Dragon Ball the great work of Akira Toriyama

Dragon ball with kakarotto and his friends

Japan, end of the Showa era (1945-1989). The Liberal Democratic Party is falling apart due to internal division and corruption after decades ruling Japan. The main problems in those years were the increasing population, industrial pollution and the unproductivity of agriculture, but Japan was one of the most powerful countries of the world at that time, with their currency, the yen, more powerful than the USA dollar.

In that environment, on 20th November 1984, inside the “Weekly Shonen Jump”, published by Shueisha, appeared a new “manga”, called “Dragon Ball” (1984-95), written and drawn by only one person, Akira Toriyama (Nagoya, Aichi, Japan, 5/4/1955), just some months later the last chapter of his known work “Dr. Slump” was published, a manga which had lasted after nearly four years. “Dragon Ball” was initially inspired by the classical Chinese novel “Journey To The West”, in which Sun Wukong has a “crane” which he can shrink down to a small size, as well as expand it to gigantic proportions, and he can fly in a cloud. The first chapters of the manga as well as the first episodes of the “anime” are very close adaptation of the novel, although with some changes. Other influences in the series are the mangas “Dragon Boy” and “The adventures of Tongpoo”, published in October and November 1983, respectively. From the first one landscapes, characters personalities, the dragon balls and a robot were taken, while from the second one androids, vehicles, objects, travels through space were taken. Moreover, Toriyama, during the time that we was creating the manga, he paid attention to sci-fi films, martial arts films, mode and the problems of Japan.

The manga (as well the anime) opens with the start of the story: a twelve years boy with a tail, named “Goku”, who lives alone in Mount Paoz, very strong and an expert on kung-fu. He is an orphan, as his only relative, his grandfather, died in strange circumstances. One day, a sixteen years old girl named Bulma in search of the dragon balls, seven balls that if reunited, could call forth a dragon who has the ability to grant wishes to anyone who gathers all seven of them. This is how this adventures begins, which tells the adventures (and misadventures) of Goku, his rivals, enemies, friends and his siblings during a period of thirty five years (in the manga) and forty five years (in the anime), in an “Earth” version in which monsters, animals (prehistoric and nowadays) with different levels of technology coexists. Nearly two years after the beginning of the manga, in 1986, a powerful anime company called “Toei Animation” decided to adapt the manga into tv series, and the first episode was televised on 26 february 1986, and popularized the series, which became a huge success. Along with their branch in Philippines, Toei began to create episodes, quickly, due to the demand of new episodes by audiences, one each week (it derived in interest on merchandising until nowadays). Soon, the anime got so close to the manga that Toei was obliged to create more scenes and complete new plots, in a way to give Toriyama enough time to publish more chapters on “Weekly Shonen Jump”, that’s why are notable differences between the manga and the anime. http://dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/Filler The original japanese voice cast were: Masako Nozawa ( Bardock, Goku, Gohan, Goten, Goku Jr, Turles), Hiromi Tsuru (Bulma), Kouhei Miyauchi (Master Roshi), Toru Furuya (Yamcha), Mayumi Tanaka (Krilin), Ryo Horikawa (Vegeta), Toshio Furukawa (Piccolo).

The manga was always named “Dragon Ball” (519 chapters in 42 books, nowadays 34), but the anime version divided the story of the manga in two parts, called respectively “Dragon Ball” (153 episodes) and “Dragon Ball Z” (291 episodes), which tell the childhood and teenage years in one hand and the adulthood in the other hand of the protagonist, Goku, along with his rivals, enemies, friends and siblings. In 1996 a third part, exclusively for television, was added, called “Dragon Ball GT” (64 episodes), and many years later, in 2010, “Dragon Ball Kai”, a DBZ special edition without the fillers divided in sagas, which are (according to Toriyama):


  1. The Search Of The Dragon Balls: Chapters 001 to 023
  2. Training With Master Roshi: Chapters 024 to 031
  3. The 21st Martial Arts Tournament: Chapters 032 to 053
  4. The Red Ribbon Army: Chapters 054 to 097
  5. Baba, The Fortuneteller: Chapter 098 to 111
  6. The 22nd Martial Arts Tournament: Chapter 112 to 134
  7. King Piccolo: Chapter 135 to 165
  8. The 23rd Martial Arts Tournament: Chapter 166 to 194
  9. The Saiyans: Chapter 195 to 242
  10. Freezer: Chapter 243 to 334
  11. The Androids: Chapter 335 to 360
  12. Cell: Chapter 361 to 420
  13. Great Saiyaman: Chapter 420 to 425
  14. The 25th Martial Arts Tournament: Chapter 426 to 441
  15. Bu: Chapter 442 to 517
  16. The 28th Martial Arts Tournament: Chapter 518 to 519
  17. Gohan And Trunks. A Different Future: Chapter 520 (added in 2002)



