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


Akira Toriyama, one of Japan’s leading comics authors, whose manga and anime franchise “Dragon Ball” achieved worldwide success with its mix of comedic characters and rousing martial arts battles, died on March 1. He was 68.

His death was confirmed on Friday in a statement by his manga and design production company, Bird Studio, and Capsule Corporation Tokyo. The statement said the cause was acute subdural hematoma, a condition in which blood collects between the skull and brain. It did not say where Mr. Toriyama died.

Mr. Toriyama’s body of work, which also includes “Dr. Slump” and “Sand Land,” is recognizable far beyond Japan’s borders, having influenced generations of manga artists and cartoonists. The studio said he had several projects in the works at his death.

His best-known work, “Dragon Ball,” follows a young boy named Son Goku who embarks on a journey to collect the seven magical orbs that summon a wish-granting dragon. Since its creation in the 1980s, it has spanned 42 volumes, sold millions of copies worldwide and become one of the most famous manga, inspiring television, film and video game adaptations.

Throughout his career, Mr. Toriyama said in a 2013 interview with the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, he did not care if his work did anything besides entertaining its readers. He was, he suggested, unlike “other manga artists concerned about conveying didactic messages.”

“The role of my manga,” he said, “is to be a work of entertainment through and through.”

Akira Toriyama was born on April 5, 1955, in Kiyosu, Japan, according to local news media. He studied design at a technology and engineering high school in Aichi Prefecture. After graduating, he worked as a designer for an advertising company in Nagoya.

He left his job after a few years and started drawing manga at 23. His first manga, an action and adventure comic called “Wonder Island,” was published in 1978.

He gained popularity with the serialization of “Dr. Slump” from 1980 to 1984, a science-fiction manga about an android girl known for her childlike personality and superhuman strength. It was adapted for television as an anime series.

Mr. Toriyama’s absurd concepts and sense of caricature “sparked a real joyful hysteria” in Japan, Matthieu Pinon and Laurent Lefebvre wrote in “A History of Modern Manga” (2023).

In 1982, Mr. Toriyama married a former manga artist who published under the pen name Nachi Mikami, Mainichi Shimbun reported. Complete information on survivors was not immediate available, but local news media reports say he is survived by his wife and children.

When “Dragon Ball” was first published in 1984, it was an immediate hit, becoming one of the best-selling manga series of all time. It sold more than 260 million copies worldwide, according to Toei Animation, the studio that produced the anime adaptation.

The cover of the first volume of the “Dragon Ball” manga.Credit…Bird Studio/SHUEISHA, via Associated Press

“Dragon Ball” was serialized in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump until 1995. In the year after the series ended, the magazine lost about one million of its six million readers, according to “A History of Modern Manga.” The story lived on through anime like “Dragon Ball Z” and through video games. Mr. Toriyama also designed the characters for the Dragon Quest video game series.

A prolific manga artist, Mr. Toriyama did not necessarily have an appetite for the genre as a reader. “I have always had a hard time reading manga, including my own work,” he said in a 2018 interview with Kiyosu City Public Library.

He led a private life and gave few interviews. In a 2013 interview with the Japanese singer and actress Shoko Nakagawa, he said that he did not even share all his work with his family.

“To tell you the truth, no one in my family has ever seen ‘Dragon Ball,’” he said, laughing. “I am also a hikikomori,” he added, using the Japanese word for a recluse.

But his stories continued to reach fans around the world years after their creation.

After “Dragon Ball,” Mr. Toriyama wrote single-volume manga, including “Cowa!,” “Kajika” and “Jaco the Galactic Patrolman.” “Sand Land,” published in 2000, was made into a movie in 2023. Its anime version is scheduled to be released in the spring on Disney+, along with a video game.


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