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While it seems to be fairly well-known that original manga author Akira Toriyama contributed certain ideas and character designs to the anime, there is still quite a bit of misunderstanding as to just what exactly he did or did not have a part in. Believe it or not, some of the filler most fans complain about as being “non-canon” material was actually Toriyama’s idea. While he did not actually write any of the movie scripts, he did create many of the new characters that appeared in them. All of the information below has been scattered throughout the series’ numerous guide books, which we have organized into one convenient place.
This page has been organized by story elements so that character designs are listed roughly in the order in which they appeared in the series, with the main series appearing first and then followed by the movies and TV specials. Be sure to click on the Toriyama designs to view larger versions, which in some cases will contain additional translated notes.
Toriyama personally selected Masako Nozawa to voice Son Goku and Mayumi Tanaka to voice Kuririn. He also helped select other unspecified major characters, although it appears his selections were only for major characters at the very beginning of the series. In Daizenshuu 10, for instance, Ryō Horikawa mentions not having to audition to play Vegeta.
From Toriyama’s Daizenshuu 3 interview:
— Were there any jobs you did directly for the “DB” anime?
Toriyama: In cases where characters appeared in the anime before they were shown in color in the manga, I sent a response to the animators at Toei through my editor. After that, I listened to the voice actor audition tapes, and decided on the casting. When I decided on Goku’s voice, I listened to the voices of five or six candidates, and out of those I decided on Masako Nozawa-san.
— What were your impressions on hearing Goku’s voice during the actual broadcast?
Toriyama: I went “Goku has this sort of voice, doesn’t he”. From then on, when I was drawing the manga, the characters’ voices would somehow drift up into my mind. Whenever that happened, Goku’s voice would be just like Nozawa-san‘s, and I’d think “Geez, she’s good”. Now it’s impossible to separate Goku from Nozawa-san.
— Did you choose any of the other characters?
Toriyama: I was present for the selection of the other major roles. After that, I suppose I only designated Mayumi Tanaka-san as the voice of Kuririn. When I saw “Night on the Galaxy Railroad”, I said the protagonist had a really good voice, and a very knowledgeable friend of mine told me that it was Mayumi Tanaka-san.
The only filler contribution that we know Toriyama made to the original Dragon Ball anime series was his design of the Fire-Eating Bird featured in Dragon Ball episode 150 at the end of the series. His design is featured on page 67 of Daizenshuu 10, along with a sketch of an older Gyūmaō for the anime staff.
The third TV animation daizenshuu notes that Toriyama was responsible for the slightly redesigned versions of the various Red Ribbon characters in the 10th anniversary movie. In total he redesigned eight characters: Red, Black, White, Metallic, Hatchan, Blue, Violet, and the battle jacket robot. Toriyama’s sketches of them are included in the book, which points out how there are some differences between them and the designs ultimately used in the movie. For instance, in the movie Hatchan has a sharper design than in Toriyama’s sketch, and the movie version of the battle jacket has a smaller cockpit and control seat, effectively scaling it substantially bigger than before.
Probably Toriyama’s most notable contribution to the Dragon Ball Z anime series is that he coined the title “Dragon Ball Z” itself. In pages 92 and 93 of the TV anime guide Son Goku Densetsu, Toriyama explains the origin of the name:
— I heard a rumor that you added the “Z” to the title because of an energy supplement that had “Z” in its name.
Toriyama: Well, that’s wrong (laughs). “Z” is the last letter in the alphabet, right? So, at the time I already really wanted to end the series, and so I made the title “Z” to say “Hey, this is the end!” I don’t remember saying a single thing about any energy supplement. You really can’t go by rumors (laughs).
Nakatsuru: Did you imagine anything else besides “Z”?
Toriyama: No, I don’t think so. Personally I thought that the title was fine the way it was, but the people on the anime staff said they wanted an image change, so I figured “well, this should be OK”.
It is interesting to note that Daizenshuu 10 also mentions that, prior to Toriyama coming up with the title “Dragon Ball Z”, the anime staff had been considering such names as “New Dragon Ball”, “Dragon Ball 2”, “Dragon Ball 90”, “Dragon Ball: Wonder Boy”, and “Dragon Ball: Gohan’s Big Adventure”.
