Dragon Ball is a sci-fi action series created by Akira Toriyama that focuses on main character Goku, a young monkey-tailed member of the Saiyan race who is sent to Earth to prepare it for invasion only to forget entirely, and his quest to find the seven Dragon Balls that grant the user one wish. Later the franchise shifts to Goku’s mission to protect Earth together with a cast of other fighters including son Gohan, Krillin, Vegeta, Tien Shinhan, Chiaotzu, Yamcha, Piccolo, and Trunks from the galaxy’s worst villains including Frieza, Cell, Majin Buu, and Beerus. The fighters use a combination of supernatural strength, speed, and abilities to protect Earth including Goku’s “Kamehameha,” Piccolo’s “Special Beam Cannon,” Tien Shinhan’s “Tri-Beam,” Krillin’s “Destructo Disc,” and Vegeta’s “Final Flash.” Being inspired by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the franchise started out having more emphasis on comedy, but the main focus changed to action and fighting from Dragon Ball Z onward.
The franchise began as a manga published by Shueisha in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1984-1995 which spans 519 chapters in total collected into 42 tankobon volumes. More than 156 million volumes having been sold in Japan and 230 million worldwide, making it the third best-selling manga series in history behind One Piece and Golgo 13. The story of the manga follows a monkey-tailed boy named Goku and teenager Bulma who accompanies him to find the seven Dragon Balls, which summon the dragon Shenlong to grant one wish. He then becomes a student of martial arts master Master Roshi and begins training to become strong enough to protect Earth and those he cares about from tyrants and villains from all over the galaxy. Two anime were later created by Toei Animation based on the manga: Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.
The anime Dragon Ball is based on the first 194 chapters of the manga and initially ran from 1986-89, lasting 153 episodes total. Its story includes the Saga of Goku / Emperor Pilaf Saga (ep. 1-13), Tournament Saga (ep. 14-28), Red Ribbon Army Saga (ep. 29-45), General Blue Saga (ep. 46-57), Commander Red Saga (ep. 58-68), Fortuneteller Baba Saga (ep. 69-82), Tien Shinhan Saga (ep. 83-101), King Piccolo Saga (ep. 102-122), and Piccolo Jr. Saga (ep. 123-153). Its opening theme is “Makafushigi Adventure!” by Hiroki Takahashi and the ending theme is “Romantic Ageru yo” by Ushio Hashimoto.
The anime Dragon Ball Z adapts the final 26 volumes of the original manga. It takes place five years after the events of Dragon Ball and follows Goku and son Gohan. The anime premiered on Fuji TV in 1989 and ran until 1996, lasting 291 episodes total. Its story includes the Saiyan Saga (ep. 1-39), Namek and Captain Ginyu Saga (ep. 40-74), Frieza Saga (ep. 75-107), Garlic Jr., Trunks and Androids Saga (ep. 140-165), Cell Games Saga (ep. 166-194), Great Saiyaman and World Tournament Sagas (ep. 195-219), Babidi and Majin Buu Sagas (ep. 220-253), and the Fusion and Kid Buu Sagas (ep. 254-291). Its opening themes include “Cha-La-Head-Cha-la” and “We Gotta Power” by Hironobu Kageyama, and its ending themes are “Detekoi Tobikiri Zenkai Pawa!” by MANNA and “Boku-tachi wa Tenshi Datta” by Hironobu Kageyama.
Three other anime adaptations were also created for the franchise: Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Kai / Dragon Ball Z Kai, and Dragon Ball Super. Dragon Ball GT was directed by Osamu Kasai and ran for 64 episodes from 1996-97. Its story follows Goku, Pan, and Trunks after Goku is turned back into a child by the Black Star Dragon Balls and must travel across the universe to collect them. The story’s main enemy is Baby, a parasitic alien bent on exterminating the Saiyan race. Two video games were also produced based on the anime: Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout for PlayStation in 1997 and Dragon Ball GT: Transformation on Game Boy Advance released exclusively in North America in 2005. Dragon Ball Kai / Dragon Ball Z Kai is an updated version of the anime created as part of the series’ 20th anniversary celebrations that features remastered HD footage, updated opening and ending sequences, new music, and new vocal tracks. Dragon Ball Super is an ongoing anime that started in 2015. It takes place after the Majin Buu Saga when new threat Beerus the God of Destruction appears who is eager to fight the legendary warrior known as Super Saiyan God whom he saw in a prophesy. The series retells the events of the movies Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ before proceeding with original stories featuring the reemergence of Future Trunks and a new threat to Earth called Goku Black.
Aside from the anime, there is also a series of popular films for the franchise which currently spans 18 titles that include: Curse of the Blood Rubies (1986), Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle (1987), Mystical Adventure (1988), Dead Zone (1989), The World’s Strongest (1990), The Tree of Might (1990), Lord Slug (1991), Cooler’s Revenge (1991), The Return of Cooler (1992), Super Android 13 (1992), Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan (1993), Bojack Unbound (1993), Bio-Broly (1994), Fusion Reborn (1995), Wrath of the Dragon (1995), The Path of Power (1996), Battle of Gods (2013), and Resurrection ‘F’ (2015). Resurrection ‘F’ was also the highest grossing Dragon Ball movie to date, bringing in $62.8 million worldwide in box office revenue.
A wide range of video games for arcades and consoles has also been created for the franchise. Mainly focusing on RPG, action, and fighting games, over 50 console games have been released to date on just about every console from the NES to the PS4 with popular titles including Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast, and Dragon Ball Xenoverse. A MMORPG for the franchise titled Dragon Ball Online was also released on Windows in 2010. Countless arcade games have also been created starting with Dragon Ball Telephone TV in 1987 up to Dragon Ball: Zenkai Battle Royale. As of July 2016, a combined total of 41 million video games for the franchise have been sold worldwide.
The franchise has also been adapted into myriad other media as well including music, TV specials, and more. The TV specials aired to date include three hour-long specials that aired on Fuji TV: Bardock - The Father of Goku (1990), The History of Trunks (1993), and A Hero’s Legacy (1997), and a crossover TV special between Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, and Toriko titled Dream 9 Toriko & One Piece & Dragon Ball Z Super Collaboration Special!! that aired on Fuji TV in 2013. The franchise has also seen three OVA releases: Side Story: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans in 1993, Dragon Ball: Heya! Son Goku and Friends Return!! in 2008, and Episode of Bardock in 2011. Numerous soundtracks have also been released including Dragon Ball: Music Collection in 1985, Dragon Ball: Complete Song Collection in 1991, and Dragon Ball Z Hit Song Collection Series released from 1989 to 1996. The franchise even has its own attraction at Universal Studios Japan titled Dragon Ball Z: The Real 4D which opened in summer 2016 and features a battle between Goku and Frieza.