Akira Toriyama’s Trip to Germany

akira toriyama tori-bot

Can you imagine meeting Akira Toriyama in person and getting his autograph? That opportunity was given to 200 fans when Toriyama traveled to Germany in 2004.

Sit back and let me tell you a tale.

You’ll hear about autograph signings, the origin of Dragon Ball Evolution, and see a NEW PICTURE of Akira Toriyama!

Leipzig Book Fair

leipzig book fair

The Leipzig Book Fair is one of the largest book fairs in the world, and it’s something that every major publishing house tries to go to.

During 2004’s fair (from March 25 to 28), more than 2,000 publishers from over 30 countries attended, and put on over 200 events.

As a self-published author, I’d love to go there myself one year.

So how did Toriyama end up at this fair?

It turns out that Carlsen Comics, the German licensor and publisher of Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, thought of the idea to bring the star mangaka from Japan to the book fair in Leipzig.

So in close cooperation with the Leipzig Book Fair staff, they began to reach out.

They succeeded in the first step, when in 2003 a delegation from Toriyama’s Japanese publisher Shueisha attended the Book Fair to take photographs and assess the event.

According to an article on mdr.de, “We showed the organizers that we were just a flight away,” says Sigrun Phillip, Project Manager of the Leipzig Fair.”

Months later Shueisha and the book exhibition team announced that Akira Toriyama would come to the Leipzig Book fair on the weekend of March 27 to 28, 2004.

Akira Toriyama Autograph Session

akira toriyama toribot

Let me bring you up to speed on Akira Toriyama’s mindset.

He does not like crowds or cities, and he tries to avoid showing his face in public.

Whenever he draws himself, he does it as a small humanoid robot, or as a bird, or with a surgical mask covering his face.

And he almost never does public events like this.

So it’s a shock to hear that he would travel all the way to Germany to sign autographs and meet with his fans.

The article says, “It got really suspenseful on Sunday, when Akira Toriyama himself, the creator of Dragon Ball, gave a private conference for 200 fans. Akira Toriyama is known as media shy, so for his first appearance in Europe only 200 fans were elected by a drawing to be let in during the two hour autograph session.”

It repeats, “Shueisha, the Japanese publisher, agreed to give autographs. Because of Toriyama’s busy schedule and the extremely high demand of autographs, however, they were limited to 200. By drawings lots, the publisher decided who in the audience may participate and see the famous mangaka.”

“Two lots of 50 autographs each were raffled off on Saturday and Sunday at the Book Fair. The remaining 100 autographs were given by the publisher itself.”

The Fans Await the Master

german dragon ball z fans for akira toriyama

Oddly, the article states that the event also occurred on Saturday. So I get the feeling that one of the reporters made a mistake, or that one batch of signings occurred on Saturday and another on Sunday. In any case…

“The big moment came on Saturday afternoon at 13:30 (1:30 pm). The first 100 lucky autograph hunters gathered in a huge cluster in the Leipzig Congress Center. Their names were called one by one,” and they then remained standing in the room where they expected Toriyama’s arrival.

The article says, “In a long line, the fans wait to meet the creator of their heroes.”

“At last! Through a back door he entered the room – in a red sports jacket with baseball cap on his head.”

“Next to him was his interpreter. The master signed behind closed doors. Photography was not allowed. Not for the fans and certainly not for journalists.”

The article then quotes someone as saying:

“If, however, someone pulls out a camera, the action is cancelled immediately.”

If someone even pulls out a camera, the event is cancelled and Toriyama leaves?!

My goodness, Toriyama-sensei.

The Lucky Winners

akira toriyama signature german book fair goku neko majin sand land

Image courtesy of German eBay

“’He is the one who gives me strength when I feel bad,’ says a proud autograph hunter in tears. The artist immortalized his signature on sturdy paperboard to which the characters of his manga were printed.”

It continues, “His interpreter sat down to help with the names of each of the respective fans. Everyone had to have a very special and very unique autograph at the end of the session.”

It seems that Toriyama made out unique signatures to each person’s name.

