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Dragon Ball is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1984 through 1995, and later the 519 individual chapters were published into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Inspired by the Chinese folk novel Journey to the West, it follows the adventures of Son Goku from his childhood through middle age as he trains in martial arts and explores the world in search of the seven mystical objects known as the Dragon Balls, which can summon a wish-granting dragon. Along his trip, Goku meets several friends and fights against several villains who also seek the Dragon Balls.

The 42 tankōbon have been adapted into three anime series produced by Toei Animation: Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT. Additionally, Toei has developed seventeen animated feature films and three television specials. During 2009, Toei started rebroadcasting Dragon Ball Z under the name of Dragon Ball Kai which changes the footage from the original anime. Several companies have developed various types of merchandising such as a collectible trading card game, and a large number of video games.

The series is licensed for an English language release in North America by Viz Media, in the United Kingdom by Gollancz Manga, and in Australia and New Zealand by Chuang Yi. Several companies have dubbed and aired the three anime series in North America. In China, it was produced a live-action film adaptation in 1989. In 2002, 20th Century Fox began production of the first American-made live-action film which was released on April 10, 2009.

Since its release, Dragon Ball has become one of the most popular manga series of its time in both Japan and North America. It enjoys a high readership, with over 150 million volumes of the series sold by 2007. Several manga artists have noted that the manga series was the inspiration for their own now popular works, including Naruto and One Piece. The anime is also highly popular, ranking number 12 among the best anime series of all time in 2006. Reviewers praise the art, characterization, and humor of the manga story. The anime series have had more mixed reviews, with the first also praised for its characterizations, but the second was criticized for its long, repetitive fights, and the third series considered repetitive with childish fights and "goofy" character designs.


Plot Edit

A monkey-tailed boy named Goku is found by an old martial arts expert who raises him as his grandson. One day Goku meets a girl named Bulma and together they go on a quest to retrieve the seven Dragon Balls, mythical objects that can summon a dragon who will grant any wish. Along the way, they meet and befriend a plethora of martial artists. They also undergo rigorous training regimes and educational programs in order to fight in the World Martial Arts Tournament, a tournament in which the most powerful fighters in the world compete. Outside the tournaments, Goku faces diverse villains such as Emperor Pilaf, the Red Ribbon Army, a demon known as Piccolo Daimao and his offspring.

As a young adult, Goku meets his older brother, Raditz, who tells him that they come from a race of extraterrestrials called Saiyans. The Saiyans had sent Goku to Earth to destroy it, but his ship crashes upon arrival. Goku fell into a deep ravine and lost all memory of his mission. Goku refuses to help Raditz continue the mission, after which he begins to encounter others who want to battle him, such as the Saiyan prince Vegeta. He also encounters Frieza, who is considered to be one of the strongest beings in the universe, after which Goku begins training his first child, Son Gohan, to be his successor. Years later, a group of soldiers from the Red Ribbon army known as androids appear to kill Goku. Another android, Cell, absorbs Androids #17 and #18 from the Red Ribbon army to increase his power, then fights Goku and Gohan, resulting in the former's death. Goku decides to stay dead for seven years to train in the Other World. When he returns, he is drawn into a battle for the universe against an extraterrestrial named Majin Buu. Joined by Vegeta and Gohan, the evil half of Buu is destroyed and the Good Buu (Mr. Buu) settles down with them. Ten years later at a martial arts tournament, Goku meets evil Buu's human reincarnation, Uub. At the end of the series, Goku takes Uub away on a journey to train him as another successor.

Themes Edit

At its core, Dragon Ball maintains the central tenets of the Weekly Shōnen Jump core philosophy of "friendship, struggle, and victory." As the series shifts from a "heart warming" story into a more action-oriented piece, the protagonists go through an unending cycle of fighting, winning, losing, learning important lessons, then returning to the fight. As the series progresses, the heroes continue this cycle by using miraculous devices to achieve life after death while continuing their on-going battles with the dead heroes who continue to learn lessons as they defeat their challengers. The series also follows the idea that if someone trying to be "the best" they can reach their goals by constantly challenging themselves.

Production Edit

Wanting to break from the Western influences common in his other series, when Akira Toriyama began work on Dragon Ball he decided to loosely model it on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. He also redeveloped one of his earlier one shot manga series, Dragon Boy, which was initially serialized in Fresh Jump and released in a single tankōbon volume in 1983. This short work combined the comedic style of Toriyama's successful six-year series Dr. Slump with a more action-oriented plot and paid homage to famous martial art actor Jackie Chan. Toriyama notes that his goal for the series was to tell an "unconventional and contradictory" story.

In the early concept of the series, Goku and Piccolo were from Earth. With the introduction of Kami, the idea of having fights from other planets was established and Goku and Piccolo were changed to alien species. For the female characters, Toriyama felt it was not fun to draw "weak females" so he created women that he felt were not only "beautiful and sexy", but also "strong". 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.

