Doragon Bōi Sono Ichi
Dragon Boy: Part One
|Premiered:||23 June 1983 (Fresh Jump, August 1983 Issue)|
Bird Land Press 13 (July 1984); Akira Toriyama Preservation Society (fan club) newsletter
Dragon Ball Adventure Special (18 November 1987); mook
Akira Toriyama’s ____piece Theatre, Vol. 2 (10 March 1988); tankōbon
An Emperor’s Feast of Akira Toriyama, Vol. 1 (08 August 2008); bunko
A young boy, Tangtong, is training alone out in the mountains when his master arrives on a flying cloud. The master throws a bunch of kunai, which Tangtong is mostly able to dodge. Tangtong throws several in response, eager to learn more; the master manages to swipe away all but one, which lands squarely in his forehead.
It turns out that the master has a job for Tangtong: accompany the princess of the Flower Country, who ran away two years ago to escape the war, back to her homeland now that there is peace. Tangtong is excited to finally see a girl and pokes at her chest to confirm their soft bodies. The princess is not so sure about this boy….
The master hands Tangtong a “dragon jewel”; if he is in trouble, place it on the ground, infuse it with his ki, and a dragon will appear. Finally, the master advises Tangtong not to show his back to anyone. Tangtong and the princess take off on a motorbike; the princess takes over driving at one point, but cannot handle the speed. When they hit some mountains, they are forced to get off and walk the rest of the way.
The princess eventually wants to take a bath, so they stop at a river. It is here that Tangtong truly sees a girl for the first time, and he attempts to piece things together. The princess asks if Tangtong has a family, but he says he is a monster that was abandoned when he was small, and his master is the one that has always taken care of him.
As they continue their journey, the princess decides she needs water. The two stop at a temple, and as they pull some water up from a well, Tangtong feels some kind of ki emanating from it. A large water demon is pulled up and attacks them! He offers to let Tangtong go if he hands over the princess. Tangtong refuses and jump-kicks the demon in the face… but it barely reacts. Tangtong is able to dodge the demon’s attacks but will not be able to hurt the him with such a hard body. Tangtong takes out the dragon jewel and fires his ki at it… only for a tiny, useless dragon to poof out of it. Cursing his master, Tangtong decides what he must do, even if the princess hates him for it: he takes off his shirt, revealing dragon wings. Tangtong flies into the sky and dive-bombs the demon right in the face, soundly knocking it out.
As Tangtong flies off carrying the princess, she sternly asks why he did not say he had wings earlier so they could have been flying all this time!
The Flower Country is still very far away….
Original Serialization: Fresh Jump
The first Dragon Boy chapter debuted in the August 1983 issue of Fresh Jump, which served as a launching point for new authors, various one-shots, etc. At the time of the chapter’s release, the magazine was still released on a bimonthly basis, but it was on the verge of going monthly.
Fanclub Newsletter: Bird Land Press
The first Dragon Boy chapter was reprinted in the 13th issue of Bird Land Press (dated July 1984), the newsletter of the Akira Toriyama Preservation Society (the author’s official fanclub).
Guide Book: Dragon Ball Adventure Special
The Dragon Ball series’ first guide book, the Adventure Special from November 1987, reprinted both chapters of Dragon Boy as well as The Adventure of Tongpoo.
Compilation Reprint #1: Akira Toriyama’s ____piece Theatre
Both Dragon Boy chapters were compiled in the second volume of Akira Toriyama’s ___piece Theatre (鳥山明○作劇場 Toriyama Akira Maru-saku Gekijō), a 1988 tankōbon release collecting Today’s Highlight Island, Escape, Pink, both chapters of Dragon Boy, The Adventure of Tongpoo, Mr. Hō, Kennosuke-sama, and Sonchoh. This collection was rereleased, with some changes to the order and exact contents of each volume, under the convenience-store exclusive Shueisha Jump Remix branding/format, in 2003.
Compilation Reprint #2: An Emperor’s Feast of Akira Toriyama
Both Dragon Boy chapters were compiled in 2008’s first An Emperor’s Feast of Akira Toriyama (鳥山明満漢全席 Toriyama Akira Mankanzenseki) volume, a bunko release collecting Sonchoh, Lady Red, Mr. Hō, both chapters of Dragon Boy, and Go! Go! Ackman.
