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Please note that this is the Dragon Ball Universe Wiki's article on the Dragon Ball series. If you are looking for the article on eponymous artifacts which summon the wish granting dragons, then you should head to Dragon Ball (object). For other uses, see Dragon Ball (disambiguation).

The cover of Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump that contains the first Dragon Ball manga chapter.

Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, Doragon Bōru) is an internationally popular Japanese franchise—written by Akira Toriyama—that began as a manga, chronicling the adventures of a young Son Gokū, a naïve, but powerful boy with a monkey's tail who lives in the woods, and Bulma, a spunky young woman from the Western Capital.

Much of the original Dragon Ball manga is influenced by the ancient Chinese tale, Journey to the West. Son Gokū himself finds his basis in the infamous Monkey King, Sun Wukong (whose name in the Japanese is Son Gokū). Toriyama changed the original premise of journeying toward another country to the far easier-to-understand “gather seven orbs called ‘Dragon Balls’ in order to grant a wish”. However, his interest eventually shifted towards the growth and growing strength of Son Gokū, and the series quickly diverged from its original basis.[1]

Originally serialized in Shueisha's Weekley Shōnen Jump in 1984, it lasted until 1995. Viz Media published the translated version of the Dragon Ball series — separated into Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z in the localization — and Dragon Ball Z debuted in the western Weekly Shōnen Jump in January 2003.

The original Dragon Ball animated series was produced by Toei Animation, and aired on Fuji TV from February 26, 1986 – April 12, 1989, with episodes totaling at 153. The original Dragon Ball anime had a turbulent localization process; originally picked up by Harmony Gold USA in the late '80s, the series was partially dubbed with many changes made to names and terminology. Funimation Entertainment later picked up the series, and created the first truly successful localization of original Dragon Ball series. It aired on Cartoon Network in the United States, on the Toonami block.

The second half of the Dragon Ball manga, detailing the adventures of Son Gokū in his adulthood, was later adapted into an anime as well. Also produced by Toei Animation, the anime was called Dragon Ball Z. Composed of 291 episodes, the Dragon Ball Z anime ran on Fuji TV from April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996. It would later be dubbed into English, once again picked up by Funimation Entertainment. Like Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z aired on the Toonami block, and became one of the most popular anime to air in the United States.

Dragon Ball Manga

See also: List of Volumes

The Dragon Ball manga consists of 42 tankōbon volumes and 519 chapters.

Dragon Boy

The cover of the first chapter of Dragon Boy, featuring Tanton and the Princess

The original prototype of Dragon Ball was a two chapter manga written by Akira Toriyama known as Dragon Boy (騎竜少年 Doragon Bōi).[2] It ran in Fresh Jump from August 1983 – October 1983, and totals in at 45 pages, the first chapter being comprised of 15 pages and the second being comprised of 21. As with Dragon Ball, Dragon Boy finds its basis in the ancient Chinese tale, Journey to the West, and focuses on the adventures of Tanton, the Dragon Boy, and the Princess of the Flower Country. The Dragon Balls themselves even originate within this two-chapter work, as artifacts that produce dragons when fire hit with energy blasts.

Many elements that are introduced in Dragon Boy later find themselves implemented into Dragon Ball itself. The eponymous Dragon Balls appear in both series, with vastly different functions; Tanton is an isolated martial artist with an animal appendage — dragon wings as opposed to a tail — and has never seen a woman; the Princess, a rich, well off girl with a stubborn, independent streak, and Chi-Chi resembles her; Binyao, an evil, shapeshifting cat, most likely a prototype of Puar and Oolong, as he even has the transformation limit; Tanton's master rides a flying cloud, an artifact from the Journey to the West that would later become Gokū's well-known Kintoun.

Dragon Boy was re-released in Akira Toriyama's Manga Theater Vol. 2 in March 1988.

Growth and Popularity

Despite it's original release date of 1984, Dragon Ball remains one of the most popular anime and manga series ever created. Dragon Ball has become a highly influential among the anime and manga community, inspiring many different protagonists for other well-known manga series, such as Naruto's Naruto, or One Piece's Monkey D. Luffy.[3][4] Dragon Ball consistently finds itself voted highly in Shōnen Jump popularity polls, and is Japan's second best selling manga,[5] selling 230 million copies, surpassed only by One Piece.

