Given that the series is named after them, it only makes sense that the Dragon Balls would have ever-expanding lore associated with them. Even in the Dragon Ball Super manga, the wish-granting orbs continue to pop up on other planets. Interestingly, the Dragon Balls are treated dramatically differently depending on the race whose planet they reside on. Dragon Ball‘s most famous sets of spheres are Earth’s and Namek’s, and the two societies are worlds apart, both literally and pertaining to their use of the Dragon Balls.
It would be a fascinating case study to learn about a species’ culture and behavior by observing how they use their wish-granting Dragons. While all Dragon Balls are created by Namekians, that doesn’t always mean that beings who wield the Balls will treat them as Namekians would. Lately, the Dragon Balls have become something of a slate-cleaning plot device, but there’s still something to be said for how differently various people adapt to the possibility of their wishes coming true.
Earthlings Treat The Dragon Balls Like Any Other Resource
Say what you will about Dragon Ball GT, but it had the guts to create an entire arc based around our heroes’ overuse of the Dragon Balls. The extent to which the Earth’s Dragon Balls are abused borders on comical. Even though the Dragon Balls can sometimes come off as a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s also a great commentary on humanity and the greed of man. If magical, wish-granting orbs really existed, of course humans would see them as nothing more than another tool.
When examining how the Dragon Balls even work, it’s clear that they were never meant for such prolific use. The “rules” regarding the use of the Dragon Balls are really just one fail-safe after another to prevent excessive use. After a wish is made, the Balls scatter across the planet and become dormant for an entire year. No one collects the balls for safekeeping either, as they are left wherever they landed from the previous wish until they are needed again, thus keeping it difficult to gather them all in one place in a timely manner.
Goku and the others have never really respected the Dragon Balls or even Shenron, considering how often they ask him to clean up their messes and then complain about what he can and can’t do about it. To be fair, most often the wishes made by our heroes are for the good of the planet. However, sometimes even characters like Bulma — who, of all people, should know better — will seek them out for something as vain as looking slightly younger.
Namekians Treat The Dragon Balls Like Sacred Treasures
Namekians, as opposed to Earthlings, revere and even deify their own set of Dragon Balls. As the creators of Dragon Balls, not only do they have greater respect for their power, but the Balls are a part of their very culture. Namekians seldom, if ever, use the Dragon Balls for their own benefit. While they will allow others to use their Dragon Balls to serve the greater good, they don’t love the idea.
The Namekian Dragon Balls are much easier to use than the Earth’s, possibly because their creators aren’t worried about abuse. The Balls don’t scatter after they’re used and they’re not dormant for nearly as long as Earth’s. What’s more, the Dragon Balls on Namek are always cared for and readily accessible, kept proudly as objects of great value by village elders. Although, this did make it much easier for Frieza to gather them all when he invaded, so there’s a certain strategic value to letting them remain scattered until needed.
It truly just comes down to a cultural difference on Namek, where the citizens are raised to revere the Dragon Balls. As opposed to Earth, where most people don’t even know they exist and the ones who do are too dependent on them at this point to ever change. At the end of the day, Namekians don’t use the Dragon Balls very often because they don’t need to. So, who’s to say which planet’s approach to using the Dragon Balls is better? Namek’s. Namek’s is better.