Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is finally in theaters, and the movie is making good on all its promises. With Gohan and Piccolo at the helm, the fighters are showing all-new sides of themselves in this action-packed feature. Of course, no one is more hyped about their return to theaters than the cast of Dragon Ball. So luckily for ComicBook, we had the chance to sit down with the movie’s stars for a chat ahead of its big premiere.
We were given the opportunity to speak with Chris Sabat (Piccolo, Vegeta), Sean Schemmel (Goku), Kyle Herbert (Gohan), Zeno Robinson (Gamma 2), Aleks Le (Gamma 1), Zach Aguilar (Dr. Hedo), and Jason Marnocha (Carmine) about all things Dragon Ball as you can see below. The stars talked about everything from Gohan’s comeuppance to the franchise’s next steps. So if you want an inside look at the IP, you can read up on our chat below:
Question: Chris and Kyle, first, I wanted to know, how are you two feeling ahead of the return of this series, knowing that it’s coming back to theaters triumphantly?
Kyle Herbert: It’s always a good day, a good time, when you get to revisit an old friend or in this case, a family member. Something that’s meant so much to us behind the scenes, as well as being fans of it, just like the whole world community. So it’s been a long time coming, as you said, and we’re ready to sit in the theater and feel that electric vibe from everyone. It’s hard to put into words.
Chris Sabat: Kyle and I both travel a lot to different conventions all over the world every weekend, and so we’ve seen the fans that have been idling in place with their engines roaring, waiting for something like this to come along. And I think it’s going to make a huge splash. There’re some characters in the series that have been underrepresented over the last decade it seems, and they’re finally kind of making their grand appearance again. And I think especially for true fans of the Dragon Ball series, it’s going to blow a few minds. They’re going to need to clean the theater afterwards because it’s going to be a big mess. It’s amazing.
Question: It is all Gohan all the time in this film, so Kyle, I wanted to know how does this kind of outing for Gohan as a lead character differ from his previous outings that we are familiar with from Dragon Ball Z?
Kyle: Well, after the Majin Buu Saga, obviously his priorities shifted and you saw the potential and the audiences felt… it’s like, oh man, we were going on this path, but now it went on a different path, it’s like, come on, come back, come back, come back. And there’s been various obstacles through the years. I don’t say obstacles necessarily, but new life adventures that of course made Gohan grow and become a better person. But in a show like Dragon Ball, you want to see him bring it the way that he brought it as a little kid. We want to come full circle and now we have the opportunity to do that. So obviously it feels amazing and super, super jazzed to get to. I’m always jazzed to return to the character, of course, because this is where it began for me in a career and voiceover and already established as a fan since the mid-nineties, so it’s amazing.
Question: Recently, creator Akira Toriyama said in an interview he was planning to feature just Piccolo in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. But as we can see, that pitch changed. So I wanted to ask, Chris, how does it feel finally getting to see Piccolo get the attention he deserves?
Chris: It’s amazing, obviously. I’m very close to Piccolo, but admittedly, as the guy who also voices Vegeta… Vegeta has always taken center stage and I’ve always, to be honest, I’ve always favored Vegeta because he has the best redemption. He always had the best moments. He has the best lines and he’s just so fierce and what they do with that character is outstanding. However, I’ve never given up on Piccolo, he just hasn’t given me much to go on. I’ve always joked that Piccolo’s never had a full enough character in a lot of ways. He doesn’t have a great backstory. He was spit out of somebody’s mouth as an egg when he was a kid. And he’s fused with so many people now that you’ve kind of almost forgotten. This movie is the first major power of a Piccolo since he fused with Kami basically. He hasn’t really had much of a power up in a long time.
It’s wonderful to see all the sides of Piccolo. It reminded me that Piccolo is the last earth trainer. Everyone else is off in space doing their thing. Master Roshi’s not doing it anymore. Piccolo is the last one. You see him training Pan. You see him concerned about Gohan’s… I don’t know what you call it, like martial arts help… and see him really solving some problems in this movie and it’s impressive what they’ve done. I can’t imagine a movie that would’ve only been just Piccolo and not Gohan because I feel that it’s the interaction between Piccolo and Gohan that makes this movie really, really remarkable. It’s hard for me to imagine taking him out of that equation.
One thing I thought about, if you don’t mind my going into, this is just a weird thought I had recently, but Gohan has always been the one that’s… he wants to be the scholar and he wants to study and everyone just keeps asking him to stop studying so hard. Everyone wants him to fight, even the fans. And sometimes I wonder if Gohan is some sort of weird metaphor for Akira Toriyama himself, because Akira Toriyama loves to do the comic stuff. He likes to be lighthearted and fun, and the fans of the show are just like, “Fight more, fight more. I want more explosions.” And I wonder if he put some of himself into that Gohan character a little bit, because Gohan’s just trying to be himself in a world where everybody else is doing something different. As much as I love to see Gohan doing the amazing things, everybody does, I kind of like the fact that he’s dedicated to his studies. It’s a good example of doing what your heart wants you to do instead of what everyone else wants you to do.
