Case Study: Dragon Ball

In 2009, the Dragon Ball graphic novel series by Akira Toriyama was removed from all public school media centers in Wicomico County, MD because the books depict violence and contain nudity.

Dragon Ball follows the adventures of Goku and his friends from childhood through adolescence as he trains in martial arts and begins his exploits. Goku embarks on a quest for the seven mystical orbs called Dragon Balls, which summon a wish-granting dragon when gathered. Inspired by traditional Chinese storytelling and myths, Dragon Ball is a modern take on timeless classics and embodies themes of friendship, rivalry, victory and loss. The graphic novels are the basis of the popular media franchise and subsequent spin-offs.

The books were placed under formal review after the parent of a 9-year-old who checked the book Dragon Ball: The Monkey King out of the Pittsville Elementary and Middle School library filed a formal complaint. According to local news outlet WBOC:

There were concerns expressed that the books, which school officials later learned were intended for young adults, depict some violence and show nudity. Because of the concerns, school officials began the process of removing the book from media center shelves for review. “Dragon Ball” series books at Pittsville Elementary and Middle School and Parkside High School were removed from media center shelves for a committee review as required by procedures and policy.

The committee recommended that the books in the Dragon Ball series, which were recommended by the publisher for ages 13+, be removed from the entire public school library system, including at the high school level. School officials acknowledged the value of graphic novels in their libraries, and indicated that they would embark on “instituting more focused and ongoing professional development training on the selection of media materials and additional procedures to handle student requests for media books and resources.”

Additional resources:

Download a PDF of the Dragon Ball discussion guide here.