Weekly Asahi (29 March 2013)

Mariko’s Guest Collection 659: Masako Nozawa Interview

with Mariko Hayashi

Masako Nozawa
★Voice Actress
Kaaa~ Meee~ Haaa~ Meee~ Haaa~!

The one assuming the pose of the finishing technique unleashed by Dragon Ball‘s main character, Son Goku, is the pride of Japan’s voice-acting world, Masako Nozawa-san.

From GeGeGe no Kitarō, to Tetsurō in Galaxy Express 999, Inakappe Taishō, and Goku, Gohan, and Goten….

What is the secret of the throat that’s given voice to the heroes of such a wide range of generations?

Before the opening of the new movie for the nationally-beloved anime Dragon Ball, I thought I’d ask you about a number of things, so today I paid a visit.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to come out here.
This [movie], Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, is opening during spring vacation, so there’s no question that it’s going to be #1 in terms of audience turnout. Toei is once again going to be making an enormous profit… (laughs). Even the building I’m visiting today (Toei Animation) must be called the “Dragon Ball Building” or the “Nozawa Building”, right? (laughs)
Ahahaha, you’re so nice.
Apparently, it’s the first Dragon Ball film in 17 years; Including the comics, I wonder just how many people have seen Dragon Ball up to now. People all around the world watch it, so I can’t really conceive of it.
I can’t imagine it at all. In terms of generation, there’s three generations: I hear that the dads [of today] watched it with their fathers when they were little, and now they watch it with their own sons.
When I asked the staff for this interview a little while ago, they’re all part of the Dragon Ball generation, as well. Although, in terms of age, I’m more of the GeGeGe no Kitarō or Pyonkichi (Hiroshi in Dokonjō Gaeru) generation, myself.
My, I’m happy to hear you say that.
Talking like this, you have a normal woman’s voice, but when you become Goku or Gohan, all of a sudden, it becomes a boyish one.
When I enter the studio, I cast aside Masako Nozawa.
I saw the film, and I suppose you’d call it distinguishing the voices, but Nozawa-san, you seem to do the voices of three roles — the main character Goku and his sons Gohan and Goten — differently. No matter how I think about it, I can’t believe that voices of those different young men all come out of the same person. That’s a feat only you are capable of, Nozawa-san.
Oh no, not at all.
Because when you’re dubbing in [your lines], if you slip up in the middle, you have to stop right there, don’t you.
Now, even if you slip up, you just keep going. In the past, it was on film, so it was a bother, but now it’s digital, so they can bring up the spot you flubbed just like that, and you can just re-do that part.
But even so, you can’t really slip up in front of the other, young voice-actors, can you? Not with the name of a queen. (laughs)
You know, I used to be called someone who never flubs a line, but recently, I have done it. And also, I often go off-script. During the actual performance, I’m involved in the story, so I take my eyes off the script, and inadvertently say my own arbitrary lines. Then when I glance back, it’s different from what’s in the script.
Do you re-record when that happens?
Sometimes I re-record it, and sometimes they’ll use it as-is, since “Goku would say it like that.” For instance, in the scene where Goku’s son Gohan is receiving training from Piccolo-san, it feels as though he’s being bullied, don’t you think? Well, I’d lose my cool, and thinking, “Hey, cut it out~,” I’d become Gohan, and inadvertently say something Gohan might say. (laughs)
You’re one and the same with your roles. When you record, do they also record the sound effects with you?
They don’t record them at the same time. We record just the dialogue, and the staff put in the sounds after.
Aren’t you ever surprised at it afterward, as in, “So this sort of sound goes along with it”?
I am. Only, I’ve been doing it for many years, so I sort of know by intuition, “This part will definitely have this sort of sound along with it”. So I’ll distort [my voice] a little bit. My voice will disappear if I’m quieter than the sound [effects], after all.
So you imagine the sounds, then.
Right. So in a lot of ways, you have to have a fertile imagination to do it.
Now, when you ask girls, “What do you want to be?” there are many who answer, “a voice actress”. I hear that even the daughter of one of the women who works here part-time has been going to a technical school for voice-acting since she graduated from high school.
There are many schools, apparently. But it’s tough, really tough.
For a star to be born from among them, you mean.
Yes, it really is just a tiny fraction. At a voice-acting school, you have to study and then graduate in a set period of two or three years, so you can only do a limited number of things. The members who remain go on to continue their studies for three, four, five years, before they’re finally able to go on television.
But with a star like you still playing a role on the front lines, Nozawa-san, they’ll get stuck underneath.
Hahaha, that is certainly true. What shall I do? (laughs) I intend to keep going, and get into the Guinness Book.
Nozawa-san, you’re one of those voice-actors who has been active since the dawn of Japanese animation, but every anime you’ve done up till now has been a hit.
I’m glad for that. There really are many works that were a hit. Starting with GeGeGe no Kitarō, things like Kaibutsu-kun and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer also managed to become hits.
And Rascal….
Rascal the Raccoon, as well, along with Dokonjō Gaeru, Inakappe Taishō, Galaxy Express 999…. I believe I was really lucky to encounter all of them.
Yasumi Yoshizawa, the creator of Dokonjō Gaeru, went to my high school ahead of me. He was in the newspaper recently; apparently, after Dokonjō Gaeru ended, he became rather poor. But then the rebroadcast started, and he got back on his feet. [The article] said that it was just as his child was going off to college, so it was a real lifesaver.
Is that so?
The writers have their ups and downs, but you, Nozawa-san, are constantly at the forefront.
I’m thankful for that. I had never thought about it before myself, but a long time ago, a producer at Toei told me, “Nozawa-san, ever since Kitarō, you’ve never had a break from playing the lead,” and I said, “What, really?” I am truly thankful for that.
Nobuyo Ōyama, who had always played Doraemon, said that “it was a terrible shock” when she left the role.
I can understand that “shock”. She had always done that role with such care, after all. It’s a performer’s weak point, being told, “Starting next year, [your role will be played by] someone else”; you have no choice but to say, “Ah, I see,” and I think that was a terrible shock. Actually, in the beginning, I was the one doing that [role].
What, Doraemon? I didn’t know that.
The producer who did Kaibutsu-kun said to me, quite worried, “Next, we’d like to do Doraemon as animation, but I wonder if it will be a hit,” so I told him, “It will absolutely be a hit! One hundred percent a hit!” So I did [the role] for just a little bit in the black-and-white era. Then later, when the color version of the anime started, Ōyama-san played him for soooo many years, so she had really brought up Doraemon, you know? I understand that being a shock all too well.
Now, if they were to say, “We’re going to change Goku’s voice from Nozawa-san to someone else,” the fans wouldn’t accept it, would they. They might come to this building, throwing rocks at it and saying, “Don’t screw around with us!” (laughs)
Ahahaha, it makes me happy, when you put it like that.
Now, they say that Japanese anime is an export industry, but how was the situation back then, from the viewpoint of someone who witnessed firsthand the dawn [of the industry]?
In the very beginning, we couldn’t even conceive of it spreading its wings around the world; what first started a boom in Japan was GeGeGe no Kitarō. After that, it really started going out into the world, but up till then, it was as though it were being swept into the corner.
Like the late Nachi Nozawa1, you yourself do theater, and there were quite a few [stage] actors who also did voice acting, early on.
That’s right. We were all like that.
I hear that, at the beginning, you had said, “I am an actress, not a voice actress.”
We thespians can be real snobbish. “To appear on television or in the media is to sell out!” But, you can’t eat [on the money from] doing theater. So we’d seek out a source of income to support our theater work in TV and the media.
Right.
It’s at odds with what I’ve said, but even I was doing it with the idea of doing my acting on the money I’d made [from voiceover work], so at the time of GeGeGe no Kitarō, when I was asked, “Are you a voice actress?” I’d actually say, “No. I’m a stage actress.” But now, I love being called a “voice actress”.
What about on-stage?
I do theater with youngsters, but it’s fun. Last year, we held a public recital twice.
Does it feel, both psychologically and financially, as though you’re supporting the theater troupe, Nozawa-san?
Well, I suppose so. But theater is nice.
Even now, after you finish your voice-acting work, do you still go to the rehearsal space?
I do. There’s usually someone of the youngsters there up until past 11 o’clock at night, so I try and show my face for at least half an hour. They get to be like my own kids.
Do you do things like strength-training or voice practice there?
I talk about a lot of different things. I also ask my seniors a variety of things about the craft, and if there’s a talk on TV or other, I absolutely watch it. In a program (Hisaya) Morishige-san was on when he was eighty-something years old, he said, “I’ve finally just learned to walk.” I watched it, thinking, “I see now; Morishige-san is up here, and we aren’t there yet.”
Perhaps it’s because of that desire to improve that you’re always able to produce a boyish voice with such an abundance of emotion.
Every day is a learning experience; I call it “watching”, but I observe things without thinking, and put them in my performer’s drawer for later, and when various parts come to me, I take them out of that drawer, mix them together, and create a role.
We writers will also gaze absentmindedly at the ladies and girls when we’re on the train, but in your case, Nozawa-san, I bet you observe the boys.
That’s right. One time, I overheard a conversation among junior high-schoolers, and they said, “Watcha prawblem?” (“What’s your problem?”). “Ah,” I thought, “So that’s how junior high-schoolers talk now,” and when I played Hiroshi on Dokonjō Gaeru, I tried saying “Watcha prawblem?” Then the director praised me, saying, “Just as I expected of you, Mako. You brought that in with you.” I do my watching, and put it in that drawer.
And also, you have to be mentally youthful, or else a boy’s voice won’t come out.
My mental age is low. Very low. (laughs)
Nozawa-san, you have a wealth of facial expressions.
People often say that. I’m not at all conscious of it, myself.
You really are an actress. You must also have that same wealth of expressions when you’re dubbing in [dialogue], don’t you?
I definitely think so. You just can’t do it expressionlessly. It’s just that much fun.
Nozawa-san, I had no idea that you were married with children. I’ve always thought that you were single. You don’t have that sense about you, or rather, I can’t at all imagine you going shopping, or standing in the kitchen.
Perhaps it’s because I seem carefree. But I do go shopping. I like going to the supermarket, and looking at all the different products.
I suppose it’s so as not to crush the fans’ dreams that you don’t say much about your private life.
If I’m asked, I won’t lie, but I don’t offer it myself.
You don’t give your age, either.
I don’t.2 When people ask me, “How old are you,” I tell them, “I’m 2,000 years old.” (laughs) “I’m 2,000 years old, and that’s why I can be both a child and an old woman.”
I thought this while listening to you talk, but you can’t really talk about secrets, can you? Your voice carries so well.
Even when I’m talking in a café, [the conversation] goes, “Mako-san, lower your voice. Everyone can hear you.” “What, at this level?” “You have a loud voice.” (laughs)
Don’t people notice you in the middle of things? As in, “Ah, that voice.”
I sometimes feel people’s eyes on me, but I absolutely never bring my gaze over to them. (laughs)
But Nozawa-san, it’s not like you appear on television all that often, so people shouldn’t notice as long as you don’t talk, right?
People tell me that. But when I’m walking around in a department store, for instance, [someone will say] “You’re Nozawa-san, aren’t you. Can I have your autograph?” If I sign something for one person, they’ll start form a crowd, so it’s kind of embarrassing… but I figure it can’t be helped, and at those times, I’ll do it.
They know it’s you even if you don’t say anything?
For some reason, it seems they know. When I was walking in Harajuku, a young man jangling a chain, with his hair sticking straight up, came right up in front of me; I was surprised, and I thought, “Whoa, is that a Super Saiyan?!” And then he said, “I’m a fan of yours. Please shake my hand.” I answered, reflexively, “Th- thank you.”
That’s nice, isn’t it? Even kids preening up their plumage all watch Dragon Ball. The boys of Japan all grew up watching it, after all.
On the train, as well, when I hear young kids with their jeans sagging way down talking about Dragon Ball, saying “Did you see it yesterday?” and “I saw it, I saw it!”, I’ll think, “These are good kids, aren’t they.”
Always being the lead, you must be incredibly busy; how do you deal with stress? Do you drink alcohol?
I don’t drink. I don’t smoke, either. But, I love being with people when they’re having drinks together. I can have oolong tea and stay with them for hours.
But don’t you dislike breathing in all that smoke?
I’m fine with it. Even in places where the smoke hanging in the air, I talk without any problems.
What sort of people [do you do that] with?
With my fellow voice-actors. After we finish work, we all go somewhere cheap, or rather, to a typical place for drinks. And with yakitori, one person doesn’t take a skewer and eat from it, but we’ll order a number of them and then split them up. If there’s five pieces [of chicken] on a skewer, five people can eat from it, right? (laughs) I also do that when I’m having drinks with people from the theater troupe.
Does it have the feeling of, “I’ll pay, here”?
I like that sense of, “It’s on me today,” but they refuse. Although, when we split the bill, there are times when I pick up the youngsters’ portion.
The godmother of this business. (laughs)
That’s not true, but I’m a child of the Shitamachi3, so maybe it’s that I’m bossy by nature.
Do you regularly take care of your throat?
Not at all. People with nice voices are careful, and drink all sorts of things, but I’m just fine without taking any extra precautions with my throat.
Do you not catch colds, either?
I haven’t caught one in decades. I do have a way of doing things that I think is good in my own way, and I recommend to everyone.
Could you tell me?
It’s pretty crude. You get in the bath, and put the shower on lukewarm, then aim the shower head way up close to your mouth, and douse the inside of your mouth. I think doing that gets all the gunk out of your throat. (laughs) After you finish dousing, take the water from the shower in both hands, and then slurp it up into your nose.
Eh?!
Then dump it out from your mouth. Doing that should get all the gunk out of your nose, don’t you think? (laughs) Repeat that about three times. Doing this, I haven’t caught a cold in decades, so I think it’s pretty good. Try it. (laughs)
It sounds like it would hurt a bit, slurping it up into the nose.
It’s fine. You won’t die, anyway.4 (laughs)

