History and Fact of Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

Akira Toriyama was such a big figure.

Many of us know about Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, etc.

But his background and story is not so well known.

This time, I also checked some of his original interviews as well that I’ll introduce you history of Akira Toriyama here.

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1955

Akira Toriyama was born in Nagoya-shi in Aichi Prefecture in 1955.

He told that he first became interested in painting when he was a preschooler watching the Disney animated film “101 Doggies Marching” at the movie theater.

Actually, he was commended at a drawing class when he drew this 101 Doggies Marching.

He had a talent of drawing since he was a child, hadn’t he.

He respected Osamu Tezuka and Walt Disney in his childhood and drew robot of Astroboy by Osamu Tezuka almost everyday.

This Osamu Tezuka was a legendary comic writer in Japan and many Japanese musicians, actor, actress as well as comic writers showed their love for his works even today.

In elementary school, he won prizes several times at some sketching competitions.

But he stopped reading manga at 4th grade in elementary school.
His interest was shifted to movies, he said in a interview.

I thought he kept reading and drawing through whole his life but it was not.

He entered Aichi Prefectural Kikogyo High School (now Aichi Prefectural Ichinomiya Kikogyo High School) and belonged to art club.

At the same time, he belonged to Manga Club but he had already stopped drawing manga.

Still, he won a prize for beautification campaign poster in high school.

Work at Design Company

After graduating from high school in 1974, he started working as a designer at a local advertising-related design company, Daiichi Shigyo Nagoya Branch.

He wanted to do a job of graphic design but main job at the company was Lettering.
Lettering is the design of letters for visual effect in advertisements, posters, etc.

He was not good at this Lettering and doesn’t like it that quit the company in about 2 and a half years.

Later he said, this experience of Lettering was actually useful.

Challenge for Award of Manga

After quitting the company, he was drawing illustrations related to advertisement such as flyers for a year.

One day, he finds an article calling for entries for the Rookie of the Year Award in the “Weekly Shonen Magazine,” which he picked up by chance at a coffee shop.

At the age of 23, he started drawing to get the prize of 500,000 yen (about $3300).
Lack of money was the motivation and he was going to quit if he could earn the prize.

It was the turning point in his life, wasn’t it.

After all he couldn’t finish the drawing before the deadline that submitted his work “Awawa World” to the Monthly Young Jump Award which was a newcomer award of “Weekly Shonen Jump” instead.

Awawa World didn’t win the prize but the editor Kazuhiko Torishima of the magazine found something in him and asked him of submitting more of his works.

And finally he made a debut by his work “Wonder Island” in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1978.

We have to say it was good he couldn’t win the prize in the end because he might quit drawing after earning money and Dragon Ball we knew today might never have been created.

Dr. SLUMP Starts in 1980

Wonder Island was actually at the bottom of the list in Readers’ survey results in Shonen Jump.

But Kazuhiko Torishima kept contact with him and finally Dr. SLUMP was created.

Dr. SLUMP was serialized in 1980 and became popular.

Norimaki Arare was the main character but he actually wanted Senbei Noribaki to be the star first.
It was a suggestion by Kazuhiko Torishima to make Arare-chan the star of the comic.

It was interesting Arare-chan was the main character but no name of Arare in the title of Dr. SLUMP.
Looks like he insisted to keep the first title as it was even though he changed the main character.

He followed the advice in the end and it was right.

Thanks to the popularity, Dr. SLUMP even became anime on TV in 1981.
It became much more popular after the air on TV and the highest rating was 36.9%.

I think it’s really high rating considering it is not drama series but anime for children.

By the way, Akira Toriyama said in a interview that he was half happy when serialization of Dr. SLUMP decided at the time.

Because he knew how hard work it would be finishing drawing every week before deadlines.
And it was actually super hard time he later said.

He said there was even a time he could sleep only 20 minutes in one week in an interview.

One time there was a time he was asked of creating enemy character which he can think of he hates most by Kazuhiko Torishima and he created Dr. Mashirito.

The face of Dr. Mashirito was Kazuhiko Torishima ^_^;

Relationship between manga artist and the editor is strong but it is also business, so I understand it.

Anyway, he went through tough time in Dr. SLUMP.

Dragon Ball Starts in 1984

He wanted to end Dr. SLUMP because of the tough schedule and lack of idea, so asked the editorial department.

