The anime “Ikebukuro West Gate Park” (hereinafter named “IGWP”) is currently being broadcast, Makoto Majima, the son of a fruit shop near Tokyo’s Ikebukuro West Gate Park, acts as a troubleshooter along with Takashi, also knows as King of the street gang G-Boys. Based on a popular novel by Iryo Ishida, it was made into a drama in 2000 with Tomoya Nagase as the lead and Kankuro Kudo as the scriptwriter. We talked about the world view and highlights of the anime “IGWP” starring Kentarou Kumagai, who first appeared in this magazine, as well as private stories such as his childhood and the reason why he wanted to become a voice actor.
Did you know that the original novel “IGWP” was published 20 years ago? Kumagai: Yes. It’s a famous work that has been made into a drama, a manga, and a stage play as well as a novel. I read the novel before the audition for this work, and I was completely taken aback by how interesting it was. At the audition, I challenged myself based on the impression I got from reading the novel, but to be honest, I didn’t think I would be accepted. Sometime after the audition, while I was on my way to the next job, I received a phone call from the office and was told that I had been chosen for the role as Makoto. I heard a rather loud voice, and I noticed that I had attracted the attention of the people around me (laughs). It was my first time playing a leading role in an anime since Theo Cornaro in “Grancrest Senki”. Once again, I tightened the hachimaki in my heart.
Since the recording of the anime began, have there been any memorable moments from the atmosphere on set or from the interactions with the director? Kumagai: Nowadays, due to the influence of the new coronavirus, the format of the post-recording has completely changed from before. I don’t have much time to see my co-stars face to face, and it feels like I’m receiving instructions from the director through the sound director. However, while feeling confused about the unfamiliar recording environment, I was nervous in the next episode, and I realized that recording was done in no time.
Won’t you come? Kumagai:But now I can’t do that, so standing in front was a familiar sight. I’m grateful that I was able to. Then, I didn’t have much conversation with the co-stars. Immerse yourself in the world view of the work through dialogue. We had a one-on-one match. Also, even though I have various actors and his story progressing, this work has a minimum number of people who can record Makoto.
It is done at a distance and sometimes at the same time. Kumagai: That’s right. I don’t have much time to talk to everyone because of infectious disease control (laughs), but one of my seniors said, “Kuma-chan, your legs move when you talk. Are you aware of that?” I was aware that when I said words that were difficult to say or lines that I wanted to emphasize, my legs would start to move, but I was told, “Kuma-chan, you sometimes stand on one leg when you talk.” I was shocked. “Am I standing on one leg and saying a line?”
It was your habit that you knew for the first time (smile). During the recording, in playing Makoto, what is important to you? Kumagai: When reading the novel, Makoto felt that he was thinking about how to interact with others and the sense of distance. Makoto is a person who is good at closing the distance between people, and because he can sometimes work for people without considering profits and losses, he can be relied on in times of need. He is a character who has no prejudice against often and can be frank and serious at the same time.
What do Makoto and Kumagai-san have in common? Kumagai: Among the strong-willed people, Makoto is more of a normal person, so I think that’s what we have in common (laughs). I think that’s what we have in common (laughs). I can sympathize with the fact that you can face the other person’s essence and then fall in love with them. I want to be like that in real life.
Tell me the highlights you feel in this work please. Kumagai: The exchanges with Takashi, King of the G-Boys, are both Ikebukuro trouble shooter Makoto and at the same time, there are hot scenes that are purely conversations with friends. There is also an important meaning in the exchange between these two people, so I would like you to pay attention to that. Now, under this situation, the staff and cast are working together to create a work, and I’m really happy that we were able to deliver it to everyone. In my inexperience, my heart was moved by the play, and it was a work that hit me hard, so I want as many people as possible to see it. Volume 1 of the original novel was written 20 years ago, but I think it’s a work that resonates with the heart because it’s the current era, and it’s a work that contains thoughts that I want to cherish even if the times are different, so I hope you enjoy it to the end.
Since this is the first appearance of in this magazine, I would like to approach Kumagai-san’s personal part from here. I heard that you spent your childhood in Okinawa. What kind of boy were you? Kumagai: I moved to Okinawa just as I was about to enter elementary school, and I lived there from the age of 6 until I was 18. According to my mother, I was the kind of child who would report back after everything was over (laughs). I started playing soccer when I was in elementary school. However, I asked my homeroom teacher to introduce me to a senior member of the soccer club. I’m a bad kid (laughs). After that, I went to visit a karate dojo, and then I said, “I’m going to do karate!”
Your energy is amazing! (laughs). Kumagai: I’m the type who thinks, “I want to do this!” When I was in high school, I would use the money I saved from my part-time job to buy an airplane ticket and go to Tokyo on Saturdays and Sundays saying, “I want to participate in the open campus of a vocational school, so I’m going to Tokyo tomorrow.” When I was in my second or third year of junior high school, I learned about Mamoru Miyano on a music program and I thought, “This artist’s songs are good.” I found Miyano-san’s name and thought, “Huh, wasn’t Miyano-san a singer?” Of course, I have a lot of admiration, but I tend to get bored, so I thought that what I wanted to do would change soon, but even after I entered high school, I still wanted to become a voice actor. At the time, I was taking lessons once a month at a school run by a vocational school, and that’s part of the reason why I discovered the fun of voice acting. During that time, I decided that this is what I really wanted to do, so I moved to Tokyo and started attending a training school.
Did you ever hit a wall while taking lessons? Kumagai: I used to enjoy arbitrarily voicing manga and novels, but the moment I heard my own voice that I recorded in a post-recording practise at a vocational school, I was overwhelmed at how bad I was (laughs). I had a feeling that there was a gap between the image I had in my mind and what was actually being output, but I was glad that I realized that I was so clumsy. It was a big wall for me mentally to face my poor self, but I thought that it was a great test for me to grow, so I faced every practise.
After your debut, were there any works that changed your thinking? Kumagai: The biggest thing for me was “Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans.” I’ve played many different roles, but Aston is the firs anime character to have a name, so I have a strong attachment to him. In the second season, I got the last name “Altland”, and there was also a main episode with Takaki (played by Kouhei Amasaki) and Aston, so it’s a really impressive work.
Were there any words from the staff at that time that left an impression on you? Kumagai: I still remember when the sound director at that time told me, “You can relax your shoulders more.” I realized that I had to have the leeway to respond to requests to do things a little more. Now that I can afford to watch it, I am more and more absorbed in the charm and depth of the work of being a voice actor.
Do you have seniors that you respect while continuing your work as a voice actor? Kumagai: It’s Junichi Suwabe-san, a senior from the same agency. He’s appeared in an anime I’ve been watching since I was a student, and he’s a senior I respect and is active on the front lines. Takuya Satou-san, who I meet a lot, is a senior I look up to because of his cool attitude in post-recording, the way he faces the role, and the way he cares about the people around him. However, in the end, I was able to establish myself as a voice actor, Kentarou Kumagi. It’s my goal.
Finally, please tell us about your current goals as a voice actor. Kumagai: This may be a distant goal, but if that’s the case, I want to be a voice actor as long as I can speak. There is no retirement age for voice actors, so if I could do voice work until I die, that would be my ideal and goal. Being able to entrust a part of someone’s life in a work is something that would be impossible in a normal life. I’m working with that in mind. Right now, I don’t have a wide range of roles, and I don’t have much experience. I want to be able to be entrusted with roles.