Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

Title: Dragon Ball.
Writer(s): Akira Toriyama.
Artist(S): Akira Toriyama.
Publisher: Viz Media.
Format: Digital.
Release Date: 1984 to 1989.
Volumes: 16.
Genre(s): Adventure, Comic Fantasy, Martial Arts.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.


If there is one titular Japanese manga series that saw its fanbase grow exponentially over the years, it’s Dragon Ball. Growing up, it was one manga and anime that kept me intrigued and fascinated by its adventurous little world filled with unexpected characters until it transformed into an action-packed series that took the world by storm with the introduction of Saiyans and some of the most unforgettable villains of all time. Wanting to revisit this series I grew up reading and watching, I found myself reimmersed by this first portion of mangaka Akira Toriyama’s creation, better grasping at the influences and story-telling direction that he initially had, through 16 tankōbon volumes collecting 194 chapters before the series added a “Z” to its title and embarked on a whole other treacherous journey.

What is Dragon Ball about? The story follows Son Goku, a small monkey-tailed boy with tremendous strength and endurance, who lived a quiet and free life in the wilderness until he met a teenage girl named Bulma. She then shares her quest to collect all seven Dragon Balls to summon the dragon Shenlong, a dragon that can grant you one wish. Scattered across the world, either in the hands of powerful beings or hidden away deep in unreachable corners, Bulma brings along Son Goku on her journey, hoping to make good use of his strength. Their adventure thus leads them to discover countless new allies and foes, while also introducing Son Goku to martial arts to compete in the Tenkaichi Budōkai, also known as the Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament.

Before the series bebcame Dragon Ball Z, mangaka Akira Toriyama began with Dragon Ball and brilliantly introduced fans to an innocent, pure-of-heart, energetic (unless on an empty stomach) and adventurous protagonist. This coming-of-age story brings readers to familiarize themselves with his way of life, his curiosity, and his free-spirited nature. Often believing in the good of people, even the worse of beings, and putting his whole heart into the things he believes in, his interactions portray him as a silly, naive, and inconsequential child until there is danger and he naturally channels his hidden determination, courage, and fighting spirit to face his foes. His comrades also have specific personalities that wonderfully completes the group’s dynamic, from Kuririn as his partner-in-crime and rival to the perverted yet strangely wise master Kame-Sen’nin. However, it’s when things get serious that it’s simply formidable to watch these characters demonstrate the very nature of determination, self-actualization, and self-respect.

The story sends these characters on a multitude of adventures, often centered around the restless and obstacle-full search for Dragon Balls or the quirky, stupendous yet entertaining training arcs for the Tenkaichi Budōkai. These different quests are absorbing and comical in their own way and introduce readers to countless characters key to Son Goku’s life and how he will end up shaping himself into becoming one of the greatest heroes of all time. The story also moves forward at a relentless pace while effortlessly building up the mysterious and unusual world filled with dinosaurs, androids, and whatnot. Midway through the series, there is a story arc where mangaka Akira Toriyama attempts to reintroduce characters from his Dr. Slump series and this part does feel a bit more shoe-horned and tedious. However, the series is quite light in terms of verbosity and this story arc doesn’t last long enough to deter you from persevering through it. Once completed, the story returns to form quite quickly.

This nostalgic reread also opened my eyes to the influence of Chinese mythology, Japanese folktales, and martial arts. His grasp and integration of these elements into the story are fantastic. Mangaka Akira Toriyama also integrates a healthy dose of humour into his action, often sending a message about the power of wit over brute force. The concept of using the martial arts tournaments to make these characters showcase their potential and growth from their experience, while also utilizing these opportunities for efficient time jumps, is also wonderfully handled throughout this series. Drawn with an unprecedented amount of energy and detail, his unique artistic style cements his ability to portray his ideas and convey movement and emotion. However, what he later achieves in Dragon Ball Z is what truly made me fall in love with the franchise.

Dragon Ball is a charming and high-spirited coming-of-age journey alongside the young and innocent Son Goku as he discovers allies and foes in search of Dragon Balls while also growing into a formidable martial artist.

The 1986-1989 anime adaptation is available on many streaming services.


20 thoughts on “Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

  1. Woohoo, I’m so happy you loved it on the re-read, too, Lashaan!
    It’s hands down my favorite manga of all time, and by now I can say I’ve read my share of them, shonen and beyond 😉 I just love the worldview and the attitude, and Goku is my favorite manga character, period 😉 And yes, it’s actually a pretty thoughtful manga in terms of perspective, influences, and the whole martial arts outlook on life. The fact that it’s a the same breezy and fun is just the cherry on top. But you know I can wax lyrical about DB and DBZ till end of time, so I might as well finish now 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you confirm how high up it ranks among manga titles for you so far! It’s hard to top such an iconic and brilliant series. I’m having a blast revisiting DBZ too, especially with the amount of action, all the super Saiyan stuff, and the unforgettable villains it introduces! A bit sad that DB Super is nowhere near the quality of these two runs… Oh well! 😛 Thanks for reading, Ola! Hope you’re feeling better since your return home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t consider DB Super as an official continuation of the series. I refuse to acknowledge it!😛
        Yeah, we’re good, just incrediby busy. We’ve been a month away and now we need to catch up with everything 😉 How about you? Did you slip back into your Canadian life without a hitch?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve gotten back into my routine now, a bit over a month since coming back. I don’t know if you plan to post about your own adventure but was it hassle-free? Did you run into Russia/Ukraine-related issues in Poland? And how are the Covid symptoms now? Hope you’re both feeling better!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I only know this one through the anime, though it’s not one I was ever able to get into. But I’m very glad to see you enjoyed getting back into it, and that it held up over the years. It’s always great when something we loved when younger is still able to keep us excited so many years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw, Dragon Ball takes me back. ❤ I'm surprised I never read the manga growing up. Probably a case of my wallet (and my parents' wallets when I was really young) being like nahhh, that's a lot of volumes you'd have to buy.
    It's the same reason I'm hemming and hawing about buying all the manga for Dorohedoro. Love the anime and will eventually cave and buy the manga because who knows if/when MAPPA will get around to animating/releasing season 2 and I NEED answers! lol It's such a fun series. I also want to check out the other series that mangaka created called Dai Dark. Needless to say, my bank account is going to weep if I make the dive and get back into collecting manga.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah I totally understand. Collecting manga is no easy feat as a kid. I was lucky enough to get them growing up thanks to my parents but I can’t say it was always easy convincing them to get me another volume! 😛 I haven’t heard of Dai Dark before and just looked it up. It looks so interesting and the artwork is amazing! I’ll have to try that out myself. Thanks for reading!! 😀


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