TV Anime Guide: Dragon Ball Tenka’ichi Densetsu

The World’s Best Round-Table Discussion

Akira Toriyama × Takao Koyama × Masako Nozawa

A dream reunion of the trio who brought the anime Dragon Ball to life!! With backstage secrets and surprising new truths that can now be told, as well as a deep love for Dragon Ball, the contents are an absolute must-read!

When it comes to Dragon Ball, of course, there’s Goku; how far had you thought out Goku’s concept at the start of the serialization?
Toriyama:
I’d hardly thought out anything. I hadn’t come up with the concept of him being an alien until Vegeta came, and I think I originally meant his giant ape form to be “just a transformation”, like a werewolf. For it to turn out over the course of the writing that “Goku’s really an alien!” was something that took even me by surprise. (laughs) At any rate, I had really only thought, “I’ll make a motif of Journey to the West, with a little bit of Kung-Fu thrown in.” I was prepared for it to end after 10 weeks if it wasn’t a hit.

Koyama:
What about the idea for the seven Dragon Balls?

Toriyama:
I thought it would be better if, rather than just the plot of Journey to the West, it could also have a more boys’ magazine-like activity; that is, a game-like component of them gathering something. In that case, then, it would be easy to understand if they had their wish granted when they gathered up balls. I went ahead without thinking what Goku and company would be wishing for.

Nozawa:
Why are there seven of them?

Toriyama:
No particular reason. It just seemed like a good cutoff point. (laughs)

Is there a reason why the one Goku had was the Four-Star Ball?
Toriyama:
No reason whatsoever. (laughs) I just felt that if it was the One-Star Ball or the Seven-Star Ball, it would seem too convenient. There being stars inside them was also simply so it would be easy to tell which ball was which. Anyway, back when I had just started as a manga artist, I was told repeatedly by my editor that “shōnen manga must be easy to understand!” Even now, that remains ingrained in me.
Characters often have a mark on their chest or back. Is that to make a character readily identifiable even when their back is turned?
Toriyama:
No, I simply felt that that the illustration was lacking something. (laughs) And also, so that it was easy to tell which martial-arts school they belonged to. Goku started out with the “kame1” mark because he was taught by Kame-Sen’nin, and later changed to a “go2” mark; perhaps it’s because he’d trained in his own way.

Koyama:
You had the concept that when Goku was a baby, he hit his head and forgot his objective of world domination, right?

Toriyama:
Ah, that’s right. Naturally, it’s something I thought up after the fact. (laughs)

Koyama:
But, if Goku hadn’t injured his head then, the Earth would have been annihilated by Goku/Kakarrot, wouldn’t it?

Toriyama:
Yes… I suppose so. (laughs)

Koyama:
Um, it might be rude to say this, but Toriyama-sensei, you’re a real genius at keeping the story coherent. To take something you’d originally just drawn in order to get through that week, without really thinking about it, and fit it all together perfectly after the fact… To fold up a spread-out wrapping cloth is hard to do, and there are manga artists who can’t do it very well. But Toriyama-sensei, you can fold it up magnificently. That’s really impressive.

Toriyama:
Hahaha. But really, during the serialization, it was like that over and over again, because I’d spread that cloth out all at once and draw myself into a corner, thinking, “Augh, what do I do now?” Even with the Tenka’ichi Budōkai, I was drawing it, thinking, “I wonder who’s going to win?”

Koyama:
Er, there’s something I’d like to ask you: does the Saiyan race have any women? There are no female Saiyans drawn in the original work.

Toriyama:
I didn’t draw any.

Koyama:
Are there no women, then? I’m often asked by Dragon Ball fans.

Toriyama:
Actually, I’m sure they at least exist.

Koyama:
Well, children are born, so they wouldn’t be there without women, is what you’re saying?

Toriyama:
That’s right. If I remember correctly, in an anime special (A Final, Solitary Battle), a female Saiyan also appeared.

Koyama:
Plus, Vegeta married Bulma and had a child with her, so there would have to have been women.

Toriyama:
I hadn’t thought about it too deeply… but since they’re a warrior race, I think I simply didn’t draw any women. If it were this day and age, I might have drawn strong women, as well.

