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In early-1980, Akira Toriyama’s gag manga series Dr. Slump began serialization in Weekly Shōnen Jump and ran just over four and a half years, coming to an end in issue 1984 #39. However, prior to it ending Toriyama was already considering what to draw for his next serialized series. Based on advice from his editor, Kazuhiko Torishima, Toriyama released a two-part manga one-shot entitled “Dragon Boy” in Fresh Jump in mid-1983 to test the viability of a kung-fu shōnen manga series. After an incredibly positive response from readers, Toriyama had finally decided on his next, and what would ultimately turn out to be his final, long-term serialized work.
A short three months after the end of Dr. Slump, Toriyama was back at work again with his second long-running serialized series — Dragon Ball. To contrast with the western-influenced setting of Dr. Slump, Toriyama wanted to give Dragon Ball a Chinese feel and initially loosely based the series on the Chinese tale Journey to the West. Toriyama also introduced the seven Dragon Balls to allow the characters to go on their own adventurous journey, and at this point he had only intended the series to run up until they had collected all seven, as he notes in his Daizenshuu 2 interview.
Weekly Shōnen Jump held an annual average of 3.9 million copies in circulation in 1984, with Dragon Ball being the featured illustration on the cover of its premiere issue. Unfortunately, it is one of the few illustrations from Akira Toriyama never to be reprinted, even in Daizenshuu 1 or the Chōgashū.