Confession time: as a kid, I was never into manga. Sure, I watched an the odd anime episode, from Tōshō Daimos to Captain Tsubasa (though the last was hard to endure, watching that football roll through the whole episode was sleep-inducing and I don’t think I ever watched a whole episode, really ;)), but I hadn’t taken to it at all. If all you had to judge Japanese art was Sailor Moon, well – I’m pretty sure you can understand my total lack of interest back then.
But fast forward to 2021, and voila! In April and May have devoured all 42 volumes of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z and was so happy with it that now I’m looking for a nice edition to buy myself a treat 😀 And because I reviewed all the DB volumes on GR, I decided to take inspiration from Lashaan and post them here on the blog as well. What’s so cool about DB, I hear you ask? Well, a whole lot of stuff, really: the whimsy, the humour, the fantastical imagination of the author, the absolute mastery of simplicity in art (which, man, I have read some other mangas since DB, and none of them come close to Toriyama’s art), and, of course, the main protagonist Goku. While the whole idea for DB and its little hero is rooted in the Chinese legends of Monkey King (and you can check out my review of Liu’s take on this mischievous trickster here), Toriyama took it in such fantastic, unexpected directions, deftly mixing Western and Eastern popculture with mythology and martial arts ethos. And that last element was what surprised me the most, I must say: Toriyama’s depiction of martial arts, and martial artists’ ethos, is amazingly deep, even if delivered in an offhand, funny way. I actually think it’s the best that I had read. Hats off!
So here we go on a Dragon Ball journey, full of exclamation marks and groans and all that emotional stuff as I devoured one volume after another and wrote reviews right after I finished!
The first three volumes have a lot going on in their favour – they are funny, whimsical, absolutely full to bursting with crazy ideas, one more preposterous than another. And of course they have Goku, the most adorable monkey kid ever!
I’d have happily given them 8 or even 9 stars if not for the lechery. I know, I know, it’s a cultural thing and whatnot, some poor teenage girl treated like a sexual object is just a must in the genre, even in the new and theoretically ironic mangas like One Punch Man (btw, bleh!), but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It detracts from the reading experience, big time. (Fortunately, Toriyama scaled that down to almost nothing in the later volumes, yay!)
I loved this one! Had such a laugh at both the wonderfully funny portrayal of the fights and Goku’s continued unabashed innocence and ingenuity in his improvement. My favorite volume to date.
So inventive and funny! I loved the final fight of Tenka’ichi Budokai and the conclusion to this arc was absolutely spot on, very sweet and fun.
Sure, some jokes might not have aged that well, but even Master Roshi is less of a pervert in this one, and actually shows some outstanding cuddly bear qualities (blasting the Moon instead of Goku – that was perfect!) Goku is a wonderfully, enthusiastically destructive innocence incarnated, and his paper-scissors-rock fighting technique was just awesome.
I wasn’t that sold on another Dragon Ball quest, but the “Muscle Tower” pays inventive homage to the concept, and especially the meeting with ninja was cool.
I want Kinto’un back!
I liked this one a lot – till Master Roshi showed up and dialed up his usual pervert behaviour all the way to 11. Before that, it was a solid 8/10 read, mostly due to ever-innocent Goku and Bulma, who gets a bit of a backstory here and shows exactly from whom she got her genius, the feeling of entitlement and some other questionable behaviors 😉 I’m getting really fed up with Kame-Senin, though – liked him much more hidden beneath his wonderfully ridiculous Jackie Chun persona.
Looking forward to the next one!
Eh, could’ve been better. The crossover attempts seemed a bit lazy to me, a Deus ex Machina solution that is designed mainly to introduce old characters from other series. Fortunately, the crossover is short.
I don’t find Blue funny or compelling as a villain – again, some weird skills with ropes and mind control seem just lazy, especially considering Toriyama’s earlier ideas.
Glad to have snatched an omnibus version, I can already start vol. 8! 😀
This one was just soo good! My favorite part was obviously the Karin Sen’nin training, the whimsy of the immortal cat/martial arts master making cat-themed jokes and delivering incredibly creative and effective training for Goku. But the whole manga was absolutely delightful, from deadly assassins to little Upa!
