Akira Toriyama 鳥山 明 is a Japanese manga artist and character designer famous for his Dragon Ball series ドラゴンボール and other work on one shots and video game character design. There is hardly anyone currently in the manga industry that hasn’t been influenced by his work.
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Born on April 5, 1955, in Kiyosu, Aichi, Japan, Toriyama debuted in 1979 with Wonder Island in Shonen Jump. After winning an award for another production, Dr. Slump スランプ in 1980, Toriyama hit it big time when he produced Dragon Ball in 1984, selling millions of copies and breaking sales records.
Toriyama’s success isn’t just measured in the work he’s produced but that all the current popular manga has been influenced by him. His most famous piece of work is obviously the Dragon Ball series. Focused around Son Goku 孫 悟空, an alien who is from a race of warriors that send babies to different planets to take them over. But instead of destroying Earth, Goku ends up protecting it with his friends.
The plots generally revolve around collecting the Dragonballs which when all are brought together, summon a dragon who grants wishes to the summoners; then there is a bad guy who’s threatening to destroy the universe, and obviously needs defeating. The series is very long, with Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT and many movies/OVA’s as well.
Some people see Dragon Ball as quite a childish anime, but actually all the popular Japanese manga has to be at least a little bit childish, because it focuses on attracting children as each generation grows up. However if Akira アキラ, Ghost in the Shell 攻殻機動隊 and Appleseed アップルシード brought Japanese anime to be noticed in the west, then Dragon Ball was the next step, which got Japanese anime to be even more noticed, especially as a means of merchandise and into even more widespread appeal.
In retrospect though, in DBZ specifically, there are more adult themes and characters get holes blown through their bodies, limbs torn off in explosions; so even if there are exaggerated attacks and themes to interest kids, there are still adult themes contained in the plot. Furthermore, the whole of Dragon Ball has a lot of comedic moments to match the gritty battles that also ensue.
A lot of the inspiration for Dragon Ball comes from Journey to the West 西游记, the classic Chinese fable; after the first Dragon Ball series, Toriyama turns to aliens for inspiration.
Bad guys in DBZ equal people without hair generally. Vegata ベジータ had hair, that is why he became a good guy and Nappa didn’t. See it all makes sense. Master Roshi’s 武天老師 hair has migrated to his chin, so he’s not a bad guy.
Personally I am not a massive fan of his artistic style, it’s more the way he characterizes and sets out his world that I like. His style is extremely recognisable, rounded large white spaced out eyes, muscle bound characters, and specifically shaped curved heads. I’ve also not really read much of the DB manga, I mainly watched the animes produced from it; and for once the english dubbing of anime couldn’t of been a bigger improvement over the Japanese version. I really think the dubbing and the music of the English version helped solidify Dragon Ball as an international product.
However the anime has quite a few problems, first being the prolonged fights in the anime, lasting many episodes for something that was supposed to last five minutes. The constant powering up of characters is kind of horribly predictable, they go on this number rating for someone’s power, and all the characters are constantly shifting their power levels up after training to defeat the bad guys. Again though, the actual characterisation of Dragon Ball makes it shine, and the Kamehameha かめはめ波 still retains some coolness after all this time.
Interesting Toriyama creates the story in his work chapter by chapter, rather than outlining it all out before, which might explain the wild diversion of plot that Dragon Ball general takes.
If there is one thing we should thank DBZ for it’s all the amazingly bad cosplays that were created due to it.
And also the “It’s over 9000!!!!!!!” meme.
Several DBZ fighting games have also been produced over the years, and they’ve actually got progressively better, which can’t be said for some other fighting game series, well nearly all of them…
Toriyama’s work on video game character design is also very notable. He has worked on Chrono Trigger, one of the best games ever made on the concept art, the Dragon Quest series and more recently Blue Dragon on Xbox 360. Currently he has been working on Dragon Ball Online, an MMORPG set in the Dragon Ball universe, which apparently Toriyama has exerted a great deal of control over. Let’s hope the gods it’s more control than he exerted over the Dragon Ball movie, Dragonball Evolution.
[Begin Dragonball Evolution rant]
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Dragonball Evolution has to be the lowest point of any anime franchise, even the Mortal Kombat wasn’t anywhere near as bad. It has the worst casting ever devised, there’s nothing good about this movie. I have no idea why an actor like Chow Yun Fat 周潤發 would ever associate himself with this movie, and then play Master Roshi’s character. Did anyone actually look at the material they were creating this dribble from. I’m 100% sure they weren’t, and if they were, they need to be legally announced blind? There just aren’t any redeeming qualities at all, it was a complete waste of 45 million dollars (the b*****s actually made positive revenue on it, so they probably claim it as a success).
It was just a cash in since there are millions of Dragon Ball fans. What makes no sense is, why hire a completely unheard of writer and a terrible director (he did Final Destination which was ok I guess) for one of history’s most successful anime franchises? Whoever is responsible for this movie needs to be blacklisted until they are educated as to how to create a decent anime to film conversion. If that is even possible anyway, they should just stop cashing in on successful things, and actual inject the industry with original creations. But that is just a dream.
Akira Toriyama’s Related Links
Akira Toriyama Wiki : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akira_Toriyama
Square Haven Profile : http://squarehaven.com/people/Akira-Toriyama/