Dragon Ball was the first global success of manga, the “symbol of the international triumph of Japanese comics”, writes Olivier Richard in Manga, the 120 essentials. Introduced in France through the royal cartoon route, the series made up of 42 volumes by Akira Toriyama has become a publishing phenomenon with more than 260 million copies sold worldwide, including 20 million in France. The mangaka died at the age of 68 from a subdural hematoma, his publishing house and studio announced on Friday March 8.

This bookstore success is that of Glénat editions which, in 1993, adapted the manga into French. Shônen, manga intended for young boys, then began to flourish. With Akira and Sailor Moon (which belongs to the genre of shoujo, a manga aimed at girls also published by Glénat), Dragon Ball is one of the three titles which brought manga to France. A commercial explosion reinforced by cartoons made for the cinema. Not to mention, in 2009, the live action film Dragon Ball Evolution, directed by James Wong.

Inspired by the Chinese classic Journey to the West, Akira Toriyama’s manga, published in 1984 in Japan, features Son Goku, a young boy with supernatural powers, who sets out on a quest for seven crystal balls which, combined, will allow you to summon a sacred dragon who can grant all wishes. His long journey is punctuated by a gallery of colorful secondary characters (Bulma, Krillin, Awesome Turtle…) who have nothing to envy of the protagonist.

What exactly is the triumph of Dragon Ball based on? “An original drawing that was unlike anything else and easily recognizable,” explains Satoko Inaba, Manga editorial director at Glénat, “and above all a hero who evolves and grows with the reader, who can thus identify with him. » Akira Toriyama’s great discovery was in fact to make his hero age, even becoming a father and then a grandfather throughout the series. The visionary mangaka created a narrative model that continues to this day. Built around two main axes. A first based on adventure and comedy, a second based on action and combat.

“It’s a bold bet which gives it its originality, its flavor: it is an adventure story drawn by an author of comic manga,” writes Matthieu Pinon in his work Histoires du manga moderne. Very effectively, Dragon Ball combines comical humor and Homeric fights.

In addition, the series conveys strong values ​​such as courage, tenacity in the face of adversary, self-sacrifice and friendship which have captivated our young readership: “Manga heroes, particularly those intended for boys, (…) must always surpass themselves. Surpassing oneself, in order to help a team win, to defeat enemies, to survive and to help others to stay alive, is present in all sports, adventure and cataclysm manga, analyzes Brigitte Koyama-Richard in A Thousand Years of Manga.

In any case, thirty years after its debut, Dragon Ball serves as a historic title, remaining “one of the greatest epics in comics, a true modern myth, the Star Wars of manga,” exclaims Olivier. Richard.