Affectionately known as Kaki to his fans, Tetsuya Kakihara made an appearance at 2012’s Otakon. He has participated in anime titles such as Fairy Tale, Gurren Lagann, Linebarrel’s of Iron, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. He was at Otakon this time, to promote Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn that has recently been released in the United States.
Anime Diet was originally scheduled for a one on one interview with this guest, but due to interest and timing, the interview became a group interview with three other press groups. Similar with Anime Diet’s interview with Gen Urobuchi, there was no photograph, or video taping of Kakihara. Still the 27 minutes I spent with this guest was an enlightening one.
Stepping into the interview room, we waited briefly for the appearance of the guest, and Tetsuya Kakihara arrived, wearing casual clothing and a pair of sunglasses that he took off when he spoke with us.
Questions or statements spoken by press are going to be in bold, and with the assistance/translation of Monsieur LaMoe. This is a transcription of the interview, so there is going to be the other press’s questions.
(First press group spoke Japanese.)
I’m Japanese, and I’m currently living in North Carolina. Only a few Japanese people live there, so I do Japanese magazine exchange for them. There isn’t any information about Japan over there, so people want that kind of stuff, so that’s why I started this.
What interested me is that Tetsuya-san lived in Germany in his childhood, and went back to Japan. There are so many people sharing a similar experience with you. Personally, my son is similar, also at a close age. He also eventually wants to go back to Japan. Do you have any advice for them, and why did you go back to Japan? What struggles or dilemma did you face when you went from Germany to Japan. What was the most difficult thing, etc?
Oh, that’s enormous. What a broad topic!
I lived in Germany until I was 18. German education system is having elementary school until 4th grade. At 5th grade, we have to chose a path to take. There are already many options set by the school. If you go to university, then school is designed to prepare for university education. Or if you become a craftsman, then there’s technical school. For sports, a sports special school. For kids that haven’t decide whether going to university or tech school, then Realschule. When I became a 5th grader, the paths were already divided a lot.
I went to the school preparing for university education in prospect that I may go to university. So from that point on, (5th grade to 13th grade), you stay in the same school. Total of 9 years, with the same, unchanging schedule. I did go to Japan during summer break, and this yearning for Japan began. If you turn on the television, animation airs, as with variety programs, and there are many mangas as Japan’s subculture. By seeing this, my emotion was like, “Wow, how interesting a country Japan is” came to emerge. Still the 9 years of the same school, same classmates, and the same teachers.
Basically, when you became a 5th grader, yes, perpetually, and you have a rakudai (fail to reach the norm to grade up, so you have start the whole year again). There will be fewer students left every year. So, in the beginning there were 150 students, but by the time I graduated, only about 40 students were left.
Yes, my school was that tough. But seeing that I had such an interest in Japan, I decided to move there. I wanted to work for a career that I’m be able to get involved with. Then I had a huge interest in acting, especially voicing, and I want to give a shot for it, so I went to Japan in order to aim for becoming a seiyuu.
Translator: Where do I need to pause?
Well, it got a bit long. It’s very difficult. Because this is a serious topic.
But even though you made it to Japan, normally a person can’t keep doing hobbies, and usually gives up and it ends as a dream that never comes true. But since you didn’t use Japanese that often, how did you make it possible?
Well, going to the motherland of my parents was one of my dreams. I ran away from home, so I haven’t seen them for about 10 years.
When did you run away your home?
18 years old.
So, leaving country was like running away from home to you?
Yes. Therefore, once returning back to Japan, the only choice left is you just got to do it, and I can’t go back to Germany like a loser. I must keep on doing it, whether I like or dislike it or not. So, for me, there wasn’t any choice of giving up or throwing in the towel. So, by the time I realize that, I’ve been working hard to reach this current status and rather have been enjoying doing this. It possibly was meant to happen naturally. Since I went to Japan, naturally I would aim for this job. To drop out in the middle was inconceivable, and it was natural that I would do this profession. I don’t have any thoughts like, “Why do I keep doing this?” So I don’t get that.
So, the faith that you will work hard to reach that goal drives you to strive?
You mentioned subculture. Have you have any fanboy moments when you working in this industry? Oh my god this is happening!
Of course, that’s true myself. Well, the people I idolized, when I go to the studio, I look left or right, they are definitely there .
Umm, not specific…Well, the special one was, people who are acting since my childhood, a very famous one, I’m 29 now and going to turn 30 this year, but these people still actively working as seiyuu still. I really admire them. I have a feeling that these senpai seiyuu are amazing. But the person who I am close working with, under the same management is Takayama Minami, who does the voice of Conan. She does seiyuu work for several decades, and even doing main characters of the masterpieces, yet at the same time she still has the perseverance of her acting stance. Since I’ve been to so many recording sessions and seen a lot of actors, it’s rare for me to feel that “Boy I’d like to be that person one day!” But she is, well I’ve been doing this profession over ten years, but even that, whenever I meet up and work with her, she is the person makes me feel that I’m still not far from perfect and still need to learn a lot of things.
There is a work called Saint Seiya, and there is Saint Seiya Omega. As I expected, there’s Midorikawa-san, and the last generation of seiyuu who acts in Saint Seiya and Gundam: Furuya Touru-san. Every time I listen to them, “Oh, their voice is still the same since my childhood, even though they age infinitely.”
There are so many people around me. Rather than idolizing them, I’m on the same stage with them, so there’s a feeling that I have to fight, not to lose to them. I got to fight them. Yes, I still continue to look up to them, but I don’t have a yearning for them anymore. I will crush them to the bone!
Do you have a favorite swear word and what language do you swear in?
It used to be German, “asshole.” Like “Lick my butt.” That I used to say a lot in German. But recently, I also think in Japanese. I don’t swear that often. Did you mean to someone or to myself? It depends on that, doesn’t it? I think and say sometimes to a person, “Hope you burn.” If they do something ridiculous, “Hope you burn.”
(Anime Diet’s Question) You do a lot of work outside of anime, video game is one of them. What do you think of otome games in America? You’ve done work in Amnesia, Renai Banchou, and Grim the Bounty Hunter.
It’s an interesting culture, with renai simulations and relationships. I myself was drawn into wanting to be a seiyuu with a game called Tokimeki Memorial, that is a dating sim. It was the most famous pioneer of the dating sim, and it was perhaps the first game that was voiced by the seiyuus. I was amazed by the fact that it actually talks with voices, and at the same time I was amazed by the awesomeness of imagination and idea of Japanese people with having a virtual romance in a video game.
It used to be boys that were doing virtual romances, but nowadays girls are even more passionate about virtual romance in game, and also romance in anime, so I think it is a very interesting phenomenon. It gets very interesting when I am doing voice acting, since I say something that I would never say in my private life, and go to a dating spot that I never go to. Those kind of scenes you can act is the privilege of seiyuu, so, I think this job is a very interesting one. Very different from boy’s genre, but it’s very famous in America, isn’t it?
It is quite pretty popular, I play a lot. All my friends also play.
Thank you very much. I’m very happy as an actor to learn that oversea fans are increasing.
Does your German help in your voice acting career?
Well, for any German speaking roles, I was able work in Magical Lyrical Nanoha, because I can speak German. But as a matter of fact, for Japanese stereotypical view on German. Germans are wearing military uniform, a huge macho man giving enormous psychological pressure, with a very deep voice. My voice, however is rather a young shonen voice, so for German characters, the lower voice actors play that role, so I often was sent to the studio to do German coaching. As an actor though, I want to play German characters by myself.
So, actually the ability to speak German didn’t help that much. But when I go overseas to places like America, because I speak German, I can understand English very well by hearing, so in terms of that, it’s been very helpful.
You play Gurren Lagann‘s Simon. Did you see any robot anime in childhood, and does that experience help for playing Simon?
I didn’t watch robot anime. But when I was a kid, there were a lot of energetic passionate works, with main heroes. So when I played Simon, seiyuu senpai acting from those anime was very helpful.
Not only anime but also manga, and all, regardless of seiyuu genre, that Japanese anime and manga, all of these are very good study tool.
Any dream voice do you want to do?
Right now I have this work that I’m in love with. It’s a manga. It is called “Bachibachi.” (バチバチ) It’s about sumo wrestling, and that manga is very very interesting, and I bet Americans love sumo?
Oh, you don’t have a lot of chance to see. I see. But if this is made into anime, it would be very interesting, and it would be a hit, and I really want to play the lead character of this work. Please let me play that role.
In my opinion, I don’t think sumo anime would be a hit in America, because no cute girls in it.
Hahaha. Oh, I see.
Only E. Honda from Street Fighter 2.
But I hope this would be a chance for Americans to get interested in sumo.
There weren’t any more time for questions after this. But definitely knowing that Kakihara was able to visit the United States is a nice experience for fans that were able to make it to Otakon 2012 for him.