Dragon Ball And Star Wars Share A Remarkable Connection

By Zack Zagranis | Published

dragon ball

Anime and manga fans received some sad news recently when Akira Toriyama—the creator who practically defined both mediums for the West—passed away on March 1, 2024. While the artist famously based his legendary Dragon Ball series on Journey to the West, some of his earlier work points to a more contemporary influence. Apparently, like everyone else in the late ’70s, Toriyama was blown away by the original Star Wars, so much so that he made a parody manga based on it.

Akira Toriyama Was A Huge Star Wars Fan

In 1978, only one year after the release of George Lucas’s game-changing blockbuster, Akira Toriyama created a short Star Wars parody manga titled Mysterious Rain Jack. The short parody was an example of a “Gag” manga—an overall humorous story that focuses on jokes over plot, many of them coming out of nowhere and defying logic. Think Airplane! or Mad Magazine, and you’ll get the idea.

References All Over Early Work

Mysterious Rain Jack does nothing to hide its influence. The title page includes caricatures of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker—his lightsaber now an umbrella—as well as R2D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader as police officers. The original manuscript was stolen long ago, and the images that still exist are all in Japanese (naturally). Nevertheless, it’s easy to see the beginnings of the trademark humor Toriyama would employ in his next manga, Dr. Slump, and later Dragon Ball.

Dr. Slump

Gags like one of the Bith from the Cantina Band reading the nightly news or a Jawa delivering mail to an igloo are right in line with the gags the creator would stick in his later works. Specifically, Toriyama’s pre-Dragon Ball ongoing series is Dr. Slump. Mysterious Rain Jack features the first appearance of Slump regulars Drop-Kun—a short police officer who wears a stormtrooper helmet—as well as Kurikinton Soramame and Thunder Ogre Goronbo.

No Hiding The Homage

Mysterious Rain Jack was only the start of Toriyama’s Star Wars obsession. His follow-up, the aforementioned Dr. Slump, would feature a ton of Star Wars references and gags. For instance, Arale, the main character of Dr. Slump, has a habit of dressing up as R2-D2 in both the manga and the anime.

More Star Wars References In Dragon Ball

Of course, we can’t forget Dragon Ball. Akira Toriyama stuffed several Star Wars references in both Dragon Ball, and the sequel series, Dragon Ball Z. These include the little R2-D2 that shows up in Bulma’s room during the Red Ribbon Army arc and the bacta tank-like apparatus that Goku and Vegeta both use to heal on the planet Namek.

Weekly Shonen Jump Tribute

Toriyama was such an open fan of Star Wars that in 1998, he was asked to draw a Star Wars tribute illustration for Weekly Shonen Jump to promote the then-upcoming release of The Phantom Menace. His delightful hand-drawn tribute to Episode I features an adorable Anakin drawn in the typical Dragon Ball style with a battle droid in the background. Despite drawing such a kawaii version of young Anakin Skywalker, the caption that accompanies the illustration expresses Toriyama’s disinterest in the pre-Sith Tyke.

Toriyama Loved Obi-Wan

general grievous

“Darth Vader appearing as a child doesn’t do much for me, (I’m only looking forward to Ewan McGregor).” reads part of the translated caption. Apparently Toriyama was ahead of the curve when it came to predicting what the one tolerable element of the prequels would be. Even the staunchest Star Wars prequel haters agree that Ewan was great as Obi-Wan.

Too bad we didn’t listen to the Dragon Ball creator before investing in all of that Jar Jar Binks merchandise.