Most of the current crop of young seiyuu tend to tread similar trails in their path to success – anime fans from young, straight into seiyuu school from graduation, make their anime debut while young and not even finished with training yet.
Here’s one guy who’s bucked that trend and is poised to make his big breakthrough at the age of 30, having just landed his second major leading role as the titular character in the forthcoming TV anime adaptation of The Legend of Heroic Arslan, Kobayashi Yuusuke. Other upcoming roles in the spring for him include the lead character Okuma Tanukichi in Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai and Polar Star dorm member Marui Zenji in Shokugeki no Soma.
Previously, Kobayashi voiced Honoka in Witch Craft Works and Kazuki in the Wixoss series. You can hear his work right now as ‘characters everybody hates’: King Soo-won in Akatsuki no Yona and half-assed production assistant Hiraoka Daisuke in SHIROBAKO.
Elementary School – Dreaming of Being a Sportsman
Back then, I think I sort of wanted to be an athlete in some form. Obviously it was so long ago that I don’t remember the details (lol). But I do remember being really fond of ball games like soccer and basketball.
Junior High – I learned about seiyuu
At the time I was addicted to the Ranma ½ anime and my awareness of the seiyuu profession grew after seeing CDs released by the seiyuu involved with the show. I got to attend events featuring some of those seiyuu, including a public recording for Hayashibara Megumi-san’s Tokyo Boogie Night radio show as well as an Ogata Megumi talk show that my mom had gotten me tickets for….Even though I admired how dazzling the seiyuu world appeared then, I never actually thought about getting involved myself.
High school to college days – Thinking about becoming a seiyuu
When I was in high school a good friend said to me “Why not try to become a seiyuu?”, and that was the first time I truly considered the possibility. Unfortunately my parents strongly opposed the idea and told me “Just go to university first!”. I managed to gain admission to university, hoping to attend voice training school at the same, but my involvement with the Karate sports council meant I didn’t have the time to spare for that. I had a schedule loaded with club activities five days a week, for four years straight (lol).
23 years old – I even got a job…!?
I got swept up in the flow of the world around me and ended up in a normal job. After a year of doing the same old things every single day, I started to get bored. Since I had weekends off I was hoping to get some training in acting but there weren’t any such training schools in Gunma, where I was working at the time, so I took singing lessons instead. Coincidentally one of my teachers there had connections to the seiyuu industry and he/she gave me the push on the back that I needed, saying “If you have the interest, just go for it”.
24 years old – Began to study acting seriously
I took a special course at Amusement Media School; it was the first time I studied acting seriously. To attend, I had to commute from Gunma for about 6 months but once I had progressed to the top class I took the plunge, quit my job and moved to Tokyo.
25 years old – Attachment to Yu-Rin Pro
During my school days I had gained work experience through internships, but the first job I received as a pro seiyuu was narration work for corporate use. Subsequently, most of my voice acting work focused on narration.
28 years old – First role in anime!
I was 28 when I got word that I would be voicing the leading role of Takamiya Honoka in the anime Witch Craft Works! Little by little, I was allowed to take on the challenge of anime and video game works. It was a whole different ballgame from what I’d been used to doing up to that point, and even now I feel like there is something new to learn every day.
29 years old – The lead role in The Heroic Legend of Arslan!
I am honoured to be involved with a work with so much history behind it. It will be my second time voicing the lead role in an anime. As the style and genre of the work is so dissimilar to (Witch Craft Works), the kind of pressure I’m feeling is different. Using the knowledge I have accumulated up until now to face the challenges ahead, I will give my all so that I can grow together with Arslan.
30 years old – Regularly landing lead roles
My aim is to get at least one lead per year and at the same time, to not be limited to any particular type of role. I’m particularly bad at voicing sadistic characters so it’d be nice if I could overcome that weakness…(lol). Maybe it’s because I don’t have sadistic tendencies myself that I have trouble with antagonistic roles; I’d really like to become an actor who can turn those weaknesses into strengths.
32 years old – Create my own content
When I see how the actors around me shine so brightly when creating an original work together with their peers, it stirs up my desire to make a stage play or voice drama from scratch. I would like to take on the challenge of writing a screenplay but I feel that I might not have the literary talent for that, so I may be more suited for the role of Chairman, overseeing the overall content creation process. There isn’t any one type of media I would favour; instead, I’d like to explore new avenues.
