‘Dragon Ball’ creator Akira Toriyama, whose work popularized manga and anime worldwide, dies at 68

A smiling man in a black and white photo.
Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama in 1982.
(JIJI Press / AFP/Getty Images)

Legendary manga artist Akira Toriyama, the creator of the internationally popular “Dragon Ball” series and character designer on the “Dragon Quest” video games, died Friday after suffering an acute subdural hematoma, his Bird Studio announced Thursday. He was 68.

“He has left many manga titles and works of art in this world,” the announcement said. “Thanks to the support of so many people around the world, he has been able to continue his creative activities for over 45 years. We hope that Akira Toriyama’s unique world of creation continues to be loved by everyone for a long time to come.”

The Japanese artist was best known for creating “Dragon Ball,” a serialized manga that originally ran from 1984 to 1995. The bestselling manga series follows a young martial artist named Goku as he grows up, traveling and training to become more powerful. He’s later revealed to be an alien invader-turned-refugee who has saved the Earth more than once.


Toriyama’s manga was adapted into two anime series: “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z,” which originally aired in Japan from 1986 to 1996. The anime, which was later dubbed into numerous languages including English, is among those that helped propel the popularity of the medium outside Japan. Over the years, the ever-growing “Dragon Ball” franchise has expanded to include two sequel anime series, 21 films and a number of video games.

a mural of Goku from Dragon Ball at a gaming festival
A mural of Goku, the main character from Akira Toriyama’s popular “Dragon Ball Z” series, at a video game and virtual reality festival in Barcelona in 2019.
(SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

The publishers of “Shonen Jump,” the weekly manga anthology that published Toriyama’s work, shared some remembrances and reactions from manga artists who were influenced by Toriyama and his work on its website.

“It’s too soon,” read the Japanese-language statement from “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda. “The hole he has left is much too big.”

After recalling how much it meant that Toriyama had considered him a friend, Oda added that he “hoped heaven is as pleasant as [Toriyama] had envisioned in his work.”

“Naruto” creator Masashi Kishimoto, who grew up reading “Dragon Ball” and Toriyama’s first major manga, “Dr. Slump,” called the artist “a savior and the god of manga.” Kishimoto was able to get through rough times growing up because there were new chapters of “Dragon Ball” to look forward to every week, he wrote in Japanese.


“If I really could have one wish granted by Dragon Balls,” he added, “I’m sorry, I know it’s selfish but ... I’m devastated. ... Everyone around the world was still looking forward to more of your work.”

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“Dr. Slump,” which was originally serialized from 1980 to 1984, launched Toriyama’s career in Japan. Where “Dragon Ball” is an action series known for its over-the-top fight scenes, “Dr. Slump” is an extreme comedy that follows an inventor and his young girl robot who is naive but unusually strong. The characters occasionally appeared in crossover episodes of “Dragon Ball.”

Although Toriyama was known for his character design work on video games such as “Dragon Quest” and “Chrono Trigger,” among other projects he worked on over the years, he would often return to the world of “Dragon Ball.” The most recent film in the franchise, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” featured Toriyama’s involvement in its story, screenplay and character design.

Bird Studio’s announcement also noted that Toriyama had several projects still in progress at the time of his death. Among those is the upcoming anime series “Dragon Ball Daima.” A “Sand Land” anime series, based on another of Toriyama’s manga, is expected to hit Hulu this year.