Dragon Ball Z fans assembled in the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles with their mobile phones in hand to take part in the Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle – Dokkan Ultimate Speed Battle. This is only the second tournament in Dokkan Battle’s two year history. While fans readied themselves, mind and body, for the ultimate DBZ race, I settled in for a chat with with voice actors Kyle Hebert, the voice of Gohan, and Dameon Clarke, who voices Cell, as well as Toshitaka Tachibana, the producer of Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, to talk about the DBZ universe, voice acting, and bad parenting.
After a brief round of introductions with Kyle and Dameon, I jumped right with the big question:
Will we be hearing either of you in Dragon Ball FighterZ?
Kyle: I wouldn’t… I mean… I don’t want to make assumptions, but…
Kyle: If we have voiced these characters in previous video games iterations, we should be getting a phone call. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it sure would be nice!
Dameon: You know we can’t answer things like that!
Me: I didn’t know if contracts had been signed yet! I guess that’s what I’m asking, no contracts yet?
Dameon: (forlornly) No… not yet.
DBZ has such a long reach and such a legacy, why do you think it has remained so popular with so many fans for so long?
Dameon: Ok, there’s obviously the martial arts aspect of it right? Which either gets people excited and into it, I feel, or they’re already into it, and maybe that’s what draws them in. I’ve spoken to people who were just like, “I like the action of it!” And it’s just epic, epic battles that just go on for months! And I think that’s something that hooks someone initially, especially if you’re a kid. Then the story grabs you, and then you get pulled into the characters, and become invested and all that stuff.
Kyle: Yeah, unlike a lot of shows where characters remain the same age from the beginning to the middle the end, like the Simpsons or something, Family Guy, you actually see story arcs! Characters as children, they grow up, they get married, they have kids, and you follow their arcs and everything, and it’s cool ’cause it’s not only inspirational from an action standpoint, but it helps inspire people. I’ve heard from fans saying that helped inspire them to find whatever it is they wanted to do, which wasn’t necessarily martial arts. “It made me wanna be an artist,” or “It made me wanna do voice acting,” or some sort of creative endeavor, and it kind of lit the spark, and that’s really cool to see.
Dameon: There’s a credo to it, too that I think people respond to. The morality of it, it’s kind of a GI Joe thing to it, if you remember that. There’s a credo to it: Instead of knowing is half the battle, in this case it’s punching somebody in the face.
For Kyle, with Dragon Ball FigherZ coming up, do you have any expectations or hopes for the Great Saiyaman?
Kyle: Oh man! I hope that.. Well, A) he’s a part of it, and B) they remember to call me. I have seen the gameplay video for this game, and it is out of this world, I have never been so psyched! I haven’t gotten to play it, I didn’t go to E3, so I’m missing out, but I’m watching these videos and it’s just fantastic! Seeing the Guilty Gear type engine, the 2D with the 3D, and it’s just, like, yeah! I think this — Okay, we say this every time, but I think this is gonna be the best game yet!
Dameon: You saw it at E3? So then there was some Cell stuff in that?
Me: Yes, it was a 3v3 demo, and those six were the only characters that were in it at the–
Dameon: Well, other than Cell, I don’t really… *laughs*
For Dameon, you did Cell’s voice for everything except for some video games between 2009 and 2014–
Dameon: It was like one video game!
Me: Any reason you weren’t involved in that game?
Dameon: It was a geographical issue, or I was working at the time and I had a pinch hitter. There’s all kinds of conjecture! “He’s quit voice acting!” was one, like–who quits voice acting? “No, I’m done with this!” A lot of that stuff’s quite silly, it’s a lot of misinformed theories. It was a work thing, I think it was like a video game maybe, too.
I know this is a difficult subject for a working voice actor to discuss, but we’ve been covering the voice actor strikes. Do you guys have anything you’d like to say about the situation?
Kyle: Well, I’ve heard progress is being made. There’s a lot of indie studios that have signed new versions of the contracts, so I think they are making progress. I was worried because it’s been at a standstill for so long, but because of social media, it’s brought a lot of awareness with #PerformanceMatters, and I think having some kind of groundswell movement and then the actual pickets and everything; I think that just raising awareness alone has helped the bargaining table.
Dameon: Speaking to, “Can you still get it done?” When there’s a writer’s strike, it’s extremely difficult to get things done, and things come to a halt. Things don’t come to a halt when there’s a voice over actors strike. The industry is affected, it stuffers, but executives just say, “Okay, well then we’re just gonna hire somebody else,” rather than go along with this contract that is more than fair. So, it’s a matter of “Can we still do it?” And the answer is yes, you just can’t do it as well. Hopefully people who are in iconic character positions will say, “No, I’m not doing that,” but it’s hard to do. It might be a while, still.
Kyle: People get endeared to a voice actor performance, and they say, “Hey that’s Metal Gear, that’s not David Hayter, there’s a problem here. Why is it Kiefer Sutherland?” Something like that.
Dameon: Are they not gonna buy the game, though?
Kyle: I don’t know, I don’t know what the sales figures are, but I know how the fans feel. Number one, they want a fun game experience, but uh, they feel… they’ve shown this tremendous outpouring of support saying, “You VO people really bring it to life, and it does matter.” And a lot of these companies that are at the bargaining table are saying “You guys are a dime a dozen.”
Dameon: Unless people stop buying the game because so-and-so’s not in it… You’ve gotta hit ’em in the pocket book, you know?
Who’s the worst parent in the DBZ universe?
Kyle: Probably Goku… I miss Dad. Granted, he was doin’…
Dameon: He was never home.
Kyle: He was savin’ the world! But Gohan, yeah… I think he learned. So, if you’re watching Super you’ll see a new sort of arc…
Dameon: I think Cell was the best parent! All the little Cell Juniors… it’s slightly narcissistic, isn’t it? But, I mean, I was a good guy! I gotta say, I was there, at least. I was there.
Kyle: He was there. I’ve heard it said that Piccolo was Gohan’s real dad.
Dameon: I can see the resemblance.
Kyle: Absolutely. He was there when Dad wasn’t! (sobs)
Do you have any non-DBZ work that you’re particularly proud of that may be under recognized?
Kyle: Gosh, I don’t know! I’ll just help pimp things out there–what’s out there now-a-days? Fire Emblem! The mobile game, the 3DS game, that’s a lot of fun. Um, gosh.
Kyle: Gawrsh, I don’t know, just follow me on social media, I talk about stuff!
Dameon: I don’t know, I do a lot of live action TV stuff. I’ve been working on How to get Away with Murder right now, which is pretty intimidating/fun.
I reluctantly bid farewell to this incredibly animated and entertaining duo, and moved on to a somewhat more subdued chat with Toshitaka Tachibana, who goes by Toshi. Toshi is the producer forDragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, which is available via the App Store and Google Play. This mobile game is incredibly fast paced, and gameplay involves building a team of three characters, then matching colored dragon balls to race into battle and do damage against enemies. The gameplay may be pretty different form that of other DBZ games, but Dokkan Battle has acquired a large and active and fanbase.
What do you think makes Dragon Ball Dokkan Battle so popular with fans?
Toshi: I think it’s the fact that you have access to characters from all over the saga, not just the old ones and not just the newest Dragon Ball Super characters, but literally the entire saga that everybody’s familiar with, and they can create a party of the characters they want.
How much of the Dragon Ball lore does the game explain?
Toshi: It’s a really gray zone, we don’t want to push too much information to the users, because if we’re going to do that, we may as well show them the anime series or the movies. But at the same time, if we keep it too vague, it becomes pointless. There’s a reason why we’re using such a famous IP where people are familiar with it, we may as well reenact famous scenes, scenes that everybody wants, characters that everybody loves. So we’re at this gray zone where we show off things that people are familiar with or have heard somewhere before, but we don’t want to push too much information.
So can fans of the series expect lots of easter eggs hidden in the game?
Toshi: Not as much as we want it to be…
Me: You say that like you have plans to add more in.
Speaking to you personally, who’s your favorite DBZ character?
Toshi: Me? Well that would actually be a pretty recent character, Vegito Blue.
Has his being your favorite gotten him any extra attention in the game?
Toshi: Actually–ah, no! I don’t really want to say that out loud!
I asked this of Kyle and Dameon, but I’d like to hear your thoughts, too. DBZ has such a long reach and such a legacy, why do you think it has remained so popular with so many fans for so long?
Toshi: I think it started off with just a simple story: Collect the dragon ball and grant your wish. And then it started slowly becoming a wide galaxy of characters and lore that actually doesn’t explain itself too much, and leaves for imagination at the same time. The action is so over the top, it’s so exaggerated that nobody thought about it before, and now when you see action, or when you see crazy explosions, you, in fact, use the name Dragon Ball to refer to huge explosions and actions– that’s how much of a new thing it was! I think that’s one big thing.
This plays very differently from other DBZ games, what are your tips for newbies? What’s the strategy?
Toshi: We throw the tips at you in game! We have a tutorial ready for everybody– not just for newbies, but also for intermediate players. There’s quests ready for you one at a time, but my advice? Ummm, maybe this: Don’t overextend or else you’re gonna get your butt kicked. Slowly train, just like Goku did.
Anything else you’d like fans to know?
Toshi: It’s been nearly two years since the app started. We want everybody to know that it’s still only been two years, and that there’s definitely more to come.