Dragon Ball – The story of Akira Toriyama creating the most famous Japanese manga in the world

Dragon Ball - The story of Akira Toriyama creating the most famous Japanese manga in the world


If you read this word and don’t understand the meaning and context, maybe you need to read manga, the name for comics from Japan. Kamehameha is an energy attack move by Son Goku, the main character of the manga entitled Dragon Ball.

For 30 years, the manga has entertained millions of people around the world through books, television series, and the newest film which will be released on August 26 with the title ” Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero “.

It is no exaggeration to say that Dragon Ball is one of the most famous manga. In fact, its creator, Akira Toriyama, is often considered the most instrumental figure in popularizing manga in the Western world.

However, Akira Toriyama’s success was not achieved easily.


Akira Toiriyama was born in the small town of Kiyosu, Aichi Prefecture, eastern Japan, in 1955.

As Toriyama once explained, he was interested in manga since he was at school and his classmates became fans of his early works.

“I’ve always liked drawing,” Toriyama told Stormpages several years ago.

“When I was little, we didn’t have as many forms of entertainment as we do now. So we all drew. In elementary school, we all drew manga or animated characters and showed them to each other.”

At that time, Toriyama began to expand his references.

The creator of Dragon Ball claims to have been a fan of Disney animated films as a child (his favorite was 101 Dalmatians ), likes cowboy films (directed by Sergio Leone), science fiction (Toriyama likes to reference Star Wars in his works), as well as action films (such as films starring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and the film Aliens directed by James Cameron).

His first opportunity to create manga professionally came in 1977, when one of the editors of Shueisha —Japan’s most important manga publisher—hired Toriyama when he saw his work at the monthly Shonen Jump magazine’s annual contest for new talents.

However, Toriyama’s manga was rejected for two consecutive years.

The first manga published by Shonen magazine, Wonder Island , passed by without readers noticing.

Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball

Akira Toriyama’s first success in the world of manga was achieved through Dr. Slump in 1980.

The manga tells the story of a robot girl who is created so well that everyone thinks she is a real person with superpowers.

Dr. Slump turned out to be the perfect experiment for the young Toriyama to start exploring various elements that would later become key in creating the world of Dragon Ball.

In the manga Dr. Slump , Toriyama presents animals that can change shape, robots, and a futuristic world which then gives a unique touch to Dragon Ball .

Toriyama’s first manga, which ran until 1984 and was later adapted for television, received this assessment from Publisher’s Weekly in 2005:

“Toriyama’s crazy Sesame Street…has come to fruition in his wacky comedy where his fantastic imagination and comic creation never fail to shine.”

For his next project, Toriyama enlisted the help of his wife, who has extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese stories. The main one is “The Story of the Magic Monkey”.

Dragon Ball first appeared in Shounen Weekly magazine in 1985. The manga tells the story of Son Goku, a boy with a monkey tail who joins the adventure of searching for dragon balls.

The manga was inspired by many sources, including the comedy film ” Drunken Master ” in 1978. The film, starring Jackie Chan, tells the story of a young man who learns “drunken monkey” martial arts from his uncle.

Toriyama also added the monkey king’s powers to the main character of his manga, including the ability to surf on clouds.

Dragon Ball Impact

In 1996, when Toriyama stopped writing the manga for Dragon Ball Z , which was none other than the sequel to Dragon Ball , he had written almost 9,000 pages of Son Goku’s adventures.

The Dragon Ball manga was then adapted into a television series with 156 episodes which successfully reached audiences throughout the world thanks to the participation of Toei Animation studio.

This success opened the door to a more ambitious plan, namely adapting Dragon Ball Z for television: a total of 291 episodes were produced and broadcast in at least 81 countries.

So far there have been 24 Dragon Ball films and nearly 50 video games based on characters created by Akira Toriyama.

In 2001, the year Dragon Ball Z became the most-watched series on US channel Cartoon Network , search engine Lycos revealed that Dragon Ball topped the most-searched list that year, surpassing Britney Spears.

A Lycos analyst at the time said: ” Dragon Ball continues to be incredibly popular online among teenagers and Japanese anime fans.”

Dragon Ball has also become the gateway to the world of manga and anime for thousands of artists, fans and writers around the world.

Toriyama today

In 1996, after writing thousands of pages about Son Goku and other Dragon Ball characters , Toriyama decided to move on to shorter projects.

He later published a number of short manga including Cowa! (1997), Kajika (1998), Sand Land (2000), and Nekomajin (1999). He also redesigned the cover of Dragon Ball Z for its re-release in the mid-2000s.

In 2012, Toriyama returned to the Dragon Ball universe . He was involved in writing the animated film ” Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods ” and writing the script for the latest film ” Dragon Ball Super: Super Heroes “.

Toriyama is very outspoken about his work and even admits that he doesn’t understand how he can be so successful.

“It really doesn’t make sense to me. I recently reread the [ Dragon Ball] story for the first time in years and even though the actions of Frieza (Goku’s powerful enemy in Dragon Ball Z ) were tense enough to interest me, I was still surprised why it’s so popular,” Toriyama explained in Shounen Weekly in 2018.