Dragon Ball is one of the most popular manga and anime series on the planet. Akira Toriyama is the creator of the Dragon Ball Franchise. He first released the Dragon Ball manga series in 1984 in the Weekly Shonen Jump. The manga series continued till 1995. It became Shueisha’s best-selling manga with 159.5 million copies sold only in Japan. Apart from that, Dragon Ball is highly popular internationally, including in Asia, Europe, and America, with 300 million sold copies of the manga worldwide. Shortly after the manga and anime adaptations’ success, Dragon Ball Franchise became one of the world’s most influential franchises in the world. It includes the manga series and several anime series, episodes, TV specials, and movies.
Two years after the manga series release, on 26 Feb 1986, Dragon Ball anime premiered on television under the banner of the studio Toei Animation. The series follows the protagonist Goku’s adventures, who meets up with Bulma and sets out to collect the seven Dragon Ball that will grant him any wish. He becomes a student of Master Roshi and learns martial arts from him with his pupil Krillin. They enter the world tournament and fight against the villains. Here, we will discuss every anime series of the Dragon Ball Franchise and see how they developed the original story over the span of 35 years.
Dragon Ball (1986 – 1989):
The series composed of 153 episodes that aired on Fuji TV from February 1986 to April 1989. The series was later broadcasted in eighty-one countries, becoming a worldwide sensation. It was also the first series of the Dragon Ball Franchise. The series is the adaptation of the first 194 chapters of the Dragon Ball manga. The manga overall consisted of 519 individual chapters compiled into a total of 42 volumes.
The series begins with a young boy named Goku who had a monkey-tail attached to him. He befriends a teenage girl Bulma. They set out on a journey to locate the seven mystical dragon balls to summon a powerful dragon Shenron. Shenron has the ability to grant any wish of the person who summons him. They meet Oolong, Yamcha, Chi-Chi, and other new friends along the way. Goku eventually meets Master Roshi and begins his martial arts training and Krillin to participate in the World Martial Arts Tournament.
After the tournament ends, Goku again tries to find the dragon balls and encounters a terrorist organization called Red Ribbon Army. The organization’s leader, Commander Red, wants to collect the dragon balls to become taller. Goku defeats the army, including their hired assassin Mercenary Tao. Three years later these events, he ends reunites with his friends at the tournament and Master Roshi’s rival Master Shen and his students Tien and Chiaotzu. Master Shen was Tao’s brother, so Tien and Chiaotzu vow to avenge him.
King Piccolo kills Krillin after the tournament and defeats Goku. Yajirobe takes Goku to Korin, where he gets healed and gained a power boost. Meanwhile, Piccolo kills Master Roshi and Chiaotzu. He then uses the dragon balls to give himself eternal youth and destroys Shenron after destroying the dragon balls with him. Goku defeats Piccolo after saving Tien from him. However, before his death, Piccolo spawns his son, Piccolo Jr. Goku learns from Korin that Kami is the dragon balls’ creator, and he might be able to restore the dragon balls so Goku can bring his friends back to life. After doing so, Goku trains under Kami for the next three years and then reunites with his friends. The series ends as Goku leaves with Chi-Chi and get married.
Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 1996):
This series covers the rest of the chapters from the Dragon Ball manga. Dragon Ball Z is a sequel to the Dragon Ball series and follows the story of adult Goku. The series aired 291 episodes between April 1989 and January 1996. Dragon Ball Z was also broadcasted in eighty-one countries, including the United States, Australia, and Europe. Dragon Ball Z is by far the most popular series of the Dragon Ball franchise.
The series follows the events of five years after the Dragon Ball series ended. Goku now has a four-year-old son, whom he named after his grandfather, Gohan. Goku takes his son to meet with Master Roshi and the rest of his friends, and they reunite for the first time in five years. A mysterious man Raditz arrives, having the same monkey tail that Goku had as a child. Goku learns from him that he is a Saiyan who comes from the planet “Vegeta.” Goku was sent to Earth as a baby to destroy the planet, but he starts protecting it, bringing disgrace to the Saiyan race.
The series also parallels the life of his son Gohan, who is a half-Saiyan. Gohan has shown more potential than Goku in terms of strength, ever since the beginning of the series. The series’ first Saga includes the fights with Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa, who came to Earth to complete Goku’s mission. After that, the series showed outer space elements where the Z encounter the emperor of Universe 7, Frieza. Frieza is a ruthless alien who is responsible for the destruction of Planet Vegeta. Vegeta wishes to gain immortality to kill Frieza and finally regain his freedom. There, Goku had his first transformation as a Super Saiyan.
