Meet Maria Makino of Morning Musume '23.
As someone born in 2001, she's technically a little young to be considered part of the Dragon Ball generation, but that doesn't stop her from being one of the franchise's biggest fans.
In addition to providing written commentary on the Dragon Ball anime via her blog, she has uploaded her very own artwork of Gogeta to her Instagram and even performed a passionate cover of the song Kuu-Zen-Zetsu-Go from Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters on her YouTube channel.
But it doesn't stop there—she talks at length about her favorite techniques from the series on her radio show called "Morning Musume: Maria Makino no Marian LOVE Rin Desu" and has even performed a sudden impression of Frieza out of nowhere while hosting a live event!
In other words, her love of Dragon Ball knows no bounds!
The more we talked with her about what parts of Dragon Ball appeal to her and the influence it's had on her idol career, the more we began to realize just how much the adorable Maria Makino unexpectedly has in common with none other than Goku!
——Tell us about how you came to know Dragon Ball.
Maria Makino (hereafter, Makino): My father rented some episodes of Dragon Ball GT one summer when I was in elementary school.
I had never seen anything Dragon Ball up to that point, and even though the episodes were from the middle of the GT series, I thought the fight scenes were amazing, Pan was so cute, and before I knew it, I was invested in the story.
After that, the Dragon Ball anime became a mainstay for my summer vacations.
——What got you hooked on Dragon Ball as a franchise after that?
Makino: My cousin lent me their copies of the Dragon Ball Z anime. Dragon Ball Z Kai started airing around the same time, and so I watched both of them, with my cousin providing a breakdown of the differences between both versions along the way.
I liked GT a fair bit, but I think watching both versions of Dragon Ball Z is what really made me a fan, to the point that I started watching the original Dragon Ball series from the beginning via reruns on Animax. I couldn’t believe Goku used to be so tiny!
——It sounds like the Dragon Ball fans in your life had a big influence on your own fandom.
Makino: I also remember dancing to CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA with my fellow classmates during one of my elementary school's sports days. We even ended it with the Fusion pose and everything. It was so much fun.
Now that I think about it, maybe Dragon Ball has always been a part of my life. I wish I could teach everything I've learned about Dragon Ball to myself as a little girl.
——Which part of the series is your favorite?
Makino: The Majin Buu arc. I've watched the Frieza arc over and over 'cause I like it as well, but some parts such as Dende's friend getting killed make me depressed.
That's why I have the most fun watching Buu's story. He did a lot of terrible things at the beginning too since he didn't know any better, but he became a lot kinder after that. I like that later version of the character. It made me wish he and Mr. Satan could live in that house with their little dog, Bee, forever in peace.
——That must have made it even harder to watch when Bee got shot.
Makino: You're right... The people who did that were just the worst. It's no wonder Buu got so angry that his good and evil sides split apart from each other. I was cheering for the good Buu to win against the evil Buu as I watched that scene play out.
But the evil Buu is cute too, like how he read manga and drank cream soda while waiting patiently during his fight with Gotenks. I thought he was kind in his own way as well. And the way Piccolo had to keep Gotenks in line was endearing, not to mention all the fun attacks Gotenks came up with. I just love how fun that fight scene is.
The stretch mat I use before lessons and concerts is actually pink, so I drew Majin Buu on it. That way Buu and I can stretch together!
——You created a blog with written commentary on Dragon Ball, and it really showcases your incredible passion for the series. What made you want to start it?
Makino: One day I turned on the TV and a rerun happened to be on. I kept notes of my thoughts on the episode as I watched it, then I put them on my blog.
Afterwards, I figured there might be other people watching reruns of Dragon Ball as well, so I wrote my general feelings about the episodes without writing anything that could spoil the episodes themselves, like "Dodoria" and "sad". That's how my blog came about.
——A commentary blog must get pretty long.
Makino: Blogs have a 60,000 character limit, but sometimes I ended up going over, so I'd end up having to trim it down a bit.
——60,000?! That's about twelve times longer than this 5,000-something character article! Unbelievable...
Makino: It's not just text—I also draw pictures. One time I drew pictures as fast as I could while I was watching reruns of the Frieza arc in real time. I managed to draw a cute one of Dende, so that was fun.
——Speaking of you and Dragon Ball, you caught a lot of people's attention during the graduation performance for Morning Musume '22's Chisaki Morito in June 2022. You recreated a famous moment from the Cell arc by saying, "You did well, Chii-chan (Morito's nickname)," which is the line Goku used just before he whisked himself and Cell away moments prior to the Android blowing himself up. I thought your attention to detail was on point and you did a great job conveying your message to Morito, but what made you choose that scene?
Makino: I thought that line was perfect for Chii-chan. She was part of Country Musume and Morning Musume and did a great job in both bands. Then it suddenly dawned on me at 2:30 am the day before the event that I should do that bit from the Cell arc
Then I started wondering if I should include the "10 more seconds..." line, or Krillin's "G-Goku!!!!!" to help get my feelings across. After that I stood in front of a mirror and practiced saying, "Heh, heh, heh... 10 more seconds..." and other lines in order to memorize them. And then lastly I pictured how I would perform it at the event as I went to sleep. (laughs)
——Getting back to your love of Dragon Ball, what do you think is the franchise's appeal?
Makino: I think it's knowing that no matter what force comes to threaten the Earth, Goku will find a way to save the day.
Even after he died, Goku still came back to save the Earth, and he makes sure to watch out for his sons, Gohan and Goten. Even now, if things start looking grim, I believe Goku will come save us.
——I can see you really trust Goku. What do you like best about him?
