Ah the eternal anime maguffin that is the Dragon Balls. The seven orange spheres have managed to come in several shapes and sizes throughout Akira Toriyama's long running Shonen, granting almost any wish to the person/s lucky enough to bring them all together. From Earth to Namek to the Dragon Balls of the Gods themselves in Dragon Ball Super, the question must be posed as to whether or not the wish granting spheres should finally be abandoned within the series or if they still manage to hold a purpose that dictates their existence.
In the original Dragon Ball franchise, the search for the maguffins was the cruz of the series, with Goku and his friends travelling the world and fighting enemies specifically to get their chance to chat with Shernon, the Eternal Dragon. As time moved on and the franchise focused more on martial arts tournaments and clashes for world domination, it was clear that the story of Goku and his friends fighting alien despots, biological experiments gone awry, and demons from another world would take precedence over the original modus operandi of Toriyama's story.
While the Dragon Balls themselves have been featured in a number of story lines, with the Tournament of Power and Goku Black arcs being the most recent, sometimes their ability to do anything can be a hindrance to the show overall. In the Tournament of Power arc, fans knew that regardless of who won, the losers that were killed as a result would be returned thanks to the balls. While they were used a bit more interestingly in the Goku Black arc, transferring the alternate Zamasu's mind into his universe's Goku's body, another route could have just as easily been taken.
What makes the Dragon Balls such a net negative for the series is the drama of death that is ultimately taken away from any fight. This isn't necessarily anything new in fiction overall, as comic books for example tend to bring back characters from the dead years, or sometimes months, following their demise. Originally, in the Dragon Ball Z franchise, when someone died and was resurrected thanks to the balls themselves, they weren't allowed to be resurrected. This was a big dramatic point following the end of the original Saiyan saga, with Nappa and Vegeta having killed several of the Z Fighters that originally many had thought couldn't be brought back from the dead.
Moving forward, we have three sets of Dragon Balls that are a double edged sword, taking away some of the dramatic tension while also allowing for new story telling avenues to be explored.
Do you think the Dragon Balls should continue to exist? Why or why not? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly on Twitter @EVComedy to talk all things comics, anime, and Dragon Ball!
Dragon Ball Super currently airs its English dub on Adult Swim during the Toonami programming block on Saturday evenings, and is also available to stream on Funimation and Amazon Video. The Japanese-language release of the series is complete, and available to stream on FunimationNOW and Crunchyroll. The manga has chapters that can currently be read for free thanks to Viz Media, and Dragon Ball Super's big movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.