Kentarou Kumagai CUT ( October 2020 )


“Ikebukuro West Gate Park” set in Ikebukuro in 2020, “IWGP” has finally been made into an anime. We approach the enthusiasm of five voice actors who challenge a work that will be loved throughout the ages. Many readers may feel nostalgic when they hear “Ikebukuro West Gate Park”. The original is Ira Ishida’s novel of the same name. From 1998 to the present, 18 volumes have been published, including the 1st series, the 2nd series, and the Gaiden. Set in Ikebukuro, Tokyo “Troubleshooter” Makoto solves various incidents that occur in the city of Ikebukuru with Takashi, the King of the street gang “G Boys”.  The charm of this work is that the characters with unique presences lively and lightly interact with each other, develop with a sense of speed, and the theme of real social problems. In 2000, it was made into a drama based on the screenplay by Kankuro Kudo, and it became a big topic because it depicted violence, action, and comedy while maintaining the original hard work. It is no exaggeration to say that this work was one of the reasons why the actors that everyone knows are appearing everywhere now.

“IWGP” will finally be animated in 2020 after many media mixes. While faithfully and abundantly incorporating the original story, this anime, which has been reconstructed by changing the stage to modern Ikebukuro, should illuminate the chaotic 2020 in a new way. Therefore, in this special feature, we will deliver interviews with the voice actors who play the main characters in this work, I would like you to raise your expectations for the quiet and hot resistance that the 2020 Ikebukuru West Gate Park will create from the strong feelings and overflowing euphoria of the five people for “IWGP”.

The reason why this work has been loved for so long is that it is set in the town of Ikebukuro and reflects society with a thorough sense of reality. Makoto Majima, the immovable main character who stands in the centre and continues to protect Ikebukuro. I could see “Makoto Majima in 2020” in his words that he challenged himself “as he is” without being discouraged by the pressure of the masterpiece and the corona disaster.

What was your image of the original? Kumagai: The troubles and incidents that appear in the play that don’t happen very often to me, but if you put the characters in your own body, you might get a similar feeling. It seems like a human affair, but once you step into it, it’s not a human affair, and I felt the vividness and reality of it. So, I approached the character of Makoto from a point of sympathy. Hmm… Makoto is certainly more normal, compared to the charismatic Takashi and Kyoichi. Nevertheless, I think that the reason why troubles keep coming in is that there is something that he is attracting. At first glance, it looks normal, but if you look closely, it’s not normal. In terms of emotional range, he’s a person like me, but I was at a loss as to how to express the slightly dangerous smell of such a normal-looking person.

I thought I’d try it with my own blueness and something that comes out as an inexperienced person. Especially in the original work, Makoto has been depicted for a long time since he was a teenager, so Makoto himself is changing with age. You can see it. That’s right. I have the impression that I’m growing up, leaving behind the parts of my teenage years that I can get angry and cry for others. I felt that Makoto in the anime is close to my age, so when I challenged the audition, I said, “Okay, let’s stop thinking about creating a voice.” I was 25 years old at the time of the audition, so I thought I’d give him his current voice. By trying not to be too conscious of the sound, this time I thought I might be able to do something that comes out of my own naivety and inexperience.

I see. Were there any changes during the actual dubbing? Kumagai: Makoto’s emotions move a lot as he speaks his lines in the work. He also knows how to suppress his emotions. However, since Makoto himself still has a blue colour, it overflows somewhere. I think that’s why he’s liked by so many people, but that seasoning became a wall for me and I often worried about it. It was Makoto who taught me not only how to push and pull, but also how to make subtle adjustments. Every time he hits a wall, gets knocked off, and thinks he’s going to get back up again (laughs). However, the sound director and all the staff were stoutly prepared. I am grateful that I was able to take on the challenges seriously. Makoto himself has a normal sensibility, so he doesn’t like tricks like “Let’s do well”. So, rather than doing it well, I thought that Makoto himself would be livelier if he said, “This is the feeling, so I brought this kind of play!”

