I just interviewed Ryo Horikawa, the voice of Vegeta in Dragon Ball, at Anime Expo 2012 in Los Angeles. It was a pretty good day!
But it didn’t start out that way.
Let me share with you a story of how I ended up face to face with the Prince of all Saiyans.
Going to the Anime Expo
I reported on the Anime Expo last year for The Epoch Times Newspaper and had been receiving the press briefings announcing each special guest for this years Expo.
I was excited to read that Ryo Horikawa would attend the convention. Short of Toriyama himself, that’s about as cool as it gets.
Naturally I applied to speak with Ryo and was initially told by the PR Company handling the event that I could have 15 minutes with him on Saturday, June 30. I thought, “That’s awesome, I’ll get to ask Vegeta all kinds of great questions. This is going to be super helpful for my book.”
I live about 4 hours north of LA, but figured it would be worth the drive.
However, a few days before the meeting they changed the style of the event from one-on-one to a press briefing, where I could only ask 1 question. I asked if I could have 2 short ones, and they said yes.
So on Thursday morning, after having packed my bags the night before, I thought to myself, “Do I really want to drive 4 hours, plus 2 more hours for traffic and paid parking at the LA Convention Center, to ask Ryo a couple of questions that he may not even answer in a useful way?”
The answer was no, I didn’t. So I called the PR company and asked if we could do it some other way, such as Skype. They said yes… maybe.
And then they said no. So I requested if they could ask the 2 questions on my behalf and relay the answers afterward. In exchange I’d mention their company in my article. They said yes.
The press briefing concluded. I waited, I texted, I emailed. No reply.
A day went by and I called, only to be told that no, they didn’t ask the questions because the event was “too crazy” and there was no opening.
Now of course I realize that they weren’t obligated to do anything, but that’s also when I realized that you can’t trust other people to do something for you when you’re the one responsible for it, even if they say they will, 3 times in a row, and even if it’s as simple as raising your hand to ask a question.
More importantly, I learned that if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself.
It was time to go to LA and meet with Ryo.
I wrote a list of questions and decided the perfect time to reach him would be when he gave out signatures during a meet and greet.
Meeting Ryo Horikawa
First off let me just say that whoever decided to schedule the X-Games at the same time as the Anime Expo, in the same place, in downtown LA, with limited parking, obviously gave no consideration to the human beings that had to attend either event.
It was absolute madness to find parking. I actually saw 3 men get out of their cars and fight because they were so angry. It was like we were rats in some kind of social experiment.
The experience would have been much less stressful if I could use Shunkan Idō (Instant Transmission) like Goku.
But I digress. Ryo’s signing event was scheduled from noon to 1pm, and lo and behold I get to the Expo at exactly 12:01 after running full steam from my parking spot, with my heavy laptop and camera in tow. I ask where the signing is located and am told that Ryo is in Artist Alley, on the OTHER side of the Convention Center. Of course.
So I run to the Artist Alley, but you know what? The Artist Alley is enormous. And secondly, Ryo’s not there.
The clocks ticking and I’m looking all over the place for a Saiyan, I’m asking the staff and no one has a clue, and finally I see, on the other side of the convention floor, past all the booths, some tables where a line has formed for signatures, about 50 long. It’s Ryo!
I get into line and you know what happens next?
They cut it off!
They capped the event RIGHT AFTER ME. No one else can get in for a signature because the line was already too long for Ryo to get through with the time he had left.
So… Alright. I drove for hours, didn’t eat a real breakfast, am tired, kind of sweaty, the last one in line, and I have a list of questions to ask.
Asking Vegeta Some Questions
I shook hands with Ryo and introduced myself as a reporter, requesting to ask a few questions if he didn’t mind. It was past the time he was going to leave, but he smiled and said yes anyway. Thanks, Ryo!
Ryo speaks English, but not fluently, so his translator helped answer many of the questions.
Derek: Why do you feel that Vegeta is so popular around the world, and especially among women?
Ryo: Vegeta is very powerful. That might be the reason.
Derek: Do you think he inspires people?
Ryo: Uh huh. Sure.
Translator: He’s very honored that people feel that way, but he’s not really sure why.
Derek: Do you believe that Dragon Ball is a meaningful series, that it has heart, and if so, what does Dragon Ball mean to you?
Ryo: Oh, very good question. Hmm…
Derek: Like the Bible?
Ryo: [He thinks about the question.] Hmm. [He then speaks in Japanese to the translator.
Translator: It has a really important philosophy to it.
Derek: How so?
Translator: Also, growing up with it means a lot, too.
Derek: Right, for 23 years you’ve been acting as Vegeta.
Ryo: [Continues thinking] … Um, I don’t know [how to respond]. Hahaha!
Derek: Why do you think Akira Toriyama created the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta? How did it help move the story forward?
Translator: I’m not really sure myself, because this is a question you should be asking Toriyama, haha.
Derek: Yeah, I would love to ask Toriyama!
Translator: But as far as the rivalry goes, they are sometimes rivals, and they also sometimes work together to fight other enemies. I think that helps the story.
Derek: How do you think Dragon Ball changed Japanese pop culture? What impact did dragon Ball have on Japanese society and across the world?
Translator: There’s not much I can say specifically about what Dragon Ball has done for Japanese society or the world, but as far as anime, Dragon Ball is one of the most popular anime and so it has affected the Japanese people and those around the world because it’s so well known. But right now I can’t think of anything in particular.
Derek: Vegeta is a character that changes throughout the series after meeting Goku. Has playing the role of Vegeta for 23 years caused you to look within and change as well in your own life? Has it helped you or inspired you in any way to play that character?
Translator: When I’m doing the characters I don’t actually think about how long I’ve been doing it, it’s not something I count like that. But as for myself, Saiya-jins, the way that they age are different from humans. I think of Vegeta as somebody who is in his 20’s physically, but also mentally I myself feel that I’m in my 20’s.”
Derek: Oh, young at heart?
Ryo: Yeah! Young at heart! That’s right.
Derek: One last question. Will Toei finish Dragon Ball Kai, or do you know if there will ever be a new Dragon Ball series? A lot of fans want to know.
Ryo: Ahah. I’d love to, but I don’t really know.
Derek: Right, I see. Thank you, Ryo.
Ryo: Thank you very much.
After the interview was over I was approached by Ryo’s managers and we started talking. They were very happy that I was there to write about Ryo, and presented their latest project, Magical Dreamers, the world’s first multi-lingual e-manga, read by both English and Japanese voice actors. The actors include Ryo and Christopher Sabat (Vegeta x Vegeta!), among others.
I showed Ryo the flier for The Dao of Dragon Ball book. I said that it reveals the inner meaning, spirituality and culture of the Dragon Ball series and why it’s so meaningful to fans. They were all really surprised, and said they wanted to help out!
Once they get back to Japan we’ll get the ball rolling. How cool is that?
The fact I was forced to go to the Expo and be the last in line was a blessing because it meant I had the time to ask all the questions and speak with Ryo’s managers.
It couldn’t have gone better.
Fate? I think so.