon Ball his grandfather left him and almost single-handedly defeats the Red Ribbon Army and their hired assassin Taopaipai. Thereafter Goku reunites with his friends to defeat the fortuneteller Baba Uranai's fighters and have her locate the last Dragon Ball to revive a friend killed by Taopaipai.
At the Tenkaichi Budōkai three years later Goku and his allies oppose Kame-Sen'nin's rival and Taopaipai's brother, Tsuru-Sen'nin, and his students Tenshinhan and Chaozu. Kuririn is killed after the tournament and Goku tracks down and is defeated by his killer, Piccolo Daimao. The samurai Yajirobe takes Goku to the hermit Karin, where he receives healing and a power boost. Meanwhile, Piccolo fights Kame-Sen'nin and Chaozu, leading to both their deaths, and uses the Dragon Balls to regain his youth before destroying Shenlong. Goku then kills Piccolo Daimao, who, just before dying, spawns his son/reincarnation Piccolo. Karin then directs Goku to Kami-sama, the original creator of the Dragon Balls, to restore Shenlong and revive his slain friends. Goku trains under Kami for the next three years, once again reuniting with his friends at the Tenkaichi Budōkai, where he narrowly wins against Piccolo before leaving with Chi-Chi to keep his promise to marry her.
Five years later, Goku is a young adult and father to his son Gohan, when Raditz arrives on Earth, identifies Goku as his younger brother 'Kakarrot' and reveals to him that they are members of a nearly extinct extraterrestrial race called the Saiyans (サイヤ人? Saiya-jin), who sent Goku to conquer Earth for them, until he suffered a severe head injury and lost all memory of his mission. Goku refuses to continue the mission, sides with Piccolo, and sacrifices his life to defeat Raditz. In the afterlife Goku trains under the North Kaiō until he is revived by the Dragon Balls to save the Earth from the invading Nappa and Vegeta. In the battle Yamcha, Chaozu, Tenshinhan, and Piccolo are killed, and the Dragon Balls cease to exist. Kuririn and the galactic tyrant Freeza learn of another set of Dragon Balls on planet Namek (ナメック星? Namekku-sei), whereupon Bulma, Gohan, and Kuririn search for them to revive their friends and subsequently the Earth's Dragon Balls, leading to several battles with Freeza's minions and Vegeta, the latter standing alongside the heroes to fight the Ginyu Force, a team of mercenaries. The long battle with Freeza himself comes to a close when Goku transforms into a Super Saiyan (超サイヤ人? Sūpā Saiya-jin) of legends and defeats him.
A group of Androids (人造人間? Jinzōningen, "Artificial Humans") created by a member of the former Red Ribbon Army, Doctor Gero, appear three years later, seeking revenge against Goku. During this time, an evil life form called Cell also emerges and, after absorbing two of the Androids to achieve his "perfect form," holds his own fighting tournament to challenge the protagonists. After Goku sacrifices his own life to no avail, Gohan avenges his father by defeating Cell. Seven years later, Goku, briefly revived for one day, and his allies are drawn into a fight against Majin Boo. After numerous battles, including destruction and re-creation of the Earth, Goku destroys Boo with a Genki-Dama (a sphere of pure energy drawn from all intelligent beings on Earth) and wishes for him to be reincarnated as a "good person." Ten years later, at another Tenkaichi Budōkai, Goku meets Boo's human reincarnation, Oob. Leaving their match unfinished, Goku departs with Oob to train him to be Earth's new guardian.
