Home Business Akira Toriyama’s death is being felt around the world as global leaders and millions of fans remember one of Japan’s most influential icons

Akira Toriyama’s death is being felt around the world as global leaders and millions of fans remember one of Japan’s most influential icons

Akira Toriyama’s death is being felt around the world as global leaders and millions of fans remember one of Japan’s most influential icons


The surprise death of Akira Toriyama, the beloved artist behind the Dragon Ball manga and the classic Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger video games, may be 2024’s first death to be felt around the world. 

Toriyama passed away on March 1, aged 68, from an acute subdural hematoma, his studio announced Thursday night. Other acclaimed manga artists expressed their shock and condolences that perhaps their industry’s most famous artist had passed away.

“I wanted to make manga like yours! I wanted to be like you!” Masashi Kishimoto, author of the Naruto series, said of Toriyama on Friday. 

“Not only manga artists, but creators active in all industries…the excitement and emotion of his Dragon Ball serialization is probably rooted in their childhood,” Eiichiro Oda, author of the bestselling One Piece series, wrote.

Organizations all over the world commemorated Toriyama’s passing with references to his works, like the Dragon Ball manga series or the Dragon Quest series of video games. 

Even Beijing joined in. 

Mao Ning, the spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, expressed “sincere sympathies” to Toriyama’s family during a press conference, in response to a question from TV Tokyo. 

“I noted that many Chinese have expressed condolences over his passing online,” she said.
“We hope and believe that more people with vision in Japan will make [an] active contribution to the cultural exchange and friendship between China and Japan.” 

‘Manga could travel the world

Toriyama is best known as a manga artist. He first got mainstream success with Dr. Slump, first released in 1980. But Toriyama’s work took off with Dragon Ball. The martial-arts series, taking elements from Chinese classic Journey to the West, started in 1984 and is still ongoing today. It sold 260 million copies worldwide, according to Bloomberg.

The animated adaptations of Dragon Ball—“Dragon Ball,” “Dragon Ball Z,” and their sequels and spin-offs—propelled Toriyama and his work to global superstardom. 

Toriyama “showed that manga could travel the world,” Oda wrote in his statement on Toriyama’s death on Friday.

In 2018, anticipation in Latin America for the 130th episode of “Dragon Ball Super” was so high that even city governments organized watch parties for tens of thousands of fans in public spaces. Toei Animation, which produced the animated series, and even the Japanese embassy, warned the watch parties were not officially authorized and so fans should stay away.

In early 2024, a Chinese dance troupe put on a performance commemorating Dragon Ball’s 40th anniversary. The stream went viral, reportedly racking up 350 million views on the Chinese live streaming platform Bilibili. 

Goku remains an icon of Japan and Japanese animation. Earlier this week, Brazil vice president Geraldo Alckmin featured Goku, alongside other icons of Japanese animation like Pikachu and Naruto, in a social-media message thanking Toyota for a $2.2 billion investment in the South American country.

Alckmin posted condolences on Toriyama’s death on X on Friday. “A legacy that has marked generations with values of companionship and loyalty. Thank you very much, Akira Toriyama!,” he wrote. 

More than manga

Toriyama was also celebrated for his contributions to video games, particularly to classic Japanese role-playing video games like the Dragon Quest series and Chrono Trigger

Enix, when it started development of Dragon Quest (titled “Dragon Warrior” outside of Japan) invited Toriyama to design its characters and monsters. Toriyama’s design for Dragon Quest’s “slime” enemy—a cute, teardrop-shaped pile of goo—is now a mascot for both the series and its developer.

Toriyama’s simple design for Dragon Quest’s “slime” monster has become an icon for the series and its developer.

Tomohiro Ohsumi—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Enix’s competitor Square later invited Toriyama to provide character designs for 1995’s Chrono Trigger for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, as part of a “dream team” including  Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, and Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest. 

The Dragon Quest series is a sales juggernaut. Starting with 1986’s “Dragon Warrior” for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Japanese role-playing game series has now sold 88 million copies, according to its developer Square Enix. 

The Dragon Quest games were so popular in Japan, its developers decided to release the games on Saturday rather than the traditional Thursday: “There were kids who would skip school to go and buy the games,” series executive producer Yuu Miyake told IGN in 2018. 

Dragon Quest’s official X account posted that Toriyama “was, and shall always be, a true visionary, for not just Dragon Quest, but the global entertainment industry,” 

“The history of Dragon Quest is based on Toriyama’s character designs,” Horii wrote in a Friday statement. “That he would die…I don’t know what else to say. I’m really, really disappointed.”


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