Despite the fact that the franchise is named after them, not many Dragon Ball fans know a whole lot about the dragon balls themselves. Part of this is most likely due to the fact that Dragon Ball Z premiered in America long before the original Dragon Ball series came over. The early days of the original series focused on Goku and friends searching for the dragon balls, and some of the rules, history and lore were explained along the way. That said, we also learned quite a bit about these magical orbs in the second series as well as the most recent series, Dragon Ball Super.
In all threes series, lore and rules pertaining to the dragon balls have been rewritten, retconned and thrown out the window, and amidst all the confusion, fans might not exactly know everything about the wishing orbs. Maybe it's been a while since you watched Dragon Ball Z, maybe you just need a refresher or maybe you just didn't know that much about the dragon balls to begin with. Don't worry, there's no need to gather them and wish to understand all the facts and lore, we've got you covered!
16 A YEAR OF RECHARGE
The one thing we're sure everyone knows about the dragon balls is that they summon a dragon who grant a wish. In order to summon Shenron, one must gather all seven dragon balls, each of which have a different number of stars on them. After gathering all the dragon balls and summoning Shenron, the dragon grants your wish and then disappears. Following this, the dragon balls scatter across the world to different locations.
Not terrible, right? If you wanted to get another wish, all you'd have to do is gather them up again using a dragon radar right? Well, sort of. After making a wish, the dragon balls need some time to recharge, one year to be exact. In fact, the dragon balls can't even be located using a dragon radar when they are inactive, disguising themselves as spherical stones.
15 THEIR CREATOR CAN BEND THE RULES
Even though we just said that the dragon balls need a year to recharge after being used, that rule has been broken before. By whom, you ask? Well, Goku of course. Though, it's more accurate to say that Kami broke the rule on one special instance to help out Goku. This happened in the original Dragon Ball in the King Piccolo Saga.
After wishing to be younger, King Piccolo killed Shenron, causing the dragon balls to become inert. In order to help Goku, Kami, the creator of Earth's dragon balls, revived the dragon, cancelling the waiting period after a wish is made. Apparently, even though the balls became inert, when they were reactivated, the waiting period would still apply, but Kami sped things up just this once for young Goku.
14 RESURRECTION RULES
The waiting period isn't the only rule that applies to wishes that are made on Earth's dragon balls. The rules of the dragon balls are determined by those who made them, and Kami apparently set up a few rules regarding resurrecting the dead. The first rule that applies is that no wish can be made twice. This means someone who has already been revived by the Earth dragon balls cannot be revived again.
Another rule is that someone cannot be wished back to life if they died of natural causes, as their bodies are unfit to be resurrected. The final rule is that, when it comes to resurrecting a mass amount of people, in the case of Cell or Buu, they cannot be wished back in large quantities if it's been a year sine their death.
13 KRILLIN'S RESURRECTION LOOPHOLE
Even though there are rules to resurrecting the dead, Krillin has broken them... sort of. Let us explain. The first time Krillin died was in Dragon Ball, and he was resurrected a few days later by the dragon balls when Goku wished for all victims of King Piccolo and his sons to be revived.
Later, in the Buu saga, Krillin was turned into chocolate and eaten by the alien villain. But once again, Krillin was resurrected as part of a group of victims, creating a loophole in the rules. The specific wish of resurrecting Krillin cannot be made twice, but if he's in a group of victims of a specific villain, then the wish becomes different, and he (and other victims) can be wished back as many times as needed. This also helps explain how the people of Earth could be revived multiple times.
12 TIED TO PICCOLO
The dragon balls are only active as long as their creator is alive and well. In the case of the Earth dragon balls, this means Kami. However, when Kami was aiming to be the guardian of Earth, he separated the evil from his body, creating King Piccolo. The two were still connected however, and if one died, the other went with them. King Piccolo would eventually be reincarnated into Piccolo Jr., who was still tied to Kami.
