Dragon Ball (manga)

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This article is about the manga. For the media franchise in general, see Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball
Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 51 (Dec. 1984) is the first appearance of Goku. Cover art by Akira Toriyama.jpg
Dragon Ball debuted in Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 51 of 1984, which features Son Goku and Bulma on the cover.
(Doragon Bōru)
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Martial arts, Science fantasy
Written by Akira Toriyama
Published by Shueisha
English publisher
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump
English magazine
Original run December 3, 1984June 5, 1995
Volumes 42 (List of volumes)
Dragon Ball franchise
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and Manga portal

Dragon Ball (Japanese: ドラゴンボール Hepburn: Doragon Bōru?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine from 1984 to 1995, with the 519 individual chapters collected into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Dragon Ball was initially inspired by the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West and has strong comedic aspects early on, but a shift occurs turning it largely into an action-packed fighting series. The series follows the adventures of 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 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 manga was 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. Several companies have developed various other 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.

The series is licensed for an English-language release in North America and the United Kingdom by Viz Media, and in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. The companies initially split the manga into two parts, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, to match the anime series.

Since its release, Dragon Ball has become one of the most successful manga series of all time. Its 42 volumes have sold over 156 million copies in Japan and more than 240 million copies worldwide, making it the third best-selling manga series in history. It is also regarded as one of the most influential manga series ever made, with many manga artists such as Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Tite Kubo (Bleach) citing Dragon Ball as a source of inspiration.

Plot summary[edit]

The series begins with a monkey-tailed boy named Son Goku befriending a teenage girl named Bulma, whom he accompanies to find the seven Dragon Balls, 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, lit. "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 murderer, 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, 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, lit. "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.



In order to be allowed to end his popular series Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama agreed to start his next work relatively soon after.[1] He and his editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, had many discussions on what the artist should draw next. He created several one-shots that were published, but none were very well received.[2] Torishima then suggested that since Toriyama enjoyed kung fu films such as those featuring Jackie Chan so much, his next series should be a kung fu shōnen manga.[3] This resulted in the two-part one-shot Dragon Boy (騎竜少年ドラゴンボーイ Doragon Bōi), published in the August and October 1983 issues of Fresh Jump. It follows a young boy adept in martial arts, named Tanton (唐童たんとん), as he escorts a princess on a journey back to her home country. Dragon Boy was very well-received and therefore developed to be a serial, which became Dragon Ball.[4][5]

Dragon Ball was loosely modeled on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.[5][6] Since it was serialized in a shōnen magazine, Toriyama 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.[7] With Goku being Sun Wukong, Bulma as Xuanzang, Oolong as Zhu Bajie and Yamcha being Sha Wujing,[3] he originally thought it would last about a year or end once the Dragon Balls were collected.[2] 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.[8]

The series was not initially popular. Although he suspected battles would appeal more to its shōnen audience, Toriyama tried to stick to the Journey to the West adventure aspect which he himself enjoyed. It was only after he became tired of Torishima nagging about its popularity, that Toriyama gave in and drew more battles with the first shown Tenkaichi Budōkai. Despite his reluctance, the author said it felt good when the series did in fact pick up in popularity at that point. However, he stated he still tried to resist by going back to the adventure aspect with the Red Ribbon Army arc and visiting Penguin Village from Dr. Slump to add comedy, but ultimately gave in completely to the fighting.[9] The author said that Muscle Tower in the Red Ribbon Army storyline was inspired by the video game Spartan X, in which enemies appear very fast, and basically the same as the Tenkaichi Budōkai, just not in a tournament setting. He then created Piccolo Daimao as a truly evil villain, and as a result called that arc the most interesting to draw.[3]

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 inspired by real estate speculators, whom Toriyama called the "worst kind of people."[3] Yū Kondō, Toriyama's second editor from the Saiyan arc until the appearance of Perfect Cell, and Fuyuto Takeda, his third editor from Perfect Cell until the end of the series, said that Dragon Ball hit its peak in popularity during the Freeza arc. In a one-thousand ballot popularity poll held in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Dragon Ball received 815 of them.[10] Finding the escalating enemies difficult, Toriyama created the Ginyu Force to add more balance to the series.[3]

Toriyama said that he struggled with the Android and Cell arc, feeling that he could not surpass the battle with Freeza.[9] He added time travel, but said he had a hard time with it, only being able to think of what to do that week.[3] 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.[3] Even after Cell, Toriyama felt it could not end there and so continued to the Majin Boo arc. Because he resolved for this to be the finale, he decided to draw what he wanted and so inserted comedy with Gohan's Great Saiyaman persona and Gotenks. However, he did not think of an ending until the actual final chapter; jumping 10 years ahead to signal that it was truly the end. Wanting to make it a little more clear that Goku's battles were over and a new generation was taking over, Toriyama added to the ending for the kanzenban re-release of Dragon Ball which finished in 2004.[9]

When asked in 2015 when he thinks Dragon Ball should have ended, Torishima said "of course it should have ended with the Freeza arc." No longer Toriyama's editor at that point in the story, he said that "If you're going to have an old fart fight ladies, then it's best to call it a day" in reference to the subsequent villains Dr. Gero and Android 18. Torishima went on to suggest that had it ended at Freeza, perhaps Toriyama would have been able to create a third hit series.[11]

Commenting on Dragon Ball's global success nearly two decades after it ended, 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."[12]

Creative process and art[edit]

Akira Toriyama did not plan the series' story out in advance, he thought it up weekly as he went.

Typically when creating a manga chapter, an artist draws a rough draft or "name", then a more detailed storyboard, and finally the finalized version. However, Toriyama only draws a storyboard and then the final product simply because it is less work.[2] Toriyama does not plan the details of his stories out in advance. Upon beginning the serialization of Dragon Ball, he had only prepared storyboards for three chapters.[2] The author said that during its serialization he would wait until about two days before his deadline before he would begin the storyboard. Starting around midnight, he would finish it around six in the morning and spend until that night inking. Finishing everything in about a day and a half.[13] Unusually, he only ever had one assistant helping him.[14] Toriyama admitted that only thinking about the story for each chapter found him in some tight spots, particularly with Trunks' time travel.[2] But he did state that the only thing he has confidence in is his ability to connect a story back to an earlier aspect, making it appear to have been foreshadowing.[9] The author utilized suggestions given in fan mail he received, albeit doing the opposite of what was suggested. An example being many fans telling him not to kill Vegeta, and him doing just that.[15]

Wanting to break from the Western influences common in Dr. Slump, Toriyama aimed for Oriental scenery in Dragon Ball, 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. When including fights in the manga, Toriyama had the characters go to uninhabited locations to avoid the difficulties of drawing residents and destroyed buildings.[16]

Toriyama said that by the second half of the series he had become more interested in coming up with the story than actually drawing it, and that the battles became more intense by him simplifying the lines. He also said he would get letters from readers complaining that the art had become "too square," so he intentionally made it more so.[17] Years later 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.[18]

When creating a character, his process is to first come up with their face and body type, and then the clothes while thinking of the world they inhabit and if the fighters can move around in them.[15] He also explained that he does not draw bad guys so unscrupulous that it affects the readers psychologically, not out of concern for others, but because he personally does not enjoy drawing such things.[9] Few of his characters have screentone because he found it difficult to use. Toriyama was not concerned about consistency with the color of their clothes for the occasional color pages, having sometimes used different ones than he did previously.[17] He even specifically asked Torishima for as few color pages as possible.[18] Character names are almost always puns sharing a theme with characters that are related to them, most commonly food. For example, all Saiyans (サイヤ人 Saiya-jin) are named after vegetables, saiya (サイヤ) being an anagram of the syllables for yasai (野菜) which means vegetable; such as Kakarrot (カカロット Kakarotto) taken from carrot (キャロット kyarotto).[7]

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 Goku.[19] Toriyama explained that he had Goku grow up as a means to make drawing fight scenes easier, even though Torishima was initially against it because it was rare to have the main character of a manga series change drastically.[18] Torishima later referred to this as his own biggest crisis during the series, with Toriyama threatening to end it if Goku could not grow up. Although the editor admitted his concerns proved unnecessary, as readers accepted the change without complaints.[2]

