With Dragon Ball Super coming to a close this month, there’s no better time to take a look back at the franchise as a whole and mine it for buried treasure. Problematic, chaotic, and downright strange from start to finish, Super’s production will forever go down as one of the craziest period in Dragon Ball history. Just about everything that could have gone wrong went wrong while also paving the way to jaw droppingly outstanding episodes that feel like they should be in another anime altogether. Of every Dragon Ball anime made, Super is the one with possibly the most secrets to uncover.
At the same time, though, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT all have their fair share of secrets that have gone unnoticed for far too long. In just about every corner of the franchise, you’ll find baffling decisions that define Dragon Ball for far too many people. With so many different creators working on the franchise, sometimes almost against each other in tone and production, it’s not hard to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. You just have to know where to look.
25 The DVD Releases For Dragon Ball Z Are Downright Awful
If you own any home release of Dragon Ball Z from Funimation that isn’t the ludicrously expensive Dragon Box set or the short lived Levels set, I’ve got some bad news for you: you do not own a good release of Dragon Ball Z. Cropped, zoomed, and crushed to death, Funimation’s DVD and Blu-Ray releases are just barely watchable. The only way you’d be able to enjoy their releases is if you have absolutely no familiarity with the anime, or you just don’t care that you’re getting a blatantly inferior product.
It’s frustrating enough that these releases exist at all, but they’re made all the worse by Funimation’s insistence that the DVDs and Blu-Rays are the definitive method of watching the series and the way Dragon Ball Z was “meant” to be watched. It’s disingenuous marketing that completely disrespects the source material. Funimation’s dub has done a fair amount of damage to the series’ image in the West, but their releases have shown thousands of fans a totally butchered version of an anime that deserves a proper release.
24 Toriyama Has Criticized Dragon Ball Super
It makes sense for fans to criticize Dragon Ball Super, but the father of all Dragon Ball speaking out against it? Now that’s a bad sign. Back in the early days of Super, where the animation was poor and the production schedule was poorer, complaints were rampant and common. Simply put, Dragon Ball Super was not living up to the original series’ legacy. Dragon Ball and DBZ both suffered from ugly looking episodes, but Super had made ugly consistent.
It got to a point where Toriyama publicly stated his disappointment towards the anime, an unprecedented move that honestly didn’t get much traction in hindsight.
Toei improved the quality of the animation gradually with every arc, but it’s weird to look back and see that almost nothing came out of Toriyama’s comment. With Super coming to an end, and a new anime likely on the horizon, hopefully Toriyama won’t have much more to complain about.
23 Goku And Vegeta Were Going To Fuse Into Gogeta To Fight Buu
Vegetto is one of the most popular characters in the series, but he’s actually a character created out of necessity. I don’t mean story necessity, either. Originally, Toriyama was going to have Goku and Vegeta use the fusion dance to become Gogeta. Unfortunately for him, Toei was producing Fusion Reborn at the time, a film that featured Gogeta prominently, and the movie premiered before Toriyama could introduce Gogeta into the manga.
Not wanting to take cues from the movie and come off derivative, Toriyama instead developed a new method of fusion: potara. By using the Kaioshin accessory he had been drawing for over half the arc, Toriyama reworked it to be a fusing device. Goku and Vegeta would use the earrings and fuse into a being significantly stronger than any fusion dance counterpart. This also serves to explain why Goku and Vegeta split inside Buu despite potara being permanent: they were originally meant to.
22 Kale Exists Solely To Lure In Broly Fans
If you’ve ever wondered why Kale is basically just a female version of Broly, that’s because that’s exactly what she is. Designed by a Shueisha initiative, “Dragon Ball Room,” Kale was specifically developed to be a character who would appeal to Broly fans.
She is fan service in its purest form.
From her base design to her Berserker Super Saiyan state, there’s very little actually original about Kale. While female Saiyans are always a plus, and Shueisha should be commended for introducing a female Super Saiyan, it is disappointing they chose to do so as a reference to one of the franchise’s most infamous characters. Still, maybe we should be thankful we ever got a female Super Saiyan considering how few women fighters there are in the franchise.
21 Caulifla Was Created In Response To Kale
That said, without Kale there’d be no Caulifla. Upon seeing and approving the design for Kale, Toriyama decided to design a female Super Saiyan of his own. Seeing how well the two characters looked together, Toei decided they should be paired and that’s where the Caulifla/Kale relationship came from. Considering how much of Kale’s personality revolves around Caulifla simply existing, one has to wonder what Toei would have done with the character had Toriyama never created Caulifla.
