Sunday, October 4, 2015

Furukawa/Ishikawa Interview

This is a translation of an interview with Makoto Furukawa (voice of Saitama) and Kaito Ishikawa (voice of Genos) that went up on the site V-Storage Online back on September 16th

──To start off, what do you think about One-Punch Man?

Makoto Furukawa: Seeing someone defeat enemies with one punch is fun in a simple way, so overall it’s quite exhilarating.  While it’d be misleading to say it doesn’t require any thought to read, I really think as a piece of entertainment it’s a series which anyone can enjoy.

Kaito Ishikawa: At first I only knew the title, and had no clue what the actual story was about.  Then when I got 
the audition I finally read it for the first time.  Like Furukawa-san said, the thrill you get after reading it is something else.  While Saitama might not like how his fights end after just one punch, for the reader it certainly feels nice.  I think it’s a tremendous series because it has a good tempo so you can flip right through it, yet at the same time it gets you hyped up.

──How did it feel to get the role?

Furukawa: I was like “Am I really the right choice…?” (laughs)  When my manager told me I had got the part, I simply couldn’t process it and had to have him tell me again.  During the audition I actually hadn’t thought too hard about the part.  Maybe Saitama didn’t have anything for me to latch on to, or I just couldn’t imagine what sort of voice would come out of that face of his.  As a result, I didn’t prepare for the role and just tried to perform naturally, as myself I suppose.  I’m glad that approach went over well.

Ishikawa: I auditioned for both Saitama and Genos.  Before auditioning for Genos, the staff asked if I’d be interested in giving Saitama a shot as well.  Genos has a much more starkly defined character compared to Saitama, so I auditioned for him while deciding what direction I wanted to take the character.  But with Saitama, I couldn’t get a handle on his character at all, and couldn’t work out an approach.  Even while performing I just couldn’t get into it, nothing clicked, and I suddenly thought that Saitama was still beyond my capabilities.  And so since I couldn’t figure out what sort of voice Saitama should have, I couldn’t figure out one for Genos either.  For characters that hang out with the lead, I think their voices need to be compatible.  As long as I couldn’t imagine the lead character’s voice, I likewise couldn’t imagine Genos’ voice.  So after auditioning for Saitama, I was stuck not knowing what to do with Genos either.  Then a short while later I received word from my manager that I had gotten the role of Genos.  Obviously I was happy to have gotten the part, but my very first thought was to wonder who had been cast as Saitama.  Then when I heard it was Furukawa-san, I was able to relax a little.  He and I had worked together before, so that perked me up.

──How do you feel about the characters you play?  What do you keep in mind while performing as them?

Furukawa: Saitama has both a serious face and a goofy face, and I was very careful to modulate my voice in order to perform each one distinctly.  During the recordings, the director Natsume asked me not to make him seem strong whenever he’s got his ordinary, goofy face on.  Saitama’s strength is only visible once he gets down to business; otherwise he just defeats monsters like it was nothing.  That’s what the director said.  So I adapted my performance to fit that, but it required a lot of thought.  For instance, if it’s a scene where I’m hitting someone, my first instinct is to put some energy into my performance.  But then the sound director will tell me I’m exerting myself too much.  Dialing back the energy to just the right amount is really tricky.

Ishikawa: At first I thought Genos was a cool-headed, crafty character, but actually he’s pretty hot-headed.  Case in point, when he first appears he acts like you’d expect a cyborg would, but then later once he’s met Saitama…Well, I want you to watch and see for yourself what happens, but suffice to say I was quite surprised at the difference, which made it fun to perform.  The director, Natsume, didn’t really tell me anything in advance about how to perform the role.  Of course, I’ve had detailed direction on how to perform specific scenes, but I never received any general introduction as to what type of character Genos was.  So I was a bit scared (laughs).  At any rate, I threw myself into the part thinking that I’d give it all that I was capable of.

──Now that the recording sessions have started, what are your impressions on director Shingo Natsume?

Furukawa: Normally he seems soft and cuddly, but in the recording studio he looks strict, and you can always tell the zeal he has towards the series.  That passion also comes across when he directs performances, and I go into the recording sessions thinking how I want to respond to his passion!

Ishikawa: He reminds me a lot of Saitama.  The look in his eyes is completely different in the recording studio than it is the rest of the time.  He seems like a true professional.  But once you get away from the studio, his demeanor softens and he lightens up, and if I goof off he just plays along (laughs).  I think you’ll be able to tell this from the second One-Punch Man special that’ll be broadcast on Nico-Nico Live on September 20th, so look forward to that!

──They’ve certainly lined up a star-studded cast to play the other heroes and monsters…

Ishikawa: I think it’ll have a bigger impact if you watch without knowing who’s playing who.  Especially with the enemy characters, it’s way more fun not knowing in advance.

Furukawa: People are in for a shock right from the opening of episode 1!  You’ll never believe who they’ve got playing a certain character!  I can’t wait for people to see the series.

──Besides your own characters, what other heroes and monsters should people keep an eye out for?

Ishikawa: Mumen Rider.  I’m a big fan of a certain hero who (Yuichi) Nakamura plays, one with a strong sense of justice.  I won’t say the name of the franchise, just that it’s an American hero who carries a shield (laughs).  I love that hero, so Nakamura’s Mumen Rider stands out.  I really admire him as a voice artist.

Furukawa: I really like Zombie Man.  Sakurai-san is fantastic in the role!  I think you can tell from the drama CD packaged with the 9th comic volume, released August 4th.  He’s got some great lines, so definitely give it a listen.

