Animation Styles Guide

中鶴(なかつる) 勝祥(かつよし)

Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru

General Information

Birthdate: 22 May 1962
Affiliation: Toei Animation
Work: Character Designer, Animation Supervisor, Key Animation Artist

Animation Supervisor Credits:
DBZ: 44, 120; SP1
Movies: DBZ: 4

After graduating from high school in 1980, he immediately began working for Toei Animation on collaborative foreign works. In 1986, Toei Animation announced they were creating an animated adaptation of Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga and Nakatsuru immediately volunteered for the project, as he had been a fan of Toriyama’s work since his debut in 1979. This would be the first Japanese animation he had ever worked on, and it would be one that his name would forever be associated with.

Nakatsuru primarily worked under veteran animator Minoru Maeda, and started off working as a key animator on Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Following Maeda’s exit from the series partway through Dragon Ball Z, Nakatsuru went on to share the role of Character Designer with Tadayoshi Yamamuro from the mid-Cell arc to the series’ end, but would then solely take over the role in Dragon Ball GT. When Dragon Ball Z was wrapping up and Dragon Ball GT was underway, Nakatsuru (as the illustrator) and Takao Koyama (as the writer) released a follow-up Dr. Slump manga, entitled “The Brief Return of Dr. Slump” that ran for 40 chapters from 1993 to 1996 in V-Jump. His experience with Dr. Slump would return following the end GT, as he became the character designer for its successor on Fuji TV, the 1990s Doctor Slump remake. In 1998, he again collaborated with Takao Koyama to create an ongoing version of Akira Toriyama’s three-part Cashman manga. While Toriyama supervised the manga and provided the original story concept, it was ultimately written by Koyama and illustrated by Nakatsuru (similar to what happened with the 2008 “Jump Super Anime Tour” special).

After being the character designer for the first four Digimon series (both Digimon Adventure series, Digimon Tamers, and Digimon Frontier), Nakatsuru left Toei Animation to become a freelance animator. He would later work with Toriyama once again as the character designer and main illustrator for several of Toriyama’s Dragon Quest games. He has recently been a key animator for a few episodes of the One Piece anime series, but has otherwise been fairly quiet animation-wise later in his career.

Nakatsuru is probably the most widely famed of all the series’ character designers, mostly for his ability to duplicate Akira Toriyama’s artistic style. While he has been very modest in interviews about his artistic abilities, even Toriyama praised Nakatsuru’s amazing skills in his introduction to the Dragon Ball GT Dragon Box saying, “Nakatsuru-kun is amazingly skilled, and mastered the peculiarities of my pictures in no time at all, to the point where there were even times when I couldn’t tell whether I had drawn a certain character design, or if he had”. Nakatsuru is also quite well known for doing the original character designs for Bardock and his crew in the first Dragon Ball Z TV special, although by far his most famous character design was that of Super Saiyan 4 Son Goku.

Like most character designers, Nakatsuru was responsible for much of the series’ promotional artwork, especially later in the series. He provided the cover art for the two Dragon Ball GT Perfect File guides, but wouldn’t draw anything else Dragon Ball-related until he returned to draw the box art for the first four Dragon Boxes (Tadayoshi Yamamuro provided the artwork for “The Movies” Dragon Box). Following that he provided the cover art for the two TV anime guide books “Tenka’ichi Densetsu” and “Son Goku Densetsu”, all of the Dragon Ball Z TV animation comics, the majority of the Dragon Ball-related cover art for V-Jump, some of the Japanese video game cover art (such as the Dragon Ball Z series of PS2 games), the cover art for the “Extreme Battle Collection” guide books, and most recently the “Golden Warrior” illustration collection.

Animation Gallery

This gallery serves as a small example of the animation seen in episodes supervised by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru and may not be representative of his entire body of work during his involvement in the series.

Dragon Ball Z Episodes

Character Design Sheets

Animation Team

Although Nakatsuru was a series character designer he rarely ever supervised episodes, but was more often than not a key animator himself. He would often fill-in with other animation studios to provide assistance when needed, but spent most of his time performing his character design duties. When he did actually supervise an episode, all of the key animators involved were typically fellow animators from Toei Animation.

Main Animation Team General Series Involvement
Takeo Ide (井手武生) DB: 50 – 153; DBZ: 1 – 291; GT: 1 – 64
Hideko Okimoto (沖本日出子) DB: 126 – 153; DBZ: 1 – 202
Naoki Miyahara (宮原直樹) DBZ: 44 – 291; GT: 1 – 64
Chikako Uesugi (上杉千佳子) DBZ: 70 – 195
Kuniko Iwagami (岩上久仁子) DBZ: 70 – 195
Akira Inagami (稲上 晃) DBZ: 117 – 291; GT: 1 – 47
Tetsuya Numako (沼子哲也) DBZ: 117 – 291; GT: 1 – 47