Akira Toriyama loosely modeled Dragon Ball on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West; but also redeveloped it from his 1983 one-shot manga Dragon Boy. He has said that the fighting was influenced from movies by famous martial arts actor Jackie Chan, as he wanted to create a story with the basic theme of Journey to the West, but with "a little kung fu." Since it was serialized in a shōnen magazine, he added the idea of the Dragon Balls to give it a game-like activity of gathering something, without thinking of what the characters would wish for. With Goku being Sun Wukong, Bulma as Xuanzang, Oolong as Zhu Bajie and Yamcha being Sha Wujing, he originally thought it would last about a year or end once the Dragon Balls were collected. Toriyama stated that although the stories are purposefully easy to understand, he specifically aimed Dragon Ball at readers older than those of his previous serial Dr. Slump. He also wanted to break from the Western influences common in Dr. Slump, deliberately going for Chinese scenery, referencing Chinese buildings and photographs of China his wife had bought. The island where the Tenkaichi Budōkai is held is modeled after Bali, which he, his wife and assistant visited in mid-1985, and for the area around Bobbidi's spaceship he consulted photos of Africa.
It was when the Tenkaichi Budōkai martial arts tournament began that Dragon Ball truly became popular, having recalled the races and tournaments in Dr. Slump. Anticipating that readers would expect Goku to win the tournaments, Toriyama had him lose the first two while planning an eventual victory. He said that Muscle Tower in the Red Ribbon Army storyline was inspired by the video game Spartan X, in which enemies tended to appear very fast. He then created Piccolo Daimao as a truly evil villain, and as a result called that arc the most interesting to draw. Once Goku and company had become the strongest on Earth, they turned to extraterrestrial opponents including the Saiyans. Freeza, who forcibly took over planets to resell them, was created around the time of the Japanese economic bubble and was inspired by real estate speculators, whom Toriyama called the "worst kind of people." Finding the escalating enemies difficult, he created the Ginyu Force to add more balance to the series. He added time travel next, but said he had a hard time with it, only thinking of what to do that week and having to discuss it with his second editor Yu Kondo. After Cell's death, Toriyama intended for Gohan to replace Goku as the series' protagonist, but felt the character was not suited for the role and changed his mind.
Going against the normal convention that the strongest characters should be the largest in terms of physical size, he designed many of Dragon Ball's most powerful characters with small statures, including the protagonist, Goku. Toriyama later explained that he had Goku grow up as a means to make drawing fight scenes easier, even though his first editor Kazuhiko Torishima was initially against it because it was rare to have the main character of a manga series change drastically. When including fights in the manga, Toriyama had the characters go to uninhabited locations to avoid difficulties in drawing residents and destroyed buildings. Toriyama said that he did not plan the details of the story, resulting in strange occurrences and discrepancies later in the series, including changing the colors of the characters mid-story and few characters having screen tone because he found it difficult to use. Since the completion of Dragon Ball, Toriyama has continued to add to its story, mostly background information on its universe, through guidebooks published by Shueisha.
During the second half of the series, Toriyama has said that he had become more interested in coming up with the story than actually drawing it, and that the battles became more intense with him simplifying the lines. In 2013, he stated that because Dragon Ball is an action manga the most important aspect is the sense of speed, so he did not draw very elaborate, going so far as to suggest one could say that he was not interested in the art. He also once said that his goal for the series was to tell an "unconventional and contradictory" story. In 2013, commenting on Dragon Ball's global success, Toriyama said, "Frankly, I don't quite understand why it happened. While the manga was being serialized, the only thing I wanted as I kept drawing was to make Japanese boys happy.", "The role of my manga is to be a work of entertainment through and through. I dare say I don't care even if [my works] have left nothing behind, as long as they have entertained their readers."
Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball was serialized in the manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 3, 1984 to June 5, 1995, when Toriyama grew exhausted and felt he needed a break from drawing. The 519 individual chapters were published into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha from September 10, 1985 through August 4, 1995. Between December 4, 2002 and April 2, 2004, the chapters were re-released in a collection of 34 kanzenban volumes, which included a slightly rewritten ending, new covers, and color artwork from its Weekly Shōnen Jump run. The February 2013 issue of V Jump, which was released in December 2012, announced that parts of the manga will be fully colored and re-released in 2013. Twenty volumes, beginning from chapter 195 and grouped by story arcs, were released between February 4, 2013 and July 4, 2014. Twelve volumes covering the first 194 chapters were published between January 4 and March 4, 2016. A sōshūhen edition that aims to recreate the manga as it was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump with color pages, promotional text, and next chapter previews, was published in eighteen volumes between May 13, 2016 and January 13, 2017.
