The Dragon Ball series originally started as a manga, but its real popularity came when it was adapted into an anime. Many people were introduced to the series through the anime and either have only watched that, or read the manga after watching.

The first anime created from the manga was simply titled Dragon Ball, and was more popular in Japan than it was in America or anywhere else. It aired in Japan on Fuji TV on April 26, 1986 and followed the first 194 manga chapters. It followed the adventures of a young Son Goku as he wanders, coming across and befriending a teenaged girl named Bulma. Bulma convinces Goku to help her find the Dragon Balls, magical orbs that can summon a wish granting dragon called Shenron, who will grant someone any wish. Their journeys lead them into meeting Yamcha, a desert bandit who later becomes their ally, Chi-Chi, and Pilaf, who is also after the Dragon Balls. After these adventures, Goku trains to enter a martial arts tournament, meeting Master Roshi and Krillin, and competing in the tournament. There are many other occurrences after this, such as the battle with the Red Ribbon Army, King Piccolo, and many other tournaments afterwards. Dragon Ball ended on April 12, 1989 after 153 episodes of content.

In order to continue making an anime based off of Dragon Ball, Toei Animation decided to use a different name, leading to Dragon Ball Z. Z followed the final 325 chapters of the manga and began airing in the same timeslot as Dragon Ball did on April 26, 1989, and ended up being more popular outside of Japan. Z followed a now adult aged Goku, who is now married to Chi-Chi and has a young son named Gohan. The first villain introduced was Raditz, who was revealed to be Goku's brother. It was now revealed that Goku was a Saiyan and not a human, and he had hit his head as a baby and forgotten this. Raditz was defeated within only a few episodes, but he introduced the next villains, the two Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa. When they came to Earth the heroes struggled for a while until winning, Nappa being killed and Vegeta being spared, flying off in the pod he came to Earth in. Then came Frieza, which introduced a whole new vast world of planets and aliens to the series, which hadn't been explored before. After Frieza came the return of Dr. Gero and his androids, and the eventual coming of Cell. The final parts of Z (under the title of the Final Chapters) focused on Babidii and Majin Buu, causing a whole new struggle while introducing even more lore and environments to the series. Z ran for a total of 291 episodes and concluded on January 31, 1996. After Z concluded, a refurbished, much faster paced version of Z premiered on April 5, 2009. This version had revamped animation, and had cut out most of the filler that was not featured in the manga and was only there to make the series have more episodes. Z Kai ended on June 28, 2015, totaling up tp only 167 episodes.

Before Z Kai was created, Toei Animation wanted to continue Dragon Ball, but in order to do this they had to stray away from the manga, as there was no material left to use from it. To do this they created Dragon Ball GT, which many, MANY, Dragon Ball fans dislike and love to make fun of. Akira Toriyama had little to do with GT, only designing the main cast, the ship they fly in, three planets, and the logo. Other than that he just watched over it and had little to no control of what Toei Animation decided to do. He has described it as a "grand sidestory to the original Dragon Ball" and Toriyama's lack of input is why many people dislike it, along with other reasons. GT's story does not affect the main story, being called "not canon" meaning the story never actually happened in the main story. GT is basically the butt of almost all Dragon Ball jokes, as fans poke at its animation, its story, and it characters. People dislike the slow paced story despite the fact that the stakes have been set so high. The series intends to have a fun and comedic tone, but there's always that thought the audience has when they remember that the Earth is in danger. The funny tone just doesn't work when there are such high stakes and danger. Some fans do appreciate a few things about GT such as the concept of the Black Star Dragon Balls, but everyone can agree that the cool concepts are all executed poorly. GT was an ultimate failure, and fans still love to make fun of it even years after its final episode aired.

After GT, Dragon Ball was silent of brand new content for a while, aside from Z Kai and a few movies. All until April 28, 2015, when Toei Animation announced a new series, Dragon Ball Super, would be coming to T.V in Japan, and this excited many fans across the world. It had been 18 years since a new Dragon Ball anime series had been released, and with modern technology, it would become easy to access for fans all over the world without having to wait. Super aired on July 5 of the same year and is still running today, being promoted on Japanese T.V and on several streaming platforms in America and other countries. The series has had 80 episodes as of March 1, 2017 and has followed many different stories. The series started out slow, by simply reccapping the movies Battle of Gods and Resurrection of F, but sped up afterwards. During the time of the movie recaps, people judged Super for its poor animation in some places, with some frames being quickly drawn and looking odd or just straight up terrible. However, most people kept an open mind, and as the series has continued the animation has gotten much better, especially in recent episodes. Not only that, but several past animation problems have been fixed for American TV airing and Japanese DVD release.

Along with the main anime series, Toei Animation has made many Dragon Ball movies, most being DVD and TV releases only. As of March 2, 2017, there have been nineteen total movies animated for Dragon Ball. All of them are described as "not canon" by most fans, as there is no manga for them and Toriyama had little to do with the making of most of them. There are only two that have been confirmed to be canon, which are Resurrection of F and Battle of Gods. Despite the fact that they are not actually are part of the main story, in fact, most of them are inconsistent with the main story, fans still enjoy watching them. There are a few that fans don't tend to like, but most have been described as entertaining and worth watching.