The Legacy of Akira Toriyama – This Week in Anime


This week, Nick and Lucas talk about the recent, ongoing, and not-yet-released works of the late, great Akira Toriyama—as well as the potential future of his most popular franchise.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and Dragon Ball Super are currently streaming on Crunchyroll, while Sand Land is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.


Lucas

Hey Nick, do you like the works of Akira Toriyama? I know that’s a weird question considering his ubiquity to anime fans of a certain age and his tremendous influence on anime and manga as art forms, but yeah, do you like his stuff?

Nick

Eh, they’re pretty good. I was more affected by the news of his passing than I expected. While I haven’t watched everything he’s done, so maybe I should get around to that now. I hope there isn’t anything involving sand. I don’t like sand. It’s course and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.

Okay, wait, we’re going off the rails immediately (which I think is in the spirit of Toriyama’s body of work!), is there no legal way to watch Dr. Slump in the US!? I did a quick search and the only thing that’s turning up are unavailable listings on legit platforms, pirate sites, and a live-action K-drama of the same name (which shouldn’t be allowed, imo!).
Doesn’t look like it, nope. The only thing I can find is a Prime Video listing that expired nearly a decade ago. So I guess the licensing rights fell into a slump, huh?

On a serious note, the state of media preservation is almost as depressing as Toriyama’s passing. At least Viz has the manga on their Shonen Jump app.

Damn, that’s a weird, wasted opportunity. To get to the main point of this week’s column, like many other mangakas, Akira Toriyama passed away suddenly and at far too young an age. Also like most mangaka, he had a bunch of irons in the fire, and projects he contributed to or that are immediately adapted from his work are set to release over the next few years. And what better way is there to honor him than to talk about his upcoming work?

You don’t become as successful and prolific a creator as Toriyama without getting a whole lot of derivative material made by other people, at least not in this era of entertainment, and the question of what will or should happen with the many beloved and iconic works Toriyama helmed is a big one. The obvious answer would be “they’d end”, but we all know that the gears of capitalism aren’t about to stop for anything. So for at least the next couple of years, we’re going to be saying goodbye to Toriyama through his work pretty regularly.

And the most obvious of those continuing works is Dragon Ball Super, which just went on hiatus following Toriyama’s passing and it’s catching up with the events of the Super anime/films. Illustrated by Toyotarō and written by Toiryama, this manga is weird in that it often releases after the anime of the same name and sometimes diverges widely from the anime’s plot.



As far as I’m aware, the future of the DB: Super anime and manga is mostly up in the air right now, but do you have any thoughts or hot takes about the series?
Not really. It exists in a similar place to the Boruto manga—where it always feels like the anime is the main focus and the manga is there to cross-promote and occasionally test out ideas. Most of the series is expedited adaptations of the DB Super TV series, with a couple of original arcs and some added bits. It’s fine if you want more Dragon Ball stuff, but it’s not exactly essential either.

Though I will say, reading this in what is, in all likelihood, the last comic Toriyama was ever involved in making, hits pretty different.

To Super‘s credit, the character designs are WAY less skeezy than what’s popping up in the Boruto manga. I think I agree with you, though. Most of Super feels like pretty tame fan-fiction, that only occasionally hits even close to as well as the original series.

That being said, it did give us a transformation for Vegeta called Ultra Ego, which might be my favorite thing in the entire Dragon Ball canon!

A big part of that is how Super exists in a very different context than the original manga/TV series. The new era of DB started with Battle of Gods, after several years where sporadic video games and OVAs were the only new entries in the franchise. That movie revitalized the series, thanks in large part to Toriyama’s involvement in assuring fans this wasn’t another GT situation, but it also meant that Dragon Ball was being created in a world where it was a genre-defining icon. And it became a multimedia machine where Toriyama was an important creative voice, but far from the only one, and not necessarily the one in the driver’s seat.

Yeah… I’m getting a little tin foil hat-y in saying this, but it never really felt like Toriyama was helming any element of Super. We’d get confirmation that he designed new characters like Beerus and he’s gotten writer credits on everything under the Super banner, but the energy of Super is pretty different from any of his wholly owned projects like Sand Land. Plus Toriyama also famously didn’t care much for remembering the lore or worldbuilding elements of Dragon Ball; forgetting character’s hair colors and outright forgetting some characters, like Launch, existed. Between all of this, I have a hard time believing he was bringing his A-game to a series that mostly just padded out a franchise he was finished with.

