Folktales and Other References in Toriyama's Dragon Ball

Xavier Mínguez-López
2014 Animation  
The aim of this article is to show the relationship between Japanese folktales and Japanese anime as a genre, especially how the intertextuality with traditional tales and myth subvert its conventional use. To meet this goal I have used Toriyama's successful Dragon Ball series, which has enjoyed continued popularity right from its first publication in the 1980s. I analyse the parallelism between Dragon Ball and a classic Chinese novel, Journey to the West, its main source. However, there are
more » ... y other folkloric references present in Dragon Ball connected to religion and folktales. The author illustrates this relationship with examples taken from the anime that correspond to the traditional Japanese Folklore but that are used with a subversive goal which makes it a rich source for analysis and for Literary Education. Pop culture is too pervasive, rampant, eclectic and polyglot to be unravelled and remade into an academic macramé pot holder[...] It's a cultural gulf defined by differences in view of how cultures are transforming and mutating through transnational activity. Pop -more than anything else -is the implosive point around which these gulfs form and the nexus of their attraction. Philip Brophy, (2005) The successful anime series Dragon Ball offers much insight into the complicated and interwoven relationships that exist between past and present storytelling traditions. This article specifically explores intersections between Japanese folktales and Japanese anime; I take my lead from Philip Brophy, cited above, who explains that despite its extreme complexity, popular culture helps us to understand how cultures are transformed and mutate through transnational activity. Japanese anime shows the connexions that exist between Japanese culture and a global understanding that allows its comprehension all around the world. Moist & Bartholow (2007:29) state: As one of the key international forms of postmodern popular culture, anime calls for a critical approach that can be as varied and complex as its object. In this case, we suggest that the way in which particular anime-tors [sic] make use of the cultural and formal resources available to them is a valuable approach. [...] The TV show Dragon Ball, created by Akira Toriyama, has been very popular in Europe in spite of its Japanese roots. This story started with Toriyama's free adaptation of the Chinese book, Journey to the West (Cheng'en Wu 1525/1993) but it continued to develop a very complex story, which included different intertwined sagas. Furthermore it is strongly influenced by the two main religions in Japan (Shinto and Buddhism) and also from Samurai stories and martial arts films and comics. It is a good example of how popular culture transforms and, at the same time, strengthens cultural production by adapting rich historical traditions into its form. The fact that Dragon Ball is of Japanese origin makes its analysis more difficult from a Western point of view but it also increases its appeal. As Shinobu Price (2001) points out: [...] anime, as it is commonly called, is a delightfully inventive reference manual into the world of Japanese symbols, folklore, religion, history, social musings and aesthetic traditions. When audience members are not exclusively Japanese, anime unexpectedly becomes a vehicle for cross-cultural
doi:10.1177/1746847713519386 fatcat:ejbbbmqbtvhd5cseywm6voph74