  1. The Search Of The Dragon Balls: Episodes 001 to 014
  2. Training With Master Roshi: Episodes 014 to 019
  3. The 21st Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 020 to 028
  4. The Red Ribbon Army: Episodes 029 to 068
  5. Baba, The Fortuneteller: Episodes 068 to 078
  6. Training For The 22nd Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 079 to 083
  7. The 22nd Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 084 to 101
  8. King Piccolo: Episodes 102 to 126
  9. Training For The 23rd Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 127 to 132
  10. The 23rd Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 133 to 148
  11. Preparing The Wedding: Episodes 149 to 153


  1. The Saiyans: Episodes 001 to 035
  2. Freezer: Episodes 036 to 107 and 118 to 121
  3. The Return Of Garlick Jr: Episodes 108 to 117
  4. The Androids: Episodes 122 to 139
  5. Cell: Episodes 140 to 194
  6. The Other World Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 195 to 199
  7. The Great Saiyaman: Episodes 200 to 205
  8. Training For The 25th Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 206 to 208
  9. The 25th Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 209 to 219
  10. Bu: Episodes 220 to 288
  11. The 28th Martial Arts Tournament: Episodes 289 to 291


  1. The Grand Voyage: Episodes 01 to 21
  2. Baby: Episodes 22 to 40
  3. Super A-17: Episodes 41 to 47
  4. The Shadow Dragons: Episodes 48 to 64


  1. The Saiyans: Episodes 001 to 017
  2. Freezer: Episodes 018 to 056
  3. The Androids: Episodes 057 to 066
  4. Cell: Episodes 067 to 098
  5. The Great Saiyaman: Episodes 099 to 100
  6. Training For The 25th Martial Arts Tournament: Episode 101
  7. The 25th Martial Arts Tournament: Episode 102 to 106
  8. Bu: Episodes 107 to ??? (not finished)
  9. The 28th Martial Arts Tournament: (it has not yet begun).

In addition to the original series, films, tv specials, OVAs and two educative shorts were made, that you can check here: http://dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Dragon_Ball_films

The series arrived in USA in 1987, when a company called “Harmony Gold” got the rights of the first six episodes of the series along with the first two films, in a way to test and show them to other companies and audiences. The original Japanese music was kept, but nearly all of the characters names were changed (Goku’s name was changed to “Zero”). This dub is more faithful to the original than later redubs, and less censored. It was test marketed on several independent stations around the United States, but failed to find an audience, and was canceled. This dub was not released to home video with the exception of a very limited VHS release of the films and is called “the lost dub”. It was recorded in Hollywood, CA.

The second attempt was made when a company called “FUNimation Entertainment” acquired the rights of the tv series in 1995. They immediately began work on an English dub for Dragon Ball and completed the first thirteen episodes of the series in the same year, and the series was shown in syndication. The network ratings for Dragon Ball were poor however, so FUNimation opted to focus on the more action-oriented Dragon Ball Z instead. At the time, FUNimation was a relatively new company (founded in 1994) and did not have the financial wherewithal to produce a dub entirely on their own, and instead collaborated with other production companies: BLT Productions for Dragon Ball, and then Saban Entertainment and the Ocean Group for Dragon Ball Z. FUNimation drew from the same Vancouver voice over talent pool for both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, and the same voice actors appeared in both shows, albeit some in different roles. Dragon Ball was put on indefinite hold and work on Dragon Ball Z commenced in 1996, with Ocean dubbing the first 53 episodes (first two seasons, covering the first 67 uncut episodes), and the show was shown in syndication. The third movie was also split up into three episodes, and was dubbed and edited in the same way as the other episodes. This English dub also featured an original musical score by Shuki Levy. During its formative years, the show had difficulty finding its target market/audience, principally due to poor marketing with the show airing in awkward timeslots. As a result, financing for the series worsened to the point where Saban Entertainment (distributor of the series and its major financier) and FUNimation (the series’ producer) parted ways. Another point in the USA version is the heavy censorship (erotism, weapons, extreme violence, dialogue changes…) as a way to adapt it to children.

