Tributes to Akira Toriyama

Manga creator and character designer Akira Toriyama passed away last month at the age of 68. He had a massive influence across multiple spheres of media, rising to mainstream prominence in the 1980s with Dr. Slump. His most famous work was the Dragon Ball series, which received its own immensely popular anime franchise as well as many video game spin-offs and adaptations, including the recent Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Other works include Sand Land, which has its own RPG adaptation launching this month. He also worked as the character designer for the Dragon Quest series throughout its history from the original 1986 title, as well as for Chrono Trigger and Mistwalker’s Blue Dragon series.

Akira Toriyama’s work is fondly remembered by many of the staff members here at RPGamer, often playing a vital role in their formative gaming years, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to write their own tributes to him and how work has had an impact. We hope you enjoy reading our tributes.

My first RPG as a kid was the original Dragon Warrior (Quest) for the NES. I was captivated mostly by the fun monsters that I could fight. For the first time in my young gaming life, the enemies weren’t creatures that I blasted and never thought of again, they had names and were designs that I’d recall and look forward to seeing game after game. They’re my earliest gaming loves and ones I recreate to this day with fused bead art.

I never sought out more than just those early Dragon Warrior titles on the NES until I was an adult and the internet provided easier access to more information and actual monster art as opposed to pixelated beasts. Holy cow, I was blown away when I started seeing the actual Akira Toriyama monster art drawings! They added a whole new dimension to my appreciation of all the monster designs I had known and loved for half my life. Soon after, Dragon Quest VIII would come out on the PS2 and I could both fight against — and recruit to fight on my side — all of those amazing monsters in their just-like-they-were-drawn glory!

In the subsequent decades, with all the Dragon Quest games that have released and that I’ve tracked down, my love for the series has grown deeper and deeper, with the artistic designs of Akira Toriyama being hands-down the number one reason I love each and every entry. Without his amazing work with the series, I would not have started the Slime Time series of podcasts, joined RPGamer, or started co-hosting our RPG Backtrack here. — Matt Masem


Not so long ago, I was sitting in a food court doing my own thing, when I noticed the college student sitting at the next spot over was playing a game on his laptop. I had no idea what game it was, and I couldn’t really care to ask, but even at a short glance, I knew exactly what sort of game this might be and what level of mooks he was facing. Among the small hordes of various evil things his sci-fi sword-wielding sorceress was hacking into tiny, incinerated pieces, a greater majority were gumdrop-shaped things with cute smiley faces that came in a variety of candy colors.

In short, it was mostly I-Can’t-Believe-They’re-Not-Slimes™. It’s an enemy type that’s inescapable in the Japanese gaming scene, and while not all RPGs will have something of the sort, a very noticeable percentage of them will. If anything can be considered a major element of the genre’s DNA, it’s slimes.

And who do we have to thank for this? None other than Akira Toriyama. When he was first hired to create monster and character designs, Yuji Hori supposedly gave him a sketch for a slime based on the popular game series of the time, Wizardry. The thing looked like an amorphous slime mold with a pseudopod or two, but they needed an image that would pop in the small pixel count of the early Nintendo Family Computer era. What Toriyama sent back was a round, happy colorful thing with big eyes and a wide smile. The rest is history.



Did they know that this little dude would become a character in its own generic right? That it would become the iconic mascot of their franchise, this dollop of goo that could not have looked anything like the D&D-esque imagery that inspired it? Not only is the little blue slime the face of the Dragon Quest series, inseparable from the experience, but it has spawned an entire type of enemy encounter spanning decades of a genre. To me, nothing can really express the impact of Akira Toriyama on gaming like this one little monster that conquered the hearts of the world. — Michael Baker

The impact Akira Toriyama has had on my life is immeasurable. Without Dragon Quest, we don’t get Final Fantasy, and without Final Fantasy, we don’t get Kingdom Hearts, Xenoblade, Trails, and so many more incredible games.

Dragon Ball is a foundational series for me. Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Frieza, and so many more characters are all figures that have influenced not only my own creative writing, but so many other people’s as well. I credit Sonic the Hedgehog with igniting my love for media in general, and Sonic is filled to the brim with direct references to Dragon Ball. Masashi Kishimoto, when writing for Naruto, took many inspirations from Dragon Ball.

Akira Toriyama’s works are so ingrained into the fabric of the things I enjoy and engage with on a day to day basis, I genuinely cannot imagine what my life would be like without his influence. Thank you and goodbye, Mr. Toriyama. — Ezra Kinnell

Akira Toriyama’s character designs were never the main draw for me, but I think part of what made my sister and I love Dragon Quest and its subsequent entries on the NES was just all the unique monster designs that were in the games. My sister bought every Dragon Quest game that came out and there were many days where either she or myself would be sitting there in the living room playing them. Especially the third and fourth entry.

Chrono Trigger was another game that brought forth his unique monster and creature designs to the fullest. And having such a wonderful game, often considered one of the most influential games of all time featuring his art was big. I didn’t know at the time that this artist would encompass so much of my youth in video games, however his passing has left a hole in not just the art world but also the video game world as well. — Robert Albright


Akira Toriyama had an immense impact on both the gaming and anime scene, as well as serving as inspirational building blocks for some of my greatest joys in both forms of entertainment. One of the first anime I saw in Canada was Dragon Ball Z and its dynamic fights, uplifting stories, and dramatic tension glued me to the screen. Its shounen structure would then be used in my favourite anime, Bleach, as well as other long running anime. This joy of Dragon Ball Z led to one day finding and having plenty of memories enjoying the SNES card-game battling gem Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyans, which I now realize led to my love affair with card battlers to this day.

Akira Toriyama also lent his talents to Chrono Trigger. This masterpiece drew in many of my friends as an introduction to the wonderful world of RPGs. The character designs that stole so many hearts help build a solid foundation with the battle system and story structure still inspiring indie RPGs to this day. Akira Toriyama helped cement my love with procedurally-generated dungeon crawlers, through designs for a little known fighter Tobal No.1. These character models stood out to me and, while the fighting side didn’t mean much, there was a dungeon mode attached. Fighting games with dungeons had a few imitators of its own and led me to play a ton of Ehrgeiz’s quest mode when it came out.

Akira Toriyama’s legacy will be felt for generations. Everything that he had a hand in not only leaves a lasting impression on the minds of everyone who experiences it but also sparked the imaginations the world over. This ability to be such an inspiration to so many is, to me, the greatest legacy a creator can leave behind. — Ryan Costa

I always liked Toriyama’s unique artstyle. Dragon Ball has been a part of my life since I was an adolescent and the second I touched Chrono Trigger, I knew it was special. His characters are iconic (Who else can name someone Mr. Satan and get away with it?), and hopefully will continue to inspire new artists for generations to come. — Ryan Radcliff


When Dragon Ball Z had is huge surge in popularity in my early teens, it felt like the door to anime was blown open. My friends and my brother got deep into it, watching every new episode, talking about it constantly, playing the video games and even the card game.

Because I adore his art style, after getting hold of a Dragon Quest VIII demo disc for the PS2, I was instantly drawn in. Then the coolest thing happened, the hero got to max tension, his bandana flew off, and he became a Super Saiyan! I remember my brother and I thinking it was the coolest thing we’ve seen in a long time. Turns out that was just a thing for the North American release and was done specifically to grab the attention of the DBZ fans, but boy did it work on us. It has gone on to become my favourite RPG series.

There are so many treasured memories coming from the creative output of one man. I’ll carry that joy with me for all my days. — Robert Sinclair

One of my favourite memories involving Toriyama’s work was being in Japan the year that Dragon Quest Rivals was released and walking past a Lawson’s that had Bianca, Nera, and Debora in the window. His artwork is iconic, and I screamed in front of the store, demanding my husband take a picture of me in front of it because of DEBORA! I know everyone likes Bianca and Nera better, but Debora’s design and her character always won me over because Toriyama drew her as though she was going to kick someone’s ass.

I always loved and admired Toriyama’s art style, from Chrono Trigger to Dragon Quest to Dragon Ball. His art always had such a distinctive look about it that you knew it was his; every character’s face is full of personality like you knew what they were about just from the design alone. Losing him as an artist and writer is a huge loss to our community. — Sam Wachter



Alex Fuller

Alex joined RPGamer in 2011 as a Previewer before moving onto Reviews, News Director, and Managing Editor. Became Acting Editor-in-Chief in 2018.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply