Dragon Ball was probably the first manga I consciously read as manga. Until then I’d read a few others, mainly Akira and Appleseed, but I hadn’t been aware that there was any difference between comics form the US and Japan. At the point in time when Dragon Ball debuted here, I had sworn off of comics for a few years, and Dragon Ball brought me back to reading them. Mostly, because it was a simple read that didn’t require an exhaustive knowledge of a fictional universe to understand what was going on. And also because it was something different and new. After that I read mainly manga for a few years and then started rediscovering other stuff as well.
It has been over a decade ago since I last laid eyes on Akira’s famous creation and a recent re-read of the first 16 volumes was an interesting experience, a mix of nostalgia, a hard look at my younger self and yet also the realization that this stuff is still fun, warts and all. I was sure even before the re-read, that I probably wouldn’t look to kindly at the material, and that was true to some extend. You can see from volume to volume how Toriyama makes things up as he goes along, adds new enemies, new powers, new characters nilly-willy and just ups the ante with each new plot token.
There’s a point where you realize that this will go on for a long time and either you enjoy the ride, ridiculous as it may be, or you jump off. And while I expected to jump off, I started to enjoy myself. Sure, Dragon Ball hasn’t the drama elements included in similarly structured manga series about endlessly fighting bigger and badder villains, but it has a quirky humor that is often absent in its followers. And while most of the setting and the characters look plain ridiculous, Toriayama manages to make it work. I’m not exactly sure why, but for me he pulled it off.
So fun ride, if you manage to quell to more critically inclined parts of your brain that insist that what you’re seeing just isn’t possible however you want to stretch the laws of physics.