Running through the unwavering path of an actor. Things don’t go as planned. It’s difficult. That’s why I love acting. While wrinkling his brow, his expression is a happy smile. That is the voice actor Kentarou Kumagai. How did the face the play while playing the role of the main character Makoto in the TV anime “Ikebukuro West Gate Park) being broadcast? Kentarou Kumagai plays the main character Makoto in “Ikebukuro West Gate Park” (hereinafter “IWGP”), the first anime adaptation of the popular novel series by Ira Ishida. He came to Tokyo from Okinawa to become a voice actor and spent his days earnestly studying. Kumagai seems to have become accustomed to worrying, but what kind of time is it now?
I’m sure you’ve seen “IWGP” on air, but what were your impressions? Kumagai: Near the dubbing of the final episode, Masaki Tsuchiya-san, the sound director, told me… “It’s finished so cool,” so I watched the first episode on air with high expectations, but still nervous. At the time of dubbing, the pictures weren’t finished yet, so the facial expressions of the characters moved more than I expected, which was amazing. Above all, I was very moved by the lively movement of the residents of Ikebukuro, including Makoto.
Did you remember the post-recording? Kumagai: Yes, this anime has a lot of themes such as illegal drugs and dark part-time jobs that are meaningful to depict only in the present age. In the first half, the 4th episode was particularly difficult. I remember coming home from the studio with a dent. It’s a big title that everyone knows.
What were your thoughts on the audition? Kumagai: Before taking the audition, I first read the first volume of the original novel. What appeared in the volume was not a smartphone, but a PHS or a public telephone, and the method of connecting to the Internet was not the optical line or Wi-Fi as it is now. the tempo is so good that I can see the background of the era when Ishida-sensei wrote the novel, but I don’t mind the gap with the present age, and it’s interesting. When I thought, “If I get this role, I can play him running around Ikebukuro,” I got even more fired up.
How did you take the character Makoto? Kumagai: Makoto is neither G Boys (Ikebukuro gang group) nor Red Angels, nor does he belong to any organization. He is a neutral person. In the world of IWGP, I thought he was the person with the most sensibility. I wanted to act by believing in what came out of my current self, without over-creating the character. Various clients bring troubles to Makoto, who is human, and he empathizes with them. But mentally, he’s always neutral.
It’s hard to be that neutral. Kumagai: In any situation, you can always keep your foot on a flat surface. You can also say that there is a fear that pretends to be (laughs). However, when I read it as a fan of the work, I felt that he is a person who moves because he wants to do it for this guy, regardless of profit and loss. I have the impression that he is a normal but amazing person.
What was difficult about being an actor? Kumagai: I think that Makoto is a character that expresses all emotions well, and his face is smiling but angry, sad but relieved. Humans can live with only four emotions. I was again that I can’t do it. In order to play it, I had to draw a lot of myself, so it was a struggle. When the physical distance with the opponent and the emotional distance are different. I was right in front of you, but I felt like I was far away. It was a role that I was able to challenge myself with.
How was the post-recording? It seems that you can’t record with a lot of people now. Kumagai: It is no longer possible to gather in large numbers and chat while waiting, as before. For the match scene, I was allowed to do it one-on-one after taking precautions. That’s why I was able to monopolize the other person’s play. There was a lot of loneliness and frustration not being able to record with a large group, but I thought it wasn’t necessarily all bad things. To be frank, I wanted to keep doing it. One course was so fast when I actually tried it. It ended when I thought I might have finally gotten the role. More with Makoto. I honestly feel like I want to run around Ikebukuro in the middle of the day. I think it will change depending on the work, but the main character can talk a lot. Including tension can talk a lot, I want to do more plays. Greed is between “IWGP” and Makoto. Thanks to that’s, it’s gotten even better.
Do you have anything you felt from Makoto, or anything you’d like to say? Kumagai: This is something I also noticed but both Makoto and I are weak against mothers (laughs). When I saw my mother coming out, I thought that I had something in common with Makoto even in familiar places. In the world of “IWGP”, new events come to Makoto almost every day. From that point of view, it’s not an ordinary life, but it’s amazing that he has a normal sensibility. Moreover, he shows a slightly pathetic side and a tearful side. I think he’s a good man.
