Here’s why there are 7 dragon balls in Dragon Ball Z:
There are seven dragon balls in the show because that is the number that the original author, Akira Toriyama, chose.
In an interview, he said it was to distinguish his show from a popular Japanese story that also had dragon balls.
Some fans also speculate that the number references real-life adventure destinations.
So if you want to learn all about the reason the dragon balls are 7, and not any other number, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get started!
What Is Dragon Ball Z?
Dragon Ball Z is one of the most famous and popular anime series of all time.
For those who aren’t familiar with the medium, an anime is a Japanese cartoon.
It comes with its own set of tropes and expectations, and in the last 30 years, many anime series have become globally popular.
Dragon Ball Z was one of the first to break that barrier.
The story of Dragon Ball Z is actually adapted from the manga titled Dragon Ball.
Again, for the sake of those unfamiliar, a manga is a Japanese comic book.
It is serialized, and Dragon Ball was published in the Weekly Shonen Jump, the most famous manga publisher in the world.
Dragon Ball Z actually adapts the second half of the original manga, which follows the heroes as they take on villains from other worlds.
In this series, there are mystical items known as dragon balls, and they frequently advance or drive the plot.
What Are Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball Z?
Interestingly enough, the dragon balls themselves aren’t really the most important aspect of Dragon Ball Z.
In that series, it’s all about the fights and getting stronger.
The dragon balls are just there to push the plot a few times, or to fix plot problems.
The dragon balls were much more significant in the original series: Dragon Ball.
They launched the whole story when Bulma asked Goku to help her find the legendary items.
So, what are they?
They are mystical balls that grant amazing powers.
Specifically, when you get all seven of the dragon balls together, you can summon the mythical dragon, Shenron.
Shenron is kind of like a genie in that he will grant three wishes.
There are a bunch of specific rules that govern the wishes, but for the most part, you can wish for anything.
One aspect of Shenron that makes him interesting is that he will do his best to grant the wishes in the way the person wants.
He’s not mischievous at all.
Once Shenron is summoned and the wishes are granted, the dragon balls are dispersed across the world.
Considering the fact that you can hold each ball in the palm of your hand, finding these seven items spread across the whole world is a major feat.
In fact, it’s the bulk of the plot of the original series.
Later in the series, fans learned that the dragon balls were created by Kami (which literally translates to God).
Kami is actually an alien from another world who came to earth.
With his alien powers, Kami was able to create the dragon balls, and he ended up becoming a guardian of the earth.
He actually gained a formal post as Kami from other gods in the series who rule other things, including the afterlife.
So, Kami created the dragon balls, and according to him, he did it to give humanity something to strive for.
Why Are There Seven Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball Z? (3 Reasons)
That’s enough backstory on the dragon balls. Now, we can get down to business.
Why are there seven?
The most obvious answer is that this is the number chosen by the author.
I’ll get into interviews and explanations behind the number later, but that’s really the bulk of it.
The author picked the number seven.
But, since we’re talking about Dragon Ball Z specifically, there’s a little more to cover.
This is the second series out of several that is in the same universe and involves the same characters.
#1 Because of Dragon Ball
All of that is to say that Dragon Ball Z has seven dragon balls because that’s how many were in the original Dragon Ball series.
The number wasn’t retconned.
I’ll talk about why the original series had seven in the next few sections, but before that, there’s an interesting bit of information to cover.
The fact is that Dragon Ball Z actually has 14 dragon balls.
If you want to be really loose with definitions, there are 48 dragon balls in the series.
I mentioned before that Kami created the balls.
That’s true, but in Dragon Ball Z, the post of Kami changes.
The original Kami fuses with Piccolo to fight other aliens, and as a result, someone else has to take up the post.
Dende is the one who ends up being the next Kami, and he creates a new set of dragon balls.
They work the same way, and Earth only ever has seven dragon balls at one time, but the original seven are lost and replaced.
Additionally, the original Kami and Dende are part of the same alien race, the Namekiens.
In Dragon Ball Z, the heroes actually travel to the Namekian home world.
That world has its own guardian (who is Namekian), and he also created seven dragon balls.
These dragon balls are different from the ones on Earth.
They are larger, and they have subtly different rules.
Ultimately, the elder guardian of Namek is killed, and the entire planet is destroyed.
But, the Namekiens are able to find a new home, and when they do, a new guardian is appointed who makes seven new dragon balls.
So, there are two sets of active dragon balls in Z, and both sets are replaced over the course of the series.
Still, none of that really provides a good answer as to why seven is the magic number.
We can shed some light on that by reviewing a statement made by the original Dragon Ball author, Hirohiko Araki.
Araki wrote the original manga, and he actually drew some inspiration from a famous Japanese novel that is called Hakken-Den.
This novel is from the Edo period of Japan.
This novel actually features items known as dragon balls.
They are different from the dragon balls of Z in a lot of ways, but the number is the most specific and intentional change.
Since Araki drew some inspiration from the novel, he wanted a way to clearly distinguish his own story.
So, he changed the number of dragon balls from eight to seven.
That’s the official reason why Dragon Ball Z has seven dragon balls.
#3 Representing the World
Here’s the thing, though.
Araki could have chosen any number that wasn’t eight.
There are literally infinity options.
So, why did he go with seven, specifically?
For that, he has never given a perfect answer.
We can only speculate.
What we do know is that Araki drew inspiration from many places, including the real world (which is true of all authors).
From that perspective, we can reasonably infer that the number seven was inspired by the world itself.
Seven is a number that comes up in a few specific ways when we talk about the whole world, exploration, and adventure.
In particular, there are three references that would make a lot of sense as the inspiration for dragon balls: the seven continents, the seven seas, and the seven wonders of the world.
There are seven continents in the world.
In order to find all of the dragon balls, you will probably have to explore each of those continents.
And, if Shenron wanted to make it hard to find all of the balls, he probably would place one on each continent.
Now, the layout of the world in Dragon Ball Z is quite different from the real world, but it’s not unreasonable to think that Araki drew inspiration from real geography.
If he wants a great story about traveling around the world to find mystical items, the one for each continent makes a lot of sense.
I think that this is the least likely of the three, but it’s still worth exploring.
The idea of the seven seas is old.
In fact, it predates a time when the entire world had been mapped.
By best estimates, this phrase dates back to ancient Rome.
As the world they knew was considerably smaller than the whole world, they talked of the seven seas as the important aquatic zones in their region.
The seas the ancient Romans would have known about include the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea.
A great explorer of the time might have seen all seven of those seas with their own eyes.
The reason I don’t think this is the likely source of inspiration for Araki is that it doesn’t really fit with Dragon Ball mythology.
They spend some time on the water, but the story takes place in a world with flying cars.
The mythos of the seven seas just doesn’t seem as fitting.
I actually think that this is the most likely inspiration for having seven dragon balls.
The original story is all about setting out on a quest for adventure, exploring the world, and experiencing amazing things.
Goku and Bulma find many wonders on their travels, and it certainly feels like a loose reference to the seven wonders of the world.
Now, there are a lot of different categories that are referenced as the seven wonders.
There are the seven natural wonders, the seven ancient wonders, the seven modern wonders, and more.
I don’t think any specific set was the inspiration for Araki.
Instead, it’s more that the idea of exploring the world and experiencing the wonders was inspiring for the writer.
He’s never said this on record, so I’m speculating.
It’s just something that feels like it fits.