ANIME EXPO: Dragon Ball Goes Super at AX 2017 – Animation Scoop

ANIME EXPO: Dragon Ball Goes Super at AX 2017

Anime Expo (AX) has become North America’s largest anime convention, with 115,726 attendees jamming the Los Angeles Convention Center and J.W. Marriott this year. For the first time, AX live-streamed thirty hours of programming to over 360,000 views from 67 countries. A perfect venue for a studio to promote their work.

Toei Animation, Inc. displayed a huge banner advertising Dragon Ball Super, the latest Dragon Ball series from creator Akira Toriyama. Funimation, the U.S. licensee responsible for dubbing the show into English, erected an outdoor display featuring Shenron, the wish-granting Eternal Dragon. In the Exhibit Hall, Toei and Scrap Entertainment, Inc. sponsored an interactive Dragon Ball Super Puzzle Hunt based on the Future Trunks story arc.

For fans, the biggest treat came from the Dragon Ball Super Panel on Monday night, July 3. Toei brought Ryō Horikawa, the Japanese voice actor of Vegeta. Funimation brought the American cast members Seán Schemmel (Goku, King Kai), Christopher R. Sabat (Vegeta, Piccolo, Shenron), and Jason Douglas (Beerus). Justin Rojas, Funimation’s Director of Social Strategy & Development, served as moderator.

Over two thousand fans crowded Petree Hall to its full capacity, which prompted rationing of passes to the bathroom.

Rojas introduced the actors with clips featuring their main characters, to cheers and applause. As Seán Schemmel came on stage, he called out, “I am a member of the greatest band in the world that doesn’t play music called Dragon Ball and you’re all a part of it. Whoo! Yes!” to more cheers and applause.

For an hour-and-a-half, the actors discussed how they felt about their characters, revealed behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and pondered the future of the Dragon Ball Super franchise.

The new series retells events from the two movies, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013) and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of F (2015). Goku and his friends battle Beerus, a cosmic feline capable of destroying planets. Beerus and his angel companion, Whis, are appeased by some delicious food supplied by Vegeta’s wife, Bulma. Whis trains Goku and Vegeta to ascend to a higher level of power, Super Saiyan Blue.

Schemmel said, “I have this theory, and I don’t know if it’s true. Do you think maybe Beerus and Whis are grooming Vegeta and Goku to be a new god of destruction or a new god of creation? Maybe Vegeta is the god of destruction. Do you think so?”

“Wooooooo,” the audience murmured at the provocative thought.

Ryō Horikawa, the Japanese voice of Vegeta, nodded.

“That’d be cool,” Schemmel said.

Sabat said, “Ryō, look me in the eyes and blink twice if you know the answer.”

“OK,” Horikawa said to audience laughter.

“I think Beerus is a force of nature,” Jason Douglas said of his character. “His reactions, his idiosyncrasies, the way he fights, his personality, that’s really sort of a sort of a sentient face on something that’s beyond persona. It’s the ultimate destructive force, like what we would think of as a hurricane or an earthquake. He’s a star destroyer, a planet destroyer. I think that for Beerus, Whis is the conduit. He needs Whis. For him, Whis enables him to destroy more efficiently.”

Seán Schemmel asked, “Jason, when I was playing Goku against you at Battle of gods and Resurrection F, one of the things I noticed—and I don’t know if you were thinking this—is that Beerus doesn’t destroy the planet because he identifies in Goku the thing that Goku has, which is the lust and the love for fighting. Part of him is like, ‘Wow, I might actually enjoy this. This might make my life interesting.’”

“Yeah, absolutely. It’s the gamesmanship that he enjoys,” Douglas replied.

“Yeah, and he respects Goku for that,” said Schemmel.

