The untold truth of Dragon Ball Z. You don’t need to be a Supreme Kai to know how much of an influence the Dragon Ball Z series has had on the world of anime, but there’s a lot more to this franchise than just fast fights, spiky hair, and screaming at the top of your lungs to increase your power.
The untold truth of Dragon Ball Z
The Saiyan tale of Goku and his friends branches back to 1984 and has had more twists and turns than Snake Way. With over $5 billion in franchise sales, DBZ is a cornerstone of Japanese animation and a cultural phenomenon.
Despite its impact, DBZ is only one part of this Broly-sized success story. The Dragon Ball franchise has spawned four anime series (five if you count Dragon Ball Kai), 19 movies, over 500 chapters of manga, nearly 100 video games, multiple Universal Studios rides, and all kinds of ridiculous memes and debates about power levels. Shenron has finally answered your wish, so chug your Hetap, because it’s time to take a Grand Tour through the untold truth of Dragon Ball Z.
You might think Goku’s story began with Akira Toriyama’s first Dragon Ball manga chapter in a 1984 issue of Weekly Shonen Jump, but his origins start way before that. Toriyama, who’d already won multiple awards for his hit comedy manga Dr. Slump, wanted to do something drastically different for his next project. He turned to older folklore, in particular the 16th century novel Journey to the West, which featured the inspirations for Son Goku, the Power Pole weapon, the Flying Nimbus cloud, Bulma, Oolong the shapeshifting pig, Yamcha the desert bandit, the Ox King, and his castle on a fiery hill. Toriyama’s editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, explained that Journey to the West was used because it was basically free intellectual property.
Toriyama’s concept of gathering the seven dragon balls to summon Shenron the wish-granting Eternal Dragon was heavily inspired by the early 1800s novel Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, also known as The Eight Dogs Chronicles. Hakkenden’s story depicted a princess who gave birth to eight crystal balls after getting freaky with a dog (we swear to Kami we’re not making this up). The crystal balls then flew into the sky and scattered across the world, just like the dragon balls do after a wish, but became people instead. Considering the world of Dragon Ball features all kinds of anthropomorphic animals (including the leader of the world, King Furry), Hakkenden’s connection to Toriyama’s lore gets even more entwined (and gross).
Mixing together sexual humor and early ’80s Jackie Chan-esque action-comedy, Toriyama finally made the manga…Dragon Boy, which served as a short prototype to the Dragon Ball story prior to the addition of Hakkenden and Journey’s literary influences. A year later, Toriyama started a new Shonen Jump manga series starring some really pun-ny characters.