Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール) is a Japanese manga by Akira Toriyama serialized in the weekly anthology magazine Weekly Shonen Jump from 1984 to 1995 and originally collected into 42 individual books. In 2004, the manga was re-released in a 34 volume collection which included a slightly rewritten ending and original color artwork.
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 and both series were cancelled 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 is in the process of releasing the 42 volumes (nearly matching the first Japanese set) in English. Viz titles the second part of the manga "Dragon Ball Z" to reduce confusion for American audiences.
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.
The titular Dragon Balls are one component of the universe, but are not the focus of most of the plot lines of the title. The Dragon Balls are seven magical spheres which are scattered across the world. When assembled together, they can be used to summon the dragon Shenlong(Shenron) who will grant one wish (within limits). After the wish is granted, the balls are scattered again across the landscape and become inert for a year. In times past, it would take generations to search the world and gather the balls. In the beginning of the story however, one genius inventor has created a "Dragon Radar" to detect the balls and making the process far easier than it was intended to be.
The story of Dragon Ball unfolded gradually over 11 years of publication. During those years, the tone and the style of the stories gradually changed to reflect the tastes of the readers and the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump.
The early manga is primarily a humorous fantasy story, but containing some small number of sci-fi elements. Notable fantasy elements include not only the monkey-boy Goku and the balls themselves, but also many talking animal characters, unlikely martial arts techniques, and characters identified as gods and demons. Despite the fantasy elements, the world does contain advanced technology including space-saving capsules (which can shrink any inanimate object to be pocket-sized), flying cars, and similar "near future" trappings. The overall mood of the title is light with very few deaths and an emphasis on character interaction.
The later manga, starting with the birth of Goku's first son, begins to take a much more serious and harder sci-fi approach. Many of the characters which previously had fantasy origins (Goku, the demons, etc.) are recast as being aliens from other planets. Space travel, alien threats, and powerful cyborgs take center stage instead of more fantastic villains. It is only toward the very end of the manga that more fantastic plot elements again drive the focus of the book.
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 Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu'ar) and continued even to the last saga (with the acceptance of Mr. 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.
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. As of June 2001, all "Dragon Ball" manga has been released uncensored, including rereleases of previously censored volumes 1 through 3. The "Dragon Ball Z" manga remains censored, although many volumes are technically uncensored since they did not contain any objectionable material.
Relation to the Anime
Both Dragon Ball (DB) and Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) anime are based on the same original Dragon Ball manga. DB follows Goku's adventures as a child up to his marriage-- roughly the sagas that had the most fantasy and humor elements. DBZ takes up right where DB leaves off, with the birth of Goku's first son. Dragon Ball GT is the sequel to DBZ but is not based on any manga. (Unlike Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, Akira Toriyama was not directly involved with the creation of Dragon Ball GT.)
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 is that the letter was chosen because it was at the end of the alphabet, echoing a desire by Toriyama that the series end soon. (It didn't.) Other "Z" theories include the naming of the ensemble group of main characters as the "Z Warriors" or "Z Fighters" 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.
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 which was filled in by the anime-writers was directly contradicted by backstory written later in the manga. In a very small number of cases however, the inverse was true-- backstory added in the anime was accepted in the manga. Most notably, the character of Bardock (Goku's father) was originally an anime-creation.
The names in Dragon Ball are largely (though not entirely) puns and regular words, which are obvious to Japanese readers but not to those reading Dragon Ball in English. Some explanations of the names used follow.
- Bebi - baby
- Bra (Bulla) - self explanatory
- Bubbles - bubbles
- Bulma - Buruma / "Bloomers", though in Japan this word refers to the short gym shorts worn by junior high and high school girls.
- Chichi - Breasts or Milk??
- Cooler - older brother of Freeza (Cooler & Freezer)
- Dende - Japanese for "denden mushi", snail
- Emperor Pilaf - Sauteed, seasoned rice (rice pilaf)
- Freeza - Freezer
- Garlic Jr. - Garlic
- Ginger - Ginger
- Ginyu - Milk
- Gohan - Rice, or food in general
- Kakarotto - carrot
- King Kold - Cold
- Lord Enma - Yama, ruler of hades
- Lord Slug - a slug
- Lunch - self-explanatory
- Majin Buu - Bibi-dee Babi-dee Buu
- The term "majin" roughly translates to "demon-man". ("ma" = "demon"/"demonic"; and "jin" = "person", usually gender-neutral)
- Muten-Roshi - Turtle Sage
- Nappa - Nappa Cabbage
- Oolong - A type of Chinese tea
- Pan - bread
- Raditz - Radish
- Son Goku - As mentioned above, the titular character in Journey to the West (西遊記)
- Trunks - shorts
- Tsufurujin - Fruit
- Vegeta - Vegetable
- Vinegar - vinegar
- Yamcha - Yamcha / A type of tea
- Yamcha - Yumcha / dim sum
- The Official Dragon Ball Site
- The Official Dragon Ball GT Site
- The Official Dragon Ball Z Site
- YTV Dragon Ball Site
- YTV Dragon Ball GT Site
- YTV Dragon Ball Z Site
- My Favorite Games DBZ site
- Unrivaled Dragonball Site
- Dragonball Arena
- Dragonball Unlimited
- The MSTing of... Dragonball-Z!
- DBZ Hevan
- Daizenshuu EX
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