Introduction: Kakihara Tetsuya is a voice actor known for roles such as Simon in Gurren-Lagann, Natsu in Fairy Tail, Angelo Sauper in Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) and Jin in BlazBlue. I had the opportunity to sit down for a group interview, which proved to be very informative, particularly in regards to his German background, as Kakihara was born and raised in Germany until 18.
Note that the Japanese names are last name first to maintain consistency with the blog. Also, if any of the other interviewers wish to be known, please tell me.
Interviewer A: What’s it like growing up in one country and going back to Japan? What were the hardships and adjustments you faced?
[Kakihara gives a long, serious response]
Translator: Where were the pauses so I could translate?
Kakihara: It was such a serious topic that it was hard to not…
In Germany there’s a school system you’re into until your teens, but by the time you’re in 4th grade you have to decide your career path. 5th grade is when you go into technical schools or pursue further education, and that’s the point you gotta make it. And once you make that decision… I chose to go to university, I chose the educational path. But once you start this new school you’re there for 9 years until Grade 13 with the same amount of people. But during those years I would go to Japan every summer vacation, see anime on TV, see all of the things in the culture and subculture I fell in love with.
But every year you’re in the same school with the same classmates year after year and mostly people don’t change. But there are a number of dropouts who fall out each year, and even though 150 people started the same grade as me, by the time I graduated there were 40 people left. So it was a very strict school. But, seeing that I had such an interest in Japan I decided to move there and pursue a career in the cultures I was interested in, which includes voice work and acting. So that’s how I came to Japan to pursue an acting career.
Interviewer A: Most people who want to go into something can’t always succeed. What made it possible for you?
I ran way when I was 18. I haven’t seen my parents in over 10 years. When I went to Japan after I graduated, I had no other choice but to succeed. I couldn’t drop out of this. It was a driving goal, and it had to happen, and I made it happen. And now that I look back on it, I think that I’m very happy with what I’ve done.
Translator: Pretty gutsy!
Interviewer B: Well you mentioned being part of the subculture at least over vacations before you became a producer in the subculture, a creator, an actor in the subculture. Since becoming involved in the creation of works, have you had any fanboy moments, working with someone where you felt “Oh my God, I don’t believe this is happening?”
Translator: [discussing with Kakihara whether or not he needs to translate] He understands English, he just pretends not to.
Kakihara: Of course. Famous people, when I go to work, they’re to my left and to my right.
Was there anyone in particular who was a hero?
Kakihara: No one specific comes to mind…
I find the people who’ve been doing voice work since I was a child still working… I’m going to be 30 this year and to see them still working is pretty amazing. Our seniors are amazing. There are no other words than that.
But if I need to name someone in particular, Takayama Minami, the voice of [Detective] Conan. So, seeing someone who’s had so many starring roles for decades is someone who I’d respect, but I’ve never really been the kind of person who looks at another and goes, “Boy I’d like to be that person one day!” That’s not the kind of person I am.
Having been working myself for a decade now, when I work with these people, I still feel, boy I still have a lot further to go. Like, working on a show like Saint Seiya Omega where Mr. Midorikawa [Hikaru] is in there, or from the previous versions of the show Furuya Tohru from Gundam, boy, they still got the same voices they did decades ago. There are so many of these greats around me, so even though these are people who should be admired, I am on the same stage as them. If anything, I’m in competition with them to be just as good, so I respect them but I don’t exactly admire them. I’m going to defeat them.
Interviewer B: This is entirely off-topic and somewhat irreverent but I’ve gotten good responses from all of the other guests. Do you have a favorite swear word, and what language do you swear in?
Kakihara: It used to be German in the past. Can I say this word?
Interviewer B: Go ahead.
Kakihara: Arschloch! Arschloch.
Interviewer B: [laughs] The blacksmith in the Dealer’s Room also said that it’s his favorite food.
Translator: What’s the word?
Kakihara: [in English] Asshole.
Interviewer B: That’s the third time I’ve gotten it this weekend! In German!