“Absolutely, and think that’s the point,” Douglas said. “What sort of touches off this whole thing for us is it’s Beerus having a dream. That’s sort of what precipitates him coming back. He wakes up early, comes back, and he’s got to find this Super Saiyan god because why? Because it might present a challenge. There might be some fear. I don’t know if it’s as much fear as it is excitement. It’s lust for some violence. It’s one thing to destroy a planet, which is a giant rock hurling through space. It’s another thing to destroy something or to engage in battle with something that has the corresponding force. I think this is exciting, especially when you’re millions and billions of years old. I think I just almost did a Carl Sagan impression,” Douglas said to audience laughter.

Chris Sabat pointed out, “In a way, you almost just described Goku, except where Goku has just a lust for fighting for the sake of it, enjoyment and self betterment, he just likes to fight to destroy something.

Schemmel said, “That begs the deeper question, is Goku also just a force of nature?”

Douglas replied, “Which brings us back to the question of, is there something down the road for Goku and Vegeta?”

It’s a question still unexplored at the time of this report, with Episode #99. But the finale is not in sight.

Justin Rojas pointed out, “I feel like with Super and with the feature-length films, that Goku has had more character development in probably this than he has had in all 291 episodes of Dragon Ball.”

“Yes, and it’s only like a one percent development,” Schemmel replied. “At least, the way I gleaned information from watching it and getting a translation, Goku is not designed necessarily to evolve as a person as much as he is a fighter. He tends to have this beginner’s childlike mind the entire time. What’s fascinating about Super is all the other facets and aspects of Goku. You get to see him dealing with a cell phone and being a radish farmer and then doing cabbage thing with Piccolo. Then for some reason he’s going to fly with his tractor. Then he forgets it, and he’s got to figure out how to be a fighter of politics, just so he can train with Whis, which he’s terrible at.

“I guess these would be growth points, but I think they were always things that were in Son Goku, but that we just never go to see. I think Super will probably go down as the definitive series as time goes on because it has so much of Dragon Ball in it, so much of Dragon Ball Z in it, and it’s just such the perfect amalgam, for me, as Goku and just having these little insights, or Goku might damage his Chi in that one episode, and then the introduction of Goku Black for me is like, ‘Oh my God. Oh, this is great. I get to do some really cool evil stuff too, and I get to what he’s been having fun doing this whole time. I don’t have to be like happy-go-lucky guy all the time,’ which is fine. He [Chris Sabat as Vegeta] gets the fun lines. Even Beerus gets the fun lines. I get to do the power screams. That’s painful but really rewarding and fun once you see it.”

After the first 27 episodes of Super cover the events in Battle of gods and Resurrection of F, the series continues with the Universe 6 saga. It turns out there are twelve universes. Goku lives in Universe 7. Beerus’s slovenly brother, Champa, is in charge of destroying things in Universe 6. Champa challenges Beerus to a martial arts tournament having the champions of each universe battle each other. The prize: the acquisition of Super Dragon Balls, which can accommodate large-scale wishes.

Episode 47 began the Future Trunks saga, in which Vegeta’s adult son time travels to the present to enlist the aid of our heroes against Zamasu, an apprentice Supreme Kai from Universe 10. In this story, Goku befriends Zeno-sama, the ruler of all the universes—who ultimately becomes “twinned” into two beings. The Zenos desire to have a multi-verse “Tournament of Power,” in which teams from eight of twelve universes battle. If a team loses, their universe is “erased.”

The Universe Survival Saga began with Episode 77. Minor characters from the Dragon Ball Z days show up and train for the deadly tournament.

“I thought it was particularly thrilling,” Schemmel said, “because I think Master Roshi did more kamehamehas in the movie [Battle of gods] than Goku did. He buffed up and was doing some really cool stuff. We finally see him in battle.

“I want to see a really good King Kai battle because he does training, and he is a master of some kind of fighting. He had to have been a badass at some point.”

“I’m looking forward to getting to the family reunion of the expanded family of destroyers, and then just kind of finding out what the other universes have in store because I think it really elevates the show,” said Jason Douglas. “It brings it to a whole new epic level when you have these kind of intergalactic battles going on.”

