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
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
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,
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.