Another manga penned by Ōishi, the three-chapter Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock that revolves around Bardock, Goku's father, was published in the monthly magazine V Jump from August and October 2011.
The final chapter of Toriyama's 2013 manga series Jaco the Galactic Patrolman revealed that it is set before Dragon Ball, with several characters making appearances. Jaco's collected volumes contain a bonus Dragon Ball chapter depicting Goku's mother.
In December 2016, a spin-off manga titled Dragon Ball Side Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha began in Shueisha's Shōnen Jump+ digital magazine. Written and illustrated by Dragon Garow Lee, it is about a high school boy who after an accident wakes up in the body of Yamcha in the Dragon Ball manga.
Toriyama also created a short series, Neko Majin (1999–2005), that became a self-parody of Dragon Ball. In 2006, a crossover between Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo (or Kochikame) and Dragon Ball by Toriyama and Kochikame author Osamu Akimoto appeared in the Super Kochikame (超こち亀 Chō Kochikame) manga. That same year, Toriyama teamed up with Eiichiro Oda to create a crossover chapter of Dragon Ball and One Piece titled Cross Epoch.
Toei Animation produced an anime television series based on the first 194 manga chapters, also titled Dragon Ball. The series premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on February 26, 1986 and ran until April 12, 1989, lasting 153 episodes.
Dragon Ball Z
Instead of continuing the anime as Dragon Ball, Toei Animation decided to carry on with their adaptation under a new name and asked Akira Toriyama to come up with the title. Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ(ゼット)? Doragon Bōru Zetto, commonly abbreviated as DBZ) picks up five years after the first series left off and adapts the final 325 chapters of the manga. It premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on April 26, 1989, taking over its predecessor's time slot, and ran for 291 episodes until its conclusion on January 31, 1996.
Dragon Ball GT
Dragon Ball GT (ドラゴンボールGT(ジーティー)? Doragon Bōru Jī Tī, G(rand) T(ouring)) premiered on Fuji TV on February 2, 1996 and ran until November 19, 1997 for 64 episodes. Unlike the first two anime series, it is not based on Akira Toriyama's original Dragon Ball manga, being created by Toei Animation as a sequel to the series or as Toriyama called it, a "grand side story of the original Dragon Ball". Toriyama designed the main cast, the spaceship used in the show, the design of three planets, and came up with the title and logo. In addition to this, Toriyama also oversaw production of the series, just as he had for the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime.
Dragon Ball Z Kai
In February 2009, Toei Animation announced that it would begin broadcasting a revised version of Dragon Ball Z as part of the series' 20th anniversary celebrations. The series premiered on Fuji TV in Japan on April 5, 2009, under the name Dragon Ball Kai (ドラゴンボール改? Doragon Bōru Kai, lit. "Dragon Ball Revised"), with the episodes remastered for HDTV, featuring updated opening and ending sequences, and a rerecording of the vocal tracks by most of the original cast. The footage was also re-edited to follow the manga more closely, eliminating scenes and episodes which were not featured in the original manga, resulting in a more faithful adaptation, as well as in a more faster-moving, and focused story. As such, it is a new version of Dragon Ball Z created from the original footage, the episode count was reduced to 159 episodes (167 episodes internationally), from the original footage of 291 episodes. Damaged frames were removed, resulting in some minor shots being remade from scratch in order to fix cropping, and others to address continuity issues. The majority of the international versions, including Funimation Entertainment's English dub, are titled Dragon Ball Z Kai.
