What happens when Goku meets Goku? Watch Masako Nozawa from Japan and Sean Schemmel from the United States perform Fusion and become the ultimate warrior!
This historic one hour long Question and Answer panel took place on May 26, 2013, at the Animazement convention in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This marks the first time that the two Goku’s have ever appeared at the same convention and the first time they had a panel by themselves. The room was full of lifelong fans.
I was there to take part in the event, and have transcribed the entire discussion here. You can also listen to the audio recording and follow along.
Or you can watch it all on YouTube.
Courtesy of “Drabaz” on the Kanzenshuu forum.
Question: How did Ms. Nozawa enjoy her first stay at a convention in the United States? My second question is, have either of you cosplayed, and if you did, did you wear the actual dogi of Goku?
Masako Nozawa: It’s been great coming here to Animazement. I get up early in the morning with the sun and enjoy the whole day. For cosplay, I’ve never done cosplay.
Sean Schemmel: Um, what was the question? Haha. I remember the second part. I’ve never cosplay’d as Goku except for when my girlfriend went cosplaying as Chi-Chi for Halloween and I just wore the orange Goku shirt, and tried to make Goku-y faces. The other part was?
Question: How have you enjoyed your stay in Raleigh?
Sean Schemmel: I’ve very much enjoyed my stay here in Raleigh. I’m definitely going to come back again if they invite me. Animazement has been truly animazing. Seriously, and the beds in the hotel are really comfortable, and you guys are amazing. Not in that order, you guys are amazing first. How about I take my foot out of my mouth now and we go onto the next question.
Question: Sean, question for you. In the Japanese version Masako Nozawa plays Goku in both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Of course you played just adult Goku. Have you ever considered, has it ever crossed your mind to think about doing little Goku?
Sean Schemmel: That’s not a choice I’m allowed to make. I’m going to ask Ms. Nozawa, because what I’ve heard, versus the truth. In America, usually women play boy’s voices and then we switch to men. I’ve always heard that it is traditional in Japan where if you start with a character’s voice to continue it, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. Since we have her right here, we can ask. I start playing Goku when he’s about 16, in Dragon Ball. My voice, I’m a baritone, and I have done some little kid voices in Poke’mon before, but I don’t know that my voice is appropriate for pre-puberty, high voices. *High pitched* “It would be way up here,” really high. Bart Simpson is played by a woman, and that’s how we do it. And I would love to know what that is, it could be just because she’s such an awesome actress and she can do both. That’s my guess.
[Speaking to the translator] I was actually asking a question for her as well. Is it traditional in Japan where if you start off with a woman’s voice you carry it into adulthood? Is that true for all anime characters? Or is it just ‘cause you’re so awesome, or both?
Masako Nozawa: I’m actually the first instance of the same voice actor playing a boy who changed into an adult character.
Sean Schemmel: That means it’s because you’re awesome.
Audience: Wow! *Applause*
Sean Schemmel: I find her Goku extraordinarily convincing as a man, despite the fact that she is obviously a woman. She’s very, very convincing.
I can feel her channeling the spirit of Goku when she does the voice. When you’re sitting next to her it’s really, really cool. I don’t know what the Japanese word for ‘cool,’ is, but I need to figure it out.
Question: This is a question for both of you. What kind of work or preparation went into creating Goku’s voice?
Masako Nozawa: The layout of the recording booth in the Japanese studio is such that you have a screen, and I’m sitting in a chair at the other end of the booth, and in-between is the microphone.
My preparation for my role is to be sitting in my chair, I stand up, walk a couple of steps, and as I walk, I walk into my role. So far that has always been good enough for getting into my role. No one’s ever complained.
Sean Schemmel: I love that, what she said about ‘walking into your role.’ That’s great imagery for acting. Never thought of that before. I really like that. As far as I’m concerned, I was required to mimic the Canadian cast because they were originally recording in Canada. I was a natural mimic and they wanted to keep the voices preserved. By the time we get to the Super Saiyan transformation that is where the voice really became my choices.
As far as mental preparation…
Goku is pure of heart, so I try to get all negative thought and feelings out of my mind, to prepare to be completely, totally pure for the character, even if I’m having a bad day or going through a rough time. In that case Goku is often times a refuge for me.