There was also the influence of the Coronoa. Kumagai: Yes, people say it’s hard because they can’t record the scenes exactly as they are, but I’m grateful that I was able to constantly record with everyone in this situation. However, I was able to concentrate on the one-on-one play all the time, so I thought that the current situation was not necessarily only a disadvantage. Makoto faces everyone with passion. In the end, it was a series of one-on-one conversations. I was able to feel more that I was a person who was alive.

While playing Makoto this time, Kumagai-san himself was personally influenced by Makoto. Have you received anything? Kumagai: It was Makoto who taught me not only how to push and pull, but also how to make subtle adjustments. I wanted to learn. Regardless of gender, I think Makoto and I are close in that I can immediately think, “I can respect this kind of person so much.” In a way, it’s like falling in love (laughs).

By the way, what is your image of Ikebukuru, Kumagai-san? Kumagai: There is a feeling that it is a city where people with energy gather. It is also tolerant of anime and game culture, and there are many people who express their “likes” to their heart’s content. In other words, the atmosphere is different between the west and east exits. After taking a step forward, there is a bit of an underground feeling like in the work. There is a moment when the sense of direction disappears. When I went to Ikebukuru for the first time, I had a hard time even going to Ikebukuru from the ticket gates (laughs).

It’s amazing that you always have that map in your head and can always choose the shortest route. If I chase Makoto in Ikebukuro, I am confident that I will be caught in an instant. If Makoto makes a phone call to Takashi, isn’t that all the G-Boys in the city must be mobilized? It’s just my imagination, but it takes 30 seconds for Takashi to call me, 30 seconds for Takashi to give a command to the G-Boys, 2 minutes to go to work, and when I realize that it would be nice if I could escape for 5 minutes, I’m surrounded! (laughs)

Finally, can you tell us how you feel now that the broadcast is finally starting? Kumagai: I’m happy and excited to finally be able to watch it, and I’m honestly nervous about how IWGP fans in various media mixes will receive it. However, in any case, this work is very suitable for the current era, and it is a work that has many themes that should be drawn because it is now. I would you like to watch “Ikebukuru West Gate Park”, which will be broadcast now in 2020. Especially if you focus on the people who appear in this work. I think you will be able to sympathize more deeply.

Part 2 of Interview: Kouki Uchiyama & Subaru Kimura

One of the important pieces that is indispensable when talking about “Ikebukuro West Gate Park” is the gang G Boys. A group of “children” who maintain the balance behind the city from a gray position. The one who reigns at the top is ‘King” Takashi. The name is backed up by the overwhelming fighting power and sharp mind (and handsome), and the personality is cool, but on the contrary, the Ikebukuro boys and girls are warm to their friends and the city. I can’t stop grabbing my heart. Makoto is a close friend from high school before the formation of the G Boys, and as the only equal relationship, he brings trouble and lends a hand.

So, following the interview with Kentarou Kumagai, who plays the role of Makoto, we will deliver the “G-Boys Dialogue” by Kouki Uchiyama, who plays Takashi, the absolute champion, and Subaru Kimura, who plays the role of Team Number Two Hiroto. Although they are the same age and have similar careers, their personalities are completely opposite, just like Takashi and Hiroto. But that’s why those words expressed the charm of the 2020 “IWGP” as if they were one. Kimura: Uchiyama-san is “walking cool”. It would be perfect if I could play a role like King!

In the first place, what is your impression of “IWGP”? Uchiyama: When I was about 9 years old, a TV drama was being broadcast, but since I was still a child at that time, I had the impression that it was a scary work for adults. Kankuro Kudo-san’s screenplay and Yukihiko Tsutsumi-san’s directing left a strong impression on me, so I was surprised to see and anime adaption. Kimura: It’s a legendary masterpiece. I also saw the drama. I was in high school, I was like, “This is crazy!” there must be a king! I got excited about doing G-Boy hand signs at school (laughs). It’s a work that you can feel close to as a real reality.

