Translations Archive

Dragon Ball Daizenshuu 4: World Guide

Akira Toriyama Super Interview

4th Round — A World Where Anything Can Happen

The world of Dragon Ball that Akira Toriyama created, where Goku, Vegeta, Bulma, Piccolo and the others were active, had a peculiar perspective on the world, the universe, life, and death. Akira Toriyama talks about the secrets of the Dragon Ball world, a world that readers can feel even a sense of nostalgia for.

Since the fourth Dragon Ball daizenshuu is a world guide, I thought I’d focus my questions on discussing Dragon Ball’s world. First off, the Earth that appears in Dragon Ball is considerably different from the real Earth.
Yeah, the comics that I’ve drawn up until now have all been worlds that aren’t really anywhere, from the very first work that I drew. With Penguin Village as well, though it’s said to be Earth, you don’t know where it’s located… Cashman (published in V-Jump) was in a slightly realistic world, but it had a sense of not being in any specific country.
Why do you choose to set them in worlds that aren’t really anywhere?
In the end, because it’s easy. Basically with everything, I choose my criteria based on what can be easy. If I made the real world the setting, I’d have to draw looking at reference materials, for stuff like buildings and vehicles. When you do that, people complain even if it’s just a little bit off.
I’d think that normally, it’d be easier to draw if you had reference materials…
You think so? Aside from not having to look at reference materials, if I draw a story where I freely decide the background, then I guess I am setting it in a world that isn’t anywhere.
Do you not even look at reference materials for the scenery?
I basically don’t look at them. Though at first, I looked at Chinese buildings and things like that. When serialization began, I wanted to completely change the image from what I had done up until then in “Dr. Slump”. Since “Dr. Slump” had an American West Coast feel to it, this time around I wanted to completely change that and make it Oriental. At that time, my wife was interested in China, and I drew looking at the books of Chinese photographs that she bought.

Afterwards, with the Tenka’ichi Budōkai grounds as well, I put a lot of effort into drawing it. Before serialization had begun, my family and assistants had gone to Bali. Papaya Island, where the Tenka’ichi Budōkai is held, is completely modeled after Bali. I consulted the photos that they had taken on the trip a lot, and was able to think up the buildings and such. Because of that, it was incredibly difficult. (laughs) Because afterwards I had to draw the Tenka’ichi Budōkai grounds countless times. At those times I had to consult reference materials. (laughs)

Was there any scenery after that that you consulted reference materials for?
Ye~ah, though there weren’t a lot after that… Ah, that’s right, the place that Bobbidi’s spaceship was buried at, I consulted a book of photos on Africa for it. They were photos that gave a feeling of incredible wilderness, and I drew an arrangement of that. In the second half, the settings were full of wildernesses, so it was tough to draw them distinctively.
Looking at them with that in mind, even though all of them could be called wildernesses, they each become different landscapes.
That’s it. I tried to give them different scenery each time, by changing things like the shapes of the rocks or the mountains in the distance. I thought a lot in that area. I had to know how it would be different from the places before, because after all, having the same scenery is no good.
Throughout the story, wildernesses where nobody lived appeared everywhere.
After all, it’d be rough if Goku and the others fought in the middle of a city. I’d have to draw the residents who lived in the city, and the buildings would get destroyed. That’s why whenever they were about to fight, Goku and the others would want to go to some wilderness where nobody lived. (laughs) They’d just use Bukujutsu to take off, like it had been arranged ahead of time.

Now that you mention it, once Goku and his allies learned Bukūjutsu and were able to fly, advancing the story became really easy.

What do you mean?
Because everyone became able to just fly straight to anywhere. That’s why thinking up the story’s development became easy, and above all the story’s progress became speedy. Even looking at it with the pictures in mind, I became able to show things from an angle looking down upon the scenery. That was also why I initially introduced Kinto-Un. Up until then, they had to bring out planes and automobiles and the like one by one, and it was really tiresome.
I guess then Shunkan-Idō would be the ultimate for that.
Yeah, that’s right. He went to Kaiō’s planet and the new Planet Namek. After he became able to perform Shunkan-Idō, the variations in Goku’s fighting style also increased.
I’d imagine that thinking up the battle scenes would be hard each time.
Yeah. With the battles as well, I couldn’t have them do the same thing each time after all. It was already good at the beginning when Goku was tiny, but in the second half when the battles started to gradually escalate, I thought up more and more amazing techniques. That’s why it was fun drawing Majin Boo and Gotenks’ fight. I thought up strange techniques in the spirit of a gag manga. (laughs)
How do you think up the names for the special attacks?
I actually don’t really like to give names to the techniques. In a battle of life and death, there’s no way you can say the name of each technique. You’d be done in while yelling the technique’s name. (laughs) But my editor told me it was best to give the techniques names. My wife was the one who named the Kamehameha. I was fretting, saying “The Turtle Hermit’s special attack should be something-or-another ha, something-or-another ha…” and she said “Wouldn’t Kamehameha be good?”. That was good, silly, and fit the Turtle Hermit’s mood perfectly.

For the names of the techniques apart from the Kamehameha, I thought them all up myself. I gave them names that seemed like that particular character would think of. So with someone like Vegeta, wouldn’t he name his techniques in English? (laughs) Piccolo’s techniques were tasteful with kanji.

Speaking of Piccolo, did you think from the beginning of his background as a Namekian alien?
Of course, I didn’t think that at all (laughs). The Saiyans were like that as well. When I thought up Goku’s tail and the Ōzaru, I didn’t think Goku was an alien or anything. Piccolo either. Because I thought that up when God came out.

Mostly afterwards, I thought it through so that it would be consistent. For example, there’s the chair that Planet Namek’s Eldest sat in. That was mostly the same as the chair that Piccolo Daimaō had sat in when he first appeared. It was just missing the skulls.

I see! Come to think of it, it did have the same shape.
I thought since Piccolo Daimaō surely still had some memories of when he was on Planet Namek, wouldn’t he make that kind of chair? So I thought up the shapes of Planet Namek’s buildings and spaceships using the design of Piccolo Daimaō’s chair. When they went to Planet Namek, I was told that you’d fail if you went into space in a shōnen manga. So when thinking up the background for Planet Namek, I tried to make it precisely consistent.
The afterlife was another place besides Earth that became the setting of the story, after Planet Namek. What kind of style did you think up the afterlife?
For God’s temple, I gave it a comparatively mysterious feeling, but on the other hand I thought it’d be good to have the afterlife be realistic. So Enma-daiō and the oni all wore suits like salary-men. I think you can see this by looking at the world map in this book, but there’s a thing called the airport to Heaven. The background on that is that the people who go to Heaven all have to go by plane. This complete map was originally background information that I drew at the request of the anime people, but I took this opportunity to add the Kaiōshin World, which wasn’t included in the complete map before, to make it perfect. In truth, this complete world map is something I made after I finished drawing the story, to make everything consistent. (laughs) With me, I think up the story in advance, then come up with the world’s background information to be consistent with it. I guess that if I was a normal cartoonist who did things properly, I’d think up the background information first and then come up with the story. Saying that, you’d think that I don’t really think through anything. There’s a vague image, even before I create the story. (laughs)
Even if a normal person would make it consistent, you were certainly able to do well. Hearing you talk, I’d like to try peeking into your head. Thank you very much for today.

(24 July 1995 at the Kanazawa City Sight-Seeing Hall)

English Translation: Herms