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Otakon 2012
Tetsuya Kakihara Q&A with ANN

by Gia Manry,

Düsseldorf, Germany-born Japanese voice actor Tetsuya Kakihara has a long list of roles under his belt, including Fairy Tail's Natsu Dragneel, Gundam UC's Angelo, Gurren Lagann's Simon. Anime News Network CEO and publisher Chris Macdonald opened the panel by introducing Kakihara to an enthusiastic audience. Bandai Visual's Loy Fruel was also on hand detailing upcoming Gundam Unicorn-related events at Otakon throughout the weekend.

Macdonald explained that the panel was running a little late due to Kakihara's plane's own late arrival. Kakihara, who is multi-lingual, introduced himself in Japanese with Toshifumi Yoshida serving as translator.

Macdonald: How do you feel being in the U.S. and seeing all these fans dressed up?

Kakihara: Well, it doesn't look that different from Japan really. Honestly, this isn't my first time in the United States; I came when I was very little. But this is the first time I came to the United States as an adult, and boy you guys look good in costume! Perfect.

Macdonald: Let's get to the important stuff. You were born in Germany. Did you move to Japan to become a voice actor?

Kakihara: [Speaks in German, to audience and translator laughter.] I grew up in Germany and I was there until I was 18. When I turned 18, my parents suggested that I experience the culture of their birthplace, so I decided to go to Japan. When I arrived, I saw a lot of popularity in anime and manga, so I thought, "Why don't I try to be a voice actor?"

Macdonald: You've watched anime since you were young. What titles have influenced or affected you?

Kakihara: Everything I've worked on has become a great experience...

Toshifumi Yoshida: The anime you grew up with, was it in German?

Kakihara: They left all the opening songs and other songs in the show in Japanese. I felt a closeness to it because I could hear the language I grew up on [German] as well as Japanese. What were we talking about again?

Macdonald: The anime and manga you grew up with. Did you have favorites?

Kakihara: Do you know Attack No. 1? Ganbare Kickers? It's a really old anime, but...these were the kinds of shows that my mom grew up on that were being released in German then. Sailor Moon was also there... I read a lot of Dragon Ball manga, but Saint Seiya is a high point in my memory. Every time I would visit Japan I would buy entire series of manga and ship them back. I had the entire run of Saint Seiya. I was a big fan of Ikki. It was so cool.

Macdonald: You were a big fan of Saint Seiya and now you're playing a role in Omega; how does that feel?

Kakihara: Do you know Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas? In The Lost Canvas I actually played the lead, Pegasus. It was something I grew up reading and playing video games of, and to find myself playing the lead was so exciting to me. After that came Saint Seiya Omega, where I got to play Ryuho, the original dragon's son. That made me very happy. Lost Canvas happens 140 years before the first series, so I played Seiya's predecessor, and in Omega it's the generation after the main series...so being involved in all three generations of the show is very exciting to me. I'm the only one that got to use Pegasus's move AND Dragon's move. [Audience applause.]

Macdonald: You started studying voice acting with Amusement Media in 2001 and got your first voice acting role in 2003. We already discussed Saint Seiya, Are there any other roles that have been very memorable for you?

Kakihara: Gurren Lagann. Since it was the first series I got to play the lead in, it stays in my memory. Gurren Lagann was the first time I got to pilot a robot. In Kurogane no Linebarrel I got the play the lead...I've done many shows, but one show that really sticks with me is Fairy Tail, which I've done for three years...you make good friends that become a part of your family. There's a movie coming out in August. [Audience applause.]

Macdonald: Everyone here obviously knows that you're a very successful and popular voice actor. Kakihara-san is also a successful singer. Is singing professionally something you always wanted to do or did you get into it after voice acting?

Kakihara: Singing and voice acting are very different. To me voice actors are the voice behind the pretty picture who don't show their faces to the public. I wouldn't call it an easy job, but I didn't really have to worry about my looks. Once I got into the industry, there are magazines on voice actors, I had big TV appearances, and most of my coworkers have CD debuts, so it was quite a surprise when I got into the industry. When they suggested I release a CD it was like, "no no no, I'm an actor! I couldn't possibly do any singing." I reconsidered...I thought it might be part of my experience as an actor or a performer and so I should delve into it.

Macdonald: We actually have a music clip here, would you like to introduce it?

[Audience applause]

Kakihara: Let me introduce it. The promotional video for Chaos Breaker. I don't think it's ever been shown in the United States. Please enjoy.

