Japanese animated tv series (1989-1996). Based on the Manga by Akira Toriyama. Toei Animation. Directed by Daisuke Nishio and Shigeyasu Yamauchi. Written by Takao Koyama. Voice cast includes Shigeru Chiba, Ryo Horikawa, Masako Nozawa, Mayumi Sho, Hiromi Tsuru and Naoko Watanabe. 291 23-minute episodes, plus nine TV specials and OVAs. Colour.
This sequel to Dragon Ball (1986-1989), adapting the final 325 chapters of Akira Toriyama's manga (though with much additional material), begins five peaceful years after the ending of its predecessor, with Goku (Nozawa) married to Chi-Chi (Sho/Watanabe) and now a father. Their son is named Gohan (Nozawa), in honour of the man who raised Goku after finding him as a child.
Then the Alien Raditz (Chiba) arrives, seeking his younger brother "Kakarot", who – as an infant – was sent by his people, the Saiyans, to wipe out all life on Earth (see Invasion). When conquering a planet the fighting quality of the inhabitants determines the age of the Saiyan invader dispatched, so Earth has cause to be a little embarrassed. Needless to say, Kakarot was Goku, who had received a head injury shortly after his arrival, causing Amnesia. In the ensuing fight both Raditz and Goku die. However, after a year in the afterlife (see Eschatology), Goku's friends use the wish-granting Dragon Balls to resurrect him: whereupon he defeats two other Saiyans, though one, Vegeta (Horikawa), escapes and promises revenge. Many of Goku's allies die in the fighting, but as the Dragon Balls were also destroyed, they cannot be revived. However it is revealed a set of Dragon Balls can be found on the planet Namek, so Gohan and friends seek them out: their quest leads to an alliance with Vegeta and the planet exploding. Later adventures involve aliens, Monsters, alternate earths (see Alternate Worlds), high-Gravity planets, Time Travel, freezing time (see Time Distortion), time dilation, wizards, Supernatural Creatures and Identity Exchange. Goku also dies again and, before being revived, spends several years in training, increasing his powers to become a Super Saiyan. Near the end of the series the Earth and its inhabitants are destroyed: fortunately the Namek Dragon Balls mean this is only a temporary setback.
This show has less humour than its predecessor, being more violent and bombastic. It continues the trope of enemies often becoming friends, going so far as to have Vegeta marry Goku's oldest ally, Bulma (Tsuru). The plot's constant drive to surpass what has gone before means the protagonists and antagonists are regularly required to boost their Superpowers, to a (deliberately) absurd degree. There is also an increased focus on other characters, particularly Gohan. It was an enormously popular and influential show, both in Japan and elsewhere: shaping the shonen genre of Anime and helping break anime to young western audiences. The ability of some characters to fuse, so creating a stronger individual, was an inspiration for the fusions in Steven Universe (2013-current).
Dragon Ball Z Kai (2009-2011), also known as Dragon Ball Kai, was an abridged, remastered version of the series, running for a mere 97 episodes (98 on Blu-Ray/DVD). Its success meant that 61 further episodes using storylines omitted in the first version of Kai were similarly refurbished and broadcast in Japan in 2014-2015; the international version had 68 episodes.
There have also been fifteen Dragon Ball Z films: Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone (1989), Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest (1990), Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might (1990), Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug (1991), Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge (1991), Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler (1992), Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13! (1992), Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (1993), Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound (1993) Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming (1994), Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly (1994), Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn (1995), Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon (1995), Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013) and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection "F" (2015).
The television franchise continued with Dragon Ball GT (64 episodes and one television special, 1996-1997), but this is not considered canon by some, as it is not based on works by Toriyama. The tv series Dragon Ball Super (131 episodes, 2015-2018) was Toriyama-based and incorporated the last two Dragon Ball Z movies (see above) and subsequently had its own film Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2018), which as of 2019 is the eleventh highest-grossing anime film of all time; the twenty Dragon Ball films as a whole are fourth in the list of all-time highest-grossing anime film franchise/series.
A US live-action film, Dragon Ball Evolution (2009) was not well received. [SP]