What was your first impression of Vegeta?
I barely had one at all. I thought he’d appear for two or three episodes, then go out in a blaze of glory. (laughs) But instead, he started to appear more and more frequently, and before I knew it, I’d become a regular… (laughs) So it wasn’t until I became a regular that I first thought, “Vegeta’s this kind of guy,” and worked on making the role.
Originally, there was no concept of him being a prince, was there?
There wasn’t. I think Toriyama-sensei probably established that while he was going along. Suddenly, I had become a prince, and moreover, I would come to call Earth home. (laughs)
Was there anything you took care with?
There was; even being another evil character, I didn’t want to be diluted. I didn’t want to become just a thug. So I took care with my choice of words. I’d deliberately avoid the use of “temē!“1, for example. No matter how much I flew off the handle, I’d use “kisama!“2 For Goku to be effective as an ally of justice, there needs to be an evil equally as profound. That way, it’ll be a story of solid contrasts, right? So the only thing I really tried to avoid was being cheapened.
You had a strong image of voicing nice guys, Horikawa-san, but…
I enjoy betraying [expectations] like that, in both the good and the bad sense. Among the various works I’ve done, be it a bit abstract, or a manly-man, or a hot-blooded youth… as an actor, being able to do a variety of different things allows me to feel a sort of catharsis. It’s quite enjoyable.
How did you come to play [the character]?
I didn’t audition; I was contacted, and then I was set to do the part, just like that. As the one who was chosen, I don’t really know the reason behind it. (laughs)
In actually playing the character, did your impression of the part change?
It changed quite a bit. He gradually became more and more adult. When he first appeared, he was really childish, but he really seemed to become an adult from Freeza onwards.
As the story goes on, he even becomes a father.
The feeling really changes. So even if I wasn’t aware of it, I definitely think my approach to doing the character changed.
The further it got into the second half, the nicer he became.
When he fought with Majin Boo, he even said “Take good care of your mother” after knocking out Trunks. I remember thinking, “Vegeta is a villain no longer!” (laughs)
As the one playing him, how do you feel about that kind of Vegeta?
Well, I think it’s interesting. I think it’s nice that you can see more and more of this unexpected side. I feel that, to begin with, there’s no such thing as an absolute character. Depending on the environment or the people they’re with, people change, don’t they? So I think it’s only natural that he’d undergo a psychological transformation.
Were there any areas you enjoyed performing?
Well, this is true in general, but the more you play a villain, the more fun you have. The bit that you play becomes cuter. Vegeta is something of a prodigy, who hardly knows defeat. Then he comes to earth, squares off against Son Goku, and for the first time, he loses. His tenacity in clawing his way back up from that is where I think he shows he’s not just some pampered child. He may be on the wrong side, but I think the sort of energy he has is incredible. Looking at it that way, I gradually began to enjoy it more, and wanted to make the evil even mightier. (laughs)
How do you think Vegeta felt towards Goku?
At first, it was absolute hatred, but along the way, I think it came to turn into respect. Though I think with his sort of personality, he wouldn’t actually be able to say it. (laughs) He had looked down on [Goku] as a low-class warrior, but he keeps getting shown up by him; because of that, I think there’s something that awakens in him. Vegeta is always fighting, not with Goku, but with himself. It’s a fight to raise his own upper limits, and I think he has a great deal of pride in the true sense of the word.
Was there anything that you had a hard time with?
Goku and Vegeta’s fusion, Vegetto; I had to speak at the exact same time as Goku’s voice actress, Masako Nozawa-san. At first, I was unsure whether I’d be able to do it, but it went surprisingly smoothly. The only things we decided in advance were the spots where we should breathe.
It was so exact that you’d think they aligned it by machine.
Really, it was almost mystical in how we made it through without a single flub. Granted, I’m singing my own praises here. (laughs) We could have gone with having one of us record their lines, then the other person match them, but we simply didn’t have the time. (laughs) We thought we’d just go ahead and try it, and when we did, it was a complete success! Normally, I’d think we wouldn’t line up.
Could that be the gift of years of teamwork?
It is. I think that was a big part of it.
What is your favorite scene?
The scene where, while watching Goku fight Majin Boo, he reflects on various things. He even told Goku, “You’re Number One.”3 I really think the fact that he had come to be able to acknowledge someone else represented growth for Vegeta. Also, the scene where he tells Goku to “avenge [the Saiyan race],” after Freeza beats him to a bloody pulp.4 That part.
He dies once at that point. Did you think he wouldn’t show up again?
I really did! “This is the finale,” I thought. And yet, on top of coming back to life, he came to Earth, and even had kids. (laughs)
What about the developments with Bulma?
Man, that came out of nowhere! There was no process about it; it was so sudden. So there’s no real connection with that inside me. It would have been nice if they’d told at least a little bit of that story, though.
How do you feel about having participated in Dragon Ball as a work?
To have continued on this long, in my mind, it’s my life’s work. Even though the show ended, it doesn’t feel like it’s over. I think we all feel this way, but if we were told, “All right, we’re going to do it again,” I have a feeling we’d all get together right then and there and get back in the studio. I get the sense that it’s just that deeply ingrained into our bodies.
Is there anything you feel you’ve gained?
Everything! As an actor, what sort of work you’re going to run across is a really big thing. Because of that, I think the very fact that I was able to come across a title as big as Dragon Ball is a huge plus. Really, the only thing I can say is that I’m grateful.
How about a message for the fans?
It was an incredible honor being able to participate in a work that continued on for so long. Please continue to love and watch Dragon Ball from here on out! Perhaps, with that passion once again spreading throughout Japan, a new series will come out. And if that happens, I think I might be able to reprise my role, so please show your support. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!5
(Recorded 14 April 2004)