Akira Toriyama is one of the most famous Japanese comic writers out there, and also does work on character designs in video games.
He started off in 1978 with the one-shot story Wonder Island published by Shonen Jump and gained large popularity in Japan for his Breakthrough Hit gag manga Doctor Slump, but became world-famous for his Dragon Ball series. Ironically, it was meant to only be about two volumes, but we know how that ended up.
Around the same time as his Dragon Ball series was taking off in Japan, Yuji Horii approached him to work on Toriyama's most influential and famous work, the character designs and art for Dragon Quest, the game that would introduce computerized role playing games to the mainstream Japanese market and set the standard for all Eastern RPGs to follow. He has continued to do every single piece of artwork, monster and character design as part of the same three-person team (with Yuji Horii (story) and Koichi Sugiyama (music) ) for every single Dragon Quest game since then, including each and every spinoff.
Other video games where he has worked on the character designs include Chrono Trigger (with Chrono Cross departing from his artwork) and the Cliché Storm that is Blue Dragon (which managed to double as The Anime of the Game). The Tobal series wasn't nearly as much of a hit. Toriyama would also provide original and adjusted designs for characters in the various Dragon Ball films, and provided some pieces and the logo design for Dragon Ball GT.
On the comics side of things, after Dragon Ball he went on to do Kajika, Cowa!, Neko Majin and Sand Land, as well as sporadic one-shots — although he has not put out an omnibus style tankoubon since Neko Majin in 2005. With his rather infamous trouble with editors and his income from Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, and Dragon Quest, it is unlikely that he will ever do another long-running manga series. He has, however, contributed greatly to the modern revival of Dragon Ball, starting with his joining the production of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods in 2012 and its sequels since then. He has also provided character designs and story ideas for the Dragon Ball Super anime and overseen the direction of its manga with Toyotarō.note
Toriyama is known for his distinctive art style; while he suffers heavily from being able to draw Only Six Facesnote , his artwork is very stylized, and thus is hard to imitate without lots of careful study and practice. Another well-known facet is his rather unconventional style of storytelling, born through Writing by the Seat of Your Pants and unique sense of juvenile and pun-based humour.
Notably, a lot of the Mangaka that first started in The '90s were inspired by him, including Yoshihiro Togashi (Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter × Hunter, Level E), Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto), and even Eiichiro Oda (One Piece). In fact, Akira Toriyama and Eiichiro Oda worked together on a Manga in 2006 called Cross Epoch, a crossover that contains Dragon Ball and One Piece characters.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of his popularity is one specific timeslot on Japanese television known to fans as the Toriyama Block: from 1981 to 1999, a period of eighteen straight years, the Wednesday 7 p.m. timeslot on Fuji Television was taken up by something adapted from or inspired by one of Toriyama's most famous works.Breakdown
Works credited to Akira Toriyama:
Akira Toriyama has referenced or paid homage to
Akira Toriyama and his career provide examples of:
- Art Evolution: Went from round and super-cartoony to angular and more streamlined, with his coloring shifting from a smoother effect to the harder lines of animation (inspired by the Dragon Ball anime, as well as his collaboration with Toyo'o Ashida on an original anime in 1988). He later went through another shift as he left pen and paper behind to do everything by computer starting in 2003. His art since then has taken on a rounder (yet even leaner and more streamlined) appearance, with finer-grained shading and some CG effects. His famously-sparse use of screen tone has also increased in what little manga he does, presumably because it no longer involves having to actually paste it onto the page.
- Author Appeal:
- Cool Cars, Cool Planes, or anything else mechanical, thanks to his background in graphic design and love of plastic models. He admits he drew Sand Land just as an excuse to draw tanks. He even designed his own car, the QVolt.
- He's also fascinated with machine guns. It's not uncommon for him to draw characters holding guns that are far more detailed than they are.
- Also, poop jokes.
- Since the 2010's, he has been fond of drawing characters in tracksuits, and photos of him wearing those have been found dating at least since 2004. To name a few examples, Goku, Gohan and Android 18, and Toribot.◊
- Author Avatar: A few. Early on in Doctor Slump, it was a bird with a pen nib for a beak, as a pun on his name ("Tori" means "bird" in Japanese). This transitioned into a little robot with grabber claws for hands and a gas mask for a face, which he has continued to use as his "self portrait" for the majority of his career. The few times he draws himself as a human being, he's usually wearing a surgical mask and deliberately dressed in "unfashionable" outfits, such as a tank top and straw hat or a sweatsuit and baseball cap. Once in Doctor Slump he portrayed himself as a Xenomorph!
- Black Comedy: Despite Akira Toriyama working on series for teenage boys, his style of comedy has always had a dark irony to them. A particular example is Majin Buu giving a blind kid some milk made of people. Outside of these series he has also drawn comics for adults, including the controversial Lady Red, portrays rape as a punchline.
- Canon Welding: Of Doctor Slump and Dragon Ball, though it was just a one-off that was never intended to be taken seriously (among many other things, Doctor Slump is contemporaneous to when it was written and uses the Gregorian calendar, while Dragon Ball has its own, completely-fictional "Age" calendar).