Dragon Ball Super
On April 28, 2015, Toei Animation announced Dragon Ball Super (ドラゴンボール超? Doragon Bōru Sūpā), the first all-new Dragon Ball television series to be released in 18 years. It debuted on July 5 and will run as a weekly series at 9:00 am on Fuji TV on Sundays. Masako Nozawa reprised her roles as Goku, Gohan, and Goten. Most of the original cast reprise their roles as well. Kouichi Yamadera and Masakazu Morita also reprise their roles, as Beerus and Whis, respectively. The story of the anime is set four years after the defeat of Majin Boo, when the Earth has become peaceful once again. Akira Toriyama is credited as the original creator, as well for "original story & character design concepts." It is also being adapted into a companion manga.
Nineteen animated theatrical films based on the Dragon Ball series have been released in Japan. The first three films are based on the original Dragon Ball anime series. The remaining films include fifteen based on Dragon Ball Z and one tenth anniversary special (also based on the first anime series). The first five films were shown at the Toei Manga Festival (東映まんがまつり Tōei Manga Matsuri), while the sixth through seventeenth films were shown at the Toei Anime Fair (東映アニメフェア Toei Anime Fea). They are mostly alternate re-tellings of certain story arcs involving new characters or extra side-stories that do not correlate with the same continuity as the series. Since these movies were originally shown as back-to-back presentations alongside other Toei film productions, they were usually below feature length (around 45–60 minutes each), making them only slightly longer than an episode of the TV series (the sole exception being 1996's The Path to Power, which has a running time of 80 minutes). The newest films, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013) and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' (2015), were produced as full-length feature films and were given stand-alone theatrical releases in Japan; these being the first movies to have original creator Akira Toriyama deeply involved in their production.
An American live-action film titled Dragonball Evolution was produced by 20th Century Fox, after it acquired the feature film rights to the Dragon Ball franchise in March 2002, previous to the film, two unofficial live-action films have been produced decades prior. The film was directed by James Wong and produced by Stephen Chow, it was released in the United States on April 10, 2009. The film was meant to lead into sequels,  which were cancelled, after the film released and became universally heralded as one of the worst adaptations of all time, being considered by the fans as being unfaithful to the source material. Franchise creator Akira Toriyama also criticized the film adding he was completely left out of the creative process, despite having himself offered to help, going as far as saying: "the result was a movie, I couldn't even call Dragon Ball". Years after it's release the writer of the film Ben Ramsey, released a public apology were he admitted to have written the film "chasing for a payday" instead of "as a fan of the franchise".
TV specials and other animations
Three television specials based on the series were aired on Fuji TV in Japan. The first, The One True Final Battle ~The Z Warrior Who Challenged Freeza -- Son Goku's Father~, renamed Bardock – The Father of Goku by Funimation, was shown on October 17, 1990. The second special, The Hopeless Resistance!! Gohan and Trunks -- The Two Remaining Super Warriors, renamed The History of Trunks by Funimation, is based on a special chapter of the original manga and aired on March 24, 1993. Goku Side Story! The Four Star Ball is a Badge of Courage, renamed A Hero's Legacy by Funimation, aired on March 26, 1997. A two-part hour-long crossover special between Dragon Ball Z, One Piece and Toriko, referred to as Dream 9 Toriko & One Piece & Dragon Ball Z Super Collaboration Special!! aired on April 7, 2013.
The short film Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! was created for the Jump Super Anime Tour, which celebrated Weekly Shōnen Jump's 40th anniversary, and debuted on November 24, 2008. A short animated adaptation of Naho Ōishi's Bardock spinoff manga, Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock, was shown on December 17–18, 2011 at the Jump Festa 2012 event.
A two-episode original video animation (OVA) titled Dragon Ball Z Side Story: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans was created in 1993 as strategy guides for the Famicom video game of the same name. A remake titled Dragon Ball: Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans was created as a bonus feature for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, which was released on November 11, 2010.
