As a Dragon Ball fan, I’m always excited whenever something by Akira Toriyama in licensed in english. For such an influential creator, he doesn’t actually have that many series to his name, so it’s a treat whenever I get the chance to read anything new by him.
Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater is a collection of Toriyama’s one-shots and shorter works from the early part of his career. Presented in a beautiful, hardcover omnibus edition that includes all three of the original Manga Theater volumes, this collection provides an interesting look at this beloved creator’s journey as an artist.
Since Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater includes stories from a period spanning several years of Toriyama’s career, you can see a shift in his style of storytelling as you flip through the different works.
The first couple of stories in the book remind me a lot of Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama’s first major success. These works are all very random and filled with slapstick humor and gags on top of more gags. They are also extra light on story and can get a bit surreal in places, making them a bit hard to follow sometimes. This batch of stories comprises my least favourite section of the book, but there are still some fun moments and good jokes sprinkled in there.
As you make your way through the volume, the stories shift to being action comedies that are more in the vein of early Dragon Ball. There’s still a focus on humor, and all the stories are pretty light-hearted, but there’s more emphasis put on the action scenes and more of a traditional narrative, even if things remain quite silly. These stories were much more my jam.
Some of the works in this book are more entertaining than others, and not all of the jokes land or have necessarily aged well, but most of the stories got a chuckle or two out of me and featured some solid action sequences. It was also fascinating to see Toriyama playing around with ideas that he would return to in some of his more famous manga series. Capsule technology makes an appearance in a story that otherwise doesn’t seem to be connected to the Dragon Ball universe, and there’s also a work called Dragon Boy which felt a lot like a precursor to Dragon Ball. It includes a shapeshifting cat that looks a lot like Pu-er and even a character named Master Roshi (though he doesn’t look or act like the Master Roshi from Dragon Ball). Hilariously, I noticed that Toriyama seems to have a bad habit of recycling character designs, as there are at least three separate girls in this collection who are carbon copies of Bulma!
Overall, I liked most of the stories in the collection, but these were some of my favourites:
Pink – A young girl steals water shipments from corrupt business men during a severe drought, and then falls for the sheriff who’s been tasked with bringing her in.
Karamaru and the Perfect Day – A cute story about an earnest and kind ninja boy who inspires a crook to turn over a new leaf.
The Elder – A village elder who take’s his position way to seriously chases down and clobbers a man for littering. Turn’s out, this man was actually a nefarious spy who had plans to destroy the country!
In addition to the manga, Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater includes some short asides from Toriyama where he discusses his journey to becoming a manga artist and what he was thinking about when he wrote some of the pieces included in the book. There’s some interesting anecdotes in there and I wish there had been more of these included, especially for some of the works that had more than one chapter.
Overall, Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater is a fun collection with a lot to recommend it to Akira Toriyama fans, or to fans of older manga in general. Be sure to snap it up while you can!
Final Score: 8 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Viz Media’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Let me know which stories in the book were your favourites in the comments!
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