‘Dragon Ball’ Creator, Akira Toriyama, Passes Away at 68

Children of Dragon Ball stand up!

March has brought incredibly sad news in the announcement of the passing of Akira Toriyama. Dragon Ball Z’s official X (formerly known as Twitter) account confirmed the news on Thursday.  

“We are deeply saddened to inform you that Manga creator Akira Toriyama passed away on March 1st due to acute subdural hematoma,” the post reads. An acute subdural hematoma is a condition where the blood collects between the skull and the surface of the brain.

Toriyama was only sixty-eight years old and was still actively working not just in the manga industry (on Dragon Ball Super illustrated by Toyotarou) but with animation projects like Dragon Ball Diama as well. The news shocked the world as Dragon Ball, Toriyama’s greatest series– is a globally loved, and the mangaka will be sorely missed.

I grew up with Dragon Ball (and Dragon Ball Z, GT, and all that came afterwards)  the latter’s manga and anime adaptation and spinoff series were some gateways into the world of Japanese anime for many of my generation. Son Goku is the Shonen grandpa like figure that inspired so many loved Shonen heroes like Naruto, Luffy, Ichigo and more that came after him. Goku is perhaps one of the recognizable anime characters of the more modern age and work he has been featured in contained multitudes: comedy, martial arts, action, adventures, and enough moments between comrades, families, and friends.

I may have grown up with Dragon Ball, but that iconic franchise is not where my interest in Akira Toriyama’s work ended. My high school library received funding that resulted in a huge new order of books that included manga and graphic novels–much to the glee of me and my fellow students. This is where I discovered the single volume of Sandland: a sort of apocalyptic setting with a ruined, wasteland Earth with desert galore and a demon’s son on an adventure with an unlikely trio. I remember really loving Toriyama’s art style and the appeal of a single contained story.

Dr. Slump – 1980 [via X @ToriyamaArts]

I also found a few volumes of Dr. Slump, Toriyama’s Robot girl hi-jinks, in an eighteen-volume series that was my first introduction to gag manga. To this day, Arale the child like robot is one of my favorite characters of all manga and anime. Whenever I think back to the shenanigans and the pure goofiness of the series it always awakens the joy and silliness of that time for me as a teenager when I first discovered it.

On the bluesky app, translator Zack Davisson translated One Piece author Eiichiro Oda’s statement regarding Toriyama’s death (originally posted by Oda to Shonen Jump) and reading through it I really felt the admiration that he had of Toriyama since he was a child: 

“I have admired him so much since I was a child, so I remember the day he called me by name for the first time. On the way home, he used the word ‘friend’ for us.”  Reading through the statement, Oda mentions that Dragon Ball influenced so many creatives, not just manga artists. The manga artist also mentioned that Toriyama helped “…create a world where adults and children alike could read and enjoy manga.”

I thought about my own connection to Toriyama–sure I hadn’t really interacted with much Dragon Ball media in recent months, but I have a nephew, Kayden, who has. He’s turning thirteen this year and was raised on the adventures of Goku and friends. His dad, my big brother, asked me where to purchase some anime graphic tees online, and I directed him to a few places where he gladly bought some Dragon Ball Z shirts for his son. When I talked on the phone with my brother earlier this week, he exclaimed that the only thing that his son wants to read is manga right now (that was me at the age too) and his small, but growing manga library only contains Toriyama’s work.

The last time the kid was at my home, he carefully explained Dragon Ball Super’s timeline and big events and even humored me when I asked him if Janet, Pan’s teacher, was Piccolo’s love interest. Thinking back to this encounter, I thought perhaps we are all children of Dragon Ball–me and my brothers and cousins and all the kids we went to school with who chatted up the manga, the anime and the video games during our school time hours. And this newer generation–the kids of today like my nephew who is going to eighth grade next year, probably wearing his Dragon Ball Z shirts if he can still fit them next year.

Today, I’ve discovered some surprising and heartfelt reveals: from learning that the JSL (Japanese Sign Language) sign for Dragon Ball is apparently a kamehameha gesture to an older otaku reminding us of Osamu Tezuka’s (the father or grandfather of the medium of manga) high praise of Toriyama’s work. Reading through tribute after tribute made me realize that we are all children of Dragon Ball and children of Akira Toriyama’s incredible talent that inspired us to search for what it was that made the adventure one to take on, and of course, the friends we made along the way. I think of Oda’s last words in his statement about the death of his sensei, his friend, Toriyama: “I hope that heaven will be as a delightful place as he imagined it.”

King Kai and Goku [Image via Fandom]

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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