Translations Archive

Dragon Ball Anime Illustration Collection: The Golden Warrior

Dragon Ball Back Then Vol. 3

Interview with “Dragon Ball Z” & “Dragon Ball GT” character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru

“I get energetic looking at Toriyama-sensei’s pictures. I get power from those pictures.” — Nakatsuru

Nakatsuru’s Profile
An animator. Served as animation supervisor for the “Dragon Ball” TV anime series. Representative works include the TV anime “Adventure King Beet” (character designer) and “Digimon Adventure” (character designer).

You were in charge of the character designs for “Dragon Ball GT”, but you based your designs off of the set-up pictures Toriyama-sensei made for the anime showing Goku and co. 10 years [sic] after the last chapter of the original work.
That’s right. Since we had those set-up pictures, it was relatively easy, but we also added some touches for the anime. For instance, Goku “looks like a child, but is an adult inside”, so we had to take care to make his cheek lines well-defined so that he wouldn’t look like a child.
Super Saiyan 4, which appears in the later half of GT, was one of your designs, but I was surprised at how unusual the design was.
There were a lot of varied opinions about that design. It was my idea to make the body red. “GT” was made as a continuation, and when the producers told me to draw Super Saiyan 4, I went “Ee———-h!?” (strained laughter). Personally, I felt that since they had gone so far as to use stuff like Fusion and merging in the original story, did we really have to continue even further? It was an incredible assignment. Goku’s transformations are an important part of the program, and so I agonized over what would be best to do.
The hairstyle and red fur all over the body are what really makes Super Saiyan 4 stand out.
The thought behind that hairstyle was to take it in a different direction than Super Saiyan 3, and make it wild. I made the fur red because it pretty much just seemed strong; I place a lot of importance on those sorts of impressions (laughs). Right from the planning stage images, the idea had been to bring together Oozaru Goku and Super Saiyan Goku. “Goku with primal power”, that sort of thing.
So that’s why his entire body is covered in fur. In addition to the final design, were there any rough designs?
There was no design besides the single final draft. It was just that with the colors, and I also made a gold-haired version. However, I thought that black hair looked better, and decided upon that version. The combination of black and red is a more dynamic color scheme.

Goku Normal
In the “Dragon Ball GT” DVD box booklet, Toriyama-sensei drew Super Saiyan 4.
I was deeply moved that sensei would be gracious enough to draw an anime-only character. At the time, there was a party commemorating the completion of the anime, and Toriyama-sensei was kind enough to draw kid Goku from “Dragon Ball GT” for me on color paper, so I’m quite attached to that Goku as well. I thought to myself “I’m such a happy fan” (laughs).
You’ve been involved with Toriyama’s anime for a long time. From your perspective, what is the appeal of his pictures?
Obviously there’s great appeal from the technical aspects of his pictures, but I can get energetic just by looking at sensei’s pictures. I receive power from those pictures, you could say… While those who don’t draw don’t realize it, for those who do draw, lots of power is transmitted their way. For me, this is the biggest part of his appeal.
His design sense is amazing as well.
When it comes to the freedom of expression in his designs, or their abundant variation, I think that I’m no match. When working on the movies, I really enjoyed seeing the designs sensei would send me for enemy characters. Sometimes I would even get the original pictures and I’d go “Wow, a fresh color illustration!!” It really left an impression on me; I’m just a regular fan of his (laughs). I enjoyed when I and the rest of the anime staff would play catch with sensei like this. With the design for Goku’s father Bardock from the “Dragon Ball Z” TV special as well, even though the concept was that he looks just like Goku, I thought it’d be bad if they were too much the same, so I gave him a slightly different hairstyle and sent this design to sensei. Then sensei sent back a design saying that it’d be OK for his hairstyle to be the same as Goku’s. So even from small things like that, I couldn’t help groaning about how amazing sensei was (laughs).
Sensei’s designs themselves also changed during the serialization of “Dragon Ball”.
I get the impression that Toriyama-sensei is a person who makes himself evolve by using his overwhelmingly fine sense to select his pictures. For instance, it only took him about one year to go from his debut to the refined pictures in “Dr. Slump”. I get the feeling that sensei refines everything, from each line he selects, to silhouettes, to individual body parts, so that even when it comes to just a picture of Goku standing around, he can effortlessly draw a pose that looks cool and has a nice feel to it. My own pictures are unrefined, so I can’t draw pictures for Toriyama’s works without stretching myself. Though I’ve been drawing “Dragon Ball”-related illustrations for a long time, even now when reviewing them later I think “Man, what is this supposed to be?” But if I had the sense for it, I could improve the stuff that wasn’t good. Well, even skilled people have things of theirs that they’re not fond of, but I can’t help thinking that I’ll never catch up to him my entire life.

This is a rough design of Super Saiyan 4 made for speculative purposes.
However, it was used for the main series with hardly any changes.
From throughout the entire series, is there any scene that left a particular impression on you?
It’s the scene where kid Goku confronts the rejuvenated original Piccolo Daimaō. The scene with his standing pose where he scowls straight at Piccolo. I thought that looked so cool! In the anime version, that scene was drawn by an animator named Masaki Satō-kun. But the pose Satō-kun drew Goku in looked so good that there was no room for complaints, and I was incredibly surprised. I suppose it was around then that I, and everyone else really, were influenced by Satō-kun, and changed our styles. The animation staff at the time were friends making the series together, but at the same time there was a feeling of rivalry. Looking at the completed film, we’d think “So XX-kun can draw like this!”… Even now, I think that single scene that Masaki Satō-kun drew was the best.
In the final episode of “Dragon Ball GT”, you drew the original cels for the scene where Goku turns around at the end. Do you remember when you finished drawing that picture?
I was very solemn, thinking “Once I draw this, then that’s the end”. Later I thought, “Despite having drawn him for so long, I’m not much like Goku” (laughs). It’s amazing that even though it’s been over 10 years since then, the series is still loved throughout the world. The way manga is read, and the way a series endures, have changed since when I was a child. It’s become so that a work can be passed down and loved by two, even three generations of fathers and sons. I think it’s become similar to how in America, characters like “Superman” continue to be drawn and loved for decades. Maybe if “Dragon Ball” had been born in America, they would have changed the writer and made lots of sub-story type works.
I suppose that there are many fans even in Japan who would like to see a new “Dragon Ball” work, whether manga or anime.
But my personal feelings are that, with anime or a movie for instance, people will be able to watch it without a problem, but speaking strictly of the manga, I think that a work belongs to its author, and that it’d be difficult for a work drawn by someone else to be accepted. The guys who make the anime don’t want me to say that, but still (laughs).
Finally, this is somewhat of an abstract question, but is there anything that you’ve gained through your participation in the “Dragon Ball” series?
I’ve gained a lot! I feel that through this series, I’ve learned a lot from Toriyama-sensei, like how to draw obviously, and how to express ideas. It’s not just mimicking the characters’ shapes as I draw, but rather methods of expression I suppose, which I’ve been allowed to study. Despite the fact that even now I’m trying to catch up with Toriyama-sensei, these 20 years I’ve always felt that surely I’ll never catch up to him, sensei’s just that amazing. You could say that this is a wall that I’m eternally unable to overcome. I think that Toriyama-sensei is a truly incredible person.
English Translation: Herms