Interview: One Piece Voice Actor Kazuki Yao

by Jordan Ramee & Zac Bertschy,

Kazuki Yao's has an impressive voice-acting career that spans more than three decades. Among his lengthy list of credits, he's best known for playing Franky in One Piece, but he's also portayed Judau Ashta in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and Koichiro Iketani in Initial D. His voice acting credits extends to Bastard!!, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, Gunbuster, Gunslinger Girl, Sgt. Frog, Tenjho Tenge, Wedding Peach, among others.

We caught up with Yao-san at Anime Boston 2018 to ask him about his experiences while playing Franky.

ANN: How do you get in character before performing Franky? Do you have any rituals?

KAZUKI YAO: In the instance of Franky, there's not very much that I have to do to get into character. He's a character I'm allowed to do in a very natural manner as he's very close to my normal personality. There's nothing I really have to do to get into that character.

One Piece is a show that asks you to record many types of scenes -- comedy, drama, action -- do you have a favorite type of scene to perform as Franky, and why?

Right now, Franky has become almost fully cyborg. But as far as Franky as a character goes, he's very human. He's a manly man. So I really like to perform scenes that highlight his human qualities and nature, as well as scenes that demonstrate that he's someone that the rest of the Straw Hat crew can rely on as an adult figure and voice. I really like being in scenes that highlight those aspects.

Was there a fight scene that was particularly memorable to record?

The battle with Senor Pink is just the best!

Yes, I loved that one!

Thank you! I like it too! [laughs]

What's the best encounter you've had with a One Piece fan?

In Osaka, there's a theme park called Universal Studio Japan. At that theme park, they do a two-month live show over the summer. During that live show, I appear on the first day and on the last day, and doing "SUPER!" with up to 3,000 fans at that event is always one of the highest points of my career.

Earlier in your career you voiced Dark Schneider, the over-the-top main character in the BASTARD!! OVA. If they brought Dark Schneider back, would you be interested in reprising the role?

Of course! Yes, of course! [laughs] I like Dark Schneider!

Thanks to Kazuki Yao and Anime Boston for this opportunity.

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