“Dragon Ball Movie Frontline”, chasing Dragon Ball Super movie information, stirs! For the first round, we clash with the head of Shueisha’s Dragon Ball Room1, Akio Iyoku!
The Dragon Ball Super movie opens 14 December 2018. Starting now, every Sunday at 9:00 a.m., in order to provide some excitement in place of the television series, under the title of “Dragon Ball Movie Frontline” (DBMFL), we will have information, staff and cast interviews, and behind-the-scenes on the production of the latest movie, as well as introductions about the movies that have been released up till now.
For the first round, it’s the man who holds everything for the Dragon Ball Super movie?! We’ll have Akio Iyoku, head of Shueisha’s Dragon Ball Room, tell his story.
How the Dragon Ball Super movie was planned, and then the conversation expands to the appeal of Dragon Ball as drawn by Akira Toriyama-sensei…?! Now then, please take a look!
Head, Shueisha Dragon Ball Room: Akio Iyoku
The head who holds together the Dragon Ball Room, which was started up in 2016. He currently holds this role alongside his position as editor-in-chief of V-Jump. Well-known to V-Jump readers as “King Iyoku”.
■ What was the start of the project?
The new Dragon Ball Super movie was announced at last December’s Jump Festa 2018; how has the response been?
With regards to the movie announcement, we hadn’t given any prior notice, so the most common response was one of surprise. We had decided to do this movie as Dragon Ball Super, so there was a feeling that we should make an announcement before the last episode of the television series, but I think it’s because it was unexpected that we were able to get a positive impression from everyone.
Please tell us how you ended up producing the new movie.
In 2016, Shueisha established a division called the “Dragon Ball Room”, which set the stage for thinking about future developments for Dragon Ball as a franchise. I’m grateful to my senior editors who helped craft the original Dragon Ball comic, which is the basis for the various developments up to now. It’s truly precious to have it remain as a title after so many years, even from a global perspective. We can’t very well have Dragon Ball, which has continued up to now thanks to my predecessors, end with Dragon Ball Super. Everyone involved on the staff was in agreement in wanting to continue the movies in order to keep the connection to Dragon Ball from here on out.
Certainly, Dragon Ball has been popular for more than 30 years.
But when the Dragon Ball Room was formed, here’s what I thought: Up till now, it’s spread because of the power of the work that is Dragon Ball itself, but in the future, we musn’t rely solely on that; we have to proactively appeal to new fans — that’s how I felt. I also had another thought, which was that Dragon Ball is the work of Toriyama-sensei, so we need to continue having him involved up ahead. No matter how much we say, “We want to make a movie,” if Toriyama-sensei says “No,” it ends there… Well, hypothetically speaking; that’s not to say that Toriyama-sensei doesn’t want to do it. (laughs)
We’ve heard that Toriyama-sensei will be involved with this new movie as well.
Yes. As with the previous outing, Resurrection ‘F’, we had Toriyama-sensei write the scenario for the new movie. In the Dragon Ball Super television series, Toriyama-sensei plotted the main story, and I feel that it’s important to maintain the arrangement of creating it alongside Toriyama-sensei from here on out.
■ The new movie’s scenario, penned by Toriyama-sensei!
What sort of rapport did you have with Toriyama-sensei as he drafted the scenario?
We kept close contact, mainly through e-mail, and meeting directly once every two months or so, as he made it for us. First, around the spring of 2017, we presented Toriyama-sensei with several different story suggestions for the new movie. I believe there were also suggestions that weren’t in his strike zone at all, but using what we threw his way as a reference, we got him to come up with the story. Once it was set that we would be doing a story involving the Saiyans, it was quick. Compared to the continuous, long story of the television series, if you have a two-hour movie, it’s easy to come up with a story that’s set up and resolved in two hours, so it might have been easy from Toriyama-sensei’s standpoint as well.
When was the scenario finished?
I think it was around May of last year. The scenario we received at first, Toriyama-sensei himself said, “I think it might be a bit short…?”… And so from there we added several plot points. And then it ended up being unexpectedly long. (laughs) Now, we’re at the point where Toei Animation is expertly pulling it all together. (laughs)
Even as a fan, it raises the sense of anticipation to hear about Toriyama-sensei’s scenario.