This one says “Patrick-kun” (Patorikku-kun):

akira toriyama signature german book fair goku neko majin sand land

And here’s Toriyama’s signature:

akira toriyama signature german book fair

The article continues, “She proudly carries her signed board in front of her as she walks out of the room.”

She says:

“I’ve already got a lot of autographs, but they are nothing compared to one from Akira Toriyama!

But there is another treat in store for fans.

Not just an autograph session, but a full interview!

Akira Toriyama Walks on Stage

Two hours later, Toriyama gives his public interview in a packed hall.

But it’s not your standard question and answer session.

Months before the event was scheduled to occur, Carlsen Comics created a large internet campaign for fans to send in their questions to Toriyama.

The article says, “10 pre-selected questions were provided. But first they had to be approved by the Japanese publisher and also by the master himself. If a question made him uncomfortable, then it had to be deleted from the interview.”

It states that, “Photographs were not admitted. The mangaka wants to lead a withdrawn life and remain undetected.”

“Toriyama’s audience had been prepared as a state visit. … The room is filled with those first in line. … The hall was only occupied by the absolute connoisseurs of this manga series.”

“Then he takes the stage and is greeted with a standing ovation.”

Akira Toriyama’s On Stage Interview

The fans sit back down and the interview begins.

Unfortunately there is no remaining transcript of this interview or the questions that were asked. However, the article does include a few of Toriyama’s comments.

When asked why manga is so popular, the article states, “He says that he hardly reads manga himself, so he can’t explain the success of Japanese manga worldwide.”

The article says his “agent” and discoverer, Kazuhiko Torishima explains, “Manga can be understood by everybody, that’s the secret of their success. A lot of the readers become mangaka themselves later on.”

Kazuhiko Torishima-san is the editor at Shueisha who gave Toriyama his big break. When Toriyama’s submission for the Monthly Young Jump Award contest did not receive a prize, Torishima-san recognized his talent and personally called Toriyama to tell him to keep trying. He asked Toriyama to send him his submissions directly, and after over 500 pages of submissions were rejected, Toriyama finally made his debut in 1978 with Wonder Island.

Torishima-san then became Toriyama’s full time editor at Shueisha and lifelong business associate and friend. Together they wrote Dr. Slump and most of Dragon Ball.

They are still close to one another, and he evidently joined Toriyama on this trip. However, he’s never been referred to as his agent before. So if that’s true, then this is new information. Perhaps he just served that role while he was there, or perhaps he really is?

The remaining questions asked to Toriyama were not recorded or are unknown.

Update: I have just heard from fans that the interview appears in Banzai! magazine, issue #6, 2004. Does anyone out there have a copy of the magazine? If so, please send me a picture of the interview!

Amazingly, while Toriyama is on stage he gives them yet another treat.

Akira Toriyama’s Drawing Course

akira toriyama germany leipzig book fair 2004

He delivers a live drawing course, filmed for the audience to see!

And it’s at this point when someone takes a picture of him (when they shouldn’t have!)

The article says, “It was an unprecedented event in the world. Even during his visit to New York, the shy manga artist only agreed to an interview on stage.”

Update: It is scheduled into the program as the “‘How To Draw’ with Akira Toriyama Session.” But it still comes as a shock to fans that it would happen at all.

“All these enthusiastic fans were waiting for this one thing: Akira Toriyama personally drew before their eyes a picture. Not just any picture. No. Of course, he was the hero of Dragon Ball – Son Gokū.”

“The camera focused on a sheet of paper on the screen, and you could see the black pen in Toriyama’s hand glide over the paper. And you LISTENED to hear the pen slide across the paper! The hall was dead silent. Everything looked like a magic spell on the canvas and sheet of paper. Until the figure finished.”

“In that moment Toriyama pulled out a note, unfolded it, and began to write.

(“For the children of Leipzig UK.”)

“The mangaka gave the drawing to the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Leipzig.”

“Thunderous applause.”

So Toriyama draws this picture of Gokū for the audience, signs it, and then donates it to the kid’s hospital?

Way to go, Toriyama!

“I Draw as the Mood Suits Me”

The article says, “The family man and creator of Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump, and Sand Land gets inspired by action movies, such as the ones from Jackie Chan. In his busy years he sometimes worked 23 hours a day!! But nowadays it’s less than that.

