By Crystal Chung @Crystal K Chung
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Videographer / director: Joel Forrest
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ruby Coote
Editor: Joshua Douglas
Julian Louw, a stunt actor and professional dancer, was first introduced to the popular Japanese anime series when he was teenager and admits that he fell in love with the character of Trunks, connecting to him on a personal level.
Julian, 30, said: “Dragon Ball Z is one of the most intense, in depth, anime cartoons I’ve ever watched.
“The level of intensity, the power, the human emotion, the characters, the love, the friendship, the fights, the future travel, the technology - everything about it really, about a society and a place I would like to live in."
Trunks is a fictional character in the Dragon Ball Z manga series created by Akira Toriyama.
The character is known to be half-Saiyan and half-human and sports long lavender-coloured hair.
South African-born Louw said: “When I am dressed like Trunks, I feel powerful, I feel very charismatic, I feel cool and chilled, and I feel like I am ready just to go and make people smile.”
Louw made the decision to embark on a ‘character development project’ three years ago to become the real-life Trunks after strangers told him that he resembled the fictional character, but to become a living version would be impossible.
“I kept hearing people say that the look of the Dragon Ball Z character was almost impossible to create and I thought I was going to make something impossible become possible,” he said.
Having recently moved to Los Angeles, the home of cosmetic enhancement, Julian has ruled out the possibility of going under the knife to look like his idol, although he admits that he spends over $5,000 a year on his character development project and trains 3-4 times every day.
Julian said: “When I started my character development project into Trunks, I outlined the very deep details of what he looks like, and how I was going to bring him to life through me.
“Basically I started with the hair growth, because that was a very important thing. The difficult part was I had to keep styling my hair that way so it grew into the pathway.”
Julian’s determination to become the real-life Trunks continued with a diet and fitness regime, helping him to sculpt his body to look like the anime character’s.
But it took over a year and a half of dedicated training to see changes.
He explained: “He’s got a much fuller, rounder, grown muscles, very much like your martial arts type, combined with a body builder.
“I started a diet regime where I was going to lose a couple of pounds. I kept working on defining specific muscle areas around my body, specifically my shoulders, my back, my abdominals and my arms, to make them look somewhat like his shape.”
“Then the biggest one of all, was Trunks has got a very dominant upper chest, the clavicular head of his chest is very rounded and very full. That’s an area I paid specific attention to.
"I added a lot of gymnastic and ballet training in for my alignment and flexibility, I went to parkour training and focused more on full body calisthenics training.”
Not just stopping at diet and fitness, Julian has also spent time analysing the fictional character’s facial expressions and body movements, as well as having his long blonde hair dyed purple to match his idol.
“As the year and a half went by and I started to see that my project was coming together, it was so exciting because I felt like I’m going to get there and make it happen. I’m going to become this character and I’m going to adopt his facial expressions that he uses.”
“I will have accomplished a goal, but I will have done so much more for myself, in terms of my physical abilities, the way I look, keeping young and having this very original, colourful look that makes people smile and think, ‘Wow that looks cool’.”
Julian’s love for the popular manga series grew during his school days, where he admits that he was seen as an ‘outcast’ and he saw the cartoon as an escape.
He said: “I was very much a day dreamer at school. I really liked the outside fantasy world. I got made fun of a lot, I was short, insignificant, I guess you could say I was somewhat of a weakling, I kept very much to myself.
"I kept my mysterious attitude which I sometimes have still in today’s life, but I was very much the outcast.
“Dragon Ball Z was a cartoon I watched and it was really my place to escape, it was really the escape I was looking for. I was so looking forward to watching the cartoon, every episode and it was my escape.”
Julian insists that he is not just a cosplayer but his character development project is something much deeper.
He said: “I would to say the difference between cosplay and character development is that the cosplay is much more like a hobby or something, but a character development project is that I have looked into a specific character that I connect with.
“If you really get to know a character, and you decide you want to take on that role, it’s got more to do with giving time to build into that character, really like acting as the character, being the real version.”
“He makes me feel like a life accomplishment. I feel like he’s the epitome of what I wanted to look like from when I was very young, in terms of his dress sense, his hairstyle, his look, the way he is standing and his attitude.
“I didn’t think you could look any cooler. So the fact that I have surpassed that in a human form, it really makes me feel like happy that I have stuck towards a goal and I have completed a goal.”