Did you know that Dragon Ball’s Lunch is inspired by an actress from a Jackie Chan film? Read this exclusive article to find out which one!
Cinema Inspires Toriyama
Part of my job as a Dragon Ball Scholar is to discover the sources of inspiration for Akira Toriyama’s artwork and writing in Dragon Ball.
One of the biggest sources of inspiration for Toriyama is martial arts films, and of those, Jackie Chan films.
Akira Toriyama loves Jackie Chan films. In fact, Toriyama said that without seeing Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master as a young man that Dragon Ball wouldn’t even exist.
“If I hadn’t seen this movie, I would never have come up with Dragon Ball.” – Akira Toriyama, on Drunken Master, from Shonen Jump, 2003
Toriyama also mentions Jackie Chan in several interviews, in his short blurbs before each week’s manga release during its original publication run, and of course the time that Toriyama and Jackie Chan met one another in 1986 when Jackie visited Japan to film the movie My Lucky Stars.
Given the fact that Dragon Ball is inspired by Jackie Chan, that the main character of Goku is Toriyama’s modern version of Sūn Wùkōng mixed with Jackie Chan (as I describe in my books Dragon Ball Culture Volumes 1 and 2), it then makes sense to reason that other parts of Dragon Ball are also inspired by Jackie Chan films.
In fact, Toriyama will outright grift a character’s likeness from a Jackie Chan movie and then go the rest of his life without telling anyone.
This is most likely due to how his artistic eye works. With his photographic memory, he sees a character in a film, and then years later he recalls the character’s likeness and adds them to his manga, perhaps without even realizing which movie they were from.
But a scholar needs evidence to prove their arguments. And you can’t just base everything on Toriyama’s words, because the vast majority of his content in Dragon Ball goes unexplained.
In search of that evidence, I decided to watch every Jackie Chan movie ever made.
And lo and behold, I have uncovered many similarities and direct sources of inspiration between Jackie Chan’s films and Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball.
Here is one of those sources.
Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals
Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals (Chinese: Kuàicān-chē, 快餐車, 1984) is one of Chan’s most impressive films. It has great martial arts, humor, and storytelling. This film inspired Dragon Ball in several ways.
Wheels on Meals is about two guys who run a food truck that get caught up in a gang war over a beautiful woman.
It stars the trio of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao.
And it has a climactic battle between Jackie Chan and Benny Urquidez!
At the ‘5:50’ mark of Wheels on Meals there is a comedic scene where Jackie Chan and his best friend, played by Yuen Biao, are washing their food truck in the streets of Barcelona, Spain.
A sexy lady walks down the street and catches the eye of Yuen Biao to such a degree that he loses track of his own actions with a bucket of soapy water.
Here’s a backup video of the same clip in case YouTube removes it:
This woman never appears again. She is used for her appearance and the sake of a joke.
Despite having a single-word line of “Hello,” this actress goes uncredited. And despite my best efforts I have been unable to identify her. If you know her name, please tell me in the comments below.
One of the requirements when looking for cinematic evidence of inspiration is that it has to have come out before Toriyama’s manga did. In this case, Wheels on Meals came out on August 17, 1984, which is 8 months prior to when Lunch premieres in Dragon Ball Chapter 25, on May 28, 1985, in Weekly Shōnen Jump.
Her appearance is the most important thing in both the movie and her role in inspiring Dragon Ball, because I believe this is who Toriyama uses as inspiration for Lunch in Dragon Ball.
Inspiration for Lunch’s Appearance
As you can see by looking at her, Lunch is a beautiful Western girl from the mid-1980s.
She wears a revealing top that exposes her bust and midriff, a pair of short-shorts, a pair of Nike sneakers with long aerobics socks around her calves, and she has a large hair bow on top of her long, curled hair.
Lunch’s appearance is almost identical to the unnamed actress in Wheels on Meals.
The only difference is that the actress doesn’t have a bow in her hair and her midriff isn’t exposed. Otherwise she’s a copy.
I suspect that Toriyama burns her image into his mind, and then when he needs a beautiful girl, he recalls her and draws her into his story.
Inspiration for Lunch’s Name
Lunch’s name is inspired by the Western word for the midday meal. This word is transliterated into Japanese as Ranchi (ランチ, “Lunch”).
Once you realize that Lunch’s appearance is inspired by a Jackie Chan film about two guys who deliver food to people in a truck, such as during lunch, it strengthens the rationale for naming her after a meal.
Unfortunately, the English dub of Dragon Ball decided to call her “Launch,” which is one possible reverse transliteration of Ranchi back into English. But this name negates the entire correlation to food that Toriyama was suggesting with her name in the first place.
For direct evidence of Toriyama’s intention, look at the title page of Dragon Ball Chapter 26, where Toriyama writes “LUNCH” on the engine of Lunch’s motorcyle.
For additional evidence, watch the second Dragon Ball movie, titled Dragon Ball: Majin-Jō No Nemuri Hime (ドラゴンボール 魔神城のねむり姫, “Dragon Ball: Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle,” 1987).
In this movie Ranchi has a line where she rides in on her motorcycle, steals a precious gemstone, and says, “People call me Itadaki-Ranchi (いただきランチ).”
This is a word play on itadakimasu (いただきます), a Japanese expression said before eating a meal that colloquially means “Let’s eat!” Combining itadakimasu with Ranchi means “Let’s eat Lunch!”
Then in the Dragon Ball: Bōken Special (1987) guidebook there is an illustration of the Kame House, and on the mailbox it reads, “武天老師, LUNCH, カメ” which means, “Muten Rōshi, Lunch, Kame.” These are three of the people living on Rōshi’s island at the time.
This guidebook is illustrated by a few different artists, including Toriyama’s assistant, Matsuyama Takashi, and it’s an official guide to the series.
So if Toriyama writes her name as Lunch, the anime staff makes a lunch-based pun, and the official staff illustrating the guidebooks writes her name as Lunch, then her name is Lunch.
Lunch inspired by Lunch
The anime writing staff of Dragon Ball connect the cinematic source of inspiration for Lunch with the character herself in Dragon Ball Z Episode 285 when she is depicted as the driver of a food delivery truck.
The name of the business written on the food truck is “Lunch Express (“ランチ Express”).”
She even has her own logo featuring a knife and fork, to drive home the food-based name joke.
This is just one of hundreds of examples where Akira Toriyama is inspired by cinema.
In most cases he never tells anyone where he received his inspiration. So to find them, you have to watch and memorize every episode of Dragon Ball, and then watch countless movies until you stumble across a similar-looking character.
To save you the thousands of hours of time required to do this, you can read about the rest of the sources of inspiration I’ve discovered in my Dragon Ball Culture book series.
If you’re interested in Lunch in particular, pick up Dragon Ball Culture Volume 3, where I dedicate a chapter to discussing Lunch’s appearance, name, split personalities, and her psychological role in the story.
To conclude, Dragon Ball’s Lunch is inspired by an actress in a Jackie Chan film about two guys who deliver food to people in a truck, and then Lunch goes on to deliver food to people in a truck in Dragon Ball.
All because of a short clip featuring a sexy girl and a joke.
That’s Toriyama for ya’.