Although Toriyama personally dislikes the idea of naming fighting techniques, joking that in a real fight you would be killed before you could yell their names, Torishima felt it would be best. Toriyama proceeded to create names for all of the techniques, except for the series' signature Kamehameha (かめはめ波かめはめは, lit. "Kamehame Wave") which his wife came up with when he was indecisive about what it should be called. He even selected them specifically for each character; saying someone like Vegeta would use names in English, and using kanji for the more sophisticated Piccolo. In order to advance the story quickly by having characters travel without inconvenience, he created the flying cloud Kinto-un (筋斗雲きんとうん, lit. "Somersault Cloud"), then gave most fighters the flying technique Bukū-jutsu (舞空術ぶくうじゅつ, lit. "Air Dance Technique"), and finally granted Goku the teleportation ability Shunkan Idō (瞬間移動しゅんかんいどう, lit. "Instant Teleport").[16] While talking to his long-time friend and fellow manga artist Masakazu Katsura about how there was nothing stronger than a Super Saiyan, Katsura suggested having two characters "fuse" together, leading to the creation of the Fusion (フュージョン Fyūjon) technique.[20][21]

When asked about the distinctive machines that he drew in the series, Toriyama said he enjoys designing and drawing machines so much it is almost a form of escapism.[9] He stated that it is most fun to design original mecha, thinking about how you get in and where the engine is. With real world items he would have to look at references and being off even a little would be noticeable, but no one can tell him his original designs are wrong and it is faster to draw.[17] He goes against whatever is popular at the time; explaining that at the time he was creating Dragon Ball, most cars were very square, so he drew only round designs. But now, decades later cars are so sleek and air resistant, he currently draws square ones.[9]

In 1995, Toriyama detailed the equipment he used for Dragon Ball. He used a G-pen nib by Zebra, usually getting three chapters out of one because he typically does not press down hard, held in the same wooden pen holder that he had used since 1980. Toriyama used black drawing ink made by Pilot, but his color ink was produced by Luma and applied with a ten-year-old fine point Tenshōdō brush. His whiteout was also made by Luma. He received Kent paper, similar to Bristol board, for free from a seller connected to Shueisha, and also used a 0.5mm 2B lead mechanical pencil and a wide ruler at least 30 cm long.[22]


Dragon Ball was serialized in the manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump for 519 chapters from issue No. 51 on December 3, 1984 to No. 25 on June 5, 1995.[23][24] A special side story, titled "Trunks: The Story - The Lone Warrior" (TRUNKS THE STORY -たったひとりの戦士- Torankusu za Sutōrī -Tatta Hitori no Senshi-), was published together with chapter 386 on August 31, 1992 in issue No. 36/37.[25] The individual chapters were collected into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha from September 10, 1985 through August 4, 1995.[26][27] These saw any color or partially colored artwork greyscaled.[28] For the series' 24th anniversary, the tankōbon received new cover art that have been used on all reprints since 2009.[29]

Between December 4, 2002 and April 2, 2004, the series was released in a collection of 34 kanzenban volumes that retain the color artwork from its Weekly Shōnen Jump run.[30][31] In addition to posters and newly drawn cover art by Toriyama, the edition was given a slightly rewritten ending by the author. The new covers were initially drawn in ink, scanned into a computer and colored via Corel Painter, before Toriyama changed midway through to drawing them on a graphics tablet and coloring with Adobe Photoshop.[1]

The February 2013 issue of V Jump, which was released in December 2012, announced that parts of the manga would be fully colored digitally and re-released.[32] Twenty volumes, beginning from chapter 195 and grouped by story arcs, were released between February 4, 2013 and July 4, 2014.[33][34] Twelve volumes covering the first 194 chapters were published between January 4 and March 4, 2016.[35][36]

Dragon Ball was also released in a sōshūhen edition that aims to recreate the manga as it was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump; in the same size, with the color pages, promotional text, and next chapter previews, in addition to foldout posters.[37] Eighteen volumes were published between May 13, 2016 and January 13, 2017.[38][39]

English publication[edit]