This one was quite enjoyable, mostly due to the surprise at the end – it was an absolutely lovely moment, which made up for the repetitiveness of increasingly unexciting fights with the plethora of old horror characters – a vampire, an invisible man, a mummy and a devil. I do love Goku’s unbeatable innocence and Kame Sen’nin’s suspicions that it’s just a lack of brains, and not a willingly assumed stance on life – Toriyama delivers here a surprisingly subtle message, and kudos for this.
I did like the reveal about the crone’s familial relations and her gangsta attitude, it was pretty funny, but all in all this volume seemed to try recapturing the quirky magic of the Strongest under the Heavens tournament – and not entirely succeeding.
This one was nice, if slightly predictable. The sudden “three years after” trick was surprising, but in the hindsight quite cool, as it allowed us to see what each of the protagonists has learned in this time during their fights – which ultimately resulted in more suspense, more surprise, and more delight. It was nice to revisit the Tournament, but I wouldn’t like to see it becoming a routine: already my enjoyment of this was somewhat diminished. Still, with the introduction of Crane Master and his pupils Toriyama infused this volume with some much needed mood of rivalry, and not only friendly chivalry.
Kuririn’s and Chaozu’s fight is just amazing! Starting off as a martial arts duel with the spicy addition of psychic powers, it morphs into a maths duel! Just perfect!
…and to top it off with Jackie Chun vs Tenshinhan was a masterstroke: that duel and what came afterwards was as much an ethical contest as a martial arts one, and Kame Sen’nin’s happiness as he discovers the new generation is stronger than his own is genuine and touching.
Goku and Kuririn’s friendship/brotherhood is sweet and very realistic in terms of rivalry and loyalty and support. And the surprises Toriyama hides in these pages are just too fun!
How can this end on such a cliffhanger??!
…Aargh I need the next volume THIS SECOND!
Fantastic fights, a villain I love to hate, stakes upped so high they seem to fly… What’s not to love? I can’t wait to see what happens next!
While this one was maybe a tad less amazing than some other All stars!!! volumes, I loved many things about it – especially the quiet and deeply hidden heroism of Kame Sen’nin, who turned out to be not just some old pervert – and a thoughtful martial arts teacher, which was a facet of him we were able to glimpse only at later stages – but also a selfless hero, willing to give his life and save the lives of others. Pity about that aim, though 😉
Toriyama continues to surprise me with plot twists and crazy imagination. It’s just so good!
All stars!!! (again)
This series is just amazing. The imagination, the scope, the humor – I’m reading it reveling in the fact that I’ve no idea what’s going to happen next. My favorite martial arts master Karin Sen’nin is back, but now I’ve got another favorite, Mr Popo!
The concept of a Heaven and a God is brilliant here, the ideas getting a very physical manifestation (e.g. Heaven is so high that the air is thinner, and an evil shard of one’s soul, expelled, can grow to become another entity entirely).
Goku continues to be his amazing, optimistic, humble self, and I simply love everything about that volume!
Ahh you already know what it’s going to be. All stars!!!
I really thought another Tenka’ichi Budokai tournament will not be that interesting… Boy, was I wrong.
I love how Toriyama shows us precisely the extent to which the characters have changed and grown through their tournament battles. It’s so well done! Seeing Goku grown is at once highly entertaining and a bit sad – that little kid was just too cute! Also, almost no pervy behaviour from Kame Sen’nin, which is always a huge relief :D.
Ahh can’t believe this is where it ends!
It’s a bitter-sweet conclusion, marking the end of Goku’s childhood/adolescence. It’s also a really cool finale, battle- and plot-wise, and I loved both the action and the humor here. Also, Goku finally wins Tenka’ichi Budokai!
Not sure if Dragon Ball Z can actually live up to this manga – will have to check! 😀
Here it is, then, my journey with Dragon Ball. There are some weaker volumes here, and at the beginning DB was a bit of everything, with the supposedly-funny-but-really-just-pervy behaviour that marks so many Japanese mangas/animes on display, but this all disappeared nearly without a trace three volumes in, and from then on was just pure delight. Big-hearted, laugh-out-loud funny, stunningly drawn, silly and serious at times, and generally absolutely fantastic, Dragon Ball became my favorite pick-me-up!
…Of course, there is a second part to it, Dragon Ball Z, which originally was just a continuation of DB and was divided into parts for the Western market – but I’ll bring it here at some later time ;). For now, that’s probably as much manga as y’all can take!