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If you are ever slightly interested in the world of anime and manga, then you’ll definitely have heard of Dragon Ball before. And for those of you who finally wish to begin your Dragon Ball reading journey, the biggest challenge will be in picking the right version of Dragon Ball. Because there’s quite a lot of them.
The purpose of this article is to tell you about the different versions of Dragon Ball and present some of my personal recommendations when it comes to which one you should pick. Alright, enough small talks, let’s move on to the facts.
Before we begin
The followings are several caveats that I have to tell you before we talk about Dragon Ball:
- The original Dragon Ball in Japan consists of 42 continuous volumes. However, Viz decided to follow the anime and published it in 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and 26 volumes of Dragon Ball Z.
- This article is written in November 2021. So any price mentioned here is based on the information available at the time of writing. But while those prices might change in the future, the relative value between one version to the next should remain the same.
- Every price is based on the ones listed in Viz official website in November 2021.
- This article focuses on the versions of Dragon Ball that you can buy and own. That means we won’t talk about Dragon Ball from manga subscription services like Mangamo, Comixology Unlimited, etc.
- I will update this article whenever Viz publishes another new version of Dragon Ball.
- Be on the lookout for discounts. There will be a lot of them no matter where you buy your Dragon Ball.
Different versions of Dragon ball
1. Dragon Ball Regular version
This is the version of Dragon Ball as it was published by Viz back in the year 2000. Initially, Viz censored the manga and made all sorts of changes due to the demands of parents who complained about the nudity and violence in the manga.
As you can probably guess, Dragon ball fans despised that move. As a result, the regular version of Dragon Ball that you can buy today should be free of those pesky censorship. Well, there might still be small changes here and there, but for the most part, you’ll get the vanilla version of Dragon Ball.
Pros. This regular individual volume is Dragon Ball as it was created by Akira Toriyama in the 1980s. So you pretty much buy something as close to the original tankobon as possible with this version. All 42 volumes of manga, each with unique cover arts and a marvelous spine art.
Cons. First of all, hunting all of those volumes one by one is a chore. Not to mention the supply and the price could fluctuate from time to time. Which could prevent you from completing your collection. Second of all, 42 volumes requires a lot of space. It could take at least an entire row of a medium-size bookshelf.
Price. The price for the individual volumes of this regular version is around $10 for both the Dragon Ball and the Dragon Ball Z. Which means the cost for the Dragon Ball adds up to about $160, while the Dragon Ball Z is about $260. That brings the total cost for the whole series to be around $420.
2. Dragon Ball Digital version
This one is similar to the regular version in every way possible except for the fact that it is digital. There are different companies that sell digital books out there, but my recommendations are Kindle and Comixology.
Pros. This version is great for those of you who only want to read the story without having to deal with the hassle of preparing the physical space to store 42 volumes worth of manga. Not to mention, digital manga also means you can bring your Dragon Ball with you wherever you go. Which is quite neat.
Cons. Both Kindle and Comixology have their own proprietary apps and you need them to read the manga. So if anything goes wrong with them, you won’t be able to access your purchased manga. Such is the case with most digital manga. Besides, you won’t be able to hold the book in your hand, which is quite a shame as well.
Price. Since it is a digital manga, the price is also lower than the printed version. Every volume of this Dragon Ball will cost you about $7 per copy. So the total cost of getting both DragonBall and Dragon Ball Z would be around $294.
3. Dragon Ball 3-in-1 version
I touched on the issue of storage space on the previous point. Indeed, 42 volumes would certainly take quite a lot of free space on your bookshelf. So Viz decided to slap three regular volumes into one and sell it as the Dragon Ball 3-in-1.
Pros. Since this is an omnibus version, Viz could sell it at a much cheaper price. They also use the cover arts from the gorgeous Japan’s Kanzenban version. Viz also decided to simply use the “Dragon Ball” brand without having to split the series into the “regular” and the “Z” like in other versions.
Cons. Another reason why Viz could put a low price tag on it is due to its low quality paper. The papers are so thin, you could easily see the next page through the current page that you’re reading. Not only that, the nasty censorship is also still alive and well here.
Price. There are 14 volumes in Dragon Ball 3-in-1 and each of them cost about $15 per book. The total cost for the whole series is around $210. If you divide that number into the regular 42 volumes, it means the price for each volume is only about $5 per book.
4. Dragon Ball VizBig version
This is another 3-in-1 omnibus version of Dragon Ball, but this one is an improvement in every way compared to the last one. But unlike the previous 3-in-1, VizBig split the series into the usual DragonBall and Dragon Ball Z.
