First tankōbon volume, released in Japan on November 10, 1985
|Genre||Action, Martial arts, Science fantasy, Comedy|
|Written by||Akira Toriyama|
|Magazine||Weekly Shōnen Jump|
|Original run||December 3, 1984 – June 5, 1995|
|Volumes||42 (List of volumes)|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Minoru Okazaki
|Music by||Shunsuke Kikuchi|
|Network||Fuji TV, Animax|
|Original run||February 26, 1986 – April 12, 1989|
|Episodes||153 (List of episodes)|
|Anime television series|
|Dragon Ball Z|
|Directed by||Daisuke Nishio|
|Music by||Shunsuke Kikuchi|
|Network||Fuji TV, Animax, Tokyo MX|
|Original run||April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996|
|Episodes||291 (List of episodes)|
|Anime television series|
|Dragon Ball GT|
|Directed by||Osamu Kasai|
|Music by||Akihito Tokunaga|
|Network||Fuji TV, Animax|
|Original run||February 7, 1996 – November 19, 1997|
|Episodes||64 (List of episodes)|
|Anime television series|
|Dragon Ball Z Kai|
|Directed by||Yasuhiro Nowatari|
|Music by||Kenji Yamamoto (1–95), Shunsuke Kikuchi (96–98)|
|Original run||April 5, 2009 – August 2, 2011|
|Episodes||98 (List of episodes)|
|Anime and Manga Portal|
Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール Doragon Bōru?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1984 to 1995, with the 519 individual chapters published into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Dragon Ball was 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 mystical orbs known as the Dragon Balls, which can 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 for their own desires. It contains themes of friendship, rivalry, personal loss and victory.
The 42 tankōbon have 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, Toei has developed seventeen animated feature films and three television specials, as well as an anime sequel titled Dragon Ball GT, which takes place after the events of the manga. From 2009 to 2011, Toei broadcast a revised, faster-paced version of Dragon Ball Z under the title Dragon Ball Kai, in which most of the original version’s footage not featured in the manga was 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.
The manga series was licensed for an English-language release in North America by Viz Media, in the United Kingdom by Gollancz Manga, Australia and New Zealand by Chuang Yi and Malay-language release in Malaysia by Comics House. The entire anime series was licensed by Funimation Entertainment for an English-language release in the United States, although the series has not always been dubbed by the same studio. There have been many films of the franchise including the first live-action film adaptation being produced in 1989 in China. In 2002, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to produce an American-made live-action film titled Dragonball Evolution that received a negative reception from critics and fans; the movie was released on April 10, 2009 in the United States.
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 230 million copies worldwide, making it the second best-selling series in manga 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 such as Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto), Tite Kubo (Bleach), Hiro Mashima (Rave Master, Fairy Tail), Makoto Raiku (Zatch Bell) and Yoshio Sawai (Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo) 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 greatly boosting the popularity of Japanese animation in Western culture.
The series begins with a young monkey-tailed boy named Son Goku befriending a teenage girl named Bulma. Together they go on a quest to find the seven Dragon Balls, which grant the user any wish they desire before spreading back out across the world, leading to confrontations with the desert bandit Yamcha, who later becomes an ally, Chi-Chi, whom Goku unknowingly agrees to marry, and Pilaf, who is also collecting them. Goku then undergoes rigorous training regimes under the martial artist Kame-Sen’nin in order to fight in a martial arts tournament that attracts the most powerful fighters in the world. A monk named Kuririn becomes his training partner and rival, but they soon become best friends. After the tournament, Goku sets out on his own to recover the Dragon Ball his Grandfather left him and encounters the Red Ribbon Army, whose leader wants to collect the Dragon Balls for himself. He almost single-handedly defeats the army, including their hired assassin Taopaipai, whom he originally lost to, but after training under Karin, now easily beats. Goku reunites with his friends to defeat the fortuneteller Baba Uranai‘s fighters and have her locate the last Dragon Ball in order to revive a friend killed by Taopaipai.
They all reunite at the martial arts tournament three years later and meet Kame-Sen’nin’s rival and Taopaipai’s brother, Tsuru-Sen’nin, and his students Tenshinhan and Chaozu, who vow to exact revenge. Kuririn is killed after the tournament and Goku chases after the killer, leading him to Piccolo Daimao, who easily defeats him. The samurai Yajirobe takes Goku to 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 and then destroys the dragon. Goku then begins his battle with Piccolo Daimao, who just before dying, spawns his son/reincarnation Piccolo. Karin informs Goku that Kami (God), the original creator of the Dragon Balls, might be able to restore the dragon so that he can wish his friends back to life, which he does. He also stays and trains under Kami for the next three years, once again reuniting with his friends at the martial arts tournament. Piccolo Jr. also enters the tournament, leading to the final fight between him and Goku. Goku just narrowly wins and then quickly rides off with Chi-Chi, who surprised him by also competing and maintaining he keeps the promise he made to her as children.
