Interview: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Sword Art Online's Kirito

by Sarah Nelkin,

ANN: You play Kirito, a swordsman, in Sword Art Online. If you played Sword Art Online, how would you customize your character?

MATSUOKA: Well, the most important factor about Sword Art Online is that there's no “continue” option. Thinking about that, I think I would never join the offense team (note: the team that climbs the tower and defeats monsters, risking their lives).

I see. So, would you try and make your character look like yourself, or a character whose looks you liked?

I think that in the world of a game, I don't want to be the real me.

Aside from Asuna, who would you say your favorite Sword Art Online character is?

There's this blacksmith character named Lizbeth. Liz is really straight-forward and focused inside of the world of Sword Art Online, but then there was that scene when she learned that her best friend Asuna was in love with Kirito... Maybe it was [Ayahi] Takagaki's acting, but when I heard that her lines during that scene, I was like, “wow”...

Do you find yourself similar to Kirito in any way?

I'm thinking about our workplaces- In both of our workplaces, there's only one chance [for success], so there's a lot of people who are putting in their all. I always think that I have to do the best acting I can for the sake of those who came to see me or watch the show. I feel like I have to pull along people with my acting. I feel like, “I have to pave the way for the others.'

What was the trigger for you to become a voice actor?

It was back when I was in middle school... I tell this story so much, I get worried that I'm messing the story up... I saw a show called “Evangelion” and thought it was really interesting, but there's also a character voiced by Akira Ishida called Kaoru Nagisa. I heard him and thought, “Wow, there's really a human that exists in this world that can calm me down so much with his voice.” That's when I became aware of the profession of voice actor. I didn't do anything about it until I was in my senior year of high school, though. But I thought, well, I only have one life, so I want to do something at least once. That's when I decided that it might be cool to aim to be a voice actor, or even just an actor. I think I made my decision kind of lightly when I was in middle school, but didn't take it seriously until I was in high school. I later began to think that this job was pretty difficult. Now, though, I've acted a lot of different roles... And it really is fun! (laughs)

What do you try to do to prepare for a role?

To tell the truth, no matter what role I play, even in anime, I think of my role as a human. I think they have more thoughts than we imagine them to. They have times that they laugh, they have times that they get angry, they grieve, and there are times that they are happy. The thing I keep in mind most when preparing to act a character is to think about the feelings that the character feels. I take the most caution in not turning the character into myself, though. It's a character, nothing else. I have to make sure to separate the two, so that people who are watching will say, “Is this Matsuoka? Or is this a character?” That's what I really try to keep in mind to prepare.

What kind of roles would you like to take on now in your career?

(laughs) Actually, I'm always doing roles that I want to do. Honestly. I feel like I'm always given the roles I want. I guess what I want to do now is play something that isn't human. Kirito had this sense of justice as an ally of justice, and in some roles, I play evil characters. The one role I really haven't played would have to be something that isn't a person. I've played a character named Arumajirou (from the Shinki Extend ~Relation~ drama CD) who was actually an armadillo, but I kind of want to do something different... I don't know if it's OK to say the name of another work... But some kind of monster. I want to do something like a monster. (laughs) The thing is about those kinds of roles, a lot of times you can only use one phrase or cry to express yourself, so it's really a challenge to see how much you can get your expressions across with only one phrase or sound. I want to play a monster.

What do you like doing on your days off?

When I'm alone in my house, I end up thinking about a lot of things, so for a change of pace, I like going out with my co-workers who I'm friends with, or my more-experienced actor friends. I like going to eat dinner with them. I guess that's the most fun thing for me. After all, I hear a lot of interesting stories.

Any advice for those looking to be voice actors?

Well, I think that rather than aiming to be a voice actor, you should aim to be an actor. This is just my opinion, but I think the most important thing for becoming a voice actor is even when you go to an audition, and even when you get a role... Like an audition to join a voice acting agency... The most important thing is to not have regrets. At auditions, everyone is putting in their 100%, not just you. I think whoever gets the role is good for it because they are putting in their 100%. I think it's almost never a mistake, whoever they choose. I think I'm not supposed to say this, but what decides the roles in the end is balance and luck. My message to those aiming to become voice actors is to not have regrets, no matter what kind of stage you're on. Even if you regret it later, it's way too late.

Any messages to English-speaking fans?

I go out drinking with the director of the Sword Art Online anime sometimes, and even he's surprised that it's had this much of an effect overseas. I think that there are a lot of people outside of Japan who are watching the show with subtitles, and our acting and the work as a whole has made an impact on people, I think. I really want to say something, like, “Thank you for accepting us!”... But that's kind of cheap, I feel. That's why I think that, “Thank you for loving Sword Art Online!” is probably the best thing to say. In Japan, it's me, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, and Kirito overseas is voiced by Bryce Paperbrook. “LINK START!” (laughs) That's such a cool Link Start! I think there will be no problems if we leave it to Bryce. The director told me when he got back from North America that Bryce said that he wants to meet me sometime. I think it'd be so much fun if I could meet him, and maybe we could do an event together!


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