In Remembrance: Akira Toriyma

By Christian Scarlato, writer for Northern Lights - A Media Retrospective

Known as the Godfather of Shonen Manga, Akira Toriyama leaves a legacy that entertained millions & inspired a generation.

An artist, a creator, an inspiration. These are the words that some would best describe long-running mangaka Akira Toriyama, who’s best known for creating the world-famous Dragon Ball franchise. On top of his work with Dragon Ball, he also worked as a character designer for many iconic video games like Chrono Trigger & the Dragon Quest franchise. Unfortunately, it was announced Thursday evening that this giant of the industry passed away due to a blood clot forming in his brain. He was 68 when he passed away.

In a statement released on March 8th by his production studio Bird Studio, it was stated that Toriyama had died on March 1st, with a private funeral being hosted shortly after. He was even working on multiple other projects recently, with one of them being a video game adaptation of his older and less well known franchise SAND LAND.

Most commonly known for the Dragon Ball franchise, Toriyama’s art style & storytelling abilities are viewed as being the backbone for the Shonen style of manga (manga for a younger audience), & helping popularize Weekly Shonen Jump as a viable source for amazing weekly content that played into an overarching story. The creators of some of Japan’s biggest mangas like One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda & Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, credit a lot of their success & inspiration to Toriyama and Dragon Ball.

After his passing, Oda stated that he had always viewed Toriyama as a god, stating the following:

For not only mangakas but also creators in various industries, the excitement and emotion of the time of Dragon Ball serialization must have taken root in their childhood. His existence is like a big tree. For the manga artists of our generation who stood on the same stage, Toriyama’s works became more and more important to me as I got closer to the same stage. I even felt scared. But I am just happy to see the aloof man himself again because we love him on a blood level.

With respect and gratitude for the creative world he has left behind. I pray for his soulful rest in peace. May heaven be the joyous world he envisioned.”

Toriyama was always seen as a private man, an introvert like many other notable Mangaka (slang for Manga Artist). Not many public photos were taken of Toriyama, nor did he have much of a public presence. However, he’s held as one of, if not the most iconic Mangaka of his era, due to the international success of Dragon Ball. From his home in Japan to nearby nations like India, to its explosive popularity in Western countries like the US & Central America, it’s hard to deny that Toriyama’s work didn’t resonate with many. In Mexico, Dragon Ball Super’s finale was screened publicly & by their own Government, which led to a small diplomatic fiasco, but cooler heads prevailed. This is how popular of a franchise Dragon Ball is!

Personally, I wasn’t one of the millions who grew up on Dragon Ball or any of the sequels & spinoffs, yet I was egged on by a friend last December to get into the franchise since I was caught up on One Piece. I took his word for it, and here I am now, having not only finished both the original Dragon Ball and the iconic Dragon Ball Z in a scarily fast amount of time, but I’m currently going through the early episodes of Dragon Ball Super. I’m saving my thoughts on the Dragon Ball franchise for a larger editorial, but needless to say, the show is a spectacle. Beyond its pacing issues, the Dragon Ball franchise is a chaotic menagerie of iconic heroes, villains, and explosive standoffs that easily stand the test of time.

His artwork was also easily recognizable, from the insane hairstyles to the unique colour usage. Outside of his work with the Dragon Ball franchise, Toriyama was also noted for being a character artist for the Dragon Quest franchise, one of the most popular and longest-running JRPGs, alongside helping design the characters & monsters for Chrono Trigger, a JRPG that many consider to be one of the best games of the genre. From the iconic Dragon Quest slimes to the distinctive and memorable designs of Chrono’s party members, it’s hard for someone to argue that Toriyama was a one-trick pony.

As I sit here, typing away my thoughts with a Dragon Ball movie playing in the background (if anyone’s wondering, it’s Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound), I want to conclude by sharing what makes artists like Toriyzama so mesmerizing. Whether it’s a new game or a decades-long show, a lot of the content he produces is pure escapism. The easy and inviting art style welcomes you to its enthralling & always expanding worlds, where the world acts as its own thing. Characters can be happy & cheerful, and you relate to them, but when things get serious, Toriyama pulls out all the stops to show you some of the most iconic & all-out fights. Things do & will get serious, yet there’s always something there to upset the mood, like an evil destroyer dictator who’s shorter than Goku’s son & sells off planets like an evil real estate company. Tell me that isn’t the definition of creativity, and when I think of the spark of started this wild era of amazing manga & anime, I’ll always think of Akira Toriyama.


So thank you Akira Toriyama, and may you rest in peace.


Posted in Blog and tagged .