Overflowing with a curiosity double that of others, young Akira Toriyama was enthralled by animation and illustrations. And then, that young boy became a cartoonist who would give people excitement, laughter, and emotion. In order to express his feelings of excitement to the masses, Akira Toriyama now continues his great quest in search of the next wild tale…
What is your personal stance on Dragon Ball’s theatrical films, Sensei?
I take the movies as “stories in a different dimension from the main story of the comic”. I’m entirely just an audience member for them.
What work do you do on the films, Sensei?
I check the plot and script that gets sent to me from Toei Animation. I also do some character designs and touch-ups, as well as altering the names and such.
Are there any characters you personally designed, Sensei?
There are. Bojack and Broli, for instance. Recently I’ve done Tapion and Minoshia (see p.182).
How do you go about coming up with the characters?
Toei shows me the project draft for each movie, and I design characters appropriate to the story.
Do you have any favorite characters among the movie villains?
Of the characters designed by Toei Animation, I thought post-transformation Janenba was “cool”. His movements in the battle scenes are nice and lively. Incidentally, I don’t have any favorites of the ones I designed.
How did you come up with the villains in the original work?
Pretty much, after I’d come up with the story, thinking “maybe I’ll do this next”, I’d come up with the characters. But you know, I’d always try and come up with “villains unlike those up to now”, and it was pretty difficult… But with regards to Majin Boo, I think “it went well”. Apart from that, things would often end without me being entirely convinced.
When you come up with the characters, where do you start from?
First, the face. While I’m thinking up the face, I imagine their body type. When the face and the body are set, I’ve already come up with a general idea of the costume. For clothes, I design them while thinking about something that fits the world the characters inhabit, or in the case of fighting characters, “I wonder if they’ll be able to move properly in this”.
When you think up the villains, how many different patterns do you come up with?
In terms of the number of drawings, there are times when I still can’t decide even after thirty-odd drawings, and also times when I think “that’s about right” after just one.
How did you get started designing video game characters?
The impetus was Torishima-san (my first editor), I suppose. At first, I did it grudgingly, but as a result, it really came in handy, like, “I had no idea this sort of world existed”.
Incidentally, what led you to have Goku become a Super Saiyan, or the villains to level up?
I was feeling that there were limits on mere strength, so I was generally always struggling to come up with something. I actually hadn’t planned Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation at all. Then, when I came up with the idea of the Super Saiyan, in order to show that Goku had gained a massive power-up all at once, I thought “there’s no choice but to change his form, too”. But in terms of design, the facial expressions and such would become like the design for a villain. I felt, “I wonder if it’s really OK for him to be like this.” Granted, since his transformation is accompanied by rage, I also thought, “I suppose that part’s fine.” It was a pretty radical concept. With respect to the villains, my editor would say, for instance, “I don’t like this”, and in those circumstances, I’d change it. (laughs) Before long, “they should transform” became the norm, so that was a pain.
Did you consider any other ways for Goku to level up other than going Super Saiyan?
At the time, I didn’t really have the time to come up with multiple ideas, so that wasn’t going to happen.
The concept of fusion is also a form of leveling up. How did that concept come to be?
If I remember correctly, I was talking about how, as a concept, “there’s nothing stronger than a Super Saiyan”, and Katsura-kun (Masakazu Katsura-sensei), who I usually just joke around and say idiotic things with, said, “There’s no choice but for them to fuse, then.” So I said, “Whoa, sometimes even you say something good. It’s the first time you’ve ever made yourself useful.” (laughs) That’s how that plot point was born.
What about the concept of the Potara?
That was simply, since Fusion was a plot point that was already taken by one of the movies, I was wondering what I should do; I had always been drawing earrings [on Kaiōshin], so I thought, “perhaps I can use these”…
Had you drawn them from the beginning, thinking that you’d use them as a fusion item?
No, not at all. They were just for decoration.
So they were just a fortuitous coincidence, then.