It’s a work that has been mixed in a lot of media so far, so it was both fun and surprising to see it made into an anime. Kimura: That’s right. We haven’t seen the final version yet, but I think the fighting scenes are really cool. In today’s world, where there are so many things that need to be done and things that are vague, I think it’s something that you can watch and feel refreshed. Uchiyama: Also, it’s interesting that this anime version has a lot of episodes dealing with recent topics. The person who posted the video appears… It’s not just lined up, it’s reconfigured for today’s viewers, so I think there’s that kind of fun too.  King Takashi is a charismatic leader of the G-Boys, but that’s why he’s a character that’s hard to understand.

I think it is too. How did you act? Uchiyama: First, I combined the atmosphere I felt from reading the original work and my impressions of the character designs and tried it out in a test. I want it. There are like my habits, so I was directed to speak clearly as a whole, and I feel like I was able to create the current form.

Uchiyama-san plays the character Takashi very smartly. The contrast with Makoto is also really cool! Uchiyama: As written in the original work, I was conscious of the feeling of some sort of coldness and no warmth. They talk about a lot of things, but it’s like you can’t see what they’re thinking deep inside. Coldness and mystery. Kimura: Well, it would be perfect if I played a cool role for Uchiyama-san. Because Uchiyama-san is usually cool, I really don’t know what he’s thinking. Uchiyama: He gives me a lot of compliments (laughs). Kimura: Even in Ping Pong, which I played in before, Uchiyama-san was a really cool character. Uchiyama: That’s right (laughs).

Kimura: I’m that kind of cool and pretty. I’m not very good at characters with silly voices, so I tend to do characters with a silly voice that sounds like a kid general. Ootsuka-san said, “No, no, anime wouldn’t be interesting if it became a good voice festival.” A person with a good voice told me that, so at first, I wasn’t really convinced (laughs), but later when I took a closer look at it myself, I thought it made sense. A voice like mine has the role of making people with cool voices stand out, and I can also show my own presence. That’s why, when I played Hiroto this time, I planned to create and atmosphere that would make me think, “There’s something wrong with this guy.”

Takashi and Hiroto are G-Boys number one and two, but they have a complicated relationship with their own opinions. What kind of relationship do the two of you have? Uchiyama: I’ve known him since I was a child, and we’re the same age, and we both went from being a child actor to voice work, but from my point of view, Subaru-kun has always been doing great work. I’ve always known that you like hip-hop, but before you know it, you’ve made it a big deal. He’s built a movement (laughs).

Kimura: It’s really amazing to be on a lot of TV variety shows. I’m honoured. Since we appear in the same work, Uchiyama-san is someone I’ve been interested in. it’s like I’ve been interested in him for more than 10 years. He has a character and charm that I can’t imitate. I have a lot of respect for him. Uchiyama-san’s character is really different, so I’m very inspired by his presence. Uchiyama: No, I don’t really like him (laughs). Kimura: Hahaha! I’m curious (laughs). I want to go drinking when the corona is over.

It is also a highlight that you can enjoy the real Ikebukuro depiction of the year, but what memories do you two have? Uchiyama: Memories of Ikebukuro. Kimura: I often go to Ikebukuro, don’t I? Uchiyama: Really? Kimura: GU and UNIQLO at Ikebukuro East Exit are huge, so it’s nice to be able to see them all at once. It’s a place like, “Let’s go, let’s go.” There are young people and adults, there are modern parts and old-fashioned parts, and there is also art mixed there. When I was around 20 years old when I began to appear in various works one by one, I often went to Ikebukuro to investigate my name recognition. Uchiyama: What?

Kimura: In front of Animate in Ikebukuro. After about 10 round trips, we’ll investigate whether you can talk to us. Uchiyama: How was the result? Kimura: I couldn’t talk to you after all. After all, I have many opportunities to play characters related to Ikebukuro, such as “Mawaru Penguindrum”, “Hypnosis Mic”, and this time “IWGP”, so I feel a strong sense of affinity. Even though I don’t have that kind of thing, I have a sense of my town (laughs).