Toriyama mentions in his Daizenshuu 3 interview that “during the story when Goku was training at Kaiō-sama‘s place, [the anime staff] said they wanted one more character, so I thought up the character of ‘Gregory'”. Toriyama’s memo on Gregory is shown in the first Dragon Ball Z Anime Special. Along with several sketches of Gregory, there is also a height chart comparing him to Goku and Kaiō.
The Dragon Ball Z Anime Special guide also provides some additional details for Gregory:
After catching Bubbles, for further training he must try to hit Gregory with an extremely heavy hammer, while dodging Gregory, who can freely fly around and attack. After managing this, Kaiō will finally train him.
Gregory flies at incredible speeds while glowing and also has considerable power. While he’s quite a loudmouth, his tone of voice is polite. He’s like Kaiō-sama‘s butler, and looks after him.
The Dragon Ball Z Anime Special guide mentions that Toriyama had quite a hand in these various adventures. First, he submitted a memo giving a general idea for the Snake Princess episode, although this memo only talked about a single giant snake living in the castle along the road. The beautiful Snake Princess and her servants were apparently the anime staff’s idea. Of course, in the episode they actually turned out to have been illusions created by the giant serpent.
Second, the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special also noted that the episode where Goku accidentally falls down to Hell is also “full of Akira Toriyama-sensei‘s ideas!!” Unfortunately, it is not any more specific than that. Interestingly, the entry for Hell in Daizenshuu 7’s glossary notes that Hell is cut off from the above world by mysterious clouds, which people coming from above can pass through, but which people coming from below cannot, thus preventing criminals from flying out and escaping. All entries in Daizenshuu 7’s various dictionaries are broken up into several subsections, such as “first appearance”, “special characteristics”, “history”, or the like, and anime-only stuff is included in a “anime” subsection. Despite the cloud barrier only showing up in the anime, Daizenshuu 7 does not place it into an “anime” subsection. This may just be a mistake, or it may be because the cloud barrier idea was part of Toriyama’s memo on Hell. There is at least one proven example of the later sort of thing: in Piccolo’s Daizenshuu 7 biography, it mentions Piccolo’s weakness to high-frequency noises such as whistling, which it includes under “special characteristics” and not “anime”, despite this only being seen in Dragon Ball Z Movie 4. In a different part of Daizenshuu 7, it says that Toriyama came up with this Namekian weakness, despite it only appearing in the movie, so this is probably why Daizenshuu 7 did not file it under “anime”. Therefore, the cloud barrier may have likewise come from Toriyama.
Finally, the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special guide notes that it was also Toriyama’s idea to create the filler scene where Goku breaks off a piece of the clouds that surround the Serpent Road and eats it.
Toriyama made a memo on the Saibaimen for the anime staff, which is reproduced in the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special, Daizenshuu 5, and Son Goku Densetsu. Unfortunately, in every case the picture is very small, with only the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special picture being remotely readable. The memo is titled “About the Saibaimen”, and the first sentence seems to be talking about what the Saiyans used Saibaimen for, but it is difficult to make much out. The next sentence notes that they were artificially created by Saiyan scientist(s) using bio-technology. It also notes that their battle power is quite high, and only slightly inferior to Raditz. The paragraph following this is not very legible, but you can make out that Toriyama is writing that he “thinks it would be good”, “demonstration”, “flashy”, and “sending [something] flying”. Our best guess is that this second paragraph is Toriyama saying he thinks it would be a good idea to have the Saibaimen give a demonstration of their strength by doing various flashy stuff, which is essentially the basis for the filler scene where the Saibaimen jump around smashing rocks and whatnot in front of the Z Warriors.
The fact that Toriyama’s memo talks about how the Saibaimen were created through bio-technology by a Saiyan scientist is also mentioned in their Daizenshuu 7 biography.
Toriyama had written a memo to the anime staff outlining most of the Saiyan and Tsufruian backstory that appears in Dragon Ball Z episode 20. His memo on this is reprinted in the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special, Daizenshuu 5, and Son Goku Densetsu (the readability of which varies with each reproduction).
