Interview: Sean Schemmel Talks Dragon Ball FighterZ Strategies, Spin-off Series, and Goku Black
In just a few days, Dragon Ball FighterZ will go live, and the gaming community is ready to get [...]
In just a few days, Dragon Ball FighterZ will go live, and the gaming community is ready to get its hand on the game. As one of the year's most-anticipated titles, the game is about to bring a bunch of shonen otakus into the gaming sphere, and Sean Schemmel is eager to see how the crossover goes.
Recently, ComicBook had a chance to speak with the voice actor about his work on Dragon Ball FighterZ and the franchise as a whole. Schemmel, who is best-known for voicing Goku in the English dub, has been busy recording for a busy slate of projects. With Dragon Ball Super entering a brand-new saga, Schemmel has his mind preoccupied with Goku Black, but the actor admits he's been eyeing the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ for awhile now.
If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the franchise, you can check out our interview below. Schemmel touches upon everything from gaming strategies, where the Dragon Ball anime is heading next, and how he created his new take on Goku Black:
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, the gaming community is buzzing about Dragon Ball FighterZ. There are few games - if any - in the franchise with this kind of buzz behind it. How are you feeling about the title?
I'm very excited. I can also add -- not to say to the world that I told you so -- but when I first got the job as Goku, I remember walking into Funimation and going, 'Man, we need a game like Street Fighter but it has Dragon Ball characters and looks like the show.'
I remember saying that 18 years ago. So, I have personally been waiting for this game for many, many years. I knew that this would be the right Dragon Ball experience. Not that I'm any kind of game creator or coder, I just play a lot of video games and was seeing its potential. I think all the other Dragon Ball games that have come out are really excellent. But I think, and I've said this before, when I play tested it and I trained with a pro gamer, this game is the closest thing to feeling like I'm at work then being at work.
So, if you want to feel like you're in the show, this feels like you're in the show. It's going to be a legendary and perennial game that the pro gamer I trained with said could turn into the new platforming for pro gaming contests. It's that good.prevnext
On his Training and Match with Chris Sabat
Q: You just said you've been training for pro gamers with this title. Is that for your upcoming match with Chris Sabat, the voice of Vegeta?
I trained with Justin Wong, and he was great and really, really knowledgeable. He was very helpful in figuring out my strategy on how to beat my esteemed colleague.
I've come up with strategy. Well, the thing with Dragonball Fighterz, it is one of the first games like this to use team play, meaning you pick three or four players and then you have to juggle them. But this game is really like two games. It's a game of slow chess and fast chess.
The fast chess is the fighting. The slow chess is the management of your three character's power levels. So, part of my strategy will be to very carefully manage that. I thought at first of letting a character get down to 30% and then switch characters because when you trade them off, their power level goes up a little bit. But what I thought about doing the other night is trading characters very randomly and very rapidly to confuse the opponent. So it would be like, get a few hits in, swap characters, get a few hits in, swap characters. I'm not sure.
I have played the beta test a little bit, and I haven't done as much practicing as I need to because I'm really busy but that might be one of my strategies.prevnext
On the Story of Dragon Ball FighterZ
Q: I know you cannot say much about the game's story ahead of its release, but what can you tell fans about its exciting narrative?
Well, here's the thing. I don't know the story of Dragonball Figtherz because I recorded the game many months ago and recorded just my lines out of context. When I'm recording lines, those conversations may have context, but I'm not presented with the whole arc of the story. I'll see fragments that give me little bits and pieces. But, video game recording, particularly for a game like this, oftentimes does not give the whole story.
So, you know, recording videos games is different than recording the show. Even when I record the show, I only know generally the story of what I'm dealing with emotionally in that context. I don't always know the whole story. I will ask questions if I feel the need to fill in that gap, but I don't actually know the whole story in terms of what's happening in the game.
