Evolution of Dragon Ball: From Journey to Impossibility
Do you still remember clenching your fist and shouting at the top of your lungs while waiting for your hair to fly up and turn yellow? If you do, then probably you grew up watching Dragon Ball too! I also remember raising my hands to channel my energy in case someone needs it for a Spirit Bomb.
Dragon Ball is the most popular and influential manga and anime series of all times! Initially, it was a manga written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama which ran in Weekly Shōnen Jump. Due to positive public reception, the serialization was eventually adapted into an anime series by Toei Animations. From thereon, Dragon Ball became a canon – its influence on the industry and global popular culture knows no bound.
In this article, we will review how Dragon Ball has evolved from its original installment to Dragon Super – from an adventure-filled narrative towards an intense and super-powered anime!
Dragon Ball’s Journey to the West
Initially, Dragon Ball is heavily inspired by Journey to the West – one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature which deals with the adventure of Sun Wukong, a monkey born from a stone who learns the art of the Tao. Likewise, the combat scenes of Dragon Ball were anchored in Hongkong Martial Arts.
No wonder why Goku, with his odd monkey tail, turns into this Great Ape by looking at the full moon.
The original Dragon Ball primarily follows the journey of Son Goku as he trains himself in martial arts. Throughout this journey, he met several friends, including: Bulma, Master Roshi, Krillin, among many others, with whom he shared many comical adventures. Also, upon the insistence of Bulma, Son Goku searched for the Dragon Balls which when collected summon a wish-granting dragon.
The original Dragon Ball is light and humorous compared to its sequels. Since transformations and extraordinary power-ups were not yet available, the characters utilize martial arts and creativity to the fullest. Further, their powers and techniques were somewhat human-like and not really exaggerated. Thus, often, resourcefulness and quick-wittedness are essential components in winning. In other words, the battles were not all about mere strength.
Conflicts involve moral issues instead of saving the Earth from alien creatures, as it will be in the subsequent sequels. Ultimately, Dragon Ball is all about adventure, story, and realistic characters, who together, can conquer everything.
Fly Away with Dragon Ball Z
This sequel follows Son Goku in his adult life, together with the development of his rival Vegeta and his sons Gohan and Goten.
Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) picks up the story five years later and is divided into 9 sagas: from the unraveling of the Saiyan heritage of Goku, the conquest of Frieza, the appearance of Trunks together with the Androids and Cell, and the arrival and several transformations of Majin Buu.
Here, Son Goku learned that he is a Saiyan, an extraterrestrial warrior race. From his battles against major villains to save the planet Earth, he was able to break through his limits and discover unimaginable potential.
In Dragon Ball Z, compared to the original Dragon Ball, strength is everything. Such strength is achieved through transformations – an emotional and extravagant transformation.
Here, we were able to witness Son Goku evolve from Kaio-Ken, Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan 2, and Super Saiyan 3. Each of which happens every time Goku was pushed to his limits and on the brink of his death. Eventually, viewers are rest assured that Goku will never be defeated, even if he dies, he will be revived with just a wish from the Dragon Balls.
If previously, fights were focused on martial art techniques, in Dragon Ball Z, the fights are more neck to neck battles filled with expansions of outraged clashes and transformations.
Beyond Limits in Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball GT, the sequel of Dragon Ball Z, continues to follow the adventure of Son Goku with his granddaughter Pan and Trunks. This sequel, however, does not follow the Dragon Ball manga series of Akira Toriyama. Thus, many Dragon Ball fans frown upon Dragon Ball GT for having deviated with the original narrative.
In DBGT, Emperor Pilaf, Son Goku’s old enemy, unintentionally turned Goku back into a child using the Black Star Dragon Balls. Thus, together with Pan and Truck, Goku had to travel around the Universe to retrieve them one by one. One of the highlights of Dragon Ball GT is when the seven Shadow Dragon was summoned to destroy the Earth – as a consequence of the previous misuse of Dragon Balls. Eventually, with the help of Goku’s companions, they were able to defeat the ultimate transformation of Shenron – Omega Shenron. This led the original Shenron to grant Goku a final wish and thereafter disappeared together with the Dragon Balls.
On the other hand, Dragon Ball Super follows the plot outline of the original creator Toriyama; the canon sequel to Dragon Ball Z. The story follows the adventures of Goku after defeating Majin Buu. After encountering Beerus, the God of Destruction, Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan God. With this, he explored various universes to face new and even more powerful opponents!
Primarily, Dragon Ball GT follows the rhythm of Dragon Ball Z in terms of power-ups and flow of the narrative. Thus, it can be seen to consistent. On the other hand, Dragon Ball Super has a ridiculous power scaling – inconsistencies that would amount to discrediting all the challenges Goku had encountered from the previous series. Further, Dragon Ball Super has presented a lot of transformations than what is actually needed – Super Saiyan God, Super Saiyan Blue, and Ultra Instinct, in addition to all the previous transformations of Goku,
Like the transformations of Son Goku, Dragon Ball itself has evolved in the over three decades that it has been with us.
The original Dragon Ball started as a light and comical journey of a young boy. Eventually, in Dragon Ball Super, Goku has become a Super Saiyan god who fought against powerful creatures in different universes.
In the end, whatever developments may have taken place, the core message of Dragon Ball remains the same: “A true hero is not necessarily the strongest or the fastest, but the bravest. They are the ones willing to go that extra mile in order to protect the once they love.”