The memo included the following descriptive note from Toriyama:
Planet Plant is a difficult planet to live on, as its gravity is unusually strong. However, two races live here. The majority of the inhabitants of Planet Plant are Tsufruian. Their bodies are small, but knowledge-wise they have a comparatively advanced culture and civilization. The other race has an unusually small population, but their bodies are large and strong. They are a primitive, warlike race called the Saiyans. Their biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they have tails, and every one of them seems to be a warrior.
It is notable that Toriyama’s memo uses the name “Planet Plant”, which is later mentioned in the Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans video games and Dragon Ball GT as being the original name of Planet Vegeta before the Saiyans took it over. However, this fact is not actually mentioned in Dragon Ball Z episode 20. Oddly, the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special and Son Goku Densetsu pictures of the memo show “Planet Plant” crossed out in red, with “Planet Vegeta” written in, but the Daizenshuu 5 picture does not have this. This implies that there are at least two copies of this memo.
From what is shown of Toriyama’s memo, it mentions nothing about Planet Vegeta’s god causing a meteor to collide with the planet, as was stated in Dragon Ball Z episode 20. A caption in the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special does mention this, but says nothing about it being Toriyama’s idea (the caption is, oddly, for a picture of the two “illusion Saiyans” from a completely different filler episode).
The Dragon Ball Z Anime Special mentions that Piccolo’s practice of splitting into two and fighting himself was originally Toriyama’s idea. We first see this type of training utilized in Dragon Ball Z episode 15.
The Dragon Ball Z Anime Special says that it was Toriyama who came up with the scene in Dragon Ball Z episode 13 where Lunch reaches Karin Tower during her endless chase for Tenshinhan, and runs into Upa and Bora as she is unable to climb the tower. Son Goku Densetsu mentions that “Tenshinhan and Lunch’s relationship” was part of the stuff Toriyama outlined for what the characters did in the year leading up to Vegeta and Nappa’s arrival on Earth. This could just be a reference to the previously mentioned scene with Lunch following Tenshinhan to Karin Tower, or it could also mean that the earlier filler scene where Lunch meets up with Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu at a waterfall was also Toriyama’s idea.
Additionally, Daizenshuu 10 includes the character design Toriyama drew for grown-up Upa (adult Upa did end up appearing in the manga at the very end).
This is yet another thing mentioned as being Toriyama’s idea in the Dragon Ball Z Anime Special, which first appeared in Dragon Ball Z episode 10. After getting into a fight with Bulma, Yamcha leaves West City and becomes a baseball player. A caption says that in the memo regarding this, Toriyama wrote out Yamcha’s feelings in great detail… but unfortunately does not elaborate any further.
Page 138 of the Son Goku Densetsu guide book shows Toriyama’s sketch of King Vegeta’s head. The caption notes that it seems he did not draw King Vegeta’s entire body or costume.
Toriyama’s character design for Paikuhan is shown on page 136 of Son Goku Densetsu. The caption notes that he bears a slight resemblance to Piccolo, which may partially explain why some fans mistake Paikuhan as actually being Namekian, himself.
The Son Goku Densetsu guide book also reproduces Toriyama’s character design for the Dai Kaiō, including both his crazy hippy get-up and the more regal attire which he wears for the tournament.
In his Daizenshuu 4 interview, Toriyama mentions first drawing the map of the Dragon Ball cosmos featured in Daizenshuu 4 and later guide books for the anime staff.
For God’s temple, I gave it a comparatively mysterious feeling, but on the other hand I thought it’d be good to have the afterlife be realistic. So Enma-daiō and the oni all wore suits like salary-men. I think you can see this by looking at the world map in this book, but there’s a thing called the airport to Heaven. The background on that is that the people who go to Heaven all have to go by plane. This complete map was originally background information that I drew at the request of the anime people, but I took this opportunity to add the Kaiōshin World, which wasn’t included in the complete map before, to make it perfect. In truth, this complete world map is something I made after I finished drawing the story, to make everything consistent. (laughs)
This overview of the Dragon Ball cosmos is actually seen briefly in Dragon Ball Z episode 195, with the Dai Kaiō shown holding it on top of his outstretched index finger like a basketball, to symbolize his godly authority and whatnot. The airport to Heaven which Toriyama mentions is also seen in this episode, as well as the Dai Kaiō’s planet. Though these are part of Toriyama’s conception of the Dragon Ball afterlife, it is unknown if he had any hand in the designs used for these places in the anime filler.