In a way, Caulifla inception led to Kale having a personality.
Toei definitely got lucky with Toriyama’s involvement here, because the alternative likely would have been a Kale who was just a gender flipped Broly. Thanks Caulifla! You saved thousands of fans from having to suffer under Broly’s wrath yet again.
20 Goku Loses More Than He Wins
While Goku is an incredibly talented martial artist, one who gets the recognition he deserves over the course of the series, his win rate is shockingly low given how powerful he is. Just looking at his track record against the arc villains, Goku loses more than he wins. He lost to Jackie Chun in the 21st Budokai, to Tien in the 22nd, couldn’t defeat Vegeta alone in the Saiyan saga, forfeited his match against Cell during the Cell Games, lost to Beerus, needed Whis’ help to defeat Golden Freeza, rung himself out against Hit, and couldn’t defeat Merged Zamasu even by fusing with Vegeta. Should Goku lose to Jiren in the Tournament of Power, he’ll have lost against every antagonist in Dragon Ball Super. Talk about a disappointing track record.
19 Super Wasn’t The First Official Sequel
Before Dragon Ball Super, there was another sequel that carried on where DBZ left off: Dragon Ball Online. This was one of the first instances in the series where Toriyama provided a considerable amount of new story. Not only that, Online could be presumed as a canon continuation of the manga. It didn’t refer to anime only events...
It kept the scale similar to where DBZ left off, and it felt tonally in-line with Toriyama’s vision of the franchise.
Super has since superseded it, of course, but it’s still an interesting part of Dragon Ball history worthy of your attention. It's another nod to the value of the series and the number of times people have tried to do something with it.
18 Toriyama’s Editor Hated The Anime
Behind every great author is a great editor. Kazuhiko Torishima for Akira Toriyama’s editor throughout the entirely of Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball up until the end of the 23rd Budokai. Before handing the reins over to Toriyama’s second editor, Yu Kondo, though, Torishima decided to solidify his legacy within the series by pioneering the anime’s shift from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. While it makes sense to split the series between the 23rd Budokai and the Saiyan saga, the reason for the split is far more nefarious.
Torishima hated the Dragon Ball anime with a passion.
Believing it to strongly misinterpret the tone of the series, Torishima worked his magic to get Toei to create a sequel for Dragon Ball. That way, the staff could shift around and the direction could take on a more serious tone. Torishima’s influence isn’t just for DBZ, however. The anime’s version of the 23rd Budokai was the first arc to adopt Torishima’s changes, it just wasn’t until the title change that it became overt.
17 Where Are The Dragon Boxes?
So you’ve seen the light and want to get rid of your Dragon Ball Z Orange Bricks in favor of the Dragon Box. What’s your next step? Honestly, eBay’s all you got. Even though it’s the definitive way of viewing the series and Funimation can easily rerelease them, the Dragon Boxes have remained a limited edition set that only increases in price with the passage of time. If you want to watch the series the way it was actually meant to be seen, get ready to spend upwards of $1000.
The Dragon Boxes have remained a limited edition set that only increases in price with the passage of time.
Funimation’s handling of the Dragon Box set is especially frustrating because they only ever released DBZ. Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball GT, and the films were all ignored. Those are three sets that could very easily come out on DVD and replace their inferior, Funimation counterparts. It’s a saddening situation that really shows how little Funimation cares about the original release. They’re not pushing Dragon Ball, they’re pushing their interpretation of it.
16 Dragon Ball Online Lore Keeps Getting Repurposed
An MMORPG that took place centuries into the future, Dragon Ball Online was an ambitious project that was unfortunately cut short. With so much lore written for the game by Toriyana, it would be a waste to simply let those ideas die with Online. Thankfully, Online’s concepts still exist in the form of Xenoverse and Heroes. Both feature Time Patrol Trunks heavily, take advantage of Online’s two villains, and even reference locations from the MMO. Were the current Dragon Ball revival ever to be cut short, you can likely look forward to its ideas being implemented into XV and Heroes. It's a brilliant way for fans to enjoy Toriyama's original concepts. We're lucky to see it.
