I’m in a bit of a daze about it, to be honest.

I’ve never really been one to attach myself parasocially to any given creator. I adore their work, admire that the work was made ostensibly by a fellow Human, and appreciate that fact from afar for what it is… No matter how much I’ve been touched or influenced by the work, that’s my business and has ultimately nothing to do with the creator. Separate worlds should stay separate – guess I’m a bad imperialist, as ever.

This time is different, though.

When I heard the news, I did what I think many of us did: numbly scrolled through social media, liking and reposting and reblogging the outpour of feels of those far more in touch with their emotions than I am. It took me close to an hour and a half to shake myself out of that stupor… At least I’d had the presence of mind to spread the news to a few Discord servers I frequent… Message a couple of people… Oh I should probably let my-

At that point it seemed like maybe, just maybe, I should take some time to process what I was feeling… Which brings us here.

It would probably be easier to list the creators who haven’t been influenced by Akira Toriyama’s work. Artistically, his influence on the Manga and Anime industries speak for themselves. Even as an American growing up in the 90s, having watched anime from a young age, I could see endless references made to Dragonball Z in the cartoons I would watch in the morning and after school. I was always really into animation and comics and manga when I was young… But those things weren’t cool to be into – you’d get bullied into oblivion for that.

Not for Dragonball Z, though.

Dragonball Z did for anime what Halo did for video games for young nerds: it made some aspect of what they were into cool enough to actually openly talk about. Made it okay for them to exist, okay for them to be into a medium that would otherwise have them ostracized for their greater social structure. That was so important back then and it still is today. It was so many modern anime fans’ gateway into anime and manga… It created so, so many new friends and allies for people like myself to engage with… Hell, through a love of at least one anime, I’ve never NOT had something to talk about with literally anyone I’ve ever met. The reach it has is nearly infinite, crossing borders of language, politics, nations… Everything.

And it isn’t an exaggeration to trace all of that back to Dragonball for the vast majority of people.

In my personal creative capacity, I owe so many seeds of my world view and creative spark to this creator. With everything I created growing up, certainly, but in ways that I didn’t even fully appreciate until my late 20s. The Auras we take for granted as an anime staple – that sense that there was something mystical in all of us that could be brought out of you if you just worked hard enough – started, or at least was brought fully into the zeitgeist by him. The screaming power-up – that trope that told us that no matter how cornered we were and how impossible things looked, we still all had something a little bit extra left in us that could get us that win – came from him.

I think one of the most important creations born of his creative mind was the Spirit Bomb… The technique that Goku only brought out in the face of insurmountable power and unconquerable evil that was powered not by his own might, but by Humanity’s capacity to come together and face the things that sought to squash not only their voices, but their very lives… Akira Toriyama believed in people. And not only that, I think he believed so hard that – as I grew up and nihilism just started looking lazy and uncool – I started believing in people. I don’t think I can attribute all of that believe to Toriyama and Dragonball… But I think the stories he told helped set the foundation for me to build upon in a very real, tangible way.

I am a better person for that foundation, ultimately.

This has been a meandering write up and I don’t think it even begins to touch on exactly what I’m feeling… But it was a start. I think we’re all stunned from this loss. No one was ready. He was still grinding, still involved in several active projects like Daima and Sand Land and the continuing Dragon Ball Super Manga and probably several things I’m forgetting. 68 isn’t young, but it’s not super old either. He was active in the industry for 45 years and gave so, so, so much of himself to the world and has touched so many people. He worked hard and relentlessly to make people laugh and cheer and cry and I’m sad to see him go.

I hope what you find on the other side is as fun and goofy and delightful as the heavens you put to paper. Rest.


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