DescriptionEditDragon Balls come in sets of seven with each ball containing the number of stars that signifies its respective number in the set. Dragon Balls are difficult to find because they are scattered all over their respective planet, and are deactivated for a year after every wish, disguising themselves as stones. To have the opportunity to summon a Dragon, one must travel all over the globe to retrieve them. As technology eventually progressed, this became somewhat easier, and became relatively simple with Bulma's invention of the Dragon Radar. In addition, the balls are also virtually indestructable short of their creator dying or a planet's explosion.
Restrictions on the Dragon's powers are set by the relative capabilities of the Dragon Ball set's creator. A big problem throughout the series is that with any set of Dragon Balls is that their creator must be alive for them to function, otherwise they will be stones for eternity. This often results in the Z-fighters protecting their creator with their lives.
Since all seven Dragon Balls must be brought together (though it is unknown exactly what the maximum distance between the balls for them to be considered together is), it is often a sound strategy employed by the villains of the series to find one Dragon Ball and hold on to it, while the Z Fighters go through the trouble of finding the other six, after which the villain will step in and steal them. Since this strategy technically works, but is considered cheap, the Z Fighters do not usually employ it, as they prefer to fight fair.
Earth Dragon BallsEditThe Earth Dragon Balls are about 7.5 cm (approximately 3 in) in diameter, and they summon a dragon named Shenron. They were created by Kami, and later re-created by Dende. Shenron can grant a wish within its powers as long as it does not kill, create love, repeat a wish he previously granted, and a few more restrictions. Legitimate wishes include eternal youth, immortality, bringing back a scorched forest or even an annihilated planet. Also, it is possible to return a person to life, although only if they meet certain criteria, like dying of unnatural causes or within the time-frame of a year (half a century according to the Ocean Dub and VIZ manga), and each individual can only be brought back once. The Eternal Dragon will grant the first wish uttered after it was called, by whomever is present.
The Dragon Balls were rendered inert three times: the first time was after Evil King Piccolo murdered Shenron shortly after the latter granted him his wish, and was subsequently revived by Kami after Goku proved to him that there were still some good people in the world (originally, Kami had no intention of reviving them due to the purpose for creating them being corrupted by man's greed). The second time was after Kami ended up indirectly killed by Nappa when the latter ended up killing Piccolo who took Nappa's attack meant for Gohan, although they were restored upon Kami's revival. They were then rendered inert for a final time when Piccolo and Kami decided to reunite due to Cell's grave threat to the world. Goku and the other Z Fighters initially did not consider restoring the Dragon Balls, but after Cell wiped out the entirety of the Earth's Military when they attempted to attack Cell during the ten day wait before the Cell Games, Goku decided to find a mean to restore the Dragon Balls, even if Kami could not defuse with Piccolo.When Dende became the Earth's guardian, he modified the burnt out Dragon Balls created by Kami, giving Shenron the power to grant three wishes (two wishes if one wish is used to revive a large amount of people). He chose simply modifying Kami's Dragon Balls over creating a new set because the time it would take to create a new set from scratch was far too long, especially given the imminent threat of Cell. In addition to this, Dende's dragon can grant one wish and then have the other wishes saved for a later time. This was shown in the Buu Saga, when one wish was made to revive all those killed by Majin Vegeta, and then Goku asked Shenron to save the following wishes. Therefore, only four or so months after Kid Buu's defeat, another wish was made to erase the Earthling's memories of Buu. One obstacle that Dende could not overcome for the new set of balls is that, a person cannot be revived more than once. Like the Namekian Dragon Balls, the summoner must utter a set of words. In Dragon Ball Z, these words are "Eternal Dragon, by your name, I summon you forth: Shenron!"
It is debated whether Dragon Balls can revive artificial life or not. The revival of Android 17 during the Cell Games Saga does not apply to this because he started out as a human and was made into an Android by Dr.Gero. Android 16, who was killed by Cell, was not seen anymore in the series even after the wish was made to revive all of Cell's victims. Furthermore, when Kid Buu annihilated the planet Earth, and everyone (except the evil ones) were wished back, Android 8, who is a purely mechanical Android like 16, was seen giving Goku energy for his Spirit Bomb, but it is possible that he was brought back due to the fact that they wished for the planet Earth to be recreated like it was before Majin Buu's resurrection.
The Legend of the Dragon BallsEdit
In a Dragon Ball episode, Master Roshi told a popular legend about the "origin" of the Dragon Balls. This legend is only present in the anime and is contradictory with the explanation given later in the series about Kami being their creator as Roshi's tale is only something he had heard and was probably a legend with no real basis.
"The Legend, as I was told, goes something like this. In the beginning there was only one Dragon Ball. It was huge. I mean REALLY huge, it had to be. It held all of the mystical energies of the universe. An ancient tribe discovered it, and was inspired by it's magnificent power. They built a shrine around it, and protected the orb by placing it in the mouth of a giant Dragon statue, said to be it's eternal guardian. You should have seen the detail on this thing, it was INCREDIBLE, scales made of Ruby, teeth of pearl -speaking of pearl, they say there was this one native girl ("GET ON WITH IT!")- yes, well, the tribe enjoyed years of prosperity until one day, evil paid a visit to the village in the form of a band of thieves. These agents of Darkness stormed the temple in an attempt to steal the Dragon Ball for their own selfish gain. They were shocked to discover the true power of the Ball. To ensure such an attack never happened again, the Dragon Ball was divided into seven smaller orbs, and scattered across the globe. Separately, the Dragon Balls were useless, but when all seven were united, then a single voice could summon the Eternal Dragon for one wish, and one wish only. Some wishes were pure. but others were tainted by blind ambition. This led to pain and suffering as an unjust few wished for power and dominion over mankind. But as the story goes there will one day come a hero who will use the Dragon Balls for goodness, and bring peace and unity to the world once more."
Namekian Dragon BallsEditUnlike the Dragon Balls of Earth, the approximately basket-ball sized Dragon Balls of planet Namek summon a different dragon, Porunga and can grant three wishes, due to their creation by Grand Elder Guru. Since the years on Namek are shorter (127 Earth days), they can also be used more frequently. However, Porunga is initially only capable of one individual's revival per wish, whereas the Eternal Dragon of Earth can wish many, even an entire planet's population (if you can state your will in one wish). Additionally, the Namek Dragon Balls require the summoner to say a password before the dragon can be summoned, and the wish must be spoken in the Namekian language (the Z Fighters used Dende to translate their wishes). One notable advantage that the Namekian Dragon Balls have over that of Earth is that they can revive a person as many times as wished to (something that even Dende's upgraded Shenron could not do).
The Namekian Dragon Balls are a unique exception to the link between their creator and their existence, since Guru, at the end of the Freiza Saga was able to name Moori as the new Elder right before he died, after which the Dragon Balls' existence rested on the new Elder's fate. It is unknown if the Earth's Dragon Balls can be passed on in such a manner. Sometime after settling on New Namek, the Namekians decided to modify their existing Dragon Balls, giving Porunga the ability to grant the wish of resurrecting an entire populace not just individually (this was done as a reaction to their experiences dealing with Frieza). Also in the Kid Buu Saga, it was appearantly revealed that now Porunga can also grant a wish that is not spoken in Namekian language, as Dende asked for the wish of all those killed by Buu in normal language.