Anime Atlas: CATALONIA / SPAIN – Bola de Drac, mig pollets!

Anime Atlas: CATALONIA / SPAIN – Bola de Drac, mig pollets!

Tanuki Republic schlägt die erste Seite des Anime Atlas auf! Wir heuern rund um den Globus an, um von Autoren aus aller Herren Länder zu erfahren, wie es um Anime und Manga in ihrem Land steht. Wie fing alles an? Was hat eingeschlagen, was nicht? Und wie sieht es heute aus? Den Anfang der Reihe macht Maria Riu Piñol aus Barcelona, die pünktlich zur Wahl aus der spanischen, unabhängigkeitsstrebigen Provinz Katalonien berichtet – internationalerweise in English!

Tanuki Republic is opening the first page of the Anime Atlas! We’re signing on writers around the globe, in order to find out, what the standing of anime and manga is their respective countries. How did it all begin? What had an impact, what didn’t? And how are things today? Maria Riu Piñol from Barcelona is kicking off our new series with her report on the independence seeking Spanish province of Catalonia – Non-Catalan speakers, do fear not: in English!

Front page of the first number of Dragon Ball in Catalan


We all know that nowadays manga is very popular throughout the world, but how did it get to this point? The process was quite diverse in different parts of the world – European television started broadcasting anime almost a decade later than American television, and every country prioritized different authors and genres –, and the Spanish case is a bit peculiar.

Like in the rest of Europe, the first popular anime that were broadcast in Spain were Heidi (Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, 1974) and Mazinger Z (Go Nagai, 1972). But while in other countries the big start of the manga industry was the publication of Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1982), in Spain it was the broadcasting of Dragon Ball (Akira Toriyama, 1984) in 1990. What’s notorious about it is that it was not broadcast in Spanish but in Catalan television.

Catalunya (Catalonia) is a region of Spain with its own language, Catalan, and a big sense of cultural identity. Like other regions of Spain, it has a regional television (TV3) in addition to the nationwide channels, and it broadcasts in Catalan. In 1990, TV3 was the first station in the country to broadcast Dragon Ball (called Bola de Drac in Catalan), and it was the key point to popularizing manga in Spain.

Before manga arrived, there was already a big comic industry in Spain. Comics for children (called tebeos) had been incredibly popular during the 40s and 50s, although they were only in Spanish, because publishing in Catalan was forbidden during Franco’s dictatorship. In the 60s, Catalan comic magazines started reappearing (the most important one was Cavall Fort, which is still published today), in addition to importing many European comics like Astérix le Gaulois (René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, 1959), which was published both in Catalan and Spanish.

Front page of the first number of the “Cavall Fort” magazine


It was in the 70s when the first anime started airing but the real boom happened in 1990 with Dragon Ball. It had unprecedented success, and the phenomenon was so big that, since there was no merchandising available,  fans started creating their own. They even acquired and photocopied the original manga in Japanese and distributed it among themselves, selling these home-edited versions in the Sant Antoni market (a market in Barcelona where many people sell second-hand goods and comics, and exchange trading cards of all sorts of franchises). Due to the lack of a manga “properly” translated and published, some fans even created fan fictions and sold them in the market. Of course, shortly after its enormous success in Catalunya the series aired in the national channels and it quickly surpassed the popularity of other anime that were being broadcast in the rest of Spain, like Saint Seya and Captain Tsubasa.

Sant Antoni Market


This popular movement created by the fans motivated the publication of several series of manga including the awaited Dragon Ball in 1992, which was published in Catalan with a print run of 100.000 copies and in Spanish with a print run of 50.000 copies. In addition, the Dragon Ball phenomenon and the popularization of manga both in Catalunya and in Spain led to the creation of the first Saló del Manga de Barcelona (Barcelona’s Manga Convention) in 1995, one of the first manga conventions in Europe and the most important one in Spain, even nowadays. For instance, it is where the Spanish representatives in the World Cosplay Summit are chosen.

Poster for this year’s Saló del Manga


After the Dragon Ball boom the manga industry in Spain skyrocketed until the end of the 90s. The manga that were published mostly tied in with the anime that was broadcast on TV, both Catalan and Spanish. However, even though some series were only broadcast in Catalan television, the respective manga was published in both languages and very soon publishers started to translate solely into Spanish. Many manga were not available in Catalan. Moreover, the popularity of manga and anime dropped in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until around 2005 that new firms appeared and started publishing manga again, in Catalan as well as in Spanish. However, many of the series now published in Catalan had already been published in Spanish before so the sales and prices were lower. Since 2005 the publishing of manga has stabilized but there has been no new boom like with Dragon Ball.

As for anime, it suffered the same fate as manga, and slowly started to disappear from TV. But unlike manga, it has not had a revival movement. Nowadays there is almost no anime in Spanish or Catalan television.

In spite of all of this, Dragon Ball has always had a special treatment. The series aired was airing non-stop in TV3 until 2001, both rerunning episodes and airing new ones. Then, after many demands from fans to bring back Dragon Ball, in 2011 the series started airing again. One year later they began airing the remastered version, without the cuts that were made in the 1990 version because of censorship on TV. As for the manga version, the complete collection has been published in Catalan. In 2006 the firm that published it in 1990 launched a new edition with better quality and the original reading direction –which was not respected in the first edition.

With the popularity it achieved, there is no doubt that every young adult in Spain watched at least a few episodes of Dragon Ball when he or she was little; it has affected a whole generation. That motivated the original Catalan voice actors for Goku (Marc Zani) and Vegeta (Joan Sanz) to write a book in 2012 called La sèrie de la teva vida (The series of your life), in which they talk about their experience dubbing this quasi-mythical series and tell a few anecdotes. They have even gone “on tour” doing talks and conferences to promote the book, and the attendance to these talks has been astonishing.

Cover of the book “La sèrie de la teva vida”


One of the most characteristic anecdotes about the Catalan dub is the popularity of Vegeta’s insults. For a series of reasons – probably because the series was aimed at a younger audience and because it was the beginning of Catalan television and they were promoting a sophisticated style of language – they translated his insults and rants in a very strange manner, using out-of-date expressions that most people didn’t know about. This way Vegeta’s insults have become very famous among the Catalan audience of Dragon Ball. Some examples are “Sou tres merdetes seques!” (“You are three little dry shits!”), “Mig pollet!” (“Half little chicken!”) or “Microbi!” (“Microbe!”). You can even find compilation videos on Youtube.

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