The Power of Anime – Goku’s Voice Extends the Life of a Boy with a Terminal Illness

the power of anime masako nozawa son goku headline

What is the power of anime? Hear Son Gokū’s voice actor Masako Nozawa share a story about how her voice helped extend the life of a boy with a terminal illness.

the power of anime masako nozawa son goku mayumi tanaka krillin koichi yamadera beerus

On July 28th, 2019, Masako Nozawa, the famous voice of Son Gokū from the Dragon Ball anime franchise, appeared on the Fuji TV program Bokura-no-jidai (ボクらの時代, “My Age”).[1].

my age bokura no jidai logo

Logo of Bokura-no-jidai (“My Age”), on Fuji TV.

My Age is a Sunday morning talk show where three guests from various fields come on to discuss different topics. The show has no moderator, so its conversations are led by the guests.

In this episode, three of Japan’s top voice actors were brought on to discuss their profession. For example, the multiple talents required for their jobs outside the booth (such as appearing at live events and on TV), and their private lives.

Nozawa appeared alongside Mayumi Tanaka (田中 真弓) the voice of Krillin and Yajirobē (and Luffy from One Piece).

mayumi tanaka voice actor krillin luffy fuji tv

Mayumi Tanaka © Fuji Television

Also Kōichi Yamadera (山寺 宏一), the voice of Beerus (and Donald Duck in Disney films, and Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop).

koichi yamadera voice actor fuji tv

Koichi Yamadera © Fuji Television

Some Japanese fans considered this legendary trio of actors coming together, who are often called national treasures, to be likened to “the descent of God.”[2]

The conversation started with the topic of Masako Nozawa’s surprisingly high energy at the age of 82, even during early morning recordings. She said, “Everyone says, ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too early in the morning [to be upbeat], but I can shoot a “kamehameha” even if I’m woken up in the middle of the night.”

The kamehameha is the signature technique of Son Gokū, where he fires energy out of his hands in a projectile, wave-like beam. It represents everything that Gokū has inside his body and mind to give to his opponents.

Mayumi Tanaka lamented the difference between them, saying, “I’m really embarrassed, because my seniors are still acting with such energy.”

masako nozawa goku mayumi tanaka krillin koichi yamadera beerus voice actor my age fuji tv

Nozawa said she wants to continue voice acting “until at least 100 years old,” and “I think I can do it until 128 years old.”

Then Nozawa spoke in a calm voice and said:

“There are times when I wonder what the power of anime is.”

Masako Nozawa’s Life-Changing Story

Nozawa told a story about a man who sent her a letter in February of a previous year.

The letter said that his son had a major illness and was told by the doctor that he would not live past February.

She quoted the letter: “My son loves Dragon Ball. Can you sign your name for him?”[3]

But Nozawa-san did one better. She asked her staff to record her voice and send it to the father and child.

Nozawa recalls saying, ““Hey! It’s me, Gokū!” and then I said the name of the child, “Come on now. I’ll be waiting for ya’ in the theater. Promise me you’ll go!” She added, “I want ya’ to live as long as possible.”[4]

According to Nozawa, a new Dragon Ball movie was scheduled to be released in theaters in August of that year, so Nozawa was asking the boy to endure through his illness and meet up with Gokū in the theater.[5]

She says that a few months after the premiere, she got another letter from the father.

“My son experienced a miracle by watching your movie. Thank you so much. We brought him to the theater in a hospital bed to see the movie, but he insisted on sitting up to watch it, even though he didn’t have the strength to normally do so. My son said, “I must sit up in a chair when I watch it.” So then we brought him to a chair, and he got out of bed, sat in the chair, and watched it.”

Somehow the boy whose life had been declared by doctors to end in February had managed to survive until August to see Gokū in the theaters.

However, the father continues, “So he watched the movie and we returned home. The next day, he died.”

This boy managed to survive long enough to see Gokū and hear his voice in the theater one final time. Then, with his promise to Gokū kept, he took his final breath and left the world.

The father included a doctor’s note in his letter. Nozawa read the letter: “We’re always studying how to extend life, or trying to prevent death, but we cannot do either. What is the power of anime?”

Nozawa says, “The power of anime is amazing. At that time, I felt amazing.”[6]

Of course, modern medical science is incredible, but it’s tempting to think that it was the power of Nozawa’s voice and the power of anime that extended the boy’s life to last beyond his fatal prognosis.

Was it the boy’s willpower? His dream to see Gokū one more time? Or something else we can’t yet explain?

In any case, the father was able to spend six more months with his son, and they both felt this power.

An hour after this My Age program aired, a Japanese woman on Twitter, in a now-disabled account, claimed that she was the mother of the son who died, and that she was grateful for Nozawa’s kindness:

“Masako Nozawa says that anime is amazing, and my son did his best for half a year with messages from Dragon Ball and Gokū.”

twitter post about masako nozawa fuji tv interview

Given that the account is no longer active, I could not contact her to ask questions.

Nozawa also mentioned in the show, “The origin of the word anime is the Latin anima. It means to bring life to things that were once still.” She believes anime carries that energy in it, and this energy is conveyed to the audience.

She adds, “I cried, thinking, ‘I could make him believe that ‘I will definitely watch this movie.’’ That’s how it is.”

“The power of anime is amazing.”

Being able to give hope and courage to another person through the power of your voice is what it means to Masako Nozawa to be a voice actor.

That’s the power of anime.

– What is ‘the power of anime’ to you?


Resources

Part of this article’s content and quotes are my translation and summary of an article written in Japanese by @inyou_te (“Drinking TV”), who watches Japanese TV and summarizes it for readers. It was originally published on August 6, 2019 on cyzo.com. The remainder came from the sources below.

I was unable to find a clip of the show for my own direct translation, so this article is subject to further refinements.

[1] The My Age program with Masako Nozawa was first announced by Aoni Productions’ official Twitter on July 20, 2019.

[2] Japanese article comparing the three actors “to the descent of God”.

[3] The boy’s father asked Masako Nozawa to sign a shikishi for his son. A shikishi is a square and hard piece of paper designed for illustrations and signatures in Japan. They are a common element in a celebrity’s life, and their fan’s.

[4] Masako Nozawa’s famous greeting as Gokū is one that every Japanese child knows: “Ossu! Ora Gokū!”

[5] According to my research, there has never been a Dragon Ball film that premiered in August in Japan. Perhaps Nozawa-san misspoke, and was thinking of a film premiere in July, as there were many Dragon Ball films that premiered in July from 1987 to ’95.

[6] Masako Nozawa: “The power of anime is amazing” (アニメの力って凄い).