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 1979 with the story Wonder Island published by Shonen Jump and gained large popularity in Japan for his Breakthrough Hit gag manga Dr. 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 alongside the same 3 person team (Yuji Horii (story) and Koichi Sugiyama (music) ) for every single Dragon Quest game since then, including each and every spinoff.
Other known hits where he has worked on the video game side include Chrono Trigger (with Chrono Cross departing from his artwork) and the Cliché Storm that is Blue Dragon that managed to double into 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 Sandland, Neko Majin and Kajika, as well as several one-shots such as Cowa! — although he has not put out an omnibus style tankoubon since Neko Majin Z in 2005. With his rather infamous trouble with editors and his income from the Dragon Quest series, it is unlikely that he will ever do another manga series similar to Dragon Ball, almost all of his recent works have been short one shots. He has however contributed greatly to the modern revival of Dragon Ball, starting with him joining the production of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods in 2012 and its sequel: since then he has 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 largely for his 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 (YuYu 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. Considering that some of these Mangaka have already started to inspire others to join the Shonen industry, you could call him the God of Shonen manga.note
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 7:00pm timeslot on Fuji Television was taken up by something adapted from or inspired by one of Toriyama's most famous works.Breakdown
- Manga series by Toriyama:
- Manga he collaborated on
- Videogames he worked on as character designer:
Akira Toriyama and his career provide examples of:
- Achievements in Ignorance: The elements of his early work that got him hailed as "groundbreaking" and "genius" were largely a result of his lack of background in comics. He didn't know what the usual conventions or expectations were, so he just did whatever.
- 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. Also, poop jokes.
- Author Avatar: A few. Early on in Dr. 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!
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Claims to have spent much of his time during the Dragon Ball days watching TV and building plastic models, with only the last two days before any given deadline given over entirely to storyboarding, drawing, inking, and submitting a chapter of the manga. He considers it proof that he's a lazy bum, while those around him are awed by the work ethic, even genius required to pump out a week's worth of material in about a day and a half. We'll split the difference and call it brilliance inspired by sloth.
- Canon Welding: Of Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball, though it was likely just a one-off that was never intended to be taken seriously (among many other things, Dr. Slump is contemporaneous to when it was written and uses the Gregorian calendar, while Dragon Ball has its own, completely-fictional "Age" calendar). Fans, on the other hand...
- Edible Theme Naming: The most common form of Theme Naming he uses, which reached its peak in Dragon Ball.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Is apparently afraid of them. An infestation at one point made it hard (well, harder than usual) for him to work, because he was too scared to go into his workroom.
- Forgetful Jones: Has become one of his defining trademarks to the fandom, as he cannot remember the details (or much of the big picture) of the things he's written. He once famously asked One Piece author Eiichiro Oda who "Tao Pai Pai" wasnote , and that's not so atypical for him. He's gotten a bit better since he re-read Dragon Ball in 2002-03 and again in 2011-12, but he still does things like confuse Super Saiyan 2 and 3, which is pretty hard to do.
- Gun Nut: An unconventional example. He's absolutely fascinated with machines of all kinds, and guns are a type of machine. Its not uncommon for him to draw characters holding guns that are far more detailed than they are.
- 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.
- Motivational Lie: Seems to have been on the receiving end of more than a few by his first editor, Kazuhiko Torishima. Like that one about the series he could draw for 10 weeks and then be allowed to end it... which turned into Dr. Slump. Torishima seemed to understand that the only way to get Toriyama's creativity to triumph over his laziness was to lie to him about how much work he'd be required to do.
- It gets better. When Yuji Horii approached Toriyama's editor Torishima about finding an artist to draw the characters for the new game he was working on, Torishima told him there was someone who was absolutely thrilled to get the chance. Toriyama was none the wiser.
- Nature Lover: Wishes he could live in the middle of nowhere so he could enjoy hearing and seeing wild animals, and has a veritable stable of pets that includes (or has included) cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, fish, and birds. One thing he does hate, though, is mice.
- Only Six Faces: Which he mocks in Dr. Slump.
- Reclusive Artist: 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
- When his Author Avatar went to the future in Dr. 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."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Extremely idealistic.
- Unbuilt Trope: Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball are often credit with clarifying many cliches of Shonen, 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.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Artist Masakazu Katsura, just look at their interview on their joint projects (Sachie-chan and Jiya) and notice how they nag each other to death.
- In Dr. Slump, Katsura makes a quick appearance, and is portrayed as a sort of country bumpkin...
- Each has used the argument over which of them came up with "Fusion" in Dragon Ball as an excuse to take a few verbal jabs at each other in interviews.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: So great is his fear of mice that an infestation practically chased him out of his house, which made his work suffer since he kept his manuscripts in his study.
- 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.