The first three volumes of the original comic that started it all, now in omnibus form
Story: Akira Toriyama
Art: Akira Toriyama
Translation: Mari Morimoto
Adaptation: Gerard Jones
What They Say
Legend has it that if all seven of the precious orbs called “Dragon Balls” are gathered together, an incredibly powerful dragon god will appear to grant one wish. Unfortunately, the orbs are scattered across the world, making them extremely difficult to collect.
Enter 16-year-old Bulma, a scientific genius who has constructed a radar to detect the exact locations of the Dragon Balls. She’s on a mission to find all seven orbs, but first she must convince young Son Goku to join her on her quest. With a monkey tail, superhuman strength, and a magic staff for a weapon, Son Goku is ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
To get this out of the way at the outset: I have never been a particular fan of the Dragon Ball franchise. In actuality, I really don’t have much use for Shonen fighters at all, but Dragon Ball has always represented the pinnacle of my dislike for them since it is basically considered to be the pinnacle of the genre. To be fair, my only exposure has been through the Dragon Ball Z anime, of which I have seen most of the TV series and quite a few of the feature films. I have never ventured out of the DBZ franchise, but then, I’ve never had a reason to either. So when this volume landed in my mailbox to be reviewed, let’s just say that I was less than impressed.
Now that I have read it, I am amazed to announce that I actually really enjoyed it. This omnibus contains the first three graphic novels of the original Dragon Ball series, and for the most part, it is really fun. It opens with the child, Son Goku, taking care of himself after the death of this grandfather, Son Gohan. Outside of his grandfather, Goku has had no experience with outsiders, so when a 16-year-old girl named Bulma shows up demanding to see his Dragon Ball, he does not really understand how to react to her.
When he realizes what it is she is after, he refuses to give it to her because it was the final gift given to him by his grandfather, and he wants to keep it. After witnessing his freakish strength, Bulma convinces Goku to help her find the rest of the Dragon Balls, telling him of the legend behind them: gathering all seven together will enable the summoning of a great dragon, who will grant any wish the summoner desires. Having nothing better to do, Goku agrees to help her, as well as lend her his Dragon Ball when they have the rest.
This kickstarts an adventure that sees them begin to meet and gather more allies that ultimately become long-term, franchise characters such as Master Roshi, Yamcha, Oolong, and Krillin (or Kuririn in this translation). Their adventures are amusing, as the naïve Goku tends to dive right into situations without really understanding what he is doing, while the ambitious and manipulative Bulma tries to straddle the fine line between controlling Goku’s impulses and using him to further her goals.
In all, it is really funny, and I love some of its self-referential humor, such as Goku getting ready for a fight claiming that he hates all the talking parts or the manga openly admitting at the end of the 23rd chapter that “We’re gonna keep going—and going—and going!!” playing off the genre’s tendency to draw things out and never end. There’s also plenty of perverted humor in this that had the 12-year-old in me chuckling.
All good things must come to an end, or at least a pause, however, as by the end of this omnibus, Goku and Krillin are in the thick of the first tournament of the series, the Tenkaichi Budokai. I was really enjoying the quest to find the Dragon Balls, but then it comes to an end and Goku returns to Master Roshi’s island—where he meets Krillin—to start his training properly, and the Tenkaichi Budokai is his goal for the training. While the tournament isn’t as drawn out (so far) as they often can be, the manga grinded to a halt for me once we got into it. Knowing that Dragon Ball Z ultimately turns into one endless fight after another, I am not expecting much going forward, but here’s hoping the tournament won’t last too long and we can get back to the fun of questing for the Dragon Balls again soon.
I enjoyed this first omnibus of Dragon Ball far more than I thought I would considering my general dislike of its successor, Dragon Ball Z. It’s amusing, moves along at a good clip, and I have enjoyed seeing the origins of some of the characters I remember liking from DBZ. I don’t know that I could have enjoyed it more through the first two graphic novels. The setup and progression of the Tenkaichi Budokai in the third graphic novel really did nothing for me, but for the first two-thirds or so of this omnibus, I had a lot of fun with it. Recommended.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: T
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 4, 2013