This was a cartoon factory built to make money and it operated that way first and foremost. This is why I am sure Super will return in some form eventually. If Kentaro Miura‘s death wasn’t the end of Berserk, there’s no way the people, companies, and interests attached to Dragon Ball are going to let the mortal coil stop them from stacking paper.

Put the Heaters in Dragon Ball: Sparking! Zero, damnit! They’re more canon than anything in GT now!

Speaking of, I think GT‘s existence is a fair enough reason for anybody to be skeptical of a Toriyama-less future for Dragon Ball. We’ve seen what that future looks like and it looks like hot pink chest hair.

I’ll give a Bow Para Para to that!

Though speaking of GT, it sure would be serendipitous if we had another upcoming Dragon Ball series that involved Goku turning into a kid again.

If I had a nickel, yadda yadda~ but yes! Dragon Ball: Daima is set to come out this fall!



Not sure why they didn’t just call it Dragon Ball: Chibi since everyone’s a lil guy again, but I’ll just have to watch to find out!
I guess this isn’t surprising. New-era Dragon Ball loves taking stuff from the extended/non-canon universe and revamping it—and has been pretty good at doing it, too. I loved what the Broly movie did with what was originally a boring-as-hell character—and they even made Dragon Ball Minus fit into the universe better, so sure. Go nuts. At least Goku has his power pole back

The optimist in me wants to believe that this sub-series will take the franchise back to its mystical, adventure story roots… but the realist in me sees this as a somewhat novel opportunity to move a bunch of toys that people are already familiar with.

Also that new Broly movie is low-key the best piece of Dragon Ball media we’ve gotten since… the end of the Cell saga???

I am not immune to Kid Mr. Satan.

Damn, even as a kid he’s giving carny vibes!

Hey now, that’s the savior of the Earth you’re talking about. Put some respect on his name!

I’m sorry. I acknowledge the greatness of lil Hercule Jr.

Anyway, my point is, for all its faults, neo-era Dragon Ball has its charms and high points, so there’s as much room for optimism as there is wariness. Whether Daima is a worthwhile send-off as the last full-fledged Toriyama project is a question for Future TWIA but I’d like it if it could at least be fun.

Agreed. Worst case scenario, Daima is gonna give the Team Four Star folks plenty of new material to riff off of.

And speaking of FUN…idk I had as much fun with a Toriyama project in recent memory as I have with the currently airing Sand Land anime.

Oh god dammit what did I tell you about sand-

No, it’s fine. It’s not everywhere, it’s only in the LAND!

So yeah, in a bit of a swerve, Toriyama’s Sand Land manga has gotten its revival. It started life as one of several limited series Toriyama did in the years after DB concluded (alongside series like Cowa! and Kajika), it not only got a film adaptation and video game but is airing a new and expanded TV adaptation as we speak. Most people probably don’t realize it because Disney/Hulu will rot to dust before they promote the anime they license.
Ugh, Hulu jail is a fate worse than HFIL.

It is a shame that this series isn’t getting the widespread attention it should because it reminded me that Toriyama sure can write an interesting story with some immediately endearing characters when they can’t punch their way out of any problem they find themselves in.

Toriyama’s post-Goku era was filled with him returning to the goofy gag and adventure series he was forged in, and Sand Land is a great encapsulation of it. You’ve got a rambunctious lead who pretends to be cooler than he is. You’ve got a gruff old man with a cool mustache. You’ve got them both in a nifty little vehicle. What more could you want?

How about Lucifer (not to be confused with Mr. Satan) giving his son, Beelzebub, permission to go on this adventure, but making it clear that he can only play the PlayStation 6 he’s getting as a reward for saving the world for an hour a day???



Dad of the year, folks!
Leave it to the devil to be totally out of touch. C’mon pops, one hour is barely enough time to get through the tutorial for Dragon Quest XIII. Cut your 2500-year-old kid some slack!



Seriously though, I was skeptical of this series/movie when it was revealed to be 3DCG, but like Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, it does capture the charm of Toriyama’s art perfectly.
Thanks to the Dragon Quest games, I think people have gotten good at rendering Toriyama’s art style in 3DCG. Also, I have to take a second to shout out 2024’s early front-runner for anime’s best boy, Beelzebub.



He has such great early Naruto energy, which is ironic considering how influential DB was on Naruto. He’s such a great little POS with a heart of gold. Please shonen anime/manga, give me more dirtbag protagonists!!!
It also landed at just the right time to capitalize on everyone’s excitement for another sci-fi adventure involving deserts and large worm monsters.