The afterlife tournament filler arc is notable for explaining the four Kaiō and the Dai Kaiō some time before it was explained in the manga. This filler arc began on 18 July 1993, and featured the Dai Kaiō and the four regular Kaiō prominently, while in the manga the Dai Kaiō and his role was not explained until Piccolo learns of Kaiōshin’s identity in chapter 440, which came out 11 October 1993 (the South Kaiō did however debut in the manga shortly before the anime filler arc began, appearing in chapter 428 on 12 July 1993). Since the explanation of the Dai Kaiō and the four Kaiō is the same in both the manga and anime, it is almost certain that Toriyama supplied this background information to the anime staff.
A section on “anime effects” on pages 94-95 of Daizenshuu 5 notes that it was Toriyama’s idea to create the voices of fused characters by having the actors of each character say their lines simultaneously.
In his Daizenshuu 6 interview, Toriyama says that his job for the Dragon Ball movies consisted of checking the plot and script sent to him by Toei Animation, designing characters, tweaking existing character designs, and changing character names. Lucky for us, Daizenshuu 6 and Son Goku Densetsu contain galleries of these movie character designs.
In addition to Slug’s design shown below, the “anime” section of Daizenshuu 7’s Particulars Dictionary (essentially a collection of random info they could not fit anywhere else) notes on pages 252 and 253 that it was Toriyama’s idea that Namekians have a weakness to high frequency noises such as whistling. The same section also mentions that Toriyama came up with the idea of portraying Goku’s “Pseudo Super Saiyan” form from this movie by having his hair stand up.
It may be hard to tell in the picture shown below, but Toriyama’s design for Super Saiyan Son Goku has red pupils, something noted in Son Goku Densetsu (but not Daizenshuu 6).
Daizenshuu 6 notes that in Toriyama’s height chart, No. 14 is labeled as No. 15, and vice-versa. This seems to have been the original numbers for those artificial humans, but the anime staff later switched them around for some unknown reason.
The included notes from Toriyama detail some of Broli’s features, such as his arm bands and the reason that he does not wear any Saiyan armor is because he never worked for Freeza and his men.
Similar to what he had done for Coola in Dragon Ball Z Movie 5, Toriyama provided detailed character designs for Bojack and all of his henchmen. You will notice that the color of the animated versions differ slightly from Toriyama’s with more of a blue tone.
In the Golden Warrior art book, veteran Dragon Ball Z animator Tadayoshi Yamamuro recounted how Toriyama had helped him reach the final design for Janenba.
— So you did the designs for some of the original movie characters.
Yamamuro: Often the pattern was that we’d have [Toriyama] sensei look at the rough designs we had drawn and add corrections. For instance, with the transformed Janenba (note: the enemy character from “The Rebirth of Fusion!! Goku and Vegeta”), the order from the anime staff was for a “demonic-looking character”, so I drew a rough design with spiral shapes entwined around his arms and legs, which I showed to sensei. He checked it and sent it back, and that became the real design for transformed Janenba. So the faint blood vessel-like things on his arms and legs are remnants of the rough draft.
As noted in Daizenshuu 6, this was the only movie in which Toriyama only designed the guest characters, as opposed to enemy characters. It is worth noting that Toriyama did not design Hildegarn.
Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru did the original designs for the characters, which Toriyama later modified, along with their names.
From the start, the Jump Super Anime Tour special was promoted as being based on a story by Toriyama. In fact, the opening credits to the special credit Toriyama with the first draft, in addition to his usual credit in the openings as the creator of the original work. The actual script for the special is, however, credited as being written by Takao Koyama, the same man responsible for all of the Dragon Ball Z movie scripts. Toriyama did come up with the basis for the story, but he did not flat-out “write” the finished version. Still, this represents more involvement from Toriyama than any of the other movies had received. Interestingly, in an interview in Son Goku Densetsu, which came out several years before the special, Toriyama and Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru discuss ideas for a new Dragon Ball Z work, which seems to foreshadow the Jump special a little bit.
