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Akira Toriyama: My Last Goodbye to The Genius Artist Who Changed the Anime World

Thank you for all the fun moments and good friends I met through your mangas!

Goku meets Arale in the anime Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball, Episode 56 || Credits: IMDb

Like other millennials who are anime and manga fans, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball greatly influenced my otaku journey. I grew up watching those shows, and they hold a special place in my heart.

So naturally, the news about Akira Toriyama’s passing affected me. This article is my way of bidding farewell to the person who had such a significant impact on who I am today.

Akira Toriyama Passes Away

On March 1, 2024, the famous mangaka, Akira Toriyama, passed away at the age of 68 due to acute subdural hematoma. His family held a private funeral.

From all corners of the world, celebrities and everyday people have posted their condolences online.

Although Akira Toriyama is mainly recognized for his success with the Dragon Ball franchise, his history in the anime and manga world began long before that.

Who Was Akira Toriyama?

Akira Toriyama's first appearance at a US anime festival or convention as a guest
Akira Toriyama at Shonen Jump Launch Party, 2002 || Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Akira Toriyama was born on April 5, 1955. He loved drawing since he was little, and from a young age, he mostly drew pictures of animals and vehicles.

Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy (1952–1968) were two of his big influences as an artist. These works deepened his appreciation for illustrations and got him into manga as a kid.

After graduating high school, Akira Toriyama started working instead of continuing his education. He designed posters for three years but couldn’t adapt to the lifestyle and company culture, and that’s where his brilliant career in the manga industry began.

Akira Toriyama’s Contribution to Otaku Culture

After quitting his job, Toriyama needed a new income source. So he submitted a manga he wrote to an amateur contest in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine. Unfortunately, he didn’t send his work in time for the contest, but another manga magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump, accepted monthly submissions.

The first manga Toriyama sent wasn’t accepted because, even though it was good, it was a parody of Star Wars instead of an original work. He was encouraged to send an original story and came up with his first published manga, Wonder Island.

But that’s not why he became so famous! In fact, according to a survey, Wonder Island is the least liked of his works by manga readers. He tried repeatedly, drawing other stories that didn’t perform so well with readers until he finally created his first hit in 1980: Dr. Slump!

Talk about a lesson on persistence and hard work.

Dr. Slump and the android Arale became so popular that Akira Toriyama was invited to participate in other projects besides his manga. His distinctive art style is present in the character design of games like Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, and more.

Dragon Ball came four years after Dr. Slump in 1984. The adventures and jokes of the young Goku became his biggest hit and one of the top works in the Manga industry. The franchise became famous worldwide in various forms, including manga, anime, and games.

Today, fans of Akira Toriyama’s work can recognize even the subtlest influences in other anime and manga, be it in character design, fight scenes, or even parodies and jokes. Even if you have never seen anything from his manga or anime, you can probably recognize some references when you hear them.

I invite you to pick one of the three works below and try it.

Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, and SandLand!

The First Hit: Dr. Slump

Dr. Slump: Arale-chan (1981), Opening || Credits: IMDb
Dr. Slump: Arale-chan (1981), Opening || Credits: IMDb

Senbei Norimaki is an inventor living in the fantastic Penguin Village and determined to create the world's best robot girl.

He finally creates the android Arale. She has superhuman strength and intelligence but is also super clumsy. Besides being severely nearsighted, Arale lacks common sense.

Dr. Slump follows the misadventures of the cute robot and her creator.

The Anime Phenomenon: Dragon Ball

Bulma and Son Goku as seen in the first episode of Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball, Season 1, Episode 1 || Credits: IMDb

The Dragon Ball franchise is HUGE! The first title, Dragon Ball, has several sequels, including the most recent, Dragon Ball Daima, scheduled to launch in Fall 2024. Still, I would recommend watching Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z first.

The first work of the series shows Goku as a young boy living alone in the woods until a girl named Bulma (Yes! Our Timeless Waifu Bulma!) runs into him in her search for some magical objects called the "Dragon Balls." These artifacts grant one wish to whoever collects all seven.

Goku happens to have one of the dragon balls but refuses to hand it over to Bulma. So she makes a deal: Goku can follow her on her journey if she can borrow the dragon ball's power.

During their journey, they meet the old Muten-Roshi and disciple Kuririn. With his new friends, Goku trains to become a stronger martial artist capable of winning the World Martial Arts Tournament and helping the people around them.

By the way, Goku has already met Arale several times in the Dragon Ball series. The android was stronger than Goku when he was a little kid and saved him during her spring break!

Most Recent Anime: SAND LAND

Thief, Beelzebub, and Sheriff Rao in the movie adaptation of SAND LAND
SAND LAND (2023), Movie || Credits: IMDb

I already mentioned the movie SAND LAND in another post. It’s based on a short manga, Akira Toriyama, created in 2000.

But the movie isn’t the only adaptation this manga is getting! In addition to the anime film adaptation released in August 2023, an anime series premiered on March 20.

SAND LAND takes place on a planet destroyed by war. Earth became a wasteland where the greedy king controlled water. In this setting, we meet Sherif Rao, Beelzebub, and Thief.

Sheriff Rao is a human trying to find a long-lost lake. He recruits the demon prince Beelzebub and his assistant, Thief, to help him. Together, they will have to face all sorts of dangers, including the worst of them all: the King's army.

May his talent never be forgotten

Undoubtedly, the Dragon Ball Franchise is Akira Toriyama's most famous work, but his legacy extends far beyond Goku and his epic battles.

What is your favorite character created by Akira Toriyama? What do you like the most about them? Let’s share our thoughts on The Otaku Community and remember the best moments of Toriyama’s works!

Images from Wikimedia Commons, IMDb

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