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Akira Toriyama's Legacy

Page history last edited by Bryant Weaver 12 years, 6 months ago


Who is Akira Toriyama? 

Akira Toriyama is one of the most influential and innovative Manga artists of all time. His work has spanned over 30 years and his Manga has sold well over 150 million copies total worldwide. Of these, his most successful work was the infinitely popular Dragonball. This work was one of the linchpins for what is accepted as the Golden Age of Jump. Its success encouraged Toriyama to continue working on Dragon Ball from 1984 to 1995. During that eleven-year period, he produced 519 chapters, collected into 42 volumes. Each volume has an average of 200 pages totaling to nearly 8,400 pages. In addition to Dragonball Toriyama has published a total of 42 works of manga and has worked on many successful video games such as Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest, Tobal No. 1 &2, and Blue Dragon as a lead character designer. However, despite his huge success and “god-like” status within the manga world Toriyama is a very modest and humble individual who very rarely puts himself in the media spotlight.



Toriyama's most recent picture.


Toriyama with his son.


Toriyama at his home.


Toriyama at work.


Toriyama's robot avatar.





A  Brief History

Akira Toriyama was born in April 1955 in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. During his childhood he was an avid anime watcher and says that both Osamu Tezuka's and Walt Disney's work heavily influenced him as a child. It is also during his childhood that Toriyama's future as an artist began to take root as he remembers in one interview: "When I was a child, there was a drawing class in the neighborhood, The kids would go there and draw pictures. I remember drawing 101 Dalmatians and getting a prize. That must have gotten into my head and made me what I am today."  As time went on Toriyama entered high school to study art specializing in publicity but abandoned this endeavor three years later to begin drawing cartoons. It was around this time that Toriyama recieved his break into the world of Manga, as he states in another interview "I submitted a story to a monthly contest for amateur artists in Weekly Shonen Jump. It didn't win, but afterwards, I was approached by one of the editors [Kzuhiko Torishima, now Weekly Shonen Jump Senior Director], and after I studied for about a year, I became a pro." His first real debut came when he published his manga called "Wonder Island" in the Weekly Shonen Jump. Wonder Island soon evolved into Toriyama's first hit "Dr. Slump" which ran from 1980 to 1984. Dr. Slump helped launch Toriyama's career as a professional Manga artist and eventually earned him the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen and shōjo manga in 1982 (one of the major manga awards in Japan.) In the same year which Dr. Slump ended Toriyama created the phenomenon known as Dragonball. After the 11 year period that Toriyama spent working on Dragonball, he had been transformed from a succesful but still somewhat obscure Manga artists to a legend. However, the grueling work schedule that was involved with producing Dragonball took a toll on Toriyama as he describes "The majority of the manga in Japan are drawn in the shukan (weekly) format, so I was drawing one episode every week. [Approximately 14 pages, plus a Title Page-Editor] But for me this pace was very hard, and I really didn't like it." As a result, he decided to take a much needed break from manga to explore other interests. It was around this time that he began work on character design for video games as well as exploring book illustration. Since 1995 Toriyama has done many one shot or short manga such as Neko Majin, Cowa! , Kajika, and Sand Land to name a few, but has not produced manga close the size of Dragonball. He continues to work on video games and manga to this day from his own studio "Bird Studio".






The Dragonball Phenomenon

Ask any given Japanese person if they have even heard the name Dragonball before you will almost always get a yes. There is no doubt that Dragonball was a mega hit in Japan, even today it is revered as one of the best series of all time. However, unlike many Manga and Anime of its time Dragonball did something that very none before it had been able to do, that was become a global phenonmenon. Not only did Dragonball become an instant hit in Japan, but as time went on and the series made its way over to the west, millions of people instantly became hooked on this action packed series. Dragonball paved the way for much of the anime and manga now seen in the mainstream culture of America and other western countries. While there existed some popular anime shows on tv, none sparked the feverish passion for anime like Dragonball did. There is a charming aspect to Dragonball that can only be credited to its creator Akira Toriyama. While the series is filled with "balls to the wall" action, it never takes itself too seriously, Toriyama always leaves room for some truly histarical moments of comedy. Dragonball also holds the coveted ability to appeal to youngsters and adults like, with its witty humor and intense action there is something for all age groups to enjoy. It is because of this that Dragonball has played a major influence on many of the modern action manga and anime series of today. One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, Naturo creator Masashi Kishimoto, and Bleach creator Tite Kubo all cite Toriyama's work on Dragonball as a major influence on their own work. Let us take a deeper look at the world of Dragonball and its characters to gain a better understanding of how it became so popular.






