Kentarou Kumagai, a voice actor from Okinawa whose motto is “Let’s do it!”
What made you want to become a voice actor? Kumagai: When I was in junior high school, I saw Mamoru Miyano’s MV on TV and thought he was cool. That was how I got to know about the work of a voice actor. When I looked it up, I found it changing what I wanted to do in the future. Teacher, Pilot, Auto Mechanic… I thought that if I became a voice actor, I might be able to simulate everything. With just one voice, you can become something other than yourself.
How were your high school days? Kumagai: I have been playing soccer since I was in elementary school. It was the last competition in junior high school. I was burned out at the time, so I decided to take a part-time job to raise money to study voice acting in Tokyo. Two weeks after he was a child, what he wanted to do in the future had changed. After graduating, I attended a vocational school in Okinawa once a week and moved to Tokyo when I was 18. So, I saved money again and entered the training school of the current office. Even while I was saving money in Tokyo, I was able to help out with theatre-related projects, and my passion for acting never faded.
You can tell that it was not a half-baked decision. How was your life in Tokyo? Kumagai: I was able to cultivate the hungry spirit of not losing (laughs). The part-time job to pay for my living expenses was quite tough, and every day I struggled with anxiety as to whether I would really be able to belong to an agency. There were a lot of classmates at the training school, so I wasted no time trying to figure out how to get people to notice me (laughs). People often said to me, “Kumagai-kun, you don’t get nervous, do you?” I was holding out with the feeling that I was going to show you what I could do!” Actually, I’m quite nervous.
Was there anything that surprised you when you actually became a voice actor? Kumagai: To be honest, I thought that as soon as I entered the office, I would be able to get a so-called mob role immediately. Now that I think about it, it was a pretty sweet idea. If I could become a piece in the work, I would be grateful for the many people involved in the work, the office staff who recognized my existence, and so many other people. It’s something that requires strength. I don’t want to forget that gratitude, and that’s the reason why I cherish greetings on site.
With Hideo Akuno of “Idolmaster SideM” you passed the audition for the first time. Kumagai: It’s been three years since we met. Whether it’s a play or a song, the more I learn about Hideo, the more things I want to do, and the things I can do increases. Also, since I got this role, there are people who have been watching over me since my debut, which is very reassuring. Originally, I was not good at singing, because I wanted to do voice acting, so at first, I was worried whether I would really be able to do the work and whether I should sing. Without a doubt, it was the reactions of everyone who enjoyed the songs and live performances that broadened my horizons. That’s why.
“A3!” depicts the world of a stage actor. Kumagai: Sometimes I play the role of “Kentarou Kumagai played by Omi Fushimi,” so I’m confused (laughs). One thing that I had a lot of trouble with was the line when Omi, who had no acting experience, auditioned to join the company. I have a good physique and my voice is loud enough to get through, but I still have to lean towards a “stick reading” that feels stiff, but many times I get retakes saying “I’m still a little good”… As an actor, it’s an interesting theme, and the music is also a fascinating work, so I’m looking forward to the future development.
What kind of role did Aston in “Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans” become for you? Kumagai: During recordings, I was often told, “Don’t overdo it, don’t take it too seriously.” If anything, I think that acting with a strong attack is my strength, so it was really difficult for Aston, who talks like he’s half talking to himself. On the day of my last performance, I didn’t want to go to the studio. If I said that line, he would no longer be able to live in this work. However, when I thought that what I should act is not “death”, but “life” until the very last moment, I felt like I could see a little bit of what I should do from now on.
Thankfully, he will remain in the hearts of those who see him. Kumagai: However, Aston has become a high wall inside me. From now on, I must overcome that experience on my own.
And you got your first leading role in an anime as Theo in “Grancrest Senki”. Kumagai: When I was called by the manger with a serious look on his face, I thought I had messed something up. Even when I was told, “The main character has been decided.” I couldn’t understand it for a while, so I was like, “…Ugh?” (laughs). It was a turning point for Theo, and I would be happy if you could feel a little bit because it changed the consciousness of the play a little. While watching the performances of my seniors, I thought, “I wonder if I can steal that feeling somehow,” and tried to challenge myself. As a result, far from stealing I really don’t know what to do what I was taught.
Theo is a young man with high ideals. What do you want to stick to in this world? Kumagai: I’m not as good as a person as he is, but I still want to do voice work for the rest of my life. “I want to be something other than myself,” and I want to keep the original feeling unwavering.
You also do a lot of work for radio and NicoNico. Kumagai: When I was a student, I often listened to Hideki Ogiwara-san’s radio and loved chatting, so the job itself was one of my dreams. But speaking to the majority of people, I thought about how difficult it was. It’s scary because the way people feel about it changes depending on the listener, but I’m having fun doing it.
I was overwhelmed by your passion for conveying the charm of professional wrestling while feeling that your voice was very pleasant to listen to. Kumagai: It is said that there is no sharpness in the voice. It’s like listening to AM radio. Only because I like professional wrestling, I can explain things in other words. I think it’s a skill that can be achieved with “like”.
Other than watching professional wrestling, how do you spend your days off? Kumagai: Rent a car and drive around without deciding where to go. Go to karaoke by myself and sing without hesitation. Even though I miss it more than anyone else, I’m a troublesome guy likes spending time alone (laughs).
Lastly, please give a message to those who are paying attention to Kumagai-san’s activities! Kumagai: I’m a negative person by nature, but this year, I want to turn that around and my best in a positive way. I will do my best to increase the number of opportunities for everyone to listen to my performances, so please give me your encouragement!
Column: New myself
When I came to Tokyo, I thought “Trains are very convenient.” I was worried about living alone for the first time, but the excitement was bigger. I like jumping into a new environment even though I’m not chattering.