Translations Archive

Tetsuko’s Room (first aired 04 May 1983)

Akira Toriyama Interview

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi [henceforth “Tetsuko”]: This is Tetsuko’s Room. Today we have the man who draws Dr. Slump, the comic that’s overwhelmingly popular with the little ones, and which everyone watches on TV as animation; and in particular, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard the name “Arale-chan“, and my guest today is Arale-chan‘s creator. To be honest, I actually wanted him to come here sooner, but last year, the announcements of his wedding and his coming in first in the ranking of Japan’s wealthiest1 came at the same time, and things were thrown into confusion, and this very pure individual became quite shy of other people, and wouldn’t show his face up until now; today, we have finally got him here. My guest today: Akira Toriyama-san.

Akira Toriyama (henceforth “Toriyama”): Ah, thank you.

Tetsuko: Good afternoon.

Toriyama: Good afternoon.

Tetsuko: Thank you so very much for coming.

Toriyama: You’re welcome.

Tetsuko: I feel that I ought to introduce you as a cartoonist…

Toriyama: I am.

Tetsuko: (laughs) Well, you are a cartoonist. First of all, the announcements of your wedding and being first in the ranking of wealthiest people came at the same time; it must have been incredible, but how did you…?

Toriyama: Well, yes. To think that’d happen… An author isn’t a big-name entertainer, so I didn’t think media people would come to a cartoonist place over his wedding, and I was just flabbergasted, since I’d only ever seen that sort of thing2 on TV….

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: Mm. Well, I didn’t think I was that cool.

Tetsuko: Now then, you had decided to hold a wedding ceremony….

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: You weren’t thinking of anything particularly extravagant, just to have an ordinary–

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: –sort of thing….

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: And then came the announcement about being number one in the ranking of Japan’s wealthiest….

Toriyama: That’s right. By sheer coincidence, the day after the ranking was…. Well, the site of the ceremony was only available the day after that, and I never would have thought that the ranking would be announced at that time, so it was coincidence piled on top of coincidence, which was a bit….

Tetsuko: And then you became number-one in the ranking of Japan’s wealthiest, so it went over to… Well, it’s what I’m doing here as well, but the mass media wanted to have you comment about how you felt, so they all decided to visit your home, and….

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: I just figured one of the neighbors had stopped by to ask about the wedding, and….

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: So I said, “What, is this about my wedding?” And it seems like that’s how they found out about that part.

Tetsuko: So they thought, “Ah, he’s having a wedding, too!” and then everyone descended on the ceremony, as well?

Toriyama: Well, yes.

Tetsuko: Oh, my.

Toriyama: Yeah.

Tetsuko: In that case, everyone must have been quite surprised, then.

Toriyama: Yes, we were. But I was the most surprised.

Tetsuko: Even so, the wedding went off without incident?

Toriyama: Yes, thankfully.

Tetsuko: (laughs) Congratulations.

Toriyama: Oh, don’t mention it.

Tetsuko: And so, that means you’re a newlywed.

Toriyama: Yes, well, it’s been nearly a year now.

Tetsuko: Say, does your wife draw comics as well?

Toriyama: Yes. In fact, her career in comics is longer than mine.

Tetsuko: Is that so? In fact, right now, she is here today, right in front of you. It’s true that this is called Tetsuko’s Room, and we don’t do this sort of thing very often, but since your wife happens to be here, who is called—

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko:—Nachi Mikami-san, and she is so very cute. Honestly. I beg your pardon. She simply happened to be right there. Being called Tetsuko’s Room, there really ought to be a wall there, but in order to film for television, there is no wall over here, and she is sitting directly in front of where her husband is; and her husband, for reassurance, glances over at her when perhaps he is feeling a bit shy; so please pardon me for having taken the liberty of filming her. Does your wife still draw?

Toriyama: Well, it seems that she can’t draw that much anymore now. We’ve gotten married, and she doesn’t have a career anymore, so she’s busy—

Tetsuko: (laughs) Is she—

Toriyama: —keeping house….

Tetsuko: —Is she from Nagoya?

Toriyama: She is.

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: She says she can’t do it…

Tetsuko: Comics?

Toriyama: That she can’t do it properly.

Tetsuko: (laughs) I’m amazed; you’re quite [traditional]… Your wife draws comics, but she abandons her career after her getting married, so your views towards marriage must be….