Around this time, Akira Toriyama was at chapter 176 in Dr. Slump (released 21 June 1983 in the 1983 #29 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump), a series he would be wrapping up the following August with chapter 236. Previous professional one-shots up to this point had included:
- 1978: Wonder Island, Wonder Island 2
- 1979: Today on Hairai Island, Gal Detective Tomato
- 1981: Pola & Roid, Escape
- 1982: Mad Matic, Pink
- 1983: Chobit, Chobit 2
Series & Chapter Title
- The series’ name is provided with a Japanese title of 騎竜少年 which would normally be read as Kiryū Shōnen, or “Riding Dragon Boy”. The furigana of ドラゴンボーイ (Doragon Bōi) accompanying the name, however, indicates an intended pronunciation and title of “Dragon Boy”.
- The first chapter is simply listed as 其之壱 (sono ichi, or simply “Part One”) with no formal title.
Tangtong’s name is written in kanji as 唐童 with furigana indicating a pronunciation of たんとん (tanton), an approximation of Mandarin Chinese táng tóng, literally “Tang [China] boy”.
Tangtong refers to his master as ご老師さま (go-rōshi-sama), or “elder master”. This is the same 老師 rōshi that would later be used in Dragon Ball for the character 武天老師 (muten-rōshi), somewhat literally “master old master”, or perhaps “venerable old master”. In both cases, rōshi is not a given name, but a title/description.
Never given a formal name, the princess is simply referred to as the 華の国の姫さま (ka no kuni no hime-sama), the princess of the flower country.
- Water Demon:
As opposed to Tangtong’s self-description as a バケモノ (bakemono), or simply “monster”, the demon refers to himself explicitly as a 水邪鬼 (sui-jaki), or “water demon” that eats people in search of water.
- The Dragon Jewel (?!):
The item Tangtong’s master gives him is written in kanji as 竜宝 with furigana indicating a pronunciation of ろんぱお ronpao (as opposed to, say, ryūhō), approximating lóng bǎo in Mandarin Chinese, or “dragon jewel”. Being shaped like a ball and containing a dragon, early scanlations from Dragon Ball fans discovering Dragon Boy would typically label this as a “Dragon Ball”.
- Water Demon’s Weapon:
The water demon wields a guandao (關刀 guān dāo), a traditional Chinese polearm. The same item appears on the title page on Tangtong’s back.
Each issue of Fresh Jump featured short comments from the various series’ authors, giving fans a brief insight into their current thoughts, ranging from series-related announcements to trivial happenings in their personal lives. Akira Toriyama’s comments from this issue were:
After I saw Star Wars, I was so deeply moved that I ended up buying a mountain’s worth of Star Wars model kits! <Akira>
Toriyama is referring specifically to Return of the Jedi, which made its debut in Japan in July 1983. That happens to be after this issue of Fresh Jump came out, but Toriyama mentions in his comments from Weekly Shōnen Jump 1983 #30, published 28 June 1983, that he had seen the movie in a special sneak preview before its wide release in Japan. Incidentally, the film was titled Revenge of the Jedi (ジェダイの復讐 Jedai no Fukushū), its working title in English; it would not be given its proper title of Return of the Jedi (ジェダイの帰還 Jedai no Kikan) until the Star Wars film series’ 2004 DVD release.
Connections & References
- A vaguely-Chinese backdrop with a boy alone by himself in the mountains is reminiscent of the initial setup for Son Goku in Dragon Ball.
- Tangtong’s initial training with jumps, flips, and rock-crushing is reminiscent of countless early Dragon Ball scenes with Son Goku in Dragon Ball, particularly in the first two chapters.
- Tangong’s master riding a cloud and holding a staff was later incorporated into the character of God from Dr. Slump (who would debut in chapter 206 of said series, published early the next year in Weekly Shōnen Jump 1984 #9), along with the Turtle Sage in Dragon Ball.
- Tangtong’s master being hit in the forehead with one of the blocked kunai is reminiscent of what will happen later in Dragon Ball chapter 13 with Chi-Chi’s axe-helmet getting lodged in the Turtle Sage’s forehead.
- Tangtong’s naïveté about girls, their anatomy, and his clueless interactions with them would be recycled several times over in both The Adventure of Tongpoo and Dragon Ball.
- Many of Tangtong’s early adventures with the princess are similar to what will happen with Son Goku and Bulma in Dragon Ball, such as rescuing her off the side of a cliff, taking a bath, and being attacked by some sort of monster.
Dragon Boy has been cited by name several times following Dragon Ball‘s publication.
- In the Shenlong Times supplemental pamphlet accompanying the second Daizenshuu in 1995, Akira Toriyama and his original editor Kazuhiko Torishima touched on Toriyama’s work post-Dr. Slump:
Torishima: While we were thinking of what to do for the next serialized work after Dr. Slump ended, Toriyama drew various one-shots for Weekly Jump and Monthly Fresh Jump.
