Did you know that Akira Toriyama drew a design for Goku’s martial arts uniform that was never used? It’s true, and I discovered its origin!
You may have seen this design before if you’ve read the Dragon Ball manga. But unless it was the original Japanese version, you don’t know the full story!
Dragon Ball’s 3rd Anniversary
The story of Goku’s lost martial arts uniform begins with Dragon Ball’s 3rd Anniversary, in 1988. This momentous occasion was announced in Dragon Ball Chapter 163.
For this chapter’s cover art Akira Toriyama draws Goku standing on the heavenly platform where he first meets Kami and Mister Popo.
Beneath this scene is the chapter title aside another image of Goku.
Chapter 163 (百六十三) is titled Shinden (神殿, “Shrine”). A shinden is a sacred place in the Shintō faith where a kami (神, “god,” or “spirit”) is housed. In this case, Dragon Ball’s first deity, Kami.
Here Goku stands with his fists on his hips and has a stubborn expression on his face.
Why is Goku almost naked, except for a pair of western boxers? I didn’t know, so I asked the Dragon Ball community on my Twitter.
I received a response from an American Dragon Ball fan named MistareFusion. He sent a scan he found online of the original cover art as it was published in Weekly Shōnen Jump #13, on February 23, 1988.
This cover is different from the reprints published in all subsequent volumes in Japan and abroad. You can see there is a large amount of text and more graphics on the page.
What does it say?
Let’s break it down.
Below the series title and chapter title it states, “Third Anniversary of the Series! The Most Fun! Color Introduction.”
Japanese: Rensai 3-shūnen toppa! Omoshiro-sa saikō! Kantō karā. (連載3周年突破! 面白さ最高! 巻頭カラー)
What is meant by “Color Introduction”?
Most of Dragon Ball is inked in black and white. But two weeks prior, in Chapter 161, Toriyama says in his chapter note, “I’m working hard on the color pages in commemoration of the three-year anniversary in issue #13, as well as new story developments. Please look forward to it.”
We see those color pages here in Chapter 163, courtesy of Kanzenshuu.com:
The cover art and the first two pages are in full color, while the remaining pages are done in a limited pallete of black, grey, red, and flesh tones. Note the blue Karin in the first image! That’s how Toriyama chose to color him, rather than white.
In this chapter Toriyama says, “After penning these color pages, I took a break and traveled to a hot spring with my whole family. I’m taking things slow and easy.”
But there’s more for the fans to be excited about than the color pages.
Goku’s New Dōgi
At the bottom of the cover stands Goku in his boxers. A speech bubble comes out of his mouth, which I translate:
“Please design my dōgi!”
Japanese: Ora no dōgi o dezain shite kureii (オラの道着をデザインしてくれいっ).
A dōgi (道着, “clothes of the way,” or “martial arts uniform”) is the set of clothes that Goku wears when he trains. He always wears his dōgi because he always trains.
Unfortunately, his dōgi got torn during his fight with Piccolo Daimao, so the reason Goku looks upset is because he has no clothes.
Of course, you wouldn’t think that Goku would wear western boxers, since he is such an eastern character, but that’s the point.
It’s an example of what I call ‘Toriyama’s Rule of Opposites.’ You can learn more about this rule, along with several others, in my Dragon Ball Culture books.
Dragon Ball R/C Car
Next to Goku is an image of a remote-controlled (R/C) car and a note, which I translate:
“Akira Toriyama-sensei Graphic Design – Racer Mini 4 Thunder Shot Jr. DRAGON BALL Version!”
Japanese: Toriyama Akira-sensei gurafikku dezain niyoru Rēsā Mini Yonku Sandā Shotto Jr. Doragon Bōru bājonda (鳥山明先生グラフィックデザインによるレーサーミニ4駆サンダーショット Jr. DRAGON BALLバージョンだ)!
Why is this R/C car here?
I suspect there are two reasons.
First, Akira Toriyama is a big fan of race cars, motorcycles, models, and anything made by the Japanese model company Tamiya.
Toriyama grows up putting Tamiya models together, and he often does this while creating Dragon Ball each week as he procastinates instead of draws. The vehicles in the Tamiya model line even appear throughout the series, both as vehicles the characters drive and as a source for character’s names. Examples are discussed in my books.
