Arts & Entertainment

Akira Toriyama’s legacy: The impact of ‘Dragon Ball’

Reflecting on “Dragon Ball,” the revolutionary manga that captivated the hearts of many. 

Originating in Japan, anime and manga have evolved from being niche interests into a cultural phenomenon that has captivated the hearts of many worldwide. As a child, I fondly remember tuning into classics like “Pokémon,” “Yu-Gi-Oh” and “Digimon.” Each left me with warm memories and early examples of friendship, determination and a thirst for adventure.  

Amidst the plethora of anime’s that had aired in the West, none were able to achieve the same legendary status of the Dragon Ball series. Featuring epic battles, ageless themes, and dynamic characters, Dragon Ball was able to leave its mark on anime, manga and the world. 

Before the creation of Dragon Ball, Japanese mangaka (or manga artist) Akira Toriyama got his start with the manga series “Dr. Slump.” Toriyama also contributed to the character design for popular games such as Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, and Blue Dragon. However, there was one creation that stood out from the rest, “Dragon Ball.” Making its debut in 1984 within the pages of “Weekly Shonen Jump,” readers were quickly immersed within the Dragon Ball Multiverse. Toriyama seized the chance to animate his manga, and on February 26th, 1986, “Dragon Ball” made its television debut, marking the beginning of the successful franchise.  

“Dragon Ball” follows the adventures of the main protagonist, Son Goku, a Saiyan martial artist, who endures various challenges and takes part in monumental battles to keep earth and the universe safe from destruction. While on the search for the highly coveted Dragon Balls, the series explores themes such as perseverance and friendship. From humble beginnings, to becoming the most powerful Saiyan, Goku’s story leaves eager fans hungry for more. 

The impact of “Dragon Ball” was much larger than its initial audiences, serving as a gateway into manga, anime and Japanese culture for a whole generation worldwide, popularizing the genre beyond the borders of Japan.  

UWT student, Eddi Lu recalled watching Dragon Ball Z while growing up.  

“it introduced me to anime without knowing what anime really was,” said Lu.  

Tina Duong, another UWT student states, “Dragon Ball Z got me into anime! It was the first anime I’ve ever seen.”  

This influence was larger than its viewers, notably inspiring the mangakas and creators of “One Piece,” “Naruto,” “Bleach” and many more, with Goku becoming the archetype of Shonen heroes.  

Volume 1 of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. Photo from Dragon Ball Fandom

Sadly, on March 1 of this year, Dragon Ball’s Official website announced that the famous mangaka Akira Toriyama had passed, creating a veil of grief within the anime and manga communities. Many took to social media to send their condolences, express sorrow and share their positive memories associated with the Dragon Ball series.  

Figures from the biggest names in anime and manga came forward to express their gratitude for Toriyama and his 45 years of hard work. “Naruto” creator, Masashi Kishimoto recalled growing up with “Dr. Slump” and aspiring to be like Toriyama when he grew up. On X, Eiichiro Oda, the originator of “One Piece,” credited Toriyama with normalizing manga.  

“He is one of the people who took the baton from an era when reading manga would make you stupid, and created an era where both adults and children read and enjoy manga,” said Oda. “It was like watching a hero push forward.” 

“One Punch Man” illustrator Yusuke Murata also stated on X, “Strangely, I don’t feel like he’s passed away at all. Perhaps because for me, he was almost like a star in the heavens even before he died.”  

UWT students also responded to Akira Toriyama’s passing.  

“The creator of Dragon ball… inspired the industry as a whole,” said Jeremy Tirador. 

“Rest in peace Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball will forever be one of the most known anime’s of all time,” said Lu.  

It’s undeniable that the Dragon Ball series left its mark on our world, impacting and inspiring many alike, extending beyond the realm of entertainment. Thank you, Akira Toriyama, for sharing your incredible gift with the world, breaking boundaries and shattering negative connotations around those who enjoy the genre.  

Toriyama was a part of a time that not only globalized the genre but contributed to the normalization of anime in the West. He provided us with countless hours of enjoyment, and taught us to believe in ourselves, like Goku did. Your legacy will continue to inspire generations to come. 

 Akira Toriyama (1955-2024); Creator of Dragon Ball. Photo from Akira Toriyama’s Instagram 

Featured image caption: Dragon Ball’s Logo. Photo from Dragon Ball Official Instagram