The theatrical program available for sale (¥700) along with the new film Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods contains a series of comments from original manga author Akira Toriyama. It appears to be an expanded version of the selection available in previous marketing materials, but now with a fun twist: very direct thoughts on the American live-action movie, Dragon Ball Evolution. If the Battle of Gods theatrical program comments were not enough, a recent interview with Akira Toriyama via Asahi Shimbun Digital removes any question at all.
It might be worth setting the stage. The theatrical program for Dragon Ball Evolution back in 2009 also contained a message from Akira Toriyama, who was at the time looking forward to the film:
As the creator, as far as the scenario and characterization are concerned, I get a feeling of “Whaa?”, but the director, everyone in the cast, and the crew on-set are ultra high-caliber.
Maybe it’s correct for both me and all the fans to appreciate this as a “new Dragon Ball” in a separate dimension.
With the power on-set, perhaps it will even have become a great masterpiece!
I am greatly anticipating it!!
In a more-recent Q&A with Mandō Kobayashi, he describes it as tondemonaku sugoi in Japanese, which does not necessarily have a positive connotation. It could be read as “incredibly amazing”, or “unthinkably terrible”. Toriyama was obviously playing with the ambiguity inherent in the phrasing, but he apparently meant the latter judging by new comments (see below).
Toriyama’s new, full-length comments from the Battle of Gods theatrical program read (bolded emphasis our own):
Apparently, it’s been 17 whole years since the last animated Dragon Ball movie! To be able to have a new work made after so many years and months have passed, I have to thank all the people who have given their support. For all the animation up to now, I’ve basically just left everything up [to the staff], so this is my first try at being involved starting from the story’s creation. At any rate, it was quite a long time ago that I drew Dragon Ball, so I had to start by working to remember it. I pulled out the comics [i.e., the tankōbon] of my own work, which it’s fair to say I never look at; and as I flipped through it, even though I’ve gotten older, as you’d expect of the original creator, I was quickly able to recapture the feeling from back then. The keywords this time, “God of Destruction Beerus” and “Super Saiyan God”, were suggestions from the scriptwriter, but they were good ideas for presenting a crisis for the main characters, who had grown so strong that they’d reached a point where there was nothing higher. I borrowed these ideas, and after first deciding on Beerus’ character design and background, I tried thinking up an original story, imagining it as though [the manga’s] serialization had continued. The God of Destruction Beerus, who I drew the design for myself (something I don’t usually do), is a terrifying opponent so overwhelmingly strong that he surpasses the dimension of the previous enemies. But it’s my trademark to not let things get too dark. At the very least, I’m satisfied that it’s been finished up as a very entertaining piece of work.
By the way, the battle scenes in the second half are particularly overwhelming! I was moved because the presentation exceeded my expectations. While I had expected, “It probably won’t be any good,” it was greatly different from a certain country’s live-action movie, which really was no good. Just as you’d expect, Japan’s animation is superb! Everyone on the staff, you really did a great job!!
Well, please enjoy the first Dragon Ball in a long time!
Going even further than that, Toriyama states during his interview with Asahi Shimbun Digital (which we have also translated in its entirety):
Also, at the time of the Hollywood movie, the live-action Dragon Ball, the script had too little of a grasp on the world and its characteristics, and on top of that, it had a conventional content that I couldn’t find interesting, so I cautioned them, and suggested changes; but in spite of that, they seemed to have a strange confidence, and didn’t really listen to me. What came out in the end was a movie I couldn’t really call a Dragon Ball that lived up to my expectations.
That being the case, there were parts where I wanted to show some spine, with a world and story only the creator could draw.
It is uncharacteristic for Toriyama — or even manga authors in a larger, general sense — to dish out such direct, unambiguous, negative opinions about materials adapted from their work. For all the claims about what Toriyama has supposedly said about certain products (particularly Dragon Ball GT, which you can also read for yourself in some of our other translation work), at least this one about Evolution is real!
Beyond just the Evolution snub, be sure to read the full Asahi Shimbun Digital interview for wonderful insight into the tonal shifts over the course of the manga, what separates Dragon Ball from other series in its own author’s mind, and the global appeal of the entire franchise.