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Legacy of a Legend: A Short Tribute to Akira Toriyama

Screenshot of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, an example of Akira Toriyama's signature art style

In an industry rife with layoffs and setbacks of all kinds, the loss of a true legend feels like a Kamehameha straight to the gut.

Many reading this know by now, but if you have somehow missed it: Akira Toriyama, beloved artist and creator of the Dragon Ball series, passed away last week at the age of 68. Per the official Dragon Ball Twitter/X account:

We realize that writing about Akira Toriyama’s passing a week after the news might be seen as untimely. The truth is, it took many fans the bulk of the weekend to process the shock and sadness. Behind closed doors at RPGFan was an outpouring of sharing our favourite works, projects, and our introductions to his art style.

Not surprisingly, how and when we discovered Toriyama’s work varies about as widely as the colour of the aforementioned legendary energy attack.

For big time manga fans, he’s a giant of the industry, full stop. The Dragon Ball series has sold more than 260 million copies worldwide and, in 2022, reached new heights as it was developed into a large-scale movie with a complete English voice cast. In the US, Dragon Ball is so big (and the news of Toriyama’s death so hard) that, one Japanese website noted the topic “temporarily surpassed President Biden’s State of the Union address” in trend rankings on Twitter/X.

Those of us that didn’t discover him via manga did so via his influence in the video game industry, where he also possesses titan status. Chrono Trigger and various Dragon Quest games dot internet lists of “greatest JRPGs” or “classic RPGs for modern kids“. On the other hand, it was us classic kids who saw Toriyama’s work as beautifully modern during the Famicom, Super Nintendo, and PlayStation days.

In some ways I am envious of those that have yet to even discover Akira Toriyama. Imagine the wonder of your own kids, or a version of your teenage self out there, stumbling upon a Super Saiyan Goku for the first time. Siblings, cousins, neighbours, and friends of all kinds will be running around the park or playground with sticks for swords, slaying countless slimes and running into the nearest church to confess and save their adventure progress. All because someone introduced them to Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake. Don’t even get me started on the impact games like Sand Land or Dragon Quest XII: Flames of Fate could have.

For more art samples and tributes to Akira Toriyama, feel free to check out this post that RPGFan staff passed around.

Dealing with loss is never easy, but having a loving community who shares your passions make it a little bit easier. We encourage you to reach out with your favourite memories and “introductions” to Toriyama’s work whenever the time is right for you.

Rest in peace, Akira Toriyama. You really were the true Super Saiyan.

Dragon Ball Z Kakarot Screenshot 099

Source: Toei Animation, TBS News Dig, One More Game

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Kyle Cantelon

Kyle Cantelon

Kyle is just embarking on his main quest at RPGFan and couldn't be more excited to join the team. He discovered the RPGFan community a couple of years ago and, after growing up in Western Canada as a "jock," was thrilled to realize that there were others in the world who learned roman numerals as a teenager thanks to the Final Fantasy series. Contributing to the news team is his main objective at the site and it is his goal to project the confidence of Ron Burgundy while keeping everyone from realizing he might just be Brick Tamland.

5 Responses to Legacy of a Legend: A Short Tribute to Akira Toriyama


What breaks my heart is that after all this time, it still isn't clear if he realized his hurtful he was being with the way he depicted African and African American characters. The pedophile jokes in Dr. Slump, which kept me from reading it. The stereotypes about gay characters. The list goes on. His ideals and habits have been mimicked by the majority of comic writers in JPN and beyond. Most people echo those traits and see them as classic. As if an entire cast devoid of competent and intelligent black people is standard. And when he wasn't being racist he was being xenophobic and nationalistic. Much like how a lot of JPN kids are taught to be. Everything always has to boil down to that.