The Dragon Ball manga is licensed for release in English in North America by Viz Media. Viz originally released the first 194 chapters as Dragon Ball and chapters 195 onward under the title "Dragon Ball Z" to mimic the names of the anime series, feeling it would reduce the potential for confusion by its readers. They initially released both series simultaneously, chapter by chapter in a monthly comic book format starting in 1998, before stopping in 2000 to switch to a graphic novel format correlating to the Japanese tankōbon. In 2000, while releasing Dragon Ball in the monthly format, Viz began to censor the series in response to complaints by parents.[40][41] They argued that when there are parental complaints, major chain stores stop selling the series, so to keep wide distribution, they made some "concessions."[41] They assured that all changes were done with approval by Toriyama and Shueisha, with Toriyama making suggestions himself: such as to obscure Goku's genitals with objects, rather than "neuter him."[41] A fan petition that garnered over 10,000 signatures was created, and a year later, Viz announced they would stop censoring Dragon Ball and instead increased its "age rating" to 13 and up, and reprinted the first three graphic novels.[40][42] However, they continued to censor several characters' lips by shading them in completely to avoid racist stereotypes, such as Mr. Popo's.[43] Dragon Ball Z was given an all ages rating and its first few volumes were never re-released uncensored.

Viz changed their publishing format for the series once again in 2003; the first ten collected volumes of both series were re-released under their Shonen Jump imprint, which have slightly smaller dimensions. The manga was completed in English for the first time with Dragon Ball published into 16 volumes between May 6, 2003 and August 3, 2004,[44][45] and Dragon Ball Z in 26 from May 6, 2003 to June 6, 2006.[46][47] However, when publishing the last few volumes of Z, the company began to censor the series again; translating the sound effects of gunshots to "zap" and changing the few sexual references.[48] Dragon Ball Z, from Trunk's appearance to chapter 226, was published in Viz's monthly magazine Shonen Jump from its debut issue in January 2003 to April 2005.[49]

Viz released both series in a wideban format called "Viz Big Edition," which collects three individual volumes into a single large volume. Dragon Ball was published in 5 volumes between June 3, 2008 and August 18, 2009,[50][51] while Dragon Ball Z was published in 9 volumes between June 3, 2008 and November 9, 2010.[52][53] These editions are on higher quality paper and include some of the original Weekly Shōnen Jump color pages, however, they include new censorship not in the 2003 releases.

Viz published new 3-in-1 volumes of Dragon Ball, similar to their Viz Big Edition, across 14 volumes between June 4, 2013 and September 6, 2016.[54][55] This version uses some of the Japanese kanzenban covers and marks the first time in English that the entire series was released under the Dragon Ball name, however, it is still censored.

Viz serialized chapters 195 to 245 of the fully colored version of the manga in their digital anthology Weekly Shonen Jump from February 2013 to February 2014.[56] They began publishing Dragon Ball Full Color Edition into large printed volumes on February 4, 2014.[57] Although it uses the same translation as their other versions, this release has some slight dialogue changes in the form of censoring any curses and abbreviating long-running sentences. It also leaves the Japanese sound effects and world bubbles unaltered.[28]

The manga has also been licensed in other English-speaking countries, distributed in the same Viz format of separating it into Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. From August 2005 to November 2007, Gollancz Manga an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group released the 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and the first 4 of Dragon Ball Z in the United Kingdom.[58][59] Viz took over the UK license after Gollancz left the manga market.[60] In Australia and New Zealand, Madman Entertainment has released all 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and the 9 "Viz Big" volumes of Dragon Ball Z between 2009 and 2010.[61][62][63][64]

Spin-offs and crossovers[edit]

Toriyama also created a short series, Neko Majin, that became a self-parody of Dragon Ball. First appearing in August 1999, the eight chapter series was released sporadically in Weekly Shōnen Jump and Monthly Shōnen Jump until it was completed in 2005. These chapters were compiled into one kanzenban volume released on April 4, 2005.[65]

