Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is currently Japan’s most popular manga. Started in 1985 in Shonen-Shukan-Jump1, it started off very much like his preceding work., Dr. Slump, and was a “Gyagu” manga (a slapstick/”gag” manga). They are the adventures of the monkey-like boy (“Songoku” IS a name from Chinese mythological tales…) and his search for seven Dragon Balls which will grant him one wish. During these adventures he meets new friends and discovers a seemingly endless source of strength within himself. But between #28-32, the story acquired dark undertones, with the emergence of a seemingly unbeatable enemy — the genetically enhanced Seru — who threatened the fate of the entire world. Only recently, #33 has marked Dragon Ball‘s return to its original, hilarious, wacky roots which had been absent since #19 or so… In this article we shall try to sum up the Dragon Ball manga that are already in publication (up to December 31, 1992).
■ Part 1: Songoku as the Strong and Naive Little Boy (Books 1-11)
This is the most wacky and funny segment of the series. Songoku is still just a young boy — very naive and innocent. Secluded in the depths of a forest, he has never seen another human with the sole exception of his late mentor, Songohan. A girl almost drives over Songoku and the fish (about two times his size) which he had caught for dinner. After observing the damage that the boy causes to her car, she persuades him to serve as her protector (although her intentions are not clear) on her journey to recover the Dragon Balls. She explains to him that the Dragon Balls are crystal-like balls with stars embedded in them. Scattered across the globe, all seven balls, when united, summon a dragon (the Shen-ron) who will grant any wish. The girl’s name is Buruma and she is an electronics whiz. She invented a Dragon Ball radar to facilitate the search…
And so their adventures begin, in search of the Dragon Balls. We soon meet new friends such as the Kame-senin (Turtle master), Yamucha with his Ro-ga-fu-gu-ken! And a shape-changing pig named Oolong. Kame and Oolong are two characters who seem to share the same dirty minds. Songoku is soon taken under the wing of the great Mutenroshisama (AKA the perverted Kame-san) joined by another boy, Kuririn, who comes to train with him. They provide refuse to a girl on the run, named Lunch who has a split personality. One side of her is as innocent as an angel, but other persona is a violent, foul-mouthed criminal. Songoku and Kuririn participate in their first martial arts tournament — the Tenkaichibudokai — yet they fail to win by a narrow margin, thanks to Kame who has disguised himself to enter the event. They part ways to begin training on their own. Songoku soon runs into trouble with the world terrorist movement, RED RIBBON. He then finds himself training with his next teacher, the Sennin-sama (a cute, chubby cat). After training for three days, his power increases to the extent that he manages to annihilate the Red Ribbon HQ. He soon makes his first wish, by using the Dragon Balls and asks that a little boy’s murdered father he resurrected.
■ Part II: The Terror of Piccoro-Dai-Ma-O
Once again, Songoku trains and signs up for the next Tenkaichibudokai. At this tournament, we are introduced to Tenshinhan and Chaozu, the pupils of Kame’s nemesis. The final match is between Songoku and Tenshinhan and by a stroke of bad luck, Songoku loses. Suddenly, Kuririn is murdered just before Songoku is about to meet up with him and the rest of the gang. Songoku, burning with rage, pursues the assassin, but gets beaten to a pulp since he had used up all of his energy during the tournament. In the meantime, we learn of Piccoro — the Devil himself — who brings a reign of terror upon the world. Fearing the possibility of Songoku’s death when he fails to return after many hours, Kame and Tenshinhan join forces. They search fore the Dragon Balls to prevent the Devil from gaining whatever he wishes, and by #13 Kame has died. Tenshinhan is about to be killed by Piccoro when Songoku appears, after having taken the “Shin-sui” from Sen-nin-sana which unleashes the awesome power hidden within Songoku. He defeated Piccoro. Before he dies, Piccoro gives burth to his successor. God, knowing this, offers to train Songoku and this is an opportunity he obviously won’t refuse. Kame, Kuririn and Chaozu are brought back to life by the Dragon Balls. At the next tournament, Songoku appears as a fully grown man, and he has become a completely new person. The main focus of the games is the climactic confrontation between the reborn Devil and Songoku. After a fierce fight, Songoku finally wins. Songoku then gets married to Chi Chi — a minor character who appeared briefly in #1 and who re-appeared at the fight.
