Akira Toriyama employs his talents in a variety of fields, from comics, to animation, to games. However, now that Akira Toriyama is recharging his batteries, what is he thinking, and what does he want to do…? Here, he begins to tell of his admiration for animation, with its many possibilities, as well as his dream of nurturing his aspirations by his own hand. Akira Toriyama’s dream has taken its first step towards one day becoming a reality…
Were there any changes in the fandom that accompanied Dragon Ball being animated?
I didn’t feel it too strongly. Where I felt “perhaps it has changed a bit” was that fans of the voice actors, and female fans, increased.
Do you read your fan mail?
Not all of it, but I do.
What sort of letters do you get a lot of?
Girls basically write about themselves. “I’m this age, with this astrological sign….” Also, they throw in a lot of heart symbols. (laughs) Boys are relatively direct: “Bring out this kind of villain” and things like that.
Do you make any use of such fan opinions in the original work?
I do, in the sense of “betraying the fans’ expectations”. For instance, when I got a lot of, “Don’t kill Vegeta,” I deliberately killed him. (laughs)
I’d like to talk with you about the Dragon Ball Z TV anime. The story has entered its latter half; is there anything that’s left a deep impression on you?
In scenes where Goku, Gohan, and Goten all appear, Masako Nozawa-san plays all three roles by herself. When I heard that from my editor, I thought, “that’s incredible!” Of course, there’s no way she could do it when the three characters’ voices overlap, but when she plays them speaking separately, I hear she actually performs by changing her voice on the fly. And then I heard, “She actually plays young Gohan and Goten with two different voices,” and was even more amazed. In my mind, I had thought that when Gohan became a teenager, she would make his voice a little more mature and use Gohan’s old voice to play Goten, but it’s a distinct voice in its own right.
Goku’s old voice is probably different again from both young Gohan and the current Goten, then.
I think that’s probably the case. I feel like Goku’s old voice was more mischievous-sounding.
In your mind, Sensei, were Gohan’s and Goten’s voices also Nozawa-san’s?
Actually, I wondered what they’d do about that, but then Nozawa-san just did them, and I felt, “Gohan and Goten are also Nozawa-san, after all.”
In the same way, both teenage Trunks and young Trunks are handled by Takeshi Kusao-san, right?
It was difficult to decide on young Trunks’ voice. Apparently, the producer at Toei Animation consulted with the editorial department, saying, “Perhaps it would be better if we just went ahead and changed the voice actor.” At that time, the serialization was still on-going, but maybe it would continue to the point where young Trunks had grown up to be around the same age as the teenage Trunks who had gone back to the future. So, if we changed the voice, it would be weird. Things finally settled down with letting Kusao-san do the part. By the time I’d heard it two or three times, I felt, “this is just fine”.
With the appearance of Goten and young Trunks, it seems as though the number of gags shown between battle scenes and the like increased.
It’s also a way of “hiding my weakness”. (laughs) If it gets too dramatic, and there are nothing but serious developments, it feels like my own blood pressure will go up, and I personally don’t like it very much. I believe that comics are entirely for entertainment.
Was fusion a typical example of that?
That, I really had fun drawing. It had been a while since I’d gotten to draw something with such a lighthearted mood.
Did you actually practice fusion yourself?
I did! (laughs) With the hand movements, not getting it and going, “like this?”, and muttering to myself “I wonder how many steps it should be”. You’ll understand if you actually try doing the fusion pose, but you really do move about three steps.
Did your children do it at home, too?
They did. It seems like they had fun with fusion.
Do your children give you any thoughts or anything, when they see it on TV?
That one (Toriyama-sensei’s son) seems to be aware of it… or at least, he seems to understand that I draw Dragon Ball, but he doesn’t quite seem to get that I don’t do what’s shown on TV (cels and such). “Dad, how come I’ve never seen you drawing something like this, when it’s your work?” So I have to explain to him, “This is drawn by a different company.” Recently, however, he seems to have got it.
