In this world there are seven Dragon Balls which, when all brought together, summon the legendary dragon Shen Long. He grants the one who gathered the balls together one wish and then disappears for a year, scattering the Dragon Balls across the world with him.
A young teenage girl named Bulma hopes to use these Dragon Balls to wish herself a boyfriend, and finds one of the balls in the hands of a mysterious boy with a monkey tail known as Son Goku, twelve years old and living out on his own. But Goku does not want to part with his ball as it is the only remaining memory of his dead grandfather, so Bulma recruits him to find the rest of them with her. Together they'll bump into many strange friends and enemies, on their quest to find all seven Dragon Balls.
And that's just the first tenth of the series. Later parts of the series involve Goku fighting off enemies who want to use the Dragon Balls for evil purposes, who stops these people with the help of his friends.
Not to be confused with the other two series that followed it, the original Dragon Ball series is often overlooked, as most people call it "kiddy", "light on fighting", and "nothing but fan service".
Oddly enough, although not as big on the fighting aspect as its sequel series is, Dragon Ball does more in nearly half the length of its sequel series, both in terms of fights and with its characters.
Unlike in Dragon Ball Z, for example, Goku isn't the number one powerhouse, nor does he randomly disappear for long stretches of time between sagas. The show IS about him, and he fights many people just as strong as him, as well as stronger, over the course of the series. His never-give-up attitude and endless optimism makes him a likable, albeit strange, character, and watching him progress from a moderately strong fighter to one of the strongest on Earth is definitely worthwhile watching.
Also, unlike in Z, battles don't stretch out forever: the longest fights on these shows are during the tournaments and Piccolo saga, and even then, there's enough variety in the people/creatures Goku faces to keep it from getting boring or repetitive. And rarely are there filler fights just added in for the sake of making the show longer: most every fight counts. And while you don't have to watch all of them to understand what's going on in, missing quite a few may confuse you after a while. Fortunately, Dragon Ball is not heavy on plot, so even then it's not a big deal.
What it is heavy on, though, is development, and the characters that do so. If you've only watched Dragon Ball Z, you'll be in for a shock to know that Krillin and Goku weren't always friends, or that Yamcha was a desert bandit, or that Master Roshi could be that perverted, or that Bulma, or even that Piccolo once looked entirely different! Watching how all these characters change over the course of the series to more mature, likable characters is entertaining (especially seeing those who hated Goku the most end up being his closest friends. Aw.).
Speaking of things that are "developed", there's certainly a lot more fan service here than in Z and GT. You'll see lots of female flesh in these series, whether from Bulma herself, or from Oolong's transformation, or from Roshi's perverted thoughts/magazines. (Although I watched the edited version of this anime, I have seen the manga, and I know what they cut out.) It's not very extremely offensive (Oolong and Roshi quite often are punished for their perverseness), but this may still turn away female fans, reinforcing the stereotype of how guys in the Dragon Ball series are a bunch of perverts, and that all the girls are whiny brats who complain about how the guys are a bunch of perverts. It's a very wrong message, but one that is often received to those who look at this series with a closed mind. Dragon Ball isn't just about fights and fan service, and it's too bad others think this way.
Fortunately, the animation and music is nothing to be shameful of, featuring an art style that literally mirrors the manga (but in color), with some surprisingly good music and songs here and there. It holds up quite well for a series from the mid-1980's. As for the dub...well, it's not terrible or anything, but FUNimation's trademark writing and voice acting will either grow on you, or turn you away from the dub completely. At least this time they kept in the Japanese music.
To sum up my review in five words: watch it at least once. Even if you hated Dragon Ball Z and/or GT, you still might like the goofy nature of these series as supposed to the more dramatic, played-out sequel series it has.
One of the forerunners of today's fighting anime, and still one of the best. Those less sympathetic towards fighting anime might want to take off two or three stars. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: There's the occasional blood, but what you should be really be careful for is the fan service. It's in the first quarter of the series quite a bit, to the point of nudity at times.
Version(s) Viewed: Broadcast airing, English dub
Review Status: Partial (70/153)
Dragon Ball © 1986 Bird Studio / Shueisha / Toei Animation
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