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‘Dragon Ball’ creator Akira Toriyama dies at 68

The Japanese author died March 1 of a blood clot in his brain, his production company Bird Studio said in a statement on Friday.
Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama
Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama in 1982 JIJI Press / AFP - Getty Images

TOKYO — Akira Toriyama, one of the most influential and best-selling manga authors of all time, has died, his studio said Friday.

He was 68.

Toriyama died March 1 of a blood clot in his brain, his production company Bird Studio said in a statement on Friday. A funeral service had been held with only his family and a few relatives, it said.

The Japanese author is best known as the creator of the popular Dragon Ball manga series, which has fans across the world and spawned a well-known anime series, video games and films.

The manga series first debuted in 1984, depicting the story of a boy named Son Goku who is on a quest to collect magical dragon balls to protect Earth from alien humanoids called Saiyans.

In 1989, it was adapted into an anime and soon became one of the most globally recognized pieces of Japanese media. It has sold 260 million copies altogether, according to his studio.

Toriyama worked for 45 years and still had unfinished work at the time of his death.

A statue of Goku at the Dragon Ball Z booth during New York Comic Con
A statue of Goku at the Dragon Ball Z booth during New York Comic Con, in New York City, on Oct. 12, 2023.Charles Sykes / AP file

“It’s our deep regret that he still had several works in the middle of creation with great enthusiasm,” it said. “He would have had many more things to achieve. However, he has left many manga titles and works of art to this world.”

He was a source of inspiration to many renowned Japanese comic book artists, such as Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of the popular series 'Naruto', and Eiichiro Oda, the creator of one of the longest-running animes 'One Piece.'

“We hope that Akira Toriyama’s unique world of creation continues to be loved by everyone for a long time to come,” his studio said.

Many in Japan and from around the world paid tribute to Toriyama on Friday.

In a news briefing, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said the government was "deeply saddened by the news" and offered his condolences to the late author's family.

Toriyama "served as an opportunity for Japanese content to be widely recognized around the world, leading to an increase in inbound tourism," he said. "I believe that Mr. Toriyama’s work has played an extremely important role in demonstrating Japan’s soft power."

Famous Japanese actors Yuki Kaji and Toshio Furukawa also conveyed their gratitude in posts on X.

Toriyama’s death also drew tributes on neighboring China’s Weibo social media platform, with 40 million views and thousands of discussions related to the subject. His Dragon Ball was inspired by the Chinese literature “Journey to the West," which attracted numerous Chinese fans.

China's Foreign Ministry said the country wanted to “express our deep condolences over the death of Mr. Akira Toriyama and our sincere sympathy to his family."

"Toriyama was a famous cartoonist, and his works were well-received in China. We expect and believe that there will be more knowledgeable people in Japan who will actively devote themselves to Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges and the cause of friendship between the two countries," said Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.

Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo, and Andee Capellan from Hong Kong.