Theme Park Attraction
The Dragon Ball franchise has spawned multiple video games across various genres and platforms. Earlier games of the series included a system of card battling and were released for the Famicom following the storyline of the series. Starting with the Super Famicom and Mega Drive, most of the games were from the fighting genre or RPG (Role Playing Game), such as the Super Butoden series. The first Dragon Ball game to be released in the United States was Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout for the PlayStation in 1997. For the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable games the characters were redone in 3D cel-shaded graphics. These games included the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series and the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series. Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit was the first game of the franchise developed for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Dragon Ball Xenoverse was the first game of the franchise developed for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Dragon Ball Online was available in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan until the servers were shut down in 2013. A few years later fans started recreating the game. Today, "Dragon Ball Online Global" is a new, European version of Dragon Ball Online and it is being developed, while open beta server is running.
Myriad soundtracks were released in the anime, movies and the games. The music for the first two anime Dragon Ball and Z and its films was composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi, while the music from GT was composed by Akihito Tokunaga and the music from Kai was composed by Kenji Yamamoto and Norihito Sumitomo. For the first anime, the soundtracks released were Dragon Ball: Music Collection in 1985 and Dragon Ball: Complete Song Collection in 1991, although they were reissued in 2007 and 2003, respectively. For the second anime, the soundtrack series released were Dragon Ball Z Hit Song Collection Series. It was produced and released by Columbia Records of Japan from July 21, 1989 to March 20, 1996 the show's entire lifespan. On September 20, 2006 Columbia re-released the Hit Song Collection on their Animex 1300 series. Other CDs released are compilations, video games and films soundtracks as well as music from the English versions.
There have been numerous companion books to the Dragon Ball franchise. Chief among these are the Daizenshuu (大全集?) series, comprising seven hardback main volumes and three supplemental softcover volumes, covering the manga and the first two anime series and their theatrical films. The first of these, Dragon Ball: The Complete Illustrations (Daizenshuu volume 1), first published in Japan in 1995, is the only one that was released in English, being printed in 2008 by Viz Media. It contains all 264 colored illustrations Akira Toriyama drew for the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazines' covers, bonus giveaways and specials, and all the covers for the 42 tankōbon. It also includes an interview with Toriyama on his work process. The remainder have never been released in English, and all are now out of print in Japan. From February 4 to May 9, 2013, condensed versions of the Daizenshuu with some updated information were released as the four-volume Chōzenshū (超全集?) series. For Dragon Ball GT, the Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files were released in May and December 1997 by Shueisha's Jump Comics Selection imprint. They include series information, illustration galleries, behind-the-scenes information, and more. They were out of print for many years, but were re-released in April 2006 (accompanying the Japanese DVD release of Dragon Ball GT) and this edition is still in print.
Coinciding with the 34-volume kanzenban re-release of the manga, and the release of the entire series on DVD for the first time in Japan, four new guidebooks were released in 2003 and 2004. Dragon Ball Landmark and Dragon Ball Forever cover the manga, using volume numbers for story points that reference the kanzenban release, while Dragon Ball: Tenkaichi Densetsu (ドラゴンボール 天下一伝説?) and Dragon Ball Z: Son Goku Densetsu (ドラゴンボールZ 孫悟空伝説?) cover the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime, respectively. Much of the material in these books is reused from the earlier Daizenshuu volumes, but they include new textual material including substantial interviews with the creator, cast and production staff of the series. Son Goku Densetsu in particular showcases previously-unpublished design sketches of Goku's father Bardock, drawn by character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru prior to creator Akira Toriyama's revisions that resulted in the final version.
Following the release of Dragon Ball Kai in Japan, four new guidebooks were released: the two-volume Dragon Ball: Super Exciting Guide (ドラゴンボール 超エキサイティングガイド?) in 2009, covering the manga, and two-volume Dragon Ball: Extreme Battle Collection (ドラゴンボール 極限バトルコレクション?) in 2010, covering the anime series. Despite the TV series airing during this time being Kai, the Extreme Battle Collection books reference the earlier Z series in content and episode numbers. These books also include new question-and-answer sessions with Akira Toriyama, revealing a few new details about the world and characters of the series. 2010 also saw the release of a new artbook, Dragon Ball: Anime Illustrations Guide - The Golden Warrior (ドラゴンボール アニメイラスト集 「黄金の戦士」?); a sort of anime-counterpart to the manga-oriented Complete Illustrations, it showcases anime-original illustrations and includes interviews with the three principal character designers for the anime. Each of the Japanese "Dragon Box" DVD releases of the series and movies, which were released from 2003 to 2006, as well as the Blu-ray boxed sets of Dragon Ball Kai, released 2009 to 2011, come with a Dragon Book guide that contains details about the content therein. Each also contains a new interview with a member of the cast or staff of the series. These books have been reproduced textually for Funimation's release of the Dragon Ball Z Dragon Box sets from 2009 to 2011.
Collectible cards based on the Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT series have been released by Bandai. These cards feature various scenes from the manga and anime stills, plus exclusive artwork from all three series. Bandai released the first set in the United States in July 2008.
Dragon Ball is one of the most popular manga series of all time, and it continues to enjoy high readership today. By 2000, more than 126 million copies of its tankōbon volumes had been sold in Japan alone. By 2016, this number had grown to pass 156 million in Japan and 240 million worldwide, making it the second best-selling Weekly Shōnen Jump manga of all time. Dragon Ball is credited as one of the main reasons for the period when manga circulation was at its highest in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. For the 10th anniversary of the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006, Japanese fans voted Dragon Ball the third greatest manga of all time.
In a survey conducted by Oricon in 2007 among 1,000 people, Son Goku, the main character of the franchise, ranked first place as the "Strongest Manga Character of All Time." Goku's journey and his ever-growing strength resulted in the character winning "the admiration of young boys everywhere". Manga artists, such as One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda and Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, have stated that Goku inspired their series' main protagonists as well as series structure.
Manga critic Jason Thompson stated in 2011 that "Dragon Ball is by far the most influential shonen manga of the last 30 years, and today, almost every Shonen Jump artist lists it as one of their favorites and lifts from it in various ways." He says the series "turns from a gag/adventure manga to an nearly-pure fighting manga", and its basic formula of "lots of martial arts, lots of training sequences, a few jokes" became the model for other shōnen series, such as Naruto. Thompson also called Toriyama's art influential and cited it as a reason for the series' popularity. James S. Yadao, author of The Rough Guide to Manga, claims that the first several chapters of Dragon Ball "play out much like Saiyuki with Dr. Slump-like humour built in" and that Dr. Slump, Toriyama's previous manga, has a clear early influence on the series. He feels the series "established its unique identity" after the first occasion when Goku's group disbands and he trains under Kame-sen'nin, when the story develops "a far more action-packed, sinister tone" with "wilder" battles with aerial and spiritual elements and an increased death count, while humor still makes an occasional appearance. Yadao claims that an art shift occurs when the characters "lose the rounded, innocent look that he established in Dr. Slump and gain sharper angles that leap off the page with their energy and intensity."
Animerica felt the series had "worldwide appeal", using dramatic pacing and over-the-top martial arts action to "maintain tension levels and keep a crippler crossface hold on the audience's attention spans". In Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subculture, Takashi Murakami commented that Dragon Ball's "never-ending cyclical narrative moves forward plausibly, seamlessly, and with great finesse." Ridwan Khan from Animefringe.com commented that the manga had a "chubby" art style, but as the series continued the characters got more refined, leaner, and more muscular. Khan prefers the manga over the slow pacing of the anime counterparts. Allen Divers of Anime News Network praised the story and humor of the manga as being very good at conveying all of the characters' personalities. Divers also called Viz's translation one of the best of all the English editions of the series due to its faithfulness to the original Japanese. D. Aviva Rothschild of Rationalmagic.com remarked the first manga volume as "a superior humor title". They praised Goku's innocence and Bulma's insistence as one of the funniest parts of the series.