I believe it’s an absolute given that Toriyama-sensei has to be involved with Dragon Ball. Everyone knows the characters in Dragon Ball, so the truth is, if you want to make those characters move and create a story, I think it’s possible. But there’s a way of tweaking the characters and a unique style of delivery that’s impossible for anyone but Toriyama-sensei himself. There are “full-body gags” that hit with a timing that nobody expects. And those full-force gags connect, too. (laughs) In terms of the fights as well, if you leave it to someone else it always ends up becoming serious and gruesome. Dragon Ball really isn’t that kind of world, and I think it’s because the characters have their appeal that we can identify with them when they fight, and root for them.
What part of Toriyama-sensei does that appeal of the story come from?
What I’ve felt through having worked all this time with him is that Toriyama-sensei never gets too serious, in a good way. There’s a “lightness” to it that’s not about building and building upon things like established settings and logic. That’s something no one else can bring out. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to create without building upon those things, but he has this amazing way of just skipping right past it. But it’s not that one should simply skip past such things, but that he himself possesses a sense of timing that allows him to skip past it, and it’s that way of going about it that’s exceptional.
Normally, one has a tendency to establish the concepts first.
If you ask him directly, he says, “I do come up with those,” but perhaps it’s his way of coming up with the concepts that’s different. He has a very strong image of Goku the character in his head, but it’s there without ever solidifying. Every so often, an amazing concept that takes everyone by surprise is born, but I believe that naturally connects fluidly with the image of Goku that’s within Toriyama-sensei. It’s not about logic or reason. I don’t think anybody had thought that Vegeta and Bulma would get married, but for Toriyama-sensei, it was inevitable. I believe that in Toriyama-sensei’s mind, he knew that Vegeta and Bulma would eventually be married, as would Kuririn and No. 18.
Toriyama-sensei didn’t just write the scenario for the new movie; it was also announced that he did the character designs for quite a few characters as well.
He really drew a lot for us this time. I don’t think he’s ever drawn this much for a movie before. In terms of the number of sheets, it’s at least 20. On one sheet, there would be two or three characters, as well as mechanical designs. And since one can’t really imagine what sort of place a new setting is going to be like, he also drew things like the planet that it’s set on.
As a fan, it makes me really happy to hear that he drew images of the mechanical designs and the planet!
That’s right. With regards to a certain mech, or rather, a tool, he drew it in particular detail. We’ll reveal Toriyama-sensei’s design illustrations over time at opportune moments, so please look forward to that. Oh, and this time, the female characters… Bulma included, of course… are cute too, so I’d like you to anticipate that!
■ The new character designs that convinced even Toriyama-sensei.
The key visuals for the new movie, as well as the teaser trailer, have been released.
I think you’ll notice if you look at the teaser visuals and the trailer, we’ve completely renewed the character designs from the television series.2 It would be fine to keep the style of art up till now as-is, but with the timing of the television series ending and a new Dragon Ball Super movie coming out, we thought that fans might accept it if we tried out all sorts of new things now.
What was the aim in having a renewal of the character designs?
Toriyama-sensei’s own Dragon Ball art style has changed, and compared to the past, they’ve become a bit slimmer. Our image for the designs was Toriyama-sensei’s idea of Dragon Ball “now”, and with regards to the color palette, we’ve brought it closer to the original comic. When we looked at people’s actual response, there were those who said it was nice and close to the comic, and there were those who felt uncomfortable with it. There’s still a lot we won’t know until it’s actually in motion, but I think it will be a good mix of both new and nostalgic elements.
How was Naohiro Shintani, the animation supervisor, who is also doing the character designs, chosen?
First there was an audition, where we had quite a number of people draw for us. For the art style, one of the points Toriyama-sensei focused on was whether the front-facing, straight-standing pose looked cool or not. This is actually incredibly difficult; when he turns to the side, to a certain extent it’ll look good, but when you have him face forward and just stand normally, it’s often the case that it doesn’t look right. As for whether they can draw Goku’s face well, as long as they can really draw, they can learn how to draw it afterward, so to start with, we placed importance on the fundamentals.
Did Toriyama-sensei focus on any other points as well?
Toriyama-sensei checked the balance of the body very carefully, such as whether the artist properly understood the posture of the body within the dōgi. Through such checks, Toriyama-sensei himself ultimately decided on Naohiro Shintani-san. It helps that Shintani-san is used to drawing Dragon Ball, but he is currently in the process of getting even better, so I personally am really looking forward to that.
■ To fans the world over!
