RIP Akira Toriyama - Dragon Ball Creator Passes Away Aged 68
By Yung Namahage • 1 month ago

The man behind Dragon BallDragon Age and plus a ton of other works, Akira Toriyama, is sadly no longer with us

To many people around the world, Dragon Ball was their introduction to the world of anime. And to some of those people, Dragon Ball was their only exposure to anime. Dragon Ball itself is almost synonymous with anime as a medium, because for the last 40 years it's brought together people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all nations with one thing in common: they love watching buff guys yell at each other. 

Born in 1955 in Kiyosu, Aichi Prefecture, Toriyama was inspired by Disney's 101 Dalmations and Tezuka's Astro Boy to become a mangaka as a child. In elementary school he'd draw pictures of his friends and start creating manga of his own, and after high school went on to work at an advertising company in Nagoya as a poster artist. He quit after 3 years because he wasn't a "morning person" and submitted his first manga for publication in a competition run by Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine. That didn't quite work out, but Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump had a monthly Newcomer Award that he was aiming for. Jump's editor at the time, Kazuhiko Torishima, enjoyed his submission despite not being able to accept it for being a parody of Star Wars rather than an original story, encouraged Toriyama to send in more of his work. Eventually, it worked.

Wonder Island was published in Shonen Jump in 1978; the first time Toriyama's work saw widespread release. It went on to finish last in a readers' poll. Is follow-up was also a flop, but he was motivated by his stubbornness to keep going. In 1980, he had his first big hit. It was originally going to be about a doctor who creates a robot, similar to Astro Boy, except the robot was huge. But having a huge robot who wouldn't fit in the panels would be difficult to draw, so Torishima, now Toriyama's editor, advised him to make the robot a cute litte girl. And that's how Dr Slump was born.

Arale, the aforementioned cute little robot girl, later became part of the Dragon Ball universe and is one of the few characters canonically stronger than Goku. After Dr Slump, Toriyama experimented with different types of manga for a few years, before creating something inspired by his love for Chinese martial arts movies and Journey to the West called Dragon Boy in 1983. It followed a young martial artist raised in isolation called Tangtong, who meets a princess who both fascinates and annoys him, and together they go on a journey where they find "Dragon Balls" and eventually encounter androids. If this is sounding familiar, it's because Dragon Boy was essentially a prototype for Dragon Ball - Tangtong is Kid Goku but with dragon wings instead of a monkey tail, the princess is Bulma, however the Dragon Balls work differently here, they summon wimpy tiny dragons instead of granting wishes.

In 1984, Toriyama released the career- and genre-defining Dragon Ball in Shonen Jump Magazine. It needs no introduction here; its blend of kung fu, action, sci-fi, humor and larger-than-life characters cemented its position as one of the most influential manga ever created, and the same can be said of the anime adaptation that began in 1986 and gave Toriyama worldwide recognition, yet he stayed shy and humble the entire time. You already know about all the movies, spin-offs, video games, sequels and tie-ins that have kept Dragon Ball relevant all these decades. Even after all that, Toriyama was far from done with the series. Last year he announced Dragon Ball Daima, a brand-new anime he was writing where Goku & co are turned into kids again. 

Daima was set to be released in Fall 2024. However, Toriyama sadly died of acute subdural hematoma on March 1, at the age of 68. His passing was announced by his production company, Bird Studio, on March 8. Toriyama spent his life as a lover of manga, food and animals, which showed throughout his career, and his work was loved around the world. When asked about the success of Dragon Ball in 2013, he said:

"Frankly, I don't quite understand why it happened. While the manga was being serialized, the only thing I wanted as I kept drawing was to make Japanese boys happy.", "The role of my manga is to be a work of entertainment through and through. I dare say I don't care even if [my works] have left nothing behind, as long as they have entertained their readers."

His work did all of that and much more. He made boys, girls, and all kinds of people in and out of Japan happy with his manga, and he carved out a legacy as one of the most respected, iconic artists in the fucking world, not just in anime and manga. I've barely seen Dragon Ball, but almost every conversation I've had with anyone else who's into anime comes back to it eventually, showing just how much Toriyama's work connected with people. May he rest in peace with all the cigarettes, seaweed crackers, dirty magazines and everything else he wanted to have in paradise.

We don't know yet if, or how, Toriyama's passing will affect the release of Dragon Ball Daima, or the future of the franchise in general. The anime and manga world is still reeling from its loss, but fans are coming together to share their memories of Toriyama's work and keep his memory alive. Pay your respects and share your own experiences with Dragon Ball or any of Toriyama's works in the comments, and treasure this life while you still can. That's what Goku, and Toriyama, would want right now.