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Saturday, 13 August 2016

Was Toriyama's Dragon Ball Z Inspired By Chinese Manhua?

I know about Chinese Manhua and not Japanese Manga. Even so I would never call myself an expert for various reasons.

 Let's not even go into why it is a powder keg to nationals in either country to insinuate one copied from the other. You need to know the history of how Manga and Manhua developed as well as the history of both nations and how they interact, which has been far less than good at times -even today.

I have covered the differences between the two -or three if you count Korean Manhwa and I even set up a blog for Jeeyong Kim and her Seoul Graphics a good while ago

Blogger has managed to lose every image from a 2015 posting -WTF??!! again!!  All images, etc. gone but I've chucked a few in to pad things out.

Don’t know too much about Manga,Manhwa or Manhua here’s an up-dated intro to the subject. Manhua is the Chinese word for comics. The character used are the basis of the characters used in both Manwha [Korean for comics] and Manga,the Japanese for comics.There is a certain annoyance amongst some fans of the medium that three terms are being used to designate which comic comes from where. This seems more than a little odd but there are all sorts on the internet! 

Wendy Siuyi Wong,in her fabulous book, HONG KONG COMICS:A HISTORY OF MANHUA [Princeton Architectural Press, 2003], has divided Manhua into four categories: 

[1] Satirical & Political 

[2] Comical

[3] Action

[4] Childrens [adaption of ancient Chinese legends,etc.]The term Lianhuantu will also be encountered when looking into the subject.

Lianhuantu is a traditional illustrated story book consisting,usually,of full page illoes with captions but no word balloons.Korean Manwha tend to be read left to right as per in the West. There is less focus on big eyes and more on expression and personality.

The spikey hair of Manga is replaced also for a more natural look. Characters don’t usually possess magical powers but are instead fierce fighters -far more human.

The Korean Manwha I have seen [black and white samples] tend to use more ink spattering and other techniques -rather like old UK b&w comics.Both Korean ,and especially the Hong Kong Chinese creators,have been influenced by Japanese Manga as they grew up. Therefore,strong Manga influences are evident.However,it is only when you look at a selection of Manwha,Manhua and Manga that you begin to spot the real differences and how unique each can be.

There is a reference book but its in Korean I'm afraid:  Son Sang-ik (1999). 한국만화통사 1 (General History of Manwha 1) (in Korean). Sigongsa. ISBN 89-7259-890-9 

In 2003 there were more than forty locally produced titles in HK -excluding Japanese material.FENG ZI-KAI

The foundations for the development of Manhua as an artform,according to Wendy Siuyi Wong,came in the 1920s. The word “Manhua” got more widely used after the famous writer Feng Zi-Kai published his very first collection of cartoons,Zi-Kai Manhua,in 1925.Feng’s fame drew attention to his use of the phrase “Zi-Kai Manhua” and it was soon in common use,associating his art style with Japanese Manga.Below: FENG ZI-KAI

 [below:FENG ZI-KAI’S “ZI-KAI MANHUA”,1925]
It would be near to impossible to try to show the wide variety o fHong Kong comics,past and present,on this site. There are so many!

The best I can do is advise anyone interested to purchase a copy of Siuyi Wong’s book -you may find a cheap copy on e-bay. The Yahoo discussion group is intended to at least give those interested some idea of what is out there and its not all DC or Marvel comics.

YAO TING -Chinese Manhua Star

Yao Ting [34] is such a comic star in China that it is not unknown for him to be stopped by fans for his autograph. Yet,outside of the Chinese speaking world,I doubt there are many who have heard of him or seen his work.He is one of a number of very vocal Chinese comic creators who have definite views on the state of Chinese comics and its future.

Yao Ting believes that “many Chinese comics have no real soul and just imitate comics from other countries,but people like me,we really think that our own Chinese heritage is most precious.”Yao further told the Times:“My ambition,my dream,is to grasp the essence of ancient Chinese history,culture and thought and bring it to the world.”For inspiration, Yao looks at the classic dynastic histories and popular pre modern era novels.Although I have been looking for some months now,I have been unable to track down Yao’s publisher or more samples of his work.If anyone viewing this site can guide me in the right direction it would be appreciated. Maybe along the way we can also see the work of other contemporary Chinese comic artists.


While on the new sadly defunct singaporecomicsonline site,a member [”poopoo”] referred to a Singapore super hero comic of circa 1986 -this date may not be 100% kosher.

The comic was CAPTAIN V!

CAPTAIN V was the “scientific experiment” of DR EVIL and at the time he was working for the Singapore Police Force. The good Captain was super fast [but not Flash standard fast?],very strong and bullet proof thanks to his costume.

As is allways the case,Dr Evil had an hidden agenda and went into hiding with his “experimental formulas” [so we assume CAPTAIN V was the human result of scientific enhancement].Obviously,this could not be allowed and so Captain V was assigned the task of stopping his mentor.

Thanks to “poopoo” I have two cover scans of CAPTAIN V and a rough guide to the two stories.

ENTER THE CAT! The Cat,alter ego unknown,was a poor man whose family and acquaintances looked down at him because of this. His girlfriend’s father also objected to him because he was poor;although facing many problems,his girlfriend loved him and financial difficulties meant nothing to her [ahhh,true love!]. While taking his girlfriend home there was an accident and she died instantly.From this moment on the poor man began to act eccentrically;he stole money from rich people while disguised as The Cat and handed it out to the good,poor people.

Obviously,the law was not going to allow this! One day The Cat was confronted by Captain V but the pursuit was temporarily stopped when the Singaporean ‘Robin Hood’ threw his “Cat-o-nine tails” [a bolas type weapon] and Captain V got caught up in this….But,as far as I am aware,the Cat was never caught -it was an on-off chase type scenario.