I also like to record with my shoes off because I feel connected to the ground and it lets me feel ‘earthy’ with the character. It’s hard to describe, but I recorded all of Dragon Ball Z with my shoes off.
Masako Nozawa: I’ve never worn a skirt recording Goku.
Question: My question is directed to both Goku’s. First I want to say what an honor and privilege it is to be in the same room with you. There are many iconic Goku moments throughout the series. The most iconic for me is when Goku first achieved Super Saiyan 3, screaming for like 5 minutes. Was that a particularly difficult part to record?
Masako Nozawa: The recording session under the transformation to Super Saiyan, I continue as long as my breath holds, and my breath usually holds.
Sean Schemmel: What was the question? Seriously. Super Saiyan 3? I was totally listening to her.
Question: Was it hard to hold the scream?
Sean Schemmel: So Super Saiyan 3, a lot of people think I passed out during that, and that’s not true. I’m not saying that to brag because I did pass out during Super Saiyan 4. That was due to a lack of sleep, proper diet and exercise, and I was very tired, and I also didn’t calculate the amount of air I needed for the aperture or vocal chords.
For Super Saiyan 3, I had to watch it first and make sure, because you have to calculate how much air you have. Then it’s just, *Inhales air* and you’re holding it up, “Boop, boop, beep.” The three beeps and you’re like “Yeaaghhhh” and you’re watching it and watching it, keep going, keep going, keep going, you have to really calculate so you don’t run out of air and it has to match the animation, and then usually you’re extremely exhausted afterward. So Super Saiyan 3 was a challenge. There’s an outtake where I bust out into a Bon Jovi lick.
I actually have a question for Ms. Nozawa. So obviously you played Goku as a little boy. I assume they auditioned many women, and you said it was a first for them to keep you on as adult Goku. Were they considering bringing in a man and then you had to prove yourself, or did they feel like you were just the character so much so? How would they know you could do the man’s voice? And were you worried that maybe you would be replaced as an adult, or did you know that you had it? Did they come to you and say, “Look, we don’t know if we want you to do this, but we want you to try it.” What happened with that?
Masako Nozawa: Normally when they do the voice of a little boy character and that character grows into an adult, there is a change of cast. I thought that would be the case with Goku too, and I felt that would be a little sad. But I think the producer and the director were pretty much in agreement to continue working with me. Also, Akira Toriyama said, “It’s a go.” So I was very happy that I got to continue being cast as adult Goku.
Sean Schemmel: Fantastic.
Question: First I want to say to Masako-san and Sean, it has been a dream in my life to meet even one of you, much less the both of you. [Sean Schemmel: Me too.] Thank you so much for coming. I was just thinking, since we have the opportunity with both of you here, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could be the same person? So this question is directed to Masako-san. Would you be willing to do the Fusion Dance with Sean?
Audience: Ogghh! Woah! *Applause*
Sean Schemmel: As much as I admire [Masako]… I’m trying to figure out if you’re a pervert or not.
Masako Nozawa: Yes!
Goku and Goku: Fuuuuuuuu-Sion… Ha! *Fingers touch together!*
Audience: Yeaagh! *Applause*
Sean Schemmel: … Aahhh *big smile*
Question: It’s a huge honor to get to meet the two of you here. I just wanted to ask, are there any funny or favorite moments you had while recording the voices of Goku?
Sean Schemmel: I’ll let her go first because I’m actually really curious.
Masako Nozawa: Since we’ve been together as a cast for so long, we do get along as good friends, so we’re always having fun. Say we have Freeza in the studio on a particular day, then all of us in the Goku family would bunch up and rag on him, saying “What are you doing?”
Sean Schemmel: We are also very good friends, most of us, I think all of us, well I don’t know what people say about me behind my back, but there are a lot of outtakes that are funny. Are you asking about or whether or not we have fun together?
Question: Just a favorite or funny memories from recording.
Sean Schemmel: My favorite moments are the outtakes. Chris is a really fun director to work with. The voice of Vegeta, Piccolo, is the director. He’s a prankster. He played a prank on me for over a year with a kazoo, hidden in my hotel rooms, so that I thought someone in the hotel staff had put there, and he had a recorder in there with a person saying in Spanish, “The kazoo is here, the kazoo is everywhere.” I thought I was solving some kind of mystery. That prank lasted over a year until he slipped up in a panel and somebody posted it on my Twitter. So that was fun.