Koyama:
It was a time when there were hardly any anime with women who fought, wasn’t it?

Toriyama:
Well, it’d be hard to defeat a woman.

Speaking of women who fight, there is No. 18.
Toriyama:
Ah, that’s right. No. 18 becomes Kuririn’s wife in the end.

Nozawa:
Ah, I was surprised at that, too! All the voice actors wondered, “Why did she choose Kuririn?” (laughs)

Toriyama:
Kuririn was originally supposed to be just a minor role, so to have him become Goku’s best friend in the blink of an eye…

Koyama:
Well, he is the strongest Earthling male.

Toriyama:
You’re right, he is the strongest among the Earthlings. But in spite of that, he tends to end up in a bad way, so I thought, “once in a while, I have to let him be happy,” and had him get married. (laughs)

Right after the 22nd Tenka’ichi Budōkai, Kuririn is killed. It really changed after that point, wouldn’t you say? In that it sort of slipped away from a Doctor Slump-type world.
Toriyama:
Yes, I agree.

Nozawa:
When Kuririn was killed, we were all shocked as well, while doing the recording.

Koyama:
Goku, the star, died as well. Then, he came back with a halo over is head. (laughs)

Toriyama:
But, I was saved by Goku as a character. Even when he dies, he’s like, “Well, whatever”.

Nozawa:
That’s right.

Koyama:
That right there — I’m always talking with Nozawa-san, but I think that Goku’s “Well, whatever” is really the greatest.

Nozawa:
Yes. That is really good. It’s a very Goku-esque line.

In that respect, is there also something of Toriyama-sensei’s personality reflected there?
Toriyama:
I’m not pure the way Goku is, though. (laughs) Still, I suppose Goku’s way of saying “Well, whatever” is definitely like me.

Koyama:
Also, his “Ossu! Ora, Gokū!” [“Heya! I’m Goku!”] When it’s made into a live-action movie, I’d dislike it if his “Ora, Gokū!” becomes, “I’m Goku!” [written in English] (laughs)

Nozawa:
It really isn’t “I’m Goku!”. [written in English]

Koyama:
The feeling just isn’t there when it’s in English.

Nozawa:
You know, I really want to be in the live-action film when it’s made, playing some old woman passerby. (laughs) I’d want to see Goku just as he fires his Kamehameha, and say, “Even I can do that,” then walk away. (laughs)

Toriyama:
Hahaha, that’d be pretty funny. (laughs).

Your method of naming the characters is also unique, Toriyama-sensei.
Nozawa:
Ah, I love that! I’m always saying it — “This character’s naming is amazing!” No matter what they look like, if their name is a vegetable there’s a vegetable theme, and not Chinese food, or musical instruments, right?

Toriyama:
Hahaha. (laughs) I decided on them without thinking, so it’s embarrassing. But at the very least, if I didn’t create a theme, there’s lots of characters so it would be a big problem. It’s easier to just decide on a theme of vegetable names.

Koyama:
I was always looking forward to making names in the movie scenarios. For the film The World’s Strongest Guy, I even brought out a Nagoya theme, from “Uirō” all the way to “Kōchin”. (laughs) I had a lot of fun playing around with that.

Nozawa:
Sensei, are there any characters you struggled with giving a name to?

Toriyama:
Not especially. When I decided with, “I’ll just go with a lousy name,” (laughs) I didn’t struggle all that much.

Koyama:
Like with the Saibaimen? (laughs)

Toriyama:
Ah, because you cultivate [saibai suru] them. (laughs)

Nozawa:
It’s funny that they come up when you plant them.

They’re gag names, and yet they’re strong and fearsome. That dissonance is also impressive.
Toriyama:
Piccolo Daimaō is the same way. Originally, he was a really evil guy, and I thought maybe it would be a bit artless to add an evil name on top of it, so: Piccolo.
And going with the flow, his minions also became musical instruments?
Toriyama:
Yes; it was like “make them instruments”, so they became Tambourine, Drum, etc.

Nozawa:
The Namekians are [named after] slugs, aren’t they?

Toriyama:
They have antennae growing out of their heads, so I went with snails. (laughs)

Nozawa:
And Trunks, because he’s Bulma’s [bloomers] son, right?

