Have you ever wanted to know more about Piccolo’s voice, or had questions about Piccolo’s relationship with Gohan? If so, read this article!
Toshio Furukawa is a veteran and famous voice actor in Japan, and has been the voice of Piccolo since he was first introduced in Dragon Ball.
Furukawa-san recently attended the Animazement convention in Raleigh, North Carolina from May 24 to 26, to answer questions from all the fans. I was in attendance, asked questions, recorded the panel, took photographs and have transcribed it for you.
Listen along with the audio as you read the transcript to gain the full effect of being there.
Video’s of the event are also available, courtesy of “theoriginalbilis,” a member of the Kanzenshuu.com forum.
Toshio Furukawa: *In English* Hello, everyone.
Toshio Furukawa: *In English* I am Toshio Furukawa from Japan. I am a voice actor for motion picture and drama, and character voice over for animation and games. I’ve played a variety of characters, like comedians such as Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura, and Shin from Fist of the North Star, Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z (Audience: Woooh!!), and Portgas D. Ace from One Piece. I like America very much, so I’m so glad to join Animazement. I would like to have a very good time with you. Thank you!
*Returns to Japanese*
I had that memorized, so I hope you understood it.
Question: What was it like recording for Dragon Ball Z?
Toshio Furukawa: I’ve covered a lot of character’s voices, but among all the ones I’ve covered, I love Piccolo the best.
I have a hobby of collecting figures and I have tons of Piccolo figures. Last year was 700 but I have approximately 800 now.
Audience: Wow! *Applause*
Toshio Furukawa: My second favorite character is Ace from One Piece, and I have approximately 300 figures. I’m gradually adding more Ace figures into my collection so it may come close to Piccolo in the future. Ace has passed away, however the companies are making more and more character figures so I think my collection will increase and come close to Piccolo in the future.
I go to a figure hobby store in Japan and if I see any of the characters I played before, I just buy it there. Also there are a lot of figures, foreign country versions, that you cannot buy in Japan. I check for these figures online and if I find one I buy it. When it comes to my home, I converted my home to house the figures I bought in Japan, as they are a little different. In the future I would like to make one [a figure]. I am studying for that. The most difficult thing is to make the face.
Sorry, I talked too much about figures.
Question: I’m a big fan of your work in Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, and One Piece. While you were working on Dragon Ball or auditioning, how did you come up with the voice for Piccolo?
Toshio Furukawa: First when I was asked, or got the offer for this, they requested me, saying, “Your voice is normally a little high pitched, high toned, but this character’s voice is a low toned voice. If you don’t mind making this deeper, would you want to do it?” So I asked, “Well, you know that my voice is not really matched to the characters voice you are looking for, so why do you ask me to do this?” The person who gave me the offer said, “I cannot think of any other voice actor than you, and this role goes to you, so that is why.”
Therefore initially I wanted to reject the offer, however, when somebody says something like that you can’t really refuse, since they want me [specifically], so I accepted the offer. But my voice is a little high so I tried my best to do a lower voice, to cover Piccolo. For example, when playing Moroboshi in Urusei Yatsura I had a really high pitched tone and that’s something I don’t mind doing at all. I will do it:
*Screams in a funny pitch*
Audience: Hahaha. *Applause*
Toshio Furukawa: The high voice is fine but when I’m covering Piccolo’s voice they ask me to go “Lower, lower, lower key, try to go lower.” So I did, I tried my best. When it comes to the laughter, this is how Ataru laughs, “Ni ha ha ha!” This is how Piccolo laughs, “Hm hm hm hm.” So you can see the difference here.
So now one of the lines from Piccolo, “Vegeta, sore wa masaka… Makankosappo!” they say to “Go lower and lower, as low as you can go.” But before that it’s a really high key, from Ataru, “Ojooooo-saaan!”
But when I tried a low tone, low key, I can’t go to the really, really low, because my voice will be gone. It’s not my voice, it’s my breath. I have to breathe when I talk. For example, I say, *In English* “Hello everyone, I am Toshio Furukawa.” That’s the normal range. When it comes to Ataru (*High pitched voice*) “I’m Toshio Furukawa from Japan!” And then Piccolo is a deeper, breathy voice, “I am Toshio Furukawa, from Japan.” Like this. So Piccolo’s normal voice is more like breath.
