Dragon Ball: All The Original Anime’s Arcs

Dragon Ball began as a mystical adventure following the monkey boy Goku and his friends on their quest to find the legendary Dragon Balls. As the series progressed the grand adventure developed into a more serious action with science fiction elements. Over the course of the show Goku grew from a child into a young man with his further adult adventures being shown in Dragon Ball Z. As a manga, however, the entire series came under the umbrella of Dragon Ball.

The series ran for 153 episodes, split up into nine sagas which included three devoted entirely to tournaments, something that Dragon Ball Super would recreate with its own multiple tournaments. Looking back at the original anime, how does each arc rank?

  1. Tien Shinhan Saga

Three years have passed since Goku set off to travel the world. At the tournament grounds, the turtle school meets Master Roshi’s rival, Master Shen, having brought his students Tien and Chiaotzu to compete. In the battle between Chiaotzu and Krillin, Chiaotzu opts to use his telekinesis which renders Krillin unable to move. Using his head, Krillin asks Chiaotzu’s a series of questions to disrupt his concentration which allows Krillin to break free and win the match.

In the final, it’s Goku up against Tien and it’s an intense battle. The match concludes after Tien destroys the arena and both fighters hurl slowly toward the ground, but Goku, unfortunately, lands first. Tien and Chiaotzu make peace with the others, having seen the error of their master’s ways and they all decide to get a meal together.

2. Fortuneteller Baba Saga

Goku, Krillin, Yamcha, Puar and Upa travel to meet Master Roshi’s sister, Fortune Teller Baba when the Radar fails to show the Dragon Balls location. To pay for her services, Baba offers them the opportunity to battle her fighters. The group are victorious against Baba’s roster of fighters which includes the Invisible Man, Bandages the Mummy and Devil Man. Goku fights an unknown martial artist whom is late revealed to be his grandfather Gohan. Baba explains she has the ability to bring people back from the dead temporarily, she Baba reveals the location of the final Dragon Ball.

The remainder of the arc follows Goku obtaining the final Dragon Ball from Emperor Pilaf and resurrecting Upa’s father. When Goku returns to Master Roshi, he is tasked with a new form of training. Until the next tournament, Goku must travel the world on foot and take on any challenges that may come his way.

3. General Blue Saga

Goku enlists Bulma’s help to fix the Dragon Radar and they both hunt for the balls together. Along the way they are joined by Krillin and continue to encounter the Red Ribbon Army. General Blue is assigned the task of tracking down the Dragon Ball’s, after the failure of the previous officers. Goku and General Blue get into a battle within the underwater cave, where Blue uses his powers of telekinesis. As the cave collapses in Goku makes his escape, but Blue also survives. He tracks the characters down to Master Roshi’s island, tying them up and leaving a time bomb to take care of them.

Goku escapes, disposes of the bomb and gives chase, causing General Blue’s plane to crash in Penguin Village. Here Goku meets Arale and the other inhabitants of the village. Hijinks ensue as Blue and Goku meet the strange and otherworldly characters of the village. Eventually, Blue and Goku reunite, however Arale headbutts General Blue, blasting him into the air.

4. Commander Red Saga

Commander Red enlists the services of Mercenary Tao, whilst Goku returns Upa to his home in the sacred land of Korin. Soon after, Tao arrives and kills Upa’s father, blasts Goku with his Dodon Ray, and leaves soon after with the Dragon Balls.

Goku survives the blast and in an effort to get stronger, he climbs Korin tower to retrieve the sacred water. Korin trains Goku over the course of a few days which gives him the strength to defeat Mercenary Tao. He then sets off to the Red Ribbon HQ and wipes out the entire Red Ribbon Army. After Black kills Commander Red, Goku and Black have an epic showdown with Goku ultimately becoming the victor.

5. Red Ribbon Army Saga

Goku sets off on an adventure to find the four-star Dragon Ball, encountering a group known as the Red Ribbon Army, also looking for the Dragon Balls. This leads to Goku defeating many of the general’s and soldiers within the organization.

The climax of the arc takes place in Muscle Tower where the Army is holding the Jingle Village Chief hostage. Here he fights Major Metallitron, one of the first androids Goku ever encounters. The arc includes Goku meeting Android 8, whom he would rename 8ter.

6. Piccolo Jr Saga

In the final saga of the original series, Goku returns from his training with Kami, now fully grown and prepared to take on the reincarnation of King Piccolo. This arc is yet another tournament-based arc with most of the action focused on the rivalry between Goku and Piccolo Jr.

Goku manages to defeat Piccolo in the final round, becoming the World Martial Arts champion. He gives Piccolo a senzu bean, restoring his health and Piccolo leaves, vowing to return one day. Goku then flies off with his now fiancé Chi Chi, and the series ends with their wedding.

7. Emperor Pilaf Saga

The very first arc of Dragon Ball began with Goku meeting Bulma and leaving his home to join her on the quest to find the mystical Dragon Balls. Most of the storylines in the first few episodes are stand-alone adventures.

Along the way they meet Oolong, Yamcha, Turtle, Puar and Master Roshi. The arc also introduced the concept of Goku turning into a Great Ape, long before the decision to make it a trait related to his Saiyan heritage. Pilaf, aided by Mai and Shu, plays the major villain for this saga; in that he too is searching for the Dragon Balls to become the supreme ruler of Earth.

8. Tournament Saga

Goku travels to train with Master Roshi, whilst a young fighter named Krillin has the same idea, arriving not long after Goku. Roshi takes the two kids under his wing, training them at a nearby island for the first half of this arc. The dual personality character Launch is brought into the series during this saga and moves into Kame House with the boys.

After 18 months of grueling training later they travel to the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament on Papaya Island. Yamcha decides to enter the tournament as well, with himself, Goku, and Krillin all making it to the quarter-finals. Goku manages to make it to the grand final but loses to Jackie Chun, who is in fact Master Roshi in disguise.

9. King Piccolo Saga

Following the death of Krillin, Goku rushes off to find his killer whilst the others learn it has a connection to the demon, King Piccolo. Roshi provides a backstory explaining that his own Dojo was wiped out and his Master, Mutaito could not even defeat the monster. Years after his defeat, Mutaito returned and trapped King Piccolo in an electric rice cooker via the Evil Containment Wave, losing his own life in the process.

The arc follows Goku’s attempts to defeat King Piccolo. Master Roshi dies, attempting to seal the demon away and both Chiaotzi as well as Shenron, are killed but not before Piccolo wishes to be young again. Meanwhile, Goku meets Yajirobe and they both manage to defeat Piccolo’s children, Tambourine and Cymbal. Returning to Korin tower, Goku drinks the real divine water and returns to battle Piccolo, stronger than ever. The fierce showdown culminates in Goku blasting a hole through Piccolo’s stomach. In his final moments, Piccolo spits out an egg containing the reincarnated version of himself.

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