Second, I discovered that this particular type of 4WD car (called a yonku (四駆) in Japanese) was the star of an ongoing shōnen series called Dash! Yonkuro (Dasshu! Yonkurō, ダッシュ! 四駆郎). It was being published at the same time as Dragon Ball, from December 1987 to March 1992.
Dash! Yonkuro is about a race car driver and his team of Dash Warriors, as they participate in Mini 4WD championship races across Japan. Here’s the intro for the anime adaptation.
Dash! Yonkuro featured several types of 4WD cars. The Thunder Shot Jr. was scheduled to be released on March 24, 1988 by Tamiya, while Dragon Ball Chapter 163 comes out a month earlier on February 23.
As we can see on the Dragon Ball cover art, it turns out Toriyama designed his own ‘Dragon Ball version’ of the Thunder Shot Jr. car made by Tamiya.
To speculate why, this Dragon Ball-themed design was likely a cross-promotional tie-in where Toriyama gets to design his own version of the car to promote Dragon Ball, Dash! Yonkuro, and Tamiya’s R/C car to kids reading his manga. Dragon Ball was the #1 manga in Japan and read by tens of millions of children, so promotions like this would be smart.
But wait, there’s more!
There is a block of text next to the R/C car, divided into five sections.
Section 1 (on the right) starts with Goku talking about why he has no clothes. @Herms98 on Twitter translated the text for me. Goku says:
“The dōgi Old Turtle Hermit gave me is all beat up, so now I’m making a new one. Bulma said if I’m gonna’ make one it had better be cool, so I’m collecting dōgi designs from everyone. Read over the entry rules on the left, and send in tons of entries.”
Section 2 describes the entry rules. It states that you have to send in your design for Goku’s dōgi by mail, along with your name, year of birth, and address.
Section 3 states the deadline is March 21, 1988.
Section 4 says the winning design will appear in issue #23 of Weekly Shōnen Jump, released during the week of May 3.
Section 5 declares that the winner will receive a Racer Mini 4 Thunder Shot Jr. DRAGON BALL Version as a prize! Cool!!
Ultimately, the winning design for Goku’s dōgi appears on the cover art of Chapter 173, published May 2, 1988.
Goku’s Lost Dōgi
Goku shows off his dōgi with two poses. The first is with his back turned, as he looks over his left shoulder and smiles toward you. The second is a double biceps flex with a grin.
This design for Goku’s dōgi is striking. It’s symmetrical, linear, yet flows from top to bottom with a strong two-tone color and shape.
The large kame (亀, “turtle”) kanji on the back of his regular dōgi remains in place, but rather than being set in a circle, it’s in a hexagon.
The wrist covers are similar to Goku’s originals, but longer.
The footwear emulates classical Shaolin style socks and kung fu shoes, similar to Krillin’s.
Overall it’s not that drastically different, but is different enough to be interesting.
Boyhood to Manhood
I find it fascinating that the contest is announced while Goku is a boy, but Toriyama draws Goku as a young man.
What do I mean?
Goku is 15 years old when the contest is announced in Chapter 163. Only Toriyama knows that he is about to make Goku older through a 3-year timeskip.
Toriyama does this to bypass the details of Goku’s training with Mister Popo and Kami, so he can jump straight to the action of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai.
Goku then premieres as an 18-year old in Chapter 166, published on March 15.
But the readers don’t know this timeskip is coming, so before the March 21 deadline they would have drawn Goku in his uniform as a 15-year-old, with his monkey tail. Fewer readers could have seen his growth prior to the deadline and submitted an entry in time.
Months later, in May, Toriyama takes the winning entry and adapts it to Goku’s now 18-year-old body without a tail, for Chapter 173.
Is this design canonical?
Let’s consider the evidence:
This design was drawn by Toriyama on the cover art for Chapter 173.
However, it was submitted by a fan and is never seen in the series itself.
That means we have to look at other Dragon Ball covers for reference. When we do, we see there are many examples of imaginative cover art that do not reflect the interior story. While those covers are part of the manga, they remain fanciful and are not canonical.
So I will argue no, it is not canonical. Nobody in the story makes this dōgi for Goku.
Even so, now that we know the full story of this lost uniform, and the fact Toriyama drew it, perhaps we’ll start to see exciting fan art and cosplay featuring this design.
Lost Uniform Revealed!
How do you feel about Goku’s lost dōgi? Will you wear it at your next anime convention?
With your support I can write more in-depth articles like this.
Until next time!