- Children Are Innocent: Played straight in most of his works, tough it's usually for comedic purposes. For example, a lot of humor in the original Dragon Ball series is derived of Goku's completely lack of awareness of societal rules.
- Edible Theme Naming: The most common form of Theme Naming he uses, which reached its peak in Dragon Ball.
- Harpo Does Something Funny:
- While he is credited as the scriptwriter and character designer of the Dragon Ball movies from Battle of Gods to Broly, he largely left the fight scenes for the animators to decide what kind of action they wanted.
- The same applies to the basic outlines he provided to Dragon Ball Super, both anime and manga. He provided a series of events, but at times didn't even describe how to reach the point. This is why when Goku fought Hit in the Champa saga, he used Super Saiyan God in the manga, but Kaioken combined with Super Saiyan Blue in the anime.
- Kid Hero: Many of his comics feature children as the main characters. For example, Doctor Slump has Arale, while Dragon Ball has Goku, Gohan, Goten, Trunks and Pan.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Frequently. To name just one example, the three girls abducted by Oolong in an early Dragon Ball episode are named after the model "Hedgehog" and "Lee" tanks he happened to have near his desk at the time.
- A number of characters in Kajika are named after fish, for the sole reason that Toriyama had multiple tanks full of tropical fish in his workroom at the time he was drawing it.
- Only Six Faces: Which he mocks in Doctor Slump. While his art style can be very distinctive, at one point you will start to notice all the similar character designs among his entire work.
- Reclusive Artist:
- Akira Toriyama is a very private person. He rarely makes public appearances, he doesn't like to show his face (which is why his self-portraits either have his face covered up or don't resemble him at all), and not many photos of him exist. The man is so reclusive that in the late 90s he was rumored to have died of a heart attack. A recent photo of him was obtained in 2017, but only because a reporter ambushed him while he was taking out his garbage (and it's implied that the photo was taken without his permission).note
- During the production of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Toriyama met with the director in person only once. Every other time he was communicating through email.
- When his Author Avatar went to the future in Doctor Slump, it turned out that his future self has changed his profession to beggar.
- In one chapter of the Buu arc in Dragon Ball, Krillin complains that the artist is lazy, because the last two pages were copies. Toriyama's Author Avatar then sheepishly appears in the next panel to say "Uh, Mr. editor, you don't have to pay me for those ones, honest."
- Shōnen: The large majority of his work belongs to this demographic, with few exceptions such as Jiya, published in Young Jump (a Seinen magazine), and Lady Red, which appeared in Super Jump (nominally for adults).
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: On the surface, most of his works seems to be extremely idealistic and light-hearted. But on the other hand, as it is mentioned above, he also seems very keen to include plenty of Black Comedy on his works. He also disliked the anime crew trying to make his work more "wholesome", particularly when it came to the The Power of Friendship, which he always had a cynical attitude towards. And the following quote has been attributted to him: "Too much fantasy loses reality, too much hope may seem somehow empty".
- Unbuilt Trope: Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball are often credit with codifying many cliches of shonen (with Goku in particular being the Trope Codifier and most well-known example of the Stock Shōnen Hero), but he was more likely to subvert them where his imitators such as Oda would play them straight. For example, he mentioned in an interview that he disliked the anime crew trying to make his work more "wholesome", particularly when it came to the The Power of Friendship, which he always had a cynical attitude towards. Son Goku and his friends were also intentionally written as selfish and apathetic people (to the point that what he "wanted to depict the most was the sense that the main character might not be a good guy at all"), another instance where he got annoyed by the anime staff changing his work, in contrast to the straight heroes that would populate the Dragon Ball-inspired Shonen battle mangas that came later.
- Writing by the Seat of Your Pants:
Getting ideas is difficult. You have to open your sketchbook and go through different concepts. Since Im not an ordinary guy, I try to avoid simple stories. The right combination of firmly planned ideas and spontaneous ideas that come to mind is very important.
- Akira Toriyama never plans his stories. Despite the countless (and infamous) myths of him planning of ending Dragon Ball at one point, the true fact is that all of his stories are written on the fly. Quoting the man from an interview:
- There is evidence to suggest he does plan ahead some of his stories, mostly plot-points. From Dragon Ball Z, we have plot points that wouldn't appear in the manga until after a movie used it. The Super Saiyan first appeared in Dragon Ball Z: Lord Slug (March 9, 1991), a month before its manga debut; Dende is Earth's guardian in Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler (March 7, 1992), months before this happens in chapter 393 of the manga (October, 1992). Keep in mind it takes months to work on those movies, meaning there is roughly a year of difference between these plot points. Perhaps it would be fitting to suggest that Toriyama does plan ahead, he just doesn't know how the plot points will connect one another.
- World Building: In Dragon Ball especially, though much of it seems to have come together accidentally rather than planned from the outset; he claims never to have been thinking further ahead than the next week's chapter.