I'm not sure what kind of point you're trying to make here. First of all, most children in any given country are raised to be nationalistic, to embrace their given culture and take pride in their nation and it's history. I don't agree with most of it, but I was raised in it and learned better, so I can only hope the same happens with other children. Also, Japan is known for xenophobia, so laying the blame for either of those characteristics at Toriyama's feet in any significant measure is absurd. Second, his cast typically reflected his own environment and the cultural influences he had growing up 60 years ago. Black people, whether American or otherwise, are still incredibly rare in Japan and were even more so when he was a young man. As for the few black characters he included, they were typically not unintelligent but were random people or part of the villain's team, like the Red Ribbon Army. The lieutenant under Commander Red, Staff Officer Black, was intelligent and competent and if he'd been in command might have actually beat Goku. Would it have been nice to see Toriyama introduce an explicitly black character that was part of the Z team? Absolutely. Has that lack undermined the unabashed love that many young African American men feel for Dragon Ball and especially DBZ? Not in the least. I never read Dr. Slump, so I can't speak to your claims of pedophile jokes, nor do I recall any characters that were gay or coded as such from any of the franchises he wrote stories for himself. For my part, I'm not inclined to assume that a man is gay if he's effeminate. Characters like that might be used for humor, but typically due to exaggerated overreactions, not because of their supposed sexuality. You're casting aspersions at a man that is no longer here to speak for himself and that you'll never have a clear understanding of his stances on such things at the time of his passing. To assume the worst of someone based on past behavior and statements is understandable, but unfair, especially when your primary arguments ignore the differences in your own culture and experiences and his and lay the blame for things far beyond his influence at his feet. I'll say this: his work was undeniably influential. It was not without fault. I take exception to his treatment of women in most of his work. They either didn't exist, like in Sand Land, or they were sidelined, like in most of Dragon Ball and it's sequels. He never 'fridged' any of them, thankfully, and they all wielded power of a sort(see Goku cowering before Chichi's ire), but none aside from Android 18 were ever at the level of the other warriors for long. His characters and stories weren't exactly deep in most circumstances. He wrote himself into corners more than once, and in doing so really codified the worst aspects of the power creep we see in most shounen stories. His humor was weird and raunchy, and even crass, at times(see Oolong, or the interactions between Bulma and Roshi). For all of that, I like his stories and characters. They are simple, but fun. The sense of adventure he wove into his stories has inspired people around the world. Whether it's basic lessons about friendship and forgiveness, good sportsmanship, or the worst way to behave toward women(and blatant examples of why it doesn't work). We all take away different things from the people around us, and those that create our entertainment. I choose to learn, to grow. I embrace what's positive, and seek to rise above the negative. Make your own choice. Hell, write your own stories that improve on the foundation that Toriyama built, incorporating high-octane action and more equal treatment of gay and black people. There's nothing wrong with having an opinion, if it's constructive. But if you're going to express dissatisfaction with a creative that just passed in a comment beneath a tribute to that individual, you need to provide clear references, not just anecdotal complaints.

Jack Ripper

Since there are a lot of negativity here, all I will say is RIP Toriyama. As far as I'm concerned, the guy was a GOAT. Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon...there's too much good he did for the industry.


I think the world would be a better place without him. He was an old man with a childish sense of humor and an insensitivity to him to other people's cultures. That's not something to celebrate. Even if black people or any other race are rare in JPN, research can be done. Everyone and anyone will tell you that basing characters off stereotypes is wrong. And even if you're not gonna acknowledge the xenophobic and racist stuff, think of the never ending parade of Goku clones his work spawned. It became normalize to have dumb man children with super powers instead of mature, witty and smart heroes thanks to him. And in battles a lot of tactics are non-existent. In dbZ fights come down to one thing, raw power. Who's the strongest. Fastest. Who can blow up planets. That's it. Even dead, Toriyama and his ideas will continue to ruin manga world wide. And I got one and tired of it. But to my horror I can escape it. Even small time shows like RwBY admit that homage DBZ and talk of it fondly. And that's a show about women. They love DBZ and DBZ revolved around super strong men and most women in it were reduced to being baby factories. Bulma, Chi-Chi, Videl. After a while they sit on the sidelines and raise kids while the males save the world. Only 18 stayed strong and she was still consider nothing compared to Saiyans, which were mostly males most of the story. Even in DBZ there's Goku clones. Gohan shapes his hair like Goku. Goten looks like Goku. It never ends. And depending on where you are in the story they even act as stupid as Goku. It's time to stop worshipping DBZ and Toriyama. There's other work out there and better artists.


