There is a new series: Dragon Ball AF
Images of a “Super Saiyan 5” Goku began surfacing online back in the late 1990s. For the longest time, no source could ever be tracked down, but it is likely that the image originated as fan art by “Daniel Montiel Franco” within the Spanish video game magazine Hobby Consolas. Beyond this, the entire concept of this new transformation and its supposed origin in the spin-off series Dragon Ball AF was always attributed to dōjinshi (or fan manga). No-one had ever been able to actually provide evidence of a real “DBAF” dōjinshi, though — if no pen-and-paper product could be showcased, what reason was there to believe it actually existed, even if only in dōjinshi form?
This rumor became so widespread (and was so persistent) that FUNimation (the company responsible for the series’ distribution in North America) was forced to address the question of “AF” during panels at conventions, and even resorted to posting an answer in their official FAQ on dragonballz.com.
You may even have come across “episode guides” for the series listing full episode titles and descriptions, which also drop hints at new characters. For example, one of the most-cited “new characters” in these episode titles goes by the name of “Xicor“. The name may be a reference to “Xizor” from the Star Wars expanded universe, though the pronunciations may be quite different (“zai – kor” vs “shee – zor”). Absolutely no mention of the name “Xicor” appears throughout the history of alt.fan.dragonball (a popular Dragon Ball discussion newsgroup), which leads us to believe that the name possibly came after approximately 2002-2003 (when the newsgroup began to decline in activity). Indeed, searching through the internet and its various fan websites and forums will reveal that the name “Xicor” in conjunction with Dragon Ball AF took off in popularity sometime around 2004.
One of the “giveaways” of these episode lists is their style — they go with naming conventions and listings that make more sense for a FUNimation English release, rather than an original Japanese release. While the typical Japanese Dragon Ball series episode title will typically follow the format of “(insert exclamation or question here)?! (insert statement here)“, these supposed “AF” episode titles tend to be very short statements of only two to four words (such as “Xicor Attacks!”), and even feature FUNimation-only name spellings (such as “Tien” instead of “Tenshinhan”). Needless to say, the Japanese would not follow these conventions.
What about those really pretty, official-looking pictures? You have probably come across the Super Saiyan 4 Gohan image, or a Vegeta image with the character all decked out looking more like a king. Fans have consistently cited these two images as hard proof that “AF” existed, and even had character designs.
Why, then, have you never heard of “Studio Tomita“, whose logo is clearly visible on these images? That is because Studio Tomita is really nothing more than a Japanese fan art group (or perhaps individual), with absolutely no connection to Dragon Ball other than drawing some random pictures. If you look at their website, you will find a wide variety of fan art… but (to confuse things even further) you will not find any Dragon Ball fanart. If they did the aforementioned images, why are they not on the studio’s site? Despite the site being in Japanese, there has been a (poorly written) English message at the bottom of the page that reads:
If you accessed this homepage in order to obtain an image of “DRAGON BALL”, you will be discouraged. I do not put an image of “DRAGON BALL” in this homepage currently. And I reply to a request of somebody and do not intend to send an image. I’m sorry.
Though the language barrier leaves it somewhat opaque, the basic message is this: they are a fan art studio that used to do images based on Dragon Ball, but for whatever reason, they took them down from their site and will not put them back up (possibly because of the uproar they caused). The bottom line, here, is that “Studio Tomita” is no more “official” than the next fan artist; it is simply that they put more work into their images than the average fan.
Finally, let us examine the big picture. If “DBAF” were to exist, the rumors having begun so many years ago… why has nothing surfaced? These days, one would definitely expect to see all of the following:
- screen shots / movie clips from episodes
- articles / reviews from Japan
- advertising (such as in Weekly Shōnen Jump)
- merchandise (books, soundtracks, etc.)
- downloadable fansubs (“digisubs”)
…and yet, none of these things exist for the supposed “new series.” It would be difficult to hide something of this scale from fans. In fact, we at Kanzenshuu took advantage of this on April Fool’s Day 2004 with a massive prank “announcing” the new series; we even had a “commercial” and a “print ad” for the fake series! Compare this situation with the details about the Jump Super Anime Tour special; note how these kinds of things get almost immediate and universal attention on fan websites and mainstream sites alike, rather than the “underground” and secretive conversations around the supposed Dragon Ball AF.
Normally we would just stop there, but as-of late 2006 it would be incongruous for us to ignore and not describe a web-comic/dōjinshi by a Japanese fan named “Toyble“. Amusingly named Dragon Ball AF, this story takes elements of the “rumors” from over the years (such as the name “Xicor”) and weaves a new storyline after the events of Dragon Ball GT. The story was initially put up in 20-page batches on Toyble’s blog in 2006, and was later moved to a somewhat normal schedule of a few pages every month. There are even additional images and stories (such as an embellished background on Tapion) that tie into Toyble’s Dragon Ball AF storyline.
Whether it is After Future, Alternative Future, or even just good ol’ April Fools, AF’s popularity and notoriety continues to evolve… despite not being real.