TORIYAMA AKIRA SUPER INTERVIEW
From Coffee Table Books Vol. 6, Daizenshuu: Movies & TV Specials.
Translated by Nobu Taguchi

The origins, and now to the future…

Toriyama Akira, as a boy full of curiosity, was captured by animation and drawing. And this boy became a manga artist that would fill people with excitement, laughter, and emotion. In order to transmit this feeling of excitement to many people, Toriyama Akira is presently continuing his great adventure, seeking the next fantasy.


Interviewer: How would you position the animated movie Dragon Ball?

Toriyama Akira: I consider the movies to be a ‘different dimension’ from the original, printed comic edition. With the movies, I become part of the audience.

I: What is your role in the movie animation production?

TA: I check the plot and scripts that come from the animators at Toei Studios. I also design and edit characters and change names.

I: Are there characters that you yourself have designed?

TA: There are, such as Bojack [Movie #9] and Broli [#8, 10, 11]. Recently, they have been Tapion and Minosha [#13]. (For more info, refer to p. 182 [of the Daizenshuu])

I: How do you come up with the characters?

TA: I review each of the plans for the movies that come from Toei, and I design chara that match the stories.

I: In the animated movies, is there an antagonist character that you are particularly fond of?

TA: I thought that the transformed version of Janenba [#12], designed by animators at Toei Studios, was really ‘cool.’ I like the way the character moves in the fighting scenes. Incidentally, there are none of my own design that I like.

I: Is there a method to how you create antagonist characters in the original comic?

TA: Generally, I think to myself, ‘maybe I should do this next’ and develop the story. Then, I think of the characters. I’m always trying to think up fresh, new enemy chara that haven’t appeared before, but it’s difficult…. However, I believe I was able to develop Majin Buu well. Other times, there are often situations where I remain unsatisfied.

I: When creating a character, what part do you start thinking of first?

TA: I begin with the face. While thinking of the face, I conjure up the body. After deciding on the face and the body, I picture the basic attire. With clothing, I keep in mind whether it matches the environment that the character appears in, or if the chara is involved in battle, whether the outfit is easy to move in during fighting.

I: When creating antagonist chara, do you go through many revisions?

TA: In terms of number of pages, there are times when I draw 30 pages and am still dissatisfied, and there are also times when I draw one page and say, ‘this is about it.’

I: What got you into designing game chara?

TA: I think Torishima-san (first editor) started me off. At first, I was less than willing, but in the end, it turned out to be very useful for me. I realized, ‘so, there are worlds like this.’

I: By the way, what led you to come up with Goku becoming Supersaiyajin and his foes powering up [and transforming]?

TA: I am often forced into a quagmire because I keep approaching a limit to the characters’ ‘strength.’ For example, I hadn’t been planning that Goku could become Supersaiyajin. At the time I came up with "Supersaiyajin," I realized I had to change Goku’s appearance in order to specifically show that he had now powered up. But design-wise, the facial expressions seem a little evil. I was concerned, ‘is it OK for a good guy to look like this?’ But, since he transforms by anger, I thought that ‘may be it’s all right after all.’ That was a somewhat bold decision. Regarding enemy chara, if the editor says ‘I don’t like it’ I change them on those grounds (laughter). Soon, ‘transforming’ became the norm for characters, and that put me in another bind.

I: Were you thinking of other methods of powering up for Goku other than Supersaiyajin?

TA: At that time, I didn’t have time to think of many different options, so there aren’t any.

I: ‘Fusion’ is another way to power up, right? How was that concept born?

TA: That, I think, as a concept, came out of a discussion with Katsura-kun* that ‘there is nothing stronger than Supersaiyajin.’ We usually just fool around with each other, and he jokingly said at the time, ‘in that case, maybe the only remaining way to become stronger is to fuse together.’ I replied, ‘hey, that’s a great idea! You do say good things sometimes. This is the first time you’ve helped me.’ (laughter) That’s how that idea was born.

I: How about the conception of ‘potara’?

TA: Well, that was just because fusion was being used up in the movies, and I was thinking, ‘what should I do?’ Since I had been drawing earrings, I wondered, ‘can I use these somehow?’

I: So, you didn’t draw the earrings as a way to fuse together from the beginning?

TA: Nope. They were initially just decorations.

I: Then it was a product of the circumstances.

TA: I’ve long been walking such dangerous fine lines (laughter). However, when I’m cornered, my brain waves seem to sharpen, and somehow ideas start to flow. In addition, I’m good at forceful finagling (laughter).

I: That’s amazing.

