As sad as the news of the passing of a grandmaster creator can be, it does come with the opportunity to appreciate the work they left behind for everyone to enjoy. Akira Toriyama’s death is no exception, shocking though it has been given he was still very active in his creative endeavors. The fate of the ongoing projects he left behind will now be the subject of speculation until we get confirmation on how they’ll move forward. But we can leave the future behind for a moment to focus on the great works he authored throughout his legendary career.

Fans of horror will be glad to know that one such work caters to their playfully dark tastes, with an all-ages flavoring to boot. It’s called COWA! and it’ll make even the most hardened reader crack a smile as its kid monsters try to save their village from a deadly virus.


Serialized in Shōnen Jump from 1997-1998, COWA! follows a half-vampire boy called Paifu, a shapeshifting ghost called José Rodríguez, and a monster boy called Arpon as they go on a journey to find a cure for a Monster Flu that can kill creatures within a month of contracting it. They meet a few humans along the way with their own backstories and personalities that help out as best they can. One highlight is a big man called Maruyama, a sumo wrestler that even monsters avoid due to rumors of violence. While he does have a dark past that builds up the myth surrounding him, Toriyama portrays him as a gentle giant that’s so compelling you’ll want to see more of him as the story unfolds.

Taking in the world Toriyama built for COWA! is a treat. For instance, Paifu lives in a giant jack-o’-lantern with his mom, who offers him fresh blood for supper after he brings back a watermelon for later; he has to go to Batwing Ridge school at night because human kids go during the day to avoid being scared by the monsters; and the playground games he plays with José are all about angels chasing monsters. They even view churches as haunted houses.

It’s all just wonderfully conceived. Toriyama captures the same magic that made The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Nickelodeon’s AAAHH!!! Real Monsters (1994) such fan favorites. The world, the characters, everything carries an infectious energy that’s always inviting. It also carries the same kinetic force that made Dragon Ball jump out of the page, with action sequences a panel away from animation. And then you have the book’s willingness to tinker with tones to go deeper into characters. Toriyama’s unique storytelling skills are on full display here, further proving how profound his influence is.

VIZ Media released the full 14 chapters of COWA! in a single volume in 2008 for English readers. You can also read the first three chapters for free on their Shōnen Jump app (or purchase the entire collection via the VIZ website). There’s no better way to honor the memory of a creator than through their work. So pick up a copy of COWA!, in any format, and dive into the imagination of Akira Toriyama.