After the Frieza Saga, the series included villains such as androids created by Dr. Gero, who wishes to avenge the Red Ribbon Army that Goku destroyed. Dr. Gero also created a biologically engineered life form called Cell by using the cells of the Z fighters, Frieza, and King Cold. During their fight, Goku sacrifices himself when Cell was planning to self-destruct, and Gohan lands the finishing blow to the villain. Goku refuses his friends to bring him back to life, saying all the villains arrived on earth to defeat him, so as long as he is dead, Earth will be safe.
The series then leaps to seven years, where Gohan is now eighteen, and he has a seven-year-old brother Goten, a carbon copy of Goku. Goku is revived to reunite with his friends and take part in the World Martial Arts Tournament. However, an evil wizard named Babidi unleashes a magical being named Majin Buu to destroy the planet. After numerous battles and the destruction of Earth, Goku comes back to life with Old Supreme Kai’s sacrifice. Goku and Vegeta fought together against Buu. Goku uses the Spirit Bomb containing all life-forms’ energy, which was resurrected by the Namekian Dragon Balls. The series also includes an epilogue ten years later, the defeat of Buu, where Goku meets a boy Uub, the human reincarnation of Buu. Goku departs with him to train Ubb as the Earth’s new defender.
Dragon Ball GT (1996 – 1997):
Akira Toriyama’s manga series ended with Dragon Ball Z. However, Toei Animation still tried to revive the Dragon Ball Franchise by creating the Dragon Ball GT series. The series is not based on any of Akira Toriyama’s manga. However, he still created the character design and the main cast of the series. According to Toriyama, the series is more like an alternate version of the original story. The series consists of 64 episodes. Dragon Ball GT is an anime-exclusive sequel to the Dragon Ball Z series. GT includes the same characters and universe; and Gohan’s daughter Pan.
The series takes place five years after Dragon Ball Z. Goku gets attacked and turned into a child by Ultimate Shenron, a much larger red Shenron made by Kami when he and Piccolo were still one entity. Goku travels across the universe with Pan and Trunks to retrieve the ultimate dragon balls to return to normal. The series follows the trio’s adventures as they travel to various places to retrieve the dragon balls. We also see an evil replica of Android 17 who takes control of the original Android 17. He opens up the portal from hell to earth, leading to the planet’s mass invasion by revived villains.
The original Android 17 attempts to control Android 18 and kills Krillin when he intervenes. The two fuse into a Super 17 who vows to destroy all of humanity and avenge the Red Ribbon Army. Goku and the others collect the dragon balls to revive everyone killed by Super 17. However, another threat appears when an evil black dragon emerges and splits into seven Shadow Dragons to punish humanity for their constant misuse of the Dragon Balls. The Shadow Dragons set out to destroy the Earth. Syn Shenron absorbs the dragon balls to gain tremendous powers, transforming into Omega Shenron. Goku and Vegeta defeat him, and the real Shenron appears after that.
The series then leaps to several decades where Goku’s great-great-grandson competes in the 64th World Tournament against Vegeta’s descendant Vegeta Jr. The elderly Pan cheers Goku Jr. and sees a rejuvenated adult Goku who disappears after she tries to approach him. The epilogue covers all the events of the timeline with a flashback. After the end of the flashback, Goku rides off on Flying Nimbus, bringing an end to the overall Dragon Ball Franchise story.
Dragon Ball Kai (2009 – 2011 and 2014 – 2015):
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Dragon Ball Z series, Toei Animation announced the broadcast of a revised version of the series in February 2009. The series debuted on 5 April 2009 on Fuji TV in Japan under the title “Dragon Ball Kai.” Internationally, the series is known as “Dragon Ball Z Kai.” Kai means “updated” or “altered” and reflects the original series’s improvements and corrections. The series includes new music, fewer fillers, and much better animation than the original series.
The series concluded with its 97th episode on 27 March 2011 with the Cell Games Saga’s finale. Originally planned to air 98 episodes, the series’ final episode was delayed due to the Tohoku offshore earthquake and tsunami. Eventually, they released a direct-to-video of the finale on 2 August 2011. Toei Animation confirmed the final saga of the series in February 2014. The Majin Buu Saga was released under the title “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” internationally. It began airing on Fuji TV in Japan on 6 April 2014 and concluded with its finale on 28 June 2015. The final saga consists of 69 episodes.
Dragon Ball Super (2015 – 2018):
Nineteen years after the Dragon Ball Z series conclusion, a sequel was released following the lives of the Z fighters six months after the defeat of Majin Buu. It is an adaptation of the same name’s manga with the mind behind Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama as its writer, and Toyotarou as its illustrator. Toei Animation produced the series with different screenwriters for individual episodes. The series consists of overall 131 episodes. Dragon Ball Super focused more on alternate universes, galactic hierarchy, and martial arts tournaments with other universes.
The series begins with a recap of the Majin Buu saga and shows Earth’s peace since then. However, a new threat appears and threatens their peaceful lives. The God of Destruction named Beerus, who works to maintain balance in the Universe, wakes up several years after his slumber. He is the most terrifying and powerful entity in Universe Seven. He lusts for battle with a strong warrior and asks his Angel assistant and teacher, Whis, to find the Super Saiyan God he saw in his prophecy.
Beerus threatens to destroy Earth if Goku doesn’t give him a good fight. The Z fighters learn from Shenron about the Super Saiyan God’s power that requires the power of five Saiyans to transform, excluding Goku. Vegeta, Gohan, Trunks, Goten, and the daughter in Videl’s womb make up for the required number, and Goku transforms as a Super Saiyan God for the first time. Despite his efforts, Goku loses to Beerus but convinces him not to destroy the Earth. Vegeta and Goku leave with Beerus and Whis to train for a year.
The series then includes Frieza’s resurrection arc, where Goku and Vegeta fight with Golden Frieza. After the arc, Champa, Beerus’ brother, and the God of Destruction of Universe Six convince Beerus to hold a tournament between their universes. The reward will be Super Dragon Balls that are the planet’s size and scattered across both universes. Universe Seven wins the tournament, and Beerus wishes to restore the Earth of Universe Six. The series then introduces Lord Zeno, who is the Omni-King of all universes. Lord Zeno takes a liking to Goku, and they become friends. Later, Future Trunks arrives to tell the Z fighters about Black Goku.
After the Black Goku arc, the future Lord Zeno travels to the present timeline with Goku and lives with the present Lord Zeno. They both hold the “Tournament of Power,” including the best fighters from all the universes. The losing universes will be destroyed, and the winner will be granted a wish from the super dragon balls. Goku discovers his new powers and the Z fighters fight against lots of powerful opponents during the tournament. Goku and Vegeta take Jiren down along with themselves, leaving Android 17 as the last survivor and winner of the tournament. He wishes for the restoration of all the other universes. The arc ends with a happy note. The rest of the series includes Frieza’s plot to destroy the Earth, fight with Broly, Goku’s and Vegeta’s dance fusion, Goku’s, Vegeta’s, and Buu’s mission with the Galatic Patrol.
Super Dragon Ball Heroes (2018 – Present):
Shortly after Dragon Ball Super’s conclusion on 25 March 2018, a new series debuted on 1 July 2018. Super Dragon Ball Heroes is the latest and only ongoing series of the Dragon Ball Z franchise. It is a spin-off of the Dragon Ball Super series and an adaptation of Yoshitaka Nagayama’s manga. Like Dragon Ball GT, this series is not Akira Toriyama’s story. The series includes the events following the Tournament of Power. A mysterious figure named Fu informs Goku, Vegeta, and Future Mai that Future Trunks is a captive on a Prison Planet under Frieza’s brother Cooler’s control. After they rescue Future Trunks from there, they learn that Hearts’ plan was a plan by recruited a cyborg version of Zamatsu. He reveals his plan to eliminate Zeno and his counterpart before destroying the Prison Planet.
The series later revealed that the Prison Planet was an experimental area that Fu created and filled it with powerful warriors from different planets and eras. He forces them into a game to find the seven Special Dragon Balls if they wish to escape. Meanwhile, before Goku killed him, Hearts revealed that he intended to free all Omni-King mortals. Elsewhere, Fu declares that his next experiment is ready to begin. Also, Beerus warns the Z fighters of the upcoming calamity that may befall on Universe 7. He bases it on his prophecy about a Bird of Catastrophe. Beerus also explains his plan to create a new universe using the Universe Tree. Furthermore, the tree in universe 7 is beginning to weaken its inhabitants, including Krillin and Piccolo.