15 Toriyama Didn’t Come Up With Fusion On His Own
Fusion may have defined the Buu saga’s second half, but it wasn’t an idea Toriyama came up with entirely on his own. In an interview featured in Daizenshuu 6, Toriyama stated: “If I remember correctly, I was talking about how, as a concept, ‘there’s nothing stronger than a Super Saiyan’, and Katsura-kun(Masakazu Katsura-sensei), who I usually just joke around and say idiotic things with, said, ‘There’s no choice but for them to fuse, then.’ So I said, ‘Whoa, sometimes even you say something good. It’s the first time you’ve ever made yourself useful.’ (laughs) That’s how that plot point was born.”
Without Katsura’s input, it’s likely the Buu saga would have gone down an entirely different path. No Gotenks and no Vegetto would have meant Toriyama wouldn’t have been able to make Buu as overwhelmingly powerful as he ended up being. We also would have been robbed of the endless possibilities of fusion. Even masters need help sometimes.
The full interview can be read here: http://www.kanzenshuu.com/translations/daizenshuu-6-akira-toriyama-super-interview/
14 Overediting: How The Cell Saga Came To Be
What do you get when you micromanage Akira Toriyama to the point of exhaustion? The Cell saga! There does not exist a single arc in Dragon Ball with as much editor interference as the Cell saga. Toriyama was met with pushback on just about every single major plot point. Dr. Gero and Android 19 were going to be the main villains until one of his editors criticized him for using a “geezer” and a “fatso;” 17 and 18 were then introduced, but were also met with editor negativity due to their young appearances; Toriyama then introduced Cell and was goaded into making him transform twice in rapid succession due to his editor disliking Cell’s second form. It’s an arc that’s fondly remembered, but it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like if Toriyama actually got to write what he wanted.
13 Toriyama Hated Drawing Chichi
Chichi is one of the more polarizing characters in the series. So polarizing, in fact, even Toriyama didn’t like her. Considering he treats her quite well in the manga proper for a character he openly dislikes, it comes as a surprise that he doesn’t like her at all. Goku never speaks ill of her, Gohan and Goten both love her, and she’s depicted as a capable wife, mother, and martial artist.
The entire reason Goku married Chichi was because Toriyama knew it would force him to draw her.
All evidence points to him at the very least liking her enough, but that isn’t the case. It’s quite funny actually; the entire reason Goku married Chichi was because Toriyama knew it would force him to draw her. It’s certainly an eclectic approach to storytelling, but it does show that Toriyama put a fair amount of stock into what would make the manga a better read.
12 The Dragon Ball Evolution Staff Rejected Toriyama’s Help
Dragon Ball Evolution is arguably the single worst product to bear the Dragon Ball moniker, but it very easily could have been better than it actually was. In an interview, Toriyama revealed that he actually tried to help the scripting process of the film during production. (Although fans know he probably never got much input). Presumably, he gave them information on how characters should act, what the themes of the series are, and moments that would be suitable for adaptation. Unfortunately, the staff completely rejected and ignored Toriyama's input. It’s a sign of massive disrespect that shows why Evolution was failed from the start. That said, there is one silver lining…
11 Evolution Inevitably Lead To The Creation Of Battle Of Gods
From the ashes, Goku rises. After watching the monstrosity known only as Dragon Ball Evolution, Toriyama felt that he couldn’t let the series leave his hands so fully ever again. Along with being nudged by one of his former editors to take a more involved approach with the franchise, Toriyama read Toei’s script for what we now know as Battle of Gods and began editing it into the juggernaut that would bring on the second coming of Dragon Ball.
It's all thanks to Dragon Ball Evolution that the series is as strong and alive as it is today.
As strange as it is to say, it’s all thanks to Dragon Ball Evolution that the series is as strong and alive as it is today. Without it, Toriyama would have remained content with the series’ production staying in the hands of others. Battle of Gods would have been an incredibly different, and likely worse, film and we never would have gotten Super, at least how we currently know it. Thank you, Dragon Ball Evolution, for being terrible enough to bring a finished series back to life.
10 Toriyama’s Super Outline May Not Be As In-Depth As Advertised
Toriyama’s outline is the backbone behind the entirety of Dragon Ball Super. Without it, we’d have no plot, no arcs, and no new characters. Well, we might, but they wouldn’t have Toriyama’s input which is what Super is going for. You don’t want another GT, do you? As meaningful as the outline seemingly is, though, it might not actually be as in-depth as was once indicated. In a recent interview, snippets from Toriyama’s outline for the Tournament of Power were revealed and they leave quite a few details blank.