I agree that he could have done more with the women in his stories. I said as much before. I know that additional powerful female characters were added as fighters between the FighterZ game and at least one arc of Dragon Ball Super, but I've not watched to that point yet, so I can't speak from an informed perspective. I still don't see what you're referring to when it comes to racism and xenophobia from a real world perspective. The man incorporated people of clearly different species and races in his stories, and showed that their positive and negative traits had nothing to do with their respective ethnic backgrounds/origins, but individual choices and development. Hell, he even showed multiple villains go through redemption arcs, emphasizing that not all those we view as 'bad guys' are irredeemable. While it might be unfortunate to not clearly depict people of other races in a story, it is not the same as being explicitly racist or xenophobic. DBZ did resort to cheap, arbitrary power levels at times to settle fights, but that certainly wasn't all battles. Goku and friends were often underpowered compared to their opponents. Sometimes that strategy was as simple as leaving the fight to return after getting stronger, which made sense for the way powers worked for the most part in that world. Other times it was reserve members fighting defensively, distracting, or using new techniques. Like Krillin(one of my favorite underpowered characters) doing his best and using his Kienzan(Destructo Disc) in unexpected new ways to shave down the opposition with a technique that defied the difference in strength and could take out even Frieza. Your complaint about how Gohan and Goten look is patently absurd. That's literally how genetics work. As for other artists making characters that are Goku clones, what you're missing is that he and other protagonists like him aren't completely stupid. It's a gag to have them do ridiculous things or ask silly questions, but when it matters they can typically figure things out. Writers instill them with innocence. They don't fight because they're violent or because they want to hurt anyone. They fight to protect. Or to engage in friendly competition, to embrace the spirit of martial arts, or to gain recognition from others. And most protagonists start as adolescents and grow up. They develop and inspire their audience to develop in typically positive ways. They become more worldly, but retain that earnest innocence because it resonates with the characters around them and with the audience experiencing their adventures. Your argument basically demonizes anyone that wrote the works that inspired all the fiction we enjoy today, that didn't consult a crystal ball and recognize the things and people and future cultural changes they were unaware of or didn't represent in their works. As you stated, Toriyama is recognized as an influence by many modern creators. Some creators developed in a similar environment and have followed in those footsteps with little deviation. Others have expanded on that influence and created something wholly their own with greater representation. You, for some reason, see his influence as a negative, seemingly even with properties displaying greater diversity and representation. I can't honestly recognize any grounded logic to the breadth of your dislike of the man and his work. Finding the jokes from Dr. Slump distasteful is understandable. Not being satisfied with the story and characters of Dragon Ball is sad, but your choice. But unless you have access to some interviews with him or other examples that serve to validate your seeming hatred for the man himself, I can't acknowledge your opinion as being based on anything more than a weirdly focused, obsessive assignment of blame for a variety of issues on a single individual with no regard for the realities of an entire world or the person himself. I appreciate your passion for representation and desire for what you feel is a better protagonist. You can definitely find those things out there in comics, anime and movies. There's nothing wrong with looking for entertainment that suits you, but there's no need to vent your spleen in a space intended to pay tribute to someone that people appreciate for their work. That's different from expressing reverence for the person and their personality and beliefs. We know Toriyama isn't perfect, but his works(from stories to just designs in Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger) make us happy. Maybe try focusing on something you love, rather than giving grief to people that are busy doing that. Take care and have a great life.

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