Dear earthling, starting today we're doing a new series called the Dragon Ball ABC. Every week we will take a letter of the alphabet and take a look at a character or a thing with the biggest influence on the Dragon Ball universe we all love. So if you're into Dragon Ball you better buckle up, because over the next 26 weeks we're bringing you a weekly peek into the amazing world of Dragon Ball! If you want to be the first to know when we release our next post, sign up for our newsletter!
What better way to start than with the one thing that got Dragon Ball its world wide popularity. Sure, Dragon Ball originally started as a manga series but it wasn't until it got picked up as an anime series that it got really popular.
About 1.5 years after the first release of the Dragon Ball manga, Toei Animation aired the first episode of the anime series on Japanese television. The series would run for 3 years, covering 194 manga chapters in 153 episodes in what would eventually be known as the original Dragon Ball saga. It was also the first time we could listen to Dragon Ball, as the manga obviously didn't come with any sound effects. The honor to voice Goku fell upon the then 50 year old Masako Nozawa. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama stated that he could hear Nozawa's voice when writing and drawing the manga and Nozawa has done the Japanese voice over for Goku for every single Dragon Ball anime episode ever made.
After the first 153 episodes, Dragon Ball continued as Dragon Ball Z and would cover the remaining 325 manga chapters over a span of 291 episodes and almost 7 years. The reason for this change was the declining popularity of Dragon Ball. According to Toriyama the producer of the anime series made Dragon Ball too soft, so he asked the director and writer of Saint Seiya to help change this. To emphasize the change in style, the series was renamed Dragon Ball Z, with the Z being a reference to the last letter in the alphabet because the intention was to end the series after all the manga chapters were made into anime episodes.
While Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were extremely popular in Japan, the series was not that well known around the world yet, due to obvious language barriers. It took until 1995, almost at the end of the Dragon Ball Z run in Japan, for an actual English dub. However, six years earlier in 1989, Harmony Gold USA had tried licensing Dragon Ball. Unfortunately, they decided to rename almost all characters and limit the series to 5 episodes and 1 movie, which flopped during the market test so it was never released. Luckily, Funimation decided to give the series another shot at the English language.
With Funimation, the series got a more serious release as the United States got to see 53 episodes over the course of two seasons between 1996 and 1998. But, in 1998, production got halted again because it had to make way for more original productions. After a very successful re-run on Cartoon Network, production was resumed until eventually all Dragon Ball Z episodes had been covered. It was thanks to Cartoon Network's global reach that the series would be seen on televisions all over the world, though the English version did see a lot more censorship due to stricter US regulation on things such as nudity and alcohol.
While Dragon Ball Z was gaining world wide popularity due to its English translation, Japan saw the release of Dragon Ball GT after the conclusion of Dragon Ball Z in 1996. GT aired immediately after the ending of Z and while the story wasn't written or drawn by Akira Toriyama but by Toei Animation, Toriyama did oversee production of the series and had a large influence on the main cast and setting. According to Toriyama, GT is a side story to his original work. Dragon Ball GT is widely seen as the black sheep of the Dragon Ball series family, as it wasn't much of a success and only ran for 64 episodes between 1996 and 1997. The English version ran between 2003 and 2005 and it wouldn't be until 2009 that we would see Dragon Ball return.
In 2009, roughly 11 years after the last Japanese GT episode, Toei Animation re-released the original Dragon Ball Z series under the name Dragon Ball Kai (Dragon Ball Z Kai internationally) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dragon Ball Z. The re-release was edited to follow the manga more closely, removing some of the material that was only seen on television and creating a more streamlined version of the series. This re-release covered all of Dragon Ball Z until the Cell Games saga and ran between 2009 and 2011. Later, between 2014 and 2015, Toei released the Buu saga.
Also in 2015, Toei Animation announced brand new Dragon Ball episodes for the first time in 18 years in the form of Dragon Ball Super. Masako Nozawa, now 79 years old, was again casted as Goku as well as most of the rest of the original cast. The same can be said for the English dub, which started production in late 2016 and saw its premiere in 2017. Dragon Ball Super is still supervised by Akira Toriyama, who writes the overarching storyline and designs new key characters. Individual episodes however, are written by several different script writers. Technically speaking, Dragon Ball Super did not start with brand new Dragon Ball episodes as the first two sagas are, in fact, movie adaptions. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' were both movies, with the former released in 2013 and the latter in 2015. Both saw supervision of Akira Toriyama and both are recognised as official Dragon Ball stories, but it wasn't until the third saga in the Dragon Ball Super series that new episodes were truly brand new and never been seen before.
As of today, the 11th of January 2018, there are 122 episodes of Dragon Ball Super released and there is no telling how many more there will be. But given the immense popularity the Dragon Ball universe is enjoying these days there will undoubtedly be many more as we come close to 30 years of Dragon Ball on television.
We'll end with a video of perhaps the single most iconic moment in Dragon Ball history. See you next week!