For other uses, see Dragon Ball (disambiguation).


Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール) is a Japanese manga by Akira Toriyama serialized in Shueisha's weekly anthology magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, from 1984 to 1995 and originally collected into 42 individual books called Tankōbon (単行本) released from September 15, 1985 to August 9, 1995. The manga was re-released from December 4, 2002 to April 2, 2004 in a 34 volume collection named Kanzenban (完全版), which included a slightly rewritten ending, all new original covers, and original color artwork from its Weekly Shonen Jump run.

The story of Dragon Ball follows the life of Son Goku, a monkey-tailed boy loosely based on the traditional Chinese folk tale Journey to the West (西遊記), from his life and adventures as a child all the way up to being a grandfather. During his life, he fights many battles and eventually becomes (arguably) the strongest martial artist in the universe. He is not without help, however: the comic boasts a large ensemble cast of martial-artist heroes and villains which provide the conflict that drives the story.



Main articles: Dragon Boy and The Adventures of Tongpoo


Logo for the Dragon Ball manga

After the success of his previous manga Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama wanted to break from the Western influences common in his other series. When he began work on Dragon Ball, he decided to loosely model it on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.

Dragon Ball was a redeveloped version of a one shot manga series he made: 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 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.

Originally not all that popular when first released, after the Emperor Pilaf Saga, Akira decided to write in a World Martial Arts Tournament, a trend in manga that was very popular at the time. Akira had also been told his his editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, that Goku was considered "Quite bland", and thus Master Roshi was brought back and Krillin was introduced in the series.[1]

Plot and evolutionEdit

Main article: List of Dragon Ball manga chapters


Goku as seen in the manga

A unifying component of the plot accompanying Goku's progression as a martial artist is his search for the eponymous Dragon Balls. They are one component of the universe, but are not the focus of most of the plot lines of the title. The Dragon Balls themselves are seven magical orbs which are scattered across the world. When assembled, they can be used to summon Shenlong, the dragon who will grant one wish within its limit. After the wish is granted, the Dragon Balls are scattered again across the world and become inert for one year. In times past, it would take generations to search the world and gather the Dragon Balls. At the beginning of the story, however, a 16 year-old genius girl named Bulma invents a Dragon Radar to detect the Dragon Balls and makes the process far easier than it was originally intended to be.

The story of Dragon Ball unfolds gradually over 11 years of publication. The tone and the style of the stories gradually changes to reflect the tastes of the readers and the editors of Shōnen Jump in Japan. The early volumes of the manga (chapters 1-134) are primarily humorous fantasy stories, but they contain some minor sci-fi elements, much like Dr. Slump. Notable fantasy elements include not only the monkey boy Goku and the Dragon Balls themselves, but also many talking animal characters, unlikely martial art techniques, and identifying characters as gods and demons. Despite the fantasy elements, the world does contain highly advanced technology including hoi-poi capsules, space-saving capsules which are pocket sized but can store almost any object (including cars, planes and even houses) and other "near future" objects. The overall mood of the earlier volumes is light with few deaths and an emphasis on adventure and humor.

A subtle but significant change in mood begins after Goku's best friend Krillin is killed (the first of many deaths in this arc). This begins the King Piccolo Saga (chapters 135-194) in which the manga enters a darker tone compared to its earlier volumes.

Dragon Ball fully transforms into an action based shōnen manga at the onset of the Saiyan arc (chapters 195-241). Starting with introduction of Goku's first child, things begin to take a much more serious and harder sci-fi approach. Many characters which previously had fantasy origins (including Goku and Piccolo) are recast as aliens from other planets. Advanced space travel, alien threats, and powerful cyborgs and androids take center stage instead of more fantastic villains.


Super Saiyan Goku in the manga

After the defeat of Vegeta, and the conclusion of the Saiyan arc, the survivors of the vicious Saiyan attack head off to the Planet Namek to resurrect their friends. This begins the Freeza arc (chapters 242-329). The Freeza arc is noteworthy for introducing the first Super Saiyan, now a staple of the series. It also sets the tone for more awesomely powerful characters. For example, the antagonist Freeza is first said to have a "power level" (the series' futuristic measure of a fighter's speed and strength, i.e., one average human is listed as 5) of 530,000. He then transforms into a more powerful form, at which point his power level is over 1,000,000. After two subsequent transformations, he reveals that he is still only using a fraction of his full power.