In 2006, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo (or Kochikame), a special manga titled Super Kochikame (超こち亀 Chō Kochikame) was released on September 15.[66] It included characters from the series appearing in special crossover chapters of other well-known manga. The chapter "This is the Police Station in front of Dragon Park on Planet Namek" (こちらナメック星ドラゴン公園前派出所 Kochira Namekku-sei Dragon Kōen-mae Hashutsujo) was a Dragon Ball crossover by Toriyama and Kochikame author Osamu Akimoto. That same year, Toriyama teamed up with Eiichiro Oda to create a single crossover chapter of Dragon Ball and One Piece. Entitled Cross Epoch, the chapter was published in the December 25, 2006 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump and the April 2011 issue of English Shonen Jump.[67]

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.[68] Jaco's collected volumes contain a bonus Dragon Ball chapter revealing Goku's mother. Jaco and the bonus chapter were both published by Viz in their digital English Weekly Shonen Jump, and later in print.[69]

Dragon Ball SD is a colored spin-off manga written and illustrated by Naho Ōishi that has been published in Shueisha's Saikyō Jump magazine since its debut issue released in December 2010.[70] The manga is a condensed retelling of Goku's various adventures, with many details changed, in a super deformed art style, hence the title. After four chapters, the quarterly Saikyō Jump switched to a monthly schedule. The chapters published since the monthly switch have been collected into four tankōbon volumes since April 4, 2013.[71]

Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock is a three-chapter manga, once again penned by Naho Ōishi, that was published in the monthly magazine V Jump from August to October 2011.[72] It is a sequel to the 1990 TV special Bardock – The Father of Goku with some key details changed. The manga's story revolves around Burdock, Goku's father, who is featured in a scenario in which he did not die at the hands of Freeza and gets to fight his enemy's ancestor as a Super Saiyan.

In December 2016, a spin-off manga titled Dragon Ball Side Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha (ドラゴンボール外伝 転生したらヤムチャだった件 Doragon Bōru Gaiden: Tensei-shitara Yamucha Datta Ken) 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. Knowing what comes later in the story, he trains as Yamcha to make him the strongest warrior.[73]


Dragon Ball is one of the most popular manga series of all time. By 2000, more than 126 million copies of its collected volumes had been sold in Japan alone.[74] 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.[75][76] 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.[77][78]

Manga critic, and editor for Viz's release of the series, Jason Thompson commented that Dragon Ball "turns from a gag/adventure manga to a nearly-pure fighting manga."[79] James S. Yadao, author of The Rough Guide to Manga, explained that the first several chapters "play out much like Saiyuki [Journey to the West] 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 time 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."[80]

David Brothers for Comics Alliance wrote that "Like Osamu Tezuka and Jack Kirby before him, Toriyama created a story with his own two hands that seeped deep into the hearts of his readers, creating a love for both the cast and the medium at the same time." He said that while the author has "a sublime combination of Looney Tunes-style classic humor and dirty jokes," the best part of Dragon Ball are the fight scenes. Brothers explained that while Western superhero comics "would focus on a series of cool poses or impact shots" with the reader having to fill in the blanks between panels, Dragon Ball has a panel dedicated to one action and the next panel features the very next maneuver, making them incredibly easy to follow.[81]

Carlo Santos of Anime News Network described Dragon Ball's setting as "a melting pot of sci-fi, fantasy, and folklore." Santos praised its quick development of new characters and storylines, and claimed that the series' crowning achievement is in its dynamic fight scenes. However, he did not enjoy the cliché training and tournament segments, nor its crude humor.[82] His colleague Allen Divers 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.[83] 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."[84]

Comic Book Bin's Leroy Douresseaux described Toriyama as a "super-cartoonist," a blend of Carl Barks, Jack Kirby, and Peyo. He gave Dragon Ball a perfect rating and called it one of the best manga and comic books he has ever read.[85] 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. He cited one slight problem in Viz's release; the translation uses informal language in an attempt to capture Goku's country accent, but it ends up feeling "forced and odd." Khan prefers the manga over the slow pacing of the anime adaptations.[86] Ollie Barber writing for Forbes echoed Khan stating with a lot less padding, the manga's "pacing is a lot tighter and makes you realize how talented Dragon Ball's creator Akira Toriyama truly is when he chooses to flex his storytelling muscles."[87]