By the way, do you play video games?
I do play a little. Not too long ago, I played the PlayStation game Tekken at Katsura-kun (Masakazu Katsura-sensei)’s house. However, I’m really bad at it. I won’t tell you the result, though. (laughs) I don’t like fighting games very much.
What kind of games do you like?
I used to play role-playing games a lot when I was younger, but once you start an RPG, it takes a lot of time. So I like things like action games you can just pick up and play. Recently, I’ve been playing Super Donkey Kong with my kids; when Katsura-kun came over to my house, I mentioned to him, “Dammit, I can’t make it to the end,”, so he said, “Then I’ll get all the way to the end for you!” He’s a real gamer. (bursts into laughter)
You’re pretty close with Katsura-sensei, aren’t you.
I’ve been with Katsura-kun since back when he was in a school uniform. So yes, we are pretty close.
Is there anything you’d like to do with the medium of animation, rather than comics?
With animation, you can do anything to an extent, so I’d like to come up with an original story for animation, and have it animated. That thought is with me almost all the time.
I’ve heard that you like toys.
I do. I’m always going to the toy store; I even have a room full of plastic models.
The ones that are still not built?
With plastic models, if you don’t buy them right then, they might go out of production soon. So I’d buy them, thinking, “If I decide I want to build it later, I’ll be out of luck,” and before I knew it, it ended up like this. (laughs)
How do you feel in regards to your own characters being given three dimensions?
Making a three-dimensional object based on a two-dimensional character is different from making a three-dimensional object based on a real person. Because of that, I’d be concerned about areas like, “realistically speaking, these nostrils are impossible”. For mecha, speaking based on having previously designed a plane called the “Lady Bee” for “Gulliver Boy”, when I actually saw it in three dimensions, I felt it’s possible to design it so it works very logically: “you can get in here, and this part lights up”.
What about with regards to mecha in motion as animation?
The “mecha in motion” aspect of animation is nice. Especially in scenes where they do a variety of movements, I feel incredibly envious, as there are limits to what they can do in comics.
Is designing video game characters different from thinking up characters for comics or animation?
It is, actually.
Even for Dragon Quest, there is a big difference between characters for TV and for games, isn’t there?
When it’s ultimately going to be made into a video game, the character sprites will be small, so you can make the design illustrations relatively complex. It’s not like you’re going to draw it in a comic and develop it, and it’s not going to be drawn as animation, so you can ignore the “it would be a pain if I did it this way” aspect. You just have to give them a design with a feature that you can tell “it’s this character” even when they’re small. Animation is similar, I suppose. For example, having a black person, a brown person, or, in an extreme case, a purple person. For characters where, in a comic, I’d avoid using screen tone because it’s such a bother, I’d deliberately use it in animation in order to highlight their individual characteristics.
Like characters with a lot of solid black?
Yes, like characters with a lot of solid black. (laughs) In games, I’ll make outfits and things where I’d think “this could be troublesome” if I were drawing every single thing myself. So, for animation, I’d draw sort of a compromise between games and comics, just enough that the animators don’t have to strain themselves.
When you come up with a character, do you think of them in color?
I basically think of them as a single color. Then, as I decide, “it’s this sort of character”, an image of the main color scheme develops in my mind. It sometimes turns out quite different when it comes time to color it, though.
Does the anime staff ever ask you about the colors of parts that didn’t appear in color in the original work?
They do. At the end of Dragon Ball, there wasn’t a lot, but from the Cell Game to the Boo arc, there was no color at all, and I was consulted, “what sort of color should we make this?”. So, we’d go back and forth with them coloring it however they wanted, then me doing some touch-ups.
Lastly, I hear that Dragon Ball is set to continue airing with a TV-original story; what are your thoughts?
I won’t touch on the plot right now, so I’ll just say I’m really excited about it, and, “I can enjoy it as just another viewer!” Everyone, please look forward to it, as well!!
(5 June 1995 at Toriyama-sensei’s home)