Pros. Although they both are an omnibus version, VizBig has a slightly bigger dimension than the previous 3-in-1. But more importantly, VizBig has way better paper quality, along with the original color pages as it appeared in the original Shounen Jump magazine. And there’s little to no censorship whatsoever.
Cons. Unfortunately, due to its size and thickness the book becomes quite heavy. That means the spine won’t hold as good as the other version. Especially if you try to read it just like any other manga. Expect the spine to break as you read it.
Price. VizBig has five Dragon Ball volumes and nine Dragon Ball Z. The cost for each volume is around $20 per book. Which means the total price for the whole series is around $280. If you divide it into the regular 42 volumes, the price for each volume is around $6 per book.
5. Dragon Ball Full color version
For the Dragon Ball manga, this is the most special version of the bunch. But for the reasons that I will talk about shortly, this is also the most frustrating version out of all of them. But if you really love Dragon Ball, I believe you should get one of these.
Pros. This is by far the version with the best quality. The colors look sharp, the paper is quite thick and glossy, there’s no censorship whatsoever, and they even use the original Japanese sound effects. And the dimension is also slightly bigger than VizBig, but not as thick, which makes it perfect to hold and read.
Cons. And this is the most frustrating part. When I write this article, there’s only two arcs that have received the full color treatment. The saiyan arc and the Freeza arc. And nothing else. I mean, this version has been around for years now, but there’s no sign of the other arcs to get adapted into this format. Which is so infuriating.
Price. There are 3 volumes of the saiyan arc, and five volumes of the Freeza arc. The price for each of them is around $20 per book. So the total amount is about $160 for both arcs. If we compare it to the regular version, the two arcs are an equivalent of the first 12 volumes of DBZ. Which means in terms of regular volumes, the price is around $13 per volume.
6. Dragon Ball Box Set version
This is actually what I consider to be the most convenient version of the bunch. The reason is simply because you can get the whole volumes of the series in one purchase. Well, two purchases. Because both DB and DBZ have their own box sets with their own bonus posters.
Pros. The two box sets collect the 42 volumes of the Dragon Ball series. The boxes themselves are also quite sturdy, so you can leave the books there if you want to save some space on your shelf. And since you pretty much buy it in bulk, the cost for each volume is actually cheaper than buying them one by one.
Cons. The individual volumes cost may be cheaper, but you still have to pay them in bulk. Which means you have to prepare a huge upfront cost if you want to get these two box sets.
Price. The price for the Dragon Ball box set is around $140, with 16 volumes inside. And the price for the Dragon Ball Z box set is around $220, with 26 volumes inside. Therefore, the total cost is about $360. If you divide it to 42, the cost for the individual volumes is just $8 per book.
Which version of Dragon Ball manga you should get
Alright, here comes the most important part. Which of these versions should you get? Well, since everybody has their own priority and preference when it comes to purchasing manga, I decided to make three distinct categories and recommend the best Dragon Ball version for each one of them.
1. The cheapest option
If all you want is simply to read Dragon Ball without even bothering to collect them, then the cheapest option will be the 3-in-1 version. But if you are also the type of person who doesn’t really like holding such a thick book, then you should get the digital version instead.
2. The best value for money
If you want to have the best Dragon Ball reading experience without having to empty your savings to get them, then the VizBig version offers the best bang for your buck. You’d get a big size manga with color pages and thick content in each volume. Very nice.
3. For collectors
If you are a manga enthusiast and you want something that is as close to the original Japanese tankobon version as possible, then you should get the Box Sets version. You’d get all of the original volumes in nice boxes with some bonuses as well. And if you still have some money to spare, might as well get the full color version while at it.
Last but not least
One of the perks of being a highly popular manga like Dragon Ball is the fact that publishers would reprint the manga over and over again in different shapes and forms. Many people used to be turned off by this because they think it creates unnecessary confusion to potential readers. But I beg to differ.
Look at it this way, no matter who you are, what your preferences and financial situation are, there is a suitable Dragon Ball manga for you. So what are you waiting for? Take your pick, buy, and read them. They’ve been around for more than three decades, what else are you waiting for?
And one more thing, as you can see, there are affiliate links under each title to point you towards the relevant page on Amazon/RightStufAnime. If you’re interested in getting any of this manga, please consider buying it through those links. It will help this blog grow at no additional cost to you. Thanks for reading!