Toriyama isn’t as hands-on with the minutia of DBS as he could be.
Ultra Instinct, the universe elimination order, U7’s elimination order, and Jiren’s personality are all explicitly revealed in the outline, but everything else in the arc was left unaccounted for. This allows for experimentation from Toei and Toyotaro, but it does mean Toriyama isn’t as hands-on with the minutia of DBS as he could be. It’s certainly going to be a disappointing reveal for some, but it’s still a step up from GT.
9 Beer Or Virus?
Although it’s pretty obvious nowadays that Beerus’ name is a pun on “beer,” it wasn’t always the case. In fact, initially, Beerus wasn’t a play on words for “beer” at all. Before Toriyama stepped in to rewrite Battle of Gods to his liking, Beerus was a play on words for “virus.” In the film, it would be revealed that Beerus was responsible for Planet Vegeta’s destruction and over acts of general malice in the universe. In this sense, he would be like a virus that spread and toxified the Dragon World. Upon reading the script, however, Toriyama misunderstood the name pun and assumed it was a stand-in for “beer.” From there, the Gods of Destruction got their iconic naming convention and the rest is history.
8 Goku And Vegeta Were Supposed To Fight Zamasu Without Fusing
Ever wonder why Vegetto came back to do effectively nothing? In Toriyama’s original draft of the Goku Black arc, Goku and Vegeta were to take on Merged Zamasu without fusion. This would have been enough to subdue him to an extent, but not fully defeat him. Goku would then call Zeno and the ending would proceed as planned. Toyotaro, seeing this as an opportunity to promote some fan service, read the outline and suggested that they have Goku and Vegeta fuse into Vegetto for a bit.
Toriyama’s original outline makes more sense and fits better with where the characters left off at the end of the Buu saga.
In all honesty, while it’s cool that Vegetto comes back, Toriyama’s original outline makes more sense and fits better with where the characters left off at the end of the Buu saga. Goku and Vegeta swore to never fuse again, choosing instead to hone their individual strengths. When you take into consideration that a retcon had to be invented to make Vegetto work, you can’t help but feel like it wasn’t worth the effort. Cool, yes, but a waste of DBZ’s strongest fighter.
7 Bringing Back Future Trunks Wasn’t Toriyama’s Idea
For having an arc named after him, it’s hard to believe Future Trunks wasn’t included in Dragon Ball Super’s original outline. Indeed, the return of everyone’s favorite time traveler wasn’t set in stone until Toei suggested he return. Toriyama, figuring this was a good idea and likely grateful someone else came up with it for him, ran with the suggestion and implemented Trunks back into the narrative. It’s hard to imagine the arc without him, but it does actually shine light on a few details.
For starters, it immediately explains why Trunks’ role in the arc feels so supportive. In both the anime and manga, he relinquishes what should be his story to Goku and Vegeta. With context, it makes sense considering he wasn’t even a part of the original story. It also better explains why Goku Black terrorizes Trunks in the first place. The two characters aren’t naturally connected so Toriyama weaved them together with a time travel plot. On top of that, it explains why Trunks got so many filler-esque episodes in the anime: it was Toei’s idea.
6 Toei Played Up Gohan’s Importance More Than You Know
“Goku is the main character of Dragon Ball, Gohan is the main character of Dragon Ball Z.” It’s something that gets thrown around a lot by fans, but it’s never actually correct. Dragon Ball, both the original and Z-era, has one overarching main character: Son Goku. Gohan is only the protagonist for the first half of the Buu arc before Goku takes over. While the manga makes it very clear who the lead is, the anime is a different story.
Dragon Ball, both the original and Z-era, has one overarching main character: Son Goku.
From the first episode of DBZ, Toei already played up Gohan’s importance. He’s certainly an important character, but the manga makes it very clear he’s not the lead. The anime, on the other hand, blurs the line. Gohan gets several filler episodes in the Saiyan and Namek sagas that make him feel more like the true lead, turning the passing of the torch moment in the Cell arc from a twist into an “obvious” moment. Gohan’s important, but this was never his story.
