Akira Toriyama, a monumental figure in the Japanese manga and anime world best known for creating the "Dragon Ball" series, died of an acute subdural hematoma on March 1, the manga series' publishing firm said Friday. He was 68.

Photo shows the cover of a volume of the Japanese manga "Dragon Ball." (Kyodo)

Launched in 1984, Dragon Ball, which follows the adventures of protagonist Goku and his explosive supernatural battles with his adversaries, became a worldwide success, with the manga selling over 260 million copies and spawning a franchise that includes anime series, films, video games and toys.

Born in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, Toriyama debuted in 1978 with the manga series "Wonder Island," and gained popularity following the release of his "Dr. Slump" series, which was serialized in the Shukan Shonen Jump weekly in 1980. He also worked as a character designer for the "Dragon Quest" video game series.

In 2000, Toriyama was part of the development team that accepted the grand prize for interactive digital art at the Japan Media Arts Festival, due to his contribution to character design for the game Dragon Quest VII. In 2006, Dragon Ball was ranked third out of 100 in the festival's Japanese manga division.

Tourists touch a statue of a character from Akira Toriyama's best-known work, "Dragon Ball," in Tokyo on March 8, 2024. (Kyodo)

Toriyama's works "transcended national borders and were read and loved all over the world," a statement by Dragon Ball's publisher Shueisha Inc. said. "The charming characters he created and his overwhelming sense of design have had a great influence on many manga artists and creators," it added.

Toriyama had been working on other projects before his death, including the anime "Sand Land: The Series," which is due to be launched on a major streaming service later this month.

The news of Toriyama's sudden death deeply saddened fellow manga artists and fans alike.

Photo taken in 1982 shows portrait of Akira Toriyama, the creator of the legendary manga series "Dragon Ball," who died of an acute subdural hematoma on March 1, 2024, aged 68. (Kyodo)


"It's far too soon. The hole left open is too big," Eiichiro Oda, creator of the hit manga series "One Piece" said in a statement posted on Shueisha's website. "It brings me sadness to think that we will not meet again."

Masashi Kishimoto, author of the popular manga "Naruto," recalled how he "grew up together" with Dragon Ball and that even if he had a bad day, the weekly episodes made him "forget about it."

Kishimoto said he aspired to become a manga artist, hoping to create works like Toriyama's. "He was my savior and a god of manga," he said in a comment to Shueisha.

Masakazu Katsura, manga artist of "Zetman," said he "felt weak and drained," noting that he has been acquainted with Toriyama for some 40 years.

Toriyama was "a friend to me more than a great manga artist," Katsura said. "It's such a shame that I can no longer chat with him about stupid things on the phone."

Japan's top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi praised the author for leaving "a great mark across a range of media."

"He played an extremely important role in spreading" Japanese culture, the chief Cabinet secretary told a press conference.

Japanese animation series "Dragon Ball Z." (Photo courtesy of Toei Animation Co.)(Copyright Bird Studio/Shueisha Inc./Toei Animation Co.)(No reuse permitted)(Kyodo)

Go Oshima, a manager of a figurine shop in Nagoya's Osu area, which is famous for anime shops, expressed shock at the news as he is of the generation who grew up on the author's works.

The 49-year-old said many fans from home and abroad visit his store, with some sporting tattoos of Toriyama's characters. "He was so popular to the point that there was probably no one in the world who didn't know him. I feel like there's a hole in my heart," Oshima said.

In China, where Toriyama's work is extremely popular, in part due to Goku having been inspired by a character from the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West," posts mourning his death flooded Weibo, the country's equivalent of the social media platform X.

A child holds a Chinese-translated copy of Akira Toriyama's best-known work, "Dragon Ball," at a library in Beijing on March 8, 2024. (Kyodo)

Some Weibo users commented that their "boyhood days are over" in reaction to the cartoonist's passing, with others remarking that they wished he could "be revived with the use of dragon balls," referencing magical orbs in the series' plotline that can make wishes come true.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning on Friday expressed Beijing's "deep sympathy" over his death at a press conference.

Related coverage:

Ghibli Park unveils new "Valley of Witches" area, to open in March

Miyazaki's Ghibli anime "The Boy and the Heron" wins British Academy award

Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto wins U.S. Pritzker prize