Composition: Weekly Asahi — Tomoko Ishizuka

How about after that?

The female editor in charge of editing my page is not so much a fan as a Dragon Ball otaku. After [the interview] finished, she shamelessly asked Nozawa-san to shake her hand.

The young man of a photographer was also quite moved, if I remember correctly: “To think that I’d get to meet Nozawa-san….” To the fans, she truly is someone akin to “God”.

Nozawa-san‘s voice is well-known even to members of my generation, but this was the first time I’d met her. Clothes included, her sheer glamour really was that of an actress. A truly charming person, the expression on her face constantly changing. I think [to hear] her voice alone is such a waste, but for a person of this caliber to be performing with just her voice is truly incredible.

Be that as it may, I always thought that they used a real raccoon for the voice of Rascal. To think that the voice behind that sad-sounding “kuu—n” was Nozawa-san all along.

The following translator notes are included for the benefit of the reader as supplemental information.

1 No relation to Masako Nozawa herself, although he did act opposite her as the villain Lucifer in the second Dragon Ball theatrical film.
2 She was born 25 October 1936, making her 76 at the time of the interview.
3 The traditionally working-class areas of Tokyo, whose residents are seen as being plain-spoken and unpretentious.
4 You actually can die from this, if you use unsterilized water containing the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. This organism causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, which is over 95% fatal. Always use distilled or sterilized water for nasal irrigation.
English Translation: SaiyaJedi
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