Takahiro Sakurai-san answered that if there is a special day in his life that he would like to leave on film, it would be the day he came to Tokyo to become a voice actor. The camera in his eyes, which once swayed with excitement and tension, now, on the 25th anniversary of his debut, shines as if he were shooting his own path even during changing times.
Voice Newtype will be speaking to you for the first time in five years. How do you feel about the 25th anniversary of your debut? Sakurai: As I immerse in my work, I realize it’s been a quarter of a century. Especially around this time, the way “voice acctors” are treated has changed, but I haven’t changed my stance so much, but I feel like I’m looking up at someone else.
I think that the situation where voice actors are attracting more attention than ever has continued from the big movement of “Osamatsu-san”. In addition, the movie version of this winter is also expected. I’m surprised that Sakurai-san is here. Sakurai: I’m surprised too (laughs). As expected, I’m looking at it. As a performer, I think it’s dangerous to be swayed by the easily quantifiable “hit”. Because it’s just out there, you didn’t make it yourself. Around the time I turned 40, I became more and more convinced that voice actors are staff after all. All this time, I was just desperate to get out, so I didn’t have much to think about.
What did you think about as a member of the entertainment world during the corona crisis? Sakurai: When I thought about what’s best for society, I thought, “Now is not the time.” But the reason I thought so was because the voice acting industry quickly responded to the situation and continued to do so without stopping at temporary measures. I also try to adapt as much as possible and perform better.
Having a small group during dubbing, are there any difficulties with this? Sakurai: The staff are also working hard to ensure that the cast members who interact with each other as much as possible can be recorded at the same time. One thing I felt was that the gazes and throws of the other actors and characters made my own outline clearer. If I do it alone, it seems to be blurry. It’s more of a selfish conscious, rather than a mood that says, “If we all work together, we can make something good!”
By the way, another thing about Sakurai-san being at the epicenter of the hit, let me mention that he dubbed the Korean drama “Itaewon Class” (leading role Park Seo-joon). Sakurai: It was very popular. When it came to dubbing for “Itaewon Class,” the fact that I had been in charge of another drama up until that point wasn’t the same, so the manager gave me strict instructions (laughs). But I think it’s good that I was able to be involved in it that much. Dubbing is a job that I still think is difficult since the beginning of my debut. Not only do I have to trace the original voice and convert it to Japanese expressions, but I also feel a sense of incongruity that I can’t make my own voice because of my physique and bone structure.
From what I’ve heard from you since your debut, you’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hold on to something when you were thinking of quitting voice acting. I think that’s why I think it’s proof that I’m looking for Sakurai-san? Sakurai: Thankfully. However, although I said this five years ago, I am still wondering when I should stop. If I could just do post-recording for anime all the time, I’d like to keep doing it. For me, the current era, where I had been following the trends, were too much for me. I think I’m working hard for the day when I can say to myself, “You can quit.”
I think it’s your own radio station, “P.S. Genkidesu”. Sakurai: It’s difficult because it’s not something you can see like a payslip. A feeling, an experience. For example, it was discovered that the sweetness of a person’s articulation, which was originally his weak point, becomes a cunning weapon called “taste” as he ages, bringing reality to the play. I would like to get information about things that are popular among young people, something that can only be found in the field.
I thought it would be something more like a bonus that matches your feelings of “enjoyment”, but you are looking for it. Sakurai: Yes, I like my job, but I enjoy it. If you ask me if I want to… it’s fine. It’s fine, I’m scared. The moment when everyone was disappointed when they were given a chance to put the bases loaded with one out and couldn’t score a single point. Or I still feel it. If you think it’s different form the page, you won’t be able to connect next time, and if there is a next time, it’s just a matter of prolonging your life, and you may get tired of it at any time. It’s not that I worry, but that’s how I live my life thinking that people are like that. Because I’m aware that I’m a “poisonous uncle” (laughs).
“Troublesome” means that there is a theory that has been cultivated so much. Sakurai: Well, you can accumulate that much. Sometimes I push someone. I will not attach it.
