What sort of first impression did you have of Kuririn?
With his shaved head and short stature, I thought he suited me. (laughs) A “shaved-headed, short” role is one you can get attached to.
Kuririn was drawn from childhood to adulthood; what era do you like?
I enjoyed his first appearance, when he was a “bad kid”~. (laughs) Tricking Goku and cheating, being a little bit of a pervert, brown-nosing Kame-Sen’nin and slacking off on his training… I liked that sort of non-seriousness. Although because of that, he can’t ride on Kinto-Un. (laughs) But when it got to the Dragon Ball Z era, he became an incredibly upstanding adult. Maybe it’s because the story also became more serious, but perhaps he was also influenced by pure, honest Goku?
His hair grew out in Dragon Ball Z, didn’t it? (laughs)
He’s really better without the hair, isn’t he. (laughs) I liked it when he was just two heads tall. When I saw Kuririn with his hair grown out, I thought, “What for?!” When I asked Toriyama-sensei, his answer of “He was only shaving it for religious reasons” made me go, “Oh, I see.” (laughs)
Did you have any difficulties in playing Kuririn?
I struggled a little when he first meets Artificial Human No. 18. Because up until then, Kuririn had never seriously fallen in love before… If it were a gag, it’d be easy to do. But Kuririn was so seriously taken with her that he was willing to sacrifice his life to protect her. I just couldn’t picture in my head Kuririn falling for a girl. So I was at a bit of a loss.
What do you suppose Kuririn thinks of Goku?
I think he really likes him a lot! Probably, Piccolo and Vegeta as well are influenced by Goku, and come to like him. So I feel as though the bad things within Kuririn left him. Kuririn has a pure fondness for Goku.
What scenes with Kuririn left an impression on you?
When Kuririn dies. As I recall, there were no lines in that scene, just him turning around at Goku’s “Kuririn!”… It was so sad without any lines~. Kuririn’s died a number of times, but at least when he was killed by Freeza, he had his scream of dying agony, “Gokuuu!!!” More than that, it’s his first death, without any lines, that left a deeper impression on me.
After Kuririn died, you played Yajirobe, right?
Toriyama-sensei requested me for Yajirobe. I was so happy about that! Even in the original work, Goku says to Yajirobe, “Your voice sounds like Kuririn’s,” right? So, he said “Let’s cast the same voice as Kuririn’s for the anime”. (laughs)
What was your first impression of Yajirobe?
My impression that he was a pretty rough guy. Perhaps the same as when Goku was little. Personally, I always thought his being together with Karin-sama in the second half might be some sort of foreshadowing. Yajirobe may look like a fool, but perhaps the truth his that he’s an incredibly guy… is what I thought, but it didn’t go anywhere. (laughs)
Were there any difficult points about playing Yajirobe?
Scenes where Kuririn and Yajirobe appeared together and talked to each other. The lines were all recorded at the same time, I would have to play both parts at once. Even I would get confused, so I made the roles distinct by exaggerating Yajirobe’s Nagoya accent.
Where do you think the secret to the Dragon Ball series’ popularity lies?
When both the manga and anime are proceeding at the same time, I think even those making it get pulled along. Not just those of us who played the characters, but I believe Toriyama-sensei was also listening to our voices as he drew the manga. The work turned out well because both sides supported each other — I think that was a big part of it.
Have you ever spoken with Toriyama-sensei?
He’s very much a master, but friendly. Toriyama-sensei is very forthright, and that’s just like Goku. I also play Luffy, the main character in One Piece, and I also think that Eiichirō Oda-sensei, the creator of One Piece, is just like Luffy; the main characters have aspects that are like a part of the author. Ah, yes; Oda-sensei is a big fan of Toriyama-sensei, and Toriyama-sensei’s children are big fans of Oda-sensei. And I’m in both Dragon Ball and One Piece. It’s kind of a wonder that things should work out like that.
Do you consider Kuririn your signature character, Tanaka-san?
But of course! I also do narration for a TV program, and the show’s producer calls me “Kuririn-san“. (laughs) And when he’s giving me directions for the narration, “I’d like you to do this part like it’s a Kienzan!” (laughs) I just think, ah, he’s also part of the generation that grew up watching Dragon Ball. He’s my signature character in that respect, as well.
Finally, a message for everyone!
Boys who loved Dragon Ball will grow up, get married, and have children… when the time comes, I’d like them to watch it together with their children. Also, I really want to emphasize, “Kuririn’s the strongest Earthling there is!” (laughs)
(Recorded 6 May 2004)