Dragon Ball: Akira Toriyama’s epic masterpiece. One he started out wanting to do for far less time than his first huge hit, Dr.Slump, and it went on for wwwaaaayyyyy longer (Dr.Slump has 18 volumes, Dragon Ball has 42), as well as becoming the better known of the two titles world wide. It is arguably the most well known manga on the planet next to Astroboy, with Akira and Sailor Moon coming close. It has changed the face of manga and inspired countless manga-ka, where everyone in Toriyama’s generation cited Tezuka as an influence, today folks cite Toriyama as their influence. That said, here in North America it has been kept in print in English for years now from Viz Media, going first from censored single issues (ah, remember the painful days manga was released here in single issue American comic book style), to uncut collected editions, back to censored collected editions, and now all this time later Viz is releasing it in popular 3-in-1 format, which as the title sounds collects three volumes into one single edition.
Volume 1 of Dragon Ball 3-in-1 collects manga volumes 1, 2, and 3, giving us the awesome start of the epic Dragon Ball saga. We get to see all the roots here, from Goku first meeting Bulma, Oolong, Yamcha, Pu’ar, Chi-Chi, and Kame-Sen’nin; to the first wish upon the balls as they deal with Emperor Pilaf. We get our training adventures with Kuririn under Kame-Sen’nin’s guidance, as they find him a hot girl (Lunch) and do all sorts of odd tasks for training. The collection wraps up entering into and starting the first fighting rounds of the Tenka’ichi Budokai Tournment! Amazingly, everything that would be the base to the entire Dragon Ball saga is laid out here in these volumes, as the comedic adventure romp slowly begins to morph into a martial arts comic.
The upside to this collection is if you wanted to own Dragon Ball and are just one of those folks who never picked it up for whatever reason, you get three volumes in one for $14.99, so you save some bucks. HOWEVER (and I capitalize that), there is a major flaw to this collection. Viz on the cover mentions it is “uncut and uncensored,” but that is actually false. Turns out they goofed up, and what we get is a hodge podge with some pages being the uncut versions, and others totally being pulled from the censored versions! Apparently fan reactions have been extremely negative, and Viz says they will correct it, and the 2nd print edition of the collection will be truly uncut. Everything from the bare breasts of Bulma and beyond will finally be there, but you’ll want to open the flap and look for what edition it is before buying. My other complaint is the paper quality is really bad. I know some of the 3-in-1s like One Piece have cheaper paper to keep the price down, but this stuff they printed on is worse than what manga gets printed on in weekly magazines in Japan (and they make weeklies to be thrown out). It is bleed through central here, and honestly a truly passionate collector is better off looking for the uncut individual editions, and paying a little extra money to buy them separate.
Aside from those flaws, the content is great. There is nothing as memorable as Goku’s first transformation into an ape monster, such a classic moment of wacky Toriyama that sticks out with an epic roar. Perhaps I’m a bit nostalgic, being that was also the first episode of Dragon Ball I saw when it was broadcast edited on syndicated U.S. television, and I would watch it at 5:30 AM on Saturday mornings. None of my friends knew what Dragon Ball was then, but certainly all these years later, they do now.
Dragon Ball 3-in-1 volume 1 is out now in print from Viz.