Since this volume is a collection of Dragon Ball illustrations, I thought that I’d center my questions on your pictures. Do you feel that you made any deliberate changes in your pictures between Dragon Ball and the earlier-serialized Dr. Slump?
Yeah, I don’t really like to go for the same sort of pattern, so I change the pictures to suit the story. Because of this, even now if you tell me to draw with a Dr. Slump
-esque touch, sure enough I can draw like that. I just use round lines.
When I got into the second half of Dragon Ball, I had already become more interested in thinking up the story then in drawing the pictures. Then I started to not place much emphasis on the pictures. The battles became intense, and I gradually came to switch to more simple lines.
At any rate, I despise doing the same thing. I’m fundamentally perverse that way. I got postcards from readers saying “Compared to the old days, it’s really square now. It was better the way it used to be.”, so I thought I’d go make it even more square. (laughs)
However, at the start I didn’t really have much confidence in my battle scenes. I hadn’t really drawn what you might call motion pictures before. That’s because I started out in illustrations. It was really hard to do that first Tenka’ichi Budōkai.
It’s rumored that you don’t keep any reference materials at all in your studio, but when you first started drawing battle scenes, what did you have there to consult?
Yeah, what did I use? It’s a pet peeve of mine when people look at other manga for hints. (laughs) However, stuff like movies that I watched a long time ago stay in my head, so maybe I used those.
Of course, I think that movies are the most useful. I’ve been ridiculously fond of movies since way back when.
Do you watch them a lot even now?
I haven’t gone to the movie theater since having children. I just do stuff like watch movies broadcast on television or rent whatever videos seem interesting. It doesn’t matter what channel. I generally leave the television on while I’m working. Because of this, I can’t watch anything with subtitles, since then I couldn’t work. (laughs) I’m basically working, but I’ll watch when I can tell by the music that an interesting scene is on. I focus on those movies that I want to see no matter what, but all the rest just flow by.
Have any of those movies become a reference for Dragon Ball?
I didn’t particularly consciously do that, not really. I mean, they’re not useful at all as far as story goes. But they are good references for how to show something, explosions for example. It’s not just a “bang”, but like a flash of light followed by a “BOOOM!” sound.
Speaking of which, it gets very intense during the battles.
That definitely comes from me referencing the rhythmic quality to the fights in Jackie Chan movies.
I use reference materials afterwards, when I’m drawing things like cars or airplanes. Plastic models are useful for this, because you can look at them from a variety of angles.
I always thought it was amazing the way you draw cars and such in a deformed style.
Yeah, I do that because if you try and draw the car’s design exactly correct, it takes a ridiculous amount of time. If you don’t draw it accurately, it’ll end up looking completely off somewhere. But if you draw it deformed, it’s alright for a few things to be off. At any rate, I’ll try anything that makes my work end sooner. (laughs) Well, my manga is a gag manga and the characters are all deformed humans anyway, so it’d be odd if everything else wasn’t deformed as well.
In addition to the real-world vehicles, many original vehicles appear in Dragon Ball.
It’s the most fun to think up original mecha. (laughs) I draw them thinking about how you get into them and where the engine is located and whatnot.
Sure enough, when you draw cars and things that exist in the real word, you have to check reference materials every time you draw them. But with things that I thought up on my own, I don’t have this problem, since you can’t say anything. (laughs) Since I thought of it, I can just say that it’s okay like this. (laughs)
Next I’d like to ask you about color manuscripts: what do you use for coloring?
A color ink called “Luma”. A shōjo manga artist from a long time ago told me about it. Until then I had been using a water based color pen that came out squeakily and dissolved in water. This made covering a large area very tough. So when I used this color ink, it made me go “Ah, there’s something this useful? Now I can get it wet and not squeak.” (laughs)
By the way, what is your favorite color?
I’d say green. Italian true green. Either that or yellow or orange.
When you say yellow or orange, do you mean the color of Goku’s dōgi?
Yes. However, I didn’t make his dōgi that color because I liked it, but rather because it was the color of the dōgi worn by Buddhist monks who trained in China. It was a color particular to China.