Tetsuko: Right. That now, she’s focused on housekeeping.

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: That she immediately can’t draw comics. That she can’t do it properly.

Toriyama: Sometimes she helps me with my work, though.

Tetsuko: Ah, is that so? Then she must be quite good, then.

Toriyama: She’s a lifesaver in that respect.

Tetsuko: Say, she must know about a variety of other things, as well, with you. What’s rough, and what’s difficult.

Toriyama: That’s really the part where she’s helped me the most. If it were someone who didn’t know that, well…. For instance, when I’m coming up with a story, and such, she starts talking to me without any reservation. That point — since she drew herself, as well — it seems she knows what parts are hard for me.

Tetsuko: In that case, you’ve married the right person.

Toriyama: Yes, I did. (laughs)

Tetsuko: But being so incredibly pure, when it came to getting married, she was another cartoonist living in Aichi Prefecture, so you decided to meet, and then you did.

Toriyama: Our very first meeting?

Tetsuko: Yes.

Toriyama: That’s right. A relative of my wife’s just so happened to live in the same town as me, so we got in touch. Something like that hardly ever happens, after all….

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: I thought I’d meet someone in the same line of work.

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: Yes. So five of us3 in the same field met up, that first time….

Tetsuko: Who draw shōjo manga….

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Those people.

Toriyama: Most people who draw shōnen manga go off to Tokyo….

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: But people who draw shōjo manga are women, after all, so there are many people who work from afar.

Tetsuko: I see. So you met up with her.

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: You yourself are of course truly pure, but perhaps, especially when you met, did you try to take that purity, and—

Toriyama: Of course! After all, she’s older than I am.

Tetsuko: I see. So, you played up that pureness a bit, then.

Toriyama: No, it’s not that I played it up, or anything.

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: I had hardly ever spoken to women, after all.

Tetsuko: Ah.

Toriyama: I’m a serious person.

Tetsuko: Ah.

Toriyama: (laughs)

Tetsuko: (laughs) Is that sort of thing reflected in your comics?

Toriyama: Hmm. Whether it is reflected, or isn’t, I’m not really sure.

Tetsuko: Anyhow, Dr. Slump, which Arale-chan appears in, has of course been a big hit, and first it was a comic. You started it as a serial, yes?

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: In a magazine.

Toriyama: That’s correct.

Tetsuko: A serial. In Jump.

Toriyama: Yes. Dr. Slump was a serial, but at the very beginning, I began—

Tetsuko: Ah.

Toriyama: —With a one-shot.

Tetsuko: But that… I should have said this first, but through a variety of events, the impetus that got you started drawing for Jump was an editor there, and your name is Toriyama, but what is your editor at Jump called?

Toriyama: His name is Torishima.

Tetsuko: Right.

Toriyama: “Torishima-san“. It gets confusing.

Tetsuko: You’re Toriyama, and your supervising editor at Jump is Torishima-san.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: And through him asking you to draw something—

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: —as a one-shot.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: And was the one-shot a success?

Toriyama: No, apparently it was no good at all.

Tetsuko: Ah. In what way did you find out that it was no good?

Toriyama: Uh… well, at the front of the magazine, there’s this survey form to fill out.

Tetsuko: Mm.

Toriyama: They tell you to circle the ones that were interesting.

Tetsuko: Mm.

Toriyama: And when you tally it all up you know, but it was absolute dead last.

Tetsuko: (laughs) Absolute dead last.

Toriyama: Yeah.

Tetsuko: Being “absolute dead last”, does that mean it wasn’t interesting, that sort of thing?

Toriyama: Right. Apparently it wasn’t received well at all.

Tetsuko: But that man, Torishima-san, has quite some courage. So continuing on, he said to—

Toriyama: Yes, that’s right. So he told me things like, “Try drawing something a little more interesting.” Because I hadn’t drawn comics that much up until then.

Tetsuko: That’s true. Normally, an author who sells as well as this, someone who starts up a serial, would absolutely have received some manga award, or to have grown up submitting comics; that’s the typical thing. But in your case, you didn’t have anything before that.

Toriyama: That’s right. I was working at a company.

Tetsuko: What sort of company?

Toriyama: It was like an advertising agency; doing designs, drawing illustrations, and such.

