Interview: Chris Sabat Talks Dragon Ball FighterZ, Yamcha's Legacy, and the End of 'Dragon Ball Super'
Later this week, Dragon Ball FighterZ will finally make its way to shelves. The game is being heralded as one of the year's top titles, and anime fans are not the only ones eyeing the game. Everyone from button-mashers to pro gamers is eager to see how the game goes, but Chris Sabat doesn't have anything to worry about.
After all, the voice actor knows just how Dragon Ball FighterZ is going to go down.
Recently, ComicBook had a chance to speak with Sabat ahead of the game's release to talk all things gaming and anime. The actor, who is best-known for voicing Vegeta and Yamcha, opened up about his go-to strategy for the Dragon Ball FighterZ. Sabat also had lots to say about the future of Dragon Ball Super, its on-going dub, and where he wants the anime to leave off when it ends. So, you can get an inside look at the franchise in the slides below:
DragonBall Super airs on Crunchyroll Saturday evenings at 7:15 p.m. CST. Adult Swim airs the English dub during its Toonami block Saturday evenings at 9:30 p.m, and is now available to stream on FunimationNOW and Amazon Video.
Are you excited about Dragon Ball's upcoming projects? Hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB to let me know and talk all things comics, k-pop, and anime!
...On The Hype of Dragon Ball FighterZ
Q: Obviously, we're here to talk about Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball FighterZ in particular. Can you tell me a little bit about how you are feeling? How excited are you for this game?
It's nice to see that there's a game with legitimate hype behind it, and it's not just smoke and mirrors. I have a strange firsthand understanding of this game now, because a lot of the time, we always record the games at my studio. I get an idea of what the game is going to be like as far as its narrative is concerned, and I was really pleased with the way the narrative worked out. This isn't a spoiler by any means, but there's something that happens in the universe of this game where the characters are aware that they're being controlled by someone else. They don't know who it is -- the someone else is obviously you, the player.
There's a lot of really funny moments in the script. I was very impressed by how they handled it, because in the past, they've been very rigid about keeping to the story. This time they've got Yamcha going like, "Whoa, this is rad, I can't believe that I'm doing so well. You're making me look awesome."
I also have this intimate knowledge because recently, I challenged Sean Schemmel, jokingly, on Twitter, to a battle of FighterZ, and he'd accepted. In traditional Vegeta style, I'm working my butt off to make sure that I win. And one of the things I've done is I've enlisted the help of some fighting game experts. One in particular, a guy named Perfect Legend. So I mean, come on, and all of the experts are agreeing right now that FighterZ is not only just a beautiful looking game. It's the best looking Dragon Ball game that's ever been made. It also is a remarkably great fighting game. Really up there. Possibly one of the best fighting games that's ever been made. They're talking about above Street Fighter, above Mortal Combat here.
From what I've learned recently, is that there are a lot of defensive capabilities in this game that didn't necessarily exist in a lot of other fighting games. It's usually, a very offensive-centric experience. But they've really balanced the game play a lot in the game so that a button masher could do okay, a button expert could still triumph with good knowledge.prevnext
...On the Match with Sean Schemmel
Q: You just said it yourself; You have a fight planned with Sean Schemmel for Dragon Ball FighterZ. What do you want to say to fans who are unsure if they want Vegeta and you to win the duel?
Vegeta obviously deserves the win. He always gets cheated in the series. He never gets the full credit for the spectacular change he's made over the course of the history of the show. Goku is just introduced, and lo and behold, he's the hero because he fell on his head as a child. Vegeta earned it from the very, very beginning, and he was not so nice of a person possibly because of a bad childhood. But he wasn't a great person to start, and he's become an excellent guy since. I think he deserves to be go-to.
Now that's from Vegeta, the go-to. From Chris to Sean, I am a highly competitive person. I have to win. It's just very important for me to win at all times. I will, much like Vegeta, use everything at my disposal to make sure I win, no matter what that is. Even if that means begging the people at Bandai Namco to send me a copy of the game before Sean. Yeah, I'll do anything possible to win, and I feel pretty good about it already.
...On the Game's Most Surprising Characters
Q: Were there any characters in Dragon Ball FighterZ's roster that caught you be surprise? Which fighter will be your go-to?
I can tell you because I've already, but I normally don't like to play Goku. Maybe it's just ... I don't know if it's because I play Vegeta or just because I personally find him to be an annoying character. Goku Black, when he is in his Rose form with the red hair, has some spectacular-looking moves. It's so new and you're not familiar with what that character is capable of because we haven't really seen it in the dub yet. And, much like in some of the previous games where Broly had a lot of the more beautiful moves, I really think they really went all out on Goku Black Rose. His animations look stunning.
In the story, it's really interesting because you're going to see the Z fighters pairing up with people you wouldn't expect. I don't want to spoil anything, but there are some really interesting interactions that you're going to find. But yeah, I'd say of all the characters -- and I'm not normally the guy to say this -- Rose is by far the most beautiful looking character so far. Now granted, on day one, I'm going to have the DLC Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta, and I'm hoping he lives up to my expectations as far as how he looks.prevnext
...On Anime Voice Work Verses Game Recording
Q: What is it like doing voice work for Dragon Ball FighterZ as opposed to doing work on the anime? What do those discrepancies look like?
It's always tricky as the director and producer on Dragon Ball Super. In a lot of cases, the game company in Japan puts characters in the show a year before we're ever even going to see them in the dub, forcing me to have to make a very impulsive, clipped, uninformed decision as to who I want to play some of these roles. It's already come up in the character of Hit. In Xenoverse 2, they wanted to cast the character of Hit, and they couldn't even tell me much about him at that time.
Working on the series is vastly different because when you're working on the series, you get this luxury of getting to really insert yourself into the story. You get headphones on, so you have the music and the sound effects in your ear as you're performing. You feel like you're really in the moment. In the video game, all you get is a reference of the Japanese, and you have to try and match the timing.
The tricky part is that for whatever reason, Japanese sentences and English sentences always seem to have a large difference in how long it takes you to say them. In a lot of cases, the Japanese line takes way longer to say than the English line, so we have to add a lot of things to our English lines to make them fit. We have to use some very creative writing technique to try and make that work.prevnext
...On the Franchise's Resurgence
Q: Dragon Ball FighterZ is the talk of the gaming industry, and Dragon Ball Super is dominating the anime sphere. What is it like for you to see the franchise make a comeback like this in 2017, 2018?
If you had asked me in 1998 if I'd be working on this show for 20 years, I would have laughed. There's no way I would have expected Dragon Ball to last as long as it has. The biggest difference between when we worked on it the first time and now -- not to say that we ever really took that much of a break because we were redoing the boxed sets and we were working on Dragon Ball and we were working on Dragon Ball Kai.
But the biggest difference has been, when we were first working on the original series, everyone I would meet at a convention would be children. They'd be these kids. And I'd be lucky if their parents even knew what it was they were watching. And so I'd see them, they'd all come to the conventions and they'd all be the age of my daughter, like six, three, eight, nine. They're just little ones. And that was really sweet, and it was cool that we were affecting these children. Sometimes, I would apologize to their parents about how hyperactive it probably makes them.
Now, we're seeing those same kids, but they're in the 20s and 30s. Sean Schemmel makes a point that he believes because the kids were so young when they were watching it, we were injecting our voices into their developing brains. So, now, we are a part of their subconscious. We're part of their development. When those kids come to meet us now, they're now adults and they're now nostalgic. Dragon Ball meant a lot to them.
Dragon Ball Z, for instance, helped them get through really tough times in their lives. Some people watched it to ... When their parents were fighting, to just ignore what was happening. Or to get them through a difficult time, where people were in the hospital, mending an injury, and they had 300 episodes of a show to watch.
If you think about it, back then there wasn't really ... In 1998, '99, 2000, there wasn't another show that was doing anything quite like that. Now we're used to shows like Breaking Bad and Lost and all these shows that have a billion episodes. Walking Dead, and so forth. This really seemed to be one of the first serial television shows kids ever got to watch.
I don't know if I even answered your question properly, but I will never stop being amazed by how successful Dragon Ball Z has been, and it has changed my life in just ways I can't even explain. I don't even know what I would be at this point if it weren't for this show.
Another thing I love about Dragon Ball, is that it's not a ... I mean, granted, it wasn't necessarily the most inclusive of shows, but despite that, it actually has a huge popularity among all ethnic groups. the fan base is not just this diluted single demographic type of thing. When I do conventions close to the border in Texas, I love going to those because they're huge conventions and the Hispanic culture loves Dragon Ball. It's huge in Mexico, too. The show is technically about a family. It's a father and a son and a second son, and then his children, and ... I think that resonates really well with the Hispanic culture.prevnext
...On Why Britney Spears' Kids Should Love Vegeta
Q: Over on Twitter, fans saw you respond to fan-art Britney Spears posted of Goku which her son drew. Clearly, the kid loves the Saiyan, but how would you advise parents to turn their kids' affection towards Vegeta?
Oh, man. I don't know. It's a fun joke to tell, but I'm not saying that any of the characters are necessarily the best fathers in the show. Perhaps Gohan, although he tends to leave his child every now and then. But he leaves her with a pretty good babysitter. A giant green alien.
I don't know. I think Vegeta is more a character that you understand when you're older. When you're younger, kids like Goku because he's the hero. He's the main character. He's the character on the box, he's the goofy one, and there really is not a lot of depth to Goku's character. In fact, that's part of Goku's character, is that he's just this childish mind, very innocent, very pure, very much like a child.
Vegeta's definitely more layered, he's more complicated. I think when people get older, and they've experienced all these transitions they've had in their life, they better related to Vegeta. Some people just, early on, relate to Vegeta in the same way that people like Han Solo -- he's just the bad guy turned good guy. I just think there's a lot more to Vegeta's character than there is to Goku's character. I'm not going to force kids to do one thing or another, but I'm sure that Britney Spears, of all people, understands the layers of bad and good that exist in this world.prevnext
...On Vegeta's Growth in Dragon Ball Super
Q: What do you think Dragon Ball Super has done for Vegeta specifically within the series to make him more grounded?
Right off the bat, if you pretend like the movies didn't exist, right off the bat, you actually have Vegeta acknowledging that he loves Bulma, which is something that he never seemed to do in Dragon Ball. You knew that he felt bad for his family, you knew that he liked the fact that he kind of formed a family in the speech that he makes during his sacrifice against Majin Buu, but he never really said it. The fact that he not only loves her but he's highly protective of her, is really endearing. I think that made everybody just swoon for him even harder.
They've also turned him into kind of a comic family man who'd jealous of Whis coming to visit Bulma at the house. Not that he looks like he'd be that much of a threat, but -- I love Vegeta's comic moments that he has in Super. I like that Whis has basically said to Vegeta and Goku that they are kind of yin and yang. Goku doesn't think enough, and Vegeta perhaps thinks too much and overreacts. I'm wondering what's going to happen to those two. It seems to me like they're priming Goku to be an Angel, like Whis, and Vegeta to be a Destroyer, like Beerus.prevnext
...On Watching Ahead, Power-Ups, and Yamcha
Q: Do you watch ahead in Dragon Ball Super beyond where you all are dubbing? Do you know anything about Vegeta's most recent comeback in the Tournament of Power?
I'll be honest, I work so hard on the show in its existing place, that I just don't have a lot of time to watch it in advance. I watch a little bit ahead, but I really stay ... I understand what data is coming up. I keep up with what's happening in the show, but I just haven't seen all the episodes up to current.
Some of it's because I don't like it to be spoiled for me. But it's important as a producer and a director to know what's going to happen in your series, so I keep up with the data without necessarily having time to watch all the episodes.
I'm familiar with the data in that episode [where Vegeta gets a new power-up], and I'm very, very excited to see what this means for him, too. It'll be nice if Akira Toriyama finally gives him something. It'd be nice if they finally acknowledged him.
Actually, I'd be very interested to see what happens ... I don't know when Super is going to end, but I do know that Masako Nazawa, the voice of Goku, is not necessarily a teenager anymore. I wonder what next steps they'll take, if they'll do anything after Dragon Ball Super. I'd love to see a spin-off of Vegeta and Yamcha living in an apartment together or something like that.
I want to quote the name properly. It's basically The Case of Being Reborn As Yamcha. It is so funny. I want that series so bad. I just really wish somebody would turn that into an animated series. I would love that series be made because I have a soft spot in my heart for Yamcha, that poor guy.prevnext
...On the 'Future Trunks' Saga
Q: The dub just began airing the 'Future Trunks' saga on Toonami. What was your initial reaction to the story, and how has it been working on it?
It's been the first saga that there's been legitimate drama in the series. It seems so far that up to this point all the fighting is tournament drama. With all due respect, you always know who's going to win these things, so it's not like these tournaments are tricky.
Now there are some surprises in the Universe Survival tournament, we don't have to get into yet, you already know some of those, but this is the first drama that's happened in the series. The wonderful thing about the show is it's being helmed by Eric Vale and Colleen Clinkenbeard, who are arguably two of the best dub actors out there.
I'm really excited to introduce Zamasu to people because he is a really fun, layered character. I know that Sean Schemmel is peeing his pants to show the world Goku Black and Goku Black Rose because it's his first opportunity to play a character that doesn't have to be so super shiny good all the time. Because playing villains? Way more fun. Way more fun.
...On the Best Moments of the 'Future Trunks' Saga
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your favorite moments you have had in-studio for the 'Future Trunks' saga?
I'd say I love Vegeta's early interactions with Trunks, when Vegeta and Trunks see one another. That's a really fun moment. There's a scene where Zamasu and Goku Black Rose are in the same area with one another. I love that. And, of course, Zeno is my favorite character in the show right now.
I absolutely love that character. He's not that important right now, but Sarah Wiedenheft does such an amazing job, and we worked really hard casting that character. I wanted to honor the Japanese by making it somewhat similar, but the thing I loved about the Japanese is how innocent that character is, innocently dangerous, in a way that Majin Buu didn't even tend to be. Majin Buu was so cartoonish and baby-like. This was meant to be more innocent, childlike. I wanted her to be more ... I wanted Zeno to be more like my three year old. He just doesn't understand the consequences of things, and Sarah really brought that out. All of her scenes make me laugh so hard, and I love how clueless Goku is in dealing with Zeno. I mean, Goku is about as emotionally intelligent as Zeno, so they get along really well. I love those interactions as well.prevnext
...On the Ending of Dragon Ball Super
Q: Everyone wants to know how Dragon Ball Super will go out, so what is your dream finale for the anime? Do you think it will align with the epilogue of Dragon Ball Z or could Akira Toriyama pull one over fans?
Obviously, I'm a fan of Dragon Ball continuing because I want the show to literally continue forever. I think it's going to be really weird if it just sort of ends and it picks up where the end of Dragon Ball Z has started. You know what I'm talking about? Where if it just pops back to before that tournament. It'll be really weird if that happens, because I feel like something dramatic is going to have to happen in order for the characters have gone through all this, and then pop back to that point in Dragon Ball Z. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
Then again, Goku does take off at the end of the series, and he does have angel wings, and he does have a halo. Further supports my concept of him becoming an Angel now that I think of it. So, it's very plausible. I'd like to see them go a lot farther, though. I don't know why. I'd like to see Gotenks grow up more and not be as much of a dork. I'd like to see more of Pan. I'd like to see Pan as an adult.
Sean as a fun theory of another series where there's a younger group of Saiyan warriors years later, and they have to go find Goku and Vegeta and they're all old, living on an island somewhere -- this was even before the last Star Wars movie.
We also love the concept of Goku getting hit on the head again and becoming purely evil. Now granted, they have Goku Black, which is sort of similar to that, but I like the idea of him hitting his head again and Vegeta having to convince him not to destroy the world as he has planned to do.prev