Toriyama:
Yes. There’s also Dr. Brief, and even Bra was born… Though there aren’t many kinds of underwear, so that family isn’t going to get any bigger. (laughs)

Nozawa:
The fact that you can just nonchalantly give them underwear names is, conversely, nice and dirty.

Is the reason the Ginyu Special-Squad are dairy products because “Freeza = refrigerator”?
Toriyama:
Yep, that’s right. For that part, I decided, “I’ll go with things that go in a refrigerator”.

Koyama:
There are still quite a few people who haven’t realized that “Saiya” is an anagram of yasai [vegetable]. When I tell them, they’re amazed.

Toriyama:
What, really? And here, I was embarrassed giving them the name “Saiya”. Like, “You just reversed the syllables in ‘yasai‘, didn’t you?” (laughs)

Koyama:
They’re also surprised that the Tsufruians come from “fruits”. (laughs) The Saiyans are vegetables, so you have “carrot” = Kakarrot, and even Nappa [Chinese cabbage] as-is. And, standing at the summit, you have the name of the category itself: “vegetable” = Vegeta. I really admired that.

Toriyama:
I made them vegetables as a reversal of the usual argument “they’re a warrior race, so obviously meat”.

Nozawa:
Ah, I see now!

Are the names important, even for the anime?
Koyama:
They are. Without a set name, I can’t write for them at all. It’s like the character doesn’t have a pulse. If all they’ve got is a provisional name, it’s just no good. The lines just won’t come out.
Koyama-sensei, from the standpoint of a scriptwriter, how do you view the original work?
Koyama:
Well, at the start, I was working on the anime Dr. Slump — Arale-chan, and going along with that, I read the first chapter of the manga; at any rate, I was overwhelmed by the charm Goku exuded as a character. I felt intuitively, “If we make this move, it’ll be even more interesting.” Even on paper in two dimensions, the sense of motion was incredible, so if we made it into an anime, we could use “depth” as well… in that respect, it was just overflowing with elements that, if made into animation, would become even more enjoyable. Even then, I had no idea that it would become as much of a straight-up action work. You had no idea either while you were drawing it, did you, Sensei? (laughs)

Toriyama:
None whatsoever; even I was surprised. (laughs)

Nozawa:
It was something I didn’t expect, either. I mean, he’d gone along as a little kid all the way up to that point, but then, “What, he had a kid? When did that happen?!” (laughs) But even after becoming an adult, Goku’s always cute, isn’t he? Ever since I first went to the audition, I’ve been saying, “Wow, he’s so cute! I definitely want to play him!!”

What was your first encounter with Dragon Ball, Nozawa-san?
Nozawa:
At least 23 years ago, I heard from Toei Animation, “We’ll be making this into an anime next,” and they showed me a tankōbon of Dr. Slump. Since that time, I’d thought, “This manga artist draws some cute illustrations”. Later on, I was told, “Toriyama-sensei’s second work is starting soon,” and I went to the audition. But even thinking “I want to play him”, I didn’t know whether I’d actually get the part, you know? So I thought, “I don’t care what happens; I’ll just play Goku my own way”. And doing that, I actually was chosen for the role of Goku, so I was happy.
You also listened to the audition tapes, didn’t you, Sensei?
Toriyama:
Yes, I did. I had the honor of selecting Nozawa-san and the other principal voice actors. Although, I’m very sorry, but I had almost no connection to anime. So, even listening to Nozawa-san’s voice on the tape, it didn’t occur to me that she was a veteran; it was purely that Nozawa-san matched my own internal image of Goku’s voice.

Nozawa:
I really was happy as could be.

Koyama:
I don’t know if it’s okay to say this, Nozawa-san, but… at that time, an anime3 you’d previously voiced the main character of had just been remade, hadn’t it?

Nozawa:
Ah, yes it had.

Koyama:
But for the remake, it changed to a different voice actor, didn’t it? So, Nozawa-san, you were incredibly disappointed… but then right after that, you were set to be Goku. Both the remake and Dragon Ball were shows on the Fuji TV network, and at the time, there was some sort of thing about not being able to play the lead of two shows on the same network, right?

Nozawa:
Even though it had been perfectly fine before.

Koyama:
So, if you had been in the remake, Nozawa-san, then you wouldn’t have been able to play Goku.

Nozawa:
Now that I think about it, I was really lucky, wasn’t I?

Speaking from the production side of the anime, where do you think Dragon Ball’s appeal lies?
Koyama:
One is Goku’s carefree attitude. His design is also good, but I think it’s that, personality-wise, he’s really easy to accept.

Nozawa:
I agree. There was a scene where Goku’s tail got pulled, right? The way he wobbled and then fell down was cute, and I just adored it. I want a child like Goku. (laughs)

Koyama:
And on top of Goku being cute, the characters around him also have their own appeal; each one is unique enough that you could even make them the star. It’s like having an all-star cast. So you’ve got that sort of appeal in the characters, and also the power of Toriyama-sensei’s illustrations! That really is amazing. Even when reading the original work, it feels like the images themselves are just jumping out at you. So to have these images moving, with voices and music, I felt it was only natural that the audiences would stand up and take notice.

Nozawa:
I’ve often heard from fans that the disconnect of studious Gohan going and becoming Great Saiyaman also had a certain charm.

Toriyama:
I like Great Saiyaman too, though. Gohan is really dorky, so it ends up feeling that way. (laughs)

Nozawa:
Gohan and Goten both have Goku’s blood, and have that sort of cuteness somewhere in them. Especially how Gohan-kun hates fighting, yet respects his father.

Toriyama:
But Gohan must have it rough, in that he wants to be a scholar, but instead he has to fight. While drawing, I was always thinking, “He’s different from his father; he must truly hate fighting.”

Koyama:
Gohan met with a lot of misfortune. He was a crybaby, but he was trained by Piccolo.

Nozawa:
He gets a big bump on his head, and yet he doesn’t hate Piccolo. Now that you mention it, during young Gohan’s training, it seemed like Piccolo was picking on Gohan, didn’t it? At that time, all the performers were really into their roles, so Jōji Yanami-san (Narration / Kaiō-sama) got angry at Piccolo’s voice actor, Toshio Furukawa-san, and shouted, “Hey, knock it off. He’s just a child!” (laughs) Furukawa-san was perplexed, and said, “I’m just voicing the character…” (laughs)

Koyama:
I was once asked, when I went to a lecture, “Were you the model for Piccolo, Koyama-san?” I said, “What?! No,” but… I suppose I might resemble him a bit. Because of that, I like Piccolo. (laughs) Especially when writing the scripts for the films, Piccolo was able to get all the best parts. What I mean by that is, Piccolo was easy to write.

Toriyama:
That’s because bad guys becoming allies is always the best thing.

As much as Goku didn’t do many fatherly things, Piccolo was Gohan’s surrogate father.
Toriyama:
Goku isn’t interested in child-rearing, probably. He’s completely unqualified to be a father. (laughs) He doesn’t even have a job. Goku wants nothing other than to get stronger, and it feels like he doesn’t have any other instincts. So he shows absolutely no interest in things he’s not interested in. I’d bet he wouldn’t have had any interest in marriage, either.
Koyama-san, in what areas did you particularly struggle with Dragon Ball?
Koyama:
As a fan, I was looking forward to developments in the serialization, but as a member of the staff, what I worried about the most was the anime catching up to the original work. That was incredibly tough. Of course, I couldn’t well take the initiative and move the story forward myself, so I’d insert side stories, and wait till we’d stockpiled enough material.
You must have struggled particularly hard with that.
Koyama:
In a certain old baseball anime4, it became a topic of discussion when the main character, a pitcher, would take 30 minutes to throw a single pitch; in Dragon Ball, as well, the most incredible thing was when I’d write an entire episode from a single panel. (laughs).
Where in the series was that episode?
Koyama:
Actually, I don’t remember at all, anymore.

Toriyama:
I suppose that must have been a lot of trouble. I mean, a manga is no more than around 15 pages a week.

