Starter Info for Dragon Ball Newbies
The Story of Dragonball
Dragon Ball, which was intended as a gag manga (Japanese comic), with adventure elements by Akira Toriyama, was based on the old Chinese fables about the Monkey King.
The story revolved around the search for 7 magical crystal orbs created by an alien race called the Nameks, and a boy named Son Gokou.
The 7 magical balls, when brought together, had the power to summon the Eternal Dragon, Shen Long, granting the person a single wish, thus giving them the name Dragon Balls.
In some old Chinese fables, there lived a Legendary Monkey King named Suen Wukung, who possessed great strength and powers. This character resembles the main character in Dragon Ball named Son Gokuh, who was born of an alien race called the Saiyans. Suen Wukung, translated in Japanese was "Son Gokuh", hence the name for our main character.
The Saiyans (or Saiya-jins)
The Saiyans (or Saiya-jins) were pretty much the most powerful species in the universe. When looking at a full moon, they turn into a huge, ferocious monster, resembling a giant ape, called an Ozaroo. But they are also born with a weakness their monkey-like tail. Their tail is the key to the transformation when looking into the full moon. Saiyans can also reach another level of power, where they harness sort of the "Golden Fleece" of their race when they become the Super Saiya-jin. But only a few can reach that level of power, since most Saiyans were wild, and uncontrollable. The highest Super Saiyan levels ever reached was Super Saiyan level 3 (by Gokou). Also, Vegeta and Gokou both made it to a level four, which isn't really a Super Saiya-jin level since they trasform into a half monkey, half saiya-jin, and since they have no golden hair. It is more like a "Super Gokou," or "Super Vegeta."
Dragon Ball Z
By volume 14 of the Dragon Ball manga, Toriyama switched focus and concentrated on the martial arts, and the dramatic aspects. So the series was renamed Dragon Ball Z, reflecting the change in the focus of the Dragonball aspects.
The Rise and Fall of the "True" Dragon Ball Series
(by "True," I mean the Dragon Ball manga/anime that was actually thought up by the creator of the hit series Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball Z, Akira Toriyama. But It's not like I don't like DBGT, I think they did a good job even without the original animators, etc.)
During the years of 1987-1995, Dragon Ball became so popular, the manga/anime reached all over Europe and America. But since such a huge marketing conveyance (promoting products as different as clocks, posters, curry rice, eye drops, children's study desks, video games, etc.), many promotional agencies demanded that a replacement TV series fill the gap left behind by Dragon Ball. Thus was created Dragon Ball: GT. Toriyama was understood as an artistic consultant, but no longer had direct input to the storyline, and there was no manga to accompany the TV anime either.
Some people hated the idea of DBGT, since the whole story was changed, it wasnt even a creation of Akira Toriyama, the art wasnt the same because they werent drawn by the same artists, the voices were different, etc.
And apparently, DBGT was intended to end around April, 1997. However, the latest video game for the Sony Play Station, Dragon Ball GT, had to be released before the end of the show. But the game missed its first deadline. So, the Dragon Ball GT TV series was extended for a few more episodes, until the new game could be released at the end of August, 1997.