SHONEN JUMP: Your first manga, Dr. Slump, is being published in English — what is your message for English-language fans who have read Dragon Ball but not Dr. Slump — what should they expect?
AKIRA TORIYAMA: You’re really doing Dr. Slump? It’s so Japanese, I wonder if some of the jokes will translate. And it’s such a silly manga, but I love creating silly manga. That’s my specialty. Please read it.
What techniques or programs do you use for your computer coloring of your recent color art?
Originally the reason I started doing computer graphics was that I’d just gotten fed up with the process of coloring with ink, so I started using the P.C. This was before it was standard to do so. I thought it was fun. It’s difficult to get the subtleties in color, but I no longer wanted to color without the PC. It’s not messy. I use Photoshop, but a very old version of Photoshop, version three. If I have time, I also use a program called Painter.
The Dragon Ball characters have been adapted into video games, using 3D art. Do you have any interest in using 3D art in your manga? What do you think of cel-shading?
Yes, I am interested, and I’d love to try it, but at my age it would be difficult to try and learn it. So I’m thinking if my kids learn it, they could teach me. And yes, if you’re striving to have a manga quality in the animation, then cel-shading is the way to go.
Have you ever worked directly on animation?
I have wanted to, but the work level seems huge, so I haven’t. I can see that writing a story for animation looks like a lot of fun, but not drawing the individual animation cels. I certainly can draw as well as the animators.
In the past few years you’ve done some short stories for Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan, including some with the character Nekomajin — can you explain his origin?
I have a cat, and I use my cat as a model. I thought of the character Kuririn from Dragon Ball, and then I further added comical elements.
Do you own a lot of pets?
Yes, including lots of fish and turtles.
Today, when you draw a short-story manga, do you draw it all in a few days in one intensive burst of energy — like when you were doing a weekly manga — or do you draw it more leisurely and slowly, a few hours a day or less, over a longer period of time?
I really want to work on it a lot at the time, and I try, but for some reason my arm just doesn’t work until it’s three days prior to a deadline. And I always regret it every single time. My hand starts to ache, and I’m not able to sleep — I just stay up all night.
When you drew a children’s book, Toccio the Angel, did you think of your own children’s taste?
I actually started it a long time ago, so in the beginning, yes, I had my kids in mind. But I took so long to finish it, that by the time I did, my kids were all grown up, already in junior high school, and weren’t interested in that sort of thing anymore. And as I was drawing, I started integrating things that I like, such as animals.
If Dragon Ball‘s Goku had not been part monkey, is there another animal that you would have used to create your main character?
I didn’t actually intend Goku to be based on an animal, per se. In the beginning he was just a human being, but I was told by my editor at the time that he didn’t looking appealing or make a strong impression. I sort of wanted an ordinary person, but it wasn’t approved, so I gave him a tail.
In the beginning of Dragon Ball, there are many animal-headed people — panda people, crocodile people, cow people, cat people, etc. — in the backgrounds. But, by the end of the series, there are almost no animal-headed people. Was this a result of the increasing “seriousness” of the story?
It could be the seriousness, but it’s probably that I’d forgotten by the end to include them. In the beginning I was still working under the after-effects of Dr. Slump.
Several readers have asked if Namekians are plants. Of course, based on their names, they seem to be slugs… but they are green, they have a strange method of reproduction, and they live on water.
That’s a tough question. I thought of Piccolo first, and I wanted to draw him as a scary character, and it was only afterwards that I had to come up with his species. Since they have antennae, I thought they looks like slugs. So “Namekian” is a play on words, but I didn’t think too deeply about it. [The word for “slug” in Japanese is “namekuji.”] I don’t think they’re plants, but they may be hermaphrodites.