'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' Masako Nozawa Talks Film and Her Experience

Dragon Ball continues to be a multi-million dollar IP, and the popularity of Goku, Vegeta and the rest of the Z-Fighters grows even 30 years after the first episode of the anime aired.

Now that the 20th film of the series, Dragon Ball Super: Broly , is about to premiere in Japan this week (and globally in January) the series is arguably more popular than it's ever been. But there's more to the resurgent popularity of Dragon Ball outside of the bombastic fight scenes and story lines.

"Behind all this popularity there is a deep meaning. You take any person and you can't say they are 100 percent on the side of good, except for Goku," Masako Nozawa told Newsweek. "He rises above all of that and he has this way where he wants peace and that's all he ever wanted. And that's why he tries and trains to be stronger. He doesn't train to beat a certain guy, he trains to bring them to the side of good or to become friends with them. And try to create this peaceful, harmonious environment. That probably attributes to the popularity as well."

The 82-year-old Nozawa is a legend in anime circles. She's lent her voice to anime characters since the 1960s, but really grew to fame by playing Son Goku in 1986. And for more than 30 years, Nozawa has remained a constant for the series.

As Dragon Ball fans get ready for the release of the Broly movie, Newsweek spoke with Nozawa to talk about her experience as a voice actress and the film.

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Your recent visit to the States was at the Dragon Ball Super: Broly panel during New York Comic Con. How did you feel being welcome so warmly by the American crowd?

It was just amazing. You really are nervous when you go on stage because you don't know what to expect. And it can go anyway and I had no idea what was going to happen. But when I came out and everyone gave me that really warm welcome, it almost made break down into tears. It was a very honest reaction. It was amazing.

Even after all these years?

When I act as a character I immerse myself in that character. Goku and I have been going out for 30 years, we have a really long relationship. I really understand Goku and when I got on stage I really relayed that feeling and you get that huge reaction. In that way, it was a touching moment even after 30 years.

During the panel you said "I am Goku," did it take time to feel that way?

It came naturally and pretty early on. Whatever part I have, I like to immerse myself in that character. And when I got Goku for the first time, he had the tail and was so cute and was the embodiment of pure and innocent feelings. So I think it came naturally.

You've reached fans from different generations in your career. How do you feel about that?

I don't know if i'd go as far as say I've changed people's lives. That may be too much. But through watching Dragon Ball there's this reason to talk with each other and become friends. One time I saw this kid do the kamehameha on the train to someone who rubbed him the wrong way. But even in those you can stand up and give people this power. But not to fight for the soul purpose of fighting and even in this movie everyone has a reason to fight and I think Dragon Ball really teaches us that.

Are people still surprised to find out Goku is played by a woman?

Even though you watch Dragon Ball, not too many people feel that weird distinction or gap when watching. It's very natural to me and I hope it feels natural to the fans. Whether they're surprised or not? I'm not sure. I like to think in terms of watching the character there's nothing unnatural. And in terms of baby Goku, it's not unreasonable to have a female, younger voice in anime but when he grew up I thought he was going to be recast.

I was wondering if I could play Gohan because he's still young. So when I go in to record, and Goku is an adult by this point, I see the script and underneath Goku and Gohan I see my name. I thought it was a printing mistake so I asked the producer "who is playing Goku?" and he says, "it's right there, your name is under his name." [laughs] that was a fascinating moment for me.

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Bardock and Gine in the 'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' movie Toei Animation

In the Broly movie we'll see more of Goku's mother. Is it important for the character?

I think it's important that we see his mother and Goku as an infant. And really it goes back to peace. He wants peace, genuinely. And you place any bad guy in front of him he doesn't believe they're 100 percent evil, even down to their roots. And he will try to change their way of thinking so they can be useful to the world one day. Goku has his approach and believe no matter who he faces. There's meaning to every fight he takes. It's not just for the sake of fighting or killing them, that's not what he would do. He really believes in the good.

Is Broly the strongest opponent Goku has had to fight?

Absolutely. Broly is very strong and, in a way, very different. You'll realize it when you watch the movie and I want you to enjoy it from the beginning so I won't spoil anything. Of course, Goku sees something in Broly and he trains to become stronger and pull him towards the good side. It may not be the classic archetypal villain who is out to destroy the world.

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Toei Animation

So it's a more personal battle not one of strength?

I think Goku said in one of the episodes. He's not out there to beat his opponent. We all have our disagreements and desires, which pulls us to do things. But to really change the way people think, Goku says that if we change the way we see things the world would be a better place.

Do you feel you can continue to work in anime even after 30 years?

I never felt I had trouble. I feel like I will continue to work in the industry in some capacity. Like I said, I never had trouble screaming because the moment I walk in the story I become Goku. It's the only way to merge with the character.