Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama has many skills. His character designs and the tropes he developed throughout his signature manga have gone on to influence entire generations of fans and creators. There is a reason why Dragon Ball continues to get movies and series so long after the original series’ ending in the mid-90s.
However, there is something else about Akira Toriyama that people might not realise: he is notoriously forgetful and lazy when it comes to his creations. In an effort to keep up with the intense schedule that comes from creating a serialised manga like Dragon Ball, the famous artist often took to cutting corners and occasionally just forgot major plot points.
It is important to note that none of this is meant as a dig at Toriyama or Dragon Ball. In fact, I find it heartening to see that even one of the most famous creators in manga history was making it up the same as me. If he can do it, so can the rest of us, right?
Super Saiyan hair
It is one of the most iconic moments in anime history. Goku, enraged at the death of his best friend at the hands of the intergalactic real estate developer Frieza, suddenly transforms into the legendary Super Saiyan we’d heard Vegeta claim to be throughout his ill-fated fight. Goku’s hair stands straight up, his demeanour changes, and his aura has a brighter glow to it. And lets not forget his hair and eyebrows turning a bright yellow colour.
Except, in the original manga, Goku’s hair doesn’t turn yellow. It simply becomes negative space on the page. Akira Toriyama created Goku with black hair but it became increasingly tiresome to ink all that space on every panel. Now with the hero’s hair stood up, there was even more of it, so he decided his hair should change colour so he wouldn’t have to ink it anymore. One of the most parodied tropes in anime history was created simply to save the artist time on each panel.
The Saiyan tail is a pretty big lot point through the first part of Dragon Ball and even through the fight against Vegeta on Earth. His transformation into Ozaru form is the first hint that we have that something might not be totally normal about Goku early in the series. However, by the time the team reaches Namek, their tails have apparently stopped growing back. In fact, Goten and Trunks are never seen with a tail, despite being just as much Saiyan as Gohan, whose tail grows back at least once during the series.
So what happen? Well, it turns out that Akira Toriyama hated drawing the tails from early on in the series. With Goku, he got tired of trying to figure out where it should go and how it should be positioned in a scene. By the time of the Saiyan saga, he suddenly had four more tails to draw in various scenes. To get around this, Nappa and Vegeta keep their tails tucked around their waist like belt most of the time, but even that grew too troublesome.
By the time Trunks and Goten come into the scene, they never have tails. Akira Toriyama would later claim that tails are a recessive genetic trait, meaning that the two were never born with tails, but it is far more likely he just didn’t feel like drawing them anymore. And, honestly, I don’t blame him.
Making up the Cell Saga
One thing that Akira Toriyama is famous for is his tendency to not plan further than a few chapters ahead in the story. This is never clearer than in the Android Saga. When Trunks appears and has a grim warning from the future, the team spends the next two years training (and learning to drive) to get ready for this new threat. The two that show up, however, aren’t the threat Trunks spoke about. Dr. Gero’s head in a jar and the creepy mime-bot were new information to the teen. So what happened?
Well, in the universe, Trunks travelling back in time caused issues with the timeline. However, what really happened is Akira Toriyama’s editor looked at the designs for the androids and hated them but it was too late to change the chapters that were already done. So they ran with it but Androids 16, 17, and 18 were designed and introduced. This still wasn’t what the editor was looking for, so Toriyama created Cell.
Even Cell’s many forms were a result of editorial meddling. The result, of course, was the Cell Games and one of the most emotionally satisfying moments in the series, but none of it was intended when the story began. The reason why that whole series of events feels like a strange sequence of enemies and new threats is because, well, it was.
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