I'm so happy for Akira Toriyama right now. The man behind Dragon Ball Z and the art of wonderful RPGs like Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger has spent decades drawing cartoony fantasy and sci-fi heroes instead of putting all of his time and passion into sketching his true love: cars. During today's Summer Game Fest stream, Bandai Namco revealed a new game, Sand Land, that puts Toriyama's cute, bubbly trucks, tanks, and buggies front and center.
Sand Land is based on a lesser-known comic by Toriyama from the year 2000, a short story he did a few years after finishing with Dragon Ball (the manga, anyway). Here's the pitch from the official site: "Dive into a desert world where both humans and demons suffer from an extreme water shortage. Play as and watch the Fiend Prince, Beelzebub, Sheriff Rao and demon Thief set off on an adventure in search of a Legendary Fountain hidden in the desert."
Sand Land is kinda like Mad Max with cuter vehicles, and this bit from the official site rightly puts the emphasis where it should be: "Use your tact and imagination to develop tanks and other vehicles for your adventures utilizing a wide array of part combinations. Build up your base of operations into a thriving city with the help of the people you meet along the way in the vast desert."
Customizable Akira Toriyama tanks, please and thank you 🙏.
If you've only ever watched the Dragon Ball anime or played Dragon Quest, you probably haven't picked up on quite what a car fiend he is. Or really a vehicle fiend: trucks, scooters, bikes, Toriyama just loves to draw anything with a motor. Practically every issue cover of the manga has Goku or one of his pals hanging out in some ridiculously detailed ride. Goku really has no good reason to drive around in a Volkwagen Beetle, but clearly Toriyama just really wanted to draw a Volkswagen and nobody was gonna tell him no.
A handful of my favorite examples:
Those are just covers—Toriyama's also done countless sketches and manga panels with as much attention (okay, probably more) paid to the vehicles than the characters in them. Even before Dragon Ball Toriyama was clearly a big fan of vehicles, as laid out in this great history of his mechanical designs. But his work on the vehicles in Sand Land has a pretty funny (though also kinda sad?) story behind it. One of Toriyama's great quotes:
"This was supposed to be a short, simple manga about an old man and a tank which I made for my own personal enjoyment. But the tank was harder to draw than I expected, and I stubbornly insisted on drawing it all myself, so I came to regret ever getting involved with it. But the story was already plotted out to the end, so I couldn’t change anything, and I went through hell drawing the whole thing."
It's rough being dedicated to your work, huh? Hopefully he had more fun working with Bandai Namco on the game adaptation. We don't have a release date, but I hope Bandai Namco's savvy enough to already have an art book full of mechanical designs lined up to release alongside Sand Land whenever it's out.
Here's a few more of my favorites from Dragon Ball pulled from this collection, because I just can't resist: