Granting UB's Wish

An interview with the voices of Dragon Ball Z

The Spectrum

Over a candle-lit dinner and a few glasses of beer, two of the most recognized figures in anime met with The Spectrum Saturday night to discuss everything from failed marriage proposals to '80s nostalgia. This wasn't any ordinary interview, but a trip through the past 20 years of anime history.

This was one of the rare meetings between Eric Vale and Monica Rial, the faces - or rather, the voices - behind one of the most beloved animes, Dragon Ball Z, and the venue set the perfect backdrop for the heartfelt conversation that ensued.

How it all began:

Vale began the night by remembering his post-grad days dripping with the confusion many face and getting lucky landing his first job at Funimation. Vale then got the chance to work alongside industry vets Chris Sabat and Sean Schemmel doing something he absolutely loved.

"Without the character of Trunks I don't know what I would've done. [Playing Trunks was] the thing that started me understanding what it was like to have a career in this business, not the business of anime, but of being an actor," Vale said. "Without Trunks I wouldn't have a career in anything."

Though Rial wasn't an original cast member, she landed the part to voice Bulma in the re-cut 2009 revamp Dragon Ball Kai and since then never looked back.

"I wasn't in the original DBZ, so when I came on for Kai it was kind of like being that kid who dreams of being in Kiss, and then one day the drummer dies or something, and they're like 'Hey you're in the band!'" Rial said. "That's how I felt when I got to join this all-star cast."

While Vale landed his dream job right out of school, Rial would take her own journey to reach the cast of what was admittedly one of her favorite shows.

"We would go to Spain to visit my family and my little brother fell in love with this show, Dragon Ball Z, and he didn't speak very good Spanish, so I would translate for him," Rial said. "I got to watch the series evolve over time, and when I finally got to join the cast it meant so much."

The skills of the trade:

But animation from the Land of the Rising Sun isn't the voice actors' only line of work. Besides Rial recently getting the chance to work with developer Twisted Pixel in the 2011 Xbox Live Arcade and Steam title, Ms. Splosion Man, both are just finishing up work on Gearbox's role-playing hybrid, Borderlands 2.

"I was the voice director for the game and we both did voice for [Borderlands]. We got to work with people like Anthony and Ashly Burch...Ashly does an incredible voice in the game, and Anthony wrote it," Vale said. "Monica does a voice that we can't talk about yet, but it's a weapon and everyone will enjoy it quite a bit."

Though both showed up for this year's UBCON and their accompanying panels, Vale is a Buffalo veteran, making this his second sequential attendance at the event.

"It's a great Con, I really like it here. Coming to a college-run con is a little more of a special experience than going to any of the bigger shows. I like it a lot more honestly," Vale said.

While Vale and Rial have been working together for years, Rial often acts as someone's mother, daughter, or cousin who she's never met, but events like UBCON give the actors a chance not only meet their fans, but the actors they've spent years working blindly alongside of.

"You usually play someone's mom or even their best friend, but you've never actually met them before, so that's always a good experience," Rial said.

But it's all about the fans:

And though the duo has a massive following across the states, the two emphasized the importance of their fan-base and how much it means to the industry.

"The fans are amazing. At almost every Con I go to a fan makes me a plushy or something, usually hand-made, and those are so kind," Vale said. "I don't keep them - I'm a grown man and that would be creepy - so I take them home and I give them to my daughter who's five. And after every time I come home, I walk in and give them to her and she just gushes over them. That's a unique thing that other parents don't get to do."

"Anime fans as a whole are just so gracious, such kind-hearted people that you constantly have people going out of their way for you," Rial said. "It's almost overwhelming at times, you just feel so humbled sometimes."

This however is the bright side of the fans. Both Rial and Vale admitted to more than one awkward encounter with a fervent fan that went just a little too far.

"I've been asked by an older man what kind of cologne my boyfriend wears. I was like 'I'm not telling you,'" Rial said. "But those are so few and far between, the good far outweighs the bad."

The two gave their goodbyes Sunday afternoon as UBCON came to a close, and with this event fading fast on the horizon the two are already looking forward to next year.