Uchiyama: Compared to that, it’s not a great memory (laughs). That building has a great selection of products, and there are chairs and benches on each floor. There are CD shops and variety stores. Kimura: There are also many theatres. I also had the opportunity to appear in it. Maybe that’s part of it, and I think it also has an image of culture and art.

I would like to hear your thoughts on delivering this “IWGP” in 2018. Kimura: Looking at Makoto and King again like this, the energetic and vital young people I think it’s great that they’re trying to keep order in the city. These guys love Ikebukuro. Uchiyama: That’s right. While reading the script and acting, this work is an element of human drama. Makoto and Takashi, of course, have complex human relationships within each group, and there are friendships that transcend groups. There are flashy battles and incidents in addition to the encounters with other characters, but I think the charm of this human drama is the reason why “IWGP” has continued for so long. I think the impression will change depending on the generation, so I want you to enjoy it in various ways. Kimura: Yeah, I don’t think it’s too much, and I think it’s fun. I think there are elements that can be a refreshing distraction, so I hope you enjoy it.  

Part 3 of Interview: Reiou Tsuchida & Natsuki Hanae

In Ikebukuro, a new force that suddenly appeared against the G-Boys, who have absolute power. It’s the Red Angels. Head Kyoichi has an unusual career as a dancer returning from the United States, and Isogai, a man with many mysteries, who is the number two supporter of this unique team. In the original, they appear in the first volume of the series, “Sunshine Street Civil War”, but in the anime series, they are involved with Makoto and others as the main characters, and various expressions are drawn. Reiou Tsuchida and Natsuki Hanae, who plays the role of Isogai, who challenged both the presence and originality of the original work, will be talking for the first time. It started with the innocent greeting.

Is this the first time the two of you have met? Hanae: It’s my first time, and it’s my first time to talk slowly. We’ve worked together before, but we haven’t really chatted much. Tsuchida: Right.

If you would like to take this opportunity to deepen your friendship, how did you feel when you decided to appear in this work? Hanae: Of course, I know the name of the work and I felt that the fact that it has continued for this long means that the work has power and that it is attracting attention. There was a lot of pressure involved in that kind of work, but Isogai also had strong anime original elements, so at the time of the audition there was no drawing of the character yet, so I was like, “Please do you as you please (laughs). So, in a sense, it might have been easier. Tsuchida: When I saw the news that it was going to be made into an anime trending on Twitter, I wanted to get involved. I was told that there is, and I immediately took it. Kyoichi also has quite a lot of original elements in the anime, and the Red Angels themselves are explored more deeply, so I worked well on that part with inspiration. It was just around Christmas time last year that I was accepted, and I thought, “This is a Christmas present!”

While the rest of the cast was being decided, what were your impressions before the recording? Hanae: Takashi was going to give off a cool impression that’s different from the one in the drama. So, when I heard that Kouki Uchiyama-san will play the role, I thought, “I see, it fits!”

It is also noteworthy that the voice actors of the younger generation are all present. Tsuchida: That’s right. Makoto is Kuma-chan (Kentarou Kumagai), and Kyoichi is me. Hanae: They chose people who are really yankees (laughs). Tsuchida: Eh? (laughs). There is also a scene where you can make a dos. Hanae: But Isogai isn’t there. He’s able to mediate and connect people. Tsuchida: Red Angels sales representative. Hanae: My job title is “Chief Angel”. I still don’t know what that is (laughs).

Everyone has quite a unique character. Tsuchida: Kyoichi was really elusive, and it was really hard to get a hold of the character. Especially in the first recording, we had many retakes, and he gave us the direction. “Kyoichi feels fluffier” (laughs). It was really difficult. When I’m on a serious battlefield, I suddenly find myself in my own world. I was given directions such as, “You don’t need Dos here, it feels like you’re talking alone in a field of flowers.” At the same time as I think he’s a really strange character, I wonder if that’s the charisma that attracts everyone. I feel like I’m not an ordinary person. Hanae: Isogai is doing things with the impression that he’s far from conflict. I often act as a follower to support them, such as calming them down and explaining things to them. I can’t see the bottom right now, but I try not to think too deeply about it. At the stage of the audition, I completely decided on Isogai’s image myself, and did it with the feeling of “If I don’t pass with this, I’ll give up.” I was able to get the role without incident, so when I did the same for the first recording, I was like, “Oh, you remembered me, okay.”