38 years old – Have a household
Up until now I’ve been focusing single-mindedly on the acting field so I hope that by my late 30s I would be able to find love and get married… (lol). I’d like to be able to allow my parents to enjoy having grandchildren and of course, I’d like to maintain a good public image (lol)
40 years old – Help build the foundations for future generations
I would like to carry out my activities the way the late Nagai Ichiro-san did, always thinking of the seiyuu industry as a whole and paving the way for those who followed in his footsteps.
Lifetime – To live without regrets
I do not know if I will still continue acting in my later years in life. Perhaps, my personal ambitions may change after 20-30 years but I wish to see out the rest of my life without regrets. To be able to do everything that I hope to…that is the kind of life I wish to live.
10 Questions for Kobayashi Yuusuke
Q1. Describe your personality in one phrase.
A: I’ve been trying to keep this in check lately, but I really hate losing! I have my own weak points and when it comes to work I can be really harsh on myself…hmm, maybe I am a masochist? (lol) Normally I selectively use the carrot-and-stick approach to motivate myself but I’m the type of person who if caught in a pinch, can perform beyond my limits…
Q2: What’s your favourite food?
A: I like all kinds of sweets, be it Japanese confectionery or Western desserts! On the other hand I dislike mushrooms..I can’t stand it if there’s even so much of a whiff of shiitake mushrooms, or even a texture similar to it, in a dish.
Q3: What are your hobbies?
A: I don’t know if you can even call this a hobby, but I’m fond of “visiting friends”. Up until now I had this inferiority complex of being someone who was forever chasing dreams, but I’ve finally gained confidence and am using this as an opportunity to go around meeting & speaking to people who I have gotten to know throughout my life. Starting from my best friends…those I knew from my junior high days to friends I made in seiyuu training school; regardless of their genre (lol), I will meet up with them.
Q4: What is your nickname?
A: Yukke*. Most people think of yakiniku when they hear that but actually, it originated from my younger sister, who when she was little, couldn’t say “Yuusuke” properly and called me “Yukke” instead. Personally I’d rather be called Yuusuke instead but you know, it’s a bit difficult for girls to call guys without using honorifics so that’s why I end up going with Yukke.
*yukke, or yukhoe is the Korean version of steak tartare
Q5: What are your favourite movies?
A: I love Shinkai Makoto’s works. Of his recent works, I watched Kotonoha no Niwa, which caused my tears to flow freely. I think it helped me to recall innocent feelings that I had long forgotten, of how wonderful love can be. I would be happy if I could some day, work together with Shinkai-san as a voice actor in one of his productions.
Q6: Any sports you’re good at?
A: I was devoted to karate during my university days. Putting aside the question of whether I was actually any good at it or not, I just loved showing off the kata… I’m a 2-dan in that, and also a 2-dan in kendo, which I had learnt in my junior high days at a police training centre. I took up all the painful stuff (lol).
Q7: How do you spend your days off?
A: I meet up with friends, or go drinking alone…I try as much as possible not to drink on the days before work but when there are gaps in my schedule I go for drinks starting from daytime. I especially love Japanese sake.
Q8: What place would you most like to visit right now?
A: Sky Café at Memuro, Shin Arashiyama in Hokkaido. I’m thinking how fun it would be for me to be able to take a photo of myself with a backdrop of the scenery under a sea of clouds and send it to friends with the message “I’ll be dropping by a café now” (lol). I’ve actually only ever visited Hokkaido once and that was was when it was being hit by a severe snowstorm, so I’ll have to get my revenge on that some day!
Q9: What do you do to relieve stress?
A: Apart from drinking, singing. I’ll sing anything in any genre but my specialty is enka since I find it easy to channel my emotions…When I was in training school, a girl in my music class said to me “Kobayashi, your enka is the best!” and I wondered “What was that all about!?” (lol).
Q10: What’s your motto?
A: Never give up!!!!? Once you give up it’s the end; if you end up quitting then never mind…but I still think it’s important to try not to give up (lol).
From Kobayashi Yuusuke
Although I took the long way around I still made it, so to those who are hoping to become actors, keep moving forward whatever challenges you may face and never forget to have fun as you devote yourself to your art. As for myself, I hