Have you ever wondered what led to the creation of your favorite TV series? Sometimes it’s planning, sometimes divine intervention, sometimes luck. The idea of Harry Potter came to the author J.K. Rowling when she was traveling on a train. Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse after his original creation — Oswald the lucky rabbit — was stolen right from under his nose. Yu-Gi-Oh! It began as a horror manga, which turned into a fighting card manga after three chapters of the series attracted the attention of readers who wanted to know the name of this card game played by the characters.
Similarly, the creation of Dragon Ball is the result of circumstances that managed to come together in a very specific way. As in the other examples just mentioned, the circumstances were unusual and interesting. What’s even crazier is that if it wasn’t for one thing, it’s safe to say that from the very beginning there would never have been a Dragon Pearl, and the world would have missed one of the greatest series ever created.
Before Dragon Ball was created, Akira Toriyama was already a recognized manga author. Moreover, he was not just a recognized artist, he was currently working on a popular TV series called “Doctor Slump”, a series in which a lonely doctor creates robot children for himself, and then has to live with the consequences of creating an artificial life that does not exist. I don’t know how the world works. The series turned out to be funny, witty and loved by readers. It received an anime that was not exactly a phenomenon, but received decent ratings and fell in love with the public. Everyone was happy… except Toriyama himself.
Despite his success with Doctor Slamp, the task of coming up with enough pressure gauges to fill a weekly manga was becoming a difficult task, and he was disappointed by the limited scope of the humorous manga. He wanted to write something more meaningful, and he felt that he could not do it with Dr. Slump. He went to his editor Weekly Shonen Jump and asked if he could put an end to “Dr. Slump” and work on something else. His editor, oddly enough, agreed, but on one condition: he could only end it if he came up with an idea more interesting than Dr. Slump.
Come up with an idea
Toriyama was happy to get out of his current series, but he still had the problem that he didn’t have a replacement for Dr. Slamp. So he invited his editor to come to his house to discuss ideas for a future series. The editor came to his house, the two men smoked, talked and brainstormed. They did it for several hours every week and nothing came out of the project.
It seemed that there would be no breakthrough, and the men were ready to put an end to it. Dr. Slump would have continued, Toriyama would have just had to put up with it and figure out what other jokes to write, and the world would never have received the “Dragon Pearl”. Then inspiration came from an unexpected source.
A careless comment changes everything
Before abandoning the entire project, Toriyama’s editor came to his house for one more night in a last-ditch attempt to come up with an idea. The two men brainstormed for several hours, and they had nothing to show at the time. They were about to give up when Toriyama’s wife came into the room with tea for two men and made a casual remark that could have been divine: she heard the sounds of blows and screams coming from the living room, because Toriyama liked to watch martial arts movies while he was drawing Dr. Slamp.
This led to the moment of insight they were both waiting for: Toriyama’s editor realized that if Toriyama liked martial arts, then his next manga would be a martial arts series with hints of comedy. To test the idea, they developed a two-chapter manga called Dragon Boy. The title was based on the story “Journey to the West” and revolved around a boy going on a quest to return to the princess in her home in the Land of Flowers. The Dragon Pearl does appear, but unlike the Dragon Pearl, it has summoned a small useless dragon that does almost nothing.
When the story was published, it was well received by readers, and the two men knew that they had something great in their hands. After a few more tweaks and defining the ending for “Dr. Slamp,” “Dragon Pearl” was first shown in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1984 and instantly became a hit that changed the world of manga and anime forever.
Listen to your wife
The words of wisdom that would be most wise to lead is “listen to your wife.” What they say usually turns out to be a good idea, and in Akira Toriyama’s case, it changed lives.