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
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
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
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
“’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):
And here’s Toriyama’s signature:
The article continues, “She proudly carries her signed board in front of her as she walks out of the room.”
“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
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.
“FÜR LEIPZIG UK, FÜR KINDER”
(“For the children of Leipzig UK.”)
“The mangaka gave the drawing to the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Leipzig.”
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?