Akira Toriyama (1955-) is a world-renowned Japanese manga artist. Best known as the writer and the illustrator of Dragonball, Toriyama has not only contributed to record-breaking sales of magazines and comics in Japan, but also become one of the most translated manga artists in the world. Toriyama’s artwork has reached a worldwide audience through print, television, films, and video games.

Akira Toriyama was born on April 5th, 1955 in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, Japan. After completing designing courses at the Prefectural High School of Technology in 1974, Toriyama worked for an advertisement company as a designer. After leaving the job in 1977, Toriyama applied for a monthly Young Jump Award (now Hop Step Award) and professionally debuted in 1978 with his Wonder Island in Weekly Shōnen Jump, a manga anthology magazine by Shūeisha. After several trials with short manga pieces, Toriyama wrote a serialization titled Dr. Slump (1980-1984) in Weekly Shōnen Jump. The series gained such popularity that it was later published as comics. The comics sold over 35 million copies in Japan and was translated into several languages for Asian, European, and American markets.

Immediately after Dr. Slump, Toriyama began working on Dragonball (1984-1995), a masterwork which made him one of the most renowned manga artists in the world. Meeting the three essential elements of Jump comics–victory, friendship, and effort–Toriyama’s Dragonball not only contributed to record-breaking sales for the weekly magazine, 6 million issues in 1995, but also sold over 150 million comics in Japan and over 230 million comics globally. When the North American edition of Shōnen Jump was published by VIZ Media in 2002, Toriyama’s Dragonball Z was one of the 5 series included in the first issue. Toriyama’s Dragonball series contributed to a Japanese manga and anime boom overseas.

Toriyama’s serialized manga was also successful as television anime series and films. An animation, Dr. Slump: Arale-chan (1981-1985) was a big hit and later returned as Dr. Slump (1997-1999) by a group of animators after the serialization in the magazine ended in 1984. This popular anime series was translated and televised in several Asian and European countries.

Dragonball was also animated as Dragonball (1986-1989) and Dragonball Z (1989-1996) for television, and has been featured in more than 17 films since 1986. When the serialization of Dragon Ball in Weekly Shōnen Jump ended in 1995, the television and film series were carried on by other animators as Dragonball GT (1996-1997), Dragonball Kai (Revised) (2009-2015) and as Dragonball Super (2015-). These television and film series became popular not only among Toriyama-manga fans, but also others who were not regular manga readers.

While Toriyama-anime was chiefly based on his original manga, as the television series progressed, more episodes and characters were created by the animators. When requested, Toriyama would provide them with advice, suggestions, and sketches of artwork, but he rather enjoyed and embraced these anime series as side stories of his manga.

In the 1980s, Nintendo introduced a console gaming system to the international market and a number of popular manga and anime series were transformed into video games. Subsequently, Toriyama’s Dragonball series was featured in over 50 video games for home and portable game devices and mobile applications. Toriyama became a solo illustrator for the Dragon Quest series, role playing games (RPG) by SquareEnix. Since the first Dragon Quest I (1985) to the latest Dragon Quest: Heroes II (2015), Toriyama has been designing and illustrating numerous characters and monsters for this series. In 2014, the series was awarded with the Longest-running Japanese RPG Series Award by Guinness World Record.

Toriyama currently lives in Aichi, Japan and continues to write manga and design characters.

— Yoko Inagi

See also: Dragonball

Further Reading

  • Fandom unbound: otaku culture in a connected world. 2012. Edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Izumi Tsuji. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Gravett, Paul. 2004. Manga: sixty years of Japanese comics. New York: Collins Design International.
  • Schodt, Frederik. 1983. Manga! manga!: The world of Japanese comics. New York: Kodansha International.
  • The essential science fiction television reader. 2008. Edited by J.P. Telotte. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
  • Toriyama, Akira. 1990. Toriyama Akira the world : Akira Toriyama special illustrations. Tokyo: Shūeisha.