Makino: His kindness, like how he thinks about the people of Earth—and how much he enjoys fighting. The way he gets pumped up before a fight is just like how I feel before a concert.
——The stronger an enemy is, the more excited Goku gets. Do you also get more excited when you perform on bigger stages?
Makino: Oh, yes. For example, fans will come see us at our regular concerts, but if we're playing a festival, people who don't know Morning Musume will also be in the crowd. It's like an away game for us, and it's a chance to perform in front of tens of thousands of people.
I get really nervous before those shows, but I also get pumped up. Of course the attendees aren't our enemies, but I think the feeling I get must be the same as how Goku feels when he's about to fight a strong bad guy.
——A lot of people tend to clench up when they get nervous, but you get up on stage thinking, "I'm gettin' pumped!"
I never would have guessed you and Goku had that in common.
Makino: It's probably just me wishing I could be like Goku. (laughs)
But looking back, I've always found getting on stage to be fun, even while I was doing ballet when I was little. The reason I find performing so fun could be because I have some similarities with Goku.
Maybe, just maybe, I have the same potential as Goku hidden somewhere inside me just waiting to be drawn out. (laughs)
——Have you ever been influenced by Goku?
Makino: I want to be able to ride on the Kintoun like Goku, so that's why I want to be pure of heart. That means not doing anything to anyone that I wouldn't want someone to do to me, which is obvious for most people, but I think that way of thinking is really important.
Goku's always been able to ride the Kintoun, which is just amazing.
——You seem like you could already ride the Kintoun.
Makino: I wonder... I really wanna ride it.
But if helping lots of other people like Goku does is one of the prerequisites, I've still got a long way to go.
——Everyone is always so happy and energetic at your concerts, so don't you think you've helped tons of people already?
Makino: It's the opposite—they're helping me. A concert is a Genki-dama.
Makino: It's like the people in the audience are giving me their energy when they cheer and shout. I guess you could say I'm taking their energy for myself, but it allows me to do my best. I think it's basically the same as a Genki-dama.
——So your fans are the source of your energy. Have you ever taken influence from Dragon Ball during your career as an idol?
Makino: I incorporate techniques from Dragon Ball during the free dancing parts of our concerts. I take notes of which techniques I want to incorporate into my dances, like starting a Final Flash and finishing with a Galactica Donut.
There's also a part from one of the ending themes in Kai where Goten is smiling with both hands held up to his mouth. It's so cute and makes me feel happy, so I did the same pose for my photobook, "Maria 18 anos". It's actually on the back cover.
I don't think the staff knew I was copying Goten. (laughs)
Makino struck this pose without even realizing it while she was smiling for our photos and during our interview.
——Have you ever had a moment when you thought, "I'm so glad I'm a Dragon Ball fan"?
Makino: Sure, when I defeated Cell Max the other day!
Makino: I was at Jump Festa, and I kept walking past a certain booth, thinking, "I absolutely have to do it before we go home!"
My mom kept saying, "Are you serious...?"
The booth was where you could put on Piccolo's cape and he says to you, "Do it now! Fire!"
So I was like, "Okay, Mr. Piccolo! Haaaah...!! Makankosappo: Special Beam Cannon!!"
The staff were saying things like, "You've got great hidden potential!" and "Your Ki is incredible!"
And at the end Piccolo told me, "Good job. Let’s meet again."
I was thinking, "I'll come see you again, Mr. Piccolo...!"
There was a big Goku there too! Jump Festa was a ton of fun.
——It sounds to me like you don't just enjoy Dragon Ball as a fan, you actually want to be part of that world!
Makino: I do! I want to throw Hoipoi Capsules, and I'd definitely want to collect all the Dragon Balls too. I’m still not sure what I’d wish for, though...
——If you were able to enter the Dragon Ball world, which scene would you like to appear in?
Makino: I really liked the Red Ribbon Army’s base when I was a kid, but now I think I'd want to have Gohan teach me how to fly...
The scene where he's teaching Videl gives me butterflies. It's so cute. And I'd want to go to school with him too. I want him to tell me, "You’re picking it up quickly," while I’m working on my Ki!
Oh, and I want the Super Water of the Gods too. I'd rather not climb all the way up Karin Tower, though. (laughs)
I actually thought that we had the Super Water of the Gods in our house when I was a kid, but that was just plain old water, so I want to try drinking the real thing.
——Do you want to become stronger?
Makino: Of course! Maybe because of our concerts? I want to be able to go, "Haaaah!!" and be like, bwaaaa!! (mimicking her hair spiking up)
But I don’t really get that mad, so I don’t think I'd ever be like Goku when he fought against Frieza, but if I ever did get into a situation like that, I'd want to be able to turn into a Super Saiyan or something.
——So if you did enter the Dragon Ball world and met Goku, what would you do together?
Makino: We wouldn’t be able to use the Fusion technique because of the difference in our Power Levels, so I'd want to use the Potara and fuse with him. That'd work, right?
——I wonder what a Fusion between you and Goku would look like... Appearance aside, what do you think your fused name would be?
Makino: What would sound good... "Goria" isn’t very cute... Oh, how about using "Maria" and "Kakarot" to make "Mariot"? I'd want to perform at Morning Musume concerts as Mariot, too!
Maria Makino: Born on February 2, 2001, in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Underwent idol training in "Hello Pro Kenshusei" before joining Morning Musume as a 12th-generation member in September 2014, where her member color is pink. Is currently active in gravure and modeling outside of her work as an idol.
Interview/Article: Natsumi Amano
Photography: Keta Tamamura
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