How did you come to play the character?
At the time, an audio director named Nobuhiro Komatsu was always nice to me. I think perhaps he recommended me. When I first saw the character, I thought, “Oh, he’s pretty cool.” His concept was of a lone wolf in the desert, and he had long hair. (laughs) Although, I’d been reading Toriyama-sensei‘s work as a fan since the days of Dr. Slump, and I knew that there would be gags as well, so I thought something would probably happen [to him]. (laughs)
How was it once you actually started playing the character?
When I read the original work, I discovered that his only weakness was to girls. I had to play him as “someone who is serious but seen by others as comical”, so I thought, “Man, this is pretty tough.” I myself have been a voice actor for a long time1, but I’d done a relatively large amount in the hero-genre, and had barely been in gag anime at all. I haven’t done many characters like this. Because of that, I got the impression that acting in a way that gets laughs is quite difficult, and I’d definitely say I wasn’t good at it. So at the beginning, I was wondering what I should do. I mean, suddenly, his good looks crumble! Up ’til then, he’s been incredibly serious and cool, but suddenly he has everything below his nose stretching out. (laughs) I think that was also a hallmark of the series, though. So it felt like, “It’s OK to embarrass yourself, so there’s no choice but to hit it with all you’ve got.”
In the latter half, Yamcha retires from the battles’ front lines.
Well, that was a shock. Because he lost to even the Saibaimen during the Saiyans’ attack~. Even though I was incredibly happy when the Sōkidan came out. He died immediately. At the beginning, he was really strong, and it seemed like “He’s an even match for Goku!” But as the story went on, stronger and stronger people came out from behind him. (laughs) In the end, he moved into a support role.
He is one of the strongest human warriors, though.
I thought, “Ah, Yamcha’s big moment… was just at the very beginning.” (laughs)
Are there any other characters besides Yamcha that you’ve voiced in the series?
A little bit, here and there. Like the Saibaimen… I believe Toshio Furukawa, who played Piccolo, and Hirotaka Suzuoki, who played Tenshinhan, also did them. We’d all do them together. That was another good point about Dragon Ball: the veterans would take on even the “kitchen sink” roles and just do them. The recording studio was very home-like.
It had a good atmosphere.
From the star Masako Nozawa-san on down, it was nothing but veterans, so all the members had worked together previously at a studio somewhere. Because of that, I suppose we knew each other’s dispositions. Plus, Masako Nozawa-san would go out of her way for guests participating for the first time. She catered to their needs without a hint of distaste, so it was very easy for them to open up and relax.
Are studio recordings like that rare?
Probably. It’s not like we don’t take our job seriously, but there is downtime. But however much we’d be chatting, when it came time for the real thing, we’d just get up in front of the mics and get into the roles. Because of that, the time we took to record was quite short. For a 30-minute show, normally it would take three or four hours, but for this work, there were times when we’d finish in two hours.
Speaking of Yamcha, he was dumped by Bulma, wasn’t he?
That was a shock. I often spoke with Hiromi Tsuru-san, who plays Bulma; both she and I thought Bulma and Yamcha would end up together. And for Vegeta, of all people! It really was a shock. So when I met with Toriyama-sensei, I complained, “Why did it have to be like this?!” Then Toriyama-sensei said, “Come on; Yamcha’s a cheater.” (laughs)
In your view, Furuya-san, what sort of character is Yamcha?
Throughout the whole thing, I thought he was a very ordinary person. He shows off, he’s shy, he’s a bit of a pervert, he has his desires. I think he really was an incredibly ordinary Earthling.
Goku had a certain removed-from-the-everyday aspect about him.
So I have a feeling that, in a way, maybe those fans who say they like Yamcha are actually projecting themselves on to him.
Were there any scenes that left an impression on you?
I happen to like Kaiō-sama‘s puns. He makes his puns with Jōji Yanami-san‘s characteristic way of speaking, where the words just sort of come falling out. Then, he starts to giggle at his own joke. I like that; it’s really cute. Also, his rapport with Gregory. I really love the gag-type characters.
What about episodes that impressed you?
I guess that’d have to be the Cell arc… With its breathtaking developments, it felt very different from the Dragon Ball that I knew.
It’s certainly different from the softer feeling there was at the start.
It is. I think it’s completely different. The mischievous child Son Goku is really good, isn’t he? That’s why my favorite part is Dragon Ball rather than Z. Masako Nozawa-san‘s acting prowess really comes out; when it comes to playing children like that, Nozawa-san is absolutely unmatched.
Was there anything that you struggled with in playing Yamcha?
Yamcha isn’t really a character who’s made to an extreme. I played him using my own voice as it is, so when he hadn’t appeared for a few months, and suddenly I’d have to play him again, I’d sometimes forget how he was supposed to sound. (laughs) I’d think, “I wonder if this is OK.” For example, if it was my Amuro Ray from Mobile Suit Gundam, I’d get into an Amuro way of speaking by doing some of his unique lines. So even now, before I perform, by saying one of Amuro’s signature lines, like “You hit me!”, I immediately get back into that character’s feel. With Saint Seiya, when I say, “Burn up, my cosmos!” I become Seiya. But Yamcha doesn’t have any signature lines, so I’d be very unsure of myself. Well, it’s probably just me who thinks that; it wasn’t much of a problem in practice. (laughs)
What do you think the relationship between Yamcha and Goku was like?
Hmm… I get the sense that he’s proud of [Goku], like a younger brother. He really is there from the beginning. Out of [all the fighters in] the series, they’re together the longest. He knew Goku back when he was little, right? Goku is stronger than him, as well as everyone else, but with his naïveté in spite of that, I think [Goku] is definitely like a rambunctious little brother [Yamcha] takes pride in.
Then, how about other characters?
With Tenshinhan, I think they’re like rivals. They’re at the same level. With Kuririn… kind of like a friend of his little brother? (laughs) He doesn’t really seem like a rival, does he.
So in a sense, he’s a character who keeps a healthy distance from others. Now, lastly, a message for the fans.
Yamcha may have ended up like an ordinary person in the second half, but please don’t forget to give him your support! (laughs)
Thank you very much.
(Recorded 24 May 2004)