Five years later, now a young adult and father to son Gohan, Goku meets his older brother Raditz, who reveals to him that they are members of a nearly extinct extraterrestrial race called the Saiyans. The Saiyans had sent Goku (originally named “Kakarrot”) to Earth as an infant to conquer the planet for them, but he suffered a severe head injury soon after his arrival and lost all memory of his mission, as well as his blood-thirsty Saiyan nature. Goku refuses to help Raditz continue the mission and has to team up with Piccolo, and sacrifice his life, in order to defeat him. However, Goku is revived a year later by the Dragon Balls, after training in the afterlife with Kaiō-sama, in order to save the Earth from the Saiyan prince Vegeta. However, in the battle Yamcha, Chaozu, Tenshinhan and Piccolo are killed. Due to Piccolo being one with Kami, the Dragon Balls no longer exist, resulting in a group traveling to their home planet, Namek, in order to use the balls there to revive their friends. However, the galactic tyrant Freeza is already there doing the same, leading to several battles with his minions and Vegeta, the latter of which teams up with the heroes to fight the Ginyu Force. After Goku arrives, the final long battle with Freeza himself comes to a close after Goku transform into a legendary Super Saiyan and avenges the lives of billions across the galaxy.
A group of androids from the former Red Ribbon Army appear three years later, seeking revenge against Goku. During this time, an evil life form called Cell emerges and, after absorbing two of the androids to achieve his “perfect form,” holds his own fighting tournament to decide the fate of the Earth entitled the Cell Games. However, after Goku sacrifices his own life, Cell is eventually defeated by Goku’s first child Gohan. Seven years later, Goku, briefly revived for one day, and his allies are drawn into yet another fight for the universe against a magical being named Majin Boo. After numerous battles and many deaths, Goku destroys Boo having borrowed energy from the entire universe. Ten years later, at another martial arts tournament, Goku meets Boo’s human reincarnation, Oob. Leaving the match between the two of them unfinished, Goku takes Oob away on a journey to train him.
At its core, Dragon Ball maintains the central tenets of the Weekly Shōnen Jump philosophy of “friendship, struggle, and victory”. As the series shifts from a more comedic, light-hearted story into a darker action-oriented piece, the protagonists go through an unending cycle of fighting, winning, losing and improving. They continue this cycle by using miraculous devices to achieve life after death and continue to learn lessons as they defeat their challengers. The series also follows the idea that people can better themselves and achieve their goals by constantly challenging themselves.
Wanting to break from the Western influences common in his other series, Akira Toriyama loosely modeled Dragon Ball 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 four-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 it from his own imagination to avoid referencing popular culture. However the island where the Tenka’ichi Budōkai tournament is held is modeled after Bali. When including fights in the manga, Toriyama had the characters go to uninhabited locations 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 use Shunkan Idō (瞬間移動 lit. “Instant Teleport”?, renamed “Instant Transmission” in Funimation’s dub) (thus allowing characters to teleport 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 Kame-Sen’nin and Kuririn) 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. After Cell’s death, 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 on 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 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, he created the Ginyu Force 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.
Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball was initially serialized in the manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump starting on December 3, 1984. The series ended on 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 November 10, 1985 through August 4, 1995. In 2002, 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 volumes. Viz released volumes 17 through 42 under the title “Dragon Ball Z” to mimic the name of the anime series adapted from those volumes, feeling it would reduce the potential for confusion by its readers. They initially released both series in a monthly comic book format starting in 1998, and later began collecting them in graphic novels. While releasing Dragon Ball in the monthly format, Viz began to censor the series in response to complaints by parents. In 2001, due to a fan petition that garnered over 10,000 signatures, they announced they would stop censoring the series and instead increased its “rating” to 13 and up, and reprinted the first 3 graphic novels. Later, the first 10 volumes of both series were re-released from March to May 2003 under the “Shonen Jump” format, with Dragon Ball being completed on August 3, 2004 and Dragon Ball Z finishing on June 6, 2006. However, when releasing the last few volumes of Dragon Ball Z, the company began to censor the series again; translating the sound effects of gunshots to “zap” and changing the few sexual references. 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.
