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

Akira Toriyama, the Japanese manga artist who created the incredibly popular Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump series, has died. He was 68.

Toriyama died March 1 from an acute subdural hematoma, the official Dragon Ball website revealed Friday, adding that his funeral was already held by close relatives. “He has left many manga titles and works of art to this world. Thanks to the support of so many people around the world, he has been able to continue his creative activities for over 45 years,” a statement on the website said.

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The statement continued, “We hope that the world of Akira Toriyama’s unique works will continue to be loved by everyone for a long time to come.”

One of Japan’s best-known and most-loved manga creators, Toriyama is indelibly linked with Dragon Ball, a series he created, wrote and illustrated that was first serialized in 1984. The martial arts-heavy series, which gave the world characters like Goku, Piccolo, Bulma and Krillin, was subsequently adapted into equally popular anime series by Toei Animation (Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z) in the late 1980s and would go on to spawn a whole multimedia franchise that is popular and highly influential around the world.

Born on April 5, 1955, in Nagoya, Japan, Toriyama’s career as a mangaka began in his early 20s, when he submitted work to the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. His first published work was Wonder Island in 1978, about a former World War II kamikaze pilot stuck on Wonder Island. The follow-up, Wonder Island 2, was published in 1979.

Toriyama made his name with the manga Dr. Slump, which was serialized by Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1980 to 1984. The series followed the adventures of a girl robot and her creator, who live alongside the bizarre inhabitants of Penguin Village. Dr. Slump was known for its silly, punny toilet humor and pop culture references and was a huge hit in Japan, selling over 35 million copies. It was later adapted into an anime series by Toei Animation that ran on Japanese TV from 1981 to 1986.

In the early 1980s, inspired by his love of Hong Kong kung fu films, particularly those of Jackie Chan, Toriyama created the Dragon Boy series, which tells the story of Tangtong, a young boy with martial arts skills who is tasked with escorting a princess back to her home country. Dragon Boy was first published in Fresh Jump in 1983 and would evolve into Dragon Ball the following year. Dragon Ball drew more heavily on kung fu and the martial arts, as well as the classical Chinese story of Journey to the West. The series tells the story of Son Goku, who is training in martial arts, who meets a girl named Bulma and joins her in her quest to find the seven Dragon Balls and to defend Earth against alien humanoids called Saiyans.

Published in Weekly Shōnen Jump, Dragon Ball was an immediate, and massive, success. The series would sell over 150 million copies in Japan and became one of the best-selling mangas of all time. As with Dr. Slump, Toei Animation looked to adapt Dragon Ball into an anime series, with the first episodes appearing on Japanese television in 1986 and running until 1989. A follow-up animated series, Dragon Ball Z, appeared in 1989 and ran until 1996, and in the following years, several Dragon Ball animated series were made.

By the 1990s, Toriyama began to be more widely known outside Japan, as the popularity of manga, anime, and especially the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z animated series spread worldwide.

Outside of Dragon Ball, Toriyama collaborated with game designer Yuji Horii, composer Koichi Sugiyama and publisher Square Enix on the multimedia franchise Dragon Quest. The first Dragon Quest release, a role-playing video game, was released in 1986, and since then there have been sequels and spinoff games, manga, anime and novels within the long-running franchise.

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