Kazuyuki Okitsu (Anium Premium Vol. 4 2019)

興津 和幸

I would like to ask Okitsu-san, whose background is shrouded in mystery. Okitsu-san, you have appeared in many works. The list of appearances on Wikipedia is unfinished. Okitsu: Why is my Wikipedia’s unfinished? I don’t want to do my homework anymore!

Haha (laughs). 2007 was the first time you appeared in TV animation. Okitsu: I had the impression that Wikipedia wouldn’t be written unless I appeared in anime, I did voice overs, dubbing of foreign movies, narration, MC at events, and so on. I was doing a lot of things.

Did you originally want to be a voice actor? I heard that you were born and raised on Awaji Island. Okitsu: Yes. Back then, there were no Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and we had to cross by boat, so getting out of the island was a big event (laughs). I think I was in 2nd or 3rd grade when I first left the island. My relatives lived in Osaka, and my older brother and sisters always came to visit me during spring break and summer vacation. Then I got an invitation saying, “Would you like to go too?” I was surprised by the beauty of Hankyu Umeda Station in Osaka that I saw for the first time. I thought it was the Palace of Versailles (laughs). At the time, it was a 30-minute drive from where I lived to Sumoto City to Sannomiya by boat for 4,000 yen every time. I can’t just leave the island by car. It was a new experience.

What was life like on the island at the time? Okitsu: I was surrounded by nature, but since I had nothing to do, I basically just watched TV. Sometimes, I would go up hills with my friends and play golf or shoot BB bullets. But I was not good at naughty things. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was born in March, so there was about a year’s difference in my physical growth from those born in April. So, I can’t exercise at all. When I’m running around, I’m definitely the only one who’s behind. If I played hide-and-seek, they wouldn’t be able to find me, and if I turned into a demon by kicking a can, it would be over (laughs). I know now that it was because of the difference in physique, but at the time I hated it. I don’t actively exercise anymore, so I guess that’s what the so-called bean sprout child says. I became that kind of boy.

It’s rare to aim to become a voice actor in such an environment. Okitsu: But for me, it was only natural that I wanted to become a voice actor. When I was little, it was my dream to become a baker and have a toy shop. There was a picture book, but for the first time, I learned there is cute and round bread. Come to think of it, my parents probably brought me some anpan, but I didn’t like red bean paste. My parents know that I love eating bread with butter on it, so they buy me bread or melon bread. It’s a parent’s love to bring it to the dining table saying, “You’ll like this.” However, I had never eaten the “freshly baked bun” that appeared in the picture book, and I thought it was really delicious, so I really wanted to eat it. I had to drive 30 minutes to find a bakery, so I thought it would be nice to make my own, so I wanted to become a baker. A toy store was also a dream of the future for the same reason. I like toys, so I wanted to own one.

You were a very pure boy. Did you start living on your own when you left the island as you entered university? Okitsu: I lived alone for the first time after going to Osaka University of Arts (laughs). People used to say, “In times likes these, it’s tie to go to college.” After all, if you say, “I’m going to become a voice actor,” and leave home, it’s lonely. I don’t know where to go, and I don’t have the money to go all the way to Tokyo. But when I told them I was going to college, rather than going to a vocational school, I think they expected me to think, “My son says he’s going to become a voice actor, but maybe he’ll wake up…?” The reason I went to Osaka University of Arts was for a simple reason. I was attending the broadcasting department announcer course, and in the guidance material, in the corner of the column for possible occupations, “voice actor” was written in just two letters. For a little while, I thought it would be nice if I could work at a broadcasting station and become an announcer, but I didn’t study, so I couldn’t become an announcer.

Anyway, you wanted to get a job that uses your voice. Did you have confidence in your voice?  Okitsu: I had confidence in myself since high school. I was in a contest, people who had been trained in reading and announcing compete against each other, and there are radio, television, documentary, and drama divisions, so the level is high. The reason I joined the broadcasting club was because I was thinking, “I want to be a voice actor, but what can I do on the island,” they invited me to make a radio drama. Rather than wanting to do theatre, I wanted to record my own voice and create a work. Also, my senpai was cute (laughs). But I was probably the only one who was serious about the voice. I think most of the others were more interested in tinkering with machines.

Did you tell those around you that you wanted to be a voice actor? Okitsu: I think I said it. When I was young, I had many dreams, but by this time, my dream of becoming a voice actor had solidified. By the way, when I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a chef for a while. When I was in the 6th grade, I wrote “training” in an anthology or something. I tried to write “delicious”, but I remember my teacher telling me, “You look like you’re just a glutton, so don’t write delicious.” I thought there was no “yes.”

By the way, are you particular about your work? Okitsu: I will do my best. I took a closer look and noticed that it changed. Even if I try to imitate this person, when I can’t imitate, I wonder what is missing, and little by little, I fill the gap between my subjectivity and the outside, I will continue. The attitude of working hard has never changed. However, if there is one thing that I think has changed from the past, is that I suddenly get tired. My body hurts and I can’t move. About five or six years ago, I started going to massages and acupuncture. Some parts of my body is definitely tense when I speak out. If you speak without strain, you can only produce a voice without any particular characteristics. Thinking only with your head won’t be reflected in your voice, so I use my body. If you’re a stage performer, you might understand.

Is stage experience important for voice actors as well? Okitsu: That’s right. If you want to become a voice actor now, you will definitely be able to experience it from the stage play. But it’s important, isn’t it? when I was in training school, I thought the same thing. “Why are you making me do only Shakespeare?”

Now I understand the importance of acting. Okitsu: People who perform on stage have a stronger heart, don’t they? I thought, “This is crazy,” but the stage performers make a living out of it… they have a very strong mentality. I feel that even in the field of voice actors, “I’m going to act!” You can see the will. It seems that there are many people who have confidence, “If you can do that on stage, there’s no reason you can’t act with just your voice.” If someone like me were to say, “I was doing theatre,” they would probably get angry, but I’m glad I did it because I was really training my thinking and mentality.”

Okitsu-san, when did you start acting in earnest? Okitsu: When I was at Osaka University of Arts, there were a lot of classes to become an announcer, so I thought, “This isn’t enough acting, what should I do?” So, I joined a student theatre company. Even if you just take classes, unless you have a special talent, you won’t be able to get ahead of other people. That’s why I thought I would do something out of place. I was a cunning person (laughs). There were many motivated actors in the theatre company. Some were studying acting, others were doing musicals, and they would show off what they had learned that day, saying, “I learned this today!” By listening to other people’s ideas, I was able to see with my own eyes the standards of “I’m fine with this,” or “I’m really looking for this,” so it was an important period for me to learn about acting. What left an impression on me was how everyone expressed it when I was asked to express fire. I was wondering how it express it because everyone usually lights up a fire on the stove or makes a bonfire, but that’s not the case. Since it expresses fire, you must become fire itself!”

I see. Is that the way of thinking that you express yourself as fire only with your body? So, you’re deepened your awareness of expression. Okitsu: My experience in a theatre company in college broadened the scope of my acting. The width was very narrow. I felt like I saw a new world at university. In addition to those who aspired to become stage actors, there were also people from the Film Department and people behind the scenes, so I realize at that time that each of us had a different perspective when it came to watching a play.

It’s important to notice. By the way, did you have a part-time job while you were in school? Okitsu: I mainly worked as an event staff and a short-term part-time job. I joined the long-term business as a sales staff. So, I sold a lot of miscellaneous good there, especially carry cases, etc. As a part-time job policy, instead of working many shifts, I tried to do my best whilst I was on duty. However, in the last part-time job, the boss finally changed and said, “Okitsu-kun, can you take a look? This is your shift last week, you only go out two days a week. You know the contract, you have to work at least four times a week,” so I got fired. But on the other hand, I only appear twice a week, so why don’t I stop? I didn’t dislike the part-time job itself, so I think I continued. I don’t often do things reluctantly. The only thing I really hated was the soccer team I was on when I was in elementary school. I don’t like exercise, and I run slow. If you can’t catch up with the ball, why don’t you do it? I can’t catch up with you forever. One day, when we were all lined up and told to try to catch the coach’s shot, I happened to stop the ball. Even though it just happened to fly right in front of me, everyone was like, “Hey, he stopped the coach’s ball!” As a result, I got an okay score in the actual performance and said, “Look, it didn’t work. I’m quitting soccer.”

