Anime Expo 2012
Rikiya Koyama Focus Panel

by Carlo Santos,

Veteran voice actor Rikiya Koyama, best known for his role as Kiritsugu Emiya in Fate/Zero, made an appearance at Anime Expo to meet with fans and talk about his work. He made a dramatic entrance at the panel by running up and down the aisles, high-fiving audience members before finally taking the stage.

Koyama then spoke about his experience in playing the role of Kiritusgu Emiya: "Kiritsugu is a strong man, but also very brittle." Although he he had difficulty understanding the character at first, he eventually came to compare Kiritsugu to a Japanese sword: "In fencing, the rapier is very flexible, but the Japanese sword is forged out of steel." He also described the long process of forging a traditional katana, and how the stiff blade is different from the bamboo shinai used in the modern sport of kendo. Thus, Koyama see Kiritsugu as that metaphorical sword—strong but brittle, a character who must choose between protecting those he loves, or the entire world. He does make a choice in the end, but it may have been the wrong choice, which makes him, in Koyama's words, "a broken man." These considerations are what guided Koyama in his approach to playing Kiritsugu.

Next, the audience watched a video clip of one of Koyama's defining scenes in Fate/Zero. This clip highlighted the portrayal of Kiritsugu as a family man, deeply devoted to his daughter Ilya. Koyama commented on this scene, saying, "[Kiritsugu] has choice to protect Ilya, but if he loses the Holy Grail War, that means the one he loves will die—this is the choice that 'breaks his blade.'"

Koyama admitted that the nurturing side of Kiritsugu wasn't always in him. "I confess that when I was younger, I didn't love kids that much. I thought children were selfish creatures ... and very cumbersome. But now, as I've grown older and entered my 30's and 40's ... I don't have kids yet, but when I see other people with children, I think they're very cute." These feelings of endearment toward children are what Koyama brought to Kiritsugu's character in Fate/Zero.

Next was another video clip where Kiritsugu battles Kayneth in Episode 8 of Fate/Zero. "It was also difficult for me to control my emotions," said Koyama about playing the tough, ruthless side of the character.

He also spoke about Kiritsugu's fighting style in the show: "In samurai warfare, one strategy is to take a little damage to make the opponent let down their guard, and then you strike. Now, compared to the other Masters [combatants in Fate/Zero], Kiritsugu lacks the physical strength and would lose in direct confrontation. So he really has only one way of fighting, which is to sacrifice his flesh—he uses the Kigendan (a bullet made of his own bones). In a way, this is even a greater sacrifice than flesh alone: he is literally using his own core to destroy the opponent."

But Koyama also added his concerns about Kiritsugu's approach in battle: "I don't think this is a smart or correct way of fighting, but it's the only way he can fight. This is a sad path that Kiritsugu must take. Acting the role was very fulfilling, but mentally, I had to share his pain."

After this in-depth discussion, the panel was opened to questions from the audience.

What additional challenges do you have in dubbing foreign films and shows, such as Neo in The Matrix?

The biggest difference between recording anime and Western films is that in foreign films, you're dubbing something that's already finished. In Hollywood, they could spend years preparing the script, casting the actors, filming, editing, and adding music and effects. So to localize it in Japanese, you can't just make a pale imitation of the original. I think the job of dubbing live action is like being a "shadow double" in Kurosawa's Kagemusha. I see the Hollywood stars as feudal warriors: tough and loving and charismatic, whereas I'm Japanese and tiny and not-good-looking and not that great—yet I believe I was chosen to be the Kagemusha, the shadow double.

For technical aspects such as matching the length of the dialogue, or the voice quality, those are things I try to do without technical aid. Now, there are technologies to compensate—to help dubbing mechanically—but there are things that can only be done in real life, and that's where I step in.

Did your role of dubbing Jack Bauer in 24 influence how you played Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero?

I consider Bauer probably not as strong as Kiritsugu. He begins by fighting for America, but eventually he fights for his loved ones. He fights above the law and causes catastrophes. Kiritsugu, on the other hand, reels in his emotions and is very stoic, but ultimately loses his loved ones [due to holding himself back]. I actually consider them opposites and I thought of playing Kiritsugu as a direct contrast to Bauer.

Kiritsugu is a complex character with many sides. Which aspect of Kiritsugu did you have the most interest in trying to portray?

The aspect that I like the most, and that I admire, is the boy Kiritsugu who says "I want to be a hero." As a kid, one of my favorite manga series was Tiger Mask, about Japanese pro wrestling. In the story, Tiger Mask is a war orphan who leaves the orphanage and joins a wresting school called the Tiger's Den. Normally, the organization takes all the money from the [wrestlers'] fights. On the other hand, Tiger Mask takes the prize money and gives it to the childrren at the orphanage. That [heroic aspect] is what I love.

Do you know any thing about a third season of Hajime no Ippo [in which he plays the character Mamoru Takamura]?

REALLY?! I didn't know about that, but I'll do my best.

The final question was a request for Mr. Koyama to sing the "I Am Jack Bauer" song that was used in commercials for 24 in Japan. With pompous lyrics that translate to something along the lines of "I am Jack Bauer / I do not play along / I involve everyone else," Koyama's over-the-top delivery clearly won over the audience.

Finally, Koyama made an exit that was just as dramatic as his entrance—running through the aisles once more as the crowd erupted in a chant of "Rikiya, Rikiya, Rikiya."

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