Dragon Ball is one of the pioneers of anime in Western society, alongside Pokémon and Sailor Moon, helping to make anime a mainstream and popular form of entertainment in West. Through the Funimation dub, it became a popular show on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block, and from there spread worldwide. Dragon Ball has multiple fansites that contain information about the series, detailed guides to the movies and anime, and even parodies, such as the famous Dragon Ball Z Abridged, thrive on the internet. As with many popular anime and manga, Dragon Ball developed a popular collectible card game.

Despite aiming primarily at boys of the teenage demographic, Dragon Ball has shown popularity with younger children and even adults.[6]

Anime Details

See also: List of Episodes, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Kai, Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball GT, and Filler

Debuting nearly a full two years after the original manga made its debut in Weekly Shōnen Jump, the Dragon Ball manga series was taken an adapted into an anime by Toei Animation, and it aired from February 26, 1986 - January 31, 1996, compiling both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. The anime had a ten-year run-time, and totaled at 444 episodes in total by the time it had finished. Toriyama was involved within the production of the anime to an advisory extent, and was the person to choose both Masako Nozawa and Mayumi Tanaka to play Son Gokū and Kulilin respectively.[7]

Dragon Ball Z was the sequel anime that would soon follow, documenting the second half of Toriyama's manga, set after Gokū's victory over Piccolo Junior at the Tenka-Ichi Budōkai and his marriage to Chi-Chi. The Z in the title was chosen by Toriyama himself, as it was the last letter in the alphabet, and, due to an increasing lack of fresh ideas, wanted the series to end in its second half.[8] The Dragon Ball Z anime is among one of the most notorious for "filler" content — content not originally from the original manga adaptation — due to the time constraints involved when Toriyama himself was still working on the manga.[9]

Due to the massive amount of additional content, Dragon Ball Z was later remastered and re-released as Dragon Ball Kai (ドラゴンボール改「カイ」Doragon Boru Kai; lit. "Dragon Ball Revised"). Kai (改「かい」) means "updated" or "altered", and is used in reference to the changed nature of the work.[10] Dragon Ball Kai was essentially the same as the original animated production, however, it is high-definition, and a majority of the filler content that was in the original was removed, drastically shortening the length of the anime itself.

An anime-only continuation of the Dragon Ball universe was created by Toei Animation, Dragon Ball GT (ドラゴンボールGT, Doragon Boru Ji Ti, Literally meaning: Dragon Ball Grand Tour). This continuation debuted in February 7, 1996, totaling at 64 episodes in total. GT does not continue the original manga created by Akira Toriyama; instead, it tells an original story created by the staff of Toei Animation. It is also the series Toriyama himself has had the least involvement in, being primarily involved with character designs, the title of the series, (GT), and a few other images.[11] In another instance, Toriyama referred to GT as a "side story of the original Dragon Ball", and declared it to be a "as a brand-new story not present in the original".[12][13]

The series itself has spawned nineteen animated films: Dragon Ball: The Legend of Shenron, Dragon Ball: The Sleeping Princess in the Devil's Castle, Dragon Ball: A Mystical Great Adventure, Dragon Ball: The Path to Ultimate Strength, Dragon Ball Z: Return My Gohan!!, Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest Guy, Dragon Ball Z: A Super Decisive Battle for Earth, Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiyan Son Gokū, Dragon Ball Z: The Incredible Strongest versus Strongest, Dragon Ball Z: Clash!! 10 Billion Powerful Warriors, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Battle!! The Three Great Super Saiyans, Dragon Ball Z: Burn Up!! A Red-Hot, Raging, Super-Fierce Fight, Dragon Ball Z: The Galaxy at the Brink!! The Super Incredible Guy, Dragon Ball Z: The Dangerous Duo! Super Warriors Can't Rest, Dragon Ball Z: Super Warrior Defeat!! I'm the One Who'll Win, Dragon Ball Z: The Rebirth of Fusion!! Gokū and Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Fist Explosion!! If Gokū Won't Do It, Who Will?, Dragon Ball Z: God and God and Dragon Ball Z: Revival of "F". Akira Toriyama has stated that the Dragon Ball movies 1-3, and the Dragon Ball Z movies 1-13, do not canonically take place within the original Dragon Ball universe, and instead take place in "different dimensions".[14]

In addition to animated feature films, the Dragon Ball Z animated series also spawned five animated specials: Dragon Ball Z: A Lonesome, Final Battle - The Father of Z Warrior Son Gokū, who Challenged Freeza, the Movie Overview Special, Defiance in the Face of Despair!! The Remaining Super Warriors – Gohan and Trunks, Looking Back at it All: The Dragon Ball Z Year-End Show!, and Dream 9 Toriko & One Piece & Dragon Ball Z Super Collaboration. GT had its own special: Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy.