Well,Dr Evil was bound to cause problems sooner or later and he created a very major problem for the good Captain in #3!Dr Evil created a Captain V clone -but one much stronger!

Imagine the shock of Singaporean citizens when,without warning,the upholder of justice is seen robbing a goldsmith and jeweller -and then escaping at incredible speed.The national hero has betrayed justice:Captain V is a wanted man!

Don’t panic! One day,while committing a robbery the double Captain V is confronted by the real hero! A battle ensues and,I assume,the villain is defeated!If anyone can provide more information,better scans or has copies for sale -get in touch!


I think that it must have been around 1988 that I was at a Westminster [London] Comic Mart. I was looking around at tables trying to spot anything interesting when I saw a rather thick,glossy covered comic the style of which stood out from amongst the Marvel and DCs.

“Tony Wong Presents” was what it said and looking at the company logo was amazed. This was a Hong Kong comic -a Hong Kong Kung fu comic!The company was JADEMAN and how they suddenly appeared on the scene I have no idea. There seemed to be no fore-warning.

There must have been quite some planning,however;the cover prices were:-

USA -$1.95CAN -.50AUSTRALIA -.30,UK -$1.30[ or £1.30] 

The comics seemed to just suddenly start and end,presumably being from much longer HK comics? What you got tended to be 60 pages of all out fighting in full colour!


I got hooked,though many of the comics have, shall we say,’vanished’ over the interceding years.

Many comic fans I knew could not work out why I was buying Marvel, DC, First and theseHong Kong comics. It was the action. The number of panels crammed onto each page. The graphic depiction of speed and action. Once you’ve started reading Jademan Comics you really get into it.

Above Tony Wong Studios BATMANHONG KONG

Why can’t someone read American comics and Chinese comics? The only reason has to be lack of love in discovering something different! Perhaps now,twenty years on,with rising UK Manga stars,and the internet [not to mention the first English language Yahoo group on the subject as well as the first web site,Chinese Manhua has arrived?

Ahh,below:a major hit -YOUTH GONE WILD!

And there are,of course,superb British Manga creators such as Sonia Leong,Emma Vieceli,Yishan Li,Morage Lewis -many of them interviewed here at CBO -I include here Willie Hewes for her style and flare! Sweatdrop Studios has done a great deal to help create and promote this new breed of creators.

Apart from the Chinese Comics Group on yahoo there is,in Links,Hobbyhypekingdom. There are also my two web sites -both currently UNDERGOING MAINTENANCE:

I research EVERYTHING I write about. If a person or author is mentioned I track them down and ask.

Now, today I received this:

"Hi Terry,I'm an author who specializes in writing about the culture of the Dragon Ball manga and anime. I'm trying to research the possible influence of martial arts manhua on Akira Toriyama's creation of Dragon Ball in 1984, and I'm having a hard time with it. That's why I'm reaching out to you, as an expert on manhua. 

There is an article going around in the Dragon Ball community that argues the entire Dragon Ball series was intended to be a wuxia ("martial hero") story from the beginning to the end. 

It argues that manhua, particularly the martial arts oriented manhua that uses supernormal abilities, had a direct influence on Toriyama's work. But in my months of research I have yet to find definitive proof of this. It's all circumstantial, or in some cases, post-dates the series' creation. A lot of the influence actually comes from kung fu films, which the author of this article incorrectly defines as wuxia. So I'm not sure how accurate his descriptions of manhua are either.

Do you know if manhua was exported into Japan prior to 1984? When did it become popular there, if ever? From what I can tell, manhua wasn't popular in Japan until the early to mid '90s, and 'wuxia' isn't even a word in Japanese. Do you know of any manga-ka who have been directly influenced by manhua? Did Japanese publishers ever take notice to it?

I've read every article on your site, and scoured the web for answers, but can't seem to find them. Any help is appreciated. Thank you.
Derek PadulaAuthor of Dragon Ball Culture"

I've heard these conspiracy theories before.  In fact, Tony Mo asked basically the same thing which started this post off!

Japan has martial arts and so does China. Remember the TV show "Monkey"? Even the US series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie "The Karate Killers"? I could go on and on but Chinese martial arts films tend to be better known because of stars such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, Jet li, Michelle Yeoh, Josephine Siao and Zhang Ziyi.  Now name Japanese martial arts stars?

I have no in-roads into Japanese Manga culture. Japan has been far from friendly to comickers outside the country.  I can say that China adopted the Manga look though even that is debatable since the similarities arose at the same time but some enterprising Chinese publishers decided to "go with it" in around the 1990s.

It is far more possible that Chinese Manhua got to Japan via Western tourists or businessmen travelling between the two.  Pick up light reading while travelling but there arte things you have to take into account. 

There have always been restrictions in China regarding foreign publications and Japan has never been a very close "friend".  So importing lots of Manga prior to the 1990s isn't likely but then you have the very strong Japanese cultural idea of looking down at a lot of foreign culture and at China in particular. So this argument between fans as to who did what and why is pretty mute.

Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball  was serialised in 1984 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump. So, was it inspired by Chinese martial arts comics?  There was a lot of Anime before 1984 featuring martial arts and though some Dragon Ball characters look vaguely -vaguely- similar to Chinese Manhua characters I think this is purely coincidental.

Toriyama worked in games design before comics if I recall, correctly, a lot of martial arts stuff in those that look Manhua-ish.

Toriyama is alive and well and I think only one person can answer the question regarding any Manhua influence and that is Toriyama.  Has no one thought to ask him?  And before anyone says it, yes, comic p[eople around the world tend to lie with natural ease, however, Japanese culture is different in that if asked a direct question you lie in response it can have severe consequences on your career.  

Lying is not good. 

So if Toriyama says "no influence" then there is your answer!

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