Koyama:
If it’s a stream of action scenes one after another, the story can’t really take any detours, can it? It’s fine before the action starts, where you can insert a little bit of a separate story, but during the action, if you just do it normally, it’s over before you know it. It was a big pain trying to inflate those parts. Also, there were times when I received your storyboards by fax and wrote the scripts based on those; in reviewing those parts, it felt like the story developments got a bit slower.

How about you, Nozawa-san? Did you struggle with playing the triple-role of Goku, Gohan and Goten?
Nozawa:
Everyone always says that, but you know how the video plays during the recording session? If it was Goku, as soon as he appeared on the screen, I’d become Goku. Just like flipping a switch. If it were Tullece (a movie villain), I’d instantly flip into Tullece-mode. So, I could have whole conversations without any problems.

Koyama:
Normally, you’d record Goku alone first, then dub in Tullece, but Nozawa-san would just continue on performing. So, on my end, I’d purposely make them talk to each other in the scenario. (laughs)

Nozawa:
Oh, is that so? (laughs)

Koyama:
I thought I’d try and give you some trouble. But you had no trouble at all; (laughs) you really are first-rate. It’s not something just anyone could do. Even watching from outside, Nozawa-san, we could tell that you were instantly switching back and forth.

If you listen to and compare both Goku as a child and young Gohan, there’s a difference.
Nozawa:
Yes, because they were brought up differently.

Toriyama:
Ah, I see.

Nozawa:
And their designs are different, as well. Goku and Goten-kun resemble each other slightly, but Goten was raised by his parents, so he really is different from Goku. I would bring out those differences.

When you drew the storyboards, Toriyama-sensei, did you hear Goku with Nozawa-san’s voice?
Toriyama:
Yes, of course.

Koyama:
I’m the same way. Without that, the rhythm would change. In any piece of animation, when you’re writing the very first episode, the voices often haven’t been cast yet, so that time is always incredibly difficult to write.

Toriyama:
Wow.

Koyama:
So, once the auditions are over, the voice actors have been decided, and you hear the voices, it’s easy to write. It’s a delicate point, but it’s definitely there.

Were there things like that in the manga, as well?
Toriyama:
I think, it wasn’t until after I saw the anime that I really became aware of Goku’s “ora” [“I” / “me”] and started to bring it out more. Up until then, I think he hadn’t actually said “Ora Gokū” much in the original work. On the other hand, I’d already had his image set in my mind.
Ossu! Ora Gokū” is a familiar part of the next-episode previews. (laughs)
Nozawa:
Originally, I said something like “Ō, ora Gokū”, but after doing that a few times, I said “Ossu! Ora Gokū”, and thought, “that’s good”; it came to be second-nature.

Toriyama:
I myself have actually used “Ossu! Ora Toriyama” when typing e-mails. (laughs)

Koyama:
Now that you mention it, there are a lot of Dragon Ball videos that have come out in countries all around the world. In watching [one version], Goku’s voice was a foreigner’s, of course, since it was dubbed, but the voice for shouts like “HAAA!” was unmistakably you, Nozawa-san. That voice is one that probably nobody can imitate.

Toriyama:
It seems like you would hurt your throat during the fight scenes with that. Are you all right?

Nozawa:
People ask me that a lot. Even other veteran voice actors tell me, “You’re a real monster”. (laughs) But my vocal cords are just fine. No problems whatsoever.

Toriyama:
That’s amazing.

Koyama:
Well, it’s rude to say this, but nobody’d believe it if I told them, “this Nozawa-san is Goku,” just listening to your voice. That high energy-level and intensity during action scenes doesn’t really feel female.

Toriyama:
Wasn’t it hard to maintain that high energy-level?

Nozawa:
No, that wasn’t hard, either.

Koyama:
Nozawa-san, you really are one of the “Seven Wonders of Dragon Ball“.

Also, all the voice actors say that the atmosphere in the recording booth was very good.
Nozawa:
Yes, it was the best. Mid-tier voice actors were even saying, “I want to be in Dragon Ball,” because if they appeared in that work, they’d be acknowledged in the profession.

