Director of the movie Dragon Ball Super: Broli
Served as series director on the Dragon Ball Super television anime
Please tell us about how you first encountered Dragon Ball.
I’m 46 years old now, so I’m a first generation fan. When I was in middle school, I looked forward to picking up Weekly Shōnen Jump on the way home from school. And in my second year of high school, my friends and I would do Dragon Ball moves at the dōjō. We were still yelling “Kamehameha!” at that age (laughs). Because boys are all stupid, but in a good way. Even now I hold onto that feeling of being a stupid kid while making anime.
Were you also a first generation fan of the Dragon Ball anime?
Every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., my whole family would watch it together while eating dinner. I was so disappointed whenever it didn’t air due to nighttime baseball games (laughs). My parents’ generation didn’t have much interest in manga and anime, and only watched because they had no choice when their kids were watching, but even so it seemed mine didn’t mind continuing to watch Dragon Ball. I think the reason is because the visual appearances of the good guys and bad guys makes them easily distinguishable. Plus it’s an action series, so it’s possible to watch and get the gist of it, knowing that they’re fighting because this guy’s good and that guy’s bad, without being too concerned with the story and setting. That realization influenced the way I make anime, and I try to find how to convey the minimum amount of information needed in order to still enjoy a series, and allow the viewer to have that instant comprehension. If you go about making something with the preconception that everyone already knows what it is, then no one will watch it besides those who already know the characters and story; if it’s airing on TV, people will just change the channel, and parents who are forced against their will to accompany their kids to the theater will fall asleep instantly. I know when I’m watching TV and happen to flip the channel to an anime, if the characters are just standing with their backs toward the screen chitchatting, I’ll end up quickly changing the channel again. It doesn’t pique my interest. It’s easier to make something when you assume everyone already knows what it is, but I think it’s better to not let those feelings hinder your ability to make something properly. It may be considered an unsophisticated view of crafting scenes, but I think it’s important that the characters should always be facing toward you, and there should be a guy who looks good and a guy who looks evil, and you can tell with just one glance which is which. With the new Dragon Ball movie, I’m trying to ensure that those who aren’t interested in the series can watch it, too. What I mean by that is, I feel there are a lot of parents who go to movies with their kids, so I want to make something that the parents will feel engaged with as they watch. I’m aiming for something that won’t make them think, “okay, time to nap,” but something that parents and kids can enjoy together. If they can say, “that was a good movie” and talk about it with their kids when they go home, that would be ideal.
Was the easy comprehension of characters something you stressed while working on the Dragon Ball Super TV series?
Yes, I did. I tried to make characters that were instantly enjoyable, like the feeling of being in a candy store. As a kid, there were candy stores with colorful and fun candies. I remember gawking at them like, “whoa!”, but I don’t remember what any of them were called (laughs). I think those candy makers worked very hard to think up ways to appeal to kids. I believe that feeling is vital. I want others to experience those same joyful moments. I’m in the business of making children happy, after all.
When were you chosen to be the director for Dragon Ball Super: Broli?
While I was serving as series director for the Dragon Ball Super TV series. I wanted to stay on till the end, but they insisted that I start working on the movie… so I left the rest of the anime in the hands of fellow series director Ryōta Nakamura and turned my full attention to the movie. Nakamura is greatly talented, and the group of young staff members was filled with talented people as well, so I had no worries leaving it up to them. Toriyama gave his all while creating the Universe Survival arc, and I think they were able to finish it off with a bang. I was just peeking in from the outside, but it seemed like the entire staff was elated while making Dragon Ball Super, and the excitement level heightened as they neared the end. Typically 3,500 to 4,000 frames are used to make one episode of an anime, but they used about double that for the finale. I was like, “What, double? Whoa!” (laughs) Going over the allotted number of frames directly causes the project to go over budget, so it’s something that’s strictly controlled. In the past, I once used about 4,000 for an episode of Magical DoReMi, and the senior director scolded me and made me cry. These days, Toei Animation will allow us to do what’s needed to get the job done.
Nakamura said he got scolded for going overboard…
Well, I still want him to keep pressing forward. Knowing how to use the allotted frames is a talent in itself. It’s not like there’s such a surplus of talented people that they’d drop someone over that. For the movie, it’s noteworthy that we’ve brought together a group of people with incredible energy. The quality of the drawings has kept on rising, to the point where I wonder if it’ll explode. Toei Animation gave us a new office building, and there are so many young, talented individuals; it’s crazy, but in a good way, I think (laughs).
Please tell us your impression of Toriyama’s screenplay.
It may be presumptuous for me to say so, but he truly is the greatest when it comes to making manga, right? And with this movie’s screenplay, I can see that he’s utilizing his talents for production, art, and character design, along with his own storytelling style. Reading Dragon Ball broken down into summary form might make the story seem so-so, but he truly shines at making stories extremely absorbing when he turns them into manga. That’s why I think it would be an enormous task for anyone but Toriyama to create this. Even now, I feel the heart-pounding excitement I felt as a kid when reading the manga in real time in Jump… first there was God, then Kaiō above him, and the Dragon Ball world kept on expanding. And then the next part was about Goku being a Saiyan, and introduced Freeza, an enemy even Kaiō couldn’t handle… I couldn’t take it! And I feel like this new movie is bringing out those feelings again.
