Dragon Ball: An American Pop Culture Icon 

On August 31, 1998 America was introduced to Dragon Ball. It has been ingrained in millions of American children’s minds ever since. It has introduced many children into a completely new genre(Japanese animation or Anime). There are few people living in America who haven’t seen Goku’s signature orange gi and spiky black hair. Even some of the Dragon Ball’s catch phrases such as “Kamehameha” and “It’s over 9000” could be their own pop culture icons.

How has a cartoon from Japan become a major part of a pop culture in a country with completely different customs and culture? Because Dragon ball is about humanity. Mostly because “ this series is a showcase for the universal principles of perseverance, determination, commitment, loyalty, sacrifice, purity, and just downright enjoying life” (Padula 226). Any person from any culture, ethnicity, creed, religion or country can understand it and enjoy it. It’s about working hard and achieving your goals no matter how hard it may seem.

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Journey to the West inspired Akira Toriyama, Writer of Dragon Ball, to write Dragon Ball. Journey to the West was about a man who travels from China to India in order to recover ancient Buddhist texts to save Humanity(Padula 224). Toriyama took this story and modernized it. He infused it’s Chinese setting with Hong Kong Kung Fu films, Hollywood movies, silly jokes, and Japanese pop culture (Padula 248). He made it open for millions of others who otherwise would have never been interested in a completely foreign story about a hero wants to offer a way for humans to go beyond the 3 realms of reincarnation(Padula 240). Instead he made it a fun story about finding 7 Dragonballs to ask a dragon for any wish they want. Along the way there are Saiyan princes, princesses, crazy alien villains, crazy supernatural fights , dragons, time travel, alternate dimensions, gods and even rich imposters. All the ingredients for a great franchise.

Dragon ball is possibly the most influential anime ever with possibly hundreds of references in all types of media. It has created an entire medium known as Shonen. Shonen is a genre of manga that is designed for young teens. Some noteworthy Shonen are Naruto, One Piece, Bleach , Fullmetal Alchemist, My Hero Academia, Attack on titan and Seven Deadly Sins. As time went on Shonen was improved. storylines, heroes and even villains were made more complex. Many of these writers took the basic fundamentals of Dragon Ball and expanded it into their own series.

Dragon Ball has also made an impact on American cartoons also. Some of these may include Avatar the Last Airbender, Teen Titans,RWBY and even Steven Universe.

To say Dragon ball had an impact on American Media would be a understatement.

Dragon ball is perhaps the most influential and important Manga/Anime ever. A truly unforgettable series with unforgettable characters. Toriyama’s true goal was to entertain teenaged boys but he accidentally shaped an entire genre. Few forget the first time Goku turned Super Saiyan. Or his legendary fight with Frieza on the planet Namek. To many Dragon ball, was much more than a Saturday cartoon, it was part of their childhood and it was a part they never forgot.

Work Cited

  1. Emperor, Dragon. “List of Influences on Popular Culture.” Dragon Ball Wiki, Www.Fandom.com, 23 July 2018, 23:15, dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_influences_on_popular_culture.
  2. PADULA, DEREK. DRAGON SOUL: 30 Years of Dragon Ball Fandom. 1st ed., DEREK PADULA, 2018.

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