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Old School Anime Reviews - Dragon Ball

This is a sad one...

By Greg SeebregtsPublished 15 days ago 5 min read
Shenron (

Well...this isn't quite how I'd imagined I'd be getting to the Dragon Ball franchise in this series. A few weeks ago, I saw something in my YouTube recommended feed that caught me by surprise, and not in a good way. Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, has passed away.

This has obviously left fans in something of a state of shock, but the tributes that have been pouring in would make a grown man cry. Join me as we look back on some of this absolute legend's work. This is Dragon Ball.

Back to the Beginning

Dragon Ball was written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was serialized from 1984 to 1995 in Weekly Shonen Jump with the 519 chapters were collected into 42 tankobon volumes by publisher Shueisha.

It was inspired by a 16th Century novel called Journey to the West and Hong Kong action movies. The manga was adapted into two anime series, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that ran for either 10 or 18 seasons (depending on where you get your info) and 444 episodes from 1986 to 1996. A sequel series, Dragon Ball GT, ran for four seasons, airing 64 episodes from 1996 to 1997. Another sequel, Dragon Ball Super, ran for 5 seasons and aired 131 episodes between 2015 and 2018. Additionally, there have also been 21 feature films released.

There have also been several videogames, trading card games, action figures and other merchandise. Since its initial release, the Dragon Ball franchise has become one of the most successful manga and anime series of all time. The manga sold in 40 countries and the anime broadcast in 80 countries. Numbers-wise, the tankobon volumes have sold 160 million copies worldwide which makes it one of the best-selling manga series of all time.

The Story

The story of Dragon Ball is centered around Goku, a young boy who was raised by his grandfather in the wilderness. One of his most prized possessions is his grandfather's four star dragon ball. When Bulma, a girl from the city, appears in what is essentially his backyard, the two team up to find the rest of the balls.

There are seven of these little orbs, and bringing them together allows a person to summon Shenron, the Eternal Dragon to grant a single wish. You can ostensibly have any wish you want, but the kicker is that the balls are scattered around the world and go dormant for a full year after the wish is made. Of course, not everyone who wants the dragon balls has a noble wish in mind.

What's Good about Dragon Ball?

Master vs. Student (Dragon Ball Wiki)
  • First off, the animation and art style are gorgeous and the music is phenomenal.
  • The fight scenes are very well done and will always get the adrenaline going.
  • Performances are absolutely fantastic, and the characters are pretty much all likeable.
  • The story itself is good, although I do have one slight nitpick with it, it flows well and you're invested in the bulk of what's going on.

About that Nitpick

Now, before I go into things that probably don't hold up as well, let's look at that story nitpick I just mentioned. First off, the breakdown of the series that I'm using is:

  1. Emperor Pilaf Saga
  2. Tournament Saga
  3. Red Ribbon Army Saga
  4. General Blue Saga
  5. Commander Red Saga
  6. Fortuneteller Baba Saga
  7. Tien Shinhan Saga
  8. King Piccolo Saga
  9. Piccolo Jr. Saga
Goku in the World Martial Arts Tournament (IMDB)

The dragon balls take up the bulk of the narrative, appearing as key elements in seasons 1, 3, 4, 5, and 8 and as lesser aspects in 6, 7, and 9. Now, that's all well and good; it makes sense from a narrative perspective. Unfortunately, it does leave you with the impression that you're watching a big scavenger hunt more than anything else.

Each season had a slightly different storyline, but a lot of it was around finding the dragon balls so the heroes could undo some terrible damage that's been done by the season's villain. This leads to things feeling a tad repetitive at times. It wasn't until a good way through, I think, the 5th season (Commander Red Saga) that I started to pick up on that though, so the writing managed to keep me invested.

Is there Anything in Dragon Ball that DOESN'T Hold Up Well?

Okay, so this is going to be a short section because there isn't a whole lot that doesn't work. A lot of the humor is very good, but the character of Master Roshi and his constant perving on young women might not sit well with some viewers. Other than that, you'd have to really stretch to find something offensive.

I say that because only a few hours or so after Akira's passing was announced, there were people coming out on social media blasting his portrayal of people of color - most notably his black characters. Now, ignoring the fact that this is just in very bad taste (being that the guy is now dead and unable to defend himself), this series is a work of fiction! It's an art piece of sorts and if you don't like it, you don't have to watch it. I understand that certain art designs won't sit well with everyone, but do you really have nothing better to do with your time?

Thankfully, however, the fanbase came through and countered the negativity with some heartfelt tributes to the late legend.

I'm not Crying, it's the Onion Ninja!

As I said earlier, the tributes have been pouring in to honor Toriyama's legacy and many of them are just painful. Case in point, this piece from Reddit.


Oof! Right in the feels! The sight of Goku and Vegeta mourning together is painful, but what really hits hardest about this particular picture is that Shenron is crying. It's kind of hard to see initially, but once you see it...ouch!

This image is, of course, referencing the fact that Shenron can't resurrect someone who has died naturally and you get the sense that it really hurts him in this case.

*harrumph* What? No, I'm not crying! Honest! Blasted onion ninja, go away!

Rest Easy Mr Toriyama!

In closing, I'd like to encourage you, if you haven't seen this series yet, to check it out for yourself. I'd also like to extend my condolences to Akira's friends and family, he was an absolute mad lad and will be fondly remembered.

Rest easy Mr Toriyama, enjoy Other World. Just watch out that you don't fall off of Snake Way!


About the Creator

Greg Seebregts

I'm a South African writer, blogger and English tutor; I've published 1 novel and am working on publishing a 2nd. I also write reviews on whatever interests me. I have a YouTube Channel as well where I review books, and manga and so on.

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