[Video plays, audience applause]

Kakihara: I'm so embarrassed right now! Why am I showing my own promotional video in the United States of all places? This ain't right! I'm here to promote Gundam Unicorn! Promoting myself like this. But, you know, if you happen to have the time and the money, please buy. Just click on Amazon, it's easy. Please.

Macdonald: You're signed to a new label, Kiramune by Bandai Visual and Lantis. All the singers are also voice actors. How did you end up becoming a Kiramune artist, how and when?

Kakihara: Two or three years ago I think? First they gave me a call. They called me up and said, "We represent a music label. Are you interested in doing some music?" It's not like I hate music or anything. Since I still felt that I had so much more to do as a voice actor...doing anime, dubbing over foreign movies, video game work, narration work, being a radio personality...since I had so many varying fields of work that I was participating in, adding music didn't seem very risky as a career move. So even though I was unsure about it, I had the support of many friends and fans saying that I could do it, that I can do what I want. So I thought, why not delve in and give this a try? One of the things was that becoming a performer, I got to perform live at the Makuhari Messe, one of the big music venues in Japan. And being able to come to the United States like this, and introduce my music, it really makes me feel like I made the right move. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who were involved in bringing me into the music field. Thank you very much.

Macdonald: So...voice actor, radio personality, when is your first movie or drama?

Kakihara: I think I'm going to need more time for that. Does anyone know how long it takes to dub an anime episode in Japan?

Audience: A week! Three months! Six hours! Two days!

Kakihara: Three to four hours for one episode. One episode a week, three to four hours per episode. So if I were to be involved in a movie it would take a year to get it done, or if it was a TV drama, three to four days or a week to do an episode. The life of a voice actor is bringing a new episode of anime to the kids week after week. I can't leave the recording studio for that long. So when you're working as a voice actor you're kind of committed to that career. So a movie or drama might not be in my cards right now.

Macdonald: What kind of challenges are there to being both a musician and a voice actor? Your most important asset is your voice, what do you do to maintain it?

Kakihara: Drink a lot of alcohol. For me my friends are the most important. I make sure I go hang out with them every week, drink... my friends aren't just voice actors, they're from different career paths. Having them hear all of my woes and hearing all of their troubles is a good way to get a reality check and relax. Oh, sleep! On top of it all. I don't pay too much attention to being really careful with my voice because I feel like if I do I'll probably make it worse.

Macdonald: As a music artist, how many live concerts have you done? Have there been any really memorable events during them?

Kakihara: Just a whole bunch of incidents during my live shows. That's all there is! Being onstage at Makuhari Messe is an event in itself! The first time I was on stage in front of 6,000 people...the intros run in and I'm about to start singing and I can't remember the lyrics. I did the Kiramune Festival 2012 in March, and during the encore song my voice cracked. The audience? Laughter. I think all of my live events are full of things that just sort of happen.

Macdonald: So what's next as a music artist? New CD, concerts?

Kakihara: On September 2nd I'm doing a joint concert with Daisuke Namikawa at Yokohama Blitz. I'm going to attempt it! On the 9th, we'll do the joint concert in Osaka. I'm making lots of preparations for the show. If you happen to be in Japan during that time, please...buy a ticket.

Macdonald: Getting back to voice acting, we were talking about how long it takes to make an episode. You're acting in several ongoing series in very important roles. How do you keep them all straight?

Kakihara: I don't think about it. They give me the script, I read the lines, and I'm in the studio with my fellow actors at the same time. So I hear the lines before mine, and I just respond as the character for the show. I don't do this thing for this role and that thing for that one, I don't do that at all. I don't raise my pitch, or lower it for an older character, I just perform it from the heart, the way I think the character should be voiced. It's nothing technical. So I would get my lines day by day and I perform them in the way that I feel I honestly portray the character. And doing so is part of my happiness in life. I can't imagine a more perfect job for me. It's this. This.

Macdonald: You say you're here for Gundam Unicorn but you're also in Gundam Age. You've done two Saint Seiya series and you've done two Gundam series, does it hold a special place in your heart?

Kakihara: For a series like Gundam... everyone here knows Gundam, right? And even people in Japan who haven't seen it still know the name Gundam. It's the same for me, even growing up in Germany I knew Gundam. It's been decades since Gundam started. 30 years? 33 years! Several generations of Japanese fans, of American fans, fans all over the world know this title. It's such a big show, a big series, and to be able to be a part of it is an amazing thing. And to be in TWO shows? Amazing. Do you know the game Super Robot Wars? That sounds like the hardest job. Gurren Lagann, Linebarrel, Unicorn, I should put Age in there too... all I'm gonna do is yell! I thought I left all the important parts of the shows in the actual shows. I really don't want to do these roles again! Well, I'm still working on Unicorn, so even though I haven't finished these I'm going to put everything I have into them. Please look forward to them.