This is taken from page 96 of the TV anime guide Son Goku Densetsu:
— The “Dragon Ball” kanzenban have brought in new readers, and I think that as fans it’s only natural that they’d want to see a new “Dragon Ball Z” title. What would you think about making a new anime work about once a year or so?
Toriyama: Oh, I’d like to see that.
Nakatsuru: But by the final chapter, Goku had gotten pretty old. And even after that he was the main character for the anime-original “Dragon Ball GT”. If we’re going to be making stories left and right here, maybe we should rewind time a bit and make them stories set sometime in the past.
Toriyama: I think so too. Instead of continuing the story further and further into the future, it’d be better to do a separate episode style of story development where you go back in time and go “this sort of enemy was here, and this sort of story”. Just say “it wasn’t in the original work, but this sort of story happened”. Maybe that would be better.
The Jump special did, in fact, take the approach Toriyama describes here of going back in time and saying that a previously unmentioned incident happened at that particular point in time. The narrator even states such and notes that everyone simply forgot all about it because the enemy was just so weak.
Dragon Ball GT is, of course, the anime series in which Toriyama had the least involvement. In his intro to the Dragon Box GT, Toriyama explains that “For GT, all I did was just come up with the title, design the initial main cast and some of the machines, and also do a few images.” In a way it is kind of nice he had such little involvement, as everything he did do was easily documented.
Just as he came up with the “Z” title, Toriyama came up with the name “GT” as well. In his Dragon Box GT intro, he says that “in car lingo, GT means ‘Gran Turismo’: a fast, high-powered car, in other words. But in this case, I had GT mean ‘Grand Touring’, a great journey, since the scenario was that they’d be running around the universe.” The GT Perfect File Vol. 1 mentions that the name could also mean “Galaxy Touring”, though this does not seem to have been Toriyama’s intention.
Besides coming up with the title, Toriyama also drew a rough design for the GT logo, which is shown on page 82 of the GT Perfect File Vol. 2 and was reprinted in the Dragon Book included with the Dragon Box GT. His design was essentially the same as what the logo ultimately ended up looking like.
Toriyama designed the “several years later” appearance of the main Dragon Ball GT cast, including the infamous moustache-blighted Vegeta, which were featured in the GT Perfect File Vol. 1 on page 89:
In addition to these black and white designs, Toriyama also made several color pictures of Goku, Pan, and Trunks. The first is simply a colored version of the above pictures of them. There is also a stand-alone picture of Goku using alternate colors than what he ended up having in Dragon Ball GT: orange shirt and blue pants, instead of blue shirt and orange pants.
Toriyama’s design for Giru was originally printed in Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 52, 1995. It has been reprinted in Daizenshuu 7 and the GT Perfect File books, though the Perfect Files reprint lacks Toriyama’s notes. Apparently Giru was not named at this point, and was simply labeled as the “Meddling Robot”.
Toriyama designed the spaceship which Goku and company use to hunt for the Dragon Balls throughout the universe. Like his Giru design, Toriyama’s spaceship drawings were printed in Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 52, 1995, and later reprinted in Daizenshuu 7 and the GT Perfect File Vol. 1. They include fairly detailed notes, which unfortunately are left out of the Perfect Files reprint.
Toriyama drew three (that we know about) color pictures of Goku, Pan, and Trunks adventuring on various alien planets. The first two were printed in Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 52, 1995, and were later included in Daizenshuu 7 and the GT Perfect Files. The first shows the gang on Planet Mommath, hiding behind a giant glass bottle as giants curiously check out their ship. Planet Mommath and the giants appear in Dragon Ball GT episode 6. The next picture shows them on the desert planet Kahra (possibly a pun on kara, meaning “empty”). This picture strongly resembles Planet Ruhdeze, seen in Dragon Ball GT episode 16. Finally, Toriyama made a third GT picture for a calendar included in Weekly Shōnen Jump No. 3/4, 1996. It shows Goku and company beating up a bunch of aliens on a mysterious planet, none of which were used in Dragon Ball GT.