Did you audition for the role of Goku?
Yes, I did. There was already a short, several-minute-long clip of Goku in motion, and I remember matching my voice to that. Although I forget what the lines were… I was told afterward that Toriyama-sensei heard the audition tape, and chose me, saying, “This person will play Goku.” I was deeply moved!
How did you imagine performing Goku?
Actually, I never once went about performing thinking, “I’ll do it this way” — and that includes the audition. For instance, when there’s footage of Goku playing, in the time that I stand in front of the mic, script in hand, I become one with the character. It’s this feeling of, just naturally, putting my whole body into the performance, along with my heart. So while I’m recording, I have completely become Son Goku!
So, Ms. Nozawa, when you were recording, you’d also become a Super Saiyan? (laughs)
I would! I couldn’t really leave the studio like that, because I was in this state of, “If there are bad guys around, I’ll kick their butts!” (laughs)
Ms. Nozawa, what sort of person do you think of Goku as?
A very innocent person, who hasn’t lost his youthful qualities, even after becoming an adult! Also, he has this trait of risking his life to others, rather than thinking of himself. I love that aspect of him!
Quite the appealing guy, then?
Yes! He’s someone who has the charms of kindness, generosity, and manliness all rolled into one. He’d beat down an evil opponent, but he also has respect for his opponents, and even when he dies, he shows up with a halo over his head. (laughs) The first time Goku died, I thought, “Wait, what do I do?! Is this the last episode?!” (laughs) It was really something new for him to show up even after he died, and maybe that’s also a part of Goku’s charm. The fact that he doesn’t really age is also nice, so he’s all good~. (laughs)
That very Goku also got married in the middle of the story.
I was surprised. Especially, since he just said, “Well then, let’s get married.” (laughs) Because he didn’t understand what “marriage” was, you see. I think Goku’s best quality is that he doesn’t really seem like a family man, since the story doesn’t deal much with his home life. I think that’s something Toriyama-sensei is skilled at doing.
You played all the men in Goku’s family, didn’t you?
That’s right. But rather than “playing” them, as I said before, I become Goku, so even saying I “inhabited” the character, it’s still not quite right. (laughs)
You also played a villain who looks just like Goku, Tullece (a movie villain).
I don’t really pay much notice to whether the character is a bad guy, or an enemy; I just approach the role naturally. I mean, with Tullece, you can just tell “this is a bad guy” by looking, right? So I can just get right in there and do it. In Dragon Ball, I also played Goku’s father, Bardock. With Bardock, I thought, “Goku’s this person’s son, so he’d be this sort of child”. I really cried at that TV special.
Where do you think Dragon Ball’s appeal lies?
It’s the engaging characters. You can love any of the characters.
The naming of the characters was also fun.
Vegetables, Chinese food, musical instruments — it all had a theme. I thought, “this guy’s good”. I mean, you can’t normally give people names like “Tenshinhan” or “Oolong”, can you? Or “Trunks”, for that matter. (laughs) But it doesn’t feel like he just crammed the names in there. It has certain rules, and you wouldn’t find a musical instrument in amongst the vegetables; they’re all properly sorted into groups.
How did you go about watching the broadcast?
I watched it on video. I would always watch it twice: first to enjoy the show as a fan, (laughs) then a second time to check my performance as a member of the cast.
Where do you think the appeal of Toriyama’s work lies?
The illustrations are really, really cute. Even the bad guys don’t really have this inhuman feeling about them, and there’s something that makes them lovable, you know? I think that’s really good.
But, for example, Freeza’s this incredibly cruel alien; where do you think the “lovable” part of him is?
Freeza’s always boasting thing like, “I’m the strongest in the universe”, right? (laughs) You just want to come back with, “who are you, trying to act all big and tough?” (laughs) Even Cell is always putting on airs, going, “I am evil”. (laughs) You just want to shoot right back, “I can see that”. They still have this feeling of not being fully mature, and even though they’re really detestable, there’s something about them that’s kind of cute. All of them.
Have you ever met Toriyama-sensei?
I’ve met him quite a few times at Shueisha parties and the like. At those times, I’d get to speak quite a bit with him. I have this sense of him being someone equally connected to Goku: he’s got this boyishness, and he’s naturally shy. So when he and I are talking, it’s got this atmosphere of “Goku and Goku are talking to each other”. Neither he nor I intend to be talking as Goku, but I suppose there’s still something Goku-like there.
So he’s like Goku, in not putting on airs?
Yes. Being a major author, you might expect him to stay plopped down in his chair, but Toriyama-sensei always speaks to us on the same level. I think that quality is also just like Goku.
Finally, how about a message for the fans?
I’m really glad to have been able to play Goku. I mean, both Goku and Dragon Ball are beloved by people all over the world, aren’t they? That makes me happier than anything. To be a hit watched and loved by the elderly all the way down to their grandchildren… that’s really the greatest thing. Dragon Ball will live on forever within me, and I believe it will sometimes be by your side in the form of DVDs and video games, as well. At that time, raise your voice, and be friends with me once again!!
(Recorded 8 April 2004)