5 Underediting: How The Buu Saga Came To Be
What do you get when you let a tired Akira Toriyama do whatever he wants? The Majin Buu saga! Easily the most chaotic of the original ten story arcs, the Buu saga is the big finish to a decade of manga storytelling. Unable to settle on one plot, constantly switching its main character, and funnier than every arc between King Piccolo and Cell, the Buu saga is a frantic race back to the series’ roots. It may not be the most popular arc, but it’s a refreshing end to the franchise that’s actually quite subversive.
When you let Toriyama write with minimal editing interference, his writing ends up incredibly self-aware.
It turns out, when you let Toriyama write with minimal editing interference, his writing ends up incredibly self-aware. Not only does he poke fun at his panel reuse and concepts that have been in the series for years, he utilizes understated literary techniques to bait and switch readers with the story’s progression. In many ways, Toriyama uses the Buu saga to comment on Dragon Ball as a manga. Keep that in mind the next time you go through the arc.
4 Resurrection F Did Not Come From A Place Of Passion
Where Battle of Gods as we know it was born from Toriyama’s desire to maintain the franchise’s legacy, Resurrection F was a studio-mandated sequel meant to keep Dragon Ball’s revival going. Considering the dip in quality between the two films, Resurrection F’s seeming lack of passion makes an incredible amount of sense. It very much feels like another step in something grander unlike BoG’s sentimental, stand-alone narrative. That said, Toriyama did come up with the plot himself and even used the Maximum the Hormone song F as inspiration. It may not be a passion project, but it has an interesting influence.
3 Toriyama Was Going To End The Series If Goku Didn’t Grow Up
Ending debates are a core part of any Dragon Ball discussion. Did Toriyama plan to end the series with Freeza? What about Cell? Clearly he meant to end the series with the original Dragon Ball, right? Most of the time, the answer is a resounding, definitive “no.” That said, there are two instanced where Toriyama did actually intend to end the series: at the end of the very first arc, and at the end of the Demon King Piccolo arc.
Either Goku gets to grow up or the series comes to an end.
Tired of drawing fights with Goku’s short, childish body, Toriyama gave his editor an ultimatum: either Goku gets to grow up or the series comes to an end. Naturally, Toriyama got a lot of pushback. Why redesign the main character at the height of the manga’s popularity? Completely ignoring any complaints, however, Toriyama redesigned Goku without any editor interference and the series continued stronger than ever. While it would have been a fine enough point to end the story, it’s for the best that Toriyama disregarded his editors as often as he did.
2 Viz’s Manga Translation Is Ridiculously Censored
Funimation’s release of Dragon Ball Z in the West may be bad, but you can at least get a good translation out of it thanks to Steve Simmons’ subtitles. Viz’s release of the manga, while seemingly mostly accurate, is censored in both image and text. It’s actually possible to find some original prints of the first eight arcs, the start of Dragon Ball to the end of Freeza, in an uncensored format, but the Android and Boo arcs are unsalvageable.
“Mr. Satan” becomes “Hercule,” curse words get swapped out for the awkward “blast” and “blasted,” and the general flow of the script takes a nosedive from the first eight arcs. Rereleases of the earlier arcs carry over these changes along with new visual censors. Say goodbye to Bulma’s chest because you’re never seeing them in an update English release ever again. Between Funimation and Viz, you’re hard-pressed to find an accurate version of the series in English.
1 The Curious Case Of Canon
When people refer to “canon” in Dragon Ball, they’re usually talking about events that occur in both the manga and the anime. Any differences between the two are typically considered to be “non-canon,” and any material Toriyama personally worked on after the end of the manga, the Jaco manga, and Dragon Ball Super are all canon, for example. It’s easy enough to follow and falls in line with how canon works for pretty much every other series. That said, Toriyama and Toei have never explicitly stated what the series’ canon actually is. Any fan discussion of canon is just that: a fan discussion.
Toriyama and Toei have never explicitly stated what the series’ canon actually is.
It might seem a bit strange to read that Dragon Ball has no official canon, but it does make quite a bit of sense. Fans naturally undervalue anything “non-canon.” If Toei were to come out and explicitly say “Dragon Ball GT” is non-canon, public opinion on it would likely drop even more. Anyone familiar with the series knows it can’t possibly be canon, but to officially deem it as such would be to undervalue the property. In keeping canon loose, the original manga, the anime adaptation, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Heroes, Xenoverse, and both versions of Super all hold the same amount of weight.