“I draw as the mood suits me,” he says. “I am a really, really lazy person.”

“And he now prefers to draw for himself and his kids. However, his pictures hang in the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.”

Dragon Ball Z as a Real Movie

dragon ball evolution justin chatwin

According to the article, “Soon the successful manga series “Dragon Ball Z” by Akira Toriyama will be realized as a real movie with real actors.”

“Toriyama confirmed for the first time in public on Sunday evening that the contracts have been signed and the screen play is currently being written. The filming plans had hitherto been denied. The movie will come out in 7 years at the earliest, because the screenplay author has to read all 42 volumes of the manga.”

It continues, “Toriyama wants to leave the production to the experts, but he has the rights to veto the character designs, such as for Gokū, Vegeta, Son Gohan, and Chichi.”


My Thoughts on Toriyama’s Picture

akira toriyama germany leipzig book fair 2004

That’s the whole event. Or all that remains of it, at least.

First let’s talk about this picture.

As someone who insists his photograph not be taken and his face be hidden in interviews, this picture of Akira Toriyama is an extremely rare find.

It’s like discovering Big Foot! Or J.D. Salinger!

(Salinger was another reclusive author who didn’t like to show his face)

Think about it. The last known photograph of Toriyama is the one taken during his trip to New York for the premiere of American Shonen Jump, published in issue #1 in January, 2003. And that was the first one seen in over 15 years.

This new one is the latest photograph we have of the man, dated March 28, 2004. It’s over 10 years old!

Here’s the strange part. Since taking photographs of Toriyama was forbidden, how was this picture taken? And how did I find it?

The image caption credits it to “Carlsen Verlag,” (i.e. Carlsen Comics) and can be seen on this article with a “last updated” time of April 1, 2004.

But if you look at the next archived version of the article on April 22, 2004, it’s gone!!

That most likely means that Shueisha requested the image to be removed after they saw it online.

Pretty crazy, right?

Carlsen Comics shouldn’t have taken the picture anyway, since they were told not to. But hey, they did, and now we have it. Once you put something on the internet, it stays there forever.

It also means that Carlsen Comics may still have the photograph or others like it from the event.

So everyone can update their Wiki pages and whatnot with this new photograph and information.

It may be the last photograph of Akira Toriyama we ever see.

But that’s okay, because think about it…

It’s a picture of Akira Toriyama drawing a picture of Son Gokū.

You can’t get much better than that.

Track Suit

You’ll see in the picture that he’s wearing a track suit.

Toriyama has also been seen wearing a track suit in a round table video interview for Battle of Gods, alongside Masako Nozawa, the voice of Gokū. Albeit with his face hidden.

In addition, he draws the Tori-bot wearing a tracksuit, as a representation of himself.

This makes me believe that this is the type of comfortable clothing that Toriyama likes to wear, even when he goes to public events like this.

In other words, this is the genuine Toriyama.

It also helps me understand why Gokū is wearing a track suit in Battle of Gods!

goku track suit dragon ball z battle of gods

My Thoughts on the DBZ Movie News

The shocking news here is about the live-action Dragon Ball film.

It says, “The movie will come out in 7 years at the earliest, because the screenplay author has to read all 42 volumes of the manga.”

This event occurred on March 28, 2004, and the Dragon Ball Evolution film was released on April 10, 2009. So it took 5 years for it to come out.

I’m not the fastest reader on earth, but I can’t imagine it taking 5 or 7 years to read all 42 volumes of the Dragon Ball manga.

However, given that the film was such poor quality, I wonder if they should have spent an extra 2 years reading the manga anyway. What do you think?

Next it says, “Toriyama wants to leave the production to the experts, but he has the rights to veto the character designs, such as for Gokū, Vegeta, Son Gohan, and Chichi.”

Toriyama has the veto rights?! What happened here? Who dropped the ball?!

Were his rights somehow removed? Was his approval circumvented by the producers at Fox? Or did he actually approve of their designs?

I cannot imagine Toriyama-sensei approving any of the designs.

