Thursday, May 11, 2023

Does the Original Dragon Ball Manga Hold Up?

Like many anime fans I remember watching Dragon Ball on Toonami in the early 2000s. But it wasn't until recently that I sat down and read the entire original manga from beginning to end. I loved the Dragon Ball anime when I was a kid, but never read more than the first chapter of the original manga. So I had to ask myself: Does the Dragon Ball manga still hold up?

I’ve always said I like Dragon Ball before it adds the Z. I liked DBZ growing up but looking back I find the mindlessly long battles boring compared to the original wacky adventures and treasure hunting plots.

After reading the manga: that’s all still true. I had a lot of fun with the first arcs of Dragon Ball and toward the end I wasn’t given much to “read” during Goku’s ten-chapter battle with Piccolo.

So yeah, I think Dragon Ball is better than Dragon Ball Z. But now I think I have a new hot take: the Dragon Ball anime is better than the Dragon Ball manga.

Everyone talks about filler as if it just refers to drawing out battles or sticking original 20+ episode stories between manga arcs. The Dragon Ball anime had plenty of filler episodes and arcs, especially when Goku was travelling alone between tournaments.

But while reading Dragon Ball I noticed plenty of scenes and even small jokes that I remembered from bigger moments that were only in the anime. More than entire stories were added, but individual gags and even worldbuilding dialogue were added to some sequences.

It was as if they wanted each big manga chapter to be one whole episode so they added filler between each panel to make a 15 page comic into a 22 minute cartoon.

The result is that the manga feels like it moves very fast compared to my memories of the anime. I’m used to today’s 20-page manga chapters filled with deep, complex story. So a 15 page manga filled with lots of gags and action flew by very quickly.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. Dragon Ball is great (you head it here first) but I think I’d just enjoyed the original anime more. Which can mean only one thing: now I have to rewatch that.