Kakihara: Leck mich am Arsch [Kiss my ass]. I recall saying this a lot in German.
I’ve begun to think in Japanese these days. I can’t say I really use a lot of swear words in Japanese. To myself or to someone else? It depends on what you’re saying it about and who you’re saying it to. “I hope you burn.”
Translator: Do you say it to them or do you think it?
Kakihara: I say it to them, if they do something idiotic.
Interviewer C: You do a lot of work outside of anime, so what do you think of Otome Games in America, since there a lot of gamers out there? You’ve done voice work in Amnesia, Ren’ai Banchou, Grim the Bounty Hunter…
Kakihara: The relationship simulation games? Love sims? One of the things that attracted me to voice acting was Tokimeki Memorial. That’s a love simulation game for boys. It’s definitely the founder, the one that really started the boom of the love sim games. It was one of the first that was voiced by voice actors. I felt amazement in the Japanese culture, to create a game that allows you to pursue a simulated romance. Of course, it started out being directed towards boys, but these days it seems to be concentrated a lot towards girls playing these games.
I think it’s a very interesting part of what I do in my career. I have to spout lines I would NEVER say in real life, or go to a date location that I would never choose myself, but being able to experience it through these voice roles is very entertaining.
[Asking the interviewer] Are dating sims really popular here?
Interviewer C: I play a lot. All of my friends play a lot also.
Kakihara: [in English] Thank you very much.
Just learning that people are fans of your work even in the United States is always a pleasing thing to learn.
Ogiue Maniax: Given your native fluency in German, I’m wondering if it’s had any influence in the roles you’ve taken as a voice actor. For example, I know that in Nanoha you voice various weapons which speak in German.
Kakihara: So like you said, in Lyrical Nanoha I do speak German, but when a Japanese person imagines a German, they imagine someone who’s burly, wearing a military uniform with a very low voice. My voice tends to be very young-sounding, so I’ve been to recording sessions so that I can direct others on their German because the actors have the voices the producers wanted. But as an actor I would have liked to perform those lines myself.
I have to say, my German has not been a help in my career in most cases. But in cases like this where I come to some place in the United States, having spoken German in my life I can actually listen to English and comprehend a lot of it, so it’s been a great help in this trip.
Ogiue Maniax: I think one of your most famous roles is Simon in Gurren-Lagann, so I was just wondering what giant robot anime you watched growing up, and if any of these shows influenced you portraying the role.
Kakihara: I didn’t really watch a whole lot of robot anime, but there are a lot of shows when I was growing up with hot-blooded main heroes, so seeing leads in these action shows or sport shows did give me some influence in portraying Simon. It’s not just anime you learn from. From manga and everything else you can just get inspiration to portray a character.
Interviewer B: If you could work on a character in any IP, anywhere, do you have a dream voice you want to do?
Kakihara: [in Japanese] What kind of program?
Translator: [in Japanese] Anime or manga, or…
Kakihara: [In Japanese] An anime currently running?
Translator: [in Japanese] That, or even an anime that hasn’t been made yet.
Interviewer B: If they decide to make an anime version of Batman, that’s fine too.
Kakihara: There’s a comic called Bachi Bachi, I really like this title. Do you like sumo in the United States?
Interviewer B: There’s not much chance to see it but when it’s on.
Kakihara: I think it would be a hit anime show if it would ever be made. I’d love to play the lead in that show.
Translator: I don’t think a sumo anime would succeed in the United States. No cute girls in sumo.
Ogiue Maniax: The image of sumo is very foreign, also.
Translator: E. Honda is what people think of.
Interviewer B: Wasn’t there an American champion a few years ago?
Translator: A Hawaiian.
Ogiue Maniax: Akebono.
Translator: But there’s no popularity here. [In Japanese] The only image of sumo here is E. Honda.
Kakihara: Edmond Honda.
Translator: Only Honda.
Kakihara: I think it could be a foothold to make sumo popular here.