The anime also had a total of three OVA (original video animation): Dragon Ball Z Side-Story: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans, Yo! Son Gokū and His Friends Return!!, and Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock.

After nearly 20 years, the Dragon Ball series proved popular enough to finally merit a new anime series, Dragon Ball Super (ドラゴンボールチョー, Doragon Bōru Chō; Literally meaning "Dragon Ball Super"). This new anime is set after the Bū Saga, this new series will be both overseen and written by the original manga author, Akira Toriyama, and the plot is stated by Osami Nozaki to be a "dream come true". [15]

English-Language Broadcast

The Dragon Ball series has had a notably complicated localization process. In the 1980s, the first dub of the Dragon Ball series to reach Western shores was Harmony Gold dub, dubbed by Harmony Gold USA. The dubbing itself was a bit fractured; many characters names were changed (Son Gokū was renamed as Zero and Bulma to Lena, to name a few), but it was kept relatively uncensored, and beyond name changes, a little more faithful to the original Japanese dub than the Funimation dub that followed it.

Approximately five episodes of the original Dragon Ball, as well as the first and third movie, were dubbed by Harmony Gold USA, and edited into an 80-minute long special, serving as a pilot for the potential dub of the series. However, despite their attempts, it was an overall failure, and was cancelled.

The next attempt to dub the Dragon Ball series would be attempted by Funimation, a then nascent company, who partnered with BLT productions. This process was as turbulent as before, if not more; due to the inability to latch onto a timeslot that was ideal, Funimation cancelled their work on the original Dragon Ball anime at the time, and instead opted to begin work on Dragon Ball Z, due to its more action oriented content.

The dub most often referred to as the Ocean dub or the Saban dub was the next attempt to bring Dragon Ball to Western shores, this time focusing on Dragon Ball Z, with Ocean Productions being brought in to dub the anime, with Pioneer Entertainment to handle the distribution of the series on home video . The dub consisted of a total of 53 episodes (originally 67, shortened to 53 due to mandated cuts to the content and length). Originally premiering on September 13, 1996, the anime was cancelled after two seasons due to a growing lack of interest from the syndication companies.[16]

Funimation continued the dub of Dragon Ball Z by themselves, picking up where the cancelled Ocean dub had left off, however, they were no longer able to afford the services of the Ocean Studios. They created their own in-house voice cast, and this new Dragon Ball Z dub ran on Cartoon Network from September 13, 1999 to April 7, 2003. When Pioneer lost the rights to the dubbed episodes and movies in 2004, Funimation was free to re-dub the episodes with their own in-house voice talent.[17] In the Western world, the Dragon Ball Z anime is by far more well known and more popular than the original manga itself, and tends to be what fans think of when Dragon Ball Z is mentioned.

Starting from episode 98, to comply with Canadian broadcasting regulations, the AB Groupe and Westwood Media began to produce an alternative dub of the Dragon Ball Z anime, in alliance with Ocean Studios. This alternate dub was aired in UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and Canada, while the Funimation dub continued to be broadcast in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. This new dub utilized the same voices from the original Ocean dub that aired on Toonami, despite being edited for content, contained an original background score, and used most of the same script as the Funimation dub.

Plot Overview

Eleven years prior to the start of the Dragon Ball series, the evil emperor, Freeza, destroys planet Vegeta out of fear of the legends of the Super Saiyan and the Super Saiyan God. Two Saiyans send their youngest son, Kakarotto, from their planet to Earth before the impending destruction. This child is adopted by a martial artist on Earth, and rechristened "Son Gokū".[18]

Son Gokū grows with his new adoptive grandfather, but suffers an incident that causes him to lose his wild Saiyan nature, and becomes a gentle boy. After accidentally killing Gohan, Gokū lives alone for some time, with only a mysterious ball as a memento. This is, until he meets Bulma, a young rich girl gathering the "Dragon Balls". Gokū's heirloom is one, and Bulma talks the boy into being her bodyguard, and they set off on adventure.

