When discussing the most influential anime series of all time, few are as agreed upon as Dragon Ball. The original comic series was published for 11 years in Shonen Jump, while the anime series was broadcast for the same length of time. The series is popular around the world, and was even made into an American live-action film.With all of the writing that’s been done on the series since its inception, most people are probably aware about some of the elements of Asian mythology that have influenced it. The most obvious source is the Chinese work Journey to the West, a classical novel published near the end of the 16th century. This story follows a group of pilgrims on their way to India seeking enlightenment. One of the most prominent characters is Sun Wukong, the monkey king, a mystical being and powerful fighter. Sun Wukong is the main inspiration for Goku from Dragon Ballthey have the same monkey tail, fight with the same staff, and both ride a flying cloud.The plot of Journey to the West is echoed in the early arc of Dragon Ball as well. Instead of pure enlightenment, the characters of DB are seeking the dragon balls in order to summon a dragon and make a wish. Some of Goku’s companions share elements of the original characters. For example the girl Bulma is monk-like in her determination to reach the dragon, and the pig Oolong is based off the character of Zhu Bajie, a pig/human hybrid known for his laziness, jealousy, and other vices.Of course, Dragon Ball is not a direct adaptation, and the series eventually sets itself apart from the original by incorporating more science fiction elements than fantasy. However, it’s fascinating to see how the phenomenon got started.
September 28, 2010
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