And we just did some outtakes in Kai where the music sounded like George Michael’s ‘Faith,’ and they’re walking along and the music is going, “Dun da dun dun da dun dun dun,” and Chris starts doing Piccolo’s voice with the picture, “I guess it would be nice… to love somebody.” And then I have Goku doing, “But not everybody.” But it didn’t fit with the rhythm at all because we were laughing, and it made it even funnier because Goku would probably be clueless to rhythm of that kind. Stuff like that.
Masako Nozawa: I don’t think that would roll in Japan.
Question: Masako, it’s incredible to meet and see you. Sean as well. Because Dragon Ball is such an incredibly large franchise I was wondering if you ever had to turn down a role because you played Goku and thought, “That wouldn’t be fair for fans to see.”? And how has that affected your career in other aspects? Has it caused you to be typecast in certain areas? Or influenced your behavior in public, such as drinking in public, or in general?
Sean Schemmel: Goku drinks sometimes.
Masako Nozawa: For me there hasn’t been anything of that sort. In terms of saying lines that are unbecoming of Goku, I would offer my opinion to tell the director that Goku wouldn’t say that, and he would be the one making changes and adopting my idea of how the character should be.
Sean Schemmel: As far as being typecast, my contract does not permit me to use the voice of Goku in association with any other character called Goku, however I can use that voice any way I want. And when I did Kappa Mikey, I still had to audition but they cast me partly because I played Goku, and Gonard’s voice is a parody of Goku, and his onscreen in the show is a mix of Vegeta and Piccolo to be the bad guy, “Groawwll,” that sort of thing. I know Masako mainly plays hero roles, or only plays hero roles, I started out in hero roles but then got good at monster roles and bad guy voices by *deep voice* “talking like this,” so they kept casting me that way, and not as hero voices, because a lot of people can’t do that. I could do that, but they hurt, and I kept wanting to play more hero voices because I like that part of my voice. And often times they would say, “Oh that’s too much like Goku.” Sometimes they wouldn’t care because I’m working for a different company or studio. But it hasn’t affected me in terms of getting work. It’s actually helped, just because I’ve played a role, they think, “Well if you got a lead on this, you must be good at what you do.” And so it would get me an audition. Hope that answers your question.
Masako Nozawa: I have done villainous characters as well. Usually as witches.
Question: Is there anything about Goku or anything that happened to Goku in the series that you would change, and why?
Masako Nozawa: When I walk into the studio I become Goku the character, so I’ve never thought about how the story would be otherwise.
Sean Schemmel: I would have to agree for the most part, other than the fact that we often times joke about Goku not being the best father, hehe, in terms of absenteeism. However, he is saving the world. He is very self sacrificial. You want to say, “No, don’t leave your family and kill yourself.” But he’s got to do it for the greater good. Like she was saying, I’ve played the character for so long, when I see parts of the script that are not Goku-like, they will take my opinion sometimes. Anytime I see it sounds selfish, I don’t think Goku is selfish, so I will say, “I don’t think Goku would say that.” Or if it’s about ego, or if it’s about something that is not becoming of virtue, I will see that in the script sometimes and I think the translator might have gotten it wrong, or the script adapter usually is the one who has gotten it wrong. They’ll usually take my advice, and I hope I’m right. I’ve got her here, so I hope she would tell me if it weren’t, hehe.
[Here is an alternative video of the ending portion of the panel, courtesy of “theoriginalbilis” on the Kanzenshuu.com forum. The audio and video above also includes this portion.]
Sean Schemmel: I always wanted to preserve… I was disappointed with the first Dragon Ball Z scripts because they were a little bit watered down. The reason I’m such a big fan of Kai is because we were trying to keep it exactly like the Japanese, and I think it makes the story deeper and richer.
In fact, I didn’t realize how awesome and powerful the story was in Z until we got to Kai and then I was like, “Ohhh, this is why Goku’s relationship is this way. This is why this is happening for this reason.” Versus stupid things that producers had come up with they thought would appeal to an American audience. I didn’t have any power at that time and the people who are in charge now I think make much better decisions in America.
