With DBZ officially concluded we are being treated to a lavishly produced series of 7 hardcover volumes documenting the Dragon Ball universe. Recently, a companion book covering the popular Dragon Ball Cardass Station trading card game also became available in the same format. It shows the complete selection of cards.
Volume One is billed as a complete illustrations collection. Take that with a grain of salt; it is nowhere near complete. Being only illustrations, however, it is the most accessible to Western fans. Nicely arranged in chronological order, you can flip through and watch your favourite characters mature in crisp, detailed selections. The drawings are culled from all over the place, from the manga to calendars through advertisements, headed off with a fold out poster of boy Goku with staff fighting a pterodactyl. Some points of interest include reproductions of original pre-lettered colour manga pages [scattered though out]; Goku, Bulma and Krilin dressed up like pirates ; the line-rayed power blast shot of Goku ; final and runner up design comparisons [scattered]; the Goku Vs Freezer spread on 108-109; and the main warriors group water-colour on 111 and 112-113. The final two selections of the main illustrations are very interesting. The first  really sums up the whole series. It shows an adult, end of DBZ, Goku looking in upon the scene where, in the beginning issue, he first met Bulma. It nicely emphasised the fact that DB is really the story of Goku’s pilgrimage from child to man; the development of a truly descent [sic] and good soul who will not stand by while the weak are trampled upon by psychotic killers and power-hungry madmen. The second  is a group shot of what the characters all look like in the DBZ epilogue episodes, set about a decade after the climactic fight with Majinbu. The book then continues with a gallery of all the covers from the manga book series, a spread showing the spine scene assembled, a cover gallery from Shonen Jump, and some final commentary, including a descriptive guide to the main sequence illustrations featured earlier. What makes this collection specially appealing is its uncluttered nature and clear reproduction. One very funny thing to not miss is the cartoon strip on p.150 where Vegeta is in a raging boast about finally defeating Goku in a fight; the final panel needs no translation.
Volume Two is a psychotically detailed story guide. Have no fear, however; the kanji all have furigana figures for super easy translation, especially if you’ve been following PA’s Japanese seminars. There are tons of pictures, as well. The highlights include: frontispiece: a fold-out character relationships chart; p.46 & 90 rejected planning sketches of what Goku & Bulma might have looked like; 47-89: a complete story outline (note the black top page header which identifies the story arcs); 91-106 & 155-170: colour panels from the original manga; 107-133: a visual guide showing how all the major characters mature (observe the handy chronological chart on 108-109); 134-154: a guide outlining all the major turning points in the character development of the major players: and 171-176: an outline of the main sub-characters. The battle guide [177-242] needs some explanation. Pages 178-179 is a chronological warfare chart of all the major fights showing who fought who, when, and the outcome [white box=winner; black=loser; dark green=tie/undecided]. Next [180-201] is a visual guide to the climactic series fights, then [202-217] comes a guide to the main attack moves in chronological order of their development. Finally, a directory of all 187 fights in the series, from Gokku [sic] against the fish in episode 1 to Gokku [sic] Versus Ubu in the last [218-242]! All of this is book-ended by reproductions of the full first and last manga episodes [15-45 & 243-260]. For the DB-fan, this volume is almost priceless.
With volumes Four & Seven, we come to two quite different books. The deciding factor on these will be how much Japanese you feel you’re capable of handling. As with all DB material, the kanji each have furigana, which makes it super easy to translate, but #7 has far more text than any other volume in the series by a long shot.
The World Guide is an amazing mine of information. Highlights are many, but include the following. On the reverse of the fold out frontispiece of Goku & Vegeta is a collection of might-have-been rejected character sketches. This is followed by colour laminates of DB reality, including the astral realm, cosmos, universe, and all quarters of the Earth, a complete explanation of what the Dragon balls are and the different dragons they raise [pp.15-36]. Next [35-70] is a guide to the races of the DB universe, outlining the various abilities of the Saiyan, Namekian. Cosmic Beings, Freezer & his Bio-soldiers, Babidi & his Majinbu forces, earthlings, monsters & animals. 71-90 is a visual atlas; priceless for figuring out where Earth, heaven or hell you are. I would almost have cut off a finger to have had this when I first got into the series. It clears up many confusing geographical and spatial relationships. The volume is rounded out with a fighting techniques guide [107-124] and visual machine & technology guides [125-164]. As an extra treat you are let in on what series creator Akira Toriyama considers his best creative choices in Q&A format [38, 106, 108, 146], and there’s even a colour manga in the centre.
The Reference Dictionary is only for the very serious DB-fan. Out of all 7 volumes, it is the only one that would disappoint a general reader who doesn’t wish to mess with a lot of Japanese, specially since that is the only way you will find it useful. It does, however, contain the following for those interested. The fold out frontispiece in this one has a group shot of the main characters at series end on one side [one of your few chances to see Trunk’s new sister, Beetle grown up with a bowl cut, Majinbu’s reincarnation as Ubu, child Pan, etceteras], and a chronological character guide painting on the other. Pages 15-34 are a very useful illustrated time line of the DB universe and stories, including a comparison of the two time lines caused by Trunk’s time travelling. From there on. the text is thick and furious. It kicks off with essays on the structure of the DB universe, societies, cultures and racial groups, followed by full dictionaries covering all characters [51-122]; all fighting moves [123-162]; all technological items [171-218]; all geographical locations [219-240]; an odds & ends section covering favourite vocal moments [242-247] and numerical coincidences [248-251]. Then follow an essay on some points of interest specific to the animated version [252-253] and the place of time devices . Finally, there is a pictorial dictionary of DB collectible merchandise organised both by type and chronological release date, capped-off with a 22 page collection of small pen and ink drawings. Those sharp enough to notice pages 163 to 170 were missed will find there a colour folio of what the editors call rare illustrations. The most amusing thing is a little comic strip of Vegeta bowling a gutter ball. The most important thing is a set of 7 design pieces Toriyama did for the new series, Dragon ball GT. Those internet complainers who have been ranting for months that GT is a rip-off series having little to do with Toriyama will have to rethink the issue.
Volume 1: Complete Illustrations (Hard Cover, 71/4 x 10 1/2, 218 pg., ¥1500, $28.95 US; now also available in French). Vol. 2: Story Guide (266 pg., ¥1800, $34.95 US). Vol. 3: TV Animation Part 1 (234 pg., $34.95 US). Vol. 4: World Guide (170 pg., $29.95 US). Vol. 5: TV Animation Part 2 (234 pg ., $29.95 US). Vol. 6: Movies & TV Specials (220 pg., $29.95 US). Vol. 7: Reference Dictionary.