That's going to be interesting to me. I know that there's a bunch of interesting things, and it is very confusing. It's challenging for us because the game, it's very confusing because we always try to stay married to canon of the show. The Japanese will be making a game, and they will throw some curve balls in there, and we as Americans making that game or the show will go, 'Wait a second, is this going to be part of the show? Are they just being whimsical and throwing in this weird idea? Is this canon, is this not canon?'
Like, we're always trying to figure that out, and oftentimes we will write them back. And due to their busy production schedules, or secrecy, or whatever, they will oftentimes not give us very much information. On this case, we knew the whole story, the director did. But again, I'm only recording Goku, Goku Black, and Goku Black Rose and King Kai, if King Kai's in this game. I'm recording so much and I recorded the game in between recording the show. So, the sessions kind of blur together in my mind.prevnext
On the Most Surprising Characters in Dragon Ball FighterZ
Q: Dragon Ball FighterZ has a huge line-up of characters. Which ones took you by surprise or do you wish were added in?
When I played the beta, they had a limited selection of characters, so I don't even know what final characters are in the game. I can tell you, I think it'd be hilarious if... I love Bubbles and Gregory, so I think it would be hilarious if Bubbles was a fighter and then Gregory was on his shoulder. Then he could do ranged attacks by throwing Gregory at the character. I don't know, I just love the tiny ancillary characters of Dragon Ball.prevnext
On the Recent Resurgence of the Dragon Ball Franchise
Q: The entire Dragon Ball franchise seems to be on the rise as of late with its games and anime. How does it feel as one of the dub's stars to watch Dragon Ball dominate pop culture in 2017, 2018?
I'm not surprised because I have never been away from the show for any long length of time. Even when we were doing Dragon Ball Z back in the day, I contribute some of the lack of success due to where the anime culture was in the early 2000's as well as how Funimation was doing a more appeal to broader American audiences.
You know, we owe it all to Japan in this regard with the latest Dragon Ball movies. Like, when we did Battle of Gods and Resurrection of F, those would've been popular no matter what. I think what really pushed it over the top was the fact that those movies were so well animated, and they did such a great job. And Funimation in their wisdom, you know, kept our cast the same and allowed us to do our best work.
We also had, you know, 15 or 17 years at the time to train, so to speak, to be better voice actor Plus, I personally believe in the power of the story of Dragon Ball having deep, roots in the collective unconscious of humankind. Therefore, it has no choice but to be powerful. So, it is really like you got your mainstream hardcore fans that are always going to be there, and they are a legion -- there are a lot of them. They're going to be Dragon Ball fans perennially.
Then you have the broad appeal of it drawing in more and more people. So, it's an exponential effect, and I'm not surprised at all. In fact, I'm surprised it wasn't more popular sooner. Like, I saw Angry Birds everywhere, and I'm like, 'Who's that marketing guy? Why isn't Dragon Ball everywhere like this? Because I knew Angry Birds was fun, but Dragon Ball's way better.prevnext
On how Dragon Ball FighterZ Will Bring Fans to the Anime
Q: Do you think Dragon Ball FighterZ will be an accessible point for gamers to enter the anime if they have never seen it before?
First of all, Dragon Ball Super alienates less fans because I've noticed they've increased the pacing of the show. In other words, you don't have a lot of long cuts of silent landscape with no music while one opponent stares down another opponent. It seems to me that, maybe the Japanese storyboard directors are paying attention to what's going on in the world's community in terms of, shows, show styles, and editing techniques. The art changes over time. So, they're keeping the pacing going, which is palatable for an American audience.
Plus, the game, Fighterz, feels so much like you're in the show that anybody who likes fighting games that doesn't like Dragon Ball is going to get sucked into the universe after they play. And I think Dragon Ball Super is the best show to start with because it really has refined all the elements of what makes Dragon Ball popular. To me, it's always been the best combination of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z stuck together because I always felt like Dragon Ball had a lot of comedic elements and then Z always had a lot of powering up and fighting. Super has both.
So, what I'm saying is that Dragon Ball Super has such a broad appeal for anybody, that if you play the game, you're goning get sucked into the show whether you like it or not. And again, Dragon Ball FighterZ to me is the closest thing you'll ever get to doing my job or any other actors job on the show. When I played it, I was like, I feel like I'm at work and I'm not yelling. This game is doing it for me. It was really great.prevnext
On his Performance of Goku Black
Q: With the dub of Dragon Ball Super, everyone is very excited to see how you approach Goku Black and his Super Saiyan Rose form. Can you talk a bit about your take on that role?
The interesting thing about Goku Black is that when we recorded the first scene of the game, I just made up an evil sounding voice because I had no data whatsoever. I got a little bit of backlash, which you know, I don't mind. I don't mind people giving me their opinion, but I don't change my artistic choices based on those opinions unless we as a creative team go and treat and analyze what we're doing to the show. Then, we make the decision after washing down the Goku Black arc. After we really started analyzing it, the Goku Black voice has to be radically different from what I did in Xenoverse 2.
The Goku Black Rose voice not so much. And people have to understand how we're approaching this is that Zamasu was inside Goku Black. So, he's a spirit inside Goku Black's body. His voice has to come out of Goku's voice box which has to sound like Goku. Plus, his voice is confusing to some of the characters on the show who the real Goku is at some moments of the show.
So, it does need to sound more like real Goku. Essentially, what's going to happen with Goku Black is going to be me talking like Goku with a mean attitude. Evil acting. Then as Goku Black Rose powers up, more of Zamasu's spirit goes through him, and then there's a slight accent that our actor who's playing Zamasu is using that I took use from to make that accent. So, I deal with the Goku Black Rose voice based on the actor who's playing Zamasu. And when you see them all together, when Goku Black is standing next to Zamasu and they're talking with each other, then it all makes sense of what's going on.
I've seen some of the finished scenes that we've already recorded it. Just about the most interesting thing was to find me being so insecure because I'm really confident and really secure about how to play Goku and what to do. We haven't really worked on many other projects. When I start a new type of voice or a new character, I have a certain amount of insecurity and double checking what I do with the director over and over and over.
So, I feel the entire weight of the world on my ass. On the one hand, I feel it and you know, I'm one of those guys that feels pressure and that weight. And then I go to the booth and it goes out the window and I just do my job. You know, I can't think about what so and so Twitter follower thinks of this, that, or the other. Not that I don't respect opinions, it's just that I can only have so many hands in the pot. And the total number of hands I allow in the Goku pot is like, my hands, the director's hands, the assistant director's hands, and my producer and that's about it.prevnext
On his Favorite Moment of the 'Future Trunks' Saga
Q: What has been your favorite moment in-studio for the 'Future Trunks' saga?
Well, playing Goku Black is the general favorite moment. But so far in recording, and I'm only so far ahead... My favorite moment so far has been Goku and Trunks facing off against Goku Black.
It's Goku and Trunks, and I always like to joke that he has time travel narcosis and that's why Trunks is always freaking out because he's losing his mind from all the time causality loops. So, doing those scenes with Eric Vale, those have been my favorite so far. I'm glad to see him back because he's such a strong actor. We need to use more of Eric so, I don't know, I'm a big fan of his because we're good friends.prevnext
On the Next Live-Action Dragon Ball Film
Q: In the past, you spoke with us about your interest in seeing another live-action Dragon Ball film. What story or saga from the franchise do you think would be best suited for such a movie?
It's funny, the first time I realized that Dragon Ball could be realized into a live action film was when I saw Scott Pilgrim. It had these moments where they did like these anime cuts, and you know, they would cut back and forth between fantasy and reality. The way it was shot and the way it was put together made me think, 'Okay, we've got the special effects to do this now.'
That's a tricky one cause there's so much Dragon Ball canon. Oftentimes, live-action movies are a great opportunity to introduce new concepts and new material, or retell the classic age old stories. Like, most Superman movies do. You know, here comes Superman come to Earth then he grows up. Or Spider-Man movies do, he gets bit by the spider.
Would you start with Dragon Ball? Would you start with, you know, when Raditz and those guys show up? Where are the best place to start with Dragon Ball? It might be smart to start with the whole Goku coming to Earth, getting hit on the head, and have a child actor playing Goku and tell the Dragon Ball story. Just start at the beginning. I'm wondering if that's the best spot.
If you wanted a broad appeal and then stay faithful to Dragon Ball fans at the same time, you have a young teen and kid audience. Then you have the martial arts and the whole Mr. Miyagi experience where they go train with Master Roshi. You have enough special effects to be able to do that and then you have the tragic story of Goku turning into a giant ape and accidentally killing his own caretaker, Grandpa Gohan. So there's trauma there.
You can just start with a Dragon Ball, in fact you can do it as three movies. Dragon ball the first movie which tells the story Dragon ball Z encapsulates the general story. Then you could have Dragon Ball Super -- you could have a trilogy just encapsulating the broad stories of each one I suppose.
Dragonball Evolution did not necessarily prove the adaptation is impossible because they didn't really the series the justice that it deserved. I don't think that it proved that you can't make a live action Dragon Ball Z movie. I think you can still with the special effects we have available. I'm not a big fan of CGI, but when it's done right it can be very effective. But a lot of times, it does not suspend my disbelief at all. So, but with Dragonball you could totally, I think it would work really well in that CGI, et cetera.prevnext
On how Dragon Ball Super has Changed Goku
Q: Can you talk a bit to how you feel Dragon Ball Super has changed Goku and his relationships with the Z-Fighters?
I think I've said in interviews that I don't think Goku evolves or changes that much as a character on purpose. I believe Goku is a metaphor for kind of the beginner's mind and the childlike nature of all of us. Through that, Goku is never going to become jaded or cynical as life and time wears on him because he's ever positive and ever happy go lucky.
I can't tell if this is because his personality or because he got hit on the head with a giant rock as a kid, but it does a unique thing. So what I do think is interesting about Dragon Ball Super is that many aspects of Goku's personality which were hinted upon on Dragon Ball Z are now being extrapolated further.
I love it when he's trying to deal with a cell phone and he's trying to deal with all the world changing and all he wants to do is fight the strongest. Also, in terms of the fighting and power aspects of the show, Goku's not just training with King Kai or Master Roshi. Of course, Goku's been dead before and there's a lot of other worlds that he's been through. Here he is now talking to the highest levels of the entire universe.
Vegeta on the other hand -- the other characters -- they do a whole lot of growing and changing. Krillin's a cop, Piccolo's a babysitter, Vegeta's less of an a**hole. Everybody else is growing and changing. Gohan's a professor practically. There's a whole lot of other changes and then there is Goku. What's interesting about Dragon Ball's scope is Goku stays fundamentally the same where everyone changes around him. Goku has changed the least in term of his inner core and how he interacts with the world. He's just always dippy and always the same and doesn't get it and wants to fight the strongest and everything's great.prevnext
On the Future of Dragon Ball
Q: What do you think could happen after Dragon Ball Super? Where do you see the franchise going?
I mean, I always joked Dragon Ball will end if Masako Nozawa ever dies. I don't want her to. I think she's wonderful, but she is such a legend in Japan. If we ever lost her, I think it would be over. But aside from cast deaths, which I would not wish on anybody, geez.
The question I ask is like, when you have a seven universe tournament and you have a final winner, what do you do after that? Just introduce more bad guys? You know, you've done everything you can do. I do wonder if Vegeta and Goku are being groomed to be the new gods of destruction and creation respectively. I do wonder what would happen.
There are so many layers to Dragon Ball. You can start on the Planet Namek for all we know. There's so many different things you can do with off-shoots or side stories or alternate. I'm not a big fan of the alternate timeline plot device. Because to me it seems like, the creators ran out of ideas and instead of just saying it was all just a dream, they say it was an alternate timeline. I think it's kind of a cheap excuse ,and I really don't like it when they use it as an excuse to do stuff you couldn't do in canon.prev