■ Part III: Songoku’s True Identity
About five years after Songoku’s last fight with the Devil, we find out that he has a son, Songohan, named after his “grandfather” and mentor. Songohan has a tail just like his father. A powerful alien soon descends on Earth and defeats Songoku with astonishing ease before revealing the truth about his identity. Songoku is a Saiya-jin, one of the few survivors of the now extinct planet, Saiya. The Saiya-jin are a military race who are among the strongest beings in the entirety universe and go about conquering and selling planets. Songoku was assigned to destroy Earth, but a childhood head injury had erased all of his Saiya memories. Songoku and Piccoro reluctantly cooperate to beat this alien who claims to be Songoku’s brother. For a moment, it seems that the two are losing, but suddenly, Songohan becomes enraged by the sight of his father being tortured and attacks Radditzu, the alien. The invader loses his balance, and Songoku sacrifices himself to take this opportunity to destroy his evil brother, knowing that his friends will resurrect him by using the Dragon Balls.
In his life after death, Songoku goes to train with Kai-o-sama. Meanwhile on Earth, Songohan begins rigorous training under the Devil’s strict observation, and they gradually become friends. A year after Songoku’s death, he is ready to take on the two Saiya soldiers, Bejita and Nappa, who had come to complete Radditsu’s failed mission. Due to miscalculations, Songoku is running behind schedule and fails to intercept the aliens upon their arrival. While he catches up, his friends fight helplessly to the end. Yamucha dies first, quite abruptly, followed by Chaozu, and Tenshinhan who channels all of his energy into the powerful “Ki-Ko-Ho!” but to no avail and dies needlessly. The young Songohan unleashes his power and angers Nappa greatly. In retaliation, he is about to kill Songohan when Piccoro steps in to protect the boy and dies. In his last seconds of life, Piccoro laughs and cries, amused by the irony of dying to protect the son of his nemesis.
Songoku finally reaches the scenes and, to his horror, finds nearly all of his friends dead. The knowledge that people can be brought back to life by the Dragon Balls only once sends Songoku over the edge. He tries to scare off his opponents, but they seem to want to fight to the end. He unleashes his “Kai-o-ken”, a maneuver he learned from the Kai-o-sama which can multiply his strength by at most three times (although it has a serious drawback of draining one’s endurance). Both Songoku and his remaining challenger Bejita are reduced to helpless, crawling heaps on the ground. Kuririn is about to deliver the final blow to the dying Bejita with a sword, when Songoku begs his friend to show mercy and let him go. He reluctantly complies and Bejita escapes.
■ Part IV: Namekku Sei and Freezer
As explained in the previous part, the Devil had died. The Devil and God used to be one person (well, alien) therefore, if one died, so would the other. Once God was dead, the Dragon Balls disappeared off the face of the Earth along with him. Songoku and the other survivors decided that to revive the people who were killed by Bejita and Nappa, they would have to find God/Devil’s planet of origin. Songoku is hospitalized and, for the moment, cannot move. Songohan, Kuririn and Buruma go off to the planet Nammeku (where God had come from) hoping to ask another “god” to help restore the Dragon Balls. Unfortunately, they run into Freezer and his entourage of elite fighters who all surpass Bejita in terms of strength. Freezer and his band of thugs had overheard, through Bejita’s communicator, about the Dragon Balls. Seeking immortality, they have come to the same planet. Knowing there’s no other way out, Buruma sends a distress signal to Songoku. In the meantime, Kuririn and Songohan rescue a Nammeku child, named Dende, from certain death.
On his way to the planet, Songoku trains in his space-pod in an environment that has 100 times the gravity he’s experienced on Earth. After intense training, he arrives fully powered up, but in his first battle, his body suffers alot of damage. Songoku is put in a medical capsule that accelerates the healing process. To buy some time for Songohan, Kuririn, and Dende who must find the Dragon Balls that exist on Nammeku, Nail, the only fighter-type alien indigenous to the planet, plays a futile battle of endurance with Freezer. The heroes discover that the Dragon Balls on this planet can grant up to three wishes. The first wish brings Piccoro back to life and the second wish transports him directly to Nammeku. One last wish remains, but the Cho-ron-sama dies and the Dragon Balls which were his creations disappear with him. Having lost his chance at immortality, an enraged Freezer comes to finish off Bejita, Songohan and Kuririn.
Piccoro, who was transported to the wrong place on the planet, rushes to aid Songohan and en route, encounters the dying Nail. Astonishingly similar in appearance to Piccoro, Nail offers his life-force, which could almost double Piccolo’s powers. At first, Piccoro declines, but aware of Freezer’s superior strength, they Yu-go (merge), leaving no physical traces of Nail. Piccoro makes it in time to witness Freezer’s first transformation. He then pushes Freezer to the limit, forcing Freezer to mutate into his superior form. Dende is senselessly killed. When Songoku finally recovers from his wounds and returns to the fight, Bejita, who is on the brink of death, tearfully begs his fellow Saia to see to it that Freezer is beaten by Saiya hands and wishes that he might someday be the warrior of legends, the Super-Saiya-Jin. When Freezer sees Songoku’s face he recalls that this opponent is the spitting image of the last warrior who resisted him when he destroyed the Saiya homeworld. That “last warrior” was Songoku and Radditsu’s father, Badakku. Songoku unexpectedly proves to be a tough match for Freezer and in the end uses his Genki-dama where he collects bits of energy from all living things on this and other nearby planets to attack Freezer wish. Unfortunately, Freezer doesn’t die as easily as hoped. Still astoundingly powerful, Freezer drags Kuririn into the air and blows him into bits. For the first time in his life, Songoku reaches a breaking point and explodes with fury. He really wants to kill Freezer… This triggers Songoku’s transformation into the Super Saiya-jin. Freezer is at a loss.
Meanwhile back on Earth, when Piccoro was resurrected, so was God. The Dragon Balls were gathered quickly and used to revive the people who died at Nammeku. Thus, the Cho-ron-sama of Nammeku sei was also brought back to life with its third, yet unused wish. The third wish was then used to transport all the people on the planet Nammeku to Earth with the exception of Freezer and Songoku. This planet succeeds, also bringing the resurrected Bejita back to Earth…
Freezer’s attempt to kill Songoku at this stage backfires and he ends up slicing himself in half. Satisfied, Songoku almost leaves the planet, which is just minutes away from exploding, but there is still a tiny shred of decency left in him that motivates him to share enough of his power with Freezer to let them both escape. Nevertheless, Freezer tries to abuse this power, leaving Songoku with no choice but to shoot a fireball in his face…
There are other matters of concern. The planet is about to self-destruct, but Songoku’s space-pod, as well as Freezer’s spacecraft are just useless scraps of metal…
■ Part V: The Terror From the Future
The Dragon Balls from the planet Nammeku permit the resurrection of people as many times as wanted. Kuririn is revived. An attempt to revive Songoku is made as well, but there is no need for it since it is discovered that Songoku had survived the planet’s destruction after all, but his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, Bejita reluctantly avoids wreaking havoc on Earth.
It’s been one year since the incident with Freezer and the disappearance of Songoku. Freezer (patched up with mounds of prosthetics) and his father come to Earth for revenge. Predicting doom, Bejita, Piccoro, Songohan and the others give up all hope. Suddenly, the aura of a Super Saiya jin is felt and the owner of this powerful presence effortlessly proceeds to kill Freezer and his dad in a jiffy. Everyone scrambles to seek out the source of this aura and find a young teenager with a huge sword. He hardly says anything other than to state that he is waiting for Songoku.