Tetsuko: But in that case, you at least liked drawing, yes?

Toriyama: Yes. I did at least like drawing. Or rather, I suppose that’s all I was good for.

Tetsuko: Had you been drawing pictures since you were little, then?

Toriyama: Hmm. Well, on the level of drawing a bit more than the average person, I suppose.

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: My textbooks were relatively full of doodling.

Tetsuko: Ah. But you say you weren’t at all the type of boy who would read a lot of comics, or submit his own.

Toriyama: Right. I have memories of reading comics when I was in primary school, but that’s about it.

Tetsuko: (laughs) That is quite far back.

Toriyama: It really is.

Tetsuko: Isn’t it?

Toriyama: So, I have this huge gap in between.

Tetsuko: Well…. At any rate, now, I thought perhaps we might talk about that in a moment, but you started that serial, and the first impression of its book was 1.9 million copies. In the first impression.

Toriyama: Ah…. I’d heard about that.

Tetsuko: It’s an incredible number. Even with comics, for the first impression to have 1.9 million. And now, there are now volumes one to nine out.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Totaled all together, it’s 22,480,000 copies.

Toriyama: Really? That much?

Tetsuko: It’s incredible. But, coming in first in the ranking of Japan’s wealthy, standing head and shoulders above all other people in your field, to be 35th in all of Japan, it’s really quite amazing, don’t you think?

Toriyama: I suppose so? Well, things like money, I can’t quite picture, so….

Tetsuko: Right? And, living yourself in Nagoya, as you do, you must not have much of a sense of how well it’s selling?

Toriyama: Right. Yes. So, when I come to Tokyo, times like that, seeing the bookshops stacked with copies, I think, “Well I guess it really is selling, huh”….

(EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of the interview may be missing in our translation at this point due to the source video’s content where Toriyama has changed positions and Tetsuko appears to be mid-thought on the subject of fanmail.)

Tetsuko: So you would receive cardboard boxes full of letters…?

Toriyama: Well, yes. At most, I could handle about 10, so I’ve wondered how I should reply to them all. They just came all at once in a cardboard box, which surprised me.

Tetsuko: Ah.

Toriyama: Because at first, I brazenly wrote, “I will definitely reply to your letters!”, so….

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: But it was tough just reading through all of them.

Tetsuko: Still, for so many people to start reading it, even though your ratings in the surveys weren’t any good at the beginning, how much of a…?

Toriyama: Let’s see here. Well, with regards to the Dr. Slump comic, I think it was doing pretty well right from the start.

Tetsuko: Ah, I see.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: In that case, the one you sent in at the beginning, and which didn’t do well in the survey, was a different–?

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: A different one, all right.

Toriyama: The first one that was actually published, anyway.

Tetsuko: Ah. Re-reading that one now, is it interesting? What do you think?

Toriyama: No, it’s not interesting at all.

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: It’s embarrassing.

Tetsuko: Ah, really?

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: And then for a year after that, you say you were constantly rejected?

Toriyama: That’s right. No matter how much I drew … although I myself didn’t take it too hard.

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: It was something that I’d never drawn before, so I saw myself how I was getting better and better, which was interesting.

Tetsuko: What was your lifestyle like during that time?

Toriyama: During that time?

Tetsuko: Yes.

Toriyama: Well, I was pretty much unemployed, so.

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: So I’d say things like, “Mom, I’m gonna buy some cigarettes; can I have 150 yen?”

Tetsuko: I see.

Toriyama: Yes. Or, “I wanna go out to a cafe, so I need 200 yen.”

Tetsuko: That sort of lifestyle?

Toriyama: That’s correct.

Tetsuko: But that during that time, as you told me just now, you were drawing an incredible amount — some hundreds of pictures — and you learned the most from that?

Toriyama: That’s right. Because I drew about 500 pages’ worth. I think during that time, my skills were really improving by leaps and bounds.

Tetsuko: But during that time, that man, Torishima-san, your editor, he must have given you quite a bit of encouragement, helped you out in various ways, yes? All through that time. No?

Toriyama: He encouraged me, or rather… when I’d draw something and send it, he’d say things like, “This is no good; it’s not interesting at all”.

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: “Why don’t you draw something more interesting?” He’d say.

Tetsuko: Ah. And then you’d get right back to work?

Toriyama: Right. I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t like to lose, so I’d repeat this cycle of him telling me it wasn’t interesting, me getting ticked off and drawing again, and sending it in.

Tetsuko: And that lasted about a year.

Toriyama: Yes. Then I happened to draw a mad-scientist story, and he told me, why not make the girl — the robot he builds — into the main character? And that’s how Dr. Slump began.

Tetsuko: Ah. So Dr. Norimaki… Norimaki… Senbei Norimaki, is his name….

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: That’s the name that belongs to the doctor, and from there you got the name of “Arale” from the senbei rice cracker, arare….

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: And so, she’s called Arale-chan.

Toriyama: Yep.

Tetsuko: My. What brought you to think of naming him “Senbei Norimaki”?

Toriyama: Well, I hadn’t thought about much of anything; I just kind of thought that something that ended in “-bei” sounded old-fashioned and funny. And in that case, I might as well name him “Senbei”, and after that, thinking of a surname, calling him “Norimaki”4 would be pretty funny, so I did.

Tetsuko: Ah, so that’s why he’s called “Senbei Norimaki”.

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: Written down in characters, though, it seems like an extremely old-fashioned name.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: And once this character Arale-chan came out, in any case it’s been terribly, terribly— well, as you know, the character goods show just how popular Arale-chan has been; in character goods alone, it’s about 800 different products?

Toriyama: Well…

Tetsuko: More?

Toriyama: Well, I’ve heard it’s about that much.

Tetsuko: At any rate, there are of course all kinds of dolls, but there are even pencilboards, pencil cases, and….

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: Just everything. Handbags and such, even.

Toriyama: To the point that whenever I have a child, I won’t have to buy any school supplies.

Tetsuko: Do you always receive product samples?

Toriyama: Yes, I do.

Tetsuko: So much that it won’t all fit in your house; is that right?

Toriyama: Right. Before…. Well, now we’ve built a new house, but up until then, it was a pretty small place, and it wouldn’t all fit, so we actually rented another house and put it there.

Tetsuko: In that case, there must be large items in there as well?

Toriyama: There are.

Tetsuko: Things like pools and such?

Toriyama: Right. Pools, futons….

Tetsuko: All Arale-chan?

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: (laughs) My.

Toriyama: Just looking at it made me uncomfortable though.

Tetsuko: Oh dear.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: But, aren’t they constantly coming to you saying, “We’d like to make this, we’d like to make that”?

Toriyama: Well, no. More like, “We’ve made this; what do you think?”

Tetsuko: But, well, I don’t really know, but you must give the OK, then?

Toriyama: No, I’ve got my hands full just drawing the manga, so that sort of thing I leave up to people like my editor Torishima-san.

Tetsuko: Ah, I see.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: But, 800 different kinds…. It’s one thing to say it that way, but there’s so many different things…. Just saying “this thing, and that thing, and another thing”, that’s still only three items.

Toriyama: I suppose so.

Tetsuko: Having 800 of them come in is incredible. In that case, once you have a child, you’ll have everything you need, then?

Toriyama: Right. But I can’t really use them, can I?

Tetsuko: Why not?

Toriyama: Well, they’ll say, “This is embarrassing!” or “Isn’t this a comic from a long time ago?” or “This is uncool!” So I can’t use them.

Tetsuko: (laughs) You’re glancing over at your wife, I see. (laughs) Now, you your wife as a cartoonist a little while ago, and said that she has helped you very much a number of times, but do you consult with her on anything while you are drawing, that sort of thing?

Toriyama: Well, sometimes. I do. “I wonder if this’ll be interesting”, and such.

Tetsuko: Ah…

Toriyama: Yes. My wife is more knowledgeable than me about clothes, that sort of thing, after all.

Tetsuko: I see. Clothing and such.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Ah. Arale-chan….

Toriyama: Like this. “I drew clothes like this, but do you think they’re now-y?”5

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: And she’ll tell me, “They’re not now-y at all.”

Tetsuko: Really. (laughs) But Arale-chan is like that, isn’t she. Well, she has many kinds of outfits, as we showed just now, to start with.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: A variety of, well, this is hats. And through that, she can do a variety of, she can do different things, right? This robot. She is a robot, isn’t she, this Arale-chan? So cute.

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: Right.

Toriyama: Well, I just think it wouldn’t be interesting if she wore the same exact outfit every time.

Tetsuko: Ah.

Toriyama: So depending on the occasion, I just change up the clothes however, based on my mood.

Tetsuko: Ah. In that case, it’s that she has that sort of hat?

Toriyama: Yes, that’s right.

Tetsuko: And when she goes out, she’ll change different things.

Toriyama: Right, right.

Tetsuko: (laughs) My, so very cute. Now there’s just so many different things. But the story behind this Arale-chan wearing glasses is quite interesting, too.

Toriyama: Yes, well, I thought that a robot wearing glasses would be silly, and that there hadn’t often been a girl who wears glasses as a protagonist, and also, when I draw girls, they all end up with the same face, so I gave her glasses in order to give her a distinguishing trait.

Tetsuko: Ah. But when you think about it, I also think it’s a very nice thing to have all these children think that a girl who wears glasses is cute.

Toriyama: Yes. I don’t know that it has anything to do with my wearing glasses myself. But I’m fine with there being lots of girls who wear glasses.

Tetsuko: I agree.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Then, for those girls who wear glasses, then it’s quite nice that they’ve come to like this — this character.

Toriyama: Yes. There’ve been letters saying, they’d always been embarrassed themselves about wearing glasses, but now it doesn’t bother them so much; like that.

Tetsuko: My.

Toriyama: I was pretty happy getting those.

Tetsuko: I’ll say.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Still, you say that even though you had the idea that it would be funny if that robot wore glasses, you intended to eventually get rid of them?

Toriyama: That’s right. It’s a chore to draw the glasses, so I thought about eventually getting rid of them, but they’d become her distinguishing trait by then, so I couldn’t take them away anymore.

Tetsuko: Ah. It’s at the point where if even an entertainer, or a young singer, if any of them wears big glasses, everyone says they look like Arale-chan, so you can’t take them away anymore.

Toriyama: Yes, that’s right.

Tetsuko: Arale-chan‘s glasses.

Toriyama: Right. Because they’re one of her special traits, now.

Tetsuko: Now, is it that today is your first time going on television, coming to this sort of studio?

Toriyama: It’s my first time.

Tetsuko: What do you think? How do you feel about the TV studio? To give your honest opinion.

Toriyama: Well, I didn’t think you did it in a space as big as this. I really thought you did it in an actual room.

Tetsuko: Ah. So in my case, in my room.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: It would be nice to have it this big, though. Really, in terms of the number of normal rooms that would fit in the space, this would be quite a big room, after all.

Toriyama: That’s true.

Tetsuko: The windows are big, as well. That’s actually a wall, you know. The area with the blue sky. To be perfectly frank.

Studio: (all laugh)

Toriyama: I see.

Tetsuko: Right.

Toriyama: Normally, there’d be sky on the other side, wouldn’t there?

Tetsuko: Right. However, it’s all an illusion for TV. We make it look like the sky, so those watching at home would really think, this kind of wide open house is quite rare, so at the very least, we’d do this sort of…. We’ve changed many things about the set, putting in a variety of windows, and such. This is the most settled style for it, though. But, there are a variety of people here, to do commercials and such, but you didn’t even think there would be anything like that at all? In that case.

Toriyama: Well, I didn’t think there would be this many people who could see me. Man, it makes me nervous.

Tetsuko: Being on TV.

Toriyama: It’s embarrassing.

Tetsuko: But when you had your wedding, there must have been reporters there, yes?

Toriyama: Yes, there were. A “press conference”, you’d call it, that sort of thing.

Tetsuko: Oh, really?

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: Then, were [celebrity news reporter Masaru] Nashimoto-san, people like that there?

Toriyama: Well… I don’t think I saw them.

Tetsuko: Ah….

Toriyama: I don’t think my wedding is really such a big deal, though.

Tetsuko: Then, were there any sort of questions from the people in attendance?

Toriyama: …Yes. All sorts.

Tetsuko: What sort of question did you get the most?

Toriyama: What sort of question… well, it was right after the “Japan’s Wealthiest” announcement, so really, things like “Money, this, money that”….

Tetsuko: Ah…. Like that?

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: It’s tough, even being in the mass media.

Toriyama: Well, it is tough. And I didn’t think the mass media, cartoonists, were viewed like that.

