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Manga Guide

Manga Spine Art Collection


As with many long running manga series, Dragon Ball releases were printed with artwork on the spine. Not only that, but as you collected the volumes and placed them side-by-side on your book shelf, the spine art creates a larger image or montage. Each release, both the tankōbon and kanzenban, had their own respective spine art, as shown below.

Original Tankōbon Release

The tankōbon spine montage begins with the seven Dragon Balls floating around Shenlong, and is followed by various characters (led by Goku riding on Kinto-Un) from the series running across the spine. Akira Toriyama strongly hints in his “Ask Me Anything Corner” of tankōbon volume six that he drew the spine art for the tankōbon releases as they were being published, saying he wasn’t sure what he’d draw for the spine of the eighth volume. You may also notice that there are a couple of nice cut-off points, or breaks in the artwork: volumes 7, 16, 24, 32, & 42.

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Character Appearances

The following characters appear on the original tankōbon spine art and are listed in order of their appearance:

Shenlong, Son Goku, Oolong, Kuririn, Yamcha, Kame-Sen’nin, Pu’er, Bulma, Piccolo, Yajirobe, Karin, Umigame, Lunch (bad), Son Gohan, Dende, Yajirobe, Ginyu, Freeza (1st Form), Vegeta, Kaiō-sama, Cell (Perfect Form), No. 17, No. 18, No. 16, and Son Goku (Super Saiyan).

Yajirobe Appears Twice

Yajirobe makes two appearances on the tankōbon spine art, which is yet another example of Toriyama’s forgetfulness. He actually addressed the issue in tankōbon volume 29’s table of contents:

Here’s the table of contents. Come to think of it, Yajirobe appears on the comics spine picture twice, doesn’t he! I received a lot of letters saying that. I thought it was impossible, and checked out the comics, which I rarely see, and it turned out to be true. I’m really sorry.

Dr. Slump Reference

Kaiō-sama is shown on the spine art of tankōbon volume 30 running with some poop on a stick. This is a reference to his previous manga, Dr. Slump, where the protagonist Arale is fascinated by poop. She starts out poking it with sticks, and eventually progresses to carrying it around on sticks and using it to freak everyone out. Early on in Dragon Ball, Pilaf’s underling Mai is also seen carrying poop on a stick, which Pilaf scolds her for, saying that the author wants to make this manga at least be a little bit classier.

A 43rd Tankōbon Volume?

On 20 June 1995, less than a month after Dragon Ball concluded in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump, the first daizenshuu was published, entitled “Complete Illustrations”, in which all the tankōbon spine art was reprinted. This has caused some confusion over the years, as the artwork for 43 spines were printed as opposed to just 42 (shown below), with the last one being labeled as an “Extra” or “Unused” spine art.

However, one must remember that the first daizenshuu was published less than a month after Volume 41 was released, and over a month before Volume 42. As mentioned above, Toriyama drew the spine art for the tankōbon releases as they were being published — he had no idea exactly how far ahead he should draw, but knew how thick each volume had been up to that point, which he could use as a reference. He had most likely already drawn the spine art featuring Cell (Perfect Form), No. 17, No. 18, No. 16, and Goku (Super Saiyan) when he abruptly ended the series. Due to the abrupt ending, Shueisha decided to cram 34 chapters (17 each) into two tankōbon volumes, rather than have three very short volumes. This forced them to edit the spine art as the width of the final two volumes had changed. However, with the first daizenshuu likely complete by the time this change had taken place, the 43 spine art images were printed in the daizenshuu as Toriyama had originally drawn them, but not how they were actually printed on the tankōbon volumes themselves.

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“Refreshed” Tankōbon Release

In May 2009, Shueisha revised the tankōbon covers with a new “refreshed” look. Although the cover artwork was for the most part kept in-tact, these new editions did receive newly drawn spine art by Toriyama. Unlike the original tankōbon spine art, the characters featured in this “refreshed” version run all the way up through the Majin Buu arc, rather than stopping with characters from the Cell arc. You’ll also note that many of the characters originally featured on the tankōbon spine art are not included in this “refreshed” version, specifically anyone from the Artificial Human arc. While not fully related to the spine art, most everything on the spines of this new version is now written in English as opposed to in Japanese like on the originals.

Character Appearances

The following characters appear on the original tankōbon spine art and are listed in order of their appearance:

Oolong, Bulma, Pu’er, Kame-Sen’nin, Kuririn, Pilaf, the Tenka’ichi Budōkai Announcer, Chiaotzu, Shuu, Shenlong, Chi-Chi, Son Gohan, Bubbles, Freeza, Kaiō-sama, Yajirobe, Karin, Son Goku, Dende, Bee, Piccolo, Mister Popo, Vegeta, Trunks, Majin Buu, Gotenks, and Mister Satan.

Kanzenban Release

The kanzenban spine is set up in the form of a drag race, in which Goku and Kuririn (on foot) are competing against Yamcha, Kame-Sen’nin, Piccolo Daimaō, and Vegeta (in vehicles). Various characters watch from the stands and cheer their friends on. Unlike the tankōbon spine art, Toriyama knew in advance how many volumes were being made for the kanzenban release, as the series had been finished for years. This truly freed up his ability draw an actual scene, rather than characters simply running across the spine. He also took the opportunity to give a “shout-out” to all the companies involved with the manga over the years.

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Characters on the Sideline

The following characters appear along the sideline of the race on the kanzenban spine art and are listed in order of their appearance:

Sno, Hatchan (No. 8), Ninja Murasaki, Pu’er, Bulma, Oolong, Lunch (good), Umigame, Gyūmaō, Chi-Chi, Pilaf, Shuu, and Mai.

Company References

Studio Uccello and Studio K2R are credited as the companies which performed the restoration and editing work on the kanzenban. Studio Uccello is simply “Bird Studio” (Akira Toriyama’s personal studio) written in Italian, while Studio K2R is the name of famed manga artist Masakazu Katsura’s art studio. The studio’s name is actually the phonetic spelling of Katsura’s name when said in English with a Japanese accent (K=Ka / 2=tsu / R=ra).

The remaining companies should be familiar to most every Dragon Ball fan. Bird Studio is Akira Toriyama’s art studio, which gets it name from the first kanji in his family name, “tori” (鳥), meaning “bird”. Weekly Jump obviously refers to Weekly Shōnen Jump, which is the publication that Dragon Ball was serialized in from November 1984 to May 1995. Capsule Corporation is of course the fictional company owned by Bulma’s father, Dr. Brief, thoughout the series.

Toriyama’s Original Spine Art Drawing

The kanzenban spine art later re-printed as a sticker in the “Dragon Ball Super Exciting Guide: Character Volume”. However, the sticker is not an exact re-print of the spine as originally shown on the kanzenban spine art, but rather the spine art as Toriyama had originally drawn it. This original drawing included two characters not shown on the kanzenban spine art, as volume 34’s spine cuts off before their part of the image. These two characters are none other than Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu, who are standing on the sidelines watching like everyone else, but surrounded by smoke from the race. In fact, if you look really close at the spine art of volume 34, you can actually see Tenshinhan’s shoulder and ear. You can see the two hidden in the smoke just above Vegeta’s tail in the image below. It is odd that Shueisha did not just adjust the drawing horizontally so that the whole thing fit on the kanzenban volumes, but at least we know they were not actually forgotten by Toriyama. You will also note that the image has been cropped slightly, more so on the top than on the bottom.

You will have to excuse the poor image quality, but it is a blown-up scan of a tiny sticker: