If you're reading this, it can easily be assumed that you're a fan of Dragon Ball. And if you're anything like me, then you love the three Japanese anime known as Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and, yes, even Dragon Ball GT. Why exactly do we love the animated incarnation of Dragon Ball so much? Is it the insane ten million mile a minute over the top fights? The deep character development, which includes watching characters mature, grow old, and die? The over-used, but nostalgic music? To all of these reasons, the answer is yes. But there's one factor that's makes all of the aforementioned reasons possible. In essence, this is the foundation of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT. I am of course reffering to the voice actors or 'seiyu'. They add that "special touch" that makes you either connect with the characters or believe that the images on your screen are actually people acting, not animated pictures. Without the incredible talent of the seiyu, the series just wouldn't create the same effect. And although it would be wrong to detract from any of the many talented individuals associated with the series, one seiyu truly stands just a little bit above the others. This is of course Masako Nozawa, the heart and soul of Son Gokou, Son Gohan and Son Goten.
Masako Nozawa was born on October 25th in 1936 in Tokyo, Japan. Masako has played well over thirty different roles and performed her talents in more than twenty different anime and movies. In fact, Masako Nozawa is truly special since she's been in the seiyu business, literally since the beginning of anime. Her debut role was in 1963 on the show Tetsuwan Atom, the very first Japanese animated TV program. In addition to anime, she's also supplied the voices for her Dragon Ball characters in many of the Dragon Ball video games. Not to mention dramas, TV shows, radio dramas, and movies. Masako Nozawa is a truly special seiyu and as you're about to find out, she's a special person too!
The following interview is From Dragon Ball GT Perfect File 2 which was published in December 1997. As with everything on this site, I've created this material myself, this interview was not copied by any other source, and this is the first time it's appeared in an English translated format. Please enjoy the Masako Nozawa Long Interview!
"Son Gokou lives on inside me!!"
Interviewer: Can you tell me your feelings after you've performed as Son Gokou for 12 years?
Masako: Inside, I don't believe it's over. Son Gokou is still alive in my heart. I live with him and walk with him, I strongly believe that. Therefore, I don't feel like it's finished. We won't see him through the TV anymore, but he's still alive inside me. 12 years....it feels like such a short period of time, but it's equivalent to a baby growing up and attending middle school. The other performers and I have actually discussed how we've gone around the Chinese Zodiac!*
Interviewer: What were your feelings the night before the last recording (session)? Sad?
Masako: I tried not to think of how sad I really was, or that I wouldn't see everyone all together anymore, but that feeling came in anyway. If I let those feelings overwhelm me, then when I was recorded I would be out of the Dragon Ball world; so I just told myself that someday, a day will come when we all see each other again. I really struggled. *smiles*
Interviewer: What was the most memorable final scene??
Masako: When Gokou is done fighting and he's riding on Shenron; when he says, "It's warm....". The meaning is that Gokou is leaving the mortal life and going to God's world, however, they (the writers) never say that he died. That was good. He went there and continued to train.
Interviewer: Dragon Ball is finished as a series. Do you think that there's a possibility of a TV Special?
Masako: We talked with the Toei movie producer, and every season, we'd like to do a new one. But I cannot say for sure. I wish, I hope, that someday, someplace, this will happen.
Interviewer: Which means, it depends on fans' support, right? The character of Gokou, from young boy, to Super Saiya-jin to Super Saiya-jin 4. Which was your favorite (version of Gokou) ?
Masako: *smiling* Hmmm... That's tough. Well, if you mean cutest, of course Gokou when he has his tail, because when he's got the tail, he's really cute. But honestly, he's never changed, and so, I didn't want to change his persona.
Interviewer: Do you like any characters besides Gokou?
Masako: Oh! That's tough too. I like Piccolo, but at first, I hated him.. He was too proud and cocky. I was put off by that attitude. But he changed and became a better person, I got to like him.
Interviewer: What is the most impressive thing about Gokou?
Masako: Remember the scene in the Red Ribbon saga at Snow's house? When Gokou was in the bathroom, he was attacked by Red Ribbon soldiers from outside and I thought, "Is he okay?", and then the shot-through door is slowly opened, and Gokou comes out going, "Owieeee!". *laughs* I just think that's (a perfect example of) Gokou's spirit.
Interviewer: The role of Gokou was selected by auditions?
Masako: That's right. Many actors and actresses sent tapes and then a special committe made selections. (The final selection was made by Akira Toriyama) Normally performer's names are announced before the tape is played, but Akira Toriyama didn't want to hear the performer's names, instead he only listened to the voices and selected the best actor based on only hearing the voice. And he picked me! Later, the staff told me this story, and it made me so happy. Then, when I met Akira Toriyama, he told me, that because of my voice, Gokou's role has impressed everyone, I was even happier when I heard that!
Interviewer: That's a very honorable thing for an actress. Well then, do you have any episode that you liked the best with Gohan?
Masako: That is with Gohan..... The one with Gohan and the robot, Episode 9.** I love that the best. Me as Gohan, and the robot's voice actor were the only two roles in the episode. That was the first time something like that was done in an anime. Therefore, with just two characters, it's very tough to make a good story. People said, "No, don't do it", but the animation staff said it would be okay; and so the TV company decided to give it a try. After it aired, we received so many fan letters from people telling us that they were "touched" by the episode or saying, "I loved it so much.".
Interviewer: Do fans of the show ever look at you and say, "Oh look! It's the person who does Gokou's voice!" ?
Masako: Oh yeah. Once I was on a train and a family asked me, "Could you please do Gokou?". I smiled, and thought if I said, "Kame Hame Ha!!", people would wonder what exactly I was doing. So I smiled and said, "I'm sorry, but I don't want to bother the other passengers.".
Interviewer: What kind of people are your fans?
Masako: The oldest one I know of is eighty. He sent me a letter that said, "Every week I watch with my grand-child.". My friend's husband is a crazy fan! I believe he's in his sixties. He said, "I only want to see it live on TV.". So he comes home every Wednesday by 7 o'clock!*** He's like a kid! I was just like, "Uh okay.". But seriously, I was happy to hear that. Oh yeah! Besides that, I was on a train....
Interviewer: On the train again!? *laughs*
Masako: Five boys who had hair dyed like Super Saiya-jin****, and chains on them walked on the train. I felt pretty scared, but then I heard what they were saying, "Did you see yesterday's episode of Dragon Ball?". After that, I thought they were cute and I was happy.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite episode from the twelve years?
Masako: I don't know if this was anything that impressive, but I was sad when characters like Piccolo and Kuririn who were close to my character, died. Even though I knew they were going to be reborn, I was still sad. *laughs* The voice actors, after we finished recording, said, "Gokou, please make us reborn soon!". Even though they asked me this favor, I knew I couldn't actually do it, so in Gokou's voice I would say to them, "Okay! I'll do it!". So I really think that everyone believes Gokou can help any situation. Inside, everyone knows that there's nothing he can't do.
Interviewer: Is there anything you regret when you performed Gokou's role?
Masako: I have nothing to regret. I know, of course, I wasn't perfect, but I said to myself, "I'll never regret anything.". If I want to perform a play this or that way, and I'm not satisfied by by performance, the reason is because I'm not giving enough. I can re-record scenes, but if I do, I'll spoil myself and I won't grow or improve. Therefore, I never re-record. Instead, I always perform as if I will never make a mistake.
Interviewer: Inside yourself, what do you think the meaning of Dragon Ball is? Does it (the Dragon Ball world) exist?
Masako: It is huge. In my history of performing in anime, I made a new record of existence and meaning. I am very proud that I could perform Gokou, Gohan and Goten all by myself. I have never asked for a substitute and I was never sick for twelve years. The thing you basically need the most is to stay healthy. Furthermore, I learned that anime's power is incredible.
Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
Masako: There was one family who made a request. They wanted me to do a recording for a boy who was in a coma as the result of a car accident. It was like a miracle. When they played Son Gokou's (my) voice, he gave reactions to the voice. Gokou is just a picture, but he's always there for children who believe in him. Therefore, I also learned from my experience with Dragon Ball, that anime's power extends beyond pictures. It is bigger than anyone can believe. However, if you don't believe in it's power, then you won't be able to see it. A good work is defined by how much adults can appreciate it, along with kids, this is rare today. Basically anime should be made so that children can appreciate it too.
Interviewer: What's the atmosphere like in the recording studio?
Masako: We all worked together for a long time, so it was interesting. We had social parties, and went on trips after work. Since we put our heart and soul into our work, even when we weren't working, we'd unintentionally call each other by our roles, like, "Hi Piccolo!". *laughing*
Interviewer: Do you have a message to the character of Son Gokou who you've performed for the past twelve years?
Masako: I think Gokou is extremely pure, in the world of Dragon Ball, as he gets older. I just want him to keep his pure feelings and heart. Like in the Dragon Ball: GT TV Special, I wanted him to be young forever. I also want him to be with me forever. That's my message.
Interviewer: Well then, at last. Please give a message to the fans.
Masako: It's not special, but thank you very much for your support over the twelve years. Gokou is always living with you and you can see him whenever you want. Someday, we will all see him again, and I want you to wait for that day. He's always beside you, so say, "Hello", or something to him. Right now, he's in God's kingdom, and he's training, so when he comes back someday, he'll be even more wonderful. Thank you very much!
Recorded at 81 Produce on 10/27/97
*- The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 animals, and each animal represents a year. The cycle takes twelve years and thus, Masako is saying that she's been doing this for an entire cycle of the Chinese Calendar.
**-Episode 9 was never released in America.
***-For a business man to arrive home at 7 PM on a weeknight is pretty rare, so he is obviously a hardcore fan.
****- In other words, their hair was dyed blonde. Japanese children (or adults) who dye their hair blonde are known as 'kinpatsu' and often considered defiant and rebellious by older generations.