Story and Art by Akira Toriyama
Released in the US by Viz Shonen Jump
Slugline: There is way too much interest in balls here.
Son Goku has been alone in the wilderness for years, ever since his grandfather died. Well, he was probably not Son Goku’s real grandfather, since he did not have a monkey tail like Son Goku. His grandfather had dragonball, which the inventor (and cute girl) Bulma discovers that Son Goku has by tracking it to him. She convinces Son Goku to accompany her on a quest to acquire all 7 Dragonballs, for once you find all seven of the dragonballs you can summon the dragon who will grant one wish. Bulma is certain that she will need some protection in her quest and guilts Son Goku into accompanying her. Son Goku goes along with this with the understanding so that he can keep the DragonBall that his grandfather had after the wish. But Bulma did not mention that after the wish the dragonballs disappear for a year and have to be gathered up again. In order to prevent a dictator from gaining control over the Dragonballs, a wish was wasted and the dragonballs were scattered for a year. While waiting for the year to end, Son Goku decides to train with the turtle master Kame Sen'nin, and thanks to a brutal several month long training regimen (well, not training per se, but abuse with a purpose) Son Gokue and friends are able to compete in the ultimate martial arts tournament, the Tenka'ichi Budokai.
Eh, I understand that this is one of the gateway anime/manga and thus people may have fond memories, but it is still a very sketchy story, with a lot of knowing winks to the audience. Despite the supposed difficulty of finding the dragonballs, it is a relatively easy task without significant challenges, except for the deus ex machine opponent that suddenly no one can defeat.
At this time the story is very juvenile, with fart, nudity and underwear jokes galore, with a humor fantasy bent. It is not much of fighting title yet, the fighting doesn't really start kicking in until the end of the volume, with the search for the dragonballs not having much in the way of meaningful fighting as compared to someone challenging Son Goku and immediately being beaten down. Toriyama is still finding his feet on this series, and while the dragonballs give the series its name, the story doesn't seem click until the martial arts tournament starts up.
Now this may be blatantly obvious to people that have been grown up with the series, but the majority of my experience from this series actually comes from watching anime music videos that have used DBZ footage, rather than watching the anime or reading the manga. So my nostalgia on this is really low and thus not very forgiving.
Dragonball, Big Volume 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga