Fan Thoughts: The Dragon Ball Ending

Since it first appeared in Weekly Shōnen Jump issue #25 in 1995, the ending to Dragon Ball has been questioned by many fans. While some loved it, others were simply disappointed. Many of those that felt let down would often say that the final episode of Dragon Ball GT was more of a fitting ending. Those who loved it were few and far between at the time. Some fans were even curious if Akira Toriyama also disliked the ending he had written, or felt that it had ended in a rush. That question was somewhat answered in April 2004.

Fans around the world received the news that Dragon Ball would be getting a new ending, from Akira Toriyama himself. The last four pages of the final Dragon Ball chapter were re-drawn, re-written, and released in the final kanzenban release. What changes actually took place in the new ending? Let’s take a look and see.

Change #1: Goku Passes Down Kinto-Un to Oob

Page 243 of Tankōbon Vol. 42 was replaced with 3 new pages in the kanzenban release. Although it may appear that the first two panels of page 229 were left untouched, the text bubbles, and the text itself have in fact been altered. The text box at the end has also been re-written, saying that the Earth will be safe because of all the strong people, instead of using the Dragon Balls.

Change #2: Toriyama’s Message is Removed / Vegeta Won’t Give Up

Akira Toriyama’s goodbye message has been removed and replaced with Vegeta, declaring he will show Goku defeat sooner or later.

So what about the Japanese fans at the time, did they feel let down with the original ending too? Well, in the fourth issue of the “Shenlong Times” (included in Daizenshuu 4), there is an interview with a couple of Dragon Ball fans. One of the topics covered in this interview was a look at the final chapter of the series.

Feedback: Shenlong Times – 4th Issue

Participants: Bandai Multimedia Division Dragon Ball director Toshihiro Suzuki (TS), Tenka’ichi Test 3rd place winner Emi Tōnosu (ET), and Tenka’ichi Test 2nd place winner Hokoto Masumoto (HM).

So then, let me ask you about when Dragon Ball was heading into its final chapter.

TS: Because of my job, I found out a little early that it was ending. But the final chapter was good. The title page has the same composition as the cover to the first tankōbon. The sepia-toned scene of Bulma and Goku meeting for the first time was also deeply moving. I bought around eight copies of Jump from when the last chapter came out, and stored them in my house.

HM: A few chapters before the final chapter, there was a part where Upa appeared, and I thought “Is it already over?” But from the start of the Boo arc, I thought “surely it will end with this”. I want Toriyama-sensei to take a restful vacation, play with his children, and then begin a new serialization when he feels like it.

ET: I feel that Toriyama-sensei must really be tired after 10 years. Right now, my meager hope is that he will draw another manga with fantastic characters.

After all these years, do the fans of today still feel let down, or have they learned to enjoy the original ending? With two different endings, is one any better than the other? So I contacted a couple of fans that are active in today’s Dragon Ball community and asked them their thoughts on the subject. And here’s what they had to say…

Fan Feedback: Castor Troy

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: I have to admit it was different for an ending. Quite non cliché actually. A lot of people have complained about it, but in my opinion, it feels like a bonus after seeing the actual ending.

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: It was nice to see a little more added, but it seemed kind of unnecessary.

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: I probably would have kept the original ending. The added part just seemed kind of out of character.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?

A: A lot of people claim to be disappointed with the ending, but I see it more as an added bonus that most people don’t expect.

Fan Feedback: Desire Campbell

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: While others may think the ending anti-climactic and a rather sudden kind of ending, I don’t look at the final chapter as the final chapter, but as the epilogue. We get to see what all the characters are doing after the story is over, years later. It’s a great way to show us how the characters changed after the excitement and danger of the Boo arc, and shows us that the Dragon World continues, with Oob as Goku’s new apprentice.

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: Basically the same. I like the more overt imagery of Oob becoming Goku’s apprentice (riding Kinto’un, the faded image of Goku as a child, etc). The other changes aren’t really that different (though, I’m always a fan of grumpy-Vegeta, “Hmph!”).

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: I imagine that other fans will say they would have preferred an ending more like the GT ending; wrapping everything up, looking back thoughtfully and reminiscent. But that’s not really Dragon Ball’s style. The ‘here we go again’ ending of the manga is more in-line with the story we know.