Tetsuko: Much less if you were to then draw something without any care about the situation.

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: Of course. You were surprised. And it’s strange for everyone to worry about someone else’s spending habits.

Toriyama: Yes, that’s right.

Tetsuko: Now we’ll take a bit of a commercial break.

Toriyama: OK.

Tetsuko: Akira-san, you are extremely serious about your hobbies, and I understand that, when you get to playing video games, you become quite immersed in them.

Toriyama: That’s right. I’m relatively serious about them, or rather, I’m the kind of person who can only do one thing at a time. So I’ll end up doing just that one thing.

Tetsuko: And then what happens to your comic?

Toriyama: There have been times when I didn’t quite make my deadline.

Tetsuko: And also, this is so cute, but I understand that when there’s something you want, you draw it in your manga, in picture after picture?

Toriyama: Hmmm. I’m pretty persistent. At one point, I wanted a car, and I drew that car in what must have been hundreds of pictures.

Tetsuko: Whaa?!

Toriyama: “It might look nice if it was that color”, and so on.

Tetsuko: (laughs)

Toriyama: My wife was amazed.

Tetsuko: I’ll say. Then, you’d put them up around the house? As if to say, “I want this.”

Toriyama: Yes. Saying things like, “This’d be nice, wouldn’t it?” So, after showing her I don’t know how many, she finally told me, “Well, all right.”

Tetsuko: But to draw two or three hundred, you must have been drawing quite a lot in between your work, then?

Toriyama: That’s right. In between, or rather, I cut down on my time for work doing it.

Tetsuko: Whenever you want something.

Toriyama: Yes, right.

Tetsuko: And, I hear when you wanted a bird, you drew nothing but that, again?

Toriyama: Right. Apparently I’ve been like that ever since I was little; when I wanted a horse, I drew nothing but pictures of horses, and so on.

Tetsuko: My. You would get good at it, wouldn’t you. Drawing hundreds of pictures.

Toriyama: That’s right. I’d constantly draw the same thing, so I really do think I’d get at least a bit better.

Tetsuko: If anything then, saying you want a car, you want a car, you’d draw it, and then you got to buy it?

Toriyama: Right. I finally got the OK, and thanks to that, I got to buy it.

Tetsuko: Well, but since you’d draw so many pictures of cars, your wife went to your mother and said, “It’s like this; he’s drawing pictures,” and then your mother…

Toriyama: It’s been like that for ages. (laughs)

Tetsuko: (laughs ) Since you were a child, you mean. My. And you still have something you want now, correct?

Toriyama: Well, now I want this little motorbike, so I’ve been drawing nothing but that.

Tetsuko: (laughs) You should have brought one with you today. “Eh? You want something like that?”

Toriyama: Yes.

Tetsuko: So even saying you show it to everyone in the house, it’s mainly to your wife?

Toriyama: Well, it’s almost always my wife, but sometimes I show them to my kid assistant, and he’ll say things like “That’s nice, isn’t it?”

Tetsuko: Well. How adorable.

Toriyama: No, no.

Tetsuko: And when you finally get that thing, then what happens?

Toriyama: When I get it, the subject of my drawings moves over to the next thing.

Tetsuko: I see. In that case, it’s that little motorbike?

Toriyama: That’s right. I do want it, after all.

Tetsuko: Mm. You haven’t gotten the OK yet, then?

Toriyama: Well, I have basically gotten the OK.

Tetsuko: Hm. But…

Toriyama: It’s a truly little motorbike, though. One that wouldn’t even come to 100,000 yen.

Tetsuko: But you really are that way with a variety of things?

Toriyama:. That’s right. If it’s too expensive, y’know. I’ve been really frugal with money since way back, so I can’t buy something if it’s too expensive. I’m not that brave.

Tetsuko: But, even cars, and such. But at any rate, not liking people, or rather, not going among people that much, when you go out, you don’t have many things to do with a car; is that right?

Toriyama: Right. Having gone and bought it, I can barely go in it. Although it’s also because I’m busy with work. Also, I don’t like going out for a drive very much, so when I don’t need it for something — going to the supermarket, and such — I don’t use it.

Tetsuko: Do you go with your wife?

Toriyama: Yes. I like doing the supermarket rounds quite a bit.