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.[88] Commenting on the issue, Susan J. Napier explained it as a difference in culture.[88] After the ban, Viz reluctantly began to censor the series to keep wide distribution.[41] 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."[88]


Thompson stated in 2011 that "Dragon Ball is by far the most influential shonen manga of the last 30 years, and today, almost every Shōnen Jump artist lists it as one of their favorites and lifts from it in various ways."[79] Explaining 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.[89] Thompson also cited the artwork as influential; pointing out that popular shōnen manga of the late 1980s and early 1990s had "manly" heroes, such as City Hunter and Fist of the North Star, whereas Dragon Ball starred the cartoonish and small Goku, thus starting a trend that he says continues to this day.[79]

Many manga artists have cited Dragon Ball and Toriyama as inspirations, such as Fairy Tail and Rave author Hiro Mashima.[90] Both One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda and Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto have stated that Goku inspired their series' main protagonists as well as series' structures.[91][92] For the kanzenban re-release of Dragon Ball, every odd-numbered volume included a tribute illustration by a popular manga artist who was a child when it was serialized, accompanied with a few words on how the series influenced them. The artists that contributed include Bleach creator Tite Kubo,[93] Black Cat author Kentaro Yabuki,[93] The Seven Deadly Sins author Nakaba Suzuki,[93] Eyeshield 21 and One-Punch Man illustrator Yusuke Murata,[93] Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo creator Yoshio Sawai,[93] Pretty Face author Yasuhiro Kanō,[93] Mr. Fullswing author Shinya Suzuki,[93] Hellsing creator Kouta Hirano,[94] Claymore author Norihiro Yagi,[95] Phantom Thief Jeanne and Full Moon o Sagashite creator Arina Tanemura,[96] Excel Saga author Rikdo Koshi,[97] Dragon Drive creator Kenichi Sakura,[98] and Happy World! author Kenjiro Takeshita.[99]

For the 10th anniversary of the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006, close to 79,000 Japanese fans voted Dragon Ball the third greatest manga of all time.[100] In a 2007 survey conducted by Oricon among one-thousand people, Goku ranked first place as the "Strongest Manga Character of All Time."[101] Coinciding with the 2012 Summer Olympics, Oricon conducted a survey at the international World Cosplay Summit on which manga and anime series attendees considered world class works. Dragon Ball was the overwhelming first place answer.[102] In 2015, the Japan Anniversary Association officially declared May 9 as "Goku Day" (悟空の日 Gokū no Hi). In Japanese the numbers 5 and 9 can be pronounced as "Go" and "Ku" respectively.[103]

On March 27, 2013 the "Akira Toriyama: The World of Dragon Ball" exhibit opened at the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi, garnering 72,000 visitors in its first nineteen days.[104] The exhibit is separated into seven areas. The first provides a look at the series' history, the second shows the 400-plus characters from the series, the third displays Toriyama's manga manuscripts from memorable scenes, the fourth shows special color illustrations, the fifth displays rare Dragon Ball-related materials, the sixth includes design sketches and animation cels from the anime, and the seventh screens Dragon Ball-related videos.[105] It was there until April 15, when it moved to Osaka from April 17 to 23, and ended in Toriyama's native Nagoya from July 27 to September 1.[105]

An interactive exhibit called "Dragon Ball Meets Science" (ドラゴンボールで科学する! Doragon Bōru de Kagaku Suru!) was displayed in Nagoya in summer 2014.[106] Installations included using an EEG that measures visitors' alpha waves in the brain to move Goku's flying cloud.[107] The following year it went to Taiwan, then Tokyo from April 29 to May 10, and Osaka between July 18 and August 31.[106]

In October 2016, Shueisha announced that they had created a new department on June 21 called the Dragon Ball Room (ドラゴンボール室 Doragon Bōru Shitsu). Headed by V Jump editor-in-chief Akio Iyoku, it is dedicated solely to Dragon Ball and optimizing and expanding the brand.[76]

Canadian mixed martial artist Carlos Newton dubbed his fighting style "Dragonball Jiu-Jitsu" in tribute to the series.[108]


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External links[edit]