Dragon Ball Creator Akira Toriyama Dies at 68

Dragon Ball is one of Japan’s most iconic exports. The manga masterpiece has sold an astonishing 260 million copies worldwide, and the anime adaptation became a hallowed show for an entire generation of fans. When the franchise’s creator Akira Toriyama died, the world lost a true pioneer. Responsible for the West embracing Japanese pop-culture like never before, with the demise of Toriyama fans lost a man whose work spoke to them on a profound and spiritual level. To many, Toriyama has left a legacy in the world of comics and animation that few can match.

The world loses a true great

On March 8, 2024, it was announced that Toriyama, one of the greatest manga creators of all time, had died a week earlier on March 1. In an emotional statement posted by his production company Bird Studio, it was revealed that he had passed away from a subdural hematoma — a blood clot in the brain — at only 68 years old.

The statement also announced that a small funeral service for family and friends had already been held. Naturally, the outpouring of grief from fans and industry professionals alike was immense.

He left behind many works of art

Fans were stunned, because there had been no inkling of Toriyama suffering from ill health, and his work rate hadn’t slowed down. In fact, the statement read, “It’s our deep regret that he still had several works in the middle of creation with great enthusiasm. He would have had many more things to achieve.”

It continued, “However, he has left many manga titles and works of art to this world. We hope that Akira Toriyama's unique world of creation continues to be loved by everyone for a long time to come.”

Dr. Slump was his first hit

Toriyama’s career began in 1980 when he started publishing Dr. Slump as a 25-year-old still living at home with his parents in Kiyosu, Aichi Prefecture. The story of a sex-obsessed professor who creates a tiny, yet incredibly strong robot, the series was known as a “gag” manga.

In essence, it was a wacky, absurd comedy filled with toilet humor, insane sci-fi hijinks, and references to Toriyama’s favorite franchises such as Godzilla and Star Wars. The young creator basically threw everything he loved into a blender, and it quickly developed a huge fanbase.

He soon wanted to end it

After six months of writing and drawing the series, though, Toriyama was eager to wrap it up. As his editor Kazuhiko Torishima later told Forbes, “Each story for Dr. Slump was self-contained and finished every week, it was also a comedy as well. This meant that if something didn't work, Toriyama invariably had to change everything. So, it was a heavy burden.”

The series was selling a million copies with each instalment, though, and an anime adaptation was already in the works. Torishima was reluctant to let Toriyama kill his golden goose.