The history of Dragon Ball Z

Matt Kamen on the history of Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z

Launched 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!

Our Favourite Anime Powers

    With the long-awaited release of the Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and Dragon Ball Super, we've found ourselves thinking about our favourite anime powers. Here are some of our favourites: SUPER SAIYAN Perhaps the greatest anime power of all. Who hasn’t watched...

Dragon Ball FighterZ Public Launch Event

January 2018 promises to be an incredible one for Dragon Ball fans! Not only are there more Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and the next part of Dragon Ball Super on the way, there's also the release of the much anticipated Dragon Ball Z FighterZ. To celebrate the...

Manga UK’s 2017 Rewind

We'd like to start this off by saying a big thank you to you for all of your support this year – 2017 has been fantastic for us here at Manga UK and that's all all down to you. Here's what we achieved... At May's MCM London Comic you helped us raise £380 for the Oska...

December 26th – Out This Week

Hosoda Collection: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Blu-ray Collector’s Edition The Collector’s Edition includes deluxe packaging with a gorgeous premium clear sleeve, plus an exclusive 52 page book full of behind-the-scenes content about the film, including making-of...

Anime Characters We’d Love To Spend Christmas With

    Christmas is almost here! If you could spend the day with any anime character, who would you choose and why? Here are our choices: Hatake Kakashi Naruto Naruto's Kakashi may not be an obvious choice when it comes to spending Christmas with someone, but he's...

Digimon – Favourite Character Poll

With the release of the wonderful Digimon Adventure Tri – The Movie Part 3: Confession finally upon us, we'd like to know who your favourite Digimon character is! About Digimon Tri 3:​ Meicoomon vanishes into the distorted abyss. Shaken, Tai and the others search for...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This