[Throwback Thursday] 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dragon Ball

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Initially serving as a tribute to Saiyuki, or Journey to the West, a famous Chinese fairy tale in which would later inspire The Forbidden Kingdom (co-starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li), Dragon Ball is a story about a boy who becomes a man through Kung Fu fighting by defying every law of physics. As the story goes, the Dragon Ball franchise would undeniably become the most internationally and critically acclaimed anime of all time.

Dazzling audiences from its whacky hairstyles, explosive (and extensive) power ups, and intense balls to the walls action sequences, DBZ was always there to create fans for both the show and anime as a whole as the franchise celebrates its thirty year legacy along with a new animated series, Super. The series has also served as an inspiration to Spanish tennis star Rafal Nadal, numerous Mixed Martial Arts competitors, and hip hop artists.

As of publication of this new edition of Honey’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know About, we are proud to use the legendary Dragon Ball franchise as our inaugural list. Some of these facts you may or may not know, but maybe some of you readers who are new or dedicated may learn something new or different.

10. Krillin’s Ring Tone

To kick this list off with something basic, in the Fukkatsu no F movie, and in an episode of Super in which it retells the events of the same movie, Krillin is working as a police officer. When he gets word that the world needs his help, he is contacted in the most convenient way possible, by cell phone (which were not widely used during the prime of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z for some of you young readers who have the privilege of cell phones since childhood). Some DBZ fans who happen to be One Piece fans may recognize his ring tone as “We Are”, the first opening theme to One Piece. So the question is why?

It is because Krillin’s seiyuu in the Japanese version of Dragon Ball is the legendary Tanaka Mayumi, who also voices Luffy, the main character in One Piece. The ring tone is meant to be a tongue in cheek reference to the characters sharing the same seiyuu. There is plenty of trivia of Tanaka Mayumi (that also relates to her role as Luffy in One Piece) that I wish to share, but that can be for another time and when we get around to other lists that may feature her, we will be glad to share those facts you may or may not know.

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ONE PIECE OP

9. Toriyama-sensei’s Least Favorite Character

In regards to Vegeta’s popularity with the fans, Toriyama-sensei has admitted that Vegeta happens to be his least favorite character. Regardless, Toriyama-sensei has acknowledged that he was “helpful to keep around and that he helped drive the plots” according to the official Dragon Ball encyclopedias, or Daizenshuu.

In the past few years, his feelings towards Vegeta has slowly been changing and continues to acknowledge some of his positive traits and potential as a hero. However, Toriyama-sensei intended to have Piccolo be controlled by Majin Buu, but the editor (and fans) wanted the Goku and Vegeta rematch, which transitions to the next point.

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8. Toriyama-sensei’s Favorite Character

Toriyama-sensei’s favorite characters happens to be Piccolo with Mr. Satan as a close second. Though Piccolo is initially introduced as a villain, Toriyama-sensei himself couldn't help but think that he was so cool. In addition, he just enjoyed drawing him. As for Mr. Satan, the original creator has admitted sometime around ending Dragon Ball the first time that he wanted to make a story revolving around him.

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7. Toriyama-sensei Made the Story as He Went Along (Disputes with Editors)

Throughout the years, there have been numerous claims of intent to end the story of Dragon Ball with the Freeza saga (even before the mainstreaming of the Internet). They were never 100% true, though it has been brought up. Editors in the past have suggested to Toriyama-sensei to either end Dragon Ball upon the Freeza saga or make Gohan the main character. However, Toriyama-sensei rejected the ideas for several reasons such as feeling that Gohan (with his more pacifist nature), wouldn't work as a main character.

As for other factors, such as Goku becoming an alien and his SSJ transformation, they all came up on the fly. With aliens now coming into the mix, Toriyama-sensei felt it would make sense to make Goku an alien and give him an origin. As a matter of fact, Toriyama-sensei never really had any specific plans for Dragon Ball and he just made the story up as he went along for he wanted to have fun. By the time he finished, all he wanted to do was spend time with his family which was his motivation for ending the series the first time, twenty years ago.

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6. Jackie Chan and Golden Harvest Studios

Despite Jackie Chan not being able to achieve international fame until the 1990s, Jackie Chan made his mark in his native Hong Kong and neighboring Asian countries including Japan, where he also released some records back in the mid-1980s when the franchise debuted. Plus, he eventually became a fan of the Dragon Ball series himself. Toriyama-sensei was a fan of Jackie Chan’s films and he took inspiration from the creativity of his movies such as Police Story, to make his action sequences. Master Roshi’s alias for his disguise would be a play on Jackie’s name itself.

In addition, every time there would be an episode about the Tenkaichi Budokai, the eye catch episode title would play homage to Golden Harvest Studio (the studio that produces Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong movies) logo credit.

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5. Critique on Japanese Society

Although Chichi growing up being a fighter, she changed after having Gohan and wanted him to be a scholar. In relation to the context of the story, it made sense since the world was at peace and there was no reason for him to be a fighter, so academics were more important. However, Chichi’s character was meant to be a reaction to “kyouiku mama,” or mother’s focused on education, a real life phenomena in Japan that started during the beginning of Japan’s economic rise in the mid-1970s which continues to this very day.

Despite their good intentions, it creates too much pressure on a child and eventually, they just break down. If this kind of helicopter parenting persists, the results become counter-productive and Toriyama-sensei wanted to express that.

