Sean Schemmel was present at Awesome Con 2022, and took to the stage for a fan Q&A session. While there were a variety of topics, most of them centered around Dragon Ball Z and his role as Goku’s English actor.
One point Schemmel kept referencing when talking about the Dragon Ball series was how much he tried to value and understand how the series was written by Akira Toriyama and how the scenes were portrayed in the Japanese adaptation.
“I do insist on Japanese translations in the booth because I really want the pure meaning of it because that’s the most powerful and because I respect Akira Toriyama’s work. By the time we got to Dragon Ball Z Kai and we started doing hardcore Japanese scripts, and very closely to the manga, it dawned on me. I could see why the show was so popular. I could see the subtle nuances in the characters better. I could see the subtle relationship between Goku and Vegeta.”
He spoke about what that means for him when voice acting as Goku, and how he saw his character had changed throughout the show.
“I take issue with when the American writers try to write Goku very Vegeta-like, and make him a super prideful Saiyan. He’s not. He’s the childlike mind all the time, the beginner’s mind, the zen beginner’s mind all the time. So you’ll notice that Goku fundamentally does not change a lot, only in Super.”
The change Goku went through in Super was highlighted at the end of Dragon Ball Super: Broly. At the end of the movie, when Cheelai asked Goku what his name was, he said Goku, before telling Broly specifically to call him Kakarot. It’s a major moment, as up to this point Vegeta was the only character who referred to Goku by that name.
“I was actually very nervous about that because I’m so identified as Goku, one of my first lines was, ‘My name’s Goku, I’m from Earth.’ so I identify so strongly as Goku being Goku. When I saw the end of the Broly movie, I was like, are we sure that’s in the Japanese as Kakarot, are we sure he needs to say that. Goku at that point would never refer to himself in the whole show as Kakarot, then they explained to me what was going on with Goku’s character and I was like ‘oh that makes sense I like that.’ I think that moment was a turning point where Goku started to explore his lineage and his background.”
Despite this, Schemmel sees that it’s important that this change is not overwhelming to the character.
“He’s starting to change a little bit but I try to keep in the beginners state. If you have him slowly becoming Vegeta, then eventually you end up with two Vegetas. Vegeta’s changing also and they’re affecting each other which I think is cool for the evolution of their arc.”
Some fans feel that Goku’s character never changes. How do you feel about Sean Schemmel’s understanding of Goku’s evolving character?