Piccolo was the first villain I played, and after that I played the role of Shin in Fist of the North Star. *Says one of Shin’s lines in Japanese.* After that I was given an offer of playing more villains, such as in one of the basketball stories.
When I go to the studio, some of the director’s I first meet, they will look at me and say, “Are you really that villain? Because seeing your face you don’t look like that villain.”
Even now, “Are you sure you are Ataru and Piccolo? Because they are totally different people.” I get that kind of question a lot. My normal voice is pretty close to the voice of Ace from One Piece. I don’t change it at all, it’s like talking as me. *Says another line in Japanese, as Ace.* So playing Ace from One Piece is very comfortable for me because I don’t have to strain myself much, as that’s my normal voice.
Question (from me): Thank you for coming. Dragon Ball is a series that has inspired millions of people across the world, across generations, and has become a very meaningful series to a lot of people. So I want to ask, what does Dragon Ball mean to you?
Toshio Furukawa: That’s right. When it comes to the [shonen] genre of animation, Dragon Ball has a lot of fighting scenes and martial arts, and there is a lot of violence in it, so some people will criticize it, saying, “Don’t watch that because there is only violence and fighting in there.”
However, for me I believe there are lots of messages giving you courage, giving you strength, in the animation. Therefore, I appreciate that.
Looking down on Dragon Ball just because of the fighting scenes? Children don’t get violent just from watching anime. I hope there will be more of this kind of animation watched by children.
For example, if a child got bullied at school, it doesn’t mean that he or she as a bully watched Dragon Ball. Did watching Dragon Ball make them become a bully? No, I don’t think so. I would rather think that Goku does not bully anybody in that show and I believe that children yearn to become Goku themselves. I don’t think the violence in the story means that children will become violent. So I hope that more people will see the companionships, the friendship in the story.
Sorry if that didn’t really answer your question, hehe.
Question: The character Shin, what kind of impression did that character leave on you, and how did that affect your performance of the character.
Toshio Furukawa: When I first got the offer for Shin, he is a villain, therefore I was hoping I could play the role of Kenshiro. *inaudible* also Shin, I played the main character in the show. So when I was young, therefore when I was in the audition I wanted to play the role of Kenshiro, but I was told “No, this is an audition for Shin, the villain.” That’s why I auditioned for that.
You know Akira Kamiya? [He was] another voice actor who auditioned for the role. We were kind of rivals. Some of the auditions I go to he would always be there. Sometimes I would win, sometimes he would win. However, most of the time he wins. So he is one of my very strong rivals. Someone who is hard for me to defeat.
The director asked both of us to play the lines of both Kenshiro and Shin. I think I mentioned this last year as well, but when I read the script of the fighting scenes, in Japanese it said, “Ta Ta Ta Ta!” The fighting sounds. So it says, “Ta Ta Ta Ta!” so I just spoke out those words. But because it’s a fighting scene it has to be, like “Ta! Ta! Ta! Uwe-Ta Ta! ”
After me it’s Akira’s turn and he does his “Ta Ta Ta Ta!” I was surprised that he did a pose of Karate before he spoke out. Kind of bringing all of your energy or Ki into you. *Toshio does a Karate deep breathing noise, like powering up, then he does the line* “Wuuaaaahhhh, Ta-Ta Ta Ta Ta!, Wattaaahhh!” When I heard that I was pretty sure that, “Yep, he wins.”
So I was surprised, wow, amazed at how he did that. I asked him, “How could you do that kind of a thing?” He said, “Before the audition I read all the manga, watched all the Bruce Lee movies, and I tried to act like Bruce Lee.” So he did some kind of voices ad lib, it wasn’t even written in the script, like “Oww!!” He said he practiced a lot, trying to imitate Bruce in his movies. He told me that how he practiced was that while in bed he would put the futon or towel around his mouth because his family told him he was too loud making the noises, and to shut up, so that’s how he practiced. *Toshio does the imitation again, slightly covering his mouth.*
For me, Akira Kamiya is like a god. Why? First of all because Kami means God, and is one of the characters in his name. So he’s Kami, God, Kami-ya Akira. I should change my name to Kami-kawa. If I changed my name to Kamikawa then maybe I would have won the audition.
Me and Kamiya have a really great relationship now, we’re friends.
Question: Yesterday I asked Nozawa-san this question. Who do you think is a better driver, Piccolo or Goku?
Audience: Oghhhhh! *Applause*
Toshio Furukawa: *smiles* Haha. Piccolo does not drive. I do have a driver’s license, and my wife also has a driver’s license, but my wife usually drives so I don’t drive that much. Why? Because I’m not a good driver. She is so talented in driving she’s like a taxi driver. Whenever I’m late to the studio she knows which street to take, and because of her driving I am never late to the studio. I thank her very much.
Actually she is sitting in the back of the audience here. However, she cannot drive right now because she just broke her arm. She had a crack in her arm two days before we left for this event, so I told her, “I don’t think we can go to Animazement.” And she was the one pushing me, saying, “No, we have to go!”
Audience: Thank you!! [said to his wife] *Applause*
Toshio Furukawa: We love North Carolina. Beautiful scenery. And you guys, our kind fans. She insisted and encouraged me to go, so that’s a good thing. Thank you.
Question: Thank you very much for coming. I really enjoyed your story about Gundam from last year. Do you have any other fond memories of Gundam you could share with us, and will you do Kai’s voice?
Toshio Furukawa: Gundam is a very popular anime in Japan, running more than 30 years. When I first got the offer for Kai Shiden I thought it was a trivial role and wasn’t very happy with it. I said this before, but I’ve played a lot of main character roles, and when it comes to Gundam the main character is Amuro Ray, who was taken by voice actor Toru Furuya, so I thought, “Okay, I’m another side role.” When I went to the studio, Furuya came to me and said “Hey, congrats on being Kai Shiden’s voice.” I said, “Well, he’s just a side character.” But Furuya was angry and said, “No he’s not!” I was surprised [to learn] that he wasn’t just a side role, and that he has a great popularity in the show.
There is an episode [involving] a female spy, Haru, where [she helped me] come into my role, and after that episode I received a lot of fan letters. After that episode I put more affection into his role. He’s not a “new type,” but he’s one of the important characters. Do you want me to play one of his lines?
Question: That would be great! Domo arigato!
Toshio Furukawa: *Does the line in Japanese* How was that?
Question: Very late in Dragon Ball, Piccolo becomes what I like to call, “Uncle Piccolo,” where he is always babysitting Goten and Trunks. What did you think of the transition the character went through?
Toshio Furukawa: Haha. Yes.
I hoped that Piccolo would change, and it happened. I love that change in Dragon Ball. I got a lot of fan letters encouraging me, asking for Piccolo to change like that, and he did, so I’m very happy.
One of the things I like is when he’s teaching Fusion and you can tell he’s blushing and a little shy, I love that scene. I love that scene. Another scene I like is when he goes to get his driver’s license.
Audience: Haha. *Applause*
Question: I like the character Ace and was really sad when he died, so I wanted to know if you felt really sad when he died as well?
Toshio Furukawa: I was told beforehand that, “Ace will die in this episode,” so I knew it, so that day of shooting I really didn’t want to go to the studio. Because Ace is one of my favorite characters, when I go to that studio I always think, “This is the studio where Ace died.” (Audience: Ohhh.) During the recording I did cry, I cried very much. Mayumi Tanaka, the voice actor who plays Luffy, cried so hard that everybody had to console with her at the end. His line, “Thank you for loving me,” at the end, when I say this line at other events, it makes me cry. Do you want me to say this line?
*Toshio says the line very solemnly*
So I was definitely sad when he died. But because he died he became a legendary treasure, a story for people to remember, and his popularity is still there, I still get a lot of fan letters for Ace. Because he died he became a legend.
Question: You are currently doing the voice of Wiseman from Kamen Rider Wizard. Is it different dubbing live action than it is dubbing animation or games?
Toshio Furukawa: Basically it’s the same, but live action definitely has more movement compared to the manga or anime, where it’s more extreme movements, so that’s a little different. Wiseman, as you know, doesn’t talk much, but even if there are only a few lines in an episode, for example if I only have to say 4 Japanese characters in the entire episode, I still get the same payment! How voice actors are paid in Japanese recording, it’s one episode, one pay. Therefore no matter how much I talk, one line or 50 lines, it’s all the same pay.
When I did a commercial using Ace’s voice, the line was *something in Japanese*, something like that, a very short line, but the payment was very good, I felt like, “I don’t have to work for another month.” [I felt] really lucky and happy. So first they told me to do 7 words, however the commercial was only twenty seconds, so the producer said [let’s just do the even shorter version.]
Question: Have you tried the Sweet Tea in North Carolina yet?