Haha (laughs). Let’s go back to college. In addition to the student theatre company, Okitsu-san also attended a training school for voice actors. That also passed. Okitsu: “That’s right.” At that time, I thought I wouldn’t be able to become a voice actor if I only took classes at Osaka University of Arts. I’m going to become an announcer at this rate.

What do you think is the most important factor in whether or not you can become a voice actor? Okitsu: I think it’s whether you break your heart or not. If you break your heart, you’re defeated. If you keep dreaming and work hard until you can, you’ll definitely be able to do it.

By the way, have you ever felt like giving up on yourself? Okitsu: When I was in school, I had friends around me, and I knew what I needed to do for the audition for the agency. I used to go to karaoke by myself and sing, “I can do it! I can do it!” As a result, when I was in my third year of university, I was accepted into the office. However, at the office that had just opened, I was told, “You don’t know what will happen in the future, so don’t drop out.” My teacher at the training school also asked me, “What are you going to do?” From then on, every day was just barely.

Didn’t you start job hunting because you already had an office when you were in college? Okitsu: I even took a commemorative exam for a broadcasting station. It was open and I used to go there. Everyone wanted to be an announcer, so it was fresh and very interesting. I considered a general job, but I might have quit because I tend to get bored. As a result, I’ve been a voice actor for a long time, partly because I like it, but every day I do something different. I think that’s why I’ve been able to continue being a voice actor without getting bored, once you fall in love, it’s a long time.

What kind of days have you been spending since you belonged to the office? Okitsu: It was really hard. It’s about knowing the current situation of the office, which is at the limit. It was a small office, so for the first time, I was keenly aware of how difficult it was to get a job. At first, I was excited, thinking, “I’ve become a voice actor!” What should I do? As expected, I can’t do my job…” I was depressed. There were a lot of retakes, and it was my first job, so I was very happy, but when I listen to it now, I’m not good at it. I was really into it. But I was ready to go.

That’s what happened. Okitsu: Then, I was keenly aware of how difficult it is to speak naturally and normally. People who are not just reading well, but who are there, not conspicuous, not intrusive and comfortable to listen to it. At the time of our debut, we didn’t realize how amazing it was.

In a way, I think you lost your confidence. Okitsu: Yes. I was confident and did nothing but strange things. If you have something that you have to be able to do, and if you put your individuality on top of that, you will be recognized for your individuality.

Okitsu-san, what did you do after that? Okitsu: I continued acting because I wanted to. If I wanted to do the stage myself, I could do it if I had the time, so I joined a theatre company in Osaka called Osamichi Jusanbanchi. I didn’t have a job as an actor, but I felt that a play was a play, and even after the troupe disbanded, I continued to perform. I thought I’d just do it.

I would like to ask you again about the time when you first joined the company. Okitsu: That’s definitely possible. We talked about Wikipedia first, didn’t we? Our first goal was to have our names listen on Wikipeda, and then to have it appear in blue with explanations instead of in red. I felt that saying “a voice actor who doesn’t appear in anime” wouldn’t work. Then they asked me, “What do you usually do?” Because it’s a voice actor office, it’s fine, but even if I tell the general public that I’m doing a voice over, they won’t understand.

It’s difficult, isn’t it? Speaking of voice actors, there is also an image like anime. How did you manage to keep on going when there weren’t many jobs at the time? Okitsu: I wonder what they were doing when they had no money (laughs). So, I said, “Let’s do the stage,” and did theatre. However, in regard to that, it’s not just about pursuing fun through acting. I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have any other way to show my manager or president that I could do a play like this. Even if you record on tape, you can’t trust it because you can record it over and over again. I wanted to show them how I express myself.

It was appeal to the office. Okitsu: That’s right. Even if you belong to an agency, you won’t be able to audition unless the agency approves of you. Most of them say, “I want one person from each agency, each character.” People tend to think that the audition is the only obstacle, but in order to appear in the audition, you first have to win the selection within the agency. That’s why doing theatre with my friends was a way to get recognition so that I could audition. Everyone was desperate because they thought somehow they couldn’t do it.