Some months later, FUNimation decided to redub once again the series, with a new background music composed by Bruce Faulkoner, instead of the original score composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi. Moreover, the company promoted heavily the series, and the first episode with this third English dub was broadcasted on “Cartoon Network” in 1999 and it became a huge success, nearly fifteen years after the first broadcast in Japan. The main cast of this third and best known dub is: Stephanie Nadolny (Kid Goku, Kid Gohan, Young Gohan), Tiffany Vollmer (Bulma), Michael McFarland (Master Roshi), Christopher Sabat (Yamcha, Piccolo, Vegeta), Sean Schemmel (Goku), Don Strait (Krilin, Bardock), Kyle Herbert (Gohan).


Nowadays, “Dragon Ball” has a huge success in many countries, nearly thirty years after the publication of the first chapter of the manga in 1984. Several mangaka has been influenced by this work.


“¡Krilin has died!” An unforgettable summer day, suddenly, someone screamed this and run through the aisle of the floor of the building where I was living during a summer camp. In the “Jump” of that week, “Dragon Ball” changed dramatically, it was something more dramatic than anything in real world. We fell on the floor because we were depressed and we talked about it the whole week and asking “What will happen next week?” In fact, I asked myself many times in those ten years and a half the same question. There is saying which says “only God knows”, and in this case, is also more terrible, as it seems that the author, Akira Toriyama, was asking himself the same question than us. But it will be some time that you can continue without an established idea. Although he had some problems like these, Goku never betrayed our expectations. Children from Japan talked with joy, for a whole week, about the chapter of that week. When Goku arrived to an unknown place, all of us thought the same as him, “Where I am?” When Goku was angry, we shouted with him. Without a doubt, “Dragon Ball” is a masterpiece.


When I work with my team, I always give them the same instructions, because we are very close in age: “in this vignette, the landscape should be like the landscape on Namek”. We all have a great thing between us, “Dragon Ball”. During each week, everybody was talking about the events of that week and waiting the next chapter. Everybody talked about it, boys, girls, and even teachers. Age does not matter with this work, it entertains everybody. It was a huge success. As every kid loved it, we established a unbreakable rule that if it was broken meant that the one who had broken it, should be punished in some way. The rule was that if someone had yet read the chapter of that week, should not tell what was about to others until everyone had read it. I have to say that I was punished a few times….Nowadays, I think that the existence of Goku was a magic force that attracted people. When we will hear the name of “Goku”, the first thing that would come to our minds will not be “Journey To The West” story, but “Dragon Ball” story. Is that not magic?


“What do you think is stronger, the Kame Hame Ha or the Dodon Pa? That is the oldest conversation that I remember about “Dragon Ball”. When I was in primary school, my friends and I talked about this with intensity. I thought, at that time, that the first one was stronger than the second one. In my opinion, this manga has great villains. I do not say that I do not like the “heroes”, but I prefer the villains: Tao Pai Pai, Vegeta, Raditz, Nappa, Zarbon, Dodoria, Freezer…Once I start telling names, I can not stop. It is very difficult for me to find a villain that I hate. Some characters have mocking personalities in a way to emphasize their strength and the fear that they inspire (Bu is the most feared one). Villains are so cool that they made protagonists attractive. The most shocking moment of the story is the first appearance of Trunks. I got very impressed and until now I have not felt the same in another manga. Villains must be fearsome and cool. “Dragon Ball” taught me that. Now, every time that I open this manga or I watch an episode, I feel the same that when I was a child.


Akira Toriyama, during the time that he was working on “Dragon Ball”, created ten other manga, in a way to relax himself from his main work, notably when the story became more and more complicated. They are these:

01 Lady Red (1987): A three page color manga that is read in a western way. It tells the misadventures of a young woman who wants to become a vigilante, but she is raped by a burglar who gives her money and she discovers that prostitution is a better job.

02 Mister Ho (1987): The manga takes place in a world similar to that of Dragon Ball, and the main character looks exactly like Yamcha. In a land where the war between North and South raged in the past, Mr. Ho, visits the South and falls in love with an ostrich breeder who does not like him because he is from the North. Mr. Ho decides to help her little brother Chazke defend against the Chai gang, former soldiers form the North who continue to persecute the people of the region. When they kidnap Chazke’s sister, Mr. Ho attacks the gang’s base and defeats the entire army (
8 men), revealing that he was part of the legendary Unit 223 from the North, the Black Beret squad. Now that he has saved her, Chazke’s sister likes Mr. Ho. The story ends with the two driving off in Mr. Ho’s car.