Toshio Furukawa: My friend ordered that last night and they said, “This is too sweet. Can we order the plain tea and then mix it together?” I have not tried it yet but I do like sweet stuff, so I may try it tonight.
Question: *The guy goes on a rant about how incredible the Sweet Tea in North Carolina is, for over a minute.*
Toshio Furukawa: Ah, I see. So that Sweet Tea is one of the famous things from North Carolina? It must be very sweet. I’ll try it.
Question: When comparing Dragon Ball and the scene where Piccolo dies to the scene in One Piece where Ace dies, which do you like better?
Toshio Furukawa: When I first got the offer for One Piece somebody told me that, “Nobody is going to die in One Piece, so you’ll play this character forever.” But then I was told that I would have to say goodbye to Ace at some point in the future. Maybe we should collect the seven dragon balls and revive him.
Audience: Yeaaahh! *Applause*
Question: In your voice acting career have you ever had to sing in one of the scenes, and if so, could you sing me Happy Birthday?
Toshio Furukawa: Ah. Happy Birthday!
*Singing in English* “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you…” What’s your name? Haha.
Toshio Furukawa: *Continues singing in English* “Happy Birthday, dear Bethany. Happy Birthday to you!”
Toshio Furukawa: To answer your question, yes, I have sung a lot in different roles. Singing as characters, there are about 5 or 6 different songs that I could pick at the Karaoke store, but as a group we could have maybe 50 songs to select from. Yet whenever we go to Karaoke with people I only pick the songs that I’ve sung before. Some of the Japanese Karaoke stores that have a machine have a rating or score to show how good you are, and even when I choose the songs that I originally covered I still never get a good score. Haha. I don’t know why.
Question (from me): The Gohan and Piccolo relationship in Dragon Ball is a fan favorite. It covers all of DBZ, GT, and everything. It changes Gohan, and it changes Piccolo, and I’d like to ask how do you feel about that master to student, disciple, almost father type of relationship?
Toshio Furukawa: That’s right.
One of the reasons I love Piccolo is because he is very strong and strict. He is a fighter, a Z-Fighter (Z Senshi). When it comes to mentoring Gohan he has a really kind, sweet heart, and that contrast I like very much.
You come to see the *inaudible* of Gohan. I think when it comes to one strong character, but you see the weak points of that character, or with a really hard, tough guy, but he’s very kind, a sweetheart, and you see the opposite side of the character in him, then I think the character is more attractive to fans.
Ace, too. Ace is a very tough Second Division Commander, but the other half of Ace is that he has a really kind, sweet heart toward his brother Luffy. When I act as Ace I think about this a lot, to present that other side of Ace. I will show you an example:
*Says one of Ace’s lines in Japanese*
That was a line just to show Ace’s strong side as a Second Division Commander.
*Says another line with a softer tone*
So the comparison of the two lines I just said, the first one was just a tough guy, but he’s not just tough, as the second line shows he is kind to his brother. I planned well to show these two different character’s within Ace. When I cover the voice of Shin, too, he was a really tough, strong guy, but when it comes to Yuria [his love interest], he has a really sweet, kind heart, toward her. I will do Shin’s voice:
*Says a line as Shin, with an agonizing cry at the end, screaming YURRIAAAA!*
That’s the line he says at the time of Yuria’s death, and he also dies at the same time. So Shin is not just a villain in the story. He had a pure heart, a pure love for Yuria, therefore he gained trust with many female fans, and I received a lot of fan letters saying that. One of the lines that I liked very much of Kenshiro, is that when Shin dies, Kenshiro picks up Shin and walks away, and a little boy comes up to him and says, “Why are you making a grave for that guy who hates you, that bad villain?” Kenshiro said one line. “Because we loved the same woman.” And I think that line is very cool.
Question: One of my first favorite anime back in the early 90’s is Urusei Yatsura, so I was wondering if you could share your favorite moments and lines from that series?
Toshio Furukawa: *Does a silly voice from Urusei Yatsura, followed by a very deep voice* Is that okay?
Toshio Furukawa: This is my second time at Animazement. I am very, very happy to be here. There are many events that I go to, but Animazement is special. I love North Carolina, the scenery, the kind people here, and I also love you guys for cheering me up all the time when I’m doing a panel. So if I have a chance in the future I’d love to come back again. Arigato!
I am very honored to see everybody here. *In English* Thank you so much.