I mean okay, maybe Gokū’s dōgi at the end of the film, but that’s it. The rest of the designs are so far off from the source material that I would think it’d make Toriyama cringe and shake his head in confusion.

So not only was this film at least 5 years in the making, but Toriyama was supposed to have oversight.

What went wrong? Still so many unanswered questions.

Call for Help

So that’s it. This event has been hidden for 10 years, but it has just been rediscovered.

However, it’s incomplete, and there’s only the photograph of Toriyama to show for it.

German readers, if you attended the event, can you provide more information or pictures?

Update: If you have Banzai! magazine, issue #6, 2004, please send me a picture of the interview. I’ll have someone translate it.

Please send it to me by either leaving a comment below, contacting me direct, or tweeting and Facebooking it to me.

Carlsen Comics, the German licensor of Dragon Ball, and the host of the event, may have more photographs or the full interview transcript. I’d love to know what the other questions were, along with his full answers. Can someone who speaks German please contact them?

Is there anyone who lives in Germany that can go to the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Leipzig and see if this drawing of Gokū is still there?

And special thanks to German DBZ fan Christian Rodríguez for helping me translate the articles. Check out his Facebook page if you’re a German speaking fan.

Thanks for reliving this moment in Dragon Ball history with me!

What do you think of this new Toriyama picture and about the movie?


Article 1 on mdr.de

Article 2 on mdr.de

Update – July 21, 2015

One of the rare signature cards from Toriyama’s trip to Germany has been posted on eBay.

It’s available for 15,000 euros ($16,500)! Interested?

20 responses to “Akira Toriyama’s Trip to Germany”

  1. Sūn Wùkōng says:

    lol, Toriyama likes to keep it Sūpā Ninja Shinobi ~

  2. ChahikoDBZ says:

    I’m just as confused as you are about the live action movie thing. Ugh.

  3. Crono A7X says:

    I covered the entire DB movie process and you’re wrong. The movie itself went through so many changes/crew.

    FOX got the rights in 2002.
    FUNimation was previously involved with a set movie release of 2003/2004
    Ben Ramsey made a script in 2004
    Movie was delayed until 2007 where production officially began

    • Crono A7X says:

      Not to mention Toriyama has stated after the movie’s release that he had no input at all, the crew dismissed his ideas.

      • DerekPadula says:

        Can you show me where Toriyama states this?

        I’ve been postponing my work on the history of Dragon Ball Evolution for a later book, but I’d like to gather as much research as I can on it. That quote would be useful.

        I don’t think it’s helpful to say “I’m right. You’re wrong.” What I did here was quote the German article, who presumably quoted Toriyama or the Shueisha staff.

        This article isn’t intended to be a thorough history of Dragon Ball Evolution’s origin. Just a snapshot of their perceptions of it at the time. Since this is what Toriyama himself said, I’m led to believe that this is how he understood it. Maybe he was misled or misinformed? That in itself is a story worth telling.

        Thank you.

        • Crono A7X says:

          Ill supply you with them later, but for now you can always check back on IGN’s and Hollywood reporters articles originated from 2002 onward.

  4. Caramelman says:

    Hi there,

    I still have the requested issue from BANZAI! at my parent’s house, so I don’t have access to it at the moment.
    But I have something else for you if you’re interested: the complete schedule of Toriyama’s visit at Leipzig Book Fair (in German):

    Samstag, 27. März

    10.00 – 11.00 Uhr: Losausgabe im Signierbereich

    11.30 Uhr: Verlosung am Schwarzen Sofa

    13.30 – 15.00 Uhr: Signierstunde mit den Gewinnern

    16.00 – 17.00 Uhr: Preisverleihung der Manga-Talente 2004 am Schwarzen Sofa

    17.00 – 18.00: Großes Interview mit Akira Toriyama on Stage in Saal 1

    Sonntag, 28. März

    13.00 – 14.00 Uhr: Losausgabe im Signierbereich

    12.00 – 13.00 Uhr: “How to Draw”-Aktion mit Akira Toriyama in Saal 1

    15.00 Uhr: Verlosung am Schwarzen Sofa

    16.00 – 17.30 Uhr: Signierstunde mit den Gewinnern

    I hope I can get back to you soon regarding the printed interview.



