There's another dumb SERIES of theories I've encountered but they're less about Dragon Ball itself and more about Dragon Ball as a piece of media. To give you a hint of what it is, let's just say that it made me seriously appreciate Kunzait_83's wuxia thread
so much more. I've thought of making a more truncated version myself, just because that thread is so huge that it's actively detrimental to the central point.
"Dragon Ball invented [X]
- Dragon Ball invented charged energy blasts (even if you discount wuxia, we've seen this in Western media for as long as Western oral tradition has been a thing, so I was flabbergasted when I saw people seriously claim this)
- Dragon Ball invented high-speed superhuman martial arts
- Dragon Ball invented super transformations
- Dragon Ball invented characters standing around, gawking at & commenting on the fighters
- Dragon Ball invented battle auras
- Dragon Ball invented intense stand-offs (so The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly just doesn't exist?! And even that was using tropes already established!)
- Dragon Ball invented training and self-cultivation to grow beyond one's limits (rather than accepting a god's power via enchantment/technology/special objects/blessings/mutations/etc. like, say, He-Man or Spider-Man)
- Dragon Ball invented beam struggles
And so on. If it's not Dragon Ball, then it's Journey to the West
, which apparently was a stand-alone Chinese novel unlike anything else ever written at the time or until Dragon Ball itself was created.
I want to believe people confused "invented" with "popularized in Western media" (since most of these things genuinely weren't well known in the West until Dragon Ball hit the mainstream), but unfortunately you can find many people who unironically believe there were absolutely no pieces of media before December 21st, 1984 that involved superhuman martial arts, cultivation, humans using ki/chi/qi to enhance themselves, auras of power, or surpassing the gods (in a non-occult fashion, of course). And what it didn't invent, Western superhero comics invented and it built off of (instead of, you know, much older traditions).
The cold fact is that Dragon Ball itself isn't original, and that's perfectly fine since it was always a parody.
That's another misconception: that Dragon Ball was only ever a parody of one thing— Journey to the West
. And once it stopped being a parody of Journey to the West
, it went in its own completely original direction. Rather than, you know, parodying so many other pieces of media.
The thing about parodies & satires, I've discovered, is that they have a nasty tendency of overshadowing the things they're parodying. Look no further than Don Quixote, a parody of medieval & renaissance-era chivalry novels (and the only one anyone knows of now); Pride & Prejudice, a satire of 18th century standards; the movie "Airplane!" which parodied the famous airplane-based disaster movies of the day (that we've now largely forgotten) or "Blazing Saddles" which parodied Westerns, of which we only remember a few really notable ones despite them absolutely dominating cinema and TV in the '50s and '60s.
Dragon Ball is much like that. It didn't actually do a lot of original things itself besides quirky character designs because it was always parodying these things. Hell, it started parodying itself at the end of its run, which is how we got over-the-top stuff like fusion and Super Saiyan 3.
And again: there's nothing wrong with that. We'll always know Dragon Ball first anyway.