Dear earthling, this is a series called the Dragon Ball ABC. Every week we 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 we’re bringing you 26 weeks with peeks into the amazing world of Dragon Ball! Since we’re diving into some of the nitty gritty of Dragon Ball, an obvious spoiler warning applies!
This week's choice was easy, how can we write a series about Dragon Ball without writing about the Dragon Balls right? So there you have it, this week will be all about balls and their influence on the Dragon Ball universe.
What makes the Dragon Balls so special? It's a fair question. When you think about it, the Dragon Balls aren't really all that present in the series. Their relevance was at peak height during the original Dragon Ball saga and the Dragon Ball Z series until the Namekian saga and ever since they have lost some importance. Yet, the series isn't called The Adventures of Goku or anything like that, it's still called Dragon Ball. Besides marketing purposes, it still is a great name and when you're done reading this I hope you see how the Dragon Balls are instrumental to almost everything that happens to our favourite characters.
Let's start with the basics though. What are the Dragon Balls? The Dragon Balls are seven orange coloured spheres with a dark orange/red star inside it, ranging from one to seven stars. The original Dragon Balls were created by Kami, the Guardian of the Earth who created them to give the people of earth hope. You could say he created them out of guilt, since Kami is the good half of a single person, the evil part being Demon King Piccolo. That hope is represented by a huge Dragon called Shenron, who will grant three wishes. These wishes are generally literal representations of what the one wishing for it wants, instead of warped versions like what happens in many other stories. In order to summon Shenron, one must bring together all seven Dragon Balls and call upon Shenron. There is no specific phrase that has to be said, you could basically say "Yo Shenron, what's up?!" and it seems like he'll show up. Once you made your three wishes, Shenron will disappear and the Dragon Balls will turn to stone, shoot up in the air and spread out all over earth. You also have to wait a year to use them again, next to collecting them again.
As for specific wishes to revive dead people, there are a few rules that not everyone seems aware of. First of all, if someone has died from natural causes there is no way to revive this person. Second, someone can only be revived within a year after their death. Shenron can also not grant a wish to kill a person.
While the Dragon Balls may seem to have only upside, there is a downside. When granting a wish, an equal amount of dark energy is created. This problem is solved by the Dragon Balls themselves as they absorb that dark energy and after a 100 years that dark energy will evaporate. However, after Bulma invented the dragon radar it became a lot easier to find the Dragon Balls and thus use them more often. During the GT saga, the overuse of the Dragon Balls caused them to crack because of the dark energy and create an evil Black Smoke Shenron.
Since the early days of the Dragon Ball series, the amount of known existing Dragon Balls has rapidly expanded. Next to the earth's Dragon Balls, which are roughly 7.5 cm / 3" in diameter there are the Namekian Dragon Balls which were, obviously, found on Namek. The Namekian Dragon Balls have the size of a basketball and can summon the dragon Porunga. Compared to earth's Dragon Balls, the Namekian Dragon Balls also take a year before they can be used again. However, Namek's year only took 130 earth days, meaning that it takes a lot less time in between possible uses. All in all, the earth's and the Namekian Dragon Balls are basically the same. Compared to the earth's Dragon Balls, they also don't scatter around Namek so they don't have to be found again. The downside is that Porunga only seems to understand Namekian and requires a password phrase to be summoned.
Dragon Ball GT saw the introduction of the Black Star Dragon Balls. These Dragon Balls were created by Kami before Kami had split himself from Demon King Piccolo. This 'Nameless Namekian' was more powerful and because of that the Black Star Dragon Balls are more powerful than either the earth's or the Namekian Dragon Balls. Visually, the Black Star Dragon Balls are the same size as those of earth, but instead of dark orange/red stars they have black stars ranging from one to seven inside. The Dragon that is summoned with these Dragon Balls is called Ultimate Shenron, an enormous red Dragon who appears to be bigger than the other two dragons combined. Because the Black Star Dragon Balls are more powerful, more powerful wishes can be granted, including the deaths of other people. Because of the power of the Black Star Dragon Balls, the effects are pretty much permanent unless wished to be undone with Ultimate Shenron. They can also be used again instantly, instead of after a year. However, there is a dark side to the Black Star Dragon Balls. When used, they will spread across the universe in the same fashion the other Dragon Balls spread across a planet. When the Black Star Dragon Balls are not returned to the same planet, and presumably even the same spot, where they were used within a year, that planet will explode. So while the Black Star Dragon Balls actually grant any wish, they're also very dangerous.
Since the introduction of Dragon Ball Super, we learned of the existence of the Super Dragon Balls. They were created by the dragon god Zalama and they look pretty much identical to the earth and Namek Dragon Balls. the only diference is that the Super Dragon Balls each have the size of a planet, about 37.196 km / 23,112 miles in diameter and are scattered across Universe 6 and 7. Summoning the Dragon from the Super Dragon Balls is done in the regular way as one has to collect all seven Dragon Balls and then say the phrase "Come forth Dragon of the Gods and grant my wish pretty peas!". That will summon Super Shenron, a golden dragon so large that he appears to have the size of an infinite amount of galaxies and appears to eat some of them when he appears. He appears to the user in a smaller form, which is said to be his nucleus. Even though Super Shenron only grants one wish, there appears to be no limit to what the user can wish for.
Much is still yet unknown about Super Shenron. As of yet, it doesn't appear that there is a negative effect to the Super Dragon Balls, although the danger seems to be inherent to the power of the Super Dragon Balls themselves. Because Super Shenron is so powerful, any wish that could be granted means that perhaps someone could also wish for Super Shenron to die or for the Super Dragon Balls to be destroyed. Perhaps one could even wish for a universe to be destroyed, but we will have to wait and see what happens during the Tournament of Power saga.
So what is the true meaning of the Dragon Balls and their dragons to the Dragon Ball series? While the concept of wishes is far from new from stories and fairy tales, there is a key difference to what the wishes in Dragon Balls mean to Dragon Ball compared to many stories. Here is the gist: The Dragon Balls allow the series to be what it is. A fairly lighthearted series about a group of fighters taking on stronger and stronger enemies, where they throw themselves into every battle without being afraid of losing it all. Because when they do lose, there is always a solution in the Dragon Balls.
Now you may not necessarily like this concept and indeed, it is a little cheap. But imagine the Dragon Ball series without the Dragon Balls for a second. Imagine Goku fought Frieza, but there were no Dragon Balls. (ignore the fact that this whole saga would obviously not take place since Frieza came to Namek looking for the Dragon Balls in the first place). Namek would be destroyed, many lives would be lost and even though Goku had defeated Frieza, it would be a bittersweet victory. The same goes for the Majin Buu saga, the people of earth would be dead if not for the Dragon Balls.
One good example of what Dragon Ball would look like without Dragon Balls is the Goku Black saga. The world is in ruins, millions of people are dead and if not for the miraculous strength of the Saiyans it would all be over. If not for the time machine (the Goku Black saga's own Dragon Balls, basically) it is very likely Goku Black and Zamasu would have killed Goku, Vegeta, Trunks and everyone else. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of what the Dragon Balls mean to the Dragon Ball series.
It's a fairly simple and direct concept, but it defines Dragon Ball as the lighthearted, fun loving series with the occasional serious moment. Without the Dragon Balls, it would be a very dark and depressing series where death and destruction would reign supreme.
We'll leave you with a video of the first time we saw one of the eternal dragons in Dragon Ball. What do you think about the Dragon Balls? Leave a comment or read the other entries in PlanetGoku's Dragon Ball ABC.