Koyama:
Ah, yes. There was a protégé of mine, a successful novelist who had one of his works made into an anime, but his relatives still wouldn’t acknowledge him. But no sooner had he written a single episode of Dragon Ball, than they were saying, “You’re amazing!” (laughs). In fact, when even I say I worked on Dragon Ball, I find that I’m popular with young people. They’ll actually listen to what I have to say. (laughs)

Nozawa:
Even for me, when I did a radio program together with a veteran screen actor, he asked me, “excuse me, but could you please sign my script?” Anyway, I hear that when his child(ren) saw the script, (he/she/)they told him, “now that you’ve performed together with the person who plays Goku, Dad, you’ve finally become a real actor”. (laughs) As far as kids are concerned, Dragon Ball really is serious business.

Koyama:
You often hear the phrase, “I’m glad to have been born in the same generation as so-and-so”; in the same way, I think it’s probably quite a happy thing to have been in the Dragon Ball generation. When something makes such a strong impression on you as a child, whenever you talk about it, even in your thirties, you’re instantly able to go back to that childhood. I think children who can have a work like that are happy, and having been involved in bringing such a work to them, I’m also happy.

That is also part of the appeal of animation and manga, isn’t it?
Koyama:
It is. That’s why I can’t separate myself from anime like Dragon Ball. The joy of giving something like that to children is greater than making things aimed at adults. Especially in the case of works like Dragon Ball — in short, you can create a standard. A “global standard”, even.
Did you put in any requests when it was made into an anime, Sensei?
Toriyama:
No, not at all. Anime has its own way of doing things, so I think it’s better to leave it to the professionals. Manga and anime are separate things, but I suppose it’s best when you get the feeling that “they’re connected somehow”. At the start of serialization, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to please the readers, so I wasn’t even thinking about it being made into an anime.

Koyama:
Now, Japanese animation gives its dreams to children around the world, and among them, Dragon Ball stands at the forefront. I really feel a certain happiness at that. Having been able to share this treasure of a work in the same era, both the fans and I are happy.

Nozawa:
It’s a treasure for me, too. This will be around for ever. Even 100 years from now, I think children will be able to watch it. You know, I’ve been telling Japanese kids, “it’s OK to brag”. Dragon Ball has spread all around the world, hasn’t it? But, the ones who got to know it first were the children of Japan. So, “Aren’t you glad you’re Japanese?” (laughs) Plus, children all the way to adults can watch it, and talk about it together, right? I think that’s also something really good.

And what of the man who wrote such a work, Sensei?
Toriyama:
I always think this whenever the subject turns to that, but I myself was doing it without taking it too seriously. So for things to have gotten so big, I’m kind of bemused by the whole thing. Like for Goku’s tail, I wasn’t thinking any more than, “he’s quite the wild child, so he still has a tail”, so to the readers, I can’t say any more than, “I’m sorry for it being such an arbitrary manga”. (laughs) So like that, I don’t really have much memory of drawing it at the time, and it kind of has the feeling of, “Did I draw this?” I also feel at times, “Maybe I should have done my work more properly”. (laughs)

Koyama:
But if you had done things so calculatedly, I don’t think it would have been such a hit.

Nozawa:
You know, the truth is, I don’t feel like Dragon Ball is a work that’s concluded. I get the feeling that, even now, Goku is probably off somewhere training.

Toriyama:
I think Goku is always tirelessly pursuing greater strength. So I also think that, even now, he’s off training with Uub.

You can just picture Goku training all day and night! Thank you very much for today!!

(Recorded 18 May 2004)

The following translator notes are included for the benefit of the reader as supplemental information and were not originally published in the book.

1亀 (kame; “turtle”) comes from the first character in “Kame-Sen’nin”.
2悟 (go; “enlightenment”) comes from the first character in “Goku”.
3Koyama is referring to the third series of GeGeGe no Kitarō (aired 1985-’88), based on the manga by Shigeru Mizuki. In the first series (aired 1968-’69) and second series (aired 1971-’72), Nozawa had voiced the title character Kitarō; for the third series, however, the part was given to Keiko Toda (now better known as the voice of Anpanman).
4Kyojin no Hoshi (“Star of the Giants”), which began airing in 1968 and starred Tōru Furuya (Yamcha’s voice actor) as title character Hyūma Hoshi
English Translation: Julian
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