Said Christopher Sabat, “I’m going to be disappointed if at the end of Super they don’t reveal that Mr. Popo is the master of all the universe. I remember a moment, we were really given this awesome experience to watch the premier of Resurrection F. Toei decided to have its international premier in Los Angeles, so it was very cool. We felt really special. We were watching the Japanese version with subtitles. We were on our best behavior, and there’s all these people around, Masako Nozawa [the Japanese voice of Goku] came, and we were all really nervous because we were in the presence of the Japanese actors. I kind of had an embarrassing moment while the film was playing. It was Tien Shinhan coming out saying, ‘Yeah, I left Yamcha at home because he’d be too weak for this battle.’ I literally, out loud, yelled, ‘Nooooo!’ I was a little disruptive because I was really disappointed because the guy that plays Tien, and I play Yamcha, we had this battle as to who is the lamer character in the show, and that meant that he won.”

One fan pointed out that Vegeta, who began as a villain, has progressed to more of a family man.

“I think when Vegeta was a complete villain, he was a better family man,” Sabat said to audience laughter. “I think it’s a natural progression for him. He’s getting older. He’s becoming a father. He even mentioned it when he sacrificed himself against Buu that there were a lot of human traits that he really admires, and at that point, he realized that there was so much to lose. I think it made him appreciate the life that he has on Earth more. I love that part of his progression. I find it fascinating. I find it a great character progression, and frankly, it’s really funny a lot of the times. It cracks me up.”

Ryō Horikawa, the Japanese voice of Vegeta, added, “Yes, Chris is right. You know, it’s an important thing for humans to be sweet for my wife and my adorable children. So, I’m getting old,” he said to audience applause.

So, how has Vegeta’s progression affected the actors’ approach to the character?

“I’m not sure if it’s Vegeta’s character that has impacted the way I play his character because we’re always looking at the character and trying to gather as much information as possible,” Sabat said. “I guess, if anything has impacted my acting on it, it’s how much fans appreciate the show. I’m not even lying because you’re all just kind of sitting right here. There’s a lot of stress because we know that when we finish this, you all are going to watch it, and I never want to do a less than job for that character. Vegeta’s a very painful character to play. I imagine it’s the same. It’s vocally stressful. He’s really, really loud. He’s very angry. When I leave a session, I’m typically as angry as Vegeta sometimes. I’m sweaty and I feel horrible, and it’s really painful, but I would never do any less than my absolute best because I know I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

“He’s very easy to lose his temper,” Horikawa affirmed. “Not really too much has changed, but like we said earlier, Vegeta is a very angry character, so because of that, I try to make sure on my normal daily life that I don’t get too upset. I just want to add one more thing because if I do get angry, it’s not good for your body because if you get too angry, it’s not good, so you’ve got to keep calm a little bit.”

The actors point out the rivalry between Goku and his brother Vegeta, which has become a theme for the series.

Said Horikawa, “Yeah, if you look at it, Vegeta is one step below Goku or a little slower than Goku. Because of that, that’s a challenge because he’s so much better than him, and he wants to get better. Because if you become number one, what are you going to do? There’s nothing to do, right? I think I’m enjoying that process right now.”

“If Vegeta was ever truly better than Goku, the show would just be over,” Sabat said. “I think that’s part of the trick of that series, that sort of Yin and Yang. The only thing that’s been troubling for me now is that Vegeta now knows that there’s someone stronger than both of them, but he needs Goku to train with in order to succeed. I do have my problems with the way Resurrection F ended, frankly.

“I think it’s like Scully and Mulder or any of these famous characters that they could never really kiss or the show would be over. It’s the same with Vegeta and Goku. They can’t ever kiss,” Sabat said.

“We haven’t, so I think we’re good,” Schemmel quipped.

“When they do kiss, the show will definitely be over.” Speaking in Vegeta’s voice, Sabat said, ‘Hold me, Kakarrot’ to audience laughter.

Click to watch video

James, a fan garbed like Goku, asked, “For the series finale, hopefully episode 1,000, do you think the final battle will be between Goku and Vegeta?

“I know enough about how the series is going to see how that’s going to fit in,” Schemmel replied. “You know how it feels when you’ve watched ahead because I know there’s some sort of—spoiler alert—universe tournament going on. I’m wondering, will we be left with Goku in one universe and a Vegeta in another? There’s so many options when you start talking about parallel universes or universii—I don’t even know how to pronounce that. What do you think, Chris?

“I think it would be really funny if we got to the very, very end of the series, and Vegeta and Goku are charging each other. You know, you have these ultimate attack moves they built up over the years, and they’re going to almost punch each other in the face, and then the credits run.”

“[With a subtitle,] ’That’s the end of Dragon Ball forever. Thank you. Good-bye’,” Schemmel said.

“You know, you may be right on that. It would just have a little title at the bottom, ‘Please watch Dragon Ball GT,” Sabat added to audience laughter.

“Do you think it will be Goku and Vegeta at the end of Super?” Schemmel asked Horikawa.
“Yeah, I also agree that they’ll probably end up fighting,” he replied, “but I really wish that the best way for the series probably to end is without actually knowing the end result of the battle. Just like what they said. Right when you’re about to attack, credits. You don’t want the ending, right?

“Two Vegetas think alike,” Schemmel said. “I like it.”

As the panel wound down, Seán Schemmel concluded, “I just want to make sure I had a chance to say this. I was thinking about the whole time because I’m kind of astounded by this room, and the fact that I’m sitting next to Ryō and have on many occasions. You have a guy in Japan named Akira Toriyama, who has just drawn a cartoon many years ago, and here we all are. I’m friends with the guy, who I never would have known otherwise, I know all of, in a way, you. I just wanted to say how grateful I am to Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation for creating this and changing my life. My life would not be the same without it. And Funimation, especially, and in particular people that I have never really properly thanked, Gen Fukunaga [founder and president of Funimation], who has busted his ass to keep our cast alive and keep it consistent. He fights for you guys every day for anime and he’s been so good to us. We wouldn’t have the same cast without him. I’d also like to thank [Masayuki] Endo-san, [President and CEO of Toei Animation Inc.], and the rest of the Toei staff, who we had a wonderful time with in making new friends. What a beautiful thing that it all started with a man in Japan with a dream, who was just drawing a cartoon, and that’s what life is about. It’s beautiful, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you.”

“I was very much looking forward to coming here and seeing you all and talking to you and communication with each other,” Ryō Horikawa said. “I am really glad to be here, and thank you very much for inviting me, three times. I will never forget it. Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said to applause and cheers.

In the U.S., Dragon Ball Super began airing the Funimation-dubbed episodes on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block on January 7, 2017. On the internet, Crunchyroll streams English-subtitled episodes on Saturday nights. On DVD and Blu-Ray, Dragon Ball Super, Part One, featuring episodes 1-13, will be released July 25. Part Two, with episodes 14-26, will be released October 10.

Exclusive interviews with Seán Schemmel, Christopher R. Sabat, and Jason Douglas will be featured in my upcoming book on voiceover acting, The Animated Voice, to be published by Pulp Hero Press. Other interviews include Marty Grabstein (Courage the Cowardly Dog), Frank Welker, Lucille Bliss, Arnold Stang, Will Ryan, Katie Leigh, Patton Oswalt, Jonathan Frakes, Kevin Conroy, Jeff Bergman, plus directors Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton and Mark Evanier.

Bob Miller

Bob Miller

W.R. Miller - known informally as “Bob” - is a writer who has contributed to publications such as Starlog, Comics Scene, Animation Magazine and Animation World Magazine. Bob has been involved in animation for two decades, as a writer, character animator, special effects animator, and storyboard artist - For more information about Bob, check his website: http://wrmilleronline.com/
Bob Miller
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