Did you get your start in Dragon Ball with playing Piccolo?
Actually, my first role on the show was playing General Blue in the Red Ribbon Army. It was a difficult role, what with him being kind of a queen. (laughs) Then, a while after that, a request came that I play Piccolo.
What was your impression upon seeing Piccolo’s design for the first time?
Dragon Ball is a work with a lot of unusual characters, I thought I wouldn’t be surprised by anything, but then he’s a green monster with feelers growing out of his head. (laughs) There was a point where I was at a loss as to what sort of voice he should have.
When you got the role of Piccolo, what sort of meeting did you have with the staff?
There was talk of, “He’s a villain, so play him with a heavy sort of voice”. Up to then, I had mostly played characters with a higher, brighter, lighter sound to them. So it was almost the very first time I’d tried my hand at a low-voiced villain. I was able to do a role that was a bit different from the sort of performances I had done up to that point, so I had fun playing him. Also, I had been saying in interviews how I wanted to play a villain, which is how I landed the role, so I remember being happy about that.
Piccolo is supposed to be the reincarnation of Piccolo Daimaō, voiced by Takeshi Aono-san; were you consciously trying to bring out a difference from Aono-san’s Great Demon King?
For the Great Demon King as played by Aono-san, his impulsive personality really stood out. As Piccolo is like the son of the Great Demon King, I felt that being young, he’d feel like he’s overflowing with hot-bloodedness. So for Piccolo in his first appearance, I played him as though he were around 18 years old. Then in Dragon Ball Z, his facial expressions became more sour, so from that point, I imagined him as being around 30.
Furukawa-san, what is your mental image of Piccolo?
He feels like basically the silent type, but with a strong will hidden within him. He’s a character who really gives off a sense of male beauty.
Are there any episodes that left a strong impression on you?
Let’s see… I suppose the episode where Piccolo is shown wearing street clothes1, which he hasn’t done much. In that episode, silent Piccolo does things like tell jokes, and blush, which are out of the ordinary for him, so that left an impression on me.
Were there any things you struggled with during the recording?
I struggled with the battle scenes. In recording, you go into the real thing after one test, so it was difficult to get the timing of the lines. So in the actual recording, I felt nervous, like it was a serious match, and during episodes with a lot of fight scenes, I’d put too much energy into my voice, and hurt my throat a bit. Also, surprisingly enough, I struggled with the shouts and kiai during the fights, with the yelling. I’d come prepared with a number of different variations, but when the fighting scenes just kept going, I’d run out of different ones to use. But if I just kept shouting the same thing, it’d get monotonous, so I’d start using the name of things that I saw right there, so they wouldn’t be able to tell. For example, if there was a cup in the studio, I’d yell “KUOPPU!!” (laughs)
What was the atmosphere like in the recording studio?
Going to the recording for this work was fun in a different way from recordings for other anime. That’s because there were a lot of veteran performers there, like Masako Nozawa-san and Jōji Yanami-san. Everyone was someone I’d want to ask to teach me, and watching them act from up close was enlightening — “Ah, so you can do it this way, too”. It was really nothing but people with amazing careers, and watching them as they clashed during the recording, and set off fireworks with their acting, was a lot of fun; I was glad to have been able to perform there, myself.
So you mean, it was fun going to the studio for this work.
Yes. The veterans would create an incredibly relaxed atmosphere, shooting jokes back and forth during breaks. In that atmosphere, both nervous rookies and voice actors participating for the first time could loosen up, and get out a good performance. In seeing the veterans go so far out of their way for us, I truly felt their greatness both as performers and as people. Nozawa-san in particular was central in creating a lighthearted environment, but even so, when the recording light went on, the person who had been joking till then would immediately flip into her role. It was truly incredible, period. There was certainly a rarefied air in the studio, which you could call “Nozawa color”. In part because of that, the entire staff often went to have drinks together after recording. At the time, we all went out for drinks often enough to refer to going to the izakaya afterwards as “heading over to Ni-Suta / S2 (Dai-Ni Sutajio / Studio #2)”, with respect to the studio where we did our recording. (laughs)
Do you have any impressions, looking back on your participation in Dragon Ball?
It’s like this for any work, but watching a character I’ve played appear on TV for the first time, I really pay attention to my performance. But after playing them for a long time, even watching on TV, I forget about my own voice and my performance, and am able to enjoy being able to listen to it as the character’s own voice. Piccolo was of course one of those characters, and left the deepest impression on me out of all the characters I’ve played.
Furukawa-san, you had played the lead before in many other anime; is Piccolo’s impression deeper, even compared to them?
Yes. I had played a lot of star characters, but Piccolo was extremely different compared to the characters I’d played before, and even though he had a supporting role, he left the deepest impression, which is why I like the character. I happen to collect figures of the characters I’ve played, but I have more Piccolo figures than any of the lead characters in other shows; (laughs) I have 50 or 60. From big ones several tens of centimeters tall, to little mobile phone straps, when it comes to Piccolo figures, whatever it is, I’ll buy it on sight. (laughs) I’ll also paint them different colors, add modifications, and make them so I can show them off in a diorama; I’m really deep into that now. (laughs)
With Piccolo sticking so deeply in your mind, Furukawa-san, what is he with respect to you?
He’s a character who allows you to feel firsthand, “encountering a new role helps an actor grow”. When you encounter a character with such a large presence, I think you can trailblaze something that’s different from the performances you’ve put in before. That’s why I feel that, in having played Piccolo, my range of performance also increased.
(Recorded 7 May 2004)