Fan Feedback: Tanooki Kuribo

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: I didn’t think it was anything special. There were so many potential cut off points in the series (after Freeza or after Cell). I think if this wasn’t the ending, and the series actually went on, you would never even think that this point (the ending) could have been an actual ending. Sorry if that sounds a bit confusing but, I guess it would be like if Akira Toriyama decided to end it after Gohans first day of high school. It wasn’t anything special and we don’t really say to ourselves that would have made an awesome ending. :

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: Still, nothing special. When the news got out that there would be a new ending by Akira Toriyama, I am sure no one thought it was the tiny addition it ended up being.

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: I think Goku dying from a huge battle would have been nice. It would have felt like more of a ending. Perhaps an ending where the villain was so powerful it threatened not only the Dragon World but the whole galaxy (if it wasn’t already done to death). Goku giving it his all, really seeing Goku beaten to a pulp and everyone knowing its the end, his end. Maybe it sounds a bit harsh but, even the villain would be giving it his all and really beaten the shit out of. Its just that you would never hear a DBZ fan saying something like “Oh man, the ending to the series was awesome”. No one says stuff like that.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?

A: I think near the end of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama really hated drawing the series. Hell, after the Freeza saga he wanted to end it. I don’t think he really cared how it went at that point.

Fan Feedback: DaemonCorps

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: Like most other American Dragon Ball fans, I had practically every major event for me spoiled via online summaries. Though, by “major event,” I guess I mean “Super Saiyan transformation and the death of a villain.” I’m pretty sure it was not until the episode aired on Toonami that I was absolutely certain of what happened in the end. But while I was completely aware that I just witnessed the final episode of the series, I don’t think my thirteen year old mind understood just how significant the event really was (if you could consider the last episode of a series to be significant, that is).

Going back and reading the final chapter in the manga, now, I can’t say that I’ve learned to view Toriyama’s last chapter of the series as a work of art, but I’ve grown to respect it, at the least. If one were to say that the series had some kind of underlying theme, I guess that would be that the most powerful beings can appear in the least expected of forms. When the series began, Goku was a goofy-looking little kid who was able to take down gigantic fish while fully naked. Now, reading the final chapter, Goku is a goofy-looking adult, willing to mentor a goofy-looking kid, thus continuing an odd, odd cycle. Sure, you can say that Goku is a jerk for merely using the child just so he can fight him later, but really, Goku is just being Goku.

Although the series ran for 42 volumes, covering characters’ lives (and even after-lives!), Toriyama does not make all of the fame go to his head, ending the series just as humbly as he started it. Every character is just where you would expect them to be, and it is suggested that the Dragon World will continue just as you would expect it to. It may have been a bit abrupt, but has the series ever not been?

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: Toriyama’s new version of the chapter basically emphasizes that there is some kind of metaphorical torch being passed from Goku to Oob and how one day, Oob will become the Earth’s savior. The addition of Kintoun was a neat throwback and does a great job of demonstrating this. It makes Goku’s line about Oob being the protector of Earth seems that much more meaningful. And from such an abrupt ending in the ’95 version, I think anything made to emphasize the passing down to a new generation is welcome.

I’m sure I’m taking a page from the Daizenshuu EX crew’s thoughts on the new ending, but whatever. When comparing both version’s final text box, you will notice that the new version has been altered, making it so that instead of relying on the dragon balls for the well being of everything, it has been changed to the fighters on Earth being able to take care of everything. The way the dragon balls are continually used as their plan to literally solve their problems with magic is not exactly the best message to convey, so I think it was better that the message was changed so as to make the Dragon World less dependant on magical objects that are used so willy-nilly.

As for the additional panels with Vegeta, I have always been of the opinion that while Vegeta has (finally) been deemed as good by the dragon, that is not directly connected with his relation with Goku. Defeating Goku has been his goal for so long, that I think it is almost comical at this point, since his opportunities to settle the score with him are continually being interrupted. With that in mind, I see those final panels underneath the “The End” banner is more light-hearted than foreboding and leading to the GT anime.

I also would have liked it if Toriyama’s final message to the readers was kept. Considering that this is the finale, it would have been fitting to hear some parting words from the author himself.

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: Having just finished the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, I could see Dragon Ball ending soon after Kid Boo’s death, with a silent montage (or I guess collage, since we’re talking about the manga) of the characters after the time skip, leaving the details to the reader’s imagination. But that just does not sound like Toriyama’s style. It also leaves a bit too many things unsolved.

So I guess I would keep the ending the way it is. Everything comes full circle, without having things too perfectly tied up.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?

