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Buzzfeed Japan writer Tsunehiko Nishimaki recently interviewed an unnamed editor at Shueisha regarding the new digital spin-off manga, “Dragon Ball Side-Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha” by Dragon Garow Lee. In the interview, the editor discusses the overwhelming success of the new spin-off, the difficulties of lining things up with production on the Dragon Ball Super television series, and the surprisingly easy process of receiving approval from original manga author Akira Toriyama.
What if a Dragon Ball-loving boy was reincarnated as Yamcha—a manga depicting this Dragon Ball “what-if” scenario has gotten a big reaction.
The title is “Dragon Ball Side-Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha”.
The first chapter of this one-shot was released on Shueisha’s web manga magazine Shonen Jump+.
It’s the story of an ordinary boy who, due to an unfortunate accident, is reincarnated as Yamcha back when Goku was a boy.
The protagonist knows how the story plays out afterwards, and does his best to change the future where Yamcha dies from the Saibaiman’s self-destructing.
Immediately after being released it garnered a lot of attention, with a big response on Twitter: “every time I read it I burst out laughing”, “Yamcha’s not jobbing anymore! I’m excited for him!”, “It sounded like a fanfiction plot, but it’s on Jump+? Lol”, etc.
We asked the editor at Shueisha how “Reincarnated as Yamcha” was born.
–How was “Dragon Ball Side-Story: The Case of Being Reincarnated as Yamcha” planned out?
It started with some stupid talk while we were out drinking.
All of us at the editorial department were out drinking, and we started talking about what it would be like if Jump did a “reincarnated in another world” story ala a [Shōsetsuka ni] Narō novel. At that point we got excited over the idea of doing something like that with the Dragon Ball world.
We figured it would be good to take the weakest character and turn the tables. He’s not a Saiyan, doesn’t have a spouse or lover, fades out quicker than the other Earthlings, dies pathetically… etc. So the frisson created by making him the protagonist seemed interesting.
–Did you consider anyone else besides Yamcha?
There was also an idea about having Kuririn in a loop.
–What was Toriyama-sensei‘s response?
We consulted with him during the planning stages. We thought he was going to veto it, but he very generously gave his consent.
We also showed him the storyboards, and he gave ideas for improving it. He said the completed manuscript was funny, which made me very happy.
–What sort of improvements did Toriyama suggest?
He said the protagonist should die in a funny way, and also outlined the protagonist’s personality; pointers like that on how to make it easier for readers to get into the story.
–Was it tough getting it out the door?
Not particularly. Even Toriyama-sensei gave his ready consent.
However, midway through writing it we found out that the TV anime Dragon Ball Super was also having a Yamcha episode, so it was difficult timing the two to line up.
–The artist had previously gotten attention for posting parody manga on Pixiv about Vegeta coming to Earth as a baby instead of Goku, and things like that. Did Shueisha head-hunt him?
There were some staff at the editorial department who followed Dragon Garow Lee’s work, and brought him to our attention.
Afterwards we contacted him on Twitter, and he agreed to draw the outline we sent to him.
–What do you think of the big response it got on the net?
Frankly, I was surprised that there was so much of a response… It was funny, because on Twitter and places like that, some people couldn’t believe it was official.
It probably also helped that we synched up our timing with the anime.
Also, I guess you could say that on the net there’s a subculture around having fun with Yamcha… I think Yamcha is well-loved.
–How widely read was it?
Over twice as much as an ordinary one-shot; compared with the other manga running alongside it, it was #1 by far for that week.
–Will you run side-stories for any other series besides Dragon Ball?
It’s possible. Naruto or something like that might be good. But before that, we’re going to do our best to deliver the rest of the “Yamcha” story to all our readers.
With last month’s debut chapter, Dragon Garow Lee had hoped to, “…have the next installment out by next month”. The series is available for free in Japanese on Shueisha’s Shōnen Jump+ digital platform.