Akira Toriyama, Manga Artist and Creator of ‘Dragon Ball,’ Dies at 68

STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images
STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

Akira Toriyama, the Japanese manga artist who created Dragon Ball, died last Friday of an acute subdural hematoma, according to his production studio. He was 68.

His death was announced on Thursday by Dragon Ball’s official X account, which shared a statement from Bird Studio and Capsule Corporation Tokyo, the company that owns the sprawling franchise’s anime and gaming rights.

“It’s our deep regret that he still had several works in the middle of creation with great enthusiasm,” it said. “Also, he would have many more things to achieve. However, he had left many manga titles and works of art to this world.”

Tributes from Toriyama’s friends and some of the biggest names in manga were quickly collected by Weekly Shōnen Jump, the anthology magazine that discovered Toriyama and published his first manga in 1978.

In an introductory statement, the magazine said that his work had “transcended national borders and been read and loved all over the world.” His “overwhelming design sense” had had an incalculable impact on other artists and creators, it added.

“It’s too early,” One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda said. “The hole is too big.”

Saying he’d admired Toriyama since childhood, Oda added, “He is one of the people who took the baton from the era when reading manga would make you stupid, and created an era where both adults and children read and enjoy manga. He showed us the dream that manga can do things like this and that we can go to the world. He gave it to me.

“I hope that heaven will be a pleasant world just as you envisioned it,” he added.

Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto said that he’d grown up reading Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball, wanting to follow in Toriyama’s footsteps. “For me, he was the god of salvation and the god of manga,” he said.

Having received news of the death of his teacher and guide, Kishimoto said, “I feel an even greater sense of loss than when Dragon Ball ended.”

In 1984, it was an editor at Weekly Shōnen Jump who encouraged Toriyama to try his hand at penning a kung fu shōnen manga. The young artist had been submitting manga to the magazine for years, and had already found considerable success with Dr. Slump, a comedy sci-fi series that was serialized in Shōnen Jump from 1980 to 1984.

Drawing from the Hong Kong martial art films he loved, Toriyama inked the two-chapter series Dragon Boy and the one-shot series The Adventures of Tongpoo, both of which would serve as prototypes when it came time to create the first installment of Dragon Ball, which was published that November.

Over the next 11 years, the series would balloon to 519 chapters, with its more than 9,000 pages collected in 42 tankōbon or standalone volumes. More than 300 million copies have been sold around the world, according to Shōnen Jump.

The franchise also expanded beyond the page, adapted into 21 anime films, three live-action movies, dozens of video games, and five anime shows—including sequel series Dragon Ball Z, which introduced Son Goku and his friends to an entirely new audience after its serialization on Cartoon Network.

Though he worked on other projects throughout his career, including several popular one-shot manga runs, Toriyama always returned to the Dragon Ball universe, credited as a screenwriter, executive producer, or consultant on almost all of its various spinoff projects. His most recent involvement was with the 2022 web series Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.

The studio statement said on Thursday that Toriyama’s family had already held a small funeral service. Fittingly for an artist who spent his career shunning the spotlight, the company asked that well-wishers refrain from visiting or sending gifts, citing his wishes “for tranquility.”

Plans for a larger commemorative gathering are expected to be announced at a future date.

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