#6: Masako Nozawa
It's hard to imagine a voice talent who delivers with more warmth, charm, and sincerity than Masako Nozawa. Though she's basically well-known only for a single character (and his look-alikes), it's that one iconic role and equally iconic performance that makes her worthy of highlight. That role, for those of you in a cave for the past twenty four years, is Son Goku from Dragon Ball/Z/GT.
Nozawa has been acting since the age of 2. And at the age of 75, continues to deliver strong as the main hero of the animated version of Akira Toriyama's mega-hit manga, Dragon Ball. It was Toriyama himself that chose her back in the early days of the anime, later finding himself hearing her voice in the role when he was drawing. She started out voicing a 12-year old Goku living in the middle of the woods and continued voicing him well into his adulthood, the voice evolving over time.
Goku's spritely, curious, and energetic nature is perfectly captured throughout the original series by Nozawa, who makes him just enough off beat for the viewer to realize how different he is from every other character. And in Dragon Ball Z, her adult Goku still retains that naive, purehearted, and unworldly sound, but with a more adult quality to it. A sense of personality trumping physicality is maintained throughout her perfomance, in addition to the script.
But not only does she play Son Goku, but also his sons, Gohan and Goten, also at all ages, his father Bardock, and the evil Saiyan Telluce who looks like him. They all clearly have Nozawa's voice, and yet her delivery for them changes enough for them to believably be different characters. Gohan, for instance, is super-polite and talks very formally, where Goten is more like his father when he was young, but with a different lilt in his voice.
Outisde the world of Dragon Ball, Nozawa was once the voice of the famous Japanese icon Doraemon, and was in the Leiji Matsumoto classic Galaxy Express 999 as the main character, Tetsuro Hoshino, with a soft passion. More age-appropriately, perhaps, she played Chopper's mentor Dr. Kureha in One Piece.
And, of course, she's reprised her roles for Dragon Ball Kai.
Masako Nozawa's colorful spirit shines brightly in every character she portrays. To many, she will always be, no matter what, Son Goku.
- Doraemon in Doraemon (1973, 2nd)
- Tetsuro Hoshino in Galaxy Express 999 (1978)
- Son Goku in Dragon Ball (1986) (and all other Dragon Ball productions)
- Son Gohan in Dragon Ball Z (1989) and Dragon Ball GT (1996)
- Son Goten in Dragon Ball Z (1989) and Dragon Ball GT (1996)
- Dr. Kureha in One Piece (1999)
(Note: To those who will comment, "Nozawa's Goku is appropriate when he's young, but not when he's an adult", keep this in mind: When Goku first appears, he's twelve years old. Does Nozawa's young Goku sound like a twelve year old? Nozawa's Goku always sounds younger than he is. So she's either always appropriate or never appropriate. I go with the former.)