Created by Akira Toriyama, the Dragon Ball franchise has now spanned over 30 years. With the initial manga published in 1984 and the anime series Dragon Ball Super having recently ended, the franchise has fans that span more than one generation and can be found the world over. In addition to the manga and three television series, there are also several movies. While there is some debate among fans as to which series or rendition is best, there is one thing on which they can agree: this is a storyline and set of characters that will always be dear to their hearts. The love that is spread throughout the fandom, as is the case with many other fandoms and franchises, has also prompted the creation of an incredible amount of Dragon Ball fan art.
Some of this art includes renderings of favorite scenes or characters much after the style of the original. Other examples, however, take these scenes and characters into countless alternate styles. Some of the changes are very subtle and still pay homage to the Toei Animation version. Some of the changes, on the other hand, are very drastic. Whether taking it back to historic Japanese culture with art inspired by the Heian period or including futuristic elements, there is no denying that many of these renditions are absolutely epic. With all the talent among the Dragon Ball fans, it wasn’t hard to find pieces that could have told the story a variety of different ways.
Lord Beerus is the God of Destruction for Universe Seven — where Goku and all the other Z Fighters live. Introduced in the anime through the movie Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, he has shown his power time and again. Through different story arcs, he has fought against the main heroes, as well as alongside them.
Although this version does not vary greatly in form from the original, its style is beautifully different. The classic anime style is composed of bold lines and bright colors. The water color feel of this piece, however, seems to allude to a side of Beerus that the audience hasn’t seen before.
18 CHI-CHI AND GOKU
Chi-Chi and her husband, Goku, have a long history of competing in martial arts tournaments. Since starting their family, however, Chi-Chi tends to stay away from the battlefield unless it is absolutely necessary. She is mainly seen tending to house and home, and making sure her husband and son are taken care of.
She’s still as strong and independent of a woman as ever, but this image shows a different side of that. In this illustration, she is shown side by side with her husband, ready for battle. A version of the show where Chi-Chi was more consistently involved in the fighting would be quite a thing to see.
17 KING PICCOLO
King Piccolo, who is also occasionally referred to as Demon King Piccolo, or The Great Demon in some versions, has always been an imposing presence. Being described as a literal demon, he towers over every one of his opponents, as well as the other Namekians.
Aside from his size, though, there is virtually no physical distinction between King Piccolo and others from the Planet Namek in the original version. This artist’s version, however, plays off of the demon nature he is given and plays off his natural imposition, making him seem more menacing as well. This is especially emphasized through his fangs, claws, and crazy eyes.
16 IMPERFECT CELL
The android known as Cell is arguably one of the most dynamic villains in the entirety of the Dragon Ball franchise. His three forms are each very unique, and his method for growth and learning by absorbing other androids is chilling. While his forms vary physically, this version of Imperfect Cell tops them all.
Instead of the cartoon style of anime, this artist has crafted a brilliantly realistic version of Imperfect Cell. The scales and ridges enhance the insect-like appearance that is a main feature of this form. Everything about this version screams intimidation, and that’s exactly what Cell, in any form, should be.
15 HEIAN PERIOD GOKU
The Heian period was the time during Japanese history that began in the year 794 and ended in 1185. This period marked the time when Chinese influences, such as Buddhism and Taosim, were strongest. The art from this period is certainly no exception for the expression of these Chinese influences.
This piece, taking those influences into account, is a beautiful display of what Goku would look like if the show were set in the Heian period, or if the art style were to mimic that. This version of the hero Goku pays great homage to the traditional art and that time period.
Launch is a character who may be unfamiliar to some newer fans of the franchise. She has not been seen since the first animated series ended in 1989, with little to no explanation given as to her disappearance. One theory is simply that she had no role to fill in the newer series. Despite her disappearance, she played a strong role in the first installment.
She has a strange disorder that causes her to change personalities from sweet to fierce every time she sneezes. This version emphasizes the biker-girl persona that her fierce side captures. The original version portrays only subtle differences in physicality. This piece displays the personality difference physically.
13 EXPLORER BULMA
Bulma has always been one of the strong, fierce, independent women of the Dragon Ball team. Her knowledge and her curiosity, which were both a major part of her upbringing by her scientist father, seem to pretty much inspire her every action. She is undoubtedly a major asset to the team.
With her inquisitive and curious personality, the version presented here is not at all unbelievable. This piece introduces Bulma as more of an “in the field” type of explorer, rather than an “in the lab” type of scientist. Explorer Bulma would make a beautiful addition to the team, just as Scientist Bulma is in the current versions.
Lord Frieza is one of the most consistent villains in the entire Dragon Ball franchise. Since he is technically the Emperor of Universe Seven, the command and power he has earned have given him quite a (deserved) reputation. Having wiped out entire planets time and again, it is crystal clear that he is bent on destruction and domination, and he is not easily defeated... well, anymore.
In the anime, Frieza’s physical appearance can undergo different transformative stages; this is a rendition of his first form, which makes him appear much more fierce and alien than the original. With the striking contrast between these first forms, it would be interesting to see his other forms in this style as well.
11 FIGHTER VIDEL
Videl, daughter of the renowned fighter Mr. Satan and wife of Gohan, is another one of the Dragon Ball women who fans would love to see more of in the shows. She is a generally sweet woman, and like her mother in law Chi-Chi, she is a nurturer with a fighter’s spirit.
