when the “boomer” generation opposed the broadcast of “Dragon Ball”

From the end of the 1980s, French youth developed a passion for the manga “Dragon Ball”. An enthusiasm that was far from shared by the “boomer” generation of the time.



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The manga "Dragon Ball" arrived in France at the end of the 80s and the cartoon became the flagship product of the youth television show "The Dorothée club".  (Illustrative photo) (RICHARD A. BROOKS / AFP)

Akira Toriyama, who recently died, was the Japanese creator of the comic Dragon Ball. It was this manga, which sold 300 million copies worldwide, which launched “mangamania” in France in the 1980s and 1990s. A delightful phenomenon against which the “boomers”, the older generation, tried to oppose, without success. The quest of San Goku, this little boy with a monkey tail, to collect magic crystal balls became the flagship of the children’s television show “Le club Dorothée” from 1988.

“Japanese cartoons are terrible”

But the fight scenes in the manga earned him the wrath of MP Ségolène Royal. “LJapanese cartoons are execrable, terrible”she judged at the time. “I think a lot of people think like me and don’t dare say it, for fear of making a fool of themselves.” A judgment in complete disconnection with the younger generation who are already rushing to what comes next, Dragon Ball Z, actually taken from the same manga. This success made it, in 1993, the first large-scale Japanese comic book published in France (just after the pioneer Akira, less general public), again arousing perplexity if not hostility among older people. In a report from the time, a journalist even described Toriyama’s manga as “spearheading the full-blown attack on traditional comics.”

But the old world ends up bowing to the evidence. It’s not even that young people like it, it’s that they need it, like a decompression valve. “It was very helpful for a lot of people.”, believes Brigitte Lecordier, French voice actress for San Goku, interviewed by Olivier Bénis for France Inter. “This little Goku gave strength to many young people who were lonely, who were unable to grow up well in their social and emotional environment.”

“These characters showed that when we fought, when we stood together, we succeeded. I met a lot of people who told me: ‘I got out of trouble thanks to your characters.'”

Brigitte Lecordier, French voice actor for San Goku

France Inter

Toriyama and his French publisher Glénat opened a path into which Naruto, One Piece and so many others. Certainly there is the ninth art, 300 million copies sold, but there is also a juicy market to be had. Akira Toriyama’s Japanese publishing house had him sign a lifetime exclusivity contract and Awesome Turtle, Vegeta, Frieza and company were soon available in derivative products, toys, cards and figurines.

A first award in Angoulême in 2013

A market which also explains the multiple anime revivals, including yet another sequel called Dragon Ball Daima is announced for next fall. There were also films, around twenty feature films in Japan and Akira Toriyama had not left the drawing board. New volumes of the manga series were still regularly released Dragon Ball Super. Is it because of this way of exhausting the vein or out of pure snobbery that we had to wait until 2013 before a first award at the Angoulême festival? The author, who said he was agoraphobic and rarely showed himself in public, never came to collect his trophy.

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