What he got was a suggestion of he can finish it if he could start new one in 3 months after ending of Dr. SLUMP.
Dr. SLUMP was such a popular comic that they did not want to end it.

Kazuhiko Torishima heard Akira Toriyama was a fan of Jackie Chan from his wife that made a suggestion of drawing a comic of Kung Fu for new manga.

Saying what he likes and drawing it as a job are different, he rejected the suggestion first but it was already built into the schedule.

He must have got angry, haha.

Anyway, he had to make one-shot comic related to Kung Fu and “Dragon Boy” was created.

It actually got popular in Shonen Jump that he developed the idea and story, then Dragon Ball created in 1984 after ending of Dr.SLUMP.

Dragon Ball became popular that it turned into anime in 1985.

I remember I watched Dragon Ball on TV at the time when I was a kindergarten.
I didn’t realize that it was very start of Dragon Ball on TV at the time.

It was popular first but the popularity had been declining with time.
He knew that from the readers’ survey results in Shonen Jump.

So he needed to change something in the story and the Tenka-ichi Budoukai (World Martial Arts Tournament) came.

It became a trigger and popularity of Dragon Ball grew.
Since then, Dragon Ball became battle-action-focused manga as you know.

I like stories such as battle against Piccolo, Frieza, etc. and scenes like Super Saiyajin.

But I also liked stories of pure adventure before the Tenka-ichi Budoukai.

Anyway, Dragon Ball became mega hit as you know not only Japan but in overseas.

It ended in 1995.

I think he never imagined he keeps drawing Dragon Ball for 11 years when it started in 1984.

It actually became a kind of pain to him to keep drawing Dragon Ball.

I really understand the situation.
We loved it but it must have been very tough thing to keep drawing to meet the deadline every week.

Design Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger

Toriyama Akira was also famous for Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger.

He drew all the characters, monsters and the package of Dragon Quest series and designed characters in Chrono Trigger.

When I was in elementary school, RPG video game we played mainly was either of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy.

I felt like friends who played Final Fantasy was a kind of modern boy.
I was, of course, into Dragon Quest at the time.

When Dragon Quest III was released in 1988, it became a social phenomenon.

I was a child but I remember I could see so many people lining up in front of the video game shops on TV.

There were even people lining up the day before the release.

The package design was drawn by Akira Toriyama and it made him famous much more.

He later said he never imagine at the time he had to keep drawing Dragon Quest series over 30 years.

Other than Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger was a great collaboration between Square and Enix, wasn’t it.

It was released in 1995 and he designed the characters.

I wanted to play Chrono Trigger but no money to buy that I was just drawing the character at the time, haha.

Rest in peace in 2024

Toriyama Akira passed away on March 2024.

ASDH (acute subdural hematoma) was the cause of death.

I could see so many people mourned the loss of him.

His loss was picked up on The New York Times, BBC.

Not only ordinary citizens like us but prime minister of France, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, etc. are commented on his death.

I realized that he was not Akira Toriayama only in Japan but the world-renowned Akira Toriyama.


Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

Akira Toriyama liked drawing but he also had a pain to keep drawing.

Actually, this is not the fact only about Akira Toriyama but also some other famous comic artists.

Big pressure and all-nighters are the norm in the world of manga artists.

There is also a gap between what they want to draw and what readers expect to them to draw.

Still, they chose to become manga artist and keep drawing.

Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest was a kind of center in my childhood.

Dragon Ball started when I was in kindergarten and I was into Dragon Quest in elementary school.

I remember drawing a picture of Chrono of Chrono Trigger as I couldn’t afford to buy when it was released, haha.

His work Dragon Ball was succeed to Toyotaro now and keep survivig.
Dragon Ball DAIMA also starts this fall, doesn’t it!

Like that, his works keep surviving forever.

PS. You can watch the first episode from the first Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Super on following Toei Animation’s official YouTube channel in Japanese ↓

Dragon Ball 1st Episode (Toei Animation’s official YouTube channel)

Dragon Ball Z 1st Episode (Toei Animation’s official YouTube channel)

Dragon Ball GT 1st Episode (Toei Animation’s official YouTube channel)

Dragon Ball Super 1st Episode (Toei Animation’s official YouTube channel)

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