In addition, the concept of Freeza was influenced by some aspects of the end of the Japanese bubble economy around the late 1980s to early 1990s. Freeza was specifically inspired by real estate speculators, who Toriyama-sensei thought were the worst kind of people (while his designs were based on what he thought monsters looked like in his childhood). Considering Freeza takes this job to an inter-galactic scale, he is the worst kind of villain and has achieved popularity with Japanese audiences.

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4. Goku Growing Up

As an extension to Toriyama-sensei making the story up as he went along, it extends with the concept of aging Goku and making him taller. At the request of the editors and fan response, he progressively made Dragon Ball more action oriented as opposed to adventure, and saw that drawing the fight scenes with Chibi Goku to be challenging and thought it would be easier to create the action scenes if he aged the character.

However, the editor at the time was against the idea because he felt aging the characters went against the “rules” of Shounen. Still, other prior Shounen titles have aged their characters. For example, in Kurumada Masami’s (most famous as the creator of Saint Seiya) Ring ni Kakero, the title that made Shounen Jump famous in Japan (hell, if it wasn't for Ring ni Kakero, there probably wouldn't be a Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece, etc.), actually aged its characters throughout its story.

Another famous Japanese classic that also contradicts the editors claim is the baseball classic, Kyojin no Hoshi, where the character starts as a boy playing little league and becomes a Japanese major league player. In the end, Toriyama-sensei’s decision was the right choice and actually went with true tradition of many classic Shounen titles.

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3. Nozawa Masako

Goku’s Japanese voice has always been a source of controversy for numerous non-Japanese speaking fans, but Nozawa Masako was selected by Toriyama-sensei himself during the auditions. Prior to being Goku, Nozawa was already an accomplished voice actress playing famous roles to Japanese audiences such as Kintaro in GeGeGe Kintaro and Tetsurou in Galaxy Express 999.

Upon her audition and hearing her voice, Toriyama-sensei felt that she was the one because he always imagined Goku’s voice sounding the way she performed it. And Goku’s voice is high pitched to the Japanese to represent he will always be that child. So when audiences hear Goku’s Japanese voice, it was the way Toriyama-sensei himself envisioned.

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2. Family Contributions

Throughout the prime of Dragon Ball, Toriyama-sensei’s family actually made some contributions to the series. For starters, his wife came up with the name Kamehameha for the franchise’s trademark attack. Toriyama-sensei and his staff had the pose and movement down, they just needed a name. Though the move is most famously used by Goku, his master, Master Roshi or Kamesennin was the first to use it. They needed a name that went with the pose and movements and something ridiculous that went with the nature of Master Roshi’s character. So his wife just suggested the name and it worked.

Along with his wife, his kids also contributed with their love of the Super Sentai genre, the TV shows that are used as source material for the Power Rangers franchise in the west. Through his children’s love of super sentai, he came up with the Ginyu Force, or the Ginyu Toku Sentai in Japanese. Their poses and their team dynamics are also meant to be a spoof of the genre.

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1. Harmony Gold Dub

As some older anime fans may know (more specifically dedicated Macross fans), the name Harmony Gold may ring a bell. For some of you younger and newer fans reading, Harmony Gold is (in)famously known as the studio that brought the original Macross to the west to create the Robotech franchise (and why they are controversial to Macross fans is for another topic for another time). So what does this studio have to do with Dragon Ball?

As a matter of fact, they happened to have dubbed and westernized Dragon Ball back in the late-1980s. Harmony Gold did two test runs with their version of Dragon Ball. On one test run, they combined the first and third movies as one big feature film, while another test run was made with the first five episodes. Unfortunately, no major networks picked it up. There were statements that certain scenes with Bulma bathing caused some issues (though a decade later, Bulma incidentally flashing herself would cause controversy).

Now is the time to share some changes which would be controversial in today’s anime atmosphere. For starters, numerous changes were made. One of the big changes being with the names. Goku became Zero, Bulma became Lena, Oolong became Mao Mao, Puar became Squeaker, Krillin became Bongo, Korin became Whiskers the Wonder Cat and the list goes on. Some of these name changes sound as ridiculous as a Lil Wayne song.

Speaking of songs, the Harmony Gold does manage to adapt the original Japanese opening theme, Makafushigi Adventure. And on a last note, Goku/Zero was played by Barbara Goodson, most famously known as the voice of Rita Repulas, the first villain of the Power Rangers franchise.

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Closing

To sum this list up, here are some brief bonus facts. The original Famicom Dragon Ball game was released in the US as Dragon Power for the NES during the prime of that respective console, but with NUMEROUS graphical and story changes. Speaking of games, prior to Dragon Ball Z’s popularity boom in the US, the Playstation One game, Dragon Ball Final Bout was released in the US in 1997. After Dragon Ball became popular in the US circa 1999 to 2000, copies of the English version of Final Bout went as high as a $300 on eBay.

Next, the US and Canadian English dubs have different actors and studios. FUNimation dubbed the American version and Ocean Studios dubbed the Canadian version, but Ocean Studios has been dubbing Dragon Ball Z since 1996, while FUNimation started in 1999. Last, the reasons why Trunks and Goten do not have tails is because Toriyama-sensei forgot all about it, but it also goes back to getting rid of Goku’s tail because he felt it was a hassle to draw. But for story related purposes, he did state that tails are a recessive trait with half-breed Saiya-jins so some may be born with it, and some will not.

So here are your facts about Dragon Ball. Were some of these new to you? Or did you already know? If so, please feel free to share some of your Dragon Ball facts with us in the comments that the staff and readers may or may not know.

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Justin

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Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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