Toriyama Akira Complete Illustrations Book #2 Interview

Translated by Ian Kelley

INT: Well, seeing as how this is the story guide, I'd like to ask you about the story of Dragon Ball. To start with, why did you start Dragon Ball?

TA: Well, after I finished "Dr. Slump," I was wondering what to come up with next, and at the same time I was conferring with my boss Torishima-san a lot. Around that time, I really liked watching Jackie Chan movies, and I had already seen "The Drunken Master" more than 20 times. Since I liked it so much, I decided to make a "Kung fu kid" manga. I proposed the idea to Torishima-san, and we finished writing "Dragon Boy." The readers really loved it, and that's how the basics got started.

INT: So that's how you started to think up the basics [for Dragon Ball.]

TA: "Dr. Slump" was kind of a Western-style manga, so I decided to change it and make a Chinese-like series, and in order to make it that way, I decided to make it based on "Saiyuuki." [the original Chinese legend that the characters from Dragon Ball are based on] "Saiyuuki" is really imaginative, and has lots of adventure-like elements, so I thought of making a kind of "modern Saiyuuki." If I had a base to work off of, I thought it would be easier to arrange it the way I like. [Smile]

INT: Judging from your first drafts, it seemed like you were going to have Goku actually be a monkey.

TA: Right, just like "Saiyuuki." But it didn't really have much design potential, so I made him a normal human boy, but I wanted him to have a special physical trait. The hero of "Dragon Boy" had wings, so I wanted it to be a characteristic like that. And that's how Goku's tail got born. And then there was the 7 Dragon Balls that could grant a wish when all gathered. By having a journey to find them all, I thought I could make a journey like that of "Saiyuuki."

INT: So that's when you started publishing it. Up until the Tenka-ichi Budoukai, you really had "Saiyuuki" in mind.

TA: Yes. Bulma would be the Sanzou Priest, Oolong would be Chohakkai, and Yamucha would be Sagojou. At the start, I had thought of ending the series as soon as all 7 balls were gathered.

INT: And afterwards you started the Tenka-ichi Budoukai, how did that develop?

TA: Until the Tenka-ichi Budoukai, Dragon Ball wasn't very popular. At one point, Torishima-san said to me, "Your hero is kind of run-of-the-mill. That's why he's not popular." I thought he was trying to attack my character, since I deliberately made him that way. It really irritated me, but I understood what he meant. So I thought, "Well, I'd better make him popular." When I stopped and thought of Goku, I realized the foremost thought on his mind would be "I want to be strong," so I thought I'd bring that trait out. In "Dr. Slump" I had a Grand Prix, and as a tournament mini-event it was really popular. So I simply decided to make another tournament. And that's where the Tenka-ichi Budoukai came from. I got rid of all the characters besides Goku, brought Kamesennin back, and introduced Kulilin. And all of a sudden, Dragon Ball got popular.

INT: But Goku couldn't win the Tenka-ichi Budoukai, whereas most comic heroes would have.

TA: Yeah. I finally had him win the third time around. During the tournament, people would probably say, "You know in the end Goku is going to win." Knowing people would think this, and since I'm so cantankerous, there's no way I'm going to let him win! [Smile]

INT: So the Tenka-ichi Budoukai was the story's first turning point. And then you had the Red Ribbon Army enter.

TA: The Red Ribbon Army was really a lot like the Tenka-ichi Budoukai, except that it wasn't a tournament. Around that time, there was a Famicom game "Spartan X" out, and I played it a lot. Stronger and stronger enemies came and you had to defeat them. Just like the basis of any Kung Fu movie. If I did it like that, I could show a plot and visuals different than that of a tournament. Same thing goes for Muscle Tower.

INT: And then you finally had Piccolo-Daimao appear.

TA: Up until that point, you couldn't really hate the bad guys that had appeared in the story. So I thought of making a truly evil character, and that's where Piccolo-Daimao came from. That was the part of the story that I enjoyed drawing the most.

INT: Since then, the enemy characters just started to escalate.

TA: Starting with the most powerful people on Earth, and then beating the alien Saiya-jin, the characters went further into the universe. At the time I thought up Freezer, it was just a "bubble period," where the landlord was the most evil person there was. So I decided to make him a landlord of the universe. Using the Saiya-jin as retainers, he was a landlord of the universe. But just having an "enemy escalation" would be a pain, so I brought in the Ginyuu Special Forces. My son was a big fan of the "fighting force" TV shows and was always watching them. So I decided to bring in something like that. These shows were made by Toei, who also makes the anime Dragon Ball Z.

INT: After that you brought in the Artificial Humans and Cell...

TA: Well, after having the characters become the strongest in the universe, there's nothing else to do but have them surpass time as well. So then I had to bring in time travel, which was really difficult. Like the time paradox? It's like there was a big muddy swamp waiting for me, or something. For the most part, I only think about what is going to happen each week, and even I don't know what's going to happen the week after that. Since I was writing the manga like this I was constantly consulting my boss on what I should do the next week. (Smile)

INT: And after the Cell saga was over, everybody was wondering if Gohan was going to take center stage...

TA: I wanted to make Gohan the new hero. It really stunk. It really seemed that people wouldn't be satisfied with him as the main character when compared to Goku.

INT: On that note, who is your favorite character?

TA: Hmm....I guess it would have to be Piccolo. In terms of main bad guys, I liked Piccolo-Daimao the best, and even after that I liked Piccolo the best. But I like Goku just about as much too. Vegita...well, I don't really like him very much, but he really helped me out in some places. And recently it's been really fun writing about Satan. I never thought Satan would become as important a character as he did. When I first made him I had planned him as a one-shot character. The reason Satan became important is because I really enjoy thinking up stupid gags, even more than fight scenes. (Smile)

INT: That touches on Gotenks, doesn't it. There's a "legend" that around that time, your boss Takeda-san saw the name in the publishing department and laughed over it every week.

TA: I guess I'm really a Gag manga artist at heart. (Smile) What I'm always thinking is that if it's always a whole bunch of people versus one enemy, it seems kind of cowardly. Therefore I'd always have the fighters change and switch around.

INT: And in the battle versus Majin Buu, Goku got the last laugh, didn't he.

TA: That's right. It's like saying "You've done well by yourself." Wanting to fight enemies one-on-one, no matter how strong they are, is Goku's greatest wish, isn't it?

INT: Throughout all of the manga, that's always what Goku wanted, isn't it. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.