When you’re thinking of a new character, do you think them up from their model and personality? Or from a picture?
I think of the story and model, then I think of their personality, and finally I draw a picture of them. I guess that’s the sort of stance I have.
After I came up with Cell’s picture, I went “Damn it!” I thought that I was done with the manuscript, but I hadn’t drawn those spots on his body yet (laughs); that happened a lot. That’s the reason why there never were any characters that had screen tone, except for ones with very minor roles. It’s not that I dislike screen tone, I want to use it. But it’s difficult to use, so I can’t. (laughs)
Do you think of the color scheme for a character’s clothes and body when drawing them in black and white?
Yeah, that’s right, but I don’t do it consciously. When I’m applying the color, I think “It was more or less this color”. However, with people that I’ve already drawn in color before, I generally don’t go back and check, so sometimes I end up using different colors than I did before. (laughs)
In this book, you can see all the pictures in chronological order. Your particular touch and the way that you paint have changed over the years.
But I didn’t really do this consciously. It basically changes without me knowing. But if I look at a tankōbon or something from a year back, I think “Ugh! This was done poorly.”
After a year?
Yeah. I think “Ah, I guess I’ve evolved a lot.” (laughs) Even with pictures from a little while back, I still think it looks weird. For example, with even a manuscript from about half a year ago, I feel that the design is weird. With color manuscripts as well, after I’ve painted it I usually think “Ah, I messed up.”
If there was time, I’d like to try and fix it, but there’s never any time. (laughs)
The way that you paint colors has also changed quite a bit.
Yeah. For example, in the old days I shaded off the light portions on hair, but shading it off took a lot of time. When I made an anime called Kosuke-same Rikimaru-sama
(screened at the ’89 Jump Anime Carnival, and later became a Jump Video), I looked at the pictures of the animator Toyo’o Ashida-san
, and I thought that the anime-style way of applying light and shadow wasn’t bad. I made my pictures like that from then on.
The truth is, Ashida-san is someone that I’ve always respected.
For color schemes, how do you decide what kind of style to do? Do you just paint various test versions or something?
I basically just color it once. I decide what color the largest area should be, and it feels like that determines the rest. With Goku or someone else whose colors are already determined, that determines the color of the background that’s going to go with them.
When you’re drawing a single illustration, are you able to go all the way from sketching it out to painting the color on in mostly one sitting?
I usually do it in one sitting. When drawing I still put all my effort into it. I become extremely concentrated. I phase out all sounds completely.
Some time ago, I was drawing an exact illustration, and the lines were coming out all wavy. I thought “Ah, my hand is crazy, what’s wrong with it?” Then the stand started to shake, and I went “What?! That was an earthquake!” (laughs)
Even if I lose sleep, I usually keep on working until I’m completely finished. I guess I just couldn’t sleep if I left it halfway done. (laughs) It would just keep bugging me. I’d keep drawing in my dreams. When I woke up in the morning I’d go “Ah, I only dreamed that I finished it!” (laughs)
Finally, out of ten years of Dragon Ball, which picture are you the most pleased with?
The one where Goku and Gohan are riding a thing that looks like a Harley with legs (page 88 · 140). This is the only one that you could say I’m pleased with.
Only one piece over ten years?
Out of what I can remember, this is the only piece where both the color and the composition turned out well.
Now that you mention it, I guess you could say you managed to skillfully freeze a moment of motion.
But I don’t really think that’s all that impressive. When I draw something, the incredibly annoying thing is that it doesn’t come out like I pictured. I think this picture definitely has the composition that I imagined or the combination of colors that I imagined.
Because I’m fundamentally fastidious and fickle, I want to draw very differently. I don’t lose interest, so I want to keep trying. That’s why I always end up failing. (laughs) I’m able to not be pleased with it. But I reflect on what I’ve done, so I make progress. I’m always reflecting. (laughs)
Today has been very busy, so thank you very much.
(21 April 1995 at the Yamanoue “Hill Top” Hotel)