I don’t know much about Dune but I assume it’s pretty much like this.

I think this series represents a better option for continuing Toriyama’s legacy after his death. Rather than milking Goku and friends, why not dig into all the cool stuff he made that didn’t involve Saiyans? Give us a Cowa! mini-series, or an anthology adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater. If you need to, just do a Dr. Slump remake since nobody wants to keep the original streaming.

I haven’t seen any of the Dune movies or read the books, but I somehow gleaned from the ether that spice is worm poop. So I expressed that trivia to my friends who had seen the movie and they were like, “No it’s not!” But then we looked it up and spice is worm poop! So, as the world’s foremost Dune expert, I want to let you know that your assumption is 100% correct!

And that does seem like a better way to honor/celebrate Toriyama than just trying to get more blood from the Dragon Ball stone. He has a pretty extensive body of work that’s just begging to be reexamined. Hell, if the least interesting one-shot from Eiichiro Oda‘s Monster collection can get a short Netflix anime, then anything in Toiyama’s bibliography is fair game for an adaptation.

Granted, I think the best way to honor Toriyama’s legacy would be to encourage new artists to swing for the fences as often and boisterously as he did, but that doesn’t produce immediate quarterly gains, so digging into his extended catalog is the next best option. If nothing else, I’m more interested in seeing something in the vein of Sand Land than I am Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Ultra Instinct Beast Mode Kaio Ken Spirit Sayain Gogeta vs Shiny Off-print Holographic Freeza.

Oh God…I forgot they just straight-up named Gohan’s new transformation “Beast Mode”. Super can take as long of a hiatus as it needs.

One release I can’t wait for, though, is the upcoming Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate which is set to be the last release that Toriyama will have directly contributed to in his lifetime.

I’m not very familiar with the Dragon Quest franchise. I played and enjoyed XI, but anything beyond that is mostly word of mouth or that weird movie from several years ago. But I can tell you that Toriyama’s design sensibilities were monumentally important to the charm of everything I’ve seen so far.

Steve Blum voices a Slime named Gootrude in the Dragon Quest: Your Story movie; what more could anyone want from a DQ movie let alone any piece of cinematography?

Well, I’d like a story that made any sense or was paced like a film rather than a Best Of reel from a Dragon Quest V Let’s Play. But that movie doesn’t have anything to do with Toriyama so we can leave it in the past where it belongs. Instead, why don’t you tell me what you’re looking forward to with The Flames of Fate?
XI was also my jumping-on point for the franchise, and I’ve been trying to catch up on what I’ve missed ever since! With Echoes of an Elusive Age quietly being about the franchise‘s history, legacy, and impact on the world; I’m excited to see how The Flames of Fate advances the series now that it’s had an entire game dedicated to self-reflection.

As the game pertains to Toriyama, though, I’m pumped to see what new character and monster designs he cooked up for this game—or if he made any adjustments to his previous designs. While Toriyama has a lot of strong suits as an artist and storyteller, he’s in a class of his own when it comes to making freaky little guys.

I’m just hoping they manage to have a character as fun as Sylvando.

Though DQ does represent another way Toriyama’s legacy can continue. He obviously won’t be around to design for future games, but with how much his art has defined the franchise, I can’t imagine future iterations will try to deviate much from his example. Here’s hoping those new artists and creators can make something as earnest and charming as their predecessors.

Oh man, I’m just scrolling through Dragon Quest monster designs now and it’s just banger after banger. Get a load of this guy:



His name’s Platypunk and I wanna have a beer with him while he tells me about his plan to commit insurance fraud!

I’m pretty sure that asshole owes me 500 bucks.

That’s why he has to commit the insurance fraud!

While I am a little concerned if Dragon Ball can keep running on fumes or if Toriyama’s other work will successfully resurface in one way or another, I’m confident Dragon Quest will outlive all of us. The series’ personality is just so big, defined, and influential that I’m confident that talented and passionate people will be able to keep the series alive and thriving. And, of course, Toriyama’s influence will continue to be felt in Dragon Quest, and the entire shonen genre, for as long as games, anime, and manga are around. While a lot of stuff will continue to be derivative of his work, we’re also sure to get new creators who make new series as joyous and innovative as his own.

That is probably the answer we were looking for this whole time. For as memorable, impactful, and lovable as Toriyama’s works are, no singular franchise or story can fully capture his legacy. He was a monumental figure in the medium, and we’re going to be seeing his memory in others’ creations for decades to come. Whatever might happen, the effect he left on others can’t be diluted.







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