In other words, people other than yourself are forcing a theory of “evil” between them. Sakurai: Being able to play role that is touted, I think there are many. Recently, I thought that “Ra Oguro Senki: The Future I Choose” was a milestone role for me to test my true worth. He wanted to make his wishes come true, so he fought with the intention of earning his victory. It’s a pity that I can’t resist (laughs).
The role of Mugen was played by Mamoru Miyano-san, and I remembered “Human Lost”. Sakurai: Yes, yes. Such is the case with the animated movie “GODZILLA.”
About carrying a mad thing because of such beliefs. How do you perceive it? Sakurai: When I was young, I had characters with similar textures one after another, but I didn’t have the skills to differentiate them, so I created my own format, and then I got stuck again because of my clumsiness. There was a time when I was addicted to it. I was able to climb up thanks to Keiji Fujiwara-san’s words, “But I’m wanted, so I’m here.” I don’t think I’m giving off a mad air myself (laughs). But I’m grateful to be able to wear a colour that suits me like that. People are playing around with the phrase, “Since Sakurai is doing it, this guy will betray you.”
On the other hand, the role of guiding a young character based on such beliefs are also impressive. The same goes for Giyuu Tomioka from “Kimetsu no Yaiba.” What are your thoughts on Avan in “Dragon Quest Dai no Daibouken?” Sakurai: I was very happy to receive it at the audition. Avan never shows off his strength. When I was reading the serialization in real time, I remember looking very grown-up, saying, “A wise falcon hides his claws.” Now, when I face Avan, what I value is not the sermon-like feeling of “I want to tell you something,” but the feeling of “I hope I can convey something,” and that I want only those who can receive it to do so.
I thought it was similar to Sakurai-san’s way of living. Do you have any sympathy for Avan’s idea of “Using the power you have learned through training to help others?” Sakurai: I have. But, uhm… I guess it’s for my own sake. In fact, I sometimes asked artists who came as guests for “Komuchatto Countdown” to sing for me. There may be some feelings that I still can’t put into words.
Is there anything else that has been beneficial to you in terms of “something other than wages?” Sakurai: Starting a series of essays was a big deal. I think that’s because of the radio. An amateur got a chance to speak for a long time on two programs, one that was entertainment-like and the other that was close to the real thing. These days, I feel like I’m being praised for being a splendid voice actor.
Every time, you express yourself in one word. “Piyopiyo” in the 17 years since your debut, “Piyopiyopiyo” in the 20th year, what about the next one? Sakurai: I wonder if its okay to say “toddler”. When the time came for voice actors to be in the spotlight, for the first time, I felt like my thoughts and feelings were fixed. I thought I was walking along the same extension line all the time, but when I suddenly realized that the scenery around me had changed so quickly, I thought, “Huh?”
When it’s just a foosie… I think nature is better than buildings (laughs). Sakurai: I have a place to stay, but I feel uncomfortable. Then you have no choice but to move in order to change the way you live. It was “Piyopiyo”, who was being held and cradled, but it started to shake more and more, so I said, “That’s enough” (laughs). Now that I have stood up, I have to walk on my own feet, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.
A few years ago, do you think it was a good thing that you belong in your current agency? Sakurai: It was a decision similar to when I decided to become a voice actor, but I would like to think so. It is thanks to the agency that I am able to work in that style. I never imagined that a guy like a major leaguer would come in later, but that’s also interesting.
Three years from now, when you turn 50, I hope to hear from you again. Sakurai: I’m sure it will be soon again. It would be nice if I could secure a comfortable place for myself by making some changes without being swayed by the world around me. I think I’m still working on this. Unless I suddenly become the manager of a café (laughs).
Column: Recommended movies for long autumn nights. Dawn of the dead
If I had to pick one favourite movie, it would be this one. When I was in elementary school, I saw it on TV and thought it would be like a dream to turn it into a shopping mall, but I feel catharsis when the scariest thing is people. Even now, I watch it several times during the day while drinking beer.