The artist of this piece decided to make that spirit the focus. Given her family legacy, it would not be farfetched to see her on the battlefields with her husband and friends. This version of Videl could undoubtedly kick some heads in and take names with the best of them.
Master Roshi is one of the great martial artists of Universe Seven, helping to train Goku and his team, who are now considered some of the greatest heroes on earth in the franchise. Master Roshi deserves much credit for that. After all, he has worked with some of the most stubborn and strong willed people, and shaped them each into something more than what they were... even if he is a bit skeezy.
This rendition of Roshi portrays him as a Samurai-esque warrior, and a successful one at that. Though he no longer stands tall, he still stands proud and accomplished. Just as he keeps fighting in the canon, despite his advanced age, Samurai Roshi is also battle-ready at a moment’s notice.
9 PRINCE OF THE SAIYANS
Vegeta is ever quick to remind practically everyone that he is superior to them — with a few exceptions, of course. He is, after all, the Prince of all Saiyans. In the original versions, however, there is very little to distinguish him physically from any other Saiyan, even when he first comes to Earth.
The artist behind this piece took that issue and found a resolution for it. With special armor, a billowing cape, and a powerful sword, Vegeta looks worthy of his princely title. Maybe if he looked like this, he wouldn’t feel compelled to vocally remind others of his superiority as often.
8 ALTERNATE NAMEKIAN
The Namekian race has been discussed before in reference to altering the appearance of just a few individuals to make them stand out from the crowd. Fans are sure to have wondered, though, what it might look like if the entire population was to be given a new look.
This may well have been the question one artist asked themselves, and the answer came in the form of this piece. While canonical Namekians are visibly distinct from other races, they are also typically not imposing. This rendition changes that by giving them a flattened face, sharp chin, and talon-like hands.
7 PERFECT CELL
In each of his evolutions, as mentioned previously, the villain Cell becomes increasingly powerful, but he also increasingly humanoid. In fact, the start to finish of his progress may best be described as from larvae to man with wings.
This rendition chooses to up play the humanistic features of Perfect Cell more than the original. To do this, the artist gave him a more human build and subdued the colors and scales found on his body. By shifting the focus to the shape, rather than the colors, the artist has highlighted how he becomes more human with each person he absorbs.
From Dragon Ball to the final episode of Dragon Ball Super, fans have been able to watch practically every main character grow up. Bulma, Goku, Gohan, Chi-Chi and Trunks (to name a few), have all experienced their most formative years during the course of the franchise.
There is something especially striking about this rendition of teenage Bulma, though. Maybe it’s the personality that shines through her outfit. Maybe it’s the curiosity and wanderlust in her eyes. Either way, there is no doubt this version of Bulma knows who she is and that she will do great things in her life.
5 THE ETERNAL DRAGON
Shenron, the Eternal Dragon, is a powerful and majestic being who has existed long before the Dragon Ball story began. When all seven dragon balls are gathered, he appears to grant virtually any wish. Typically, he is portrayed in a very traditional way with his slender, green body, and his piercing red eyes.
The power behind this redesign comes in part from the change in color scheme. By creating Shenron as a red dragon with golden eyes, he gives off a more powerful aura. The other striking change is the shift from slender to muscular, which adds to his majesty.
As arguably the major race in the entire Dragon Ball franchise, it seems only right that the Saiyans also get a redesign as a group. As a general rule, there is little to visually distinguish one Saiyan from another in regards to either their class or their status.
This reimagining stays mostly true to that rule. Though the difference in class and status remains undetectable, the Saiyan race has indeed received a makeover. The most notable change is in the armor. As this style appears more aerodynamic for flying and less cumbersome for fighting, it is a change fans can definitely get behind.
Thus far, the redesigns that have been shown are either of styles from concurrent time periods when compared to the originals, or pieces that are more historically traditional. This reimagining of Future Trunks, however, breaks away from that with some, fittingly, beautiful and striking futuristic elements.
The most noticeable and intriguing futuristic elements are his sword and his suit. His sword appears to be powered by a strong laser technology or possibly even his own personal ki. His suit, and more specifically the mask attached, provide a simple and somewhat subtle acknowledgement of the pollution and destruction in the Future Trunks Saga.
This artist’s version of Piccolo does not stray too far from the original Namekian appearance. Its subtlety, however, is what makes this piece so beautiful. Instead of the bright, contrasting colors of the original, the artist has chosen a single skin tone and subdued colors.
In addition to the changes in skin tone and contrast, the artist has changed Piccolo’s gi in slight ways. One of these changes is the addition of his gloves, which provides an alternative contrast to that of the exposed muscles in the original version. The overall softer look of this piece is more congruent with Piccolo’s affinity for meditation than other versions, as well.
1 THE WHOLE CREW
This is another elegant and beautiful rendition of the entire team, without straying too far from the cartoon-style art of the original. This version also pays homage to traditional Japanese art. Unlike the Heian style rendition of Goku, however, this piece is not necessarily period-specific, as it incorporates subtle traits from multiple eras.
Out of all the pieces explored herein, this seemed a fitting way to end. A version of the franchise completely in this art style would be intriguing if for no other reason than to see the other historical elements they could find a way to work into it.