When the new movie was announced, the official site was inundated by accesses from all around the world. Are you eyeing the possibility of bringing the new movie to the world, as well?
When we started on this movie, we set out the goal of wanting to bring it to fans the world over. It’s said that Dragon Ball is popular all over the world, but actually, the intensity of that popularity varies by country. The timing of that popularity also varies, and now, while there are places where it’s currently incredibly popular, there are also locations where it had a period of popularity until a little while ago. Therefore, we felt that we would be able to do a greater variety of things by not simply lumping things together into the phrase, “Dragon Ball is popular overseas, too,” and launch things properly in each locality after determining a proper strategy.
What sort of things are you doing, specifically?
If we start considering an overseas release after the movie is already finished, it will take time no matter what, so we set up a schedule in advance that took the localization (translation, dubbing, etc. into the local language) into consideration. In addition, It’s also why we made this movie Dragon Ball Super. Up till now, when you’d say “Dragon Ball” overseas, the image of Dragon Ball Z was strong. But at present, Dragon Ball Super is actually being broadcast overseas with virtually no time lag, so it’s currently exceeding our expectations in its becoming accepted. So we decided to go with a story for this movie that’s connected to the world of Dragon Ball Super. We decided to live in the moment, and make Dragon Ball Super, which will continue to spread in the future, into a movie.
We hear that related merchandise is also very popular around the world.
With respect to games, we had already been putting them out worldwide. To put it in concrete terms, the Dragon Ball XENOVERSE series, as well as Dragon Ball FighterZ, which came out this past February, were aimed at a global audience from the planning stages, and started with the intention of making titles that could be officially entered into EVO ([Evolution Championship Series,] the world’s largest e-sports tournament in the genre of fighting games)3. We believe it will help us further blaze a trail for a new demographic of fans the world over, not only for the games themselves, but for Dragon Ball.
■ We can’t wait for December! The incredible parts of the new movie!
This will be the 20th theatrical feature for the franchise; please tell us about some of the highlights.
We didn’t think much about doing anything in particular because it’s the 20th movie. But while this movie will follow the flow established by the modern film series of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’, we intend to go a cut above them. Since the world has expanded even more through the Dragon Ball Super television series, I think everyone’s expectations have also risen. With that in mind, we’re trying to make this even more fun, above and beyond both past movies and the Dragon Ball Super television series, so please anticipate it even more than before. I believe, without a doubt, that it will match everyone’s expectations.
What aspects of the new movie do you think will go above and beyond what’s come before, Iyoku-san?
I suppose the way we’ve filled it chock-full to bursting with elements that will make all the fans happy, such as the Saiyans and the new characters, plus naturally the characters they know and love. There’s also a lot of content in Toriyama-sensei’s scenario that you might call fan-service4. I’d like them to look forward to that.
You’ve said the Saiyans will be a theme, but please give the readers of DBMFL a hint as to what sort of story it will be.
…Hmm. It’s still a secret, but… I’ll give you just a little. When it comes to a story about the Saiyans, it will of course require a look back at history. There will be vignettes from the past, such as, this sort of thing happened back then. It’s a movie that doesn’t follow a single, monotonous plot line; there’s a story in the present and a story in the past, and there are changes in setting, so it’s got quite the sense of scale. I think it’s become a spectacular “space opera”. There are some multilayered elements as well, so I think it will be something people can watch and enjoy again and again, with everyone imbuing all sorts of characters with a variety of feelings.
In other words, as a fan, it will be something exciting!
Yes. And also, Dragon Ball is really Goku’s story, so I’d like you to focus on just what happens with Goku in the new movie. I think the final battle will definitely be something amazing. You’ll have a sensation of experiencing the battle more than ever before, so please look forward to it. You know how in movie theaters overseas, the audiences get into things and even react vocally? I think there’ll be some stupendous action scenes where, even in Japan, people will naturally vocalize unconsciously with things like “Whoa!” “Awesome!”
The final battle of the Dragon Ball Super television series was pretty awesome, too. Even beyond that?!
I’m sure it will! Also, please let out a guffaw at Toriyama-sensei’s full-body gags. (laughs) I want everyone to just let it out without any reservations. There’s a kind of fun that only Toriyama-sensei can make, and it’s something that everyone will be able to watch and enjoy with excitement. Everything’s been powered up compared to the previous movies, so I think it will be, without a doubt, something they’ll be able to enjoy. Please look forward to it!