The Android arc (chapters 330-420) introduces Future Trunks, a mysterious Half-Saiyan Half-Human from a destroyed future world where all of the Z Fighters are killed by evil, seemingly unstoppable war machines called jinzōningen, and the enigmatic and villainous Cell who is made from the cells from most of the heroes as well as some of the villains. This arc is notable for being the only arc in which Goku does not defeat the main villain, but instead Son Gohan defeats Cell. In this arc, Gohan surpasses the level of Super Saiyan and reaches the stage of Super Saiyan 2 in order to defeat Cell.

After Goku's death he is allowed to keep his body and train in other world. Seven years pass and Goku gets stronger while Gohan's power decreases. Baba allows Goku to return to Earth for a single day which marks the start of the Majin Buu arc (chapters 421-519) which is the final arc of the manga. The beginning of this final arc concentrates on a teenaged Gohan. All the male Saiyans manage to reach the level of Super Saiyan at least (including fusions). Gohan can still use Super Saiyan 2, Goku and Vegeta obtain this transformation. And the final level of the Super Saiyans, Super Saiyan 3, is reached by Goku, and later Gotenks. A considerable number of fusions also take place to add to the series, allowing Son Goten and Kid Trunks to fuse resulting in Gotenks, Goku and Vegeta fuse to create the single most powerful character in Dragon Ball: the invincible Vegetto. During this series, Majin Buu destroys earth and even manages to increases his own power by absorbing Gotenks, Piccolo and Gohan. Majin Buu also succeeds where the villains Vegeta, Freeza and Cell had previously failed and destroys Earth. Earth and everyone that was on it when it was destroyed are restored using the Namekian Dragon Balls, and Kid Buu is destroyed by Goku's Genki Dama only after taking on Goku, Vegeta, Mr. Satan and good Buu.

Kid Buu was reincarnated into a human being of pure good called Uub. Ten years later, Goku asks good Buu to cheat so Goku and Uub can have a match, after the match Goku decides to go to Uub's village and train Uub to his potential so that one day they can have a match to decide who is the strongest fighter in the universe (currently Goku). Uub's village later receives money from Mr. Satan. To say goodbye the heroes that appear in the manga (excluding minor characters), everyone waves to the readers and a large "THE END" sign is seen floating.

After completing this series, Toriyama had a break before making gag manga called Nekomajin. This story features many elements and a few characters from Dragon Ball, including characters such as Majin Buu, Vegeta, and Goku.

Recently, Toriyama and his studio have begun developing Dragon Ball Online, an MMORPG follow-up to the manga, with Bandai Namco Games and NTL for release in South Korea and Japan. The game will act as a direct sequel to the manga, and Toriyama will be supervising all aspects of the game, from storyline and setting to character and location designs. In a press conference in South Korea on February 14, 2008, Kazuhiko Torishima, the director of Shueisha (and Toriyama's original editor), stated that Toriyama had immersed himself in creating character designs and providing editorial supervision for the game for the past five years.

Recurring ThemesEdit

For all its martial arts bravado, the story of Dragon Ball centers primarily around a theme of redemption, generally through exposure to the "pure" ideals of Son Goku and Son Gohan. Nearly every major character in the manga entered the series as a villain but was, through one method or another, converted to the side of good. (Often, this would entail a temporary team up to defeat a greater foe, but somehow the former enemies rarely found the motivation to begin fighting again.) This theme was evident from the beginning (with the conversion of Yamucha, Oolong, and Pu-erh) and continued even to the last saga (with the acceptance of Majin Buu). This style of redemption is not unique to Dragon Ball (it is often seen even in American comic books), but it is significant that it persisted even through other major shifts in style and tone.

Story arcsEdit

English DistributionEdit


The first issue of the Dragon Ball comic in North America

In the US, the manga was first released as two American-style comic books: Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z starting in 2000. (The split corresponds to the two different anime series, though the original Japanese manga does not distinguish between them. See below.) This style of release was unsuccessful due to its large size and expensive cost ($2.95 for an issue of 2, later 3, chapters), and both series were canceled in 2002. The Dragon Ball Z comic was transitioned into a launch title for the new US edition of the Shonen Jump anthology, starting in January 2003. In parallel to these releases, Viz Media released the 42 volumes (nearly matching the first Japanese set) in English. Viz titled the second part of the manga Dragon Ball Z to reduce confusion for American audiences.


As previously mentioned, the Dragon Ball manga is published as both "Dragon Ball" and "Dragon Ball Z" in American editions. Originally, both of these releases were censored for nudity and some graphic content. By the end of 2004, all "Dragon Ball" manga had been released almost uncensored (Mr. Popo's lips were removed), including rereleases of the previously censored volumes 1 through 3. The "Dragon Ball Z" manga remains censored, although many volumes (prior to volume 17) are technically uncensored since they did not contain any objectionable material.

  • Mr. Popo's lips and other dark-skinned characters were edited because of complaints made by Carole Boston Weatherford.
  • Middle fingers were edited into fists.

In 2006, Viz began releasing a second, A-rated (All Ages) edition of the series sans some nudity and profanity.

  • The name Mr. Satan was edited "Hercule".
  • Firearms were edited into "laser blasters", though a pistol-armed robber was able to shoot a character without being censored.
  • Alcohol, drugs and sexual innuendo were edited.

Vizbig EditionsEdit


The first volume of the Vizbig Edition

In 2008, Viz began releasing the Vizbig editions of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. These releases were larger in size and had 3 volumes put together in each book that featured color in some of chapters that Akira Toriyama originally put color in.

These releases also have more edited censoring and does not have any instances were Bulma's breasts were shown. One notable example is in the 9th chapter where Bulma is taking a shower. In the 2003 English release, this scene was kept unedited but in the Vizbig editions, soap suds were placed to cover her entire chest as well as her butt. Another edit was in chapter 15 where Oolong shows Master Roshi Bulma's breasts while in the form of her. Like the shower scene, it was left unedited in the 2003 releases but in the Vizbig edition the top of Bulma's bunny costume is made to look like it is coming down before the breast is revealed.

Relation to the AnimeEdit

Both Dragon Ball (DB) and Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) anime are based on the same original Dragon Ball manga. Dragon Ball follows Goku's adventures as a child up to his marriage, which are the sagas that arguably have the most fantasy and humor elements. Dragon Ball Z takes up the story 5 years after Dragon Ball leaves off, with the introduction of Goku's young son and the arrival of a new, more powerful foe. Dragon Ball GT was a project started by Toei Animation to continue the story from where Dragon Ball Z left off and is not part of the original manga.

There are additional differences between the US edition of the manga and the US edition of the anime, but those are primarily due to differences in translation. For example, the character of "Lunch" in the manga is retranslated as "Launch" in the anime. Similarly, the names of "Goku" and "Gohan" lack the family name "Son" in the anime. In general, the translation of the manga is considered to be closer to the translation of the anime as factors such as mouth movement are not taken into consideration.

The "Z" in Dragon Ball Z is rumored to have many meanings. The official meaning, as stated by the author, is that the letter was chosen because it was at the end of the alphabet, echoing Toriyama's desire that the series end soon. Other, fan-given "Z" theories include the naming of the ensemble group of main characters as the "Z Fighters" (or "Z Warriors") in episode titles and promotional materials (they are never referred to that way in the anime itself) or based on the "Zenkai Power" theme song in the ending credits. Another interpretation is that Toriyama hand-wrote its title as Dragon Ball 2 and somebody misread the figure 2 as a Z. It is notable that the "Z" of Dragon Ball Z is pronounced "Zetto" in the Japanese opening, WE GOTTA POWER!!. This is because the romanized letter "Z" is pronounced "zetto" (ゼット). It has been spelled as "Zed" by some, however, in Japanese, kana that represents a consonant plus vowel, especially when pronouncing a foreign word, is often pronounced in a clipped manner (sounds somewhat similar to French, where "e" indicates the full pronunciation of the preceding letters, which are otherwise silent). This is why it sounds like Hironobu Kageyama is saying "Zed"; he simply isn't pronouncing the "o" at the end of "Zetto" (this is also common in Japanese pop songs, which typically match each note with one "kana" pronunciation; pronunciation as sung is sometimes clipped to make the lyrics fit the music properly) Conversely, in Japanese, the series is pronounced "Doragon Borru Zetto".