Tetsuko: Is that so. Are there lots of interesting things?

Toriyama: There’s quite a bit, yes. There’s all kinds of stuff under one roof there, so it’s a lot of fun when I make the rounds.

Tetsuko: What part of Nagoya do you live in, or by “what part of Nagoya”, do you live in the city, or….

Toriyama: I don’t live in the city. It’s a bit… which way would it be? North, maybe? I think it’d be north or west. So anyway, I’d go around the supermarkets and such in the countryside over there, and when I went to one, I’d completely tire of going there, so I’d go on to a different supermarket the next time.

Tetsuko: So with the car you spent so much time drawing in pictures because you wanted it so badly, you make the supermarket rounds?

Toriyama: Right. (laughs)

Tetsuko: Well, of course it is the case that — even if you go 10 minutes from the center of Tokyo, there is still a fair number of roads, but out where you are, about 10 minutes out, it’s fairly…

Toriyama: Well, it really is, because if you go 10 minutes by train, it’s all rice paddies and fields. The occasional time I come to Tokyo, it’s unbelievable. No matter how many minutes you travel by car, there are still big buildings. It’s shocking.

Tetsuko: But, of course, you feel more relaxed when you go back home, yes? More than when you’re in Tokyo.

Toriyama: Yes, that’s true. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys big crowds very much. There aren’t very many people over there back home, so I can feel pretty well at ease.

Tetsuko: But, when you come to Tokyo, and then take a look at the book shops like that, Dr. Slump is just stacked up on the shelves.

Toriyama: Right.

Tetsuko: So the sense of, “Ah, there it is” — it must hit home more in Tokyo, then?

Toriyama: That’s true. No matter what. After all, when I look at the book store in my neighborhood, I’ll think, “I bet they’re just selling it because they feel obligated to.”

Tetsuko: Mmm. But looking ahead — now, up to Volume 9, as I mentioned before, it’s at the incredibly large number of 22.48 million copies in print, you’ll still be continuing your serial, so it’s going to get even larger.

Toriyama: Right. I figure I can probably keep drawing it for at least a little while longer.

Tetsuko: But it’s been a full three years and four months since you started your serial in Jump.

Toriyama: That’s right.

Tetsuko: And I understand you haven’t taken even a single week off.

Toriyama: Right. I haven’t. You don’t see that many authors who take breaks, really.

Tetsuko: Every week?

Toriyama: Every week, yes.

Tetsuko: Right? That’s quite — how many pages do you generally…?

Toriyama: Generaly about 13 or 15 pages, but I’m actually grateful that the number of pages is relatively low, since it’s a gag manga.

Tetsuko: But it must take quite a bit of time coming up with the gags, doesn’t it?

Toriyama: That’s right. And continuing for over three years, you really start to run out of material.

Tetsuko: But back when you started, you were rejected quite a bit, so there must have been quite a bit of material in those rejected ones.

Toriyama: That’s true. Although I have gotten to use a lot of it.

Tetsuko: Time for a quick commercial.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of the interview may be missing in our translation at this point due to the source video’s content. Then again, it is possible that this is simply how the show returned from the commercial break. It is impossible for us to determine without access to an uninterrupted recording of the broadcast.)

Tetsuko: …so it’s like that, but given that you have so many boxes full of letters coming in that you can’t reply to them, what aspect — there’s Arale-chan, and a variety of other characters who appears — but what aspect do you think resonated with kids?

Toriyama: Let’s see. I think it’s because it’s really light and easy to read. I myself can’t come up with anything that’s too difficult, so I don’t go with any sort of difficult stuff, which I think makes it easy to read.

Tetsuko: Well, you say you’ve even gotten letters that say looking at Arale-chan, reading it, even though they hate studying, they can relax?

Toriyama: That’s true. I think it’s probably because it’s like they can go to a different world.

Tetsuko: Since Arale-chan is a robot, she can do a variety of things, can’t she?

Toriyama: Yes, relatively speaking. Apart from flying.

Tetsuko: Ah, so everyone enjoys that aspect too, then?

Toriyama: Yes. I suppose it must feel good. Like how she’s strong. She does unexpected things.

Tetsuko: Mmm. So in that case, Toriyama-san, is it that you yourself are also putting all your effort into Arale-chan now?

