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Dragon Ball – Short History

Dragonball, written by the world-renouned Akira Toriyama, is an epic story of good versus evil, comprised of a complex set of intertwined relationships. The high-speed, on-the-edge-of-your-seat action serves as the focus for those associations coming together in a variety of manners – sometimes as adversaries, sometimes as allies.
dbcover7The story was loosely based on the sixteenth century work of Wu Cheng’en, and was called (in English)
“The Record of A Journey to the West.” In Toriyama’s original work, merely called “Dragonball”, the main character, Son Goku, is a super-strong, little boy who also happens to have a monkey-like prehensile tail attached to his backside.

Having been instructed in the ways of fighting from his adopted grandfather, Son Gohan, he spent his early years living alone in the mountains, fending for himself. One day, a pretty, young girl named Bulma, arrived in the area, and introduced him to a grand adventure – tracking down the seven magical Red-Star Dragonballs, that, when brought together, call forth Shen-Lon the Eternal Dragon, who would then grant the summoner a single wish. After the wish has been granted, the seven Dragonballs scatter until the next time they are brought together.

The rest of the first series, consisting of approx. 100+ episodes, shows little Goku fighting an odd assortment of strange and/or hilarious baddies, making new friends, summoning Shen-Lon, and slowly growing up. The manga for this series is a collection of sixteen tankoubans (graphic novels), and through the course of them, Son Goku would “participate in three martial arts tournaments, encounter and defeat an army bent on taking over the world, and build lasting friendships with the people around him – many of which, surprisingly, were former enemies.”
dbgroup5The second series, “Dragonball Z”, picks up years after the end of  Dragonball”. By now, Son Goku is an adult and married, with a four year old son, named Son Gohan. In the first set of episodes, aptly termed the ‘Saiyan saga’, we uncover the secret of the Son family’s unique tail (which has since been lopped-off on Goku). The information comes in a frightening formŠ One day, a vicious stranger with Sonic-the-Hedgehog-type hair appears at the tropical hangout, the Kame House. His name is Radditz and he’s come to find his long-lost brother, Son Goku. As if that’s not enough of a surprise for him (Goku had always thought he was an orphan), it seems that our beloved hero is also an alien! He originally hails from the planet called Vegeta, and is member of the war-like Saiyan race. Sent as a baby to the Earth to destroy it, he hit his head soon after grandpa Gohan had found him, and as a result, had completely forgotten his mission!

Radditz then goes on to describe his people – ruthless, genocidal maniacs, who enjoy tromping on those weaker. Of course, it helps that they have incredibly high endurance levels and super-strength to do so. Also, with the help of a full moon, they are able to transform into giant were-monkies, called Oozaru, who are unbelievably powerful (but only if you have a tail!). Radditz boasts of the benefits to being the cosmic bullies: the now-emptied worlds can be placed onto the Intergalactic market for sale. Not a bad way to bring home the bacon, eh? However, because of their inattentiveness, the Saiyan race had an “accident” of sorts, and their homeworld was destroyed (we find out later the dastardly plan behind this). According to Toiyama’s original manga and the animated televisions series, of their entire race, only a handful of Saiyans exist still. They are Radditz, the Saiyan Prince, Vegeta, his henchman, Nappa and Goku.*

Giving Goku the typical bad-guy ultimatium – “join me or die” – Radditz kidnaps young Gohan, and gives his brother 24 hours to decide. Refusing to be cowed down, Goku and his friends bravely choose to fightŠ which leads to a host of new issues and problems, and the discovery of a latent power which resides within Goku and his son.

According to one fan: “The coming of the Saiyans set off a 26 book run which pushed the focus off of comedy and into high drama and fighting. Son Goku and his friends were forced time and time again to battle incredibly powerful opponents in order to ensure the safety and peace of their planet. This simple plot would successfully drive the story of DRAGONBALL until its end.”

The second series consists of approx. 300 episodes, and can be broken up into several parts:

  • a) Saiyan Saga (encompassing the beginning of DBZ until the defeat of Vegeta
  • b) Freeza Saga (encompassing the discovery of Freeza until his 1st defeat)
  • c) Android Saga (encompassing the appearance of Future Trunks until the Androids’ defeat)
  • d) Cell Saga (encompassing the appearance of Cell until his defeat)
  • e) Super Saiyanman Saga (encompassing the appearance of adult Son Gohan until he joins up with Videl)
  • f) Majin Buu Saga (encompassing the appearance of Bippity and Boppity until Buu’s defeat)
  • g) Ending Sequences (post-Majin Buu defeat until end)

The final segment of the Dragonball series is “Dragonball GT”. These 60+ episodes are not part of the manga at all, and are entirely a new set of storylines created by the animation companies. Toriyama-sensei was consulted for the character designs, but not the story, and as a result, many die-hard fans don’t consider GT to be a reliable source of information.

The GT stands for “Grand Tour”, and the first part embodies this. In this, Son Goku is accidentally turned back into a child by a wish made upon the
Black-Star Dragonballs. Because of the nature of these new Dragonballs,  they scatter not just throughout the world, but throughout the galaxy. As a
consequence of their usage, if they are not regathered together in one year, the Earth will be destroyed! Bravely, Goku, his granddaughter, Pan (daughter of Son Gohan and Videl), and Trunks (son of Prince Vegeta and Bulma) go on a trip into space to collect the seven Black-Stars and stop the impending disaster. One thing leads to another, and soon, everything is really messed up

The third series can be broken up into three parts:

  • a) Grand Tour Saga (encompassing the beginning of DBGT until the emergence of Super #17)
  • b) Super #17 Saga (encompassing the emergence of Super #17 until his defeat)
  • c) Black-Star Dragons Saga (encompassing the break-out of the 7 Black-Star Dragons from the Dragonballs until the end)
vegeta1 Because of the increasingly difficult business of distributing animation through Syndication, FUNimation withdrew the series and negotiated a deal with The Cartoon Network (at the same time the network negotiated for “Sailor Moon”). The network didn’t want to premiere two new series at the same time so they chose to give “Sailor Moon” the less competitive Summer run and delayed the start of “Dragonball” until August 31, 1998.

The network picked-up a total of 61 episodes some of which have not yet aired. In January or February of 1999 the network plans to air some of the two
and three part episodes as part of a Friday “Toonami Movie” package (which will probably pre-empt “Sailor Moon”). These will include the following:

DBZ – English Language Version

54, 55 & 56 “The Tree of Might”
57, 58 & 59 “The World’s Strongest”
60 & 61 “Dead Zone Vortex”

 

And like “Sailor Moon,” the network will not pay for any more “Dragonball” episodes to be dubbed but would be happy to show them. (“Save Our Dragonball?”)

The series currently airs weekdays at 5:00pm Eastern & Pacific Standard Times. Consult your local listings.

*Note: From the animated movies, we meet several other Saiyans later on, who aren’t part of the original ‘canon’ of Toriyama, and are entirely made-up plot  devices by Toei/Bandai in an effort to sell more toys and mass-market items. These are: Taurus (Turles in English), Paragas, Broli, and Bardock.

Many thanks to Sherwin “Wuken” Abesamis {sabesami@ucla.edu} for the quoted remarks!


All characters, names, images, sounds, and music are trademarks of and copyrighted by Akira Toriyama/Bird Studio, Shueisha, TOEI Animation,  FUJI TV, and Nippon Columbia. DRAGON BALL and its related series have been licensed in North America to FUNimation Productions, Viz Communications, Pioneer Entertainment, Bandai of America, and Saban Entertainment.

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