Throughout most of the writing of the manga, the anime was being written and produced just behind the point where the manga was being concurrently published. While this led to getting the episodes released rapidly, the pacing resulted in a large amount of "filler" material needing to be added to the anime to flesh out the episodes to keep them from catching up. There are many instances in the anime where backstory added in the anime was accepted in the manga; most notably, the character of Bardock (Goku's father) was originally an anime-creation. Even with filler, the anime would sometimes get ahead of the manga, revealing characters a week before Shonen Weekly published the manga version; Android 16 was revealed in the anime a week before he was shown in the manga, TOEI having gone after sketchings of the new manga issue Akira provided them before the issue was inked and published. These brief inconsistencies were corrected as swiftly as possible, usually through entire episodes of filler, extending a fight for another solid episode so the manga could get ahead of the anime again, and only crop up very briefly before being corrected. Original air dates from the list of Dragon Ball Z episodes can be compared with the list of Dragon Ball manga chapters' original Japanese publishing dates for more insight on these curious discrepancies during the original run of the anime and the publications of the manga in Shonen Weekly.

Relation to Journey to the WestEdit


Dragon Ball characters depicted as Journey to the West characters (Toriyama - The World & Daizenshuu 1)

Journey to the West is a novel in Chinese literature from which Dragon Ball is inspired. There are many parallels between the two works.

Son GokuEdit

Based upon Sun Wukong. Son Goku (そんごくう) is the Japanese reading of Sun Wukong's name. Son Goku's Nyoibo (or Power Pole) comes from Sun Wukong's magic staff that can change to any size anytime he sees fit. His Kinto'un (Flying Nimbus) is another item that Sun Wukong has. Son Goku finds himself in a place reminiscent of the pillars of Buddha's palm, the location which Sun Wukong's rampage was finally put to an end.

Other charactersEdit

  • In the original story, the priest, Xuanzang and his company search for the legendary Buddhist scriptures in the West. In Dragonball, Bulma and her company search for the legendary Dragon Balls.
  • The equivalent to Sun Wukong of the original texts is Goku in Dragon Ball.
  • The equivalent to Xuanzang of the original texts is Bulma in Dragon Ball (though later, it can be argued to be the role of Krillin).
  • The equivalent to Zhu Wuneng of the original texts is Oolong in Dragon Ball.
  • The equivalent to Sha Wujing of the original texts is Yamucha in Dragon Ball.

