Powerful little boy with a monkey tail, kung fu fights and schoolboy humor: the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama has won millions of fans and helped to popularize Japanese manga and cartoons abroad. After the death of its author at the age of 68, announced on Friday, here are four things to know about this series which touched generations of fans.

Also read: “Dragon Ball” creator Akira Toriyama dies at 68

The Dragon Ball manga recounting the adventures of Son Goku and his friends, initially published between 1984 and 1995 in the weekly Shonen Jump, has sold more than 260 million copies worldwide, according to the specialist site Mangazenkan. “In terms of popularity abroad, Dragon Ball has been by far the best, even among all Japanese content known to be popular on a global scale,” said journalist Tadashi Sudo, interviewed by AFP. Loosely inspired by the 16th century Chinese novel The Journey to the West, the series combines martial arts, effective storytelling and schoolboy humor.

“Dragon Ball is universally popular around the world, regardless of nationality, from North America to Europe and from South America to China and Southeast Asia,” notes Tadashi Sudo . Part of its appeal, he says, is that the action could take place anywhere. “It’s not like the show is obviously set in a particular region of the planet, like Japan or the United States. On the one hand, it seems familiar and we can identify with it, but on the other, it also gives this feeling of strangeness,” he adds.

Adapted into cartoons, animated films or with actors, video games, collectible cards and numerous derivative products, the work has extended into other variations, such as the animated series Dragon Ball Z launched in 1989 and which caused the popularity of the series to explode, or the manga Dragon Ball Super published from 2015. However, not all of these iterations were crowned with success: the American film Dragonball Evolution, a live action adaptation released in 2009, flopped at the box office and attracted derogatory reviews, prompting the author of the screenplay to apologize years later. As for the numerous video game adaptations (more than 70 since the 1980s), they have often been botched by publishers eager to exploit the (very expensive) license. Only a few fighting titles survive like Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi or the more recent Dragon Ball Fighter Z.

Dragon Ball contributed to the popularity of manga and Japanese animation abroad and particularly in France, where the cartoon adaptation – partially censored – was broadcast on television from 1988. However, it caused a certain number of controversies in the 1980s-1990s, criticized like other Japanese works for its violence, nudity or the penchant of certain characters for women’s panties, and even being accused of inciting pedophilia.