James S. Yadao, author of The Rough Guide to Manga, stated that the first several chapters “play out much like Saiyuki with Dr. Slump-like humour built in” and that Dr. Slump has a clear early influence on the series. Yadao explains the series “established its unique identity” after the first occasion when Goku’s group disbands and Goku finds 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 adds 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.”
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. It was published in English in the April 2011 issue of Shonen Jump.
A manga adaptation of Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! illustrated by Naho Ōishi, was published in the March 21 and April 21, 2009 issues of V Jump.
A spinoff manga titled Dragon Ball SD, also written by Naho Ōishi, has been published in Shueisha’s Super Strong Jump magazine beginning in December 2010. A second issue was released in April 2011. This manga is a condensed retelling of Goku’s adventures as a child, with many details changed.
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 and October 2011. This manga is a sequel to the 1990 TV special Bardock – The Father of Goku with some key details changed. As the title indicates the manga’s story revolves around Bardock, Goku’s father, who in this special is featured in a “what-if” scenario in which he did not die at the hands of Freeza and gets to fight his enemy as a Super Saiyan. The fact that Bardock appears as a Super Saiyan is based on the Dragon Ball Heroes card featuring him as one.
Toei Animation produced an anime series based on the 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.
Harmony Gold USA licensed the series for an English-language release in the United States in 1989. In their voice dub of the series, Harmony Gold renamed almost all of the characters; for example, Goku was renamed “Zero.” This dub version was test-marketed in several cities, but was cancelled before it could be broadcast to the general public.
In 1995, Funimation Entertainment acquired the license for the distribution of Dragon Ball in the U.S., as well as its sequel series Dragon Ball Z. Funimation contracted BLT Productions to create an English voice track for the first anime at their Canada-based ADR studio and the dubbed episodes were edited for content. Thirteen episodes aired in first-run syndication during the fall of 1995 before Funimation cancelled the project due to low ratings and decided to shift their focus on the more action-oriented Dragon Ball Z. Vidmark Entertainment (later known as Trimark Pictures) purchased the home video distribution rights for these dubbed episodes sometime after. In March 2001, following the success of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Funimation announced the return of Dragon Ball to American television, featuring a new English audio track produced at their own Texas-based ADR studio, as well as slightly less editing, and left the original background music intact unlike their dubs of the two sequel series. The re-dubbed episodes aired on Cartoon Network from August 20, 2001 to December 1, 2003. Funimation also broadcast the series on Colours TV and their own Funimation Channel starting in 2006.
Funimation began releasing their in-house dub to Region 1 DVD box sets in March 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. However, they were unable to release the first thirteen episodes at the time, due to Lionsgate Entertainment holding the distribution rights to their original dub of the same episodes, having acquired them from Trimark after the company became defunct. After Lionsgate’s license to the first thirteen episodes expired in 2009, Funimation remastered and re-released the complete Dragon Ball series to DVD in five individual season box sets, with the first set released on September 15, 2009 and the final set released on July 27, 2010.
Dragon Ball Z
With the ending of Dragon Ball, Toei Animation quickly released a second anime series, Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ(ゼット) Doragon Bōru Zetto?, commonly abbreviated as DBZ). Picking up a few years after the series first left off, Dragon Ball Z is adapted from the final twenty-six volumes of the manga series on Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1989–1995, 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.
Following their short-lived dub of Dragon Ball in 1995, Funimation began production on an English-language release of Dragon Ball Z. They collaborated with Saban Entertainment to finance and distribute the series to television, sub-licensed home video distribution to Pioneer Entertainment (later known as Geneon Universal Entertainment), contracted Ocean Productions to dub the anime into English, and hired Shuki Levy to compose an alternate musical score. This dub of Dragon Ball Z was heavily edited for content, as well as length; reducing the first 67 episodes into 53. The series premiered in the U.S. on September 13, 1996 in first-run syndication, but also struggled to find a substantial audience during its run and was ultimately cancelled after two seasons. On August 31, 1998, however, these cancelled dubbed episodes began airing on Cartoon Network‘s weekday-afternoon programming block, Toonami, where the series received much more popularity. With new success, Funimation continued production on the series by themselves, now with less editing due to fewer restrictions on cable programing. However, they could no longer afford the services of either the Ocean voice cast or Shuki Levy’s music without Saban’s financial assistance, resulting in the creation of their own in-house ADR studio and voice cast, as well as a new musical score composed by Bruce Faulconer. Dragon Ball Z was now in full production in the U.S. and the new dub of the series was broadcast on Cartoon Network from September 13, 1999 to April 7, 2003. In 2004, Geneon’s distribution rights to the first 53/67 episodes of Dragon Ball Z expired, allowing Funimation to re-dub them with their in-house ADR studio and restore the removed content. These re-dubbed episodes aired on Cartoon Network during the summer of 2005.
In 2006, Funimation remastered the episodes cropped to 16:9 widescreen format and then began releasing the series to Region 1 DVD in nine individual season box sets, with the first set released on February 6, 2007 and the final set released on May 19, 2009. These sets were notable for including the option of hearing Funimation’s in-house dub alongside the original Japanese music, an option that had previously not been available. Other options included hearing the in-house dub with the American soundtrack composed by Bruce Faulconer and Nathan Johnson, and a third option included watching the original Japanese version, with the original Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles. In July 2009, Funimation announced that they would be re-releasing Dragon Ball Z in a new seven-volume DVD set called the “Dragon Boxes.” Based on the original series masters with frame-by-frame restoration, the first set was released on November 10, 2009 and the final set was released on October 11, 2011. Unlike the season box sets, Funimation’s “Dragon Box” release is presented in the original 4:3 fullscreen format.
Funimation and Toei released a statement in January 2011 confirming that they would stream Dragon Ball Z within 30 minutes before their simulcast of One Piece. Dragon Ball Z is now being streamed on Hulu, containing the English dub with the Japanese music and uncut footage, as well as subtitled Japanese episodes.
In July 2011, Funimation announced plans to release Dragon Ball Z in Blu-ray format, and the first volume was released on November 18, 2011. However, after the release of the second volume, Funimation suspended production of the rest of the Blu-ray releases, citing concerns over restoring the original film material frame by frame.
Dragon Ball GT
Produced by Toei Animation, Dragon Ball GT (ドラゴンボールGT(ジーティー) Doragon Bōru Jī Tī?, G(rand) T(our)) premiered on Fuji TV on February 2, 1996, and ran until November 19, 1997. Unlike the first two series, it was not based on the original Dragon Ball manga. The series lasted 64 episodes. In Dragon Ball GT, Goku is accidentally transformed back into a child by the Black Star Dragon Balls and is forced to travel across the galaxy to retrieve them in order to reverse the effects of the balls and prevent the Earth’s destruction. While travelling through space with his granddaughter Pan and Vegeta’s son Trunks, Goku encounters additional enemies, including the vengeful Tuffle Baby. Once back on Earth, Goku faces his final challenge in the seven evil Shadow Dragons, spawned from the negative energy accumulated from the overuse of the Dragon Balls.
Following the success of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Funimation licensed Dragon Ball GT for distribution in the U.S. as well. Funimation’s dub of the series aired on Cartoon Network from November 14, 2003 to April 16, 2005. The television broadcast initially skipped the first sixteen episodes of the series. Instead, Funimation created a composition episode entitled “A Grand Problem,” which used scenes from the skipped episodes to summarize the story. The skipped episodes, advertised as “The Lost Episodes,” were later aired after the remaining episodes of the series had been broadcast.
Funimation later released their dub to bilingual Region 1 DVD in two season box sets, with the first set released on December 9, 2008 and the final set released on February 10, 2009, which also featured the Dragon Ball GT TV special, A Hero’s Legacy. In a similar fashion to their DVD releases for Dragon Ball Z, the DVD box sets have the option of hearing the English dub alongside the original Japanese music, and the rap song used for the TV airing of the show (nicknamed by fans “Step Into the Grand Tour”) has been replaced by English-dubbed versions of the original Japanese opening and ending songs. Funimation later released a “Complete Series” box set of Dragon Ball GT (using the same discs as the two season sets, but with different packaging) on September 21, 2010.
Dragon Ball 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(カイ) 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 more closely follow the manga, resulting in a faster-moving story, and damaged frames removed. As such, it is a new version of Dragon Ball Z created from the original footage.
On March 9, 2011, Toei announced that due to Kenji Yamamoto‘s score for Dragon Ball Kai infringing on the rights of an unknown third party, the score for remaining episodes and replays of previous episodes would be replaced. Later reports from Toei claimed that with the exception of the series’ opening and closing songs, as well as eyecatch music, Yamamoto’s score was replaced with Shunsuke Kikuchi‘s original score from Dragon Ball Z. This change in background music would eventually affect all episodes of the series’ English dub in the U.S. The series concluded with the finale of the Cell arc as opposed to including the Majin Boo arc. It was originally planned to run 98 episodes, however due to the Tōhoku offshore earthquake and tsunami, the final episode of Dragon Ball Kai was not aired and the series ended on its 97th episode in Japan on March 27, 2011.
