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The Legacy of Akira Toriyama

Eri Cruz Moreno

Akira Toriyama was born on April 5, 1955, in Aichi prefecture, Japan. Toriyama was someone who loved drawing, animals, vehicles, and everything he saw. Toriyama saw Walt Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, where he was inspired by the movie’s animation. Toriyama entered a drawing inspired by the movie into a competition, where he ended up winning a prize. During middle school, he stopped watching anime and started to watch live action movies like Godzilla, Ultraman, Gamera, and other films both Eastern and Western. These would ultimately inspire his drawing style.

Toriyama was the most creative when he got to high school. Although his parents expected him to go to college and become a working professional, once Toriyama graduated high school, he got a job in advertising as a designer right away. Toriyama did not like the job so he quit. He ran an ad for the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump where he submitted some one-shots but wasn’t successful. Toriyama submitted a Star Wars parody called Mysterious Rain Jack that didn’t even win, but he got discovered by his future editor and mentor, Kazuhiko Torishima. Torishima suggested to him that he create something new. Toriyama submitted another one-shot which gave a success, called Dr. Slump. Eventually Toriyama had his first success and won the prestigious manga award for his work in Weekly Shonen Jump. Toriyama eventually got tired of it and wanted to quit. 

Torishima asked Toriyama if he could create another manga that would build on the success of Dr. Slump. Using elements from Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan films and the book Journey to the West, Toriyama was able to create Dragon Ball. At first no one took it seriously because of its art style. At that time there were other action manga that were taken seriously, and Dragon Ball looked cartoonish. Toriyama knew storytelling was important, more than the look of the animation. He followed this with the sequel Dragon Ball Z, which sold many chapters. 

Dragon Ball Z was translated into many languages, shown on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Toonami, and Telemundo. People had to tape and at the time were trading Dragon Ball Z tapes. In 2009, Fox decided to release a live-action film, Dragon Ball Evolution, which was a disgrace to the franchise. Nevertheless, Toriyama continued to work on Dragon Ball anime and manga.

Toriyama’s second editor was Toyotaro, who was a fan of Toriyama’s and continues to work on the Dragon Ball series. Dragon Ball inspired many manga franchises like Saint Seiya, Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter X Hunter, Black Cat, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Gintama, My Hero Academia, Fairy Tail, and The Seven Deadly Sins, and has been referenced in Japanese as well as American cartoons. The feeling of happiness you have while watching action anime is what these creators have when watching Dragon Ball. Anime characters have spiky hair because of Dragon Ball, which no one had before Toriyama; a lot of 90s anime looks like Dragon Ball animation.

The success of the Dragon Ball franchise continues on, with the recent movie Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and a new spin-off which fans aren’t sure of called Dragon Ball Daima, set to come out in 2024. Toriyama was bringing himself back to Dragon Ball roots. 

Everything was going great, except for one thing: on March 1, 2024, Akira Toriyama passed away. Manga creators agree: as long as we remember what he did and that as long his works are here, he is dead, but not forgotten.

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About the Contributor
Eri Cruz Moreno
Eri Cruz Moreno, Staff Artist & Writer
he/him Eri is someone who is shy and quiet at times, but is always a nice person to talk to. He is an inspiring artist and writer.  Right now, he's focusing on school and still thinking of ideas to write on about. Eri draws. He draws a lot and hearing people's experiences help him envision a story or a character.
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