Toriyama: I certainly did draw a lot of them. I had, who knows how many, painstaking meetings with Torishima-san.
Torishima: But the reception wasn’t very good.
Toriyama: Even though we had all these painstaking meetings. (laughs)
Torishima: Then after Dr. Slump ended, there was a good response to Dragon Boy, which had been drawn without too many meetings beforehand.
Toriyama: With that nice response, I felt “Ah, there’s this track, this just might work out.” And this time I had wanted a boy as the protagonist.
— Akira Toriyama & Kazuhiko Torishima, Dragon Ball Daizenshuu 2: Story Guide Supplemental Shenlong Times Pamphlet (read full interview)
- In his 2004 Dragon Ball Landmark interview, Toriyama retold the story of having to take up a new work following the completion of Dr. Slump:
I was incredibly happy that Dr. Slump became popular, but at any rate, weekly serialization is hard, and coming up with material got more and more difficult… I was always wondering how I’d be able to end it. Then, I was told, “You can end it as long as you start a new serial three months after it’s ended.” So, while drawing the end of Slump, I drew a kung-fu one shot since I liked kung-fu movies. I firmed up the material for Dragon Ball from there. I think that, by nature, I’m more inclined towards gag[-manga]… but solely because it meant I wouldn’t have to make each chapter self-contained, I decided to do a story-manga.
— Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Landmark (read full interview)
- In his 2013 interview with Men’s Non-No magazine, Toriyama retold the story once more, while also discussing the transition from Dragon Boy‘s protagonist to Son Goku:
At the time, I loved Jackie Chan, and I’d watch videos of kung-fu movies while I did my inking and such. Then Torishima-san came and said, “In that case, draw a kung-fu thing next,” and I refused, [saying,] “the things I like and the things I want to draw are different, so I don’t want to,” but in the end, [Torishima] got his way. So to test things out, I drew a kung-fu one-shot called Dragon Boy, and it was relatively popular, so [I thought], well, it looks like I’ve just got to do it. At first, I intended on using the setting of Journey to the West as-is, so I made the main character a monkey, but [Torishima] told me that a monkey was no good, so I drew Goku next. Except, maybe because he was a little plain, there was the opinion that I should give him a bit of a defining characteristic, so I added a tail.
— Akira Toriyama, Men’s Non-No January 2014 Issue (read full interview)
- In the 2015 Dragon Ball Super History Book, Toriyama tells the story one more time:
To be exact, it’s rooted in this one-shot called Dragon Boy that I did before Dragon Ball started in serialization. I was stupid enough to mention to my editor Torishima-san how I constantly watched Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master and whatnot, so he told me, “if you like it so much, you should draw something like that.” (laughs) But liking something and wanting to draw it are two completely different things, so I didn’t particularly want to do that.
— Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Super History Book (read full interview)
- In his 2016 interview with Forbes, Torishima discusses the creation of Dragon Boy from his own editorial perspective, and the later shift to a Journey to the West re-telling that would ultimately become Dragon Ball:
So I said that if he liked kung-fu movies so much, why not try a kung-fu action manga for the next project. After this, Toriyama came up with a very short 13 page short story called Dragon Boy. This one off short story then got an incredibly good ranking in Weekly Jump [sic].
This version of the story pre-dates any of the elements from Journey to the West and that was my idea that came later. The biggest reason for that was it was a free intellectual property, as it was very old. In addition, when you need to make a long running manga series you need to add a lot more features over something like the episodic Dr. Slump. So in Journey to the West, you have lots of gadgets, like the pole staff and flying cloud. So when we moved Dragon Boy to a long running story format, that’s when the Journey to the West elements came in.
One of the other big reasons I liked Journey to the West as an influence was because with Dr. Slump the story mainly happened on something like the West Coast of the U.S., as in the environment and overall setting. However, as we were trying to start something new I thought we needed an almost opposite setting. In those days, China was not a popular topic in manga and I thought that would make us stand out, by being unique and fresh. So we wanted to have the story operate in a very different world from that of Dr. Slump, so the opposite of California for me was something like China.
I wanted to make the whole thing completely different in fact. The opposite of Dr. Slump. The protagonist wouldn’t be a girl but a boy. Move the setting from California to China. Change the focus from comedy to story.
— Kazuhiko Torishima, “…On Shaping The Success Of ‘Dragon Ball’…” (Forbes — read full interview)
Dragon Boy has only ever been printed and re-released in its original black and white palette.