A: Dragon Ball has been going strong even after the end of the series and I’ve yet to find another series that holds up just as well. It may not have been award-winning gold, but it is an enjoyable series nonetheless and I am glad to have partaken in it as a fan.

Fan Feedback: Herms

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: I actually enjoy Dragon Ball’s ending quite a bit, though from what I hear from other fans I think I’m one of the few who does. I really like the idea of skipping ahead ten years for the ending, and seeing how everyone’s changed. I like seeing Goten and Trunks grown up, and I like that Gohan has finally become a scholar, like he always wanted. I like Pan and Bra, and just the idea of people have daughters for a change, and I love Goku being a grandfather. I like Oob and the whole idea of Boo being reincarnated. I guess how you feel about the ending has a lot to do with how you feel about Oob.

But for the very last chapter itself, I do like the idea of Goku leaving to train a successor. It seems clear at this point that neither Gohan nor Goten want that role. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of Goku abandoning his family again, but I don’t have too much of a problem with it. For one, it’s undoubtedly in character. And it’s not like his family needs him too much anymore. Gohan is married and has a kid of his own, and Goten is pretty much all grown up. I’ve never seen Goku and Chi Chi having too close a relationship, so I don’t think he’s doing anything terrible in leaving them alone. Not to mention Goku has the ability to go wherever he wants at any time, so it’s not like he’s really going to be out of reach. Pan seems upset, but she can fly all the way around the world on her own, so I’m sure in practice she can visit him any time she wants.

I like the open-endedness of the ending, and the idea that Goku and friends will have more adventures after this. I like the caption to the picture of Goku and Bulma’s first meeting that says you have to imagine what will happen next on your own. Overall, I like the oddness of the ending. It’s just totally not the way you’d expect the series to end, and it feels very much like Toriyama’s style to me. The GT ending is really the kind of ending most fans want, but I think it feels too calculated, too much like they were just giving fans what they wanted to see and not much more. The manga’s ending feels more creative and original than GT’s ending, but I understand why it’s not as satisfying to many.

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: Well, not too much has changed. I like Goku giving Kintoun to Oob and the image of young Goku that appears. It gives more of “passing of the torch” feeling and provides a bit more closure. I think it’s interesting that the ending narration is changed from “things will be OK because they have the dragonballs” to “things will be OK because of all the amazing guys on Earth”. It takes attention away from the titular mystical items, but I guess it’s more accurate, since it’s always Goku and co. who actually protect the Earth (with help from the dragonballs of course). The addition pages are a bit awkward because you can see the change in drawing style between the original pages and Toriyama’s new style, but it’s not too bad, and I do like seeing new pages from Toriyama.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?

A: In a bonus comic Toriyama drew explaining the writing process for Dragon Ball, he has a picture of Goku as an old man, saying it was one of his ideas for how to end the series. I think an interesting alternate ending would have been if instead of being reincarnated right away, Boo is reincarnated after a few centuries (to purify his soul or whatever). So Oob could be born in the distant future, team up with a Bulma analogue to go searching for the dragonballs, and meet geezer Goku just like Goku met Kame-sennin. And then Goku could give Oob the Kintoun like in the kanzenban ending. Just an idea I had.

Fan Feedback: VegettoEX

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: The original ending to Dragon Ball is incredibly sudden… which isn’t too surprising, since Toriyama essentially surprised everyone by just going ahead and ending it. It *is* a sudden ending. Judging from the story-telling techniques that Toriyama had used over the last decade in the series, fans could be none-the-wiser that he was pulling a fast one on them. Why *not* go ahead and set up a whole new Tenka-ichi Budokai? Why *not* bring in a random new character that could serve as the catalyst for a whole new storyline? We’ve seen this happen time and time again, and so we could go into the post-Chibi Boo stuff fully expecting another long-running storyline (or at least a transitional storyline before the next “real” storyline).

But it just ends. Goku takes the kid and flies off. And that’s that.

The entire thing is completely in-character for Goku. He is really only thinking of himself and his personal needs. He has a hint here and there of caring enough to show back up every so often (saying he’ll be back “now and then”, however, without qualification that it’s to be with his family because he wants to be, or if it’s just for a good meal), but beyond that, Goku is doing nothing more than serving his own selfish needs by quasi-kidnapping this young child. Family be damned (his own sons can’t keep up to his level), and old friends/rivals be damned (none of them can keep up to his level); in order to scratch this itch for the fight, Oob must be taken on as the trainee.