Have you ever felt so bad that you wanted to quit your job? Okitsu: I never thought of quitting voice acting. Did I get used to it? I liked acting even if I didn’t have a job.

Speaking of your work as a voice actor, you first appeared in a TV anime in 2007. Was there something special about actually appearing in anime that was different from other jobs? Okitsu: I was aiming to be a voice actor because I wanted to appear in anime, so I thought, “Anime!” It’s thanks to Moetan that it’s on Wikipedia (laughs). At the scene, there was a display in bold that said, “Say your line here,” and I would speak, but the line of the person in front of me pushed me. I pushed him, but I thought, “I have to get out of here!” “I listen to the lines properly,” was said. I thought, “Didn’t the teacher tell you to say a line when you get a sign at the vocational school?” It’s part of the foundation, but you can’t wear it… It took me a long time to learn that. Because no one will tell you, it took me from birth till 2007.

Since 2007, I had the impression that you have appeared in many works. Okitsu: I never thought there were that many, but if the number is out there compared to the number of works that young people have appeared in, it might be so. I think that the reason why it doesn’t grow is because of the person himself. Before one is released, there is a process of selection within the office, and the office also recognises it. I think it’s up to me to decide whether or not I’ll be able to connect to the next one after I’ve released it. After I first appeared, I was used a little bit, and I had a lot of so-called minor roles.

Is that so. Most of them have been since 2010, when you appeared in “Shiki” and “Ladies x Butler.” Okitsu: Ladies x Butler was my first starring role. “Shiki” is a character who is almost like the main character in the novel version, and people call him “fucking boy” (laughs).

Did you feel a different kind of joy when you got the leading role in the audition? Okitsu: I was happy to be interviewed. At first, I was invited to an event, and I was standing thinking, “What should I do? What should I say?” In particular, there are people who come to see me, so I’m sorry if I’m too quiet, and I have to do something about it.

There are only seniors around you, and you shouldn’t stand out too much. Okitsu: It was difficult to find a position. That’s why I’ve come to understand how to use my time to the fullest without overdoing it. Today’s performers were these people, 100% of the time, I could use that time freely, and it would be enough to get the audience’s attention once during the event. I’m thinking about it, so I’ve taken the stance of leaving the rest to everyone (laughs).

Attending events is hard work. You said that your first job was not good, but when did you start to feel that you were able to do your job? Okitsu: I haven’t felt it yet. I always think I can do more. I still have a lot to learn.

What have you learned recently? Okitsu: It’s important to keep the balance of the entire scene. Whether or not you have the image that everyone at the post-recording site has in mind, and whether or not you can convey what you have in mind to production staff. I don’t think it’s okay to be complacent, so it’s important to communicate. I’m gradually understanding the balance that I mentioned earlier, so I can give OK until I pass, and if I get OK, I’ll get used to it. But even now, there are still times when I think, “It wasn’t like this,” or “I wanted to do it better,” or “I got the OK, but this didn’t get through to the people who were drawing it.” If the voice actors and the production side have the same understanding, they can do something amazing, but when everyone thinks differently, they just can’t get along. It’s really all about balance.

It is also important to be able to meet the demands of the production site. Okitsu: Sometimes you don’t know how the direction will be given until you actually perform it. There are many times when I wonder if I’m called because I haven’t settled down. I don’t think it’s something that’s decided like, “This is the person for the role, yes!” Sometimes I feel like, “Why did you call me?”

But that’s also one your abilities. Okitsu: Yeah, yeah, yeah (laughs). If I had to compare it, it would be Metamon. I mimic it according to the direction. I just said, “This is this person’s masterpiece.” Each character is a different person, so I’m puzzled by requests to play the characters in the same way. If you say, “Huh?” No matter how similar the character is, the backbone must be different, so there’s no way they’ll be the same. I often hear people say, “Tell me more about it!” Even if I try to change my voice, there are times when people think I’m the same as that character. It’s something that all voice actors have, so maybe I shouldn’t be so conscious of it. It’s impossible to distort the edges of your own voice, make it jagged or flattened, or change the range and bass of a person’s voice to that extent. How do you decide on the voice tone of a character? I mean, even when you’re speaking normally, there are times when you’re speaking in a high voice, and there are times when you’re speaking in a low voice, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to young men appearing in the work, in order to bring out their uniqueness, I try to balance it with the surroundings by saying, “Let’s use a range of voices that don’t overlaps with this person’s.”