Masako Nozawa: Because there would be some things that are lost in translation when it crosses the ocean?
Sean Schemmel: Yeah. And it’s disappointing. That’s why when I was writing script adaptations for different anime I was always on the phone with a translator trying to reel in the deepest meaning possible because a lot of times they would make it up. I’m very good with the English language in terms of understanding nuance and meaning and I was like, “Well does it really mean this word?” And then I would ask several questions to really hone in on the meaning of a particular adjective. A lot of times it was just a word that the translator had picked that was the most convenient word and then we would change it, “That word means something very different and implies something very different than this word.” But I didn’t always have that honor or priveledge, and I drove a lot of translators crazy. I feel like as a translator I’m shifting into my ‘bad English dub voice,’ “You will not defeat me.” *wags his finger* “I am your father.” Haha. Anyway, I’m joking.
Question: You mentioned other languages of Goku. If you guys were given the chance to meet the other voice actors of Goku from other foreign languages, how would you feel?
Sean Schemmel: I only care about her, really.
Audience: Woooh! *Applause*
Masako Nozawa: I met the French Dragon Ball cast members.
Sean Schemmel: *Does a silly French person impersonation, mimes a Kamehameha.*
Masako Nozawa: French Goku is also a woman. I’ve heard that he gets cast by a male voice actor for adult Goku, but I haven’t met the adult Goku voice actor.
Sean Schemmel: I wonder if they have coffee and cigarettes in the booth for the French version. *Holds an imaginary cigarette in his hand, takes a puff and says some silly French words.* Totally French stereotype, sorry.
Masako Nozawa: That would not happen in Japan.
Sean Schemmel: Hahaha. Ahhhh.
Masako Nozawa: It’s probably only in Japan that the adult Goku is still cast by a woman.
Question: Hello. Thank you again for coming here. I have a question for both of you. Besides the character Goku, is there a particular character that you have as your favorite?
Masako Nozawa: The first character that Goku encounters is Bulma, so I am very fond of her. But in Dragon Ball Z the one who trains Gohan, Piccolo, is my favorite.
Sean Schemmel: I am not playing copycat, I have been a big Piccolo fan for years. And I like Bubbles. I love that monkey, “Ooh Ooh Ah Ah.” Bubbles. I have an autographed Piccolo action figure on my mantle from Christopher Sabat. I can’t believe I forgot to bring it with me to have Toshio sign it, which was really stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m a big Piccolo fan.
Question (from me): Hello. My question is about Goku’s inner character. Everyone in this room has a connection with Goku in some way. He’s a very meaningful and inspiring character in a lot of different ways, across entire generations and the entire world, and I’d like to ask you why or how Goku is so inspiring to so many people?
Masako Nozawa: Hmm.
The way I see Goku’s character is that he is someone who is always cheerful. It’s the light side of life that he looks at. He does not train for the benefit of others, he always trains to improve himself, but whenever there is evil in the world he goes to stand up against evil. World peace is something that Goku always desires and he wants to always have a world that is cheerful and fun. That’s how I see Goku.
Masako Nozawa: And he never seeks to be the center of attention.
Sean Schemmel: I concur 100% with what she is saying, absolutely. I don’t know where Akira Toriyama draws his inspiration, per se. I have heard that it was the story of the great Journey to the West and the Monkey King, inspired from that, perhaps, *Looking to Masako*, is that true?
And like many classical stories such as the ancient Greek stories, Asia also has its classic thousands of thousands of year old tales that get clothed in modern ways, such as animation. The reason they stick around for thousands of years I think is because they appeal to so many of our own desires to be better people. Otherwise I think we’d get sick of them or tired of them and we wouldn’t tell that story over generation after generation. Or people like Akira Toriyama wouldn’t think, “Oh, this would be a great story or ideal to express,” because it wouldn’t stand the test of time.
I think there are some Zen influences in terms of ‘Beginners Mind,” and being positive, always destroying evil within yourself and in the world.
I basically concur with what she’s saying. I would be curious to see her and Akira Toriyama have coffee, and what they would talk about in terms of the character, haha.