    • DerekPadula says:

      Thanks, Caramelman. I appreciate this schedule.

      What does “Losausgabe im Signierbereich” mean? Google Translate can’t translate it. Was that when they determined the lucky people who would receive signatures?

      Judging from this schedule, there were two groups of signature winners, with one group established each day, and then in the afternoon of each day Toriyama signed their stuff?

      Then on Saturday he did the interview and on Sunday he did the drawing demonstration?

      That would be great if you could get the interview. I’ll have someone I know translate it, unless you feel like translating it yourself. Either way, much appreciated!

      • Narutofreak1412 says:

        Hi, I also have the requested issue of Banzai, in fact I have all Banzai issues ever released in german, so if there’s another hidden toriyama gem in there, just tell me and I will check it out.

        Here’s a translation of the shedule:

        Saturday, 27th March

        10.00 – 11.00 Uhr: Giving out lots at the signing area

        11.30 Uhr: lottery at the black couch

        13.30 – 15.00 Uhr: signing with the lucky winners

        17.00 – 18.00: Big interview with Akira Toriyama on Stage

        Sunday, 28th March

        12.00 – 13.00 Uhr: “How to Draw”-event with Akira Toriyama

        13.00 – 14.00 Uhr: Giving out lots at the signing area

        15.00 Uhr: lottery at the black couch

        16.00 – 17.30 Uhr: signing with the lucky winners

  5. Marianne says:

    Hi Derek,

    Wow! Toriyama-sensei is indeed a private person. At the same time, not asking for a big publicity maybe one of his ways to keep himself humble. Providing those autographs and signatures to a few 200 people is a blessing! They don’t know the value of those signatures they held!

    By the way, if Carlsen Comics took that picture then removed it from their Web site, how did you get to save that picture and post it in your blog? What if Shueshia asked you to remove Toriyama’s pictures in this blog post?

    Was the guy who took Akira’s picture not found out? Is that the reason his visitation is not cancelled?



    • DerekPadula says:

      Yes, I agree that those signatures are valuable. But you know what’s crazy? In my research for this article I found a posting on a German forum where someone was trying to sell their signature on eBay after the conference. That kind of thing is upsetting to see.

      I’m not sure how they snuck the picture in, but they weren’t supposed to. I guess nobody noticed (or wanted to make a fuss about it). I found the picture on this archived version of the page:


      If Shueisha asked me to remove it, I would, because that would be an interesting story all by itself, haha.

      You’re welcome, Marianne.

      • Marianne says:

        Hi Derek,

        Selling the signatures on eBay? That’s dishonouring the amazing works and discounting the talents of the original artist! It’s such a shame. Those signatures are not only a blessing; they’re priceless (well for me, at least). Anyway, let’s not focus on that. Those sellers are doing it outside of their ethical boundaries.

        But thank you again for putting this article and for your awesome response! It’s an awe to know that a famous Japanese artist/writer such as Toriyama-sensei visited Germany almost a decade ago. Following the success and (hopefully, future successes of the 2015 Battle of Gods 2 next spring), here’s hoping he comes to U.S.A.



        • Sūn Wùkōng says:

          Derek’s about to interview Toriyama Sensei only a matter of time before Dragon Ball fans meet Tenka’ichi Budōkai style of no style ~

          • DerekPadula says:

            You’re talking a bit esoteric here, so I’m not sure if everyone will know what you mean, but I appreciate your continual optimism and confidence in me, Sūn!

        • DerekPadula says:

          That would be so exciting if he did. I’d fly to wherever Toriyama visited and be the first in line, even if I had to camp out overnight, haha.

  6. Yuki says:

    On Ebay Germany there is at this moment an autograph of Toriyama-sensei. It is one of this 2004 raffled autographed and it is claimed, that it layed for years in the closet. I think THAT is an act of dishonoring the work of Toriyama-sensei. So why not selling it on Ebay? For me this is absolutely reasonable. Now a real fan get’s his chance.

  7. Sūn Wùkōng says:

    Akira Toriyama is Family oriented these days, get outta here, troll. Omae Wa Mō Shindeiru

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