Tsuchida: That’s amazing, as expected! Hanae: Well, I think Koichi will be difficult (laughs). I thought you were doing your best. Tsuchida: But I think Isogai is the one who actually puts the team together, so he is very supportive! I was doing it while thinking that it would be nice if I could attract people around me. Hanae: I think gangsters like this are a bit bad for the general public, aren’t they? I really feel that Kyoichi also has a part of him that he values as a human being. When I see scenes where he is unexpectedly kind and works for people, I wonder if he is suitable as the leader of this team. Also, there are dance fans. Tsuchida: Yes, I think we managed to put a certain hot spot in the middle.

How did you feel when you actually heard each other’s voices? Hanae: Kyoichi was really fluffy. Even when we were talking, it felt like we couldn’t see what we were talking about. There were a lot of separate recordings due to this situation, but I think it’s because we couldn’t record together that there are parts that feel like that. It might be a plus unexpectedly. Tsuchida: Hanae-san’s Isogai gave me a great sense of security the moment I heard about it, and I thought I would be entrusted with being the chief angel of the Red Angels. “If I were in the world of “IWGP”, I’d be the mob saying, “It’s dangerous” (laughs).

There are many gangsters and yankees in live-action movies, but it’s surprisingly rare in anime. I feel like “What do you think of that genre?” Tsuchida: It’s fun to watch as fiction. Hanae: I had a glimpse of the live-action drama of “IWGP” on reruns, and the scene where King grabs a hammer and crushes his opponent’s fingers left a deep impression on me. I remember watching it while thinking, “Hey!”

Do you read manga of that genre? Hanae: Rather than yankee stories, there are more hitman and yakuza stories (laughs). Tsuchida: The main character is strong and unrivalled, that kind of thing is cool, isn’t it? Hanae: That’s right.

This work is also very “strong” (laughs) and deals with dirty topics. Hanae: That’s right. There are people who are actually having trouble with this sort of thing, and incidents are familiar to us, so I thought it was quite realistic. Tsuchida: It’s very real, isn’t it? I think it’s amazing how it touches the deepest parts of the story. Hanae: I’m looking forward to seeing how the younger generation will react, especially when it’s aired as an anime.

If you were living in a hard-boiled world, what kind of position do you think you would be in? Tsuchida: Well, there was an incident, and it was a mob saying, “What? Was it an accident?” (laughs). A person who doesn’t even take pictures, just says “It’s dangerous” and walks away. Hanae: (laughs) I’m a weapon dealer. Tsuchida: Hahaha! Hanae: I admire him a little. I think it’s cool.

Well then, what character are you attracted to when you read it? Tsuchida: I really like the classic main character type. Rather than being a charismatic leader, a straight-forward character like Makoto. If feels good to watch it. Makoto has a lot of people around him, so I think it’s going to be tough (laughs).

I like characters who become friends. Tsuchida: Ah, I understand! Hanae: “IWGP” is someone. I think it’s cool that Takashi doesn’t talk much. However, Makoto has the most appearance scenes, and Kumagai-kun was doing his best (laughs). The main character is often said by everyone, “I like you, but there’s someone else who’s my favourite.” Tsuchida: It’s true (laughs).

I’m looking forward to the broadcast in October. Tsuchida: I feel like it’s finally coming out to the world. It’s a very interesting work, and I don’t think it will disappoint everyone, so I hope you enjoy it! Hanae: There are stories and developments that are different from dramas and other media mixes, so I think that the original fans will enjoy it, and I would like people who don’t know anything to watch this anime. It seems that the number of people who want to watch others shows has increased as a result of this. It was a pity that the broadcast was postponed, but that’s why it’s getting more and more exciting.


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