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Dragonball Evolution
Japanese March 10, 2009
English April 10, 2009
Character debut(s)
Technique debut(s)
None in this movie
Tool debut(s)
None in this movie

Dragonball Evolution is a 2009 American live-action film, loosely based on the Dragon Ball manga series by Akira Toriyama. It is the third live-action Dragon Ball film, and the only one of the three to be produced in the United States.


Two thousand years ago, the demon Lord Piccolo came to Earth, wreaking havoc with his minion Ōzaru. Seven mystics created the Mafuba and thought they sealed him away for eternity. However, Piccolo breaks free and with his ninja henchwoman Mai, begins to search for the seven Dragonballs (each one has stars numbering between one and seven), killing anyone in his way.

On his eighteenth birthday, high school student and martial artist Goku is given the four-star Dragonball by his grandfather, Grandpa Gohan Returning home from a party hosted by his crush Chi-Chi, Goku finds his home destroyed and his grandfather near death after Piccolo's failed attempt to acquire the Dragonball.

Before he dies, Gohan tells Goku to seek out martial arts master Muten Roshi, who holds another one of the Dragonballs. Along the way, Goku meets Bulma of the Capsule Corporation, who was studying the five-star Dragonball until it was stolen by Mai. Goku offers Bulma his protection in exchange for her help in finding Roshi. They ultimately track him down in Paozu City. Under Roshi's wing, Goku begins training his ki, knowing that they must get all the Dragonballs before the next solar eclipse, when Ōzaru will return and join with Piccolo.

In the midst of the group's search for the six-star Dragonball, they fall into a trap set by the desert bandit Yamcha but Roshi convinces Yamcha to join by promising 1/3 of the royalties for Bulma's invention. Together, the group fight off an ambush by Mai and successfully get the next Dragonball. As the group continues their quest, they travel to a temple where Roshi consults his former teacher Sifu Norris and begins preparing the Mafuba enchantment so he can reseal Piccolo, while Goku must learn the most powerful of the ki-bending techniques: the Kamehameha.

During the night, Mai – disguised as Chi-Chi – steals the team's three Dragonballs, adding them to the ones that Piccolo already has. With the Dragonballs successfully united, Piccolo begins to summon Shen Long, but is stopped by the timely arrival of Goku's team. During the ensuing battle, Piccolo reveals to Goku that Goku himself is Ōzaru, having been sent to Earth as an infant to destroy it when he came of age.

As the eclipse begins, Goku transforms into Ōzaru while Roshi attempts to use the Mafuba, but he does not have enough energy to live before he can re-seal Piccolo. Roshi's dying words restore Goku to his senses as he is choked to death by Ōzaru, and he engages Piccolo in a final battle, seemingly defeating him with the power of the Kamehameha. Goku then uses the Dragonballs to summon Shen Long, and request that he restore Roshi to life.

As they celebrate, they realise the Dragonballs have now scattered, and Bulma declares that they must seek the balls again. Before they head out, Goku meets with Chi-Chi to get to know her better, and they begin a sparring match to see which of them is stronger. In a post-credits scene, Piccolo has survived Goku's Kamehameha blast and is being cared for by a woman.

Differences from the original Dragon Ball manga

Evolution cut out many things from the original Dragon Ball series during the making of the movie. These include:

  • Goku himself was an eighteen-year old high school in the film, as opposed to being fourteen, as in the series. Furthermore, Goku attended school, while, in the original series, one of his defining traits is a lack of education.
  • Goku's Nyoibō and Kintoun are not featured in the film, though Gohan was shown wielding a staff.
  • Gohan's hut has grown considerably bigger, and seems to be set in a plantation of some sort.
  • Kuririn was entirely removed.
  • Mai now serves as Piccolo's henchwoman, rather than Pilaf, who, along with Shu and Kuririn, are also removed.
  • Unlike in the manga, where Gokū showed no real interest in marriage or romance, Goku seems to be able to use his ki with far greater strength when in proximity to Chi-Chi. Furthermore, Goku has a definitive romantic interest in Chi-Chi in the film, wheras in the original manga, it was originally Chi-Chi interested in him.
  • Gohan is killed by Mai and Piccolo, not a transformed Son Gokū.
  • As opposed to the purple hair of the manga, or the blue of the anime, Bulma's hair is brown with only one streak of blue hair.
  • Bulma wanted to use the Dragon Balls for an unlimited source of energy, whereas, in the manga, she wanted to wish for a boyfriend.
  • Muten Roshi is considerably younger in the film, and his perversions are toned down, more than likely for the sake of movie rating.
  • Yamcha wanted to make money with the Dragon Balls in the film, rather than cure his shyness, as in the manga.
  • In the film, Piccolo uses his blood to create minions, rather than Birthing an Egg. Furthermore, Cymbal, Tambourine, and Drum are not present in the film.
  • Yamcha's role was considerably reduced from fighter to comic relief.
  • Mutaito was replaced by an entirely new character, Sifu Norris.
  • The Kamehameha is referred to as "airbending", and many ki techniques appear as colored "wind", rather than luminescent energy, as in the series.
  • Unlike in the manga, where Gokū mastered the Kamehameha after only seeing it once, it is a technique in the movie that he has trouble using until the climax of the film — or unless he is in close proximity to Chi-Chi.
  • Mai is capable of shape-shifting, an entirely new ability she was given unique to the film.
  • Piccolo's use of the Dragon Balls are changed from wanting to return to his youth to wanting to rule the Earth.
  • Goku transforms into "Ozaru" when the "blood moon eclipses the sun", as opposed to during a full moon. Additionally, Goku requires no tail.
  • Shenron is referred to as "Shenlong", and has no speaking role.
  • The Dragon Balls do not turn to stone after being used.


On its opening weekend in the United States, the film grossed $4,756,488 ranking #8 at the box office.[1][2]

Akira Toriyama's Reception

Initially polite, Toriyama urged viewers to consider the movie as an alternate universe interpretation of his work.[3] Toriyama would later come out with his opinion on the live-action adaption of his work:

Also, at the time of the Hollywood movie, the live-action Dragon Ball, the script had too little of a grasp on the world and its characteristics, and on top of that, it had a conventional content that I couldn’t find interesting, so I cautioned them, and suggested changes; but in spite of that, they seemed to have a strange confidence, and didn’t really listen to me. What came out in the end was a movie I couldn’t really call a Dragon Ball that lived up to my expectations. That being the case, there were parts where I wanted to show some spine, with a world and story only the creator could draw.

—Akira Toriyama


The author would later go on to mention, while discussing the film in the 30th Anniversary Dragon Ball Chōshishū: Super History Book, that, while he had initially put Dragon Ball behind him, the live-action film "ticked me off...".[5]

During an interview about Dragon Ball Z: God and God, Toriyama states:

By the way, the battle scenes in the second half are particularly overwhelming! I was moved because the presentation exceeded my expectations. While I had expected, “It probably won’t be any good,” it was greatly different from a certain country’s live-action movie, which really was no good. Just as you’d expect, Japan’s animation is superb! Everyone on the staff, you really did a great job!!

—Akira Toriyama


directly referencing the live-action film.



  1. "Dragonball Evolution (2009) – Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo.
  2. "Dragonball Evolution Opens at #8 with US$4.6 Million (Updated)". Anime News Network. April 12, 2009.
  3. "Dragonball Evolution Japanese Trailer". February 23, 2009.
  4. Akira Toriyama Directly Comments on Dragonball Evolution
  5. Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary “Super History Book”
  6. Comment From Original Manga Author
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