Press Archive

Shonen Jump (Issue 3, March 2003)

NYC Launch

When we found ourselves in New York with Akira Toriyama, we knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to talk with him–but what new questions to ask? Luckily, Eito & Takeshi Yasutoko came to the rescue–they’re both huge Dragon Ball fans, and besides, they speak better Japanese than we do. The two champion inline skaters, and their father, met the great artist on the top floor of the Kitano Hotel.

■ Toriyama’s Character(s)

Takeshi: So now that I’ve met you face to face, I have to say that Senbei Norimaki [title character of Toriyama’s first manga Dr. Slump–Editor] is pretty much exactly like you…
Toriyama: Yup! I get told that a lot, including how I’m as perverted as the character too. (laughs) And when Dragon Ball came out, it was said that I put myself in as the character Kame-Sen’nin [the Turtle Hermit].
Takeshi: So did you consciously project yourself into the character?
Toriyama: No, not at all. (laughs) It’s just that it ends up being easier to draw and create when the character is similar to yourself.
Hyde Narita: So how do you draw them? How do you imagine the characters?
Toriyama: Well, we just discuss it during the monthly meetings, then they just develop, and we run with it. A story comes up and I think, “We need to make this kind of character for this type of story.” And we cook up a character.
Takeshi: Was there a model for Arale-chan [the girl robot from Dr. Slump–Editor]?
Toriyama: Yes, it turned out that way. I hated drawing little girls, so much so that I originally had intended Senbei to be the main character, but my editor really liked girls then, so he demanded I create a girl and I created Arale-chan, with a lot of dissatisfaction. And he looked at it and said “Hey, this one is better, make her the main character!” and I was thinking “WHAT?!?” And it ended up being a big hit and I was in shock.

■ Drawing Dragon Ball

Toriyama: Dragon Ball was a serious pain. I was always wondering “The character can’t possibly get any stronger, do I have to continue this?”
Eito: I noticed a bunch of different Super Saiyans were developed.
Toriyama: After the second half, pretty much all the power was just talk, just for the looks of it. The content was pretty empty and didn’t really differ from previous stuff.
Takeshi: Yeah, I have to say, I liked Goku a lot better when he was small. When he grew up, I always thought the younger, smaller Goku was always the more Goku-like of the two…So could I get an autograph?
Toriyama: Sure. So you’d like the child version of Goku?
Takeshi: Please. (Toriyama begins drawing young Goku for Takeshi.)
Toriyama: Hang on, I have to remember the sequence of drawing him… body, gut, mouth…dang this is complicated…
Takeshi: Why is the hair like that?
Toriyama: Well, the face is really plain, so I had to jazz it up. Originally, most of the faces in the comic were pretty generic, and especially in the case of the main character, he didn’t look very much like a protagonist, so I changed it to this style. It’s really a hairstyle that can’t possibly exist in real life. (laughs)
Eito: So was it decided from the beginning that Goku was going to become a Super Saiyan?
Toriyama: Not at all. I kind of painted myself into a corner, presenting this “giant enemy who’s going to appear next issue,” and sat there afterward scratching my head and thinking to myself what the heck I was going to do about it. (Toriyama starts drawing Super Saiyan Goku.) It’s so long ago that I’ve forgotten how to draw him. (laughs)
Takeshi: So are you planning on drawing anything new?
Toriyama: Oh man, I don’t ever want to draw manga again. It’s rough!
Eito: I often see in the comics about how the editor comes over to the artist’s house and says “hurry it up, please!”
Toriyama: Yes, there are a lot of people who are slow, but in my case, I live in Aichi Prefecture [far from Tokyo–Editor] so the editors don’t come out to see me on general principle, and in the beginning, I was told that if I was even one day late, I would be forced to come to Tokyo myself. And Tokyo is really crowded, which I hate, so I always tried to turn in my work on time.
Eito: I can draw from photos but I like drawing just freehand…I always loved art as a kid. [Eito shows Toriyama some of his drawings.]
Toriyama: Hey, pretty good! You draw clean lines.
Eito: I made a homepage called “Cabin Eight” where I’m displaying my rough sketches. I’m wondering if I could get an autograph from you? Would it be possible for you to do a self portrait of yourself?
Toriyama: Aaaagh, that’s like the hardest request. (laughs)
Takeshi: How about Kame-Sen’nin? Or Vegeta? I like Vegeta too. Or Brolli from the movies?
Toriyama: Brolli? Who was he? I don’t know if he was in the manga…
Eito: He was only in the movies. How about…which character do you have the most connection of nostalgia to?
Toriyama: I think it would be Neko-sama (“the cat master”)…
Eito: You mean Karin-sama?
Toriyama: Yes, Karin-sama.
Eito: How about Bulma? (Toriyama begins drawing a young Bulma) Did you teach your style and technique to your assistants?
Toriyama: I only had one assistant, and he could come for about half a day. I would have him draw the backgrounds to his own liking. I would typically draw one or two examples–“This is the style I want it in”–and that’s all I would have to say. The assistant was a really talented artist so it worked out. I would also have the assistant ink the art and insert speed lines. If the assistant hadn’t finished their job I would do the backgrounds and inking also. I hated erasing the pencil lines, and it would take the assistant a while to finish up, so that’s why I created the Super Saiyan because it was easy to draw compared to Goku’s normal hairstyle. Another technique I would use to make work easier for difficult parts like the Tenka’ichi Budôkai (“Strongest-Under-the-Heavens Martial Arts Tournament”) was quickly destroying the set so we wouldn’t have to draw it anymore.

■ The Origin of Akira Toriyama

Eito: So what was it like to have your work published?
Toriyama: You get a real sense of accomplishment from having it published and read by so many people, but continually creating a manga is really difficult. I was so new that I didn’t know how manga was really made, and hadn’t learned how to employ an assistant yet, so everyone I talked to was really surprised I was doing all the backgrounds and everything, maybe getting 3 hours of sleep in one week…When I was doing bad art, that’s the reason. I was thinking to myself “Boy, I sure got into a rough line of work.”
Eito: And your feelings about art?
Toriyama: I enjoyed design and illustration. So right out of high school, I was hired by a design company, because I wanted to jump into the real world and start earning money right away. But I really hated that even though there were people capable of doing the art in-house, the company would nevertheless outsource its graphic work. So after three years, I quit, and my personal savings quickly dwindled away. I was sitting in a cafe thinking “What the heck am I going to do” I had read all the books that were in the cafe, so I figured what the heck, I’ll read some manga. I think it was Shonen Magazine, and it had a manga competition where the prize was 500,000 yen. But when I tried out for it, I wasn’t able to make the deadline and the next competition was six months away. The next magazine I looked in, Shonen Jump, had a monthly competition, but the prize was only 100,00 yen, and I thought, “Hey, this one looks a lot easier to win than the Shonen Magazine one.” I look at it now and think “Wow, that’s some seriously amateurish junk I was drawing,” but back then I was confident that the 100,000 yen was as good as mine. I didn’t get a response, so I thought that maybe they hadn’t received the manuscript, and I entered another competition and found out that I hadn’t made it. Then an editor, who ended up becoming my very first editor,1 ended up telling me that he liked where I was going with my art, and offered to have my create some work and send it to him and he would help me out. This was the turning point which led me down the path of becoming a manga artist. I probably wouldn’t have become a manga artist if I had actually won the 100,000 yen prize, because I was only after the money. All I was thinking of at the time was maybe selling an illustration here and there and living off that. At the age of 22, I was still sneaking 100 yen from my mom’s wallet, because I wanted to get a pack of smokes so badly. (Toriyama pauses and looks at what he’s been drawing.) Oh hey, it turned out pretty okay.

■ Self-Improvement

Eito: Thank you very much. So what’s in the future for you?
Toriyama: I initially felt a lot of resistance to writing manga, but I think halfway through Dragon Ball I had a change of heart and thought to myself, “Hey, this isn’t half bad.” I guess I started enjoying the entire professional creative process, similar to making a movie; but I felt dissatisfied when I wasn’t really able to fully develop an idea I had. For example, weekly installments, like during the later part of Dragon Ball, really made me think “Once I’m done with this, I never want to do this sort of crazy schedule again.” I was getting old, and I was really impressed with the people who were able to crank out their work like that, but I wanted to focus on works that I could finish in a short period of time. Now I do things like car designs and picture books, which I consider “homework,” sort of like I am only now beginning to study in earnest what I like. But what about you two, where you’re the top of your class? Do your goals really change?
Takeshi: No not really. I mean, overall, from the point of view of each competition, we aren’t really advancing, but if you look at it from the long view, my aspirations as a competitor and my aspirations as a skater are quite different. As a competitor, I retain that sense of wanting to win, but as a skater, I simply aspired to continue skating.
Father: A win in a competition just lasts for that particular moment, but technique is something that continually grows and develops for him year after year. It’s something that he chases after.
Toriyama: That really is very professional. Even though I drew it myself, I’m really dissatisfied with Dragon Ball… Before I die, I look forward to creating something that will really stay with me and let me feel satisfied with my creation. I mean, you hate your older stuff. It seems crude.
Takeshi: Right, as a player, I want to be able to do the best I can while I can still skate. It’s something that really isn’t known by a lot of people looking at you from the outside.
Father: So do you have anything new in development?
Toriyama: For manga, nothing really comes to mind. It really was a moment of inspiration in the case of Dragon Ball. I watched Jackie Chan something like one, two hundred times, even while I was working.

■ Movies & Anime

Father: So is Dragon Ball based on Jackie Chan?
Toriyama: Yes, I love Jackie Chan. I really didn’t directly draw inspiration from it, but my editor was the one who told me that if I loved it so much, I should create something based on it. I initially just based the feel of Dragon Ball on the feel of China, like the scenery and the clothing. Like the name Dragon Ball is based on the movie [Enter the] Dragon. I love that movie, the old style of Bruce Lee.
Father: I’ve seen it 18 times.
Toriyama: Wow, that’s more than me, I’ve only see it around 15 or 16 times. So anyway, I started drawing more and more from that genre. Especially from the comedy aspects of Jackie Chan. I read his book I am Jackie Chan a number of years ago, with the concept of the hero that is as normal as everyone. So within the framework of total action, I always inserted points of normalcy, where people do everyday things, like being hungry. If I made too fantastic a story, the reader’s imagination would be flung too far into a fantastic realm. I’m really not a big fan of fighting, I actually get more enjoyment out of the connecting elements leading up to a fight. Reveling in the everyday.
Takeshi: But there are some really good fights, although there’s usually more in the anime series.
Toriyama: Right, well, the problem is, one anime episode can typically cover three manga episodes, so anime can easily outpace the speed of manga. So the anime is stretched out by adding more combat.
Takeshi: When I was really young, I once saw an anime done by you where it was something about taking a ball from the head or horns of a dragon or something.
Toriyama: Wait a second, an anime? Wow, no way, that’s a really nostalgic one.
Eito: Was that before Dr. Slump?
Toriyama: No, it was after. There was talk of doing an original anime during the production of Dragon Ball [Kosuke-sama, Rikimaru-sama: Kompeitô no Ryu, a 1991 original anime by Toriyama–Editor]…

■ The End (for now…)

Toriyama: Is there anything you want to do in the future, or are planning to do in the future?
Takeshi: To be able to skate for another 10 years, give my all for each and every tournament and have everyone enjoy my performance.
Eito: I want to study more and, although I have nothing concrete in mind, I want to go in the direction of inline skating. Maybe getting my own tour to manage. Learning English, how to run a business. I definitely want to be able to skate for the next 10 years, like Takeshi said, but most of all, I want to be able to realize my dream of skating at the level of skill that I strive for.
Toriyama: Wow, that’s really amazing. I guess as for myself, I want to be able to produce something, even once, that I will be completely satisfied with.
Eito: So it isn’t Dragon Ball? There’s something better you can produce, you think?
Toriyama: Welllll, Dragon Ball really isn’t…(laughs)

Special thanks to Akira Toriyama and the Yasutoko family.

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

1 Kazuhiko Torishima
Transcription & Notes: VegettoEX