The Dragonball storyline revolves around the adventures and life of Son Goku and his friends. In the beginning of the series

we are introduced to Goku when he is a young boy and is still niav about the world and the people in it, having lived in the

woods with his grandpa Gohan his entire life. He soon meets Bulma, a girl who is somewhat of a techno-geek while at

the same time still being incredibly girly. Bulma is searching for the dragonballs( 7 mystical balls that when brought

together summon a powerful dragon that can grant a person a single wish) so she can wish for the perfect boyfriend

and Goku decides to tag along to help her on her journey (as his grandpa had recently passed away.) Along the way, they

meet and befriend a plethora of martial artists. Goku also undergoes rigorous raining regimes and educational programs in 

order to fight in the World Martial Arts Tournament, a tournament in which the most powerful fighters in the world compete.

Outside the tournaments, Goku faces diverse villains such as Emperor Pilaf, the Red Ribbon Army, a demon known as Piccolo

Daimao and his offspring.As a young adult, Goku meets his older brother, Raditz, who tells him that they come from a race of

extraterrestrials called Saiyans. The Saiyans had sent Goku to Earth to destroy it, but his ship crashes upon arrival. Goku fell

into a deep ravine and lost all memory of his mission. Goku refuses to help Raditz continue the mission, after which he begins

to encounter others who want to battle him, such as the Saiyan prince Vegeta. He also encounters Frieza, who is considered

to be one of the strongest beings in the universe, after which Goku begins training his first child, Son Gohan, to be his

successor. Years later, a group of soldiers from the Red Ribbon army known as androids appear to kill Goku. Another android,

Cell, absorbs Androids #17 and #18 from the Red Ribbon army to increase his power, then fights Goku and Gohan, resulting

in the former's death. Goku is capable of returning to life, but decides to stay dead for seven years to train in the Other World.

When he returns, he is drawn into a battle for the universe against an extraterrestrial named Majin Buu. Joined by Vegeta and

Gohan, the evil half of Buu is destroyed and the Good Buu (Mr. Buu) settles down with them. Ten years later at a martial arts

tournament, Goku meets evil Buu's human reincarnation, Uub. At the end of the manga, Goku takes Uub away on a journey to

train him as another successor.


--Major Characters--




Son Goku


















Master Roshi


Chi Chi












--Major Villians--








Majin Buu


King Piccolo


Garlic Jr.


Emperor Pilaf


Dr. Gero


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Cultural Impact & Merchandising

Dragonball's impact on popular cultural tremendous, not only in Japan, but worldwide. As a result of Toriyama's series countless pieces of merchandise have been made about his series, from video games to lunch boxes and

book bags, it is hard to find something that hasn't had the Dragonball name stamped on it at some point in time. Not only that but it has been referenced and parodied in countless shows and various other media across the spectrum. Here are some examples of Dragonball's cultural presence:


  • There are nearly 50 Dragonball video games currently in existance, with more being made every year.
  • There are 16 Dragonball films 4 specials and 1 OVA 
  • Countless Action Figures
  • Posters and Wall Scrolls
  • Collectible Card Game
  • Soundtracks
  • Bobble Heads
  • Lunch Boxes
  • Coffe Mugs
  • Boxer Shorts
  • And so on...




The Anime

Here are some examples of the anime taken from key moments in the series:


Dragonball: Path to Power

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King Piccolo Saga

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Saiyan Saga

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Frieza Saga

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Cell Saga

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Majin Buu Saga

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See also: Anime


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