Macdonald: Later this weekend you're going to have a joint panel with Michael Sinterniklaas, an American Gundam Unicorn voice actor. Are you looking forward to it?

Kakihara: I'm totally looking forward to it. He's a super nice guy! He speaks very frankly. I heard he plays Leonardo in the [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]. I'm also in that show. I also play Leonardo! It's an American animation, right? It's coming to Japan to be dubbed and I auditioned. They sent my tape to the American producers who decided to cast me, and Japanese producers picked him for Gundam Unicorn, so it's a surprising coincidence. It's the same pattern. I'm looking forward to the panel with him tomorrow. Please come!

Macdonald: Do you have any upcoming roles that you can talk about?

Kakihara: There are...but there are scary-looking people looking at me over there, so I don't think I can say anything, sorry. If you want this head to stay on top of this body I shouldn't say anything.

Macdonald: What kind of roles would you like to play? Are there any that you haven't gotten to that you'd like to?

Kakihara: I'm just telling you guys, no one else! I didn't originally want that role. I was reading the manga and I was making up voices for all of the characters, and I couldn't come up with a voice for Natsu no matter how hard I tried. I wanted to play Grey! So I went to the audition, and they asked me to read for Natsu. And I said "fine." You have to! So I did it, and they said "Thank you very much." I asked if I could read for Grey and they said "No, that's okay." So that's how that went. Looking back, I was meant to play Natsu. I love that character now. I have no other characters that I love more than Natsu! He's a fantastic character.

Macdonald: Than you for answering my questions. Now let's open up to audience questions. One little rule: No personal questions!

Kakihara: What do you mean, no personal questions? What kind of questions are they going to ask?...okay, I didn't say any of that.

Audience: I have a request for a friend who couldn't be here today. Could you say, in Natsu's voice, "Lucy, you fire me up"?

Kakihara: You're wearing a Gurren Lagann shirt, are you sure you want Natsu? [Consults with Yoshida] How do you want me to say it? What's the Japanese line? [Performs the line to audience applause, then follows with a line from Gurren Lagann.] Wow, I haven't done that line in a long time. Five years?

Audience: Princess Princess—

Kakihara: Princess Princess?! [Laughs]

Audience: Do you sing in the opening?

Kakihara: That's not me, not me! Boy, you guys really know a lot. Seriously?! Bring it on!

Audience: Is it true that you did a cover of the Cutie Honey opening, and can you sing some for us?

Kakihara: The characters I've played up to this point are the hot-blooded type. I don't play a weak, timid character very much. Or the kind of guy who just says "You idiot. Who do you think you are?" That cool, stoic kind of character who says one line after being yelled at for an hour: "Idiot." I'm jealous of voice actors who get roles like that! I wouldn't mind being that guy for a change. But whatever role I'm given that I'm cast in, I think of it as a fateful meeting and I'm going to put everything I have into that role. I don't want any of the roles that I get to be just for that moment...I want to take part in that character's development, make it part of myself, and when it finally makes it overseas I want that to be represented in the run of the series. Like with Fairy Tail, I've been working on it for three years— three years! —seeing the character develop and myself develop along with the character...it's an amazing thing. And these meetings I have with these characters, I treasure every single one of them. So no matter what roles I'm given I'll treasure them and do my best to perform them. So invite me back again!

Audience: Thank you for coming to Baltimore!

Kakihara: You're welcome!

Audience: Aside from Natsu of course, who is your favorite character in Fairy Tail?

Kakihara: Cutie Honey? [Sings to audience applause.] Seriously?

Yoshida: One more! Who's got a good one?

Kakihara: Only one? Let's do these three.

Yoshida: All three? Okay..

Audience: You also did a drama CD for Viewfinder, do you have any interesting stories about recording that?

Kakihara: That's a BL title, right? I have no idea what you're talking about! I don't even know what those two letters stand for! I did hear that's a really well-performed title, though...So BL is popular here in the U.S.? I see...I'll do my best...

Macdonald: I just got the sign that we absolutely have to stop now...

Audience: Can you do the "Who the Hell do you Think We Are" line from Gurren Lagann in Simon's voice?

[Kakihara performs to great audience applause.]

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