03 Kennonsuke Sama (1987): Kennosuke is a 5–6 years-old samurai very well mannered and very serious. He has a date with a girl named Miss Oden. Not knowing the good practice in a date, Kennosuke seeks advice from his mother and his best friend Shinobimaru, with discretion, so that no one realizes it is his first time. After a visit to the seaside and time passed in a small cafe, Kennosuke gets the opportunity to demonstrate his ability in combat when a gang tries to steal his money.

04 Sonchoh (1988): Tetsunoshin Kataiwa is a cool old man who is the mayor of Pon Pon village, a small village in the countryside by the sea. He protects his village using his Suzuki Jimny, a vehicle he nicknamed “Pochi”. One day, he tracks a man because he passed through the village and threw a juice can out his car. Unknown to Tetsunoshin, the man is actually a dangerous gangster who will try to destroy the largest power plant in the country with the help of his accomplice, in an attempt destroy the whole land. Thanks to his car which has the ability to fly and fire rockets, the mayor stops the criminal and saves the land. The Suzuki Jimny is also featured on the cover of the Dragon Ball chapter “Guess Who’s Back?”

05 Mamejiro (1988): Mamejiro is a 6-years-old boy who lives in the countryside. He is very strong and courageous, due to helping his parents in agricultural work. After his father, a former professional wrestler, ate his ice cream, Mamejiro decides to become a delinquent. For his first felony, with the help of his best friend Joji, he decides to steal the money of a man who happens to be the burglar who attacked the neighboring agricultural cooperative. For helping the police intercept the man, Mamejiro is rewarded with a mountain of ice cream.

06 Clear Skies Karamaru (1989): In year nine of the Hanpeï era, Karamaru-kun, a four-year-old ninja, has to bring mushrooms in town and sell them to buy medicins and cigarettes for his sick grandfather. On the way, he meets a car stealer who thinks he is ninja as well. The car stealer helps Karamaru to stop a gang of three ninja thieves who took his mushrooms (they do not steal the car because none of them has a driving license). In the end, convinced that he must be a good example to the young boy, the car stealer brings the car to the police and offers Karamaru to become his disciple. Karamaru is very similar to Kennosuke, and the car stealer is very similar to Ninja Murasaki.

07 Wolf (1990): One-shot published on January 15, 1990, in the pages of the artbook Akira Toriyama – The World. It is a story in which the protagonist, Wolf, spends his time making trips on a motorcycle.

08 Cashman – Saving Soldier (1990/91): Three part manga published between December 1990 and 1991 in V-Jump, and also featured in Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater Vol. 3. The main protagonist looks like members of Frieza’s race, as Cashman was published during the same period as the Frieza Saga. Jiora is a policeman from the planet Biretijon. One day, his ship crashes on Earth while he was pursuing dangerous criminals in space. He repairs his ship but, short of fuel, he has to take the appearance of the man he accidentally killed when he arrived on Earth, Chapat, a lazy and coward policeman from Slope Town. To raise the sum of 17 million yen needed to buy fuel for his ship, which is gold, Jiora fights crime for money as Cashman, resuming his extraterrestrial appearance. In the first chapter, Cashman saves an old man and his daughter threatened by a truant, and then confronts the interstellar gangsters he was pursuing before his arrival on Earth. In the second chapter, he saves Chapat’s girlfriend from the clutches of a gang called the Devil Kids. In the third chapter, he snatches a briefcase containing a billion yen from a professional thief called Albert Dupont. It was adapted into an anime episode in 1994. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67t-L2E-87U

09 Dub & Peter (1992/93): Dub is a “fatty” young man that thinks that his problems to find a girlfriend will be over if he has a cool car, so he asks his best friend to build one for him and the result is “Peter”, an ultramodern car.

10 Go Go Ackman (1993): A 200-year-old demon child named Ackman wakes up after a fifty-year nap, and begins to kill people in order to sell their souls and earn money from the Dark Lord (like Chivil from Dr. Slump). His main nemesis, the Cherub type angel Tenshi, tries to stop and kill him, but always fails miserably; one example is Tenshi tries to hit Ackman with a missile, but misses and hits a school bus full of children instead. Ackman was adapted into a 15 minute film by Takahiro Imamura, and it has three video game adaptations.

Film: Go! Go! Ackman

Videogames SNES: Ackman 1Ackman 2Ackman 3

Dragon Ball timelines

Article written by Pedro Luis Rodríguez Rivero.