The latest “Dragon Ball Z” movie, “Battle of Gods,” is currently finishing up its run in U.S. theaters this week, and in honor of that, voice actors Sean Schemmel (Goku), Christopher Sabat (Vegeta and Piccolo), and Jason Douglas (Beerus) along with producer Justin Cook, took some time to answer a few of our questions about the iconic anime.
The first “Dragon Ball” film in 17 years, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” takes place after the events of the “Dragon Ball Z” anime series, and follows Goku and the rest of the Z Warriors as they face their most powerful foe yet. We were curious how Sean and Christopher felt about returning to their former roles.
Examiner: As one of the most iconic anime heroes, Goku, has a huge following. How do you feel about being the voice of such a beloved character?
Sean: Goku was the first role I ever auditioned for so that makes it special to begin with, but since then I’ve voiced dozens of other characters, and Goku always has a special place sacred and separate from all my other work, and not just because it was the first. For me personally, playing Goku has been transformative and life-changing, but even more important than that, to be associated with such an influential and timeless character, that has such a huge impact on so many people’s lives, is the most gratifying thing I think any artist can ask for. It has been, and continues to be an awe inspiring thing for me. It is a tremendous mantle the weight of which I never get used to. It almost feels like I just got the role still. It’s very difficult to put into words, and I also constantly remind myself, and fans of the show and character, that it’s really the character Goku and the story that is powerful. In reality I’m in a lot of ways a very small part of that. But I am the “messenger” for this character, and as such attributes of what I just mentioned get attributed to me, but I’m simply channeling the character. But apparently, a lot of people think I’m doing it right, and that again, is insanely gratifying, as well as humbling.
Examiner: Were you excited to jump back into the role of Vegeta for this new film?
Christopher: I’ve been voicing him and directing the series for over 15 years now, so he’s actually a big part of my life. And when I was told by FUNimation that I would be directing the feature, I could hardly contain my excitement. I was stoked.
The new foe that Goku and Vegeta square off against, comes in the form of Beerus, the God of Destruction, who awakens from a long slumber and discovers that Frieza has been killed. Following the news, he searches out the universe’s remaining Saiyans in the hopes of meeting the “Super Saiyan God”, a legendary Saiyan, whose strength, Beerus believes will rival his own.
Examiner: Fans seem pretty excited about a new “Dragon Ball Z” film. How do you feel about being the voice of the series’ next great villain?
Jason: Well first, I have huge respect and admiration for these guys that have been a part of the DBZ franchise for years - Chris, Mike, Sean, and the rest of the cast. I have worked with them on other Anime and video game projects, and so I know their work is top shelf. Then I got to do the voice of King Cold in the “DBZ Kai” project, which is where I began to learn more about the scope of the “DBZ” universe and its fan base. But it wasn’t until “BATTLE OF GODS” that it hit me just how significant this show is, both in Anime history, and in the hearts of its legion of fans. So when Chris invited me to be a part of this team, I felt like Tony Stark had just invited me to join the Avengers, I mean it really was a privilege, but also great responsibility. We know we’ll get called out by the die-hard “DBZ” faithful if we goof it up.
Throughout the movie, it is pretty obvious that Beerus is the strongest foe that Goku and his friends has ever squared off against. Although he appears to be the most powerful, we asked Sean who he felt offered Goku his greatest challenge, and we asked Justin, where he felt Berrus ranked among the “Dragon Ball Z” villains.
Examiner: What do you think is Goku’s greatest battle?
Sean: While some might think “Goku’s greatest battle” is iconic enemy x or y, such as say Frieza or Cell, I maintain that Goku’s greatest battle has always been internal, and this is illustrated further in “Battle of Gods.” Goku wants to be the best, and has struggled with not only attachment and ego but his own allegiances. I think Goku’s character is a metaphor for enlightenment, or the zen “no mind” concept. But only Akira Toriyama would know for sure
Examiner: Beerus appears to be one of the strongest opponents the Z Warriors have ever faced, Broly was my personal favorite, where do you think Beerus ranks among the “Dragon Ball Z” villains?
Jason: I’ll leave that one for the fans to decide, because frankly I don’t think Beerus fits easily into the good-guy/bad-guy paradigm. So while he is clearly the most dangerous antagonist Goku and the gang have ever faced, he seems to be driven not by power hunger and blood-thirst, but by principles of universal law and balance -- entropy, if you will. As a “god of destruction” he is the personification of unpredictable but highly rational and fine-tuned cosmic chaos - hurtling asteroids, exploding stars, colliding galaxies, super-massive black holes, and the like. Also he is a foodie and likes long naps.
An interesting element in the film that fans may or may not like, is that you get a different look at Vegeta. Although he is still the short, angry, Saiyan prince he has always been, he does show a little more emotion, for his family as well as his friends. An intriguing view of the former villain, turned hero.
Examiner: What are your feelings on Vegeta’s evolution from villain to hero? Which do you prefer him as?
Christopher: Vegeta is the Han Solo character of the series, the bad guy turned good, which makes him one of the most fun characters to watch. And in “Battle of Gods” we actually get a see a pretty emotional side of him that we haven’t seen before. Fortunately he’s never a “sweet guy”, so even in his most heroic moments he’s still pretty self-centered. And I like that, because I like Vegeta served with a double-scoop of mean sauce.
While Sean, Christopher and Jason can offer more insight about the characters and giving them voice, producer Justin Cook provided information about the popularity of the long running franchise.
Examiner: “Battle of Gods” was released in Japan in 2013, and it is already making its way to North America, with a theatrical release. What do you contribute to the film getting a stateside release in so many theaters? (The number of theaters the film would be available at actually doubled before its debut.)
Justin: I contribute that a lot of people have done a ton of hard work to pull off this theatrical event. This is both monumental for “DBZ” and all of Anime in the North American marketplace. There are few titles that could inject Anime back into and perhaps more into that mass market, I feel that “Dragon Ball Z” is one of those titles. Furthermore, I believe it’s a genuine show of interest from the public that so many theaters have become involved. This is a great movie with everything a DBZ fan could ask for. And for someone just discovering the franchise, it’s a perfect introductory film that would raise interest in the series and bring new fans into the fold. It’s really a film that is smart, action packed, comedy driven and plays into a mixed audience.
Examiner: With the “Dragon Ball” franchise having a lengthy run on television and being re-released on home video multiple times over the years, are you at all worried that fans might be growing tired of Goku and his adventures?
Justin: Sure an augment could be made that the market is saturated. But we’re talking about a 20 year presence. And in 17 of those years no new material has been made available in Japan or the US. Now, with “DBZ” being released on Blu-ray and CN re-broadcasting the series and movies periodically, I feel like this is a great time to revitalize the franchise with a new addition to the story. “Dragon Ball” is a generational series both in its own storyline and in the way it has been viewed by its fans. The series is now being enjoyed by the children and children’s children of fans from the series when it first aired. Fathers are (and have been) introducing their sons and daughters to the series for years. “Dragon Ball” has a way of finding its new audience. And with Akira Toriyama’s genius back at the helm, he has found a way, with this film, to please all of the generations at once.
Our final question for the cast was one that they have heard thousands of times by now, but it was too hard to resist asking. The answers did surprise me a little bit though.
Examiner: Who is your favorite “Dragon Ball Z” character?
Sean: Bubbles. But of the ones that actually have dialogue I’d say I’ve always been a big Piccolo fan.
Christopher: It’s hard to pick one, but I’d actually have to say that Hercule is one of my favorite characters. I love his story and he cracks me up. The dude was essentially the strongest fighter on Earth until a bunch of super-freaks with superpowers show up to make him look like a chump.
Jason: Hard to be objective since I’m having so much fun playing Beerus right now, but I always enjoy seeing Vegeta and Bulma on the screen.
Justin: Oh wow, you know this is a tough one. I recently heard someone answer this question in this way: That’s like asking me which finger is my favorite finger, I mean, I would really prefer to keep them all. They kind of work together to create the whole.
So as I’ve literally watched these characters grow up, have families, go through pain and loss, love and triumph, I’m not sure I can say I like Goku better than Vegeta or Bulma better than Krillin, I have grown to know these characters and their vocal counterparts - the voice actors - over a very long period of time. They’re far more than designed and animated characters to me, they’re a group of deep characters that all deserve and demand my affection and attention. I can say that I’m overwhelmed by the performances of both Ian Sinclair as the voice of Whis and the incredible Jason Douglas as the voice of Lord Berrus. They are certainly welcome additions to the DBZ roster of characters and actors!
...now you’ve got me thinking of characters....
Roshi and his magazines, Oolong in his trailer looking like Don Rickles in Casino, when his idea to kidnap Bulma backfires on him.
Android 16 when he goes nuts on Cell trying to protect 18.
Or 18 when she fights and literally breaks a newly discovered Super Sayian Vegeta.
What about when Trunks way-lays the robot version if Frieza...awesome! Or when he goes back to kill Cell in his own time. Double awesome!!
The Ginyu Force, Cell, Buu, the Red Ribbon Army, or when Goku and General Blue fly out of Dragon Ball and into Dr. Slump, or what about King Kai, Bubbles and Gregory, and the other Kai’s, what about Tien and his attack on Cell. I’m tired...
As you can see the list could go on and on and on and on and on and...
...You get it.
Justin definitely went deep into his answer, and I liked it, he makes a good point about how hard it is to really choose one. Personally however, Vegeta is my favorite character of the series and to end this Q&A on a lighter note, we had to ask Christopher this.
Examiner: Do you prefer Vegeta with or without the (Dragon Ball GT) mustache?
Christopher: Mustache. 100%. You can’t beat a Saiyan ‘stache.
Thank you to Sean Schemmel, Christopher Sabat, Jason Douglas and Justin Cook for taking the time to answer our questions. “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” will be available in the remaining select theaters on Aug. 9, 2014. You can learn more about the film by visiting the official site. The “Dragon Ball” anime series is available in North America from FUNimation Entertainment and the manga is available from Viz Media.