Influence on Other SeriesEdit

Main article: List of Real Life References

  • In the anime, Excel Saga, Nabeshinlll teaches Pedro and Sandora to reach a certain powerful afro level, similar to the level of Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT. They also must use a technique called the Nabehameha, a direct parody of Muten Rōshi's Kamehameha.
  • In the manga Eyeshield 21, Yukimitsu performs the Taiyô-ken while dressed as Tenshinhan.
  • In the OVA Puni Puni Poemy, Poemi is shown with a collection of Dragon Balls.
  • In the manga Yu-Gi-Oh!, the main character, Yugi Mutou, relates the Millenium Puzzle's power with wishes granted by the Dragon Balls. Also, in the anime version, there is a Dragon Ball shown on a poster.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic must collect the 7 Chaos Emeralds, similar to the Dragon Balls. Once collected, Sonic turns into Super Sonic, a transformation similar to that of a Super Saiyan.
  • In the manga Bastard!!, there is a part of the series where Angels evolving/powering up was a tribute to the wacky Fusion Dance of Dragon Ball's Gotenks.
  • In an episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Sasshi fights in a martial arts match while dressed as Bruce Lee, and near the end, transforms to a Super Saiyan and performs a yellow version of the Kamehameha.
  • In Masakazu Katsura's manga DNA², the main character can turn into a Super Saiyan-like state, gaining golden hair and the ability to use special abilities.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Cartoon Network Series, Mandy is shown to eat a Chicken-Ball which makes her transform into a Super-Saiyan.
  • In Mystical Ninja, Starring Goemon the Hero, Goemon, after finishing a certain Training, goes to the "Sudden Impact" state, in which his hair grows bigger and its color becomes yellow.
  • The manga series Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo had many references to Dragon Ball and a one-off chapter making a parody of it. It had Tokoro Tennosuke and Don Patch recreating the first battle between Son Goku and Vegeta respectively, but the order and development is messed up.
  • Masashi Kishimoto states in his manga Naruto that he was influenced by Toriyama, as he has always admired Toriyama's works. Kishimoto included a picture of Arale he drew in elementary school. Small references to Dragon Ball are also occasionally made in Naruto; such as manga episode 150 "Start of the training", on page 7, Chiaotzu's "mask" can be found between other masks for sale in a store. Also, in Naruto, the name of the 4th tailed beast is Son Gokū, which is also the name of the main character of Dragon Ball. To further the connection, its last host was named Roshi, which could be a nod to Muten Rōshi.
  • Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece, stated in an interview that he was a big fan of Dragon Ball. He stated that it was Toriyama that influenced him and that he holds Dragon Ball in high-esteem. Toriyama is a self-professed fan of One Piece, which he was introduced to by his children. Both artists ended up creating the collaboration manga Cross Epoch featuring both Dragon Ball and One Piece characters.
  • The manga Struwwelpeter: Die Rückkehr has a lot of references to Dragon Ball, beginning with the cover and the title claim resembling that of Dragon Ball Z. There are also a lot of easter eggs like a Dragon Ball lying in the garbage.
  • In the manga Black Cat, the character Sven has a cell phone charm of Frieza's head.
  • In the anime School Rumble, there is a scene in which Harima Kenji transforms into a Super Saiyan-like form and fights with Karasuma Ooji.
  • In the episode Shnitzel Quits of Chowder, Shnitzel briefly turns into a Super Saiyan-like state and he gets stronger.
  • In the anime Sgt. Frog, the character Momoka is split into a good and evil version of herself and reunites the two halves in a synchronized swimming team, spoofing the fusion dance, and the narrator even states "I do love it when they reference DBZ".
  • The anime MM! has a parody of the Spirit Bomb wherein the protagonist Sado Taro gathers a large ball of energy created from the power of all the perverts on the planet. He is also in a state parodying the Super Saiyan.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents' "Channel Chasers," an animated show called Maho Mushi, one of Timmy's favorite shows, is presented as "extremely violent." When it is first mentioned, a character with black hair, a scouter and armor appears on the TV screen (referencing Vegeta). When Timmy and Vicky arrive at Channel 298, Maho Mushi begins broadcasting, both characters engaging in a final fight that references the final match of the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. Vicky's outfit is similar to Piccolo's, while Timmy's is similar to Goku's. Vicky has fangs which further link her to Piccolo. Timmy, on the other hand, has facial features that resemble Krillin's, perhaps due to his short height. Also, Oolong can be seen in the audience.
  • In an episode of the Kids Next Door series on Cartoon Network, Number 4 relates his fight with the Delightful Children From Down The Lane to Goku's fight with Frieza in a flashback.


Dragon Ball manga
The Monkey King · Wish Upon A Dragon · The Training of Kame-Sen'nin · Strongest Under The Heavens · The Red Ribbon Army · Bulma Returns · General Blue And The Pirate Treasure · Taopaipai & Master Karin · Test Of The All-Seeing Crone · Return To The Tournament · The Eyes of Tenshinhan · The Demon King Piccolo · Piccolo Conquers The World · Heaven And Earth · The Titanic Tournament · Goku vs. Piccolo · The World's Greatest Team · The Lord Of Worlds · Earth vs. The Saiyans · Goku Vs. Vegeta · Dragon Ball In Space · Battlefield Namek · The Ginyu Force · Goku vs. Ginyu · The Wrath of Freeza · Goku vs. Freeza · The Super Saiyan · Enter Trunks · The Red Ribbon Androids · Rise Of The Machines · The Terror of Cell · The Room Of Spirit And Time · The Cell Game · Gohan vs. Cell · Death Of A Warrior · The New Generation · Tournament of the Heavens · Mark of the Warlock · Boo Unleashed · Hercule To The Rescue · Last Hero Standing! · Goodbye, Dragon World

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