Sword Art Online Producer Shinichiro Kashiwada & Voice Actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Shinichiro Kashiwada has served as a producer on every animated iteration of Sword Art Online, and voice actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka is the man behind the series' main character, Kirito. We had the chance to sit down with these two for a few minutes earlier this year.

Producer Shinichiro Kashiwada

ANN: As one of the producers for all of the SAO animated content to date, can you clarify what your role is in the production process and what your duties are compared to fellow producer Kazuma Miki?

Kashiwada: We both worked together on the series' composition and Kazuma also worked with Reki Kawahara, the author of the original novels. We were both involved in that, but he's more involved with how to sell the novel and works with that. He handles things like the packaging, the Blu-ray, DVDs, and CDs and how we can get that together and sell it. I'm more involved with the animation process itself and I'm taking care of that. Kazuma also checks the direction of everything and how it's going.

ANN: And is this typical for what you have done with titles like World Conquest Zvezda Plot and Nanana's Buried Treasure?

Kashiwada: Kazuma is involved in the publisher side, and is an editor for the series, in a way. I do the same things for the series I work on. A-1 Pictures is involved with all three of the series [SAO, Zvezda Plot, Nanana] and the producer has to handle the broadcasting, streaming, and what kind of package to sell everything in.

Q: Blu-ray and DVD sales figures for SAO II, though still good by anime standards, are only about half of what they were for the first series. Was this much of a decrease expected?

Kashiwada: So there are series like Uta no Prince Sama and Love Live! that sell more, while the sales are very important to me, it's really the desire to make something really important and interesting that fans can look forward to watching. This is what's personally important to me.

ANN: Despite the sales drop, SAO still seems to be very popular, so additional animation is expected by fans. Has there been any serious discussion about whether the much-longer “Alicization” arc would be up next, or is the path of the Progressive novels and manga looking more likely?

Kashiwada: Well, I can't share right now what we might actually be discussing. The Progressive novels are building on a completed story. Personally I would like to see the Alicization arc because that's something that hasn't been done.

ANN: Among American fans, SAO II is widely-considered to be better than the first series. How have Japanese fans been reacting?

Kashiwada: The Gun Gale Online arc, as something that has both guns and swords in it, is something American fans might be more familiar with. That may be one of the reasons that arc was particularly popular [in the U.S.]. I feel that the Mother's Rosario arc might have been more popular in Japan because of the situation with the Yuki character. It was easy for everyone to empathize with. This time around we weren't able to get many fans' opinions in America about the Mother's Rosario arc. I'd like to find out a little more about how American fans felt about that.

The Aincrad arc, the premise that once the game is over you'll die, that kind of resonates with anyone around the world. I think that's the selling point of Sword Art Online.

Voice Actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka

ANN: Although you have voiced a male lead in a few other series, Kirito from the SAO franchise is probably your most prominent role to date. Was that a role that you specifically sought, and has he offered you any unusual challenges as a voice actor?

Matsuoka: When I first start on the series, I try to explore how to make a character fun and interesting and how to make a character resonate with the audience. As far as SAO is concerned, after I finished the first episode I thought, "This is actually really, really fun!" So, I got pretty excited. As fa as anything unusual, everything became so busy that I didn't have time to even think about it.

ANN: You're starring in a new anime titled Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?. Both series have a fantasy setting and you're also starring in the series as Bell Cranell. What differences are there between Bell and Kirito?

Matsuoka: As far as Kirito is concerned, he's an efficiency freak. He also doesn't want to repeat the past. So, he's interested in moving forward. Where as Bell, he's a very interesting character in that he doesn't know a lot about people but he can almost sense, instinctively, what to do. He has that sense. He also likes girls. He doesn't want to lose his love once he finally finds it. So, he's a good guy. He's the type I'd like to have as a younger brother.

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