Please tell us about Kumagai-san’s personal side. First of all, what made you want to become a voice actor? Kumagai: I happened to be watching a music ranking program on days when I didn’t have club activities in my second or third year of junior high school, and Mamoru Miayano’s song was ranked in. I thought it was a wonderful song, so started listening to it. Then I found out that Miyano-san also played the main character in “Mobile Suit Gundam 00” on another day. It was there that I first learned that there was a profession called voice acting. Before that, I thought that people who were called actors were doing voice work, so there were professional actors who specialized in voices. I was surprised to learn that this person was doing this and that character. So, I became interested in the fact that there are people who play various roles with just their voices. I tend to get bored, and up until that point, I was going through many iterations of what I wanted to do in the future. A teacher, a soccer player, an auto mechanic. None of my dreams lasted long, but my desire to become a voice actor grew with each passing day. I started to think, that I really wanted to do this, so I decided to aim for it.
Were you interested in acting? Kumagai: Honestly, I wanted to be an actor. But voice actors are involved in both animation and foreign films. In that case, I wondered if I could become a soccer player, a teacher, or a non-human character with my voice. After graduating from high school, I attended a voice actor vocation school in Okinawa for a year. This was my first experience with a play, and I thought it was interesting that things didn’t go as planned. In class, I recorded my own play for the first time. When I heard the sound, I was surprised at how bad it is (laughs). I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t bear to hear it. But I guess it was good that I didn’t get disappointed there. At a vocational school, a teacher who can be called a mentor, had a meeting with me. While being strict and kind, he taught me various things, and he said, “It’s really more difficult to make a living as a voice actor than to become a voice actor.” The goal is not to enter, that’s what I was reminded of. One person who came as a special lecturer told me, “If you want to become a voice actor, you should leave Okinawa and go to Tokyo as soon as possible. Go to Tokyo by yourself have and crush it.” I was lucky to receive such words at the timing when I was about to take action.
You followed that advice and immediately moved to Tokyo. It seems that you lived only with part-time jobs for a year. Kumagai: But I don’t think that time was wasted. It was a great experience. If I had joined the agency right after graduating from vocational school, I would never have been able to see this world. In fact, I felt impatient because of that one year, and consulted with my former teacher. That’s when I was first introduced to the training school of the office I’m currently affiliated with, so I can’t sleep on my feet. (laughs).
Are you still in contact with that teacher? Kumagai: Yes, I always give New Year’s greetings, and last year and the year before last, they came to see live performances and events. The teacher also contacted me, saying, “I saw that work,” and “Congratulations on starring.” I think it would be great if I could give back more of what I received from my teacher.
The role that you got in your first audition after joining the agency was Hideo Kurino from The Idolmaster SideM. I think there are many people who knew Kumagai-san through this role. Kumagai: When I hear the early-stage performance of Hideo, I sometimes think, wow! But I also think that I can’t do this kind of expression now. That’s what makes it interesting. I should have gone higher, but if I was asked if I could express myself at that time, I would probably not be able to. There is a TV for the first time. The same is true for Record of Grancrest War when I played Theo Cornaro in the anime. When I saw it on air at the time, I was only reflecting on it, but when I see it now, I feel something different. At that time, I was doing what I could at the time in front of the microphone. It was the character’s voice that reached the viewers. The director gave the OK. Recently, I’ve begun to think that it’s not right to deny the plays of the time just because it was given to me, or because I’m embarrassed by it. I try to think that I might be able to do it.
What was the turning point in your life as a voice actor? Kumagai: This is the role of Aston Altland in Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans. Aston was the first character to have a named role in an anime. In the story, he is one of the “human debris”, one of the children who was treated as disposable. What does that mean? He’s not treated like a human in the first place, so it’s not normal for him to have hot meals, a bed, and people who call him friends, I guess. That’s why I’m scared, I think about it and think about it… After doing many retakes, I couldn’t understand why. The frustration of making the cast members wait, and the frustration of not being able to deliver what the director wants. In the end, I was allowed to do so much that I didn’t know which one was OK. It was really painful, but I still can’t forget the feeling of doing it desperately.
Do you have any thoughts that you want to cherish while voicing various roles as a voice actor? Kumagai: There was a time when I was thinking about something like a resume for a role. What kind of upbringing does this character have, and what is his physique like? But now, after reading the original and the script thoroughly, I want to do it without thinking too much. I really think too much, and I often get unnecessarily confused (laughs). Also, I want to make sure that people don’t mind the sound. If you decide that this character has such a voice, the range of the play will be lost. Even a man with a very good physique can have an unstable falsetto. I think it’s fine, and I want to cherish the emotions that come out.
What kind of work would you like to do in the future? Kumagai: I don’t have much experience dubbing, so I want to do more. I think it’s only in the field that you can get it. My dream for the future is to be active until I die. I want to keep doing this job forever.
Shooting with the image of Makoto running through the city at night. “I wanted to be a bit of a bad guy, but I wonder if I was able to express it well (laughs), he said with a wry smile. The personality that thinks too much will surely bring further growth next year.