Intended Endings Guide

Possible Ending #3: Piccolo

In the English-speaking fandom, we are so accustomed to the “Z” portion of the series getting all the attention that the idea of Toriyama throwing in the towel before even Raditz shows up seems nigh-unthinkable. For fans at the time, however, it seemed like a very real possibility that the battle with Piccolo was intended as the big finish for the series. After all, Toriyama had earlier said that the series would probably go on for more than 13 volumes, and it passed that milestone during the Piccolo story arc. In Tankōbon Vol. 12’s Q&A corner, a fan begged Toriyama not to end the manga after Piccolo’s defeat, and asked that the series at least continue for another three years. In response, Toriyama noted how during the showdown with Piccolo Daimaō, there were rumors that Dragon Ball would be ending soon. However, he said that he still had “absolutely no desire” to end the series. He said that the prospect of continuing the series for “another three years is so tedious it makes me shudder, but I intend on probably continuing it for just a little bit more. Look forward to it”.

It therefore seems that Toriyama never even really considered ending the series with the conclusion of the Piccolo story arc, though he also did not originally plan on it going on for much longer after that. The rumors that it was going to end at that point evidently remained pretty strong, so much so that at the end of chapter 194 (the conclusion of the 23rd Tenka’ichi Budōkai), Toriyama even had Kame-Sen’nin break the fourth wall and note that, “This isn’t the last chapter. It’ll continue for just a little bit more” (note again that emphasis on “just a little bit more”). When Viz translated the manga into English, they of course knew just how long the series ultimately did end up lasting, so the changed Kame-Sen’nin’s line to “No, no, this isn’t the end! Not by a long shot!”

Interestingly though, Toriyama actually did threaten to end the series around this point, in private at least, and only provisionally. In Shenlong Times #2, Kazuhiko Torishima, Toriyama’s first editor, recounted the following:

This is changing the subject, but the thing I felt was the biggest crisis for serialization was when he told me that Goku would grow up. Toriyama-sensei threatened that if Goku didn’t grow up, then he couldn’t continue with serialization. (laughs) It was terrible, breaching the subject like that. “You can have the protagonist grow up, just don’t scare me like that,” I said.

No explanation is given for why Toriyama felt that he could not continue the series if Goku did not grow up, but it is interesting to speculate. Perhaps he had simply run out of story ideas for kid Goku, and felt that making Goku an adult was the only way to keep things interesting. It is notable that once Goku grew up, he got married almost immediately and has a son by the very next story arc, so perhaps Toriyama was truly looking to swap his current child protagonist out for another one.

Interestingly, in the third issue of Viz’s Shonen Jump, released March 2003, Toriyama said the following in response to a fan asking him if he would create more Dragon Ball stories:

I worked on the series for almost 10 years. When I reached about the third year, I was really pushing my limit, but the original editors of “Weekly Shōnen Jump” in Japan made me continue the story. I have to thank them, because it was then that I really started to appreciate and enjoy creating the manga. I was able to continue for ten years, but ten years really was the limit.

The third year of the series would technically be 1986 (the series began in December of 1984), but in terms of actual months it would be more like around 1987, the year that saw the end of the 22nd Tenka’ichi Budōkai and the start of the Piccolo Daimaō story arc. We are not sure how literally we can take Toriyama’s statement of “the third year”, considering his notoriously fuzzy memory. As far as we can tell, this is the only place that Toriyama explicitly talks about the editors of Weekly Shōnen Jump making him continue the series. At other times he only talks about Dragon Ball‘s popularity and fans preventing it from ending as the reason he kept going.