The fighting techniques were initially unnamed, but the series editor felt it would be better to name them all. Toriyama proceeded to create names for all of the techniques, except for the Kamehameha which his wife named when Toriyama was indecisive about what it should be called. When creating the fictional world of the series, Toriyama decided to create basing it from his own imagination to avoid referencing popular culture. However the island where the World Martial Arts Tournament is held is modeled after Bali. When having fights in the manga, Toriyama had the characters go to a place where nobody lived to avoid difficulties in drawing destroyed buildings. In order to advance the story quickly, he also gave most fighters the ability to fly so they could travel to other parts of the world without inconvenience. This was also the reasoning behind Goku learning to teletransport (thus allowing characters to move to any planet in a second).

After the first chapters were released, readers commented that Goku seemed rather plain, so his appearance was changed. New characters (such as Master Roshi and Krillin) were added and martial arts tournaments were included to give the manga a greater emphasis on fighting. Anticipating that readers would expect Goku to win the tournaments, Toriyama had him lose the first two while continuing his initial goal of having Goku be the champion and hero. At the end of the Cell arc, he intended for Gohan to replace Goku as the series protagonist, but then felt the character was not suited for the role and changed his mind.

Toriyama based the Red Ribbon Army from a video game he had played named Spartan X in which enemies tended to appear very fast. After the second tournament concluded, Toriyama wanted to have a villain who would be a true "bad guy." After creating Piccolo as the new villain, he noted that it was one of the most interesting parts of the stories and that he, and his son, became one of the favorite characters of the series. With Goku established as the strongest fighter on Earth, Toriyama decided to increase the number of villains that came from outer space. Finding the escalating enemies to be a pain to work with feeling it was too simple, he created the Ginyu squad to add more balance to the series. During this period of the series, Toriyama placed less emphasis on the series art work, simplifying the lines and sometimes making things "too square." He found himself having problems determining the colors for characters and sometimes ended up changing them unintentionally mid-story. In later accounts, Toriyama noted that he didn't plan out the details of the story, resulting in strange occurrences and discrepancies later in the series.

Media Edit

Manga Edit

Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball was initially serialized in the manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump starting in 1984. The series ended in 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 November 10, 1985 through August 4, 1995. In 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. Toriyama also created a short series, Neko Majin, that became a self-parody of Dragon Ball. First appearing in Weekly Shōnen Jump in August 1999, the eight chapter series was released sporadically until it was completed in 2005. These chapters were compiled into a "kanzenban"-style package for release in Japan on April 4, 2005.

The Dragon Ball manga was licensed for release in English in North America by Viz Media which has released all 42 volume in both censored and uncensored forms. Viz released volumes 17 through 42 under the title Dragon Ball Z to mimic the name of the anime series adaptated from those volumes, feeling it would reduce the potential for confusion by its readers. The first volumes of both series were released in March 2003, with Dragon Ball being completed on August 3, 2004 and Dragon Ball Z finishing on June 6, 2006. In June 2008, Viz began re-releasing the two series in a wideban format called "VIZBIG Edition", which collects three individual volumes into a single large volume.

In 2006, Toriyama and One Piece author Eiichiro Oda teamed up to create a single chapter crossover of their individual hit series. Entitled Cross Epoch, the chapter was published in the December 25, 2006 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump.

Anime series Edit

Dragon Ball Edit

Due to the high popularity of the Dragon Ball manga, Toei Animation produced two anime television series based on the manga chapters, and a third based on the series characters. The first series, also titled Dragon Ball, premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on February 26, 1986 and ran until April 12, 1989.

Harmony Gold USA licensed the series for an English language release in North America in the late 1980s. In their voice dub of the series, Harmony renamed almost all of the characters, with some names appearing very odd, such as the central character Goku being renamed "Zero" and the character Korin's name changed to "Whiskers the Wonder Cat". This dub version was quickly canceled.

In 1995, Funimation Entertainment acquired the license for the series for broadcast and home video distribution in North America. Funimation contracted with BLT Productions to create an English voice track for the series at Dick & Roger's Sound Studio, and the dubbed episodes were edited for content. Thirteen episodes aired in syndication before Funimation canceled the project due to low ratings, switching to working on the second anime series Dragon Ball Z. In March 2001, Funimation announced the return of Dragon Ball to American television, featuring a new English audio track produced at their in-house dubbing Studio, Funimation Studios, and less editing. The redubbed episodes aired on Cartoon Network from August 2001 to December 2003. Funimation also broadcast the series on Colours TV and their own FUNimation Channel starting in 2006. Funimation began releasing the uncut episodes to Region 1 DVD box sets in March 18, 2003. Each box set, spanning an entire saga of the series, included the English dub track and the original Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles. These sets were released in Australia the following year. They were eventually discontinued and the series was re-released in 2008 as two box sets, the first containing 12 discs and the second containing 10 discs. In 2003, a new dub, produced by Blue Water Studios, was created and began to air in the United Kingdom and Canada. It used different episode titles and voice actors versus the Funimation version.

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