I’m always crossing perilous bridges like that. (laughs) But, just as I’ve been driven into a corner, it’s like my brain waves go taut, and some sort of idea bubbles up. Also, I’m good at forcing things to stretch. (laughs)
No, it really isn’t. Even I’m always in suspense. In the previous chapter, I’ve already written “something incredible is going to happen”, so I think, “I have no choice but to do something incredible.” It’s so painful. (laughs)
In terms of video technology, Rebirth of Fusion!! Goku and Vegeta and Dragon Fist Explosion!! If I Don’t Do It, Who Will? both have computer-generated special effects; please share your thoughts about that.
Rather than “use whatever new technology there is”, I think, “we can make something fun even if it’s not like that, can’t we?” But as long as it gives better results, I approve of it.
Is there anything you yourself would actually like to do on a computer, Sensei?
There is. Like, to draw the plans for a mecha and make it move. I only ever think of things that allow me to slack off considerably. For example, if I draw a rough draft of “something like this”, to have it come out all finished. (laughs)
By the way, of the films and TV specials, which one is your favorite?
I really like the story of Bardock, Goku’s father. It’s quite dramatic, and the kind of story “I absolutely wouldn’t draw” if it were me. It was like watching a different kind of Dragon Ball in a good way, so I thought it was nice.
I’d like to ask a question specifically about you, Sensei: When you first felt that you had managed to draw a picture, what sort of illustration was it?
My oldest memory of feeling like “I really nailed it” was a picture of a horse. I remember it even now. “I did the joints really well.” I had always like drawing pictures, and when we were kids, there weren’t as many forms of entertainment as there are now, so everybody drew. Like, back in elementary school, we’d imitate illustrations from animation and comics, and everybody was doing it, so they’d all have one that “went well”.
Is your experience from back then connected to your profession as a cartoonist, then?
Maybe. Because I was the only one who was really persistent in drawing. At the beginning, everyone was drawing at the same level, right? But after a while, after I’d started doing original caricatures of my friends, I began to feel that “drawing pictures is fun”.
What are the origins of your drawing style, Sensei?
I myself think it’s Walt Disney and Osamu Tezuka. Back when I was a kid, there was an art studio called “Zugaya-san“; the neighborhood’s kids would get together there and draw pictures and be noisy. One day, I remember I drew a picture of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and got a good prize; I was ecstatic about that, so perhaps the current me was in there. (laughs)
Apart from comics, do you ever draw illustrations for yourself?
No, I don’t. But I have had this habit since I was a kid of always looking around at my surroundings. Even when I go shopping, more-so than the shopping itself, it’s fun to just observe the town. When you’re drawing a work, it comes in handy for things like street scenes, small objects, clothes, and such. Also, the sort of everyday items I was forced to draw while I was working at a company. I was complaining all the while, “Whaaat? Why do I have to draw a hundred pairs of socks?!” (laughs) Thinking back on it now, perhaps things like that really were useful.
Do you draw things that you see, like in sketches?
Actually, I don’t. I burn them into my memory. So when I try to draw them afterwards, I generally fail. “Maybe it was like this?” (laughs) But I do remember the rough image. It’s not proper to rely on that image, but I draw things roughly. I think there’s probably nothing I can’t draw.
We heard in your interview in daizenshuu volume 5 that you’d like to make an original anime; in what position would you like to work?
I’d like to do the story and the character designs myself. For starters, I think “a work that young and old, boy and girl alike can enjoy would be nice”… Also, if possible, if I do a comic myself first before it becomes animation, I’d like to make it so that it’s easy to convey the work’s feeling when it’s animated. By drawing it myself, I’d be able to tell whether it’s enjoyable or not; a one-shot would be fine, so I’d like to draw it. Right now, I’m at the stage of searching for a theme.
Finally, if you happen to have any information about an upcoming movie…
I hear that the film being released next spring will be “a consolidated-yet-faithful retelling of volumes 1 through 8 of the original comic”. Also, “we’d like you to see the techniques Toei Animation now has to make animation even more effective”. Back when Dragon Ball’s TV broadcast had just started, both Toei Animation’s and my illustrations were not yet mature, so I think it will be very interesting to see “how it will be when it’s made with their current abilities”. Everyone, please look forward to it.
Thank you so much for sharing such valuable insights with us today.
(5 October 1995 at Shueisha)