Songoku finally comes back to Earth and shows everyone a new trick he has acquired with enables him to transport himself anywhere just by using his mind… Songoku and the mysterious boy transform themselves into Super-Saiya fighters to perform some simple demonstrative tests, the results of which impress the youth. He explains that his name is Trunks and he is from the future — the son of Bejita and Buruma (Songoku flips out upon hearing this) and that the world will soon be at the mercy of two androids, #17 and #18. They are two robots built by the mad professor who used to be a member of the Red Ribbon until Songoku defeated the organization in his earlier adventures. In Trunks’ version of the future, the robots have killed Tenshinhan, Kuririn, Songohan and Bejita. Trunks is the only fighter left. Songoku asks “Hey… about about me ???” and we learn that Songoku is fated to die shortly of a fatal and incurable heart disease — long before the appearance of the robots. Songoku is actually disappointed to be missing out on all the fighting (he thrives on challenging fights). Trunks wonders why Songoku doesn’t fear the prospect of dying, but soon recognizes Songoku’s potential strength when recalling how confident his mother was that, had he been alive, Songoku could have saved the world. Luckily, a cure for Songoku’s upcoming illness exists in the future, so Trunks supplies him with the necessary medication in an attempt to redraw the timelines. Trunks soon departs and the warriors begin an intense training regimen in preparation for the future.
Ultimately, the day comes when #17 and #18 begin their trail of destruction and Songoku and the others turn up to fight them. However, Songoku who has been healthy since Trunks’ visit, suddenly cannot fight at all, and collapses at the scene. For some reason, his heart problems were just starting now so he is rushed back home for treatment. The others destroy one robot easily and the second one escapes. Trunks returns to this timeline and sees the ruins of the first robot though he is completely puzzled. “Who/what is this? This isn’t #17 or #18…” The remaining robot is still alive and he turns out to be the evil doctor himself. They all race to his secret lab in time to find him activating robots #17 and #18. These two turn on their loathsome creator and kill him; they they revive another robot, #16. Trunks is now completely confused. Piccoro, Bejita (who is now able to become a Super-Saiya fighter) and Trunks try to take on the robots with absolutely no effect. Piccoro, after being defeated, rushes to ask God to Yu-go with him. God eventually consents…
A time machine is found which is identical to that of Trunks’ except for the fact that is is wrecked and old. A strange egg is found inside and so are some weird animal outer shells. People are being greedily drained of their life-forces by Seru, the terror from the future. He comes from a time beyond Trunks’ and is a genetically engineered being whose only purpose is to grow stronger and stronger. He intends to fuse with #17 and #18 to become the strongest being in the universe. Full of confidence, he initiates a tournament where every volunteer is to fight him to the end. Songoku and the others have ten days to shape up. Using a mystical room up on God’s palatial grounds, Songoku and Songohan are able to train a year’s worth in a day. The others follow suit. However, Songoku realizes that simplicity of form is the best and concludes that being just a Super-Saiya fighter is the optimal form for combat. Bejita and Trunks, on the other hand, wastefully push past the barriers of Super Saiya jin, only to realize their fault when trying to fight Seru so they are forced to train all over again.
The day finally comes for the tournament to begin and an obnoxious self-promoting celebrity, “Mr. Satan” (who holds the ‘world belt’ in wrestling) demands to be Seru’s first and only challenger. Needless to say, he gets flicked away by Seru who doesn’t exert even the slightest effort. Songoku enters the ring next… that’s where #33 stops.
Heheh. It really is an amazing manga series. Compared to some of the other silly translations, I’m telling you, Dragon Ball would do REALLY well (With the exception of Silent Mobius and Orion…)
■ TRUNKS, THE STORY
This was a supplementary story included in #33 about Trunks’ future. In the manga, Trunks is training as a Super-Saiya warrior with Songohan as his teacher (who is, incidentally, missing his left arm, which was lost in a previous fight with #17). The two robots, #17 and #18 appear nearby so Songohan goes after them. To keep the inexperienced Trunks out of the fight, he knocks the boy out. Songohan is confident, but nevertheless, he is killed. Trunks grieves deeply and vows to avenge his death. Buruma is working on a time machine for him to use so that he can get Songoku to repair the timeline, and we see him packing to go…
The TV episode aired on January the 4th2 was based on this, although the main difference is that Trunks inadvertently becomes a Super-Saiya jin when he finds the dead Songohan and becomes enraged…