The content of the manga has been controversial in United States. In November 1999, Toys "R" Us removed Viz's Dragon Ball from their stores nationwide when a Dallas parent complained the series had "borderline soft porn" after he bought them for his four-year-old son. Commenting on the issue, Susan J. Napier explained it as a difference in culture. After the ban, Viz reluctantly began to censor the series to keep wide distribution. However, in 2001, after releasing three volumes censored, Viz announced Dragon Ball would be uncensored and reprinted due to fan reactions. In October 2009, Wicomico County Public Schools in Maryland banned the Dragon Ball manga from their school district because it "depicts nudity, sexual contact between children and sexual innuendo among adults and children."
The anime adaptations have also been very well-received and are better known in the Western world than the manga, with Anime News Network saying, "Few anime series have mainstreamed it the way Dragon Ball Z has. To a certain generation of television consumers its characters are as well known as any in the animated realm, and for many it was the first step into the wilderness of anime fandom." In 2000, satellite TV channel Animax together with Brutus, a men's lifestyle magazine, and Tsutaya, Japan's largest video rental chain, conducted a poll among 200,000 fans on the top anime series, with Dragon Ball coming in fourth. TV Asahi conducted two polls in 2005 on the Top 100 Anime, Dragon Ball came in second in the nationwide survey conducted with multiple age-groups and in third in the online poll. On several occasions the Dragon Ball anime has topped Japan's DVD sales.
Carl Kimlinger of Anime News Network summed up Dragon Ball as "an action-packed tale told with rare humor and something even rarer—a genuine sense of adventure." Both Kimlinger and colleague Theron Martin noted Funimation's reputation for drastic alterations of the script, but praised the dub. However, some critics and most fans of the Japanese version have been more critical with Funimation's English dub and script of Dragon Ball Z over the years. Jeffrey Harris IGN criticized the voices including how Freeza's appearance combined with the feminine English voice left fans confused about Freeza's gender. Carlos Ross of T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews considered the series' characters to be different from stereotypical stock characters and noted that they undergo much more development. Despite praising Dragon Ball Z for its cast of characters, they criticized it for having long and repetitive fights.
Dragon Ball Z is well-known, and often criticized, for its long, repetitive, dragged-out fights that span several episodes, with Martin commenting "DBZ practically turned drawing out fights into an art form." However, Jason Thompson of io9 explained that this comes from the fact that the anime was being created alongside the manga. Dragon Ball Z was listed as the 78th best animated show in IGN's Top 100 Animated Series, and was also listed as the 50th greatest cartoon in Wizard magazine's Top 100 Greatest Cartoons list.
Harris commented that Dragon Ball GT "is downright repellent", mentioning that the material and characters had lost their novelty and fun. He also criticized the GT character designs of Trunks and Vegeta as being goofy. Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network also gave negative comments about GT, mentioning that the fights from the series were "a very simple childish exercise" and that many other anime were superior. The plot of Dragon Ball GT has also been criticized for giving a formula that was already used in its predecessors.
The first episode of Dragon Ball Z Kai earned a viewer ratings percentage of 11.3, ahead of One Piece and behind Crayon Shin-chan. Although following episodes had lower ratings, Kai was among the top 10 anime in viewer ratings every week in Japan for most of its run.
Unofficial live-action films
An unofficial live-action Mandarin Chinese film adaptation of the series, Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins, was released in Taiwan in 1989. In December 1990, the unofficial live-action Korean film Dragon Ball: Ssawora Son Goku, Igyeora Son Goku was released.
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- Official Dragon Ball 30th anniversary website (in Japanese)