How have you gone about turning Toriyama’s screenplay into a movie?
With the exception of action scenes, we’re adapting his screenplay pretty much as-is. However, though we want to be as faithful to it as possible, unfortunately the allotted run time is short. When we first made storyboards for the entire screenplay, a movie that was supposed to only be 90 minutes turned out to be double that length.1 Enough for two whole movies (laughs). Trying to forcefully condense that much content together would make it feel like a clip show, which would be boring, so I consulted with the producers and everyone else involved to whittle down the scenes and make it the proper length. We’re adamant about delivering as much of Toriyama’s script to viewers as possible, so we were able to extend the run time a little bit.
The new drawing and background styles shown in images from the movie have become major topics of discussion.
Nobuto Sue (background art) and I worked together on One Piece: Film Z, and for this movie I asked him to stay close to Toriyama’s work, while also showing his own vision of the world. And the final result was incredibly fantastic. I also knew Naohiro Shintani (animation director) from One Piece: Film Z, and for this movie the first thing I talked with him about was how we wanted it to feel. In my experience, since Dragon Ball is a series that has gone on a long time, we have impressions of what it should be. The movements to fire a Kamehameha or the setup of a Super Saiyan transformation scene are things that are so well-known they’ve become fixed. Maybe it would be fine to keep them the same, but transforming or firing beams from your hand are special things, so I want to make the staging for those moments special, too. The moment when I really came to that realization was when Toriyama gave us a manual during Dragon Ball Super about how to turn Super Saiyan. It said that the character gets tingles in their back, then imagines that sensation spreading outward and becomes Super Saiyan. I thought, “This is it!!” We can’t create this without using our physical senses as a basis. Transforming randomly without reason is no good. When I was a kid trying to shoot a Kamehameha or turn into a Super Saiyan, I always tried earnestly. The characters in the anime can’t just do it in an instant, either; they also have to try earnestly or it won’t work. I tell the animators to not be concerned about what was previously established, and I want them to draw how they feel using current techniques. If there’s inconsistency between how Dragon Ball has looked before and how we’re presenting it now, then I think it’s best to get rid of those past conceptions. Goku broke past his limits and evolved to Ultra Instinct, so we should follow suit and have the look evolve as well. At any rate, I want Dragon Ball to utilize the latest advancements and be on the cutting edge of action series. We’re not treating the series as something untouchable, and we want to create our own enjoyable Dragon Ball story.
What are your thoughts on Broli appearing in this movie?
Actually, the first movie Broli appeared in (Burn Up!! A Red-Hot, Raging, Super-Fierce Fight) was directed by my mentor Shigeyasu Yamauchi. When I heard that Broli would appear, it was tough for me. I thought, “there’s no way I can beat him!” (laughs) But Toriyama has imbued Broli with more of a sense of character than he had in the past, so I’m carefully sticking to that basis, and also making sure he’s ridiculously strong. I want him to use a variety of attacks, and just feel like an overwhelming force. That intensity led to me drawing lots and lots for the storyboards, and Broli’s action scenes alone grew from 300 to 400 sheets (laughs).
What about the new characters besides Broli?
The designs for both Chelye and Lemo are truly great. Chelye is a young, delinquent girl. She acts on superficial feelings alone, and ends up helping Broli without thinking of the consequences, with disastrous results. And Lemo is a profound character as well. He’s been in Freeza’s army for decades, so I think he’s seen many pitiable children over the years. There’s a gap in the way Chelye and Lemo feel about Broli. Lemo is a good man, so he wants to do something about Broli, but he’s well aware of the limits of his own power. He was a mediocre soldier not even fit to fight on the front lines of Freeza’s army, but he’s influenced by meeting Broli and seeing Chelye act on will alone, and he starts to change. I feel like the balance between these three is incredibly well done. I can’t say anymore since it has to do with the plot of the movie, but the story of these three is noteworthy.
What roles will characters such as Goku, Vegeta, and Freeza play?
Goku, Vegeta, and Freeza all have many highlight moments! Goku is already coming close to the level of the gods. Vegeta is furiously trying to catch up to him. And Freeza especially shows a lot of growth this time. He’s always been haughty and held himself in high regard, but since Beerus, Whis, and the Omni-King exist, he’s trying to work out how he can reach the top. Perhaps he’s plotting to increase his strength steadily, while harboring the ambition to take down the Omni-King someday. Or maybe he won’t be able to defy him, I’m not sure. Goku is the same as always, saying, “I wanna get stronger,” simple as that.
In the movie Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, Freeza fought alone against Goku and Vegeta, but if you think about it that put him at a huge disadvantage. So I want you all to look forward to seeing what Freeza does to antagonize Goku and Vegeta this time around. At any rate, we’re still working diligently on Dragon Ball Super: Broli, and I hope it lives up to all of your expectations. Please look forward to it!