A Dragon Ball fan becomes a Dragon Ball creator. Toyotarō, the cartoonist for Dragon Ball Super, told us of his “training” up to now, secrets of Akira Toriyama, and his feelings toward the mightiest Saiyan, Broli, who appears in the latest film. What is the motivating force behind his success story…?
[cartoon Toyo] “I try not to view things objectively, because otherwise the pressure will get to me”
When we opened the door of his workspace, the expected scenery lay before us: sun-faded posters on the walls, a plushy of the Omni-King by the window, figures of Goku and Vegeta on a bookshelf lined with Toriyama works. Everywhere we turned, the merchandise on display told of Toyotarō’s love for Dragon Ball.
“I really am an ordinary fan. I never thought that one of those fans would one day be able to draw Toriyama-sensei‘s works…. It’s crazy. I don’t have any confidence about making my art look like Sensei‘s; I struggle to work out the story; I’m still a work-in-progress. I try as much as possible not to view things objectively, because otherwise the pressure will get to me. (laughs)”
His fated encounter came in the early years of elementary school. “There were plenty of other anime out there. It was one of the choices at the time.” The Dragon Ball animated series made his heart flutter: “I want to draw exciting pictures like the ones in Dragon Ball.” With that fervent desire, he spent his elementary school years “doodling”, doing nothing but imitating Dragon Ball.
“I drew stories where Chiaotzu or Bardock was the main character. I enjoyed the fantasizing of it.”1
It was a time when he would read any “Toriyama work” he could get his hands on. His eyes came to rest upon the words, “Art: Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru*”.2 “Someone who wasn’t Toriyama-sensei draws it. Maybe someday, I could work together with him, too.” Embracing this vague hope, he brought in his own comic set in Dragon Ball Heroes, a card-game version of the anime, to Shueisha. In 2012, he got the call from the V-Jump editorial department, and made his serialized debut with Dragon Ball Heroes: Victory Mission, a “comicalization” of Dragon Ball Heroes. Three years later, the Dragon Ball Super serialization began.3
* He handled the art of the comic The Brief Return of Dr. Slump (Shueisha / 4 volumes).
[photo caption] Pens of all kinds line his workspace. This is the desk of a cartoonist.
[cartoon Toyo] “Freeza is really hard to draw!!”
His dream came true. But in spite of that, he was not proud. “Sensei has said that ‘Cartoonists of our generation don’t brag’. This single phrase remains in my heart.”
Even now, he says that Freeza’s fourth form is “really hard to draw”. “He’s the only one whose style is different,” he said, slowly reaching his arm toward the bookshelf behind his his work desk. In his hand was Dragon Ball Volume 27. He flipped through, showing us Freeza’s various scenes with a seasoned hand. It may be that Dragon Ball has been his bible ever since that first encounter.
[cartoon Toyo] “Comics are really for kids”
As a cartoonist, he is not particular about just the story or the art. “Nowadays, adults read comics too, but I believe they’re really meant for children. There is an enjoyment that adults get after reading a mystery, but enjoyment for kids is in laughs, first and foremost. Even if it’s corny, I don’t hesitate to put in a gag. It might be their first time seeing it, after all. And while I do take care not to ruin the characters, I deliberately let ones like Goku, Freeza and Beerus ‘run amok’. There’s also a lot of gags in Sensei‘s revisions. I believe that I have to have at least one per chapter.”
[cartoon Toyo] “I’ve liked Broli since way back. Just standing there, he makes a perfect picture.”
Although he also paid attention to Toriyama’s gag-sense in this movie, what Toyotarō was really interested in was the popular character “Broli”. “I’ve liked him since way back. He’s a Super Saiyan, and he’s the strongest. He shoulders a tragic past, and he’s cool. Just standing there, he makes a perfect picture,” he said with a smile.
“I want to keep on drawing Dragon Ball from here on out, above and beyond what’s asked of me.” Having spoken of his dream, just at the point one would expect the interview to come to be coming to an end, he made a certain request of the reporter. “Could I take a picture where it looks like you’re interviewing me, and post it to Twitter?” As we started setting up for the picture, he grinned and added one other thing. “Ah, but this would be going directly against what Sensei said, wouldn’t it.” The hour spent with this “wildly enthusiastic fan” equipped with both gag-sense and humility ended in the blink of an eye.
[photo caption] Sneakers in the colors of Goku and of Freeza, along with a signed illustration by Toriyama-sensei, decorated the shelves in his workroom.
■ His workroom is nothing but Dragon Ball!
One day he’ll draw it?
“A cool Broli”
…Will we be able to see a Toyotarō-style Broli in the future?4 “This movie is an extension of Super, so I believe that someday the time will come to draw him,” he said, with a look of certainty. “I’m thankful that the movie came before the comic. There are lots of battle scenes in the movie, but if I were to go first, I wouldn’t have been able to draw them in that much detail. When the time comes, I’d like to use the movie as a reference to make it look cool in my own way,” he said with a smile.
[photo caption] The Omni-King by the window