To start with, how did you come to play Trunks?
At the time, when Trunks appeared in the original work as a new character, I said half-jokingly, “I want to do him in the anime, no matter what.” And after that, I was cast to do him. (laughs) It was like something out of a dream, being able to appear in such a popular work; plus, I was able to play the character I had wanted to play, so I was truly happy.
So your first encounter with Trunks was reading the original work.
Right when strong characters were appearing one after another and excitement was building in the original work, Freeza, strongest in the universe, appeared. Then, as an incredible anticipation was building as to just what would happen next, a cool young man appeared and halved Freeza with a single stroke. His first appearance had an incredible impact, and it left an impression on me.
In your view, Kusao-san, what sort of character do you think that Trunks is?
Let’s see; in a word, I’d say he’s “green”. (laughs) It’s like he’s just so young, and so inexperienced. The word “youth” really suits the character. He seems like, if he were an ordinary high schooler, he’d be the president of the student council. (laughs) But, on his own terms, I suppose he’s the type who’d think, “I don’t want other people to tell me I’m serious”. (laughs) He did inherit quite a bit of Vegeta’s contrarian streak, that Trunks.
Are there any scenes or lines that left an impression on you?
The hour-long TV special that starred Trunks and showed why he came back from the future left an impression on me. And also, of course, his line “I’ve come here to kill you” from his first appearance. I’d spent a lot of time beforehand thinking about my performance and worrying, “it’s not like this, or like that”.
Do you mean that you were worried, considering the background of the character?
That’s also part of it, but it’s because Dragon Ball was already a very popular series. He enters afterward as a new character, so there I had the pressure of, “It starts with this one phrase”. Plus I myself was still new as a voice actor, so I had doubts like, “Won’t I be a nuisance around the veterans?” and, “Maybe I’ll end up ruining the show.” But on the other hand, there were also parts where I pushed back against the fact that there was no way I could match my seniors, so I’d say, “All right, let’s go!” I remember a variety of thoughts like that all being mixed together, and feeling conflicted.
In the second half of the series, you had an active role as Young Trunks; how was it, playing Trunks as a child?
I felt my way along with the performance, while wondering “Will this be all right?” (laughs) I was able to watch Nozawa-san, standing beside me in that state, freely playing the adult Goku on down to the child Goten, and I really learned a lot from her.
You would perform together with Masako Nozawa-san for Gotenks; how did you go about recording that voice, Kusao-san, with you and Nozawa-san saying the lines at the same time?
We recorded it simultaneously. We both spoke the lines at the same time.
The timing of the dialogue was perfectly aligned.
I think Nozawa-san aligned herself to my own timing. I myself also tried to anticipate, “Nozawa-san will probably say the line like this,” but there were times that I missed the mark. (laughs) Because of that, I was at my most nervous with Gotenks. The first time Gotenks appeared in the original work, I thought Nozawa-san would do the voice by herself in the anime. So when I heard, “we’ll record the lines together, speaking at the same time,” I thought, “Whaaa?!” But recording the lines separately is difficult in itself, and it would take longer to record. Plus, when you record separately, the flow of the performance tends to get cut off. The members of the staff took great care with the atmosphere of the recording studio, so I think they chose the simultaneous recording method in order for us to play off of the mood and the ambiance right there.
What sort of atmosphere was there at the recording studio?
Among the regular group of cast members, beginning with Nozawa-san, there was an atmosphere of them being good friends who’d worked on bringing shows to life before, and their teamwork was really something to see.
Dragon Ball achieved popularity with a wide range of people; just what do you think is the secret to its popularity?
I think it really is Toriyama-sensei’s artistic sensibilities. He has a unique design sense for things like characters and accessories; it gave you the feeling of the cutting-edge in a near-future world. And the fun of the action, of course. It had sort of a tempo, and it wouldn’t make you get tired of reading it. Toriyama-sensei’s ingenuity, which blended both his sensibilities and the action perfectly and gave birth to [the series], I suppose is probably the reason for its popularity.
Where do you think the primary reason for the anime’s popularity lies?
It owes to the presence of Masako Nozawa-san. When it comes to Dragon Ball, it begins with Nozawa-san and it ends with Nozawa-san, is what I think.
One can’t think of anyone else besides Nozawa-san in the role of Goku.
Definitely. I think that Nozawa-san’s performance, which played the part of “feeling” which can’t be fully explained in the images or the script, and brought the character of Goku to life, is truly a major point. What was really impressive with Nozawa-san in Dragon Ball was her performance in the fight scenes. Normally with a fight scene, doing a test recording, then going on to the actual recording, you’d use a lot of energy, so your voice would get tired. But with Nozawa-san, the strength of her voice wouldn’t change one bit between the test and the real thing. Even during long fight scenes, she would perform with the same level of energy the whole way through, so I was really surprised.
She is something of a model for other performers.
Nozawa-san would never utter a complaint like “I’m tired” or “I have no voice today” in the recording studio. Even at times when the words “I’m not feeling well today” would normally just roll off your tongue, she’d never say anything like that. It really allowed me to see the soul of a performer; or rather, I had the honor of learning something important in the profession of voice acting. I think it’s probably the case that the attitude of Nozawa-san towards her job, and her way of life as a performer, synchronized with the entire work, beginning with Goku, and as a result, it became a work which continues to be loved by so many people. Being able to take part in bringing to life a work like that is my greatest memory.
(Recorded 7 May 2004)