If you’re an avid gamer, anime fanatic, or simply enjoy cartoons, chances are you’ve heard the voice of American VA Steve Blum.
This is a full translation/transcript of the press conference for Ryo Horikawa (the voice of Vegeta and other roles). Anime Diet’s questions—prepared as well as spontaneous ones—are highlighted in bold.
Translation by Rome. This transcript has been edited for clarity. Also, not all questions are answered directly due to translation difficulties onsite.
Dragonball Z’s Vegeta is an over the top character. Is it harder for you to prepare for a character like this as opposed to, say, Legend of Galactic Heroes’ Reinhard?
Legend of Galactic Heroes is modeled after the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms, except it’s a space version. I interpreted it like that, and at the audition, when I saw the script, I thought intuitively: this must be like the Three Kingdoms. With this basic understanding, I created the character: he didn’t use daily conversational language, but was a little bit formal. I thought that was the kind of character I developed.
As an experienced adult actor, what is the biggest lesson you have drawn from your days as a child actor?
Fundamentally, I think it is the same. A voice actor should be able to act well. We act in front of the mic, but you have to understand the fundamentals of acting. Otherwise, you can’t put your soul in the character, so basically, I do the same training as regular actors. For my new students who are going to break into the acting world, I would say the same thing to them.
What has been your favorite voice role or type up to now?
I always get that question, but if I say all, that would be it…but it’s difficult to choose one, because I think I have to love the character in order to play the role. Even if they are evil, baby faced…I have loved these characters fondly, so, it is hard to narrow it down and choose one. I’m sorry.
You’ve seen a lot of changes over the years in the industry. How has the voice acting industry changed over 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and to now?
I don’t feel there has been much change since I’m basically an actor. But I feel that people around me are seeing the changes rather than myself. For me, I’ve been always acting in the past and now, so I concentrate on my job, I think even the young new generation is thinking the same thing to do acting.
“His power level is going over 8000 (9000)!”? Did you know that would become such an iconic line?
I’ve seen that a lot in various places. That topic always comes up, but I don’t have any clue why 8000 was changed to 9000. So I myself want to know that, but I’ve heard that it has been talked about greatly here.
Has there been a role that you wanted to get, and weren’t able to? If so what was it?
Well, I always want to play all kinds of heroes…my desire to play them is unlimited, you might say. However it’s not about what I want to play, but what the fans want me to play, that the fans want this guy to do something unexpected or different for this role. If there’s any role like that, I really want to know about it.
What has been your favorite medium to work with: stage, games, anime, voice dramas?
Oh yes, of course I love doing voice acting, and I’m also doing some stage acting. I’m going to a film shoot, and on Sunday, I do stage work, so I have a desire to do different kinds of things. And of course I want to do music too, and acting as well. So, I think if I can do a full spectrum performance, that would be awesome.
Were you a fan of Gundam before you played Kou Uraki in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory?
I’m sorry, but I have to be honest: I didn’t know a whole lot about Gundam when I started playing in Gundam 0083, which is the story of the growth of Kou Uraki, who was meek at first but grows up to be a reliable adult man. But when I tried out at first, well I was also young back then, so I acted like crazy; it’s like I couldn’t really see myself. But a few years later, we had a film remake version of it, so we re-recorded the voice. So at that time I re-noticed what the flow and the story were like, but as an actor, to get a chance to do things twice is something I’m grateful for because it’s so rare to have it done. Someone said “go ahead,” and while of course it was the production team that said that, it probably was also providential. I still am very thankful to be able to redo my performance to this day. And same goes for DragonBall Z Kai, which we also remade. In those terms I think I was really lucky.
Have you ever worried that if Dragon Ball Z would be different in English if it’s translated?
Well, for me, I feel that it is okay to be different. Because there are many different unique interpretations, so it isn’t that this is the only right answer. Like with different individuals and different countries, interpretation of a role will be different too. So, I think I can see that flexibly and understand how they feel when they see our work, and also see the other point of view, the other way of making. I think that should be welcomed, and I think that leads to a better production.
Can you talk about the roles that were unexpectedly challenging or difficult?
Oh, yes. Any roles are very tough to act. Like Vegeta from Dragonball Z, there are many fight scenes, so I needed an immense amount of power and energy. And I use up a lot of energy for every take. For what I did in Legend Of Galactic Heroes, I had to act cool, detached, and not get emotional, not get angry: it was a role that is about wearing a mask. And every time it was difficult. And with Tadao in Ghost Sweeper Mikami, that role was very comical, one that went berserk a great deal, so I acted with full force. And especially after the recording of Dragonball was over, I was so hungry and thirsty.
Which character that you played was the closest to you, personally?
Which one?….I think the roles I played each have a part of me somewhere. See, I think myself as a gentleman that can’t even kill a bug, but when I’m doing that cruel Vegeta who murders people again and again, I’m playing a role, but part of me is enjoying it as the character. So when I think to myself that maybe there is a cruel part in me, I feel a little depressed. I don’t wanna kill people.
What do you think makes a good character in anime?
That is a difficult question again. What I think is, of course, you need a great deal of concentration. And, in the life I lived until now there must be a lot of hints [about what makes a character tick] so how do you grab these hints?…Or to put it another way, how do you “sublimate” them in a better direction? Is that the point? How do you feel when you see that character? And how do you develop that? But in my case, it’s not like I act, but rather if that character itself doesn’t synchronize with me, I feel uncomfortable. So, it’s not that I act that character, but rather if that character doesn’t match me, it can’t be done. Therefore, as I said earlier, there must be a cruel part and comical part in me.
Who inspires you as a voice actor?
Well, if I chose anime from the classics, there is Tetsujin 28 from my time, well, it’s the same kind with Tetsuwan Atom (Astroboy), it made me very wakuwaku (exciting). And for the actor, Nozawa Masako (Goku, DB), who I worked with. And the Lupin that Yamada Yasuo did. I watched these, and I felt dokidoki (thump thump, exciting), I thought it was good when I watched it myself. Of course, there are more wonderful people, but to give you the example.