If you don’t adjust, everyone’s voice will be low. Okitsu: There are people where it’s too much or too rich.

I often hear from rookie voice actors that their voice lineage overlaps with that of other cast members. Okitsu: Even if you don’t show it, most of the characters are cool, and among them, there is a battle between the cute, tough and smart types. The image that make viewers think, “This kind of voice for this kind of character.” It’s difficult because there’s a problem. The biggest difference between old and new theatre is not the newness of the play itself, but what the audience wants. I’m making it so that the creators can see it too. If you put in a character with a strong character, it would be fine if you wanted to make that character stand out, but that wouldn’t balance it out, would it? Here, it is important to act in such a way that the overall balance can be achieved. As a voice actor, I’m aware that I have a part to play in the production, so I would appreciate it if you could give me detailed instructions in the direction. I’m not sure if it’s really right, so even if there’s no retake, I’m a little worried, like, “Is it okay?” On the other hand, there were many times when I thought that this would be cool, and the acting that came out was “This is it! This is what you want, right?” Every time I say, “This is it!” It’s wrong (laugh). On-site also has person-to-person interaction, so coordination is difficult.

There is no ultimate form of acting. Okitsu: Of course, what the director wants differs from director to director, and even if the same sound director is working on different projects, what they want will be different. It makes me really happy when the things I create are accepted in one shot or when someone says, “Everyone, that’s what I want!” The next time I go to the same scene, I don’t know if the acting will be good, so I’ll work out a lot of patterns, saying, “This is it, this is it!” Sometimes when I put out something like this, they get very angry and say, “That’s wrong!” I used an extreme image to make it easier to understand, but I was told “You throw a different ball every time.” It’s sad when people think, “It’s fundamentally different, this guy can’t do it.”

You’ve searched and searched, and you’ve arrived at it. Okitsu-san, have you noticed any changes in the industry during your long career? Okitsu: Yes. Recently, the voice actors are gorgeous. I think it’s amazing when I look at them. People who think about things completely different from themselves. To put it to the extreme, they’re different races. Like everyone else, I can’t say “I love you.” It would be different if I was carrying a role, wouldn’t it?

It’s different just to be conscious of one role. Okitsu: It’s quite different. I say “I love you” a lot in my role. Of course, I also care about my fans. But I can’t say it plainly. I don’t think it’s something I say every time. But there are a lot of people who think that’s good, so I’m sorry that I couldn’t live up to their expectations (laughs). In terms of changes, there are a lot of anime works these days, and it feels like they’re coming out very cool, so if that’s the case, I can’t keep up. I think that the actors, the staff, and the people who are planning are all not catching up. Of course, there are works that take a lot of time to make, but there are also works that give the impression of being rushed because you make so many works that you wonder, “How can I make this much?” Ever since I became a voice actor, online distribution has become the main focus instead of TV, and one-shots have become a selling point. With the increase in anime, the number of voice acting agencies has also increased, and the genre of idol voice acting has also emerged.

Certainly, I feel that there are many people who are called idol voice actors. Okitsu: But I don’t now anyone who thinks of themselves as an idol voice actor from the bottom of their hearts. Recently, the number of idol works has increased, and there are many people who have entered the company because of their admiration, so I don’t know about those people.

Recently, there are many people who are debuting as artists. Okitsu: I think everyone is good at singing and I sing character songs. I’m not good at singing in front of people assuming I don’t have a role. All the more because I think. Akihiro Miwa says, “Songs are like lines, and lines are like songs.” If you ask me if I can put into practice as it is, it’s still difficult to decide which part of the song to put the dialogue on, and which part of the dialogue to put the song on. It’s the same with singing, but there are a lot of people who can easily do what I find difficult. There are many geniuses in this industry who have no hesitation. There are some people who can say, “Because I’m a genius,” but I don’t know if they’re really geniuses or pretending to be so.