Question: Obviously you both have been with these characters for a long time, so you know better than anyone that Piccolo and Gohan have a very special bond. What do you think it is about this bond that is so special? And what does it mean personally to your respective characters?
Kyle: I would say the pair are like peanut butter and jelly. You got one, so you need to have the other. Two great taste that taste great together. It’s just one of those essential things. Piccolo is very much the quintessential father figure to Gohan and he needs him in a way that Goku hasn’t been able to be there for him. And that symbiotic relationship is explored further finally, it’s great to see that.
Chris: There’s a lot of people who come to me who are Piccolo and Gohan fans and they are for a reason that they… well, first of all, they like the underdog story, they don’t like the obvious choice in a lot of ways. But a lot of people relate to Piccolo and Gohan because they had an uncle that really cared for them or really helped them during a time when they needed help and their dad wasn’t available or their dad was not there for them.
I know it gets pretty sad to think about that, but I love the fact that Piccolo has adopted Gohan in a way that… nurtured him in a way that Goku just wasn’t able to. I mean, good. And it’s not necessarily that Goku doesn’t like his son or doesn’t love him as much as he should, it’s just Goku comes from a different universe. He literally was born into a fighting universe. He was basically abandoned as a child, raised by a grandfather. He just didn’t have a father figure, a father model himself, and Piccolo comes from a race of warriors where they all seem to kind nurture one another, they come from families. And it seems like that would be a natural thing for Piccolo to do.
This movie has made me think a lot about Piccolo and a lot about that relationship. In fact, I made a big deal out of the fact when Piccolo goes to meet Pan’s teacher, to pick her up from school, I tried to direct that in a way where the teacher and Piccolo know each other really well, like on a first name basis. Where she’s like, “Oh, hello again, Piccolo.” Because she’s just used to seeing him pick her up and I think he likes doing it. We know Piccolo is not the type to just do something that he doesn’t want to do. So I have a lot of respect for him in this movie.
Question: Zach and Jason, I understand that this is kind of your first real step into the Dragon Ball Super world. So can both of you kind of tell me what it was like being able to join this iconic series?
Zach Aguilar: It was absolutely incredible, mind-blowing, dream come true. I have been watching this show since middle school. I remember when Dragon Ball Z Kai was airing on Nickelodeon and it would air once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and I would record both of the times just to make sure that I could watch the latest Dragon Ball episode. So, later on, to end up becoming a voice actor, you never expect that the things that you really love, or something from your childhood, you never expect you’ll get a chance to work on a property such as this, something that’s just so legendary like Dragon Ball, that is a staple in just the anime industry and a gateway, essentially, for a lot of people, to anime itself. It’s just been incredible. I cannot tell you. I am over the moon. Working at Crunchyroll, going into the studio, working with Chris Sabat, who plays Vegeta and Piccolo, having him direct me. There were a few times where I was just so into the character and we’d step out, and we’d get lunch, and I’d have to just kind of pinch myself almost.
Jason Marnocha: That’s very similar for me. Especially with the whole Red Ribbon Army thing and everything, ah, I remember this from when I was a kid and I was watching this show. So, it was really thrilling in that way because something like, in anime dubbings, something like Dragon Ball is just sort of this upper thing. Ah, there it is. Ah, can still see it from here. But now being able to actually be involved with it is really absolutely thrilling, and again, I don’t watch a lot of anime and didn’t when I was a kid anyway. So, but Dragon Ball, I watched so being able to be involved with that in something that I had some already familiarity with and I knew these characters and all of that, that was just fantastic and really, really wonderful. Everyone was just so great to work with, and the studio was so fantastic. Everyone was just a delight. I had a great time.
Question: Of course, Dragon Ball is not Dragon Ball without Goku. It’s just not, you know? Sean, I kind of wanted to ask what was your initial reaction to kind of seeing Goku take this new kind of role in the anime, as opposed to what we’re used to seeing?
Sean Schemmel: I was surprised, but also not. This has happened a couple times on Z, and I don’t know if it was intentional in the way that I’m about to describe, but you’ll see this on a lot of shows where you’ve got to take away your main character for a while, and I don’t know if they did it on purpose for that reason, or they just wanted to explore other characters, which gives you an opportunity to … Well, Dragon Ball universe is so rich with so many characters that it would be remiss if it didn’t focus on other characters, which is why it didn’t surprise me because the guy’s a genius.
