Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball mangaka, Chrono Trigger designer and creator of Dragon Quest’s Slime, has died

Akira Toriyama, the mangaka whose work in video games included designing the characters for two of the most influential RPGs ever made, Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest, on top of creating one of the most influential series across all of pop-culture in Dragon Ball, has passed away.

Toriyama, of course, was best known for writing and illustrating Dragon Ball, his massively influential eighties manga that spawned a hit anime, sequels including the even more popular Dragon Ball Z and countless video game adaptations over the years, including (at least in more recent years) Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot – a playable retelling of the Z sagas as an open-world RPG – and flashy fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ. (Karakot developers CyberConnect2 closed their offices for the day in mourning.) Toriyama contributed directly to many of the series’ video game spin-offs and the appearance of his characters in other titles, such as Goku’s starring role in anime ensemble Jump Force.

Away from Dragon Ball, Toriyama was just as influential, serving as the lead character designer for the first Dragon Quest game in 1986. Said to have created dozens of the game’s character and monster designs in a matter of mere months, Toriyama’s designs went on to help the seminal JRPG become acclaimed as one of the greatest RPGs of all time and spawn the long-running series that continues to today. Toriyama continued to contribute designs to the series throughout the decades, alongside the enduring reappearances and popularity of his original monsters – including the iconic teardrop-shaped Slime.

A decade later, Toriyama reunited with Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, the pair newly joined by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi – who credited Dragon Quest’s success as inspiring Square Enix with greenlighting the development of the original Final Fantasy – to design the characters for yet another RPG often considered as among the genre’s greatest, Chrono Trigger. (Toriyama hid a message for his children in one of the game’s endings, too.)

After Chrono Trigger, Toriyama and Sakaguchi would work together again multiple times over the decades, contributing artwork to Xbox 360 RPG Blue Dragon and a diorama level in recent mobile RPG Fantasian.

Toriyama’s enormous influence between Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger stretches over comics, TV, film, tabletop games and video games, leading to a wide outpouring of grief following the news that he had died from an acute subdural hematoma on March 1st, aged 68.

Among the many developers, writers, artists and other creators and fans to express their shock and grief was Horii, who paid tribute to Toriyama’s work on “countless fascinating character designs” for Dragon Quest over the last 37 years before saying: “I can’t believe he is gone… I am at a loss for words.”

“I believe Mr. Toriyama taught me what it means to be a professional and what work is,” fellow Chrono Trigger co-creator Sakaguchi said, accompanied by an illustration of the mangaka and developer. “I respected him from the bottom of my heart.”

Adventuring in a Chrono Trigger screenshot.
Image credit: Square Enix

Among others who recognised Toriyama’s influence on their video games were Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada and former Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono, who called Toriyama’s work “a beacon for my creativity”.

In the announcement of his death, Toriyama was said to have had “several works in the middle of creation with great enthusiasm”. A video game based on his lesser-known manga Sand Land is due for release at the end of April, while Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate – which may presumably feature some of the artist’s final designs – was announced in May 2021 but is yet to be given a release date.

“He has left many manga titles and works of art to this world,” the statement continued. “We hope that Akira Toriyama’s unique world of creation continues to be loved by everyone for a long time to come.”

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