I thought Okitsu-san was a genius. Okitsu: Which point did you think about?

What struck me in the interview was that you were very straightforward than anyone else. Also, you have a professional outlook on voice work, and he has deep thoughts about your works. I think that being able to do that naturally is classified as a kind of genius. Okitsu: I’m happy to be praised (lol).

It’s late, but today’s shoot was like an idol. Okitsu: It was idol-like! (laughs). I can be behind the scenes. Ever since I was young, I didn’t want to stand out that much, and although I wanted to do what I like, I didn’t want to do it in front of other people, so I was the type to secretly go on a rampage. I’d rather sing alone than stand in front of everyone. Speaking of idol-like shooting, when the voice actor Grand Prix was release, I thought, “A magazine about voice actors has come out! and bought it. Kikuko Inoue-san and Mariko Kofufuda-san were on the cover. I don’t know if voice actor magazines will sell, so the number of purchases was small, and the first issue were sold out at all bookstores, so I couldn’t buy it. So, I ordered the back number and brought it. One of the good things about a voice actor is that I had the opportunity to meet Kikuko Inoue-san. I was very happy to be called “Okki” together on the set. I’m talking about last year.

It was last year. Okitsu: I was very happy. When I asked, “Can I call you onee-chan?” She is indeed a goddess.

Okitsu-san will turn 40 next year. Have you been there? Okitsu: Oh! Looking back, my thirties were really normal. For better or worse, I’ve only ever thought about acting, so I think I’ll have to turn 40 soon and start thinking about things that people generally think about. My parents are getting older, and I have to think a little more carefully about my lifestyle. Then it might not be fun, but if it’s not fun anymore, I’m sorry (laughs). Then, at this age, I understand that my body is declining. Hangovers, muscle pain…I used to like heavy drinking, but I’m thinking of quitting because it’s hard to get rid of it lately. I only drink the day before my vacation, so even if I drink like an idiot, I’ll be back by the end of the vacation, but now I’m not. I’m old, I really it.

So that’s it. How do you want to spend your 40s? Okitsu: I feel like voice actors in their 40’s will be a turning point. And by the time I’m almost 40, I’ve stopped meeting the people I often perform with. I guess they are doing their own activities, but I never see the people I used to hang out with on set. So naturally, I’m confused because there are many young people around me. “Why am I being called here now?” I get nervous sometimes (laughs).

When you were in your twenties, did you imagine yourself in your forties? Okitsu: I haven’t. I thought it would be difficult to change jobs after the age of 35, so I simply decided that if I didn’t have any prospects as a voice actor by the time, I turned 30, I should quit. However, I hadn’t thought about anything in the future. What should I do? Please tell me (laughs).

I don’t know either. Well, the interview is coming to an end soon, but has your view of the profession changed since you became a voice actor compared to when you were aiming to become one? Okitsu: Isn’t the public’s impression of me getting better? I think it’s amazing to be recognized by the public. People don’t ask me, “What is that, a voice actor?” I was told “Are voice actors from the supermarket Seiyu?” In that sense, it’s wonderful that people now know what kind of work voice actors and what kind of things they do has increased. When I was a child, people used to say, “That’s the work of a hard-selling actor,” and the recognition of anime itself was low. Even so, we’ve been encouraged by anime, so I think it’s important regardless of how the public evaluates it. Anime is amazing. Anime has dreams. “Can you become a turtle or a monkey in real life? Can you ride a robot?” I believe that people cannot move forward without dreams, so it is important to have dreams, and people cannot move forward without hope. If you just think, “What should I do when I’m old?” I want everyone to always have dreams and hopes, and sometimes I act while thinking that it would be nice if the work gave me that.

Nice. Finally, do you have a message for the readers of this book? Okitsu: I just said whatever I wanted (laughs). I think other voice actors are taking care of the serious stuff, so I don’t care what I just said, I’ll be honest about anime, dramas, movies, and games. I hope you enjoy it. Don’t worry about the voice actors and watch the work. That’s my wish as a voice actor. The work is the end result. But sometimes, like this, I’m usually too embarrassed to say it, but everyone’s support gives me strength and makes me want to do my best. Thank you always. I love you.


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