I don’t particularly like how the story ended, but I have to give the author a little slack, here. From his own comments and from observing his writing techniques, it’s obvious that he could have (and would have) ended the story at various points throughout its run. He needed a break. He was burnt out. It’s entirely possible to see the Boo saga as almost a “new” series, in some respects; its return to magical elements and slapstick was very reminiscent of the earlier storylines. Perhaps Toriyama wanted to recapture some of the early elements that inspired him so much to write such a long story? Or perhaps he was just fudging it and writing as he went… we have plenty of personal comments to that point, too. All in all, it’s not a very good ending, but after a decade, how exactly do you go out in style? Perhaps just abruptly ending it was the best way to do it.

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: In the original ending from 1995, the narrator hints that the world will be OK thanks to the Dragon Balls… isn’t this exactly what the story was going against at this point, though?! Rather than depending on the Dragon Balls, the heroes were taught and told to rely on themselves to save the planet and friends that they loved so much; by inferring that since they had Dragon Balls everything would be OK… well… that just kinda went against the flow of things (Hell, DBGT actually went with a storyline all about this). The new ending changes this, and says that the world will be OK thanks to the great bunch o’ guys that live on the planet. It’s a much more uplifting message, and brought a much wider smile to my face.

The change to Vegeta’s dialogue is also interesting. In the original, Vegeta shows us that he clearly understands Goku’s motivations (that Goku isn’t just training him to help protect the planet; it’s mostly for selfish reasons). This is a great reminder of how much Vegeta has grown over the course of the series, and how this growth has contributed to his understanding of Goku’s wacky thought process. Not only does Vegeta understand, but he seems mostly OK with the whole thing; why else would he be smirking and snickering to himself? However, in the new kanzenban ending, Vegeta is given completely generic dialogue about wanting to eventually defeat Goku… despite the fact that he was recently (in the story) given a major monologue in which he finally admits that Goku is “Number One”. He doesn’t look too happy in that last panel, either… speaking of which, why the heck is Vegeta, of all characters, given the final panel in the story…?!

The largest change was, of course, the passing-down of Kinto-Un from Goku to Oob. It seems a little strange that there was never any formal passing-down within the Son family (though we have seen his sons at least using it from time to time), and Goku has absolutely no problem giving it to this random kid he just met and flew off with. Then again, maybe that’s just how Goku’s (and/or Toriyama’s) mind works. The fact that Oob is able to hop right on the cloud also serves as great proof that the child is completely pure of heart, which at least lets us know that Goku is a great judge of character (always has been, always will), and that the Earth will be in good hands.

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: Personally, my preferred ending would be a combination of the two. Take the original ending, slap in the Goku and Oob material, but keep the original Vegeta dialogue, and end it with a shot of the Dragon Balls… there ya’ go. I have no desire to re-write the original author’s thoughts, but if he’s going to give me two choices, I have no problem combining the two.

Fan Feedback: Meri

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it originally appeared in 1995?

A: I really didn’t care for the original Dragon Ball ending. While Goku, I suppose, acted in-character by happily going to train with a potentially strong fighter, I always hated how he just literally stopped what he was doing for the sake of this kid. It made me feel bad for all the other characters, to be honest.

Q: What are your thoughts/opinions of the final chapter as it appeared in Kanzenban Vol. 34 in 2004?

A: Since there’s a bit more Oob/Goku interaction in the new final chapter, I can forgive Goku’s actions/Toriyama’s original half-assed ending a bit more. It’s cute and sentimental, and a definite improvement over the original work.

Q: Looking back at both versions of the chapter, would you change anything or have ended the series differently?

A: If I had my way, Goku would just stay at home, whipping his kids and grandkids into shape with training, maybe getting into some shenanigans with Vegeta. But I guess that would be a bit boring. That being said, I guess I can understand why Toriyama ended the manga the way he did.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?

A: I liked the ending to the GT anime much, much, MUCH more. THAT (or something similar) would have been a more emotional ending for me, had it taken place in the manga.

Final Thoughts?

After reading all of these opinions and thoughts, you can understand that the ending of the series means something different to each fan. It may depend on when you got involved in the series, or when you last saw the ending. So whether you like the original 1995 tankoubon ending, or the 2004 kanzenban ending, or the Dragon Ball GT ending, or if you hate them all, there is no right or wrong answer. It is up to you as a fan to form your own opinion on the subject. So after all these years, the ending is what it is…