And so for him to be able to explore these other characters in more detail, which has been done off and on throughout the series, is really refreshing, and it was really exciting for me to watch. You don’t realize you’re in the hot seat all these years until you’re not in the hot seat, and then you kind of worry that, gosh, I hope that whatever they fill it with is going to be just as attention getting and entertaining and as enjoyable, and it delivers in spades, and the cast, I’m so proud of this cast and how well they did, especially the new cast.
It was so nice. Zach’s talking about being a kid watching it, and I remember asking Alex when he was born. Recently, I met Alex Lee, and he said, “I was born in ’99.” And I’m like, “That’s when I started on this show.” And so, he was born the year I started working on the show. And so, it just kind of trips me out. It’s a great storytelling device because it makes the world more believable and richer when you can flesh out other aspects of it, and I think even Akira Toriyama said in an interview recently that it’s also unique that the whole movie takes place on Earth versus out in space. There’s a lot of where are they now moments. We see where Gohan is living. I’m not going to spoil that. We see what Krillin’s doing for a living. We see what’s going on, and then we have this new cast of characters coming in, and then we see what Goku and Vegeta’s relationship is like.
We have seen Goku in the past. He gets sick. He’s got a heart virus. He’s in the healing tank. You want to do that with your story so that you don’t oversaturate your audience with the same over and over and over. So, I don’t know how intentional it was, or how it was part of a natural evolution of the story in terms of the writing process, because I wasn’t in the writers’ room. It was definitely very exciting to see, and it was also thrilling to see how Chris assembled this cast, vocally and otherwise, and how beautifully it plays and how Piccolo’s bringing it, and Gohan’s bringing it, and how it filled that void so beautifully and made such a nice color variation on the thematic material that we’ve experienced so far.
I thought it was a lovely, and it’s also an apples and oranges type of situation. It’s a lovely respite from the Broly film, is that it’s kind of adjacent. It’s not Broly part two, but it’s just as exciting and intriguing in many unique and different ways, which is what Akira Toriyama tends to do, which is I think what makes him a genius, one of the things, one of the many things that makes him such a genius. So, I know it’s kind of a roundabout answer, but yeah, it was definitely refreshing and interesting to watch, and also it was a lot less vocal stress for me.
Question: Zach, I wanted to ask about Dr. Hedo as he’s obviously a new character to this franchise despite his ties to Dr. Gero. Did you look to that character for any kind of inspiration as you were crafting your own performance for Dr. Hedo? And what do you think is the main kind of key difference, you would say, between those two characters?
Zach: Yeah. Growing up, watching this show, I knew all about Dr. Gero and how he made the Androids, and so I was really excited when I found out that Dr. Hedo actually had a link to him, like a familial tie to him. I didn’t necessarily look to see what Dr. Gero kind of did. I tried to craft Dr. Hedo as his own sort of character because he is a pure super genius. He just wants to continue his research. He is just solely focused on his own thing, not necessarily his family, or that isn’t his reason for doing what he’s doing. It’s just because he is that mad scientist character who isn’t necessarily evil. He might have done some not so great things in the past, but it’s all been for the sake of science or research.
I think that he was just a lot of fun to kind of portray, and maybe it’s a little bit different than a character such as Dr. Gero because Dr. Gero is an older character, and he’s weathered, and he’s been at this for his entire life. This is his life’s work. Dr. Hedo is only 24 and he’s already accomplished what you could say is more than Dr. Gero has. It was kind of nice to get to put my own little spin on it. I did my best to keep him grounded in charactery and kind of a little bit evil, but not pure of heart evil, not intentionally evil. Chris Sabat was amazing with helping direct that and helping me kind of reel the character back if we got too crazy, or maybe even make him a little bit crazier at parts for the fun of the movie and the fun of the character.
Sean: This film would not be what it is without the direction of Chris Sabat. He is an integral part of why this dub has been so great. I can tell you from having … I’m very critical. I don’t blow sunshine. I’m all about making the show great. This might be the best dub we’ve ever done. It is a masterpiece. I am so impressed with it, and we’ve been doing this a long, long time. But yeah. Chris is an integral part of why … Because he has such good relationships with the actors. He’s a really good director. He’s really good at allowing actors to come out and bring their best and try it again and keep easy, and he’s also really excellent at casting when it comes to putting together a Sonic palette of the timbers of voices that go together. So it’s always a very delicious sounding palette. You know what I mean?
You want good acting. You want a good performance, but you also want voices that aren’t … I’ve turned down roles where I’m having to do such an annoying voice. I’m thinking, “I can’t hear the sound of my own voice for 26 episodes.” It has to be good, but also not annoying, and not cause ear fatigue, and then a good performance.
Question: Zeno and Aleks, you both are new to the Dragon Ball franchise, and the size of this IP is absolutely huge. As such, I wanted to know what would you say are some of the most intimidating aspects of joining the franchise for this big first gig?