Masako Nozawa: Akira Toriyama has said that he loves the story of The Monkey King, The Journey to the West, and he also loves Kung Fu.
Sean Schemmel: That’s good to know. I’m learning so much here today, after 15 years of playing Goku, so it’s pretty awesome.
Question: I think I go for everybody when I say, “Oh my god, my childhood right here.” When playing Son Goku, what aspects of your personal life have you drawn on, for example, What Would Goku Do? And if you can introduce yourselves as Goku, I would like that.
Masako Nozawa: “Ossu! Ora Goku! Ora Nozawa dakedo Goku da.” That was, ”Hi, I’m Goku! I might be Masako Nozawa, but I’m Goku.”
Sean Schemmel: Haha. I don’t know how to follow that. Haha. “Hey, it’s me! Kind of Goku! ‘Cause she’s Goku!” Hahaha.
Masako Nozawa: Haha!
I have come through experiences like that unconsciously, but I think my personal character is [already] very similar to Goku’s.
Sean Schemmel: For me, the thematic material for Goku, his basic theme, other then the aspects of being pure of heart, is never giving up. The chips are down, the shit hits the fan, your friends are dead, what are you going to do? My life in that situation, yeah, it definitely is.
Especially now in my career. The beginning not so much, but I’ve been doing it for so long and I get so much incredible feedback from you all, I always think, “Here I am playing Goku and inspiring people, and if I give up now, what will people think?” You guys are kind of affecting me, whether or not I know you personally.
When I got cast my producer said, *In Texan accent*, “I didn’t cast you ‘cause you sound like Goku, but you do, I cast you ‘cause you are Goku.” And I did not really understand that at the time, and I can be very naïve like that. So I think having that spirit really helps, and I can definitely feel it from her [Masako], hehe.
Question: Hi. My question is for both of you. Speaking as part of the generation that grew up watching this with my dad, having to preorder the boxes as they came out for VHS, with all the pictures perfectly lined up and weren’t missing anything. Now having a niece and a nephew we are repeating that tradition, sitting them down and watching Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, is there any particular moment that you remember making that connection with a child in their lives, where you were that person?
Translator: What was the last part of the question?
Question: Any particular time that you remember a child making that connection? You know like when you take a child to Disney World and they can see, “Oh, it’s Mickey,” but that moment when they hear your voice or hear you play that role and they realize, “It’s you!”
Masako Nozawa: When it comes to children I very much see that often when I ride the train. As kids they must have someone that they really like *inaudible*, and I can tell, because they silently shoot the Kamehameha, and they don’t force it, and go through the full gesture.
Also a lot of our fans, including children, send me fan mail, and a lot of children when they do that, they send their treasure. I know it’s precious for them, in their own world, and for a lot of them it turns out to be bottle caps, so they send me bottle caps from their collection, *inaudible [but sounds like belt bugs],* and other things.
And the person who asked the question, I noticed you have green hair, so you must have come from the land of the pure hearted, flying on the Kinto’un yourself. That is what I imagine.
Sean Schemme: I have a similar experience. Well there’s a couple things. When I moved to New York I was afraid I would be recast. I wasn’t sure if I ever expected to have children. And FUNimation, I was afraid of being recast so I flew back to New York [I believe he meant Texas] to complete the role. I lied to them and told them I was living bi-coastally, so I could complete the entire series for my sister’s children, so that any children watching it would have one voice in English for the entire thing. [Audience: *Applause*] Thank you.
Now FUNimation treats us better, because trust me I wasn’t doing it for the money. They treat us better and they pay for flights now, but this was back in the early days. I also get emails, often times, well there are two things.
My favorite are when I get emails from the people who have watched the show together and it was a bonding experience, and then they might have lost someone in the Iraq War, so every time they hear the voice it brings back memories, it’s pleasurable for them, you know. That means a lot to me.
The other thing is, obviously my natural speaking voice is not Goku, and I’ll be with a little kid and they have this flat look on their face and then I do the voice and it just activates something and they just, “Vwwooooom!” light up. It’s worth everything in the world. It’s amazing.
[This is the end of the panel.]
Audience: *Standing ovation and applause, with cheering and calls of “Bravo”*