Classic Art from Dragon Quest

Akira Toriyama's brilliant illustrations for the hit video games are collected in this definitive edition.

By David Brothers December 12, 2018

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Akira Toriyama is a legend. That’s really the only way to describe him. Some people find great success in one field—so-and-so is a great mangaka, this person is a great director, this other person is a great novelist. Toriyama found success in manga early on, creating works like Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball that made him popular all over the world. After those series ran their course, he kept going, blazing new artistic trails with standalone tales like Cowa! or Sandland. If you go by his work in manga alone, Toriyama is an icon. Of course…that’s not all.

Dragon Quest is the quintessential Japanese Role-Playing Game. If Toriyama is an iconic mangaka, someone who brings something special to the table every time he picks up a pen, then Dragon Quest is an iconic RPG. Beloved worldwide, but most especially in Japan, this series has everything you love about RPGs executed in a comfortable and appealing way. In a lot of ways, the eleven main entries in the Dragon Quest franchise provide an unbeatable and fundamental RPG experience, and a big part of that is due to Akira Toriyama.

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As you can see in Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition, available now, Akira Toriyama has a long and storied history with the fantasy RPG series. He started as character designer on the original Dragon Quest back in 1986. At the time, the Dragon Ball manga was fresh, just a couple of years old, and the television adaptation of Dr. Slump, his prior hit series, was on the way out. This was before the Saiyans, before the Cell Games, before almost everything that made Toriyama a household name. Enix, the publisher at the time, and Toriyama’s editors trusted him to help the new franchise make an impact on the market, and their trust was absolutely not misplaced.

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A lot of what makes Toriyama’s art style so exciting in manga is also true of his character design work for the Dragon Quest franchise. Toriyama knows how to build heroes and heroines that look powerful, but cool, too. It isn’t just bulging muscles and a shiny sword with Toriyama. There’s personality in the faces, a down-to-earth attitude in their posture, and a simplicity to their fashion that hints at Toriyama’s heroes being pure, innocent stalwarts of truth and justice. Put differently, they “look determined without being ruthless.” They’re heroes you can believe in and look up to.

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The monster design is where Toriyama really gets to let loose, though. Dragon Quest is full of great creatures based on Toriyama’s designs, from giant mohawked tigers to goofy dragons to the iconic slimes that lurk within every Dragon Quest. Multi-armed lions, shoe-wearing bugs, living statues, minotaurs of dubious physical fitness, and goofy, ugly sages abound, resulting in an in-game ecosystem that’s as diverse and colorful as the real world, if not even more so.

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Toriyama has over thirty years of work with the Dragon Quest series, now published by Square-Enix. Dragon Quest Illustrations 30th Anniversary Edition is a celebration of that work, featuring hundreds of drawings never seen here in the United States that demonstrate the thought and care he puts into his work. It isn’t just about a cool drawing—it’s about a cool drawing that fits into a cool world in a cool way. Toriyama nails it every time out of the gate, and Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition is proof.

Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition is available in stores and online now. See more.