Remembering Akira Toriyama (1955–2024)

Remembering Akira Toriyama (1955–2024)

Mar 22, 2024Alan Wong

The world was shocked by news of the sudden passing of Akira Toriyama, creator of the phenomenal Dragon Ball manga series. He was 68 years old.

Fans, artists, manga and anime industry figures, and even domestic and foreign government officials have responded to the news with sadness, a measure of how influential Toriyama and his works had been. Though he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, he also blazed a trail for other manga artists to follow, including Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) and Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto). "It is too early," Oda lamented. "The hole is too big. Sadness washes over me when I think that I will never see him again."

What he wrought had a profound and everlasting effect on shonen manga and global pop culture, and his characters such as Son Goku blasted through cultural and language barriers with the force of a kamehameha. The foreign ministries of China and El Salvador expressed their condolences, and French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the mangaka on social media.

Perhaps understandable, as his influences weren't confined to domestic productions. Toriyama was wowed by Walt Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians and he was a fan of Hong Kong martial arts files, like those of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Elements of these, plus his own touch, made it into his works. Small wonder then that Dragon Ball has a worldwide fanbase, even in Malaysia where the series was known as Mutiara Naga.

Toriyama made his debut with Wonder Island, but it was Dr. Slump, featuring a robot girl named Arale, that made him a household name. Fans might wish to credit Toriyama's editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, for suggesting that Toriyama try his hand at a kung fu shonen manga because of the latter's fondness for martial arts flicks. That work would evolve into the global phenomenon that would spawn several anime and game adaptations and influence artists and animators all over.

Toriyama couldn't understand how his work became a hit and that "the only thing I wanted as I kept drawing was to make Japanese boys happy." But it's not just boys in Japan who were cheered by the saga of an alien child who grows up on Earth and trains to be stronger and overcome numerous obstacles, all while remaining righteous, caring, and a goofball.

Thank you, Toriyama-sensei. You will be missed.

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