Akira Toriyama A Blerd Godfather

Akira Toriyama: A Blerd Godfather

1998

Tarboro, North Carolina

High School

One of my favorite stories about my life is the day I was faced with a crucial musical decision. September 29 is arguably the greatest album release date in hip-hop history. Jay-Z’s Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life, Brand Nubian’s Foundation, The Love Movement which at the time was promoted as the final album from A Tribe Called Quest, the Black Star album from Talib Kweli and Mos Def, and Outkast’s Aquemini all dropped on the same day. Five legendary LPs from 5 legendary acts in music. But the choice was which to buy.

So I did what any teenage hip-hop head with little to no income would do: bought two, stole two and left one on the shelf. If you have the privilege of knowing me personally, you can deduce which were which. That following weekend I went with a few of the homies to Durham to witness North Carolina Central destroy Elizabeth City State at the football game. Ended up leaving early.

We headed to South Square Mall to hit up the food court and to get a taste of what the Bull City had to offer in the “opposite-sex department”. After all attempts failed, we decided to do some last-minute shopping before the mall closed. Luckily for me, unlike the mall in my hometown, South Square had a Suncoast Video store. And thanks to my cousin who made me watch Ninja Scroll, Akira, and Fist Of The North Star in one sitting that same year, I headed straight for the anime section.

I didn’t have the same dilemma I had just a few days ago. My choices were clear. I got Ghost In The Shell, Street Fight II on VHS, and one other item. Something that I had yet to see anyone at my high school wearing: a Dragon Ball Z t-shirt with Goku in his Kaioken form on the front. I HAD to get it. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z was one of the best things I had ever seen. This little kid Goku had grown up to be this badass of a fighter and hero. The inspiration of being the best through hard work and love of your community was fueling for a young black kid already born with strikes against him in this country.

The next week, I waited until Friday to reveal the tee; only to be met with stares and laughter from classmates who looked like me. Only one kid who I barely knew gave me my props. Life of a blerd, am I right?

What I failed to understand at the time was the disconnect between black culture and nerd culture. I didn’t know that I was too nerdy for some of my black friends yet too black for some of my nerdy ones. Instead of being the bridge, I broke. I never wore that T-shirt to school again. But not even a few years later, that bridge that I should have fought to become manifested anyway. It was weird to me when the day came that one of the most hood guys from my neighborhood came over to borrow my VHS of Dragon Ball Z that started the Cell Saga. It was clear that DBZ was the catalyst that not only made black kids feel comfortable showing their nerdy side but also gained a sense of pride.

Today

Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, has passed away at the age of 68 due to a subdural hematoma. To say the stories and characters created in this series and all of its adaptions were impactful would be an understatement. Amongst all lovers and casuals of anime, the simplest method to spark discourse is to invoke the name of Toriyama’s main character: Goku. Depending on the environment you happen to be in, this may be a friendly conversation or an extremely heated debate.

In the Blerd community, Toriyama’s work has brought people together who under normal circumstances prior to his work would have been unlikely to find common ground. Dragon Ball has become the connection between the black child who has choir rehearsal and the black child who has football practice. The man and woman who both suffer from social anxiety found love in each other when they met in the manga section of the bookstore and broke the ice over Dragon Ball. Two black men: one on an 8-hour shift, the other doing an 8-year bid. When they get out, they can’t wait to catch up on Dragon Ball Super.

As we mourn the loss of a great creator in Japanese animation and literature, we must remember to keep his legacy alive. Read the mangas. Watch the episodes and movies. Play the video games. Buy the merchandise. And above all, put someone else on to this incredible world created by an incredible mind. You will be missed, sensei.

Arigato.

 

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Blerd Community Post Submitted by:

Chauncey "Nix" Dickens

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