Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z by Akira Toriyama probably doesn't need an introduction. Not only has it been going strong for years and years, first releasing with English translation all the way back in the 90's, but it's one of the most popular shonen manga as well. It holds a special place in my heart because I grew up with it as a kid, but even after all this time, it's still one of my favorites.
But what's the best way to collect it? This question is more difficult to answer than one would think, because there are seven editions of the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga that have released with English translation so far and they all differ in a number of different areas, including print quality, censorship, how much of both series they collect, and more.
That being said, I wanted to try and help you guys decide which edition is best for you by reviewing each edition side by side!
If you are interested in these type of comparisons, I have a ton more on the site, including reviews of the Attack on Titan Colossal Editions, Berserk Deluxe Editions, the Akira 35th Annivesary Box Set, Soul Eater Perfect Editions and more!
All of the Ways You Can Collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z with English Translation
Right now, there are 7 ways to collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z by Akira Toriyama with English translation: The comic book issues that released in the 90's, the graphic novels that released in the 2000's, the individual paperbacks, the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga box sets, the Dragon Ball 3-in-1's, the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z Vizbigs, and the Dragon Ball Full Color Editions (only applies to Dragon Ball Z). All formats of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that have released with English translation are published by Viz Media.
Which edition is right for you though and how do they compare? First off, I want to talk about how many volumes each collect and whether or not they fully collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, because some of the editions do not.
How many volumes do each collect and do they fully collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z?
There are three editions that don't fully collect Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z. They are the comic book issues, the graphic novels, and the Full Color Editions.
The comic book issues fully collect Dragon Ball, but only collect up through most of the Frieza Arc in Dragon Ball Z. So while you can fully read Dragon Ball in this format, you can't fully read Dragon Ball Z.
The graphic novels don't fully collect Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z. Only the first 10 volumes of both series were released in this graphic novel format, so they only collect 20 of the 42 volumes.
The Full Color Editions only collect the Saiyan Arc and Frieza Arc of Dragon Ball Z. Viz let us know in a Tweet on their official Twitter account that the Full Color arcs are licensed separately from one another so they have no word on a release of the next arc.
There are currently only three editions that fully collect both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z: The individual paperbacks, which you can also collect in the manga box sets, the 3-in-1's, and the Vizbigs.
There are a total of 42 individual paperbacks to collect, 16 for Dragon Ball and 26 volumes for Dragon Ball Z. The Dragon Ball manga box set and Dragon Ball Z manga box set are another way to collect all 42 of the individual paperbacks.
There are 3 volumes in each Vizbig and there are a total of 14 of them, 5 that collect Dragon Ball and 9 that collect Dragon Ball Z.
The 3-in-1's collect all of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z in 14 volumes. These collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z continuously unlike other formats, which split them up by series.
How do they differ in terms of size?
The smallest formats are the individual paperbacks and the 3-in-1's, which have the same width and height and only differ in terms of thickness. The graphic novels are shorter than both, but are wider. The Vizbigs, on the other hand, are the largest format that fully collects both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. The Vizbigs are one of Viz's larger format manga releases. They've released other Vizbigs in the past, including the Vagabond Vizbigs.
The Full Color Editions are the largest format all-around, but they only collect the Saiyan and Frieza arcs of Dragon Ball Z. They are about the same height as the Dark Horse Deluxe Editions.
How much do each cost?
The singles retail for $9.99 each (Approximately $420 to collect all), the Vizbigs retail for $19.99 each (Approximately $280 to collect all), the 3-in-1's retail for $14.99 each (Approximately $209 to collect all), the Dragon Ball manga box set retails for $139.99 and the Dragon Ball Z manga box set retails for $219.99. Both box sets would run you around $360 at retail. All of these estimated prices are in USD.
When comparing the editions at retail, the most cost-effective way to collect both series is the 3-in-1's. The second cheapest way would be through the Vizbigs. If you are wanting to pick up the singles though, the manga box sets are the cheapest way to do so.
Of course, you can usually find all of these for discounted prices on sites like Right Stuf or Amazon. That being said, you can usually find them all for cheaper prices than retail when they are available and are in-stock.
In regards to the other formats, the Full Color Editions are $19.99 a piece so it would cost you around $160 USD to collect only the Saiyan and Frieza arcs. The graphic novels and the comic book issues are out of print, so they vary in terms of price. When I am able to track them down at secondhand bookstores though, I usually find them marked for half off cover price. To learn more about out of print manga collecting, check out the Out of Print Manga Guide!
The individual paperbacks have the same cover art as the individual volumes released in Japan. The spines feature connecting artwork of the characters.
The 3-in-1's feature the same cover art as the Dragon Ball Perfect Editions that were released in Japan. They are red with a white Dragon Ball logo and also have connecting artwork on their spines.
The Vizbigs have new artwork by Akira Toriyama on their covers. They have connecting spines that feature various artwork of Goku. Their covers are a bit more sturdy and are a tad bit thicker than the other releases.
The Full Color Editions have new artwork as well. They are the most colorful edition to release so far. They are thinner than the rest of the releases, but are the largest format.
All editions of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that have released so far with English translation are paperback.
I personally think the best looking editions both on and off the shelf are the individual paperbacks and the Vizbigs, but design is completely subjective!
Page and Print Quality of the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z Manga Editions
The individual paperbacks are printed on off-white paper that has an eggshell-like texture. The 3-in-1's are printed on off-white paper that has a smooth finish, but the pages are newspaper thin. The Vizbigs are printed on white paper that has a matte finish. Because of the type of paper they are printed on, the contrast is the best and the mid-tones stand out better in the Vizbigs. The Full Color Editions are printed on white paper that has a glossy finish. They are also one of the best in terms of print quality, but they don't complete the series.
Out of all the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga editions to release so far, the best print quality goes to the Vizbigs and the Full Color Editions. The best two that fully collect both, however, are the Vizbigs and the singles, which you can also pick-up in the manga box sets. The 3-in-1's have the worst print and page quality out of all of the editions that fully collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.
To see the differences in print quality firsthand, check out our YouTube review of all of the editions below. We include examples within that video!
Do any of the editions have color pages?
The Full Color Editions are of course the only full color edition of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z to release so far, but there is one other edition that has color pages sprinkled throughout: The Vizbigs.
The Dragon Ball Full Color Editions are digitally colored though, whereas the color pages in the Vizbigs are the original full color panels that were colored by hand and were present in the Japanese volumes. The color pages in each have a very different look to them, but I like them both for different reasons. That being said, there's just something about the original color pages that I love more.
The other editions are fully in black and white. The color pages that were in the original Japanese volumes were gray-scaled in the singles and 3-in-1's. Because of this, the printing of these pages in particular look darker than the rest of the pages that were originally drawn in black and white.
How cropped is the artwork in each?
The most cropped edition horizontally is the Vizbigs, the second most cropped is the 3-in-1's, and the least cropped is the singles. The most cropped edition vertically is the singles, the second most cropped is the 3-in-1's, and the least cropped is the Vizbigs. The graphic novels released in the 2000's are the most cropped all-around. The Full Color Editions are the least cropped all-around by far, but the least cropped version of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that full collects both are the Vizbigs and the singles.
How easy are they to read and are there any issues with gutter loss?
I didn't notice many issues in terms of readability with any of the editions. All are relatively light-weight and are easy to read. The heaviest edition though is the Vizbigs and I did notice that, due to their thickness and size, they had some issues with gutter loss in the beginning of the volumes. The margins in all of the editions are great though, so not much to report here.
Translation, Sound Effects, and Censorship in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z Manga
The individual paperbacks have the least refined translation of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. There's nothing major in them, but there are a few minor grammatical and sentence structure errors you may notice while reading them. For instance, in the individual paperbacks Raditz says "All growed up", whereas he says "All grown up" in the Vizbigs and 3-in-1's.
The Vizbigs and 3-in-1's fixed these grammatical and sentence structure errors, so the dialogue flows slightly better in these editions.
The only edition that keeps the original hand-drawn sound effects by Akira Toriyama is the Dragon Ball Full Color Editions. The sound effects are redrawn and translated in every other format of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z that was published with English translation.
Censorship is one of the areas in which the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z editions vary the most. I first want to mention though that there's currently no way to collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z with English translation as of now without some form of censorship. That being said, some are censored less than others.
The most censored version by far is the Vizbigs. To give you an idea, they censored Bulma flipping off Pilaf in the Vizbigs. Instead, she is shown with her pointer finger up. They also censored some language. For instance, one panel says "Take That!" whereas it says "You Bastard!" in the singles and 3-in-1's. Nudity and innuendo was also censored in the Vizbigs.
I hope some day we get a fully uncensored release of both series. Until then, the least censored editions of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are the singles and the 3-in-1's.
To see examples of censorship in the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga, check out our review on YouTube below!
Do they have any extras?
The last thing I want to talk about is extras. The Vizbigs have title page galleries, author notes, and full color title page illustrations. They also come with those full color pages that are sprinkled throughout as mentioned prior. The 3-in-1’s also have title page galleries. There are pages with little illustrations included throughout and author notes as well. The box sets come with double-sided posters and collector’s booklets, which include interviews with Akira Toriyama, guides, and more.
Final Thoughts: Which Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z manga edition is best?
Well, it definitely depends on what you are looking for. If you are wanting the cheapest way to collect Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, it's going to be through the 3-in-1's. Cheapest way to collect the singles? You may want to pick-up the manga box sets. If you are wanting the highest print quality, the Vizbigs and the singles are the best. The print quality in the Full Color Editions is top-notch as well. If you are looking for the least censored release though, you'll want to go with either the singles or the 3-in-1's.
Personally, I prefer the manga box sets. I like the way the singles look on the shelf, they are one of the best in terms of print quality, they come with extras, and the singles are one of the least censored. I normally would go with the Vizbigs, because of their print quality and their color pages, but they are the most censored edition so I decided to not go with them.
Where to Shop
To get an all-around look at and see a side-by-side comparison of each edition, check out our review in the video below!
In other manga news, check out all of the new manga and continuing manga you have to look forward to in 2022 so far!
How many volumes of Dragon Ball are there?
There are 16 volumes of Dragon Ball and 26 volumes of Dragon Ball Z.