Interview: Hot-Blooded Voice Actor Nobutoshi Canna

by Zac Bertschy,

You might know him best as Fate/Stay night's heroic spirit Lancer, but if you were an anime fan in the 1990s, Nobutoshi Canna's voice is probably instantly recognizable. The quintessential hot-blooded hero, Canna's voice is behind some truly memorable performances, including Guts in the original 1997 TV anime adaptation of Berserk, the fiery Tasuki from Fushigi Yuugi, and of course, the speaking voice of everyone's favorite frustrated artist, Macross 7's Nekki Basara. Canna was in attendance at this year's Otakon 2018, and we had the opportunity to sit down for a few fun questions about a legendary career.

ANN: Do you see yourself as having a signature style or type of character? Fans know you for these big fiery performances, but do you see yourself as having a “type”?

NOBUTOSHI CANNA: When I was young, I did get a lot of hot-blooded characters, and I was kind of a hot-blooded character myself, too, so I thought that was kind of natural. It was a great time to be in it. In recent years, now that I'm getting older, I've come to play more bad guys, characters with a wider range.

I've noticed I play a lot of characters with glasses now. I don't know why!

So in the beginning, when you were getting all these hot-blooded roles, did it take you a long time to perfect that character? How long did it take you to develop that voice?

With regard to that hot-blooded style, I think Guts from Berserk is a good example of perfecting that style. If you know the character, you know all he knows how to do is fight – so given the character, the order was that his voice should be low, blunt. Back then my tone of voice was a bit higher – I look back at the first episode of Berserk and I think “eh, my voice might've been a bit higher back then.” As you know, shows like that recorded once a week, so I was able to perfect my role week after week. Every week I'd be thinking “he only knows how to fight – what would a person like this speak like?” and it kept me very busy.

Is there one performance or character that has more of you in it than the others? One that you feel really came from your heart?

I don't really know – there are characters, like Nekki Basara from Macross 7 – we don't really know if he's completely human. There's also Guts, he's supposed to be human but he swings around this huge sword and he feels inhuman to me. Lancer is a heroic spirit, not quite human – I guess you could draw a line between all these characters, in the sense that these men all have one thing they can't give up on. One wish, one policy – one thing they can never let go. In that sense I resonate with them.

You're the speaking voice of Nekki Basara from Macross 7, not the singing voice – do people ever ask you to sing Fire Bomber songs for them anyway, and do you ever indulge them?

All the time. I get requests like that all the time. I do have a lower register than Fukuyama-san (Yoshiki Fukuyama, lead singer of Fire Bomber) but I sing Remember Sixteen a lot! Fukuyama-san and I had a live event where both of us were playing guitar, singing a lot of the Basara songs. Those are very fond memories for me.

You're an industry veteran with a very long career. How has the audition process changed for you – between now and, say, the 1990s?

What I feel has changed since the 90s is that we have a lot more talented young people in the industry right now. The young people we have now are even more talented than I was back then – there's so much talented new blood out there. Before, it was me in the spotlight – now I point the spotlight at new talent. I feel like I'm guarding the fort now – it's a very different feeling.

Do you have a memory of your most difficult performance? The one that took the most out of you.

Not so much in animation – but Ridley Scott's film Gladiator. I performed the Japanese voice-over for the role of Commodus, Joaquin Phoenix's character. That took a lot out of me – Commodus was a character who thought very differently, had a very different mindset. I was young, still thinking “how can I recreate someone else's mindset?”, especially someone who's very different from me, like Commodus. It was very difficult to emulate someone like Commodus – feelings show in my acting, and if those feelings aren't right, it'll show up on screen.

Which of your previous characters would you like to visit?

Any of 'em! Anytime!

Our thanks to Nobutoshi Canna and Otakon for this opportunity.


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