Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, Doragon Bōru?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1984 through 1995; later the 519 individual chapters were published into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Dragon Ball was inspired by the Chinese folk novel Journey to the West. It follows the adventures of Son Goku from his childhood through adulthood as he trains in martial arts and explores the world in search of the seven mystical objects known as the Dragon Balls, which can summon a wish-granting dragon. Along his journey, Goku makes several friends and battles a wide variety of villains, most of whom also seek the Dragon Balls for their own desires.
The 42 tankōbon have been adapted into three anime series produced by Toei Animation: Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT. Additionally, Toei has developed seventeen animated feature films and three television specials. In 2009, Toei started rebroadcasting Dragon Ball Z under the name of Dragon Ball Kai which changes the footage from the original anime. Several companies have developed various types of merchandising such as a collectible trading card game, and a large number of video games.
The manga series was licensed for an English language release in North America by Viz Media, in the United Kingdom by Gollancz Manga, and in Australia and New Zealand by Chuang Yi. The anime series was licensed by Funimation Entertainment for an English language release worldwide, although the series has been dubbed several times by various studios. In China, a live-action film adaptation was produced in 1989. In 2002, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to produce an American-made live-action film, which was released on April 10, 2009 to critcal lambast.
Since its release, Dragon Ball has become one of the most popular manga series of its time in both Japan and North America. It enjoys a high readership, with over 150 million volumes of the series sold by 2007. Several manga artists have noted that the manga series was the inspiration for their own now popular works, including Naruto and One Piece. The anime is also highly popular, ranking number 12 among the best anime series of all time in 2006. Reviewers praise the art, characterization, and humor of the manga story. The anime series have had more mixed reviews, with the first also praised for its characterizations, but the second has been often criticized for its long, repetitive fights, and the third is widely considered to be completely repetitive.
The series begins with a monkey-tailed boy named Goku befriending a teenage girl named Bulma, and together they go on a quest to find the seven magic Dragon Balls. Along the way, they meet and befriend a plethora of martial artists. Goku also undergoes rigorous training regimes and educational programs in order to fight in the World Martial Arts Tournament, a competition involving the most powerful fighters in the world. Outside the tournaments, Goku faces diverse villains such as Emperor Pilaf, the Red Ribbon Army, the demon Piccolo Daimao and his offspring Piccolo Jr., who eventually becomes Goku's ally.
As a young adult, Goku meets his older brother Raditz, who tells him that they come from a race of extraterrestrials called Saiyans. The Saiyans had sent Goku to Earth as an infant to conquer the planet for them, but he suffered a severe head injury soon after his arrival and lost all memory of his mission. Goku refuses to help Raditz continue the mission, after which he begins to encounter other enemies from space, most notably the Saiyan prince Vegeta, who becomes his rival and, eventually, his ally as well. He later encounters Frieza, the galactic tyrant responsible for the destruction of the Saiyan race, whose actions cause Goku to transform into a legendary Super Saiyan. After an epic battle on the planet Namek, Goku defeats Frieza, avenging the lives of billions across the universe.
Four years later, a group of androids from the former Red Ribbon Army appear, seeking revenge against Goku. During this time, an evil life form called Cell emerges and, after absorbing two of the androids to increase his power, holds his own martial arts tournament to decide the fate of the Earth, but is eventually defeated by Goku's first child Son Gohan. Seven years later, Goku is drawn into another battle for the universe against an extraterrestrial named Majin Buu. Joined by Vegeta and Gohan, Goku succeeds in destroying the evil half of Buu and the good half of Buu settles down with them. Ten years later, at another World Martial Arts Tournament, Goku meets the evil Buu's human reincarnation, Uub. At the end of the series, Goku takes Uub away on a journey to train him as the Earth's next defender.