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The history of Dragon Ball Z

Sunday 1st July 2012

Matt Kamen on the history of Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball ZLaunched in 1984 in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump, Akira Toriyama’s original Dragon Ball was a very different beast to the one western viewers would eventually meet. introduced the boisterous Son Goku, an adventurous and unusally strong boy with no social graces whatsoever. Raised in seclusion by his adoptive grandfather, he doesn’t even that know what girls are – making for some prime gag moments when he meets treasure hunter Bulma. Soon teaming up, the pair track down seven rare ‘Dragon Balls’ – powerful items that can summon the wish-granting dragon Shenron. These early stories were very loosely based on Chinese fables but Toriyama gave them a fresh twist, his distinctive art style and perfect balance of comedy and action making the series a hit.

After many escapades with young Goku, Toriyama jumped ahead five years in the story’s timeline, and though his manga kept its name throughout its ten year run, the anime adaptation was rebranded to Dragon Ball Z after 153 episodes (compare to the similar shift that gave us Naruto Shippuden). Shifting focus to epic and lengthy battles instead of treasure hunts and martial arts tournaments, this version shot the series to global success. If you grew up watching Cartoon Network in the late 1990s or early 2000s, chances are you came across the show frequently, albeit in its edited form.

The change in tone and setting allowed Toriyama to perform a soft reboot on his ongoing work, re-explaining Goku’s origin as being an alien orphan rocketed to Earth – a riff on his favourite western superhero, Superman. Unlike the last son of Krypton, Goku was revealed to be the child of a race of world conquerors called Saiyans, sent here to take over the planet. Thankfully, a head injury early in life wiped out that mental programming, and he instead grew to be the world’s greatest hero.

For those new to the series, the first season of Dragon Ball Z starts with a reintroduction of the existing cast, showing how they’ve changed in the five-year gap. It’s a brief reunion though, as it’s not long before they’re facing off against an invasion of Goku’s extra-terrestrial relatives. His long-lost brother Raditz appears first – and defeating him costs Goku his life. Even worse, Raditz is a mere herald for the terrifying Vegeta and Nappa who follow in his wake. However, despite introducing the new sci-fi elements, Toriyama’s universe remained one of wonder and imagination, one where death was barely an inconvenience and the gods can teach kung fu. The heroic sacrifice just provides opportunity for some spiritual super training, while those still alive must track down the Dragon Balls to wish their friend back to life.

Can the Earth survive the invasion? Find out in the complete first season of Dragon Ball Z, on UK DVD for the first time ever!

Buy it now


Dragon Ball Z Series One Episodes 1-39

was £34.99
The Saiyans are coming! The last survivors of a cruel, warrior race, these ruthless villains have carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, an now they have set their sights on Earth! They will stop at nothing until they have the wish-granting powers of the seven magic Dragon Balls for their very own With the fate of his family, friends, and the entire human race hanging in the balance, Goku, the Earths greatest hero, must rise to meet the approaching threat. As he prepares for the fight of his life, Goku embarks on n epic journey that will take him to other worlds, pit him against new and old enemies alike, and force him to confront the dark secrets of his own past. At the end of this path, the most powerful opponent he has ever faced awaits: the evil Saiyan Prince Vegeta!
This set has been digitally re-mastered in High Definition and transferred from the original Japanese film. Features revised English dialogue and the original Japanese music. Contains all of season one (episodes 1-39) on 6 discs.



The cast of Dragon Ball Z #1

A first look at the who'z who in Dragon Ball Z

Son Goku. Goku was originally cast as a naive but powerful young boy who was spurred onto the path of adventure following the death of his grandfather. By the time Dragon Ball Z rolls around, Goku’s a full-grown adult, the victor of several martial arts tournaments and a married man. He’s only slightly less naive though, and his strict wife Chichi frequently has to rein in his less socially acceptable habits and wilder impulses. The first arc of the series marks Goku learning of his alien origins for the first time – before meeting other Saiyans, he thought he was just another average monkey-tailed boy!

The cast of Dragon Ball Z #2

The next instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
Yamcha. One of Goku’s oldest friends – even if they did first meet as enemies! A reformed desert bandit and an ex-boyfriend of Bulma, Yamcha is one of the strongest human fighters in the world. Having regularly entered World Martial Arts Tournaments and fought against a multitude of foes, he’s earned his place as one of the core Z-Fighters. However, he was overpowered and killed by one of Nappa’s drones in the Saiyan invasion of Earth. Luckily, death is rarely the end in the world of Dragon Ball, and Yamcha’s path continues as he trains under King Kai in the afterlife, preparing for a return to the living world to help his friends against the threats they’ll face on the distant planet Namek.

The cast of Dragon Ball Z #3

The third instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
And so we continue filling you in on the heroes and villains to keep an eye on in the latest super-charged volume of the famous action epic!

The cast of Dragon Ball Z #4

The fourth instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
With a cast of dozens, there still more to fill you in on the heroes and villains to keep an eye on in the latest super-charged volume of the famous action epic!

The cast of Dragon Ball Z #5

The fifth instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z
Cell. The deadliest enemy the Z Warriors have ever had to face – themselves! Cell is a hyper-advanced android from the future, created using the DNA of the present day heroes and possessing all their skills and abilities thanks to genetic memory. Goku’s Kamehameha? Cell can use it and counter it. Tien’s Solar Flare? Just one of Cell’s basic attacks. Piccolo’s regeneration? That serves to make Cell even more difficult to defeat. Already an incredibly powerful figure, Cell has travelled back in time to physically absorb more fighters and add their powers to his own repertoire. His goal? To achieve his Perfect Form and become the mightiest figure in the Universe – and he won’t let anything or anyone stand in his way.

The cast of Dragon Ball Z #6

Matt Kamen meets Mr Satan... and friends
Here’s the sixth instalment in our character guide for Dragon Ball Z, filling you in on the heroes and villains to keep an eye on in the latest super-charged volume of the famous action epic!


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