The Dragon Ball series, is undoubtedly the foundation and godfather of shonen anime.
The manga and television adaptations were created by none other than the legendary Akira Toriyama. He debuted the original Dragon Ball manga in late 1984 in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. This was our first introduction to a young Goku and his mischievous adventures with the people of Kame house.
Here is a quick summary of kid Goku’s backstory in the original Dragon Ball manga for anyone needing a recap.
Goku was sent as a baby to conquer Earth from the planet Vegeta.
However, he bumped his head and ended up forgetting about it. He lived in a forest hundreds of miles away from any trace of human civilization with his grandfather Gohan. A while after Gohans passing, he came in contact with a young girl named Bulma and they both set off on an adventure to collect all seven dragon balls.
The series is a majority of people’s first impression of Japanese animation to begin with, that is what makes it so important. People were engaged by the peculiar artistic style that other animations at the time weren’t doing. That curiosity created die-hard fans from the moment we laid eyes on it. The artistic design of each character, the story, and the cool power-ups have captivated prior generations and newer generations alike.
Where would anime be today without the iconic Super Saiyan transformation and gravity training montages? Or to put it bluntly, what other shows before the 1990s can still stand the test of time like Dragon Ball? Anime from the same time period like Sailor Moon and the YuYu Hakusho still holds up today, but they couldn’t bridge the gap between Japanese entertainment and the West like Dragon Ball did. And once the English dubbed version of the series was available, it cemented a legacy that would stand as the very fabric of Japanese animation.
Animes ranging from Naruto to Bleach would not have had the same impact today without Goku and his friends. Tito Kubo and Kishimoto, the creators of Bleach and Naruto, attribute their early successes to Dragon Ball. The pure hype of Naruto entering his nine-tail cloak is the same feeling we got when Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan for the first time during the Namak arc.
Dragon Ball will forever go down as the most important anime of all time. Not just because of how cool we look pretending to go Super Saiyan, but because it connected Asian audiences and western audiences through a similar genre of entertainment.
Who knows where anime would be today without Goku and his friends setting off to search for those seven dragon balls.