Ishikawa: His self-introduction is particularly good.  It really put the rest of our self-introductions to shame.  He just introduces himself by casually saying his name, but it’s so direct and concise.

Furukawa: He really fleshed out the character of Zombie Man after that, so now I can’t take my eyes off him.

──How did it feel to see images of the characters moving?  What’s the finished product like?

Furukawa: At the very least it’s an entertaining series with cool action scenes.  They were put together with great skills; it’s very inspiring.

Ishikawa: With heroes, the action scenes are very important: not just the characters, but the scenes of buildings being destroyed and explosions all back a real wallop.  When I finally saw it with the sound effects added in, I knew what sort of sounds were in each part, and I figured that we’d have to change our performances to go along with it.  I felt tense because I knew we needed to make our performances more precise in order to match up with the characters’ movements.  I want to go into the next batch of recording sessions with renewed vigor, in order to not be outdone by realistic films.

──What lines were particularly memorable?

Furukawa: Right at the start of the first episode there’s this line where I say “shall I go?”, and the truth is I had to redo that line an insane number of times.  Am I going to show off my strength or not?  I wasn’t sure which way to play it.  With a giant monster rampaging through town, how would Saitama respond?  That’s why I think it’s no exaggeration to say that that line encapsulates everything about Saitama. 

Ishikawa: This was part of the preview too, but one line that left an impression was “But that would mean sensei went bald at a young age…”  I consider that an important line for cementing Genos’ character, when he’s come to seek training from Saitama.  At a time like that he goes out of his way to point out that Saitama’s bald, and it seems to genuinely bug him.  I think it changed Genos’ position within the series, and I remember performing it really carefully.

──What are the highlights of the series?  What makes it worth seeing?

Furukawa: Everyone should cheer up whenever Saitama lets loose with a punch.  Just imagine the monsters as people you don’t like, and pow! (laughs) I think that feeling of exhilaration is one of the highlights.

Ishikawa: This series is really entertaining.  While it’s not set in the real world, and is full of impossible events, I hope people will get caught up in the fun.  Despite not being set in the real world, it’s as if the characters of One-Punch Man are all truly living, breathing people in a world of their own, saying their lines like they really mean it.  And I hope that degree of seriousness will make people laugh.

──You two have worked together on a number of different series.  What do you think of each other?

Furukawa: At first I thought Ishikawa-san was an extremely serious person…

Ishikawa: Are you trying to say that I’m really not?

Furukawa: Ishikawa-san seems to be good at all sorts of things, so I thought he was amazing.  He’d see things I couldn’t, and casually point them out to me, so I was very grateful to have him around.

Ishikawa: I’ve always thought he’s incredibly serious-minded.  I guess you could say he’s firmly grounded; he seems to me the same now as when I first met him.  That was two or three years ago, but this is the first series where Furukawa-san has played the lead role.  He’s a good guy; he brought the original manga over to the studio and taught me a lot about it, which helped me relax.  We’ve performed on the radio together, and he takes his work seriously, working out plot structures and coming up with material in brainstorming sessions.

──To ask something a bit personal, looking at yourself objectively, what sort of person are you?  Analyze yourself.

Furukawa: I’m a bit stubborn in some ways.  And I can be a bit scatterbrained too.  Recently my manager told me to come to the study at 11, but I went at 10 instead and there was nobody else there yet.  Fortunately this didn’t cause anyone else any trouble (laughs).

Ishikawa: I think I’m a hard worker (the surrounding staff members all laugh).  OK, I lied; no need to laugh so much…I actually think I’m rather frivolous.  Even being interviewed like this, I hate just talking about serious stuff, and want to clown around and get laughs.  But I love myself, even those parts of myself (laughs).

──What have you been into lately?

Furukawa: I’ve been going on a tour of temples, shrines, and other power spots.  It seems that temples and shrines each have different “attributes”.  So I go to temples and shrines whose attributes are compatible with my own, based on my birthday and blood type, and make wishes, draw fortune strips, etc.  There’s a really compatible temple near my house, and sometimes when I go there and pray for a job, I’ll get a job right away!

Ishikawa: Lately I’ve been seeing how far I can go on an empty stomach.  I suddenly started to wonder just how hungry I could possibly get, so I tried eating only one meal a day, or telling myself I wasn’t hungry even when I was; doing things like that to test the limits of my hunger.

Furukawa: What, are you trying to achieve enlightenment or something?

Ishikawa: Most of the time I’ll cave halfway through.  Like, go eat an onigiri at the convenience store on my way home from work or something…But now I’m trying to see how little I can eat in a meal and still feel sated.

──What are your goals as a voice artist?  What sort of voice artist do you aim to become?

Furukawa: I want to become a voice artist who can make someone’s heart tremble.  It’d be great to be able to inspire someone not only through my performance in a series, but even just through what I say in an interview like this, or in an onstage panel.  That’s the sort of voice artist I want to be.

Ishikawa: I want to do plays.  They’re really difficult, so I want to confirm for myself that I’m moving forward, that I’ve become able to do them.  I don’t know how long it will take, but that’s my goal.

──Finally, say something for all the viewers looking forward to the broadcast.

Furukawa: There’s finally less than a month to go until it starts airing.  As I’ve been saying, it’ll be really entertaining.  Just hang on a little while longer, and we can enjoy it together!

Ishikawa: The staff and cast all put their heart and soul into making this series, so I think their enthusiasm will come across to everyone onscreen.  Look forward to it.  It won’t disappoint.

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