Eventually, Kami would re-fuse into Piccolo to give him a much-needed power boost to take on Cell. Piccolo already had a tie to the dragon balls — if he died, Kami would too, and the balls would turn to stone — but now it was much more solidified. You'd think this would be enough to keep Piccolo out of the action to prevent the franchise's ultimate deus ex machina from becoming useless.
11 THE ORIGINAL DRAGON BALLS
Before the Earth had dragon balls, Namek created their magical orbs, but they weren't the originals. In fact, the Namekian dragon balls were made from the original dragon balls: the super dragon balls. The super dragon balls were made by the dragon god Zalama and can grant any wish. Unlike other dragon balls, the super dragon balls have no limitations and have immense wish-granting power due to the great power of Zalama himself.
The super dragon balls are WAY bigger than other dragon balls, the size of planets three times larger than Earth. They are also incredibly old, requiring an ancient godly language to summon the dragon and make a wish. Once the wish is made, these dragon balls spread across universes 6 and 7, remaining dormant for a year before they can be used again.
10 NAMEKIANS CAN MAKE THEM
Like we just mentioned, the Namekian dragon balls were created from the original super dragon balls. How did they do this exactly? Well, we know that they shaved off pieces of the massive super dragon balls to create smaller versions. But, how did they make shavings into new dragon balls? Probably because the Namekians are known to be able to perform feats of magic, some having more magical power than others.
Namekians such as the Grand Elder, Kami and Dende seem to have great magical power, which is perhaps what let the Namekians to turn the shavings into magical, summoning, wish-granting orbs. The question is, were Earth's dragon balls made from pieces of the Namekian balls? Or did Kami, with his magical powers and the collective Namekian understanding of dragon balls, make them from scratch?
9 DENDE'S UPGRADE
After Kami fused with Piccolo to give him the power to fight cell, the dragon balls became powerless. This is because, despite the fact that Piccolo was still alive, Kami had given up his life and physical body in the fusion, thus the originator of Earth's dragon balls was no longer among the living. As a result, the dragon balls became inert, that is, until Dende showed up.
In order to get back the use of the dragon balls, Goku asked Dende to be the new guardian of Earth. Dende accepted and resurrected Shenron, but with a few changes to the rules. First of all, Shenron could now grant three wishes, or two if one of the wishes required a massive amount of power. Furthermore, Shenron's wishes could now be saved for later, able to be used the next time he was summoned.
8 SUMMONING THE DRAGON GOD
To summon Shenron, the dragon of Earth's dragon balls, one must utter a special phrase. The same goes for the dragon of the Namekian dragon balls, Porunga, though his must be done with a special password in the Namekian language, a protection against those who wish to use the dragon's powers for evil. A similar process is required of the original dragon, the dragon god Zalama.
After gathering the super dragon balls, a special phrase must be said in the language of the gods. One might think this is some ancient, important phrase like "Oh great dragon god, I kindly summon thee to grant my wish." But no, it's a lot more silly and adorable than that. To summon Zalama, one must say "Come forth, Dragon of the Gods, and grant my wish, pretty peas." Guess the dragon god like puns, eh?
7 NAMEKIAN WISH RULES
The Namekian dragon balls are a bit different from the Earth dragon balls. First of all, they are much larger and heavier, something that reflects the appearance of the dragon they summon. But, appearance isn't the only difference, as they come with a power set and rule list different from the Earth dragon balls.
First of all, Porunga can make any wish as many times as needed, making the resurrections of someone unlimited. However, the Namekian dragon can only wish one person back at once and cannot resurrect a massive group of people. Porunga can also grant three wishes for every summoning, something Shenron couldn't do at first. These rules must come in handy for the Namekians, essentially making the species immortal if they have unlimited resurrections, save for those who died of illnesses and the like.
6 NAMEKIAN RECHARGE
Another thing that comes in handy with the Namekian dragon balls is what happens after a wish is made. Unlike the Earth dragon balls, which scatter across the planet after being used, the Namekian dragon balls stay put. There is no need to get a dragon radar or gather them up, they stay where they were last used. This is incredibly convenient for making a large amount of wishes, especially when paired with their recharge time.
The Earth dragon balls take an Earth year to recharge, but the Namekian balls take a Namekian year, which only lasts 130 days. These are some pretty great perks to the Namekian dragon balls, but they might be the reason for the one resurrection at a time rule, as the power of dragons seems to be a bit of a give and take.
5 PETTY WISHES
The original Dragon Ball started out as being more focused on the titular magical orbs. In most of the sagas, a villain was usually after the dragon balls to make their lifelong wish come true. These villains would clash with Goku and friends as they all fought to get to the dragon balls first.
You might think this means that everyone had some incredibly important wish that motivated them to do anything to have their wish granted. This isn't exactly the case, at least not with some of characters. In fact, due to the comedic nature of Dragon Ball's early sagas, most desired wishes were kind of petty. Bulma was going to wish for a boyfriend, Yamcha was going to wish away his fear of women, the first wish onscreen was for underpants, and Commander Red formed an entire army so he could wish to be taller.
4 DRAGON "BALLS"
As most fans know, and as we just mentioned, the early days of Dragon Ball were more humor-oriented, the series being written as a comedic journey story with lots of gags along the way. Of course, it eventually became about martial arts and epic battles to save the world from villains, but it was originally a full-on comedy adventure.
This, combined with Toryiama's obvious love of puns (literally everyone's name is a pun), led to a joke that every Dragon Ball Z fan has definitely made pertaining to the word "balls." Yes, even Toriyama made this immature joke, seen when Goku thought that some poor dragon had lost his "you-know-whats" as Bulma told him about the dragon balls. It was a gag that was repeated when Oolong learned of the legendary orbs as well.
3 FRAGILE BALLS
In an episode of Dragon Balls, a dragon ball was found to be fake when it cracked upon being dropped. Apparently the real things don't break, as they are indestructible. However, this might not be entirely true. For one thing, it is implied that they can break by Piccolo, who said that if even one cracks then none of them can ever be used again. But, this may have been referred to when they are turned to stone during their recharging period.
This is to say that there is some discrepancy over wether or not the dragon balls are indestructible. If they only become fragile in their stone form, then they're often in danger when recharging, especially after they scatter. If they are fragile in their charged state, then they are ALWAYS in danger, especially in the hands of some of the clumsier characters in the series.
2 THE DRAGON RADAR
Trivia time, who invented the dragon radar? If you said Bulma then you'd be incorrect! Most fans might remember Bulma as the inventor of the dragon ball-detecting device, but this is actually false. Though she is the one who explains how the radar works, by detecting the faint electromagnetic signal of the orbs, she, nor her family's company, invented the device.
How do we know this? Well, because Bulma's radar isn't the only one in existence. Bulma for sure invented the mobile dragon radar, but both Emporer Pilaf and the Red Ribbon army possessed global dragon radars. These radars are much larger, showing a map of the Earth and where the dragon balls are located on it. Bulma might have invented a much more efficient method of tracking the magical orbs, but she didn't invent the concept of a dragon radar.
1 OTHER TYPES OF DRAGON BALLS
Though their place in the canon is questionable, there are two types of dragon balls aside from the super, Namekian and Earth balls, and they are the dark dragon balls and the black star dragon balls. The dark dragon balls were first featured in a spin-off manga that pertains to the canon of some of the Online, Xenoverse and Heroes Dragon Ball video games and the black star dragon balls were featured in Dragon Ball GT.
The dark dragon balls have the unique ability to merge with a host, giving them a massive power up, and will spread across space and time after granting a wish. Similarly, The black star dragon balls will spread across the universe after being used. They can also grant ANY wish, though if they are not collected and brought back within a year, the planet they were used on will explode.