#241 “Dragon Ball” in depth

FLASHBACK! Though the highly influential manga series, and resulting TV show, are known for non-stop action and fighting, Dragon Ball started out as a comedy strip reminiscent of Akira Toriyama‘s early work, Dr. Slump! Viz’s English versions have gone through various levels of censorship over time to adjust to the low level of sexuality that most Americans expect of kids’ books. Except, most of the characters themselves don’t understand sexuality, and that’s the charm of it; it’s best enjoyed (probably by kids as well) in its pristine form…if you can find it!

In memory of Akira Toriyama, we re-present our review of the original Dragon Ball series. Tim, Kumar, and Mulele review. (Originally published August 16, 2010.)

Visual censorship comparisons after the jump (NSFW but probably safe for Japanese kids):

For this episode I read two different versions of DragonBall — the original floppies in CBR format and the slightly-larger-than-usual “White Book” edition.

Floppy Cover
White Book cover

I had initially read online that the White editions were the most uncensored version, so I bought Volume 1. After further reading, I discovered that this was actually the complete opposite: the White Books are the most censored version of Dragon Ball up until Volume 3. Starting with Volume 4, they started putting a “Ages 13 and Up” label on the front, and this series then becomes the mosst UNcensored version available. My understanding is that editions AFTER the White Book series returned to being censored again to various degrees, with almost no two editions the same. Note the DRAGON BALL Z cross-promotion on the cover of the White edition — as we discuss in the episode, I suspect fear of the mass TV audience is what all the edits in this edition.

Here is a sampling. (It’s been several years since I read them in Japanese, so I can’t speak to changes in the floppy editions from the Japanese originals.) I apologize in advance for the sloppiness of my scans.

A dialog change:

Another dialog change here. Is the word “shorts” really that suggestive?! Isn’t the word “studly” by connotation even more suggestive?

Nudity change:

Also, in the White edition, Goku’s privates are covered up by the towel in this scene:

Another nudity edit here. This time, Bulma’s breasts are covered with reflection in the glass. I believe I have also seen another version where she is instead covered by suds.

Also, how does Bulma’s pose make any sense in this edit? (Notice the art touch-up as well.)

All of Goku’s “pat-pats” to check for male genitals have been re-drawn and are referred to as “staring”:

Two key (and hilarious) panels completely removed:

The VERY racy “bra size” gag (the edit makes Oolong’s puff-puff gesture nonsensical):

Finally, a non-sexual penis reference. I find this one problematic because it avoids the hilarity of Goku still not understanding that women do not have penises:

What I find slightly odd about all this is that Toriyama refused to allow his work to be flipped (left-to-right reading) for Western audiences, resulting in the unprecedented first non-flipped manga in North America. And yet, he seemed to have no issues with them editing the artwork for other purposes.


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Resident of Japan since 1989, creator of "The Crazing Spider-Hag"

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