Like all other Dragon Ball-based anime, Funimation licensed Dragon Ball Kai for an English-language release in the U.S., under the title Dragon Ball Z Kai. The series was broadcast on Nicktoons from May 24, 2010 to January 1, 2012. In addition to Nicktoons, the series also began airing on The CW’s Saturday-morning programming block, Toonzai, on August 14, 2010 and continues to air on Toonzai’s successor, Vortexx, which began on August 25, 2012. Both the Nicktoons and Toonzai/Vortexx airings have been edited for content, though the Toonzai/Vortexx version is censored even more so than Nicktoons’, most likely due to The CW being a broadcast network. In addition to the TV airings, Funimation has also released bilingual Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray box sets of the show. These box sets contain the original Japanese audio track with English subtitles, as well as the uncut version of the English dub, which does not contain any of the edits made for the TV airings. CSC Media Group have acquired the broadcast rights to the series in the United Kingdom and will begin airing on Kix! in Early 2013.
On November 5, 2012, Mayumi Tanaka, the Japanese voice actor of Kuririn, announced that she and the rest of the cast are recording more episodes of Dragon Ball Kai. She noted that the show will not be aired in Japan, but will be continuing overseas.
Seventeen anime films based on the Dragon Ball series have been released in Japan. The first three films were based on the original Dragon Ball anime series. The remaining films included thirteen Dragon Ball Z films and one tenth anniversary special (also based on the first anime series). However, the films are generally either alternate re-tellings of certain story arcs or extra side-stories that don’t correlate with the same timeline as the series. Funimation has licensed and released all of the films to home video in North America.
In July 2012, a new Dragon Ball Z movie was announced with a March 2013 release date. Original creator Akira Toriyama is deeply involved in its production, starting from the script. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods will open on March 30, 2013, with a special “dual ticket”, containing new art by both Toriyama and Eiichiro Oda, that is acceptable to see both Battle of Gods and the One Piece Film: Z film.
A live-action Mandarin Chinese film adaptation of the series, Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins, was released in Taiwan in 1989. Considered a “tacky” version of the story by critics, the plot revolves around a rag-tag group of heroes, led by “Monkey Boy” (Goku) trying to stop King Horn from using the wish-granting “Dragon Pearls” (Dragon Balls) to rule the world.
In December 1990, the unofficial live-action Korean film Dragon Ball: Ssawora Son Goku, Igyeora Son Goku was released. The movie follows the original Dragon Ball story, and does so more closely than The Magic Begins. It is an adaptation of the events of the first Dragon Ball story arc, however, Vegeta’s partner Nappa makes an appearance.
In March 2002, 20th Century Fox acquired feature film rights to the Dragon Ball franchise and began production on an American live action film entitled Dragonball Evolution. Directed by James Wong and produced by Stephen Chow, it was released in the United States on April 10, 2009. The film was largely considered a failure by both critics and Dragon Ball fans, and only grossed $57 million at the box office.
TV Specials and other animations
Three television specials based on the series were released 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 released on October 17, 1990. It is a prequel to the series, set years before the start of the manga and details how Goku’s father, Bardock, discovers that Freeza is planning to kill all the other Saiyans, and his efforts to stop him. The second special, The Hopeless Resistance!! Gohan and Trunks — The Two Remaining Super Warriors, renamed The History of Trunks by Funimation, was released on March 24, 1993. Based on a special chapter of the original manga, it is set in a parallel universe where most of the series characters are killed by the evil androids. Goku Side Story! The Four Star Ball is a Badge of Courage, renamed A Hero’s Legacy by Funimation, released on March 26, 1997, is set 100 years after the end of Dragon Ball GT. It features one of Goku’s descendants who begins looking for the Dragon Balls in order to help his sick grandmother, Pan.
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.
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. Set two years after the defeat of Majin Boo, it utilizes an original concept by Akira Toriyama that has Goku and his friends facing against new enemies, Abo and Kado, and meeting Vegeta’s younger brother, Tarble and his wife, Gure. In November 2011, V Jump announced a short animated adaptation of Naho Ōishi’s Bardock spinoff manga, Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock, it was shown on December 17-18, 2011 at the Jump Festa 2012 event.
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 Nintendo Entertainment System following the storyline of the series. Starting Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Mega Drive/Genesis, the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation most of the games were from the fighting genre including the series Super Butoden. The first Dragon Ball game to be released in the United States was Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout for the PlayStation on July 31, 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 series developed for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Dragon Ball Online is currently playable. It has been stated that Akira Toriyama has been working on character designs for this project for several years, and the game is available in Japan and South Korea.
Myriad soundtracks were released to the anime, movies and the games. The music for the first two anime Dragon Ball and Z and its films was directed by Shunsuke Kikuchi, while the music from GT was directed by Akihito Tokunaga and the music from Kai was directed by Kenji Yamamoto. 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 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, was translated and printed in 2008 by Viz Media. It contains all the 264 coloured illustrations Akira Toriyama done for the Weekly Jump magazines’ covers, bonus giveaways and specials, and all the covers for the 42 tankōbon. It also includes an interview with Akira Toriyama on his work process. The remainder have never been released in English, and all are now out of print in Japan.
For Dragon Ball GT, the Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files were released in May 1997 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 “Perfect Edition” (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: Tenka’ichi Densetsu and Dragon Ball Z: Son Goku Densetsu 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 Super Exciting Guide, covering the manga, and two-volume Extreme Battle Collection, 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. The same period saw the release of a new artbook, The Golden Warrior; 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.
None of these books apart from The Complete Illustrations (Daizenshuu volume 1) has been released in English.
Each of the Japanese “Dragon Box” DVD releases of the series and movies, as well as the Blu-ray boxed sets of Dragon Kai, 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, but as the other sets have yet to be released in English, their accompanying guides also remain untranslated.
There have been collectible cards, based on the Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT series, released under Bandai. They feature various scenes from the manga and anime stills, plus exclusive artwork from all three series. They were previously released in other countries, like Taiwan and Singapore, before making their debut 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 2012, this number had grown to pass 156 million in Japan and 230 million worldwide, making it the second best-selling manga of all time. 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 Little Boy: The Art of Japan’s Exploding Subculture Takashi Murakami notes that Dragon Ball’s “never-ending cyclical narrative moves forward plausibly, seamlessly, and with great finesse.” Goku’s journey and his ever growing strength resulted in the character winning “the admiration of young boys everywhere”.
In a survey conducted by Oricon in 2007 between 1,000 people, Goku, the main character of the franchise, ranked first place as the “Strongest Manga character of all time.” Manga artists, such as Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, have stated that Goku inspired their series’ main protagonists as well as series structure. Dragon Ball was also high inspiration to Yaiba, the manga written by Gosho Aoyama, best known as the creator of the manga series Detective Conan. Both Yaiba and Dragon Ball began as a kind of light-hearted gag manga, but towards the end of their run the tone became more serious and action-packed. When TV Asahi conducted an online poll for the top one hundred anime, the Dragon Ball series came in place twelve.
Animerica felt the series had “worldwide appeal” that uses 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”. Ridwan Khan from Animefringe.com commented on the manga to have a “chubby” art style but as the series continued it gets more refined with the characters leaner and more muscular. He also noted he preferred the manga versions of the series to their animated counterparts that makes the story slower and pointless. Anime News Network praised the story and humor of the manga to be very good due conveying of all the characters’s personalities. They also remarked Viz‘s translation to be one of the best ones of all the English editions of the series, praising the lack of censor. 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. Writer Jason Thompson commented that the series popularity comes from a formula that Toriyama used in various story arcs from which he describes as “lots of martial arts, lots of training sequences, a few jokes.” Yet, he noted that such formula became the model for other manga from the same genre such as Naruto.
The anime adaptations have also received positive reviews. On several occasions the Dragon Ball anime series has topped Japan’s DVD sales. 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. 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. Anime News Network considered Trunks’s storyline to be one of the better story arcs of the series, with the characters having more motivation than in previous stories. Some critics and most fans of the Japanese version have given Funimation‘s English dub of Dragon Ball Z mixed feelings over the years. IGN criticized some of the voices to be “quite annoying” and also noted that Frieza’s English voice “made him sound like a lady. This combined with Freeza’s appearance left a lot of fans confused about Freeza’s gender for a while.” IGN commented Dragon Ball GT “is downright repellent” mentioning that the material and characters had lost their novelty and fun. They also criticized the character designs of Trunks and Vegeta as being goofy. 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 GT has also been criticized for giving a formula that was already used in its predecessors. The first episode of Dragon Ball 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.
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