For the second part of our Dragon Ball Super: Broly premiere roundtable interviews, we met with Monica Rial, the voice of Bulma to talk to her regarding her thoughts on the upcoming film as well as the franchise as a whole.
Due to time constraints, we were joined with another reporter, Yukiko Sumi from the Weekly LaLaLa, and for the benefit of both our viewers and with her permission, I have also included her questions and answers from this roundtable session as well.
Daniel: Hey, guys. Daniel Limjoco (@AnimeSavior) again from ToonamiFaithful.com and @ToonamiNews, and I’m with…dang, I just blanked on what your name was…
Monica: Monica Rial
Daniel: Oh, yes, Monica Rial, the voice of Bulma from Dragon Ball Super as well as the likes Asui from My Hero Academia, Michiko from Michiko and Hatchin, Rize from Tokyo Ghoul, Shiro from Deadman Wonderland, and Tsubaki from Soul Eater, among many other roles.
Since Dragon Ball Z first aired on Toonami over 2 decades ago, it has become a worldwide phenomenon and has played a significant role in the growth of anime as a whole. Looking back to when you first got cast as Bulma, did you expect that this franchise (and by extension, your career) would be the way it is today?
Monica: We’ll I look out in the sense that I came in about halfway through, so I started with DBZ Kai. So I already knew that Dragon Ball was huge, but my brother was a huge Dragon Ball fan before it came to the US. So I already knew about the phenomenon that was Dragon Ball internationally, but it had not come to the States. And I remember it was about 2 years after we came back from a trip from Spain, and Dragon Ball hit the US and I went: “Oh, ok here it is. I knew it would make its way over here.” But yeah, I had no idea that my career would be at this place. I had no idea that anime would continue growing, and there was a period around 2007-2008, actually a little earlier than that, possibly around 2004-05, when things were starting to get a little sketchy, studios started closing, things started happening and I started to get worried that “Maybe I need to find another job”. But luckily we bounced back, and it feels like anime is more popular than ever nowadays.
Daniel: I’ve definitely felt this resurgence lately, with the growth of Toonami, the streaming services, and the distributors like Funimation. It’s a good time to be a fan.
Why do you think Anime in the USA is so popular nowadays?
Monica: I think that it’s streaming, honestly because the storytelling is so beautiful and I think that the anime fans who have been here have always known that, but it hasn’t been as easily accessible as it is now. Like before you had to either watch it on television or you had to go out and buy a disc, but now you can get on a computer and go to Netflix or Hulu, or even Funimation.com, like there’s so many options. For Funimation especially, on their site they have their whole catalog, everything they’ve ever done.
So where’s you’d had people that might catch one episode of Evangelion and be like: “Oh, best show ever”, now you got people watching whole shows and I think that’s really started to gain the popularity [of anime]. Also, you have all of those fans that grew up watching Pokemon and Dragon Ball on television, they’re all adults now, and they all have children who are now watching anime as well, so I feel like those two things combined have really made anime grow.
From what you have seen, what are your impressions of the film and what should fans expect going into Broly?
Monica: Oh, gosh. We’ll first of all, it is gorgeous. It’s a really really beautiful movie to watch. Other than that, there’s some really heartfelt moments. I know at New York Comic Con, when we met Nozawa-san and everybody, and they were saying “Oh, it’s going to make you cry” and of course my first instinct is “Oh no, don’t kill anybody.” So nobody dies, that’s good. But it’s still very much a tearjerker at times, and that all the fighting, all the action in it, is not only intense and it makes you feel like you want to get out of your chair and fight with them, but it really is some of the most beautiful animation I’ve seen, as far as like fluid, the way the character’s movement in fighting is like fluid, but not CGI-esque, if you know what I mean when sometimes the CG sticks out really badly, the animation is just gorgeous. And I don’t even know how they did it, I’m not an animator, no clue, but it’s really really cool.
What do you think makes Dragon Ball so different or special compared to other anime?
Monica: I think what makes Dragon Ball so appealing to anime fans is the characters, you know what I mean? You get these characters. Their adventures are fun and they’re great and everything, but if you have a show that doesn’t have lovable characters, nobody’s going to want to go on adventures with them. So I think that the fact you have even in the beginning Bulma and Goku were such interesting, different characters from what we have seen in an anime before, and the humor was different. When you add in Master Roshi, and then you add in Krillin, and the more characters you build, what I love about their storytelling is that they actually build each character. So each character becomes like a living, breathing human. Like a friend. So they continue to add people and add people and all of a sudden you’ve got this family of characters that you are invested in as a viewer. So at this point, I feel like I would watch the Dragon Ball crew go grocery shopping, even mundane tasks, because I love these characters so much. I’d watch them do anything, you know. I think that speaks to their popularity is because my character’s so amazingly well done.
Those following DBS via the dub on Toonami aren’t actually at the Tournament of Power just yet (we just finished Episode 90 at the time of this interview), so from what you’ve seen and what you have recorded, what should the Toonami Faithful expect as we watch the Tournament in the months ahead?
Monica: A whole lot of no Bulma. *fake cries* Yeah, apparently I’m busy at home taking care of Bulla. I’d thought for sure that I’d at least be in the stands cheering them on, but apparently not so much. So I’m taking a nice little break until they call me back in. But other than that, it looks really exciting, I’m watching every Saturday night along with you guys, and so it’s been really really cool. We just met Kale, whom I think is fantastic, a female Saiyan. So I’m really interested to see where it goes, but yeah, not a whole lot of Bulma screen time.
Any advices for young people who want to become a voice actor?
Monica: For young voice actors, the first thing I tell them is to act. Take acting classes in any capacity you can. I know that seems like that would be obvious, but a lot of people especially here in the States, they think “Oh, I want to be a voice actor, but I don’t want to take acting classes, I don’t want to do this…” I always say the same thing: “But you can’t be a voice actor if you’re not an actor.” So I’ll explain to them “You have to be able to bring the characters to life and if you don’t have that training to do that, it’s going to make your job that much harder and your acting won’t be able to mean it. Other than that I would say to really put yourself into the character. Let the character kind of …put a little bit of you into the character and let the character come home with you a little bit so that they stay with you. Because I think that’s what draws people in and makes them love the character, that they become more of a living breathing human as opposed to being just a character on the screen.
Also, don’t let anybody get you down. Keep going. This industry is very hard, you hear a lot of “No.” You audition a lot. And so when you finally hear a “Yes” it’s like a big celebration. So don’t let them get you down. And also don’t be afraid to take opportunities. The first time I was presented with the audition to be in a studio, I was scared because I come from theatre. I’ve never been behind a microphone, I’ve never been a voice actor, I didn’t know what that all meant, so it scared me and I almost didn’t go to the audition because it was so intimidating. And when I think back now, I’m like: “Oh my gosh, if I haven’t gone to that audition, my life would be totally different.” So I always tell young actors: “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let it stop you. Just continue to go out there and push forward. Because eventually you will hear “Yes.” And it’s going to be the yes that can easily change your life.
Despite being weak for Dragon Ball power level standards, Bulma’s skills and attitude has been very invaluable for the Z Fighters to say the least. Hell, she’s managed to put Vegeta, Beerus, and Goku in their place pretty often. What do you think makes her the “HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge)” for lack of a better term?
Monica: I think that it’s her spunk and it’s her character. I think that she knows that if she ever gets in trouble, that Vegeta and Goku, I mean her husband and her best friend, has got her back. So if she ever gets in trouble, they’ll save her and they’ll get her out of it. But at the same time, she’s kind of become the mom of the group. You know she’s not afraid to be like: “Hey, don’t act like a jerk.” “Hey, you need to be nice to that person.” “Hey, you do this.” And I think that’s kind of where that bad bitch-ness comes from is her trying to get that point across and she’s realized that with these big hulking guys, the only way to get her point across is sometimes to yell and to scream. So I think that that’s where it comes from, her trying to communicate to them…much like you hear them in real life, too. Me communicating with them is “HEY, SUCK IT. So I think it’s kind of real life, too.
Beyond Broly, where would you like to see for Bulma and the Dragon Ball franchise go in general next? What’s on your personal wish list?
Monica: Ooh…so on my personal wish list, I would love for Vegeta to become a destroyer. I think that would be really cool, but [for Bulma] she’s never the type of person to just sit around and just let the men do their thing. I could see Bulma taking public office, like being a Mayor or doing something big for the city. Maybe taking Capsule Corp to a bigger level or creating fighting gear for these tournaments if we’re going to continue having them to make Zeno happy. But definitely I see her kind of coming into her own. I would love for her to go full-Iron Man and like create a suit and actually fight. I don’t know if that will ever happen because I think she might be too scared, she probably build the suit and go out there and be like: “AHH!” But I would love for her to have a position of power. I feel like she’s commanding in a sense that’s not threatening in a lot of ways and it would be cool to see her be. Or if Vegeta could move up and become King of the Saiyans, I wouldn’t mind voicing a queen.
Daniel: Alright, they’re telling me I got to wrap this up, so on behalf of the Toonami Faithful, Toonami News, and DBZ fans everywhere, thanks for talking with me and to everyone, look forward to Dragon Ball Super: Broly premiering in select theaters on January 16 and keep watching Dragon Ball Super every Saturday Night on Toonami.
Images and screenshots are courtesy of Funimation.
Coming soon, more interviews from the Broly Premiere, including Sonny Strait and Sean Schemmel, Chris Sabat, and Vic Mignogna. If you missed it, check out my interview with Ian Sinclair by clicking here.
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