Translations Archive

Chōzenshu 4: Dragon Ball Super Encyclopedia

Akira Toriyama Also Looks Back at Dragon Ball!!

We also asked Toriyama-sensei to tell about the history of his work spanning a quarter-century, from Dragon Ball’s beginnings up to now. We’ll even approach the behind-the-scenes of DB, that can finally be told now?!

1984 – 1986
Start of Serialization to Goku’s Boyhood Era

“There were no preparations or anything…”

What sort of preparations did you make prior to Dragon Ball’s serialization?
I only managed to get three months’ time from the end of Dr. Slump’s serialization, so there were no preparations or anything. That’s because I’d promised, as a condition of ending the relatively popular Dr. Slump, that I’d start my next serial right away. I did go on a trip to China with my wife, but that was merely a personal thing. Although, it did come in handy as a result.
After that, the story becomes more battle-focused, with [events] such as the Tenka’ichi Budōkai. The number of distinctive characters increases all at once; did you struggle with that?
The throwaway characters and such were easy, since I’d just draw them in a way that felt, “Ah, they’ll probably lose right away”, but with characters who became a bit of a plot point, I did take some time as necessary… thinking about how I could give them some sort of memorable characteristic somewhere. Naturally, I’d often get hints from movies or TV. Information-gathering is vital too, for getting a read on current trends.
What about the story developments?
I often say this, when I probably shouldn’t, but I hadn’t decided who would win the matches at the Tenka’ichi Budōkai. So, even I would be drawing it in suspense. I figured I’d let it take its own course at the time… well, Dragon Ball as a whole was like that, though. (laughs) In my own plans, though, for the very first tournament Goku appeared in, I probably thought the championship would predictably go to the main character, Goku.

Start of the Anime

“Nozawa-san’s voice fit Goku to a T”

With regards to the broadcast of the anime, in what sort of way were you involved?
I had almost no free time, so I basically took a hands-off approach to the anime. Except, just at the beginning, I think I did checks on the art and such. Also, I participated in the selection of the voices for the main cast, which is rare for me. I’d listen to the audition tapes and then choose; I remember that I thought that Masako Nozawa-san’s voice truly fit Goku to a T. Although I’m not at all knowledgeable about animation, so even if I had been told the name of the voice actor who had been selected afterwards, at the time, I wouldn’t really have known [who she was]… (laughs)
Around the same time, [Dragon Ball] was made into a video game. Even now, many games are being made, which are quite popular.
Even as I do this job, I’m the kind of bum who hardly ever reads comics, watches animation, or plays video games, including my own work. (laughs) It’s not that I’m bad with any of them, but I’ve gotten into a lifestyle where I’m barely able just to engage in my hobby of model-building in my precious free time… With games in particular, in the Famicom era, I enjoyed them quite a bit, but I’d get too caught up in them, and time would pass by before I knew it, you know?T1 “This is no good!” I decided, and after that, I stopped playing almost entirely. Only, I do sometimes watch my children playing, and study it only just a little.

Vegeta Makes His Appearance; The Start of Dragon Ball Z

“The face I’d make when drawing battles, I couldn’t show to other people!”

This was the period when Vegeta appeared in the original comic, and the battles grew even fiercer.
I think everyone who’s a cartoonist does this, but when you’ve got a fierce fight, the positions and directions change at a dizzying pace, and if you don’t simulate it in your head, it’ll become hard to understand the state of the battle. In my head, I’d put myself in the character’s place, and try fighting in the same way. So, whenever I was drawing a battle scene, it would be pretty tiring. My facial expressions would also start moving in the same way before I realized it, so if there were a lot of scenes with shouting, or if there were intense changes in expression, my face would be incredibly tired afterwards. The face [I’d make] when drawing battles, I could never show to other people. (laughs)
The anime became Z; was it from around this time that you worked closely with Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, who was also an animation supervisor?
To be honest, I really met a lot of people around this time, so I don’t remember our first meeting very wellT2. When I first became conscious of Nakatsuru-san’s drawing skill was a bit later… especially with the V-Jump project, when he drew some of the illustrations in my stead. He made them look identical to my own illustrations, only much better, which surprised me. When I say he made them look identical, there were actually times when even I couldn’t tell who drew them, to the point where I wanted him to draw illustrations for the Dragon Ball serialization, as well. (laughs) His main job is an animator, so that wouldn’t happen… but when you work with talented people, you can get results even greater than you imagined, so it’s truly exciting.
You also did things like the designs for original characters such as Broli and Coola, didn’t you?
I don’t think the number is very large… but I think I did do it occasionally, when a request came in. However, I basically left things up to the [anime] staff. I didn’t really check the scripts that carefully, either….
This was also the period when your editor, Torishima-sanT3, promoted a mix of different media through V-Jump, wasn’t it?
Torishima-san is, at any rate, someone who loves doing new things, and I was always the one made to go along with him. (laughs) Anyway, it was tough, but as a result, the horizons of my work broadened, and I’m glad because I learned a lot from it. Now that you mention it, even Dragon Quest is a job that Torishima-san, who was close with [game designer Yūji] Horii-san to begin with, brought to me. It was an era when I didn’t even know the word “RPG”, and I got roped into it without really understanding what it was… I was already busy just with the weekly serial, but this was genuinely tough. However, when I played the finished game, it felt really fresh, and was a lot of fun, so it’s something I was glad to have participated in.
Could you tell us about V-Jump?
Like I said earlier, I was roped into V-Jump by Torishima-san from the start of its trial run. Thinking back on it now, I was drawing a lot of comics and illustrations on top of a weekly serial, so it was pretty crazy. (laughs) I think the reason I can’t remember the work I’ve done in the past is because I was so busy that I couldn’t commit it to memory. As for why I don’t even remember the contents of Dragon Ball very well, I suppose it’s because if I don’t keep forgetting things, I can’t do anything new. Really, it seems like my brain’s memory capacity isn’t very large. (laughs)

GT – the Kanzenban is released

“If it weren’t for the computer, I would have quit drawing”…?

The serialization ended, and an original anime, Dragon Ball GT, started.
At the time, the serialization had already finished, so my mind was on my next job. So… to be honest, I was just a little bit resistant to the idea of doing more Dragon Ball designs then. (laughs) Although I was truly grateful that I’d be able to have them continue it for me.
After that, the Kanzenban comics were published, and we were able to see newly-drawn cover illustrations every month.
The truth is, it was then that I first read through Dragon Ball properly. (laughs) Since I’d be drawing illustrations according to the contents [of the volume], you know. In terms of the way I drew the cover illustrations, for the first half, I’d scan the inked [drawing] into the computer, and color it using a program called Painter. For the latter half, I’d draw on a graphics tablet starting with the inking, and paint in the colors with a program called Photoshop. As for why I changed my drawing technique between the first and second half… it’s simply because I got tired of it. (laughs) I’m often told that coloring by computer “has no flavor”, but it’s not like I’m drawing a work of art here, so personally, I feel that right now, this is the best for me in terms of expression. If it weren’t for the computer, I suppose I would probably have gotten sick of it already, and would hardly be drawing anymore.
You also drew Neko Majin and such around this time, right?
I like the relaxed silliness of Neko Majin. But I originally drew it intending it to be a one-shot with just a single chapter, so I didn’t feel like it could continue for so many chapters. The reason I started inserting Dragon Ball parody into it is probably because I started to hurt for material and ran away [from the original premise]. In my comics, if I bring out the author’s likes too strongly, it won’t be very popular to begin with, so it’s difficult to keep things in moderation. In other words, the hits Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball were works that I drew while suppressing my own preferences. I really have to thank Torishima-san, my editor at the time, for that.

In the case of Slump, before the start of serialization, I drew it intending the DoctorT4 to be the main character. But Torishima-san told me that he wanted me to turn Arale-chan into the main character, and I remember that I resisted: “What? A girl as the main character?”

In the case of Dragon Ball, at the time I had exhausted my material for Dr. Slump and wanted to end it, but it was popular so I couldn’t. At that rough point, Torishima-san, who had learned that I liked Kung-Fu movies and often watched them, suggested to me, “If you like them that much, why don’t you draw a Kung-Fu comic? If it’s interesting, I’ll even let you end Dr. Slump.” That was a lifesaver as it was, but it was on the condition that “you have to start right on it in three months,” so I had almost no break, since I had other work and such, and I had no choice but to start drawing without clearly deciding on the contents. As a result, I suppose the fact that I didn’t even have time to think about this or that of my own preferences was actually a good thing. (laughs)

Battle of Gods opens

Working together with talented people to achieve a new effect

You were involved in scriptwriting for the first time with Battle of Gods; are you interested in the creative endeavors of people in other fields?
My abilities as an individual don’t amount to all that much. If I’m going to be working on something, there’s nothing more wonderful than to join forces with talented people and come up with some new idea or effect. This isn’t particularly limited to people in other fields. For example, I’ve worked together before making comics with another cartoonist, my old friend Masakazu Katsura-sensei.1 I drew the original storyboard, and Katsura-kun, who is better at drawing, handled the art; it was an extremely illuminating experience. Our preferences are completely different from each other’s, so we argued constantly about this, that, and the other, but it was fun, realizing that even on the same comic, our ideas could be so different. What we butted heads on the most was that I thought, “I absolutely do not want to move [the readers]!”, while he thought, “I do want to move them!” (laughs) Through the two of us joining forces, I don’t know whether we managed a work that was twice as interesting, but it’s at least certain that it was a new manga. This kind of stimulation felt really fresh, and there were a lot of things that I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. At the next opportunity, I’m looking forward to studying a bit about this thing called “moving people”, and drawing a storyboard that will suit Katsura-kun’s art.
Are you ambitious in your joint works?
It may be that the only time I voluntarily want to draw a comic, which is rare for me, is when I’m joining forces with Katsura-kun. I don’t have to do any of that inking I loathe so much, after all. (laughs)
So you hate inking?
Let’s see… it seems that earlier, on the Internet, I was rumored to be “allergic to inking”T6. To put it accurately, when I’m finishing up a comic, I just hate the work of having to ink one more time after drawing the draft because it’s a chore; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an allergy. If you’re going to put it that way, it might be more accurate to say I’m “allergic to serialization”. (laughs) This will probably sound like a joke, but during the serialization of Dragon Ball, I was constantly sneezing or dealing with a runny nose, and I always thought it was hay fever. But when the serialization ended, it went away. I didn’t really notice it myself, but it might have been because the pressure and the stress of doing a weekly serial was tremendous. My hair thinned out, too…. (laughs) Since then, even when I do a serial, I keep it short.
What sorts of things are you thinking about now, Toriyama-sensei?
Now that I’m getting close to 60, I’ve finally realized this, but it’s basically possible for cartoonists to engage in all kinds of expression, so it’s truly a happy profession. Well, it might be because I was lucky enough to succeed by chance that I’m able to say that. Back when I first started out, I was always complaining that “I have no time,” or “I can’t sleep,” but now, I am sincerely glad that I kept at it.

I’m a twisted, stubborn human being, who dislikes being around other people, so I am absolutely not cut out to be a company man. In fact, back when I worked as a designer for a small advertising agency, I was always up late building plastic models and such after coming home, and constantly late for work. (laughs) I seriously shudder to think [what would have become of me] if I hadn’t become a cartoonist. (laughs) I know I’m late in saying this, but to all my fans: honestly, thank you so much!

1 Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura’s joint work, Sachie-chan Gu—!!T5. Sachie Momochi, daughter of a ninja, helps out aliens in need! …is the absurd plot of this work.
(Published in the May 2008 issue of Jump SQ.)
The following translator notes are included for the benefit of the reader as supplemental information.

T1 In the past, Toriyama has admitted to losing himself in the Dragon Quest games on the Nintendo Famicom, a series in which he continues to contribute character designs to this day.
T2 Toriyama and Nakatsuru recount their first meeting in their joint interview from 2003’s TV Anime Guide: Dragon Ball Z Son Goku Densetsu.
T3 Kazuhiko Torishima was Akira Toriyama’s first editor from Dr. Slump until the 23rd Tenka’ichi Budōkai in Dragon Ball, and was the individual who served as the model for Piccolo Daimaō.
T4 i.e., Senbei Norimaki.
T5 No mention is made of JIYA, perhaps because it ran in Young Jump, and contains material that could be considered inappropriate for the target demographic of this book.
T6 This is from the mouth of Fuyuto Takeda, Toriyama’s third Jump editor, who made a comment to this effect during the Mandō Kobayashi Battle of Gods special. It resulted in several news articles about such on the internet, more or less instantly, about how he “could no longer draw manga” because he “broke out in a rash”.
English Translation: SaiyaJedi