Toriyama: Let me see. Well, it’s been quite a while since I started though, so it’s rather like Arale-chan moves of her own accord.

Tetsuko: Reading from the very beginning, Arale-chan‘s body proportions, I suppose you could say, have changed quite a bit, haven’t they? A moment ago, Arale-chan was on screen briefly, but that was one from relatively early on, and apparently this one is Arale-chan now; her body is about….

Toriyama: She’s about one-and-a-half heads high.

Tetsuko: Right? So I suppose it’s that she’s cuter when she’s about like this? The one that came up a moment ago, from the beginning, her face is smaller. Like this. At the very beginning. It’s quite…

Toriyama: She’s about three heads high here, yeah.

Tetsuko: That really is….

Toriyama: Drawing it myself, I didn’t notice it at all, but those sorts of letters increased, so I thought, “There’s no way that can be right!” But when I went back and looked at earlier material, it really was completely different.

Tetsuko: I see. Between the one from before, without the hat, and this one wearing a hat, even as the same girl, the dimensions are considerably….

Toriyama: I think it probably got that way because, for running around in cramped panels, the shorter proportions make it easier to grasp the movement overall.

Tetsuko: But certainly, of course, with regards to comics, and it’s true of puppet theater, as well, before there was Boo Foo Woo6, and in Boo Foo Woo, the heads really are incredibly big. Perhaps about a third of them is the head. And the one next to Arale-chan right now is a relatively new character, is that right?

Toriyama: Right. It’s a character called Obotchaman.7

Tetsuko: Obotchaman. (laughs) Somehow, this one seems a bit familiar.

Toriyama: He’s from Dr. Senbei’s rival, Dr. Mashirito, which is the name of his model, Torishima-san, in reverse — “Mashirito”.

Tetsuko: Ah, and so he’s “Mashirito”. I see now.

Toriyama: Yes. And so he’s the robot that the Doctor made — made to oppose Arale-chan, on the exact same plan as her.

Tetsuko: He seems to resemble Astro Boy a bit.

Toriyama: That’s true. People often tell me that. With the hairstyle…

Tetsuko: Well, it has been nice having you come out and share all these stories with us. Not growing up drawing comics, and not having won any awards, apparently even you yourself were surprised to have Dr. Slump, the series you suddenly started drawing, to have such incredible popularity; however, you won the 27th Shogakukan Manga Award after you started drawing Dr. Slump.

Toriyama: That’s right. It was the first time I had received an award.

Tetsuko: What was it like?

Toriyama: It really did make me happy.

Tetsuko: And thanks to your wife for coming out as well….

The following translator notes are included for the benefit of the reader as supplemental information and were not originally included as a part of this interview.

1 Akira Toriyama was ranked #1 among those in the “other” category, and notably had a higher income than the wealthiest politicians, authors, singers, actors, and athletes on the list, though — as stated later in the program — he was 35th overall.

2 i.e., being swarmed by the media.

3 This is referenced in a message on the title page of Dr. Slump chapter 64, “Riders at Dawn” (夜明けの暴走族の巻; Yoake no Bōsōzoku no Maki), first published in Weekly Shōnen Jump in April 1981. The other people at dinner besides Toriyama and his future wife were Hideharu Akaza, Mei Mizuhoshi, Chieko Takaoka, and Shizu Makuri. That makes six people… so perhaps Toriyama simply forgot to count himself.

4 Yielding “Norimaki Senbei”, a rice-cracker wrapped in seaweed.

5 “Now-y” (ナウい; naui), meaning “in the now” or “hip and fashionable”, was a slang term that came about in the early 1980s, but fell from use by the middle of the decade. However, its counterpart dasai (ダサい), meaning “unhip” or “unfashionable”, has survived to the present day.

6 A children’s puppet-theater show that aired on NHK from 1960 to 1965, being absorbed along the way by Uta no Ehon (“A Picture-Book of Song”), which was in turn merged with Okaa-san to Issho (“With Mother”; a show that airs to this day). The title characters, Boo, Foo, and Woo, are a trio of piglet brothers in a setting based on The Three Little Pigs. Tetsuko probably brings it up because she herself voiced Woo, the youngest brother, who lived in a house of brick.

7 From “(O)-botchama” [“young master”; a sheltered, well-mannered young boy] + [“man”]

English Translation: SaiyaJedi