Hi everyone. It’s Mokugyo, your favorite manga and anime writer here at MANGA.TOKYO and welcome to another Anime Study!
It’s getting quite warm during the daytime, but still cold at night. The difference in temperature is quite big. There is an anime series that is always hot no matter what temperature it is outside. It’s the latest addition to Goku’s adventures, Dragon Ball Super. It has entered its 5th season, the ‘Universe Survival Saga’ with a new character. I think it’s amazing that an anime series that started airing in the 80s still captures fans’ hearts.
In this article, I’m going to examine the works of Akira Toriyama, the creator of the world-renowned anime series Dragon Ball.
Toriyama was born on 5 April 1955 and is now 62 years old (2017). He’s been good at drawing since he was a young child who liked copying Disney’s animated movieOne Hundred and One Dalmatians. As his family wasn’t very well off, it’s said that he would draw the things he wanted, instead of buying them.
He got his first job at a design firm after graduating from high school. He was often late for work, as he wasn’t a morning person. He wasn’t good at drawing in a single straight line, either. As a result, he quit the job in just two years. He later spoke about his experience in the firm as ‘in retrospect, it was valuable for me for learning how society works.’
After he left his job, he came to know about a manga contest which had a cash prize and he then began drawing manga seriously. He submitted his first manga work to the ‘Shonen Jump Manga Contest’ in 1978, though he wasn’t successful. He immediately drew another work and submitted it again. Although it didn’t win, Kazuhiko Torishima, an editor for Shonen Jump, found potential in Toriyama’s manga and encouraged him to continue. His debut as a published manga artist came within the same year, with the one-shot manga Wonder Island. Toriyama and Torishima became a team, which would produce popular manga in the future.
He Failed to Get Attention with His Debut One-shot Manga
Toriyama entered the manga industry with his debut work, Wonder Island. The slapstick comedy manga was published in Weekly Shonen Jump, though failed to get the attention of the readers. He made fun of the fact that it didn’t get popularity at all in his manga. It was later republished in his short story collection. I regret to say that it wasn’t that great.
Its sequels, Wonder Island 2 and Today’s Highlight Island, were also a slapstick comedy with various characters gathering on the island. They proved his ability in drawing illustrations, though they lacked something which is needed to make a great manga. They are interesting, though, because they show elements of his later masterpieces including ‘an island where various characters gather’ and ‘an idyllic countryside.’
He is often considered a talented manga artist who gained instant success because he produced mega hit manga series. The truth is, although he was brilliant at drawing, he tried so hard to be able to create a manga that works.
‘Dr. Slump’, the Manga that Became a Social Phenomenon
Toriyama was advised by his editor, Torishima, to create a manga in which a girl is the main character. He created the one-shot manga Tomato, Girl Detective in 1979. Its revolves around a girl detective called Tomato who unintentionally solves incidents despite her incompetence. The character design of Tomato is very cute. Characters with names of vegetables appear in this manga. That trend will be found later in the names of the Saiyans in Dragon Ball.
It’s said that Toriyama was reluctant to create the manga, as he believed himself being not to be good at drawing girls. Despite his assumption, the manga was well received and he went on create another manga with a girl protagonist, Dr. Slump, which began serialization in 1980.
Because Dragon Ball was such a massive hit, we often forget how big Dr. Slump was back then. The title refers to Senbei Norimaki, an eccentric scientist who always invents strange stuff. He creates a girl robot called Arale, who goes to school in Penguin village and wreaks havoc upon the village.
The series became hugely popular just after its serialization in 1980. The TV anime adaptation Dr. Slump Arale-chan began airing in 1981. It was so popular that it was considered almost a social phenomenon. Many Japanese would name Dr. Slump Arale-chan if asked what was the anime of the 80s. The anime series unfortunately ended in 1986. Many children at that time thought, ‘it’s such a great show, but it’s finished; how the hell is this Dragon Ball thing going to be better than Arale?’ These children eventually became fans of Dragon Ball.
You may not know Akira Toriyama, but you’ve probably heard of Dragon Ball. It’s a battle action story about seven dragon balls which can grant any wish when all of them are collected.
The original manga began its serialization in 1984, and the anime adaptation followed in 1986. The title of the first anime was Dragon Ball without the ‘Z’ at the end. It depicts the adventures of Goku when he was a child. As the battle scenes increased, so did its popularity.
Goku grew up to become a young adult in the latter half of Dragon Ball, which was quite a brave move at the time. It wasn’t common to change the protagonist’s appearance during serialization. However, it worked well and lead to the sequel anime series Dragon Ball Z, which depicts the grown-up Goku’s adventures. His battles are extended to outer space levels, which resulted in gaining more fans.
Dragon Ball Z was broadcast worldwide and broke records for Japanese anime. The serialization of the manga finished in 1995 followed by the end of the anime in 1996. Due to the popularity of Dragon Ball at the time, it’s said that the executives and the franchiser, including the publisher, the anime production company, and the toy maker had to have a special meeting to discuss measures against its finalization.
Dragon Ball has maintained its popularity after the serialization, and many video games were also released. In 2015, they finally started airing the new chapter in the saga, the TV anime series Dragon Ball Super! The positive reception from the fans demonstrate the everlasting popularity of Toriyama’s masterpiece Dragon Ball.
The Character Designs for the ‘Dragon Quest’ Series
The list of Toriyama’s work can’t be completed without the character designs of Dragon Quest, the highly popular video game series first released in the 80s. The franchise is said to have shaped the Japanese role-playing games until today. The fantasy worlds that the Japanese imagine are heavily influenced by this series. The series’ newest entry, Dragon Quest XI, will be released in July 2017.
Toriyama has been in charge of the character design of this game series from the beginning. The monsters Toriyama designed were very unique. For instance, Slime was originally conceived as a gooey, spooky monster but Toriyama designed it as a tear-drop shaped cute monster with deadpan round eyes. It became so popular that it is the most recognizable character in the game. It can be said that Slime demonstrates Toriyama’s talent in character design.
After the Dragon Ball series, Toriyama published many manga works, though none of them are long-running series. For example, SAND LAND, which was published in 2000, is an unconventional story in which an elderly man and a demon prince wonder around the desert to find a spring. Toriyama often mentioned that he likes to draw the elderly and this manga shows his skills in depicting them.
Most recently in 2013, he published Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, which has some connections to the Dragon Ball series. Jaco, the main character, appeared in Dragon Ball Super as well. It seems that Toriyama likes Jaco’s innocent nature.
Toriyama’s Other Works: Illustrations and Picture Books
Apart from manga, he has drawn many illustrations. He designed the characters of the popular video game Chrono Trigger which was released in the 90s for the Nintendo SNES. His character designs are not only cool but also comical and cute. The characters he designed enable us to understand what the story is like by just looking at them.
He also published a children’s picture book, Toccio the Angel, which featuring an angel who resembles Majin Boo from Dragon Ball. Being a mecha fan, Toriyama added a picture of a tank in this book. It’s an interesting book for his fans to see his different aspect.
Toriyama designed a new cover of the book Souvenirs Entomologiques written by Jean-Henri Fabre. He also drew many illustrations of insects and animals, as he loves these creatures.
I’ve looked up Akira Toriyama’s various works in this article. He is a manga artist who excels at action scenes. He’s able to draw objects from any direction, and has a great skill of drawing deformed characters. His words are unique and interesting. I hope that more people get to know Akira Toriyama’s various works other than Dragon Ball.