Akira Toriyama loves Jackie Chan movies, but did you know that the two of them once met each other in Japan?
Back in 1986, Jackie Chan was visiting Japan in order to film My Lucky Stars. The movie has a sequence where Jackie goes to a theme park, and to sneak in undercover he dresses as Arale-chan from Toriyama’s Dr. Slump.
Why Arale-chan? Because in the early to mid-1980s Dr. Slump was a popular series in Hong Kong. My Lucky Stars is a comedy-action film hybrid, and Jackie Chan loves both Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball, so at some point in the production process the company’s involved decided to do a cross promotion of sorts. Take a look.
Yes, that is Jackie Chan dressed as Arale-chan fighting with a sword against a samurai wearing kabuki makeup.
Since Jackie is a fan of Toriyama’s work, they ended up getting together for a meeting.
Their meeting was photographed and then Toriyama wrote about his experience, publishing it in Bird Land Press #22, in December, 1986.
Bird Land Press was an Akira Toriyama-focused magazine that was published in Japan from 1982 to 1987. There were 25 issues in total.
These magazines are rare, and until now most of the interior content remained a mystery. Fortunately, a dedicated Dragon Ball fan in Brazil named Kami-sama recently purchased two of the magazines at an auction and has shared the content online.
With Kami-sama’s permission I have translated this interview and am sharing it with you.
This article was translated by a friend, and he said it was difficult to do because of Toriyama’s countryside Nagoya dialect and expressions, which I’ll explain in the footnotes.
Akira Toriyama meets Jackie Chan!
Headline: “AKIRA TORIYAMA VS JACKIE CHAN”
Speech Bubble content:
Jackie: I took influence from Dr. Slump
when making my movies!!
Toriyama: I used Jackie’s movies as a reference when making Dragon Ball!!
To commemorate the event, Toriyama drew an illustration of Jackie Chan in his signature style. He depicted a scene from Jackie’s movie Armour of God (1986), in which he straps dynamite to his chest.
“A SUPER EMOTIONAL MEETING!!”
‘Circle’ Month ‘X’ Date ‘Triangle’ Day – A clear day at 1:00
“I met with a man I really admire, Jackie Chan. He turned me into the biggest adoring fan!! Well, perhaps only second to my wife. I mean, he is the world famous Jackie Chan!! It even made me freeze up—I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time I’ve ever been like that!! Apparently, I really get a kick out of meeting people who I’ve seen on TV and in movies.
I know this is really obvious as well, but he really looked like he does on the screen—Twice the surprise!! However, there were some big differences!! In films he’s always doing crazy and funny things, but here it was totally different. If I had to say—He was a bit more serious in real life. Even though he’s one of the biggest stars of the century who’s known the world over, he wasn’t at all conceited. In fact, he seemed like quite a rough but kind person. He was very easy to like.
He even answered my fan-boy questions sincerely—I really appreciated that. He’s also very strict about his work. He even went on to say that he wasn’t happy with his latest film. He said he preferred his film ‘Project A.’ He’s clearly a man who’s disciplined.
He’s like a detailed craftsman—doing everything from music to direction in his films. It made me really appreciate his work.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot—When my wife and I mentioned films like ‘Project A’ and ‘Police Story’ he replied with, “I really like those two too.” Then we asked how he approaches making his films, to which he replied, “I try to make them without thinking too hard.”—That’s exactly how I try to make my manga!! What a surprise!!”
“Jackie Chan talking passionately about kung fu while browsing the Dragon Ball tankōbon.”
“Jackie Chan signed his name in Japanese! Wow!!”
“I dressed up as Arale-chan in My Lucky Stars!!”
“Let’s keep taking influence from each other and continue making great things!!”
[image already posted above]
“From now on let’s take inspiration from each other’s work and make great new things!!”
Side Headline (written vertically): “I’ve seen almost all of Jackie’s films!! (Toriyama).”
A rare and long-lost interview, and a once in a lifetime experience.
Toriyama is a shy man. There are few photographs of him, and even fewer interviews where we get to see his face.
Most often he’s the one being interviewed, rather than a meeting of two people with mutual respect for one another. Here we get to see how he reacts to a man he considers a celebrity, rather than the other way around. Toriyama is genuinely excited to meet his idol, and of course, without Jackie Chan, there would be no Dragon Ball.
Overall, this interview gives us a slice-of-life experience that provides insight into Toriyama’s personal life and mindset. It’s a rare, never-before-seen article, and one that will likely never find an equal.
Throughout the article Toriyama writes in a manga-esque way, as if he were writing for a manga character or as if he himself were a manga character.
For example, he writes words in katakana when a normal person otherwise wouldn’t. He uses double exclamation points at the end of his sentences, just like in Dragon Ball.
In addition, he uses a lot of local dialect. Likewise, a lot of gairaigo (外来語, “loan words”) from other languages, and wasei-eigo (和製英語, “Japanese style English”), which are words taken from English but that don’t necessarily have the same meaning. For example, he refers to Jackie Chan as shibia (シビア, “severe”) and rafu (ラフ, “rough”). He could have used native Japanese words for this, but instead uses ‘foreign’ words. This is a common aspect of Dragon Ball, especially with Bulma and Kame-sennin. Perhaps Toriyama always writes like this, or maybe his work on Dragon Ball from 1984 to ’86 was influencing his writing style.
 The dates in this publication are written as shapes, so the date of the meeting is unknown. These shapes are a standard Japanese way of stating an unspecified time and date.
 Throughout the meeting Toriyama refers to himself as a mīhā (ミーハー, “follower of fads”). This is a lowbrow person who will follow any trend, but in this context it refers to being an excited fan in front of Jackie.
 When Toriyama refers to himself freezing up he uses the phrase kachin-kachin (カチンカチン) a Japanese onomatopoeia to describe hardness. Toriyama uses manga expressions as real-life descriptors for himself.
 For an example of Toriyama’s dialect, he uses the expression matanikakeru (股にかける, literally, “hang one’s thighs”) to describe Jackie, but it’s an idiom that means “who’s known the world over.”
 A tankōbon is a collection of manga chapters. Dragon Ball was published in 42 tankōbon.
 Toriyama likes to collect signatures of celebrities, including fellow manga authors. To get Jackie Chan’s signature must have been a real treat.
What do you think of Toriyama’s meeting with Jackie Chan? Did you ever imagine they’d be sitting on the same couch? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you’d like to gain more insights into Toriyama’s mindset and discover the origin of Dragon Ball, read my book, Dragon Ball Culture Volume 1, available in print and ebook!