Dragon Ball canon

From Academic Kids

Dragon Ball canon is a term used to describe the various levels of "truth" in the fictional Dragon Ball universe of Akira Toriyama. These levels of canon are closely stacked: there are almost no instances of events in the manga NOT appearing in the anime, for example. This article presents, in descending order of "truth", the various sources of information about the Dragon Ball universe.


The Manga

In the universe of Dragon Ball, the highest level of canon is the manga Dragon Ball. Published in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan, the comic was both written and drawn by Akira Toriyama. As such, it represents the ultimate and correct vision of his world as it was presented to his readers. Fortunately, the manga itself is relatively free from direct contradictions, though there are certainly some topics open for debate.

Although Viz Communications is thought to do a good job translating the manga into English by fans, the final and authoritative source is the original Japanese comic.

Dr. Slump

Prior to his writing Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama wrote a separate weekly humor manga for Shonen Jump called Dr. Slump. It featured the adventures of an inept inventor and his android daughter Arale in Penguin Village. During the Red Ribbon Army Saga, Son Goku and General Blue wind up in Penguin Village and are assisted by characters from the previous series.

Although there are some logical inconsistencies and the characters never show up again, many fans believe that the two series take place in the same fictional universe.

Neko Majin Z

Long after finishing up with Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama has written a short series of one-shot comics that parody Dragon Ball. Called Neko Majin Z (because it stars a cat-warrior named "Z"), it features several characters from or inspired by Dragon Ball. (For example: the Saiyan Onio and his wife, Freeza's son Kuriza, and even an appearance by Vegeta himself.)

Because the manga is intended as a parody of Dragon Ball, most fans do not consider it a sequel and do not consider the events canonical. That has not prevented Kuriza from showing up in some Dragon Ball Z video games and being included in character lists by some fans.

2004 Rerelease

In the 2004 rerelease of the Dragon Ball manga (in 34 volumes instead of 42), Akira Toriyama rewrote the final four pages of the series. However, these changes themselves have no impact on the story. (The only change is that Son Goku gives Kintoun to Uubu at the conclusion of the series.)

The Anime

The second highest level of canon in Dragon Ball is the two anime series based on the comic: Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. This anime series significantly "fill out" the plot of the Dragon Ball comic with many extended sequences. (This is due largely to the comic and the anime being produced in parallel; it was often necessary for the anime to add filler material to keep from getting ahead of the manga.) These extended sequences often fill out the backstory, but frequently are contradicted by events later in the manga.

Most fans consider that the events in the anime "happened", unless they are directly contradicted by events later in the series.

Garlic Jr. Saga

The Garlic Junior Saga is an interesting exception to the filler used in the anime and its level of canon is disputed. Like much of the other filler, it does not include situations described in the original manga. However, it is a direct sequel to events from the movie "Deadzone" and features a second attempt by Garlic Junior to take over the world. The saga also features other elements which are more difficult to rationalize in the anime such as the appearance of Son Gohan's pet dragon from Movie #3, Hiya Dragon.

Because it does not have the level of contradictions found in other movies, many fans consider both the Garlic Jr. Saga and the first movie to have "happened" within the anime canon.

"Deadzone" is considered to take place shortly before the start of Dragon Ball Z, but a problem arises when fitting it into the flow of the series: the Dragon Balls are used in "Deadzone," and thus it must happen at least a full year before DBZ, but Son Gohan is known to the DBZ characters in "Deadzone," whereas he was "new" by DBZ.

Dragon Ball GT

Dragon Ball GT was a sequel series to Dragon Ball Z, but one that was not based at all on a work by Akira Toriyama. In effect, Dragon Ball GT is an entire series of filler. In reality, many fans did not take well to the series and it suffered from changes of tone (sometimes called jumping the shark) and ended very quickly relative to the other series. In the US, the first 15 episodes were even stripped out of the series by FUNimation for broadcast because they were thought to turn off viewers who might otherwise watch the better latter episodes.

Most fans of the series grudgingly admit that Dragon Ball GT is an established part of the anime canon, but there are many plot holes and inconsistent characterizations which make thoughtful analysis of the series difficult.

The Daizenshuu

The final component which most fans consider to be canonical information is the several daizenshuu which were released only in Japan. These "Perfect File" books are reference guides to the series and often contain character and attack names and other clarifiations which are not present in the manga or anime themselves. There are no current plans to release these books in the US and they are out of print even in Japan.

The Movies

Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z each had a number of movies made-- generally one per year. With the possible exception of DBZ Movie #1, the movies generally expressed more of a "What If?" scenario than something that could happen in the series. With some few exceptions, it is generally impossible to relate events in the movies into the timeline of the series without serious problems.

TV Specials

The one exception to this rule is that there are two Dragon Ball Z and one Dragon Ball GT "television specials" (in Japan) which were marketed in the US as individual movies. These specials are entirely in the same universe and canon as the anime series.

The "OVA"

Commonly believed to be an OVA, "Plot To Destroy the Saiya-jin!" is actually the strung together cutscenes of a Playdia game released as a movie. As such, it is even less canonical than the normal Dragon Ball movies. (See "Games", below.)

The Games

At the very bottom rung of canon is the world of video games and collectible card games. These games usually are designed and built by people with little affiliation with the series itself and may contain inaccuracies. In general, characters and events in the myriad of games don't even warrant a mention.

Notes on Translations

There are a large number of inconsistencies between the various English translation of the series with respect to character names and translations. Many fans do not agree which of the translations have the "correct" spelling and Romanization of names. Other solutions, such as using a standard Hepburn romanization, tend to make name puns and some of the fun of the series more obscure. As long as there are Dragon Ball fans, there will be arguments over the correct English names.

Although not universally agreed upon, the Viz Communications translations of the manga are a generally accepted source of "correct" names. Their translation is more direct than the anime translation and they have the advantage of working directly in a textual medium so that spelling is never in question. Of course, even that translation is imperfect and cannot be accepted as completely authoritative ("Mr. Satan," for example, is the original name of a character that was changed to "Hercule" by Viz).


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