Anime Expo 2012
Ryo Horikawa Focus Panel

by Brian Hanson,

Ryo Horikawa is introduced to an ecstatic crowd with a thorough list of the actor's most famous roles across series like Dragon Ball Z, where he is best known for playing Vegeta, as well as Hattori Heiji in Detective Conan and Kou Uraki in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.

Horikawa-san literally dances onstage and thanks the audience profusely in English. "I'm so excited. I love these things." His translator jokes, "do I need to translate that into Japanese?"

The line begins to form as fans nervously ask the famous actor their questions.

Question: What's been one of your funnier moments on Detective Conan as Hattori?

Horikawa: "I'm not sure. My appearance in Conan is not that frequent. I'm not sure. I did have my turn come up the other day. Four weeks in a row I got to play the character, it was a special series of programs. Even then, it's been a while, and I'm really not sure what's on the air today. This is not about what's actually going on in the show, but the cast and crew, we take a trip together to some destination in Japan every once in a while. It's a lot of fun, I get to talk to a lot of people I don't really get to know very well. I really enjoy that."

One after another, two huge Vegeta fans stumble in their questions. One fan in a Vegeta cosplay directly asks Horikawa-san to "pose" with her for a photograph. There is some discussion about this from the AX staff, until they ask Horikawa directly. "It's okay!" he says, and takes a photo with the cosplayer. Another politely asks Horikawa to recite a line from the first fight between Vegeta and Goku. "It's been a while," he says. He does the line both in English and Japanese. Yet another fan asks him to recite the now-popular internet meme "OVER 9,000," which he does in English.

Then there were some questions about Horikawa's approach to the character.

Q: What inspired you to play Vegeta?

Horikawa: "Very difficult question. I may have said this yesterday, but when I act as a character, rather than just acting, I try to become that character. I think it raises the level of my acting. I think that's great. But Vegeta kills a lot of people. I never killed people, that's very cruel, but I wonder, "am I that cruel myself?" I get scared of that sometimes, if I have that cruelty in me. So, of course along the same line, if I were to act as a comic book superhero character, I would have a fun doing that. I think the joy of acting is that I get to discover those elements within myself, and I get to learn a lot about myself."

Q: Would you ever cosplay as Vegeta?

Horikawa: "I think I did that once. It was for work, and I had to go onstage looking like Vegeta. My preference is just to watch other people doing it."

Q: Were you familiar with the Dragon Ball manga before you were cast as Vegeta?

Horikawa: So sorry, I wasn't reading the series before the Vegeta character appeared."

Q: Even after Dragon Ball Z has ended, do you still keep in touch with the other cast members and crew who worked on the show?

Horikawa: At times I have. Probably the best example is the voice of Yamcha, Toru Furuya, we used to go out and such at times. We don't get to do that very often, because we're all so busy, but... you know this already, but DBZ was re-recorded recently, and it had been about 10 years, and I got to see my old friends. We went out together and eat together, and I would say that was one of the joys of working on that series."

Q: "In the course of your career, what would you regard as the most impressive technological advancement in the Audio Production of anime series, and how much the technology improves your acting?

Horikawa: One thing I can think of is that, back when we recorded voices, if it was a 30 minute program we had to do the whole thing beginning to end in one take. If you made a mistake, you had to start from the beginning and start over. The tech advancements allows just the error to be taken out, and remove just the parts we screwed up. It's easier, however, we're acting, and we need to maintain a certain level of tension throughout, and it's uniform among us actors, and even with the evolved technology, when that tension is gone, that's not really an advancement."

Then there were some "oddball" questions. A fan asked Horikawa what he would wish for if he had all seven Dragon Balls. Horikawa asked, "well... what do YOU want?" The fan asked for "PERSUASION. You could like, tell people you wanted a million dollars, and they could like, give it to you." Horikawa then thought about it. "Maybe foresight. I'd be curious to know what happens in the future. But not too far in the future. Just like what happens tomorrow. Something small. Of course it might actually take the joy out of what happens tomorrow, but I would be curious to know."

Another fan asked Horikawa to say "One quote everyone knows you by - FALCON PUNCH!" Horikawa thinks very intently, and shouts it back to the crowd with furious intensity. Another fan wanted to know what was going on in Horikawa's head when he shouted the line "It's OVER 9000," which, he admits, "is actually over 8,000 in the original Japanese." Horikawa is puzzled. "I guess everybody likes that line. I had no idea how much you guys liked that line. One of the discoveries I've made since coming to the US. When I was performing that line I wasn't thinking anything in particular. Not sure why you guys love that line, but I'm aware of it now."

A fan asked him to pick his favorite role of his career. He defers: "Every character I love. This may just sound like a textbook answer, but I really do love all the characters I've ever played. Good guys, bad guys, whatever. They're all characters I've portrayed, tried to become, and did my best with. They're all clones of me, and they're all special to me in the same way. I love them all, and I don't think I can act without love."

Then there were more questions about Vegeta. One fan asked what his reaction to the character was, seeing Vegeta progress through the series as a villain until his ending with a human family on Earth. "At first he wasn't much of a character, and he had to grow up and mature by fighting Goku. His skills weren't that good when he fought, but that improved too. I was able to observe his maturing. It felt good to do that. Honestly, at first, I didn't think he was going to last that long, like he would die after 4 episodes or so. Like most of the bad guys in the series. In fact it was the opposite. He really grew and I feel like I matured with that character. And more than anything, I'm glad that you fans really like his character and his journey. That's what I like the most." Another fan asked Horikawa about his audition process for his roles. "With Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, there was no audition process. Again, I thought he was gonna die in 4 episodes. The airing of the anime was very close to the time the story came out in the manga."

Then a question came up regarding Horikawa's work in Tokusatsu, specifically, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, and which of the characters in that series were his favorite. "If I had to pick one it'd be the sister, Rose. I feel that the story has a lot of plot in the unlucky family circumstances between my character and his sister. My character has a complex for the sister, which is an interesting thing." And lastly, an AX volunteer - who admitted to being "in love with Vegeta" since she was a little girl - asked him what was going through his head when they told him about Vegeta's death. "I was really sad. I thought that the character was gonna continue on, and I found out all of a sudden he wasn't. I felt a little separation anxiety. I wanted them to at least revive him for a little bit, but it's probably best that they didn't."

The questions wrapped, and Horikawa asked people to "Look at the screen, I'm gonna show you something." He displayed a new, fully-voiced e-Manga series, Magical Dreamers, which features dual-language text and voice. The crowd roared applause as lines formed for autographs.

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