Ever since I was little I was a hardcore fight fan, I loved watching shows where the antagonists had to battle for the survival of all they held dear, even now I hold fondly the anime that had given me my first taste as it aired on my morning cartoon network "Cheese TV." It was a boring morning when I stumbled upon the Dragonball manga and I soon found that morning cheering up as I delightfully relived the story of Goku and his Dragonball adventures.
If a manga like Dragonball were to only appear now, I would have probably given it an 8 or 9, though I have chosen to keep its original context in mind.
As I just mentioned; if Dragonball were to be released now, then it wouldn't have been as popular as it is today, this is because when the manga came out it was something new and unbelievable that the world had never really seen. The manga was one of the crucial founders of shounen fighting manga and anime; it set all the stereotypes and the benchmarks. Dragonball was one of the greatest stories of its generation and would leave a legacy on all shounen manga that would follow as the style continues to advance and refine to suit the times. Popular anime and manga like Naruto and Bleach all have roots in Dragonball.
Now, as for the story itself, I would say it's very good on its own terms. It takes an ancient Chinese tale and turns it into something completely different: a wacky adventure of a monkey-tailed jungle boy and a blue-haired tech head heiress of which would later be joined by more and more companions, some with rocky beginnings though all charmed by the protagonist, Goku's, innocence.
Goku's natural strength would always be questioned until later in the manga when his true identity is revealed as an adult (I would expect everyone to know, but I won't spoil it, just in case) which would give him the opportunity to face opponents stronger than he'd ever faced in an intergalactic setting.
Dragonball's sense of romance was kind of vague; the manga would skip large amounts of time, rarely even offering as much as a montage to explain the gap. Most romantic relationships would take place between these times. I felt that this was probably one of the best methods, the concept of lovey-dovey romance happening within Dragonball is shudder-worthy, it would undermine the true focus of the anime and so, as a result, even the cutest pairing were laced with violence, screaming spouses throwing threats at one another, it was the manga's own form of love.
The style enjoyed sitting out of the box.
Before Dragonball most anime and manga were similar to Astro Boy or the work of Hayao Miyazaki, but then came Dragonball sporting veined muscles and antagonists like king Piccollo and Frieza.
The settings were unique as well, like an alternate universe to our own world filled with amusing sterotypes from around the world, the terrain ranging from desert to jungles, cities to islands.
The world was made the playground for this manga.
Like any fighting manga or anime, it was very character driven, creating unique and wacky personalities and character designs with very well thought out back story that would always come back to bite them somewhere in the manga, no matter how far forward. In Dragonball especially, the character development was evident, as the characters changed and aged physically and mentally, maturing in all their own chosen occupations.
I will have to say that the reason I enjoyed this manga the most was because of the nostalgia that I felt from reading it, I could remember a time back when I was just four or five years old when I would sit and watch, even though I can't remember much about my childhood, I still hang onto so many memories of watching Goku fight Frieza on planet Namek, of trunks and his father fighting cell among others.
I remember and it feels good to be reminded.