TA: No, it’s not amazing at all. I’m always anxiety ridden. In the previous episode [of the comic] I wrote that ‘something phenomenal is going to happen.’ Thus, now I have to stick to my words and have to do something that really is awesome. I’m suffering inside (laughter).

I: In the field of filming technology, in the movies, Reviving Fusion!! Goku and Vegita [#12] and Dragon-ken Explosion!! Who’s Gonna do it if Goku Doesn’t [#13]* there are computer-rendered special effects; how do you feel about such techniques?

TA: Instead of the notion, ‘let’s use any new technology,’ I tend to believe that interesting films can be created without such technology. However, if movies can be prepared more effectively with it, I agree to its use.

I: Is there anything that you yourself would like to do on a computer?

TA: There are. I only think of ways to make things easier, such as taking a 4-view drawing of a mecha and making it move. Or, drawing preliminary sketches and having them rendered into final drawings (laughter).

I: By the way, of the movies and TV specials, which is your favorite piece?

TA: I like the story about Goku’s father, Burdock. It’s very dramatic and is the kind of story that ‘I would never write.’ I mean well when I say that it seemed as though I was watching a different kind of Dragon Ball.

I: I would like to inquire about more personal matter; what is the first drawing that you did that you really felt good about?

TA: My earliest memory of having done a drawing ‘right’ is that of a horse. I still remember it. I felt that ‘the joints were drawn well.’ I have liked drawing for a long time, and when we were little, since there weren’t many forms of entertainment as there are today, everyone drew. When I was in elementary school, we all copied manga and anime drawings.

I: In that case, perhaps that period of your life is connected to your present occupation as a manga artist.

TA: It might be. I stubbornly kept drawing. At first, we all draw at the about the same level. Eventually, I began drawing original pictures of my friends’ faces, and it was then that I began to feel that ‘drawing pictures is fun.’

I: Is there a ‘starting point’ to your drawing?

TA: I myself believe it was Walt Disney and Tezuka Osamu*. When I was a child, there were drawing schools called ‘Zugayasan.’ Local children would boisterously congregate and draw pictures. I remember one day, I drew a picture from 101 Dalmatians, won a prize, became ecstatic, and here I am now. (laughter).

I: Aside from manga, do you ever personally draw illustrations?

TA: No, I don’t. But, I have a habit from childhood of restlessly looking around my surroundings. Even when I go out shopping, I enjoy observing the appearance of the city rather than the actual shopping. The city scape, little objects and clothing that I observe have been useful in drawing manga. Also helpful was when I was forced to draw everyday objects when I was working for a [graphic design] company. ‘Ugghh… Why do I have to draw one hundred pairs of socks?!,’ I would complain (laughter). In retrospect, those things may have helped me.

I: Do you ever sketch out something you see?

TA: No, I don’t. I burn the images into my memory. Therefore, usually when I try to draw it on recall, I make mistakes. ‘Was it like this?’ (laughter) But, I remember the general image. Although not accurate, I rely on my memory, and I can draw most things. I guess perhaps there isn’t anything that I can’t draw.

I: In the interview for the 5th volume [of the Daizenshuu], you mentioned that you’d like to create an original anime, but what role would you want to have in the work?

TA: I would like to compose the story and the character design by myself. I’m thinking of creating one that anyone can enjoy, whether old or young, male or female. Furthermore, if possible, I want to draw the manga first before the anime, so when the animation is actually being produced, it will be easier to transmit the feelings of the work. If I draw it out first, I can also see if it is interesting. Even as a one-shot deal, I would like to draw it. Right now, I’m searching for a plot.

I: In closure, do you have any info on the upcoming movie?

TA: The film that will be released next spring, it seems like, will be ‘the story from comics volumes 1 through 8 that will be recreated in a condensed form.’ [Movie # 14, The Path to Ultimateness*, March 1996] In addition, the people at Toei want us to pay attention to the special effects techniques that they will be using to spice up the movie. During the early broadcasting of the TV anime, Dragon Ball, the people at Toei and I weren’t used to the drawings yet, so I’m curious as to what they can accomplish with their current expertise. I hope you all can look forward to it too.

I: Thank you very much for the valuable discussion today.

(October 5, 1995, at the Shueisha Offices)


*Katsura Masakazu—manga artist known for Video Girl Ai, DNA2, Shadow Lady and is a great friend of Toriyama Akira BACK

#12 F’ukatsuNo Fuujon!! GokuTo Vejita
#13 Ryuken Bakuhatsu!! GokuGa Yaraneba DareGa Yaru
BACK

*undisputed king or father of Japanese manga. Famous for Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Black Jack, The Fire Bird, The Ribbon Knight, etc. etc. etc. BACK

#14 SaikyouE No Michi BACK