Aleks Le: Well, for me, one of the most intimidating aspects was just joining Dragon Ball. It’s a franchise that has really stuck with a lot of people growing up watching anime. And even the newer generations are exposed to it via their parents because how much of big fans that their parents were. And for me as somebody who came from Asia and my roots are basically Dragon Ball is ingrained in me. So to have the privilege and honor of even auditioning for such a legendary franchise was very scary. But I think the idea of how much fun that we were going to have, and just my excitement for being able to be a part of this world, kind of overshadowed any fears and doubts that I had personally.
I’m always going to be critical of my myself and everything, but even during the audition process, and I knew that you were going to audition with me. And when we sent it in, I was just like, “You know what, I’m not that worried. We’re going to send it in. We’re going to do our best. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.” And when we got the roles, I was like, “I can’t wait to go to Texas.”
Zeno Robinson: Yeah. I think I’m going to echo Alex’s sentiment that the scariest part was just joining the franchise in general as is, so kind of near and dear to my heart. It’s kind of one of those things where you’re like, “I didn’t think I would get this far,” kind of thing. I’ll do it, but I didn’t think I would get this far. I auditioned… and was like, somebody else will get it and that’ll be fine, like Chris Pratt will be Gamma 2.
So even getting into the booth the first day and establishing the voice and hearing Piccolo’s voice in my ear. And Chris Sabat, as someone who admires his work and has been listening to him since I was a kid, he’s just got this mastery of dubbing. He’s just got this mastery of performing that’s incredibly intimidating to work alongside because everything he says in character, it feels so like fluid and natural, and he knows where to intimate. And all that stuff, he’s just a master at now. And just coming in and having to like play directly alongside that, it was the most intimidating thing for me. It’s like, I have to talk to Piccolo and fight Piccolo and try to match up with this master. And I think that was probably the most intimidating part.
Question: On that note, I wanted to know if both of you could just talk a little bit about, what was your individual process in finding the voice for your character in this film?
Aleks: One of the important things for this film was that Gammas are very close and similar, not only in the design, but in where they stand with each other as Dr. Hedo’s creations. They both have distinctive personalities, very different from each other. And so while Zeno and I sit in a similar-ish vocal range, it was important that we would take from each other’s performances and kind of use that as a guide to steer ourselves away from sounding like each other.
Zeno: Alex and I were kind of sort of auditioning together. I, in my head, was like, “Well, this is what Alex’s serious-er characters sort of sound like.” So I used that as a springboard to push Gamma 2 a little bit in the other direction, given what I saw in his sides. It was very evident that he was a more bouncier, more fun, more comedic, playful character. And if that was the character I was going to go for, then the other character had to have been a little bit on the other side. So… and Alex, and being in the same room while Alex was recording only helped me refine that even more. And it gave me a very specific place to jump off from, and sort of try to make Gamma 2 distinct but similar is the words that I’ve been using.
Aleks: Yeah. One of my challenge, especially for this role, is that it’s always easier to play fun characters who are very eccentric, but it’s very hard to play a serious character and just do that well enough to stand out from your competitors. And one of the important things for me was, again, to listen to you and find out where your age range is, because it’s easy for me to drop my voice and get into this very serious tone. But if I go too far and I have nothing there as a reference for me to reel back into, it can sound completely like Gamma 2 would sound like a teenager. I feel like this dynamic is what worked so well for us. And it’s why we got our roles in the first place.
Zeno: I noticed how similar we worked too. Alex is someone who likes to ask for takes for specific things. And I noticed that I do the same thing. So I was like, “Oh, he works exactly like I work.”
Question: Honestly, the Gammas kind of steal the show in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. I wanted to know, in your perfect worlds, what kind of OVA, if you got to pitch a perfect story with just Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, what kind of story would you like to see them do?
Aleks: I would like to see them take down super villains, local super villains, and making a big show out of it. I would want to see them with Dr. Hedo. He’d probably want to make the promotional videos and movies for them. So he’d… into a photo shoot, video shoot. And I just want to see normal human directors try to reign in these two crazy personalities.
Zeno: It’s funny. I was on the same wavelength. I want to see them take to the streets, kind of like a atonement arc where they’re like, “Wow, all that stuff we did was pretty bad. We’ve got to make up for it by being actual superheroes and helping the innocent, yeah. And just not only that, but learning about the world around them.” I feel like they were created and being told to go fight the most powerful people in the world and. I want to see them go to beach and go to the mall, learn about society. And then also while saving the day on occasion, like stopping burglaries and stopping robberies.
In a perfect world. And then in their own flamboyant fashion, you know what I’m saying? Gamma 2 would probably spend too much time posing and monologuing and let the villain get away. You know?
What do you think about Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero? Where does this new movie rank on your list of anime favorites? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB.