Although it slipped to the number two spot behind the 'West Nile Virus' this week, Dragonball Z continues to dominate the Lycos Top 50 list of Internet searches (see 'Dragonball Back On Top of Lycos 50'). Dragonball Z and the original Dragon Ball animated series are the backbone of the Cartoon Network's Toonami Block, where they regularly gain the network's highest ratings (see 'DBZ Rules'). Yes, the series has already been on the Cartoon Network for over two years, but the good news is that there are plenty of 'new' shows on the way. Even though the final Dragon Ball anime episode premiered in Japan in 1997, there are over 500 episodes of the three Dragon Ball anime series (Dragon Ball, Dragonball Z, and Dragon Ball GT), and fewer than half of these episodes have been aired so far in the U.S., so don't look for Dragon Ball to fade into obscurity anytime soon.
The Dragon Ball property has been a worldwide merchandising bonanza with sales of over $3 billion worth of related merchandise in Japan alone. Opportunities for cross-merchandising by American pop culture retailers abound thanks to the Score DBZ Collectible Card Game (a consistent Top Ten performer on ICv2's monthly sell-through survey--see 'Score Announces 2002 DBZ CCG Releases'), DBZ Toys from IF/Labs and Irwin Toys (see 'Irwin Toy and IF Labs Expand Offerings'), board games from Fantasy Flight (see 'Fantasy Flight Has DBZ Board Games'), and comics and graphic novels from Viz (see 'Manga Trade Paperback Sales Exploding').
Some notion of the popularity of DBZ can be gained from the recent release of the first DBZ game for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, which sold out the entire first run of 300,000 units in just three weeks. Add to this the fact that Funimation has sold over 12 million Dragon Ball videos in just the past two years, and you begin to understand why Viz is using Akira Toriyama's DBZ manga (which spawned the anime series and the entire phenomenon) as the tent pole title for the launch of the American edition of Shonen Jump (see 'DBZ and Yu-Gi-Oh Headline U.S. Shonen Jump'). As Viz Marketing Manager Dallas Middaugh ICv2, it's '...very odd that on the Diamond bestseller lists, FF sells better than Dragonball Z, because if you ask a kid, they don't know who the Fantastic Four is, but they do know Dragonball Z.'
Obviously there is fertile ground here for retailers who want to reach out and recruit readers from the tweens and teens that make DBZ the Cartoon Network's most popular show. But it is also apparent that there is much work to do since so far traditional comic retailers have not gotten their share of the sales of DBZ trade paperbacks. The numbers for the Top 50 Graphic Novels based on Diamond's orders from comic stores, compared to how Viz's Dragonball Z graphic novels sell over-all, tell us that less than 10% of the initial shipments go to Diamond-served pop culture stores. DBZ is a property that even retailers who don't normally carry anime and manga titles should seriously consider.
For info on ICv2's DBZ Dollars promotion, click here.