Dragon Ball AF (ドラゴンボールAF Doragon Bōru AF) was the subject of an April Fool's joke in 1997 (following the end of Dragon Ball GT), which concerned a fourth anime installment of the Dragon Ball series. It has since gained a cult following, been the basis for various fiction and manga interpretations by fans, and as well has even resulted in a dōjinshi series produced by Toyble.
Lack of validity
Within the realm of officially-licensed properties (those which are produced by or with the approval of Bird Studio, Shueisha, and Toei Animation), Dragon Ball AF simply does not exist. Any AF dōjinshi, should they even exist, occupy the same legal status as fan fiction and fan art. There has been no new Dragon Ball material from Japan since 1997, other than the perfect edition manga and the Dragon Box DVD box sets, which collect previously-existing material with some new artwork, but no new story arcs. Toriyama has publicly stated that he has no intentions of continuing the series (which he finished in 1995), though he has drawn a parody series, Neko Majin Z, in which several Dragon Ball characters appear, as well as a one-shot rumor crossover between Dragon Ball and One Piece, in collaboration with One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, entitled Cross Epoch.
The Dragon Ball fansite Daizenshuu EX has created a specifically-designed list of the features of AF that should disprove its existence to the especially obstinate. These are:
- Lack of advertising in Japanese media.
- This point includes print sources (such as the Japanese Shonen Jump), TV ads, and official Japanese websites. Since Dragon Ball is well-known throughout Japan, a sequel series would not be released unpromoted, nor would it go unnoticed by the Japanese population. Daizenshuu EX took advantage of this fact, however, as part of its 2004 April Fool's joke, creating both a "print ad" and a "TV commercial" from other sources. This material, bereft of its context, has since been cited as "evidence" for the existence of AF.
- Lack of official announcements by Toriyama, Shueisha, or Toei Animation.
- Tying in to the idea of "advertising" above, none of the official Japanese sources of Dragon Ball material have come forward with any news on the scale of AF. Such a series would warrant at least a comment, if not an elaborately-staged introduction, from one or more of these entities. Of course, this has not stopped fans from claiming that such an announcement has already taken place (though there is no record of one ever occurring).
- Lack of articles, previews, or reviews of the series, in Japanese magazines or online blogs.
- Note, however, that some Japanese fans have taken to commenting on the AF phenomenon outside of Japan, and this may be regarded as commentary on the "series" itself by those who do not speak Japanese. Indeed, the language barrier has often been a source of obfuscation, both for those who would believe the rumors, and those whose goal is to spread them further.
- Lack of scans from manga releases or screen captures/movie clips from new episodes.
- While many "faked" images (generally produced as humorous commentary on the rumors, or outside of AF but incorporated into it accidentally) do exist, there are no raw manga scans or unaltered screenshots available, anywhere. Particularly good artwork may be mistakenly viewed as "promotional art," but no media from within the manga/anime exists. Therefore, the burden of proof is on those who claim they own the series to put forth something they cannot possibly have (calls for such individuals to show whatever material they have are usually met by excuses or ad-hominem attacks).
- Lack of scanlations or fansubs.
- Ethical and legal issues aside, a series as popular as Dragon Ball would not long remain without a fan-translated version. The methods of digital distribution are such that it would be virtually impossible not to find such materials, even in a casual search. Neither of these two things exists, however.
- Lack of official merchandise.
- Dragon Ball is, and always has been, heavily marketed commercially. In Japan, a multitude of items, from action figures, to snacks, soundtracks, stationery, desks, and even children's eyedrops, have been sold as Dragon Ball products or endorsed by characters from the series. The lack of official AF merchandise, then, is a strong indicator that such a series does not in fact exist.
- Official denial by both Viz Media and FUNimation.
- Such denials would run counter to the financial interests of both of these companies (the distributors of Dragon Ball manga and anime in the United States) were the rumors to be true. It is highly unlikely that they would categorically dismiss a property that could make them millions of dollars.
Perpetuation and contribution
Rumors about Dragon Ball AF are chiefly spread through Internet forums and IRC, as well as Usenet and ordinary word-of-mouth. Those who read or hear these rumors may then set up web pages that serve to further propagate the myth. There are many supposed bits of "information" about the series, most of which stem from fans believing that fan art or fan fiction is from an official source. Fans have also embroidered upon the legend themselves, by adding new plot points and characters as they see fit. They likely mean such ideas to be mere speculation or wishful thinking, only to have their comments taken at face-value by others. Dragon Ball AF has been claimed, at various times by various individuals, to be a new or upcoming anime in Japan, a new manga series by Akira Toriyama himself, or a fan-made dōjinshi. The latter is probably the closest to the truth, but whether such fan-comics are the cause of the rumors or a product there off is unknown.