Dragon Ball started as a comedy manga, with action thrown in for a good measure, and remained this way throughout most of Gokū's early adventure. Throughout the series, however, Gokū would go on to gain many friends and allies — the first in the form of Oolong, Yamcha, and Pu'ar, and later Kame-Sennin, Chi-Chi, and Gyūmaō. The emphasis of the first half of the story is placed on Son Gokū primarily as the young martial artist comes of age, and his many adventures.

Dragon Ball would later gain a focus on sci-fi elements, taking the story into outer space, and introducing aliens like the Saiyans and Frost Demons — as well as revealing at the beginning of the manga's second half that the protagonist, Son Gokū, was, in fact, an alien. With the further re-introduction of Androids, exploring the concept in a new light with new villains, the expansion into these tones grew further still, until the series' original fantasy elements returned with the introduction of the creature Majin Boo.

In the final reintroduction of the series, Dragon Ball Super, as well as the two movies that it was based on, the focus shifted as the deity heiarchy was explored with the introduction of the HakaishinAngels, and the Super Saiyan God.


See also: Characters

The majority of main and support characters as depicted by the end of the manga

As a series that has run for over 30 years, and constantly still receives new media, Dragon Ball has a cast of colorful characters with varied histories and personalities and motivations. From the early series, the story has centered around Son Gokū and his adventures — and as time has gone on, Gokū has encountered new people, enemies and allies alike.

Beginning with simply two young children, Son Gokū and Bulma, the series and roster expanded to include memorable characters; the perverted old Turle Hermit, a character who would go on for a long time to influence the way Gokū would fight through his training, and introduce the most famous technique in all of shōnen — the Kamehameha. Tricky villains and rivals-later-turned-comrades would be introduced in the form of Oolong, Yamcha, Pu'ar, and Kulilin. These characters would go on to become Gokū's lifelong friends, and invaluable members to the future Dragon Team.

Valuable allies would go on to be introduced in the form of godsGod, North Kaiō, and Shin are the most prominent examples. The concept of Hakaishin and Angels were visited down the line, and characters such as Beerus and Whis, integral parts of the later Dragon Ball Super, would be introduced, spurring the Dragon Ball series on into revival.

Characters in Dragon Ball tend to have their names, concepts, or both, drawn from the original Journey to the West fairy tale — the clearest-cut case among these being Son Gokū himself, however, Gyūmaō, and the anime-only character Annin, are two other examples of this. Character names are also typically based on elaborate puns, and the origin of this can be seen in the very early Dragon Ball, with Bulma, Oolong, and Pu'ar all being puns on bloomers and two different kinds of tea, respectively. The preferred puns used in the series typically come from food or drinks, but as is the case in Bulma's family, other puns are often used as well.


  1. The Truth About the “Dragon Ball” Manga
  2. Daizenshū 2, 1995
  3. Kishimoto, Masashi (2007). Uzumaki: the Art of Naruto. Viz Media. pp. 138–139.
  4. Oda, Eiichiro (2001). One Piece Color Walk 1. Shueisha.
  5. "2013's Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods Film Story Outlined". Anime News Network. 2012-12-03
  6. James Marsters Discusses Dragonball cinematical.com
  7. DRAGON BALL 大全集 3 TV ANIMATION PART 1. Shueisha. 1995. pp. 202–207.
  8. "Shonen Jump". October 3, 2003. pp. 92–97.
  9. Editors' roundtable, Jump Comics (Shueisha), July 2, 2004, page 88.
  10. Japan's Remastered DBZ to Be Called Dragon Ball Z Kai". Anime News Network. February 19, 2009
  11. Dragon Box GT Dragon Ball GT DVD Box Set
  12. Akira Toriyama message in the Dragon Book included with the Dragon Ball GT Dragon Box DVD set.
  13. Akira Toriyama message in Daizenshū 5.
  14. I take the movies as “stories in a different dimension from the main story of the comic”. ( http://www.kanzenshuu.com/translations/daizenshuu-6-akira-toriyama-super-interview )/
  15. http://www.toei-animation.com/files/Press_Release_DBS_ENG_0.pdf
  16. "Pioneer announces last Dragonball Z release". Anime News Network. November 14, 1998. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
  17. De La Cruz, Edwin (November 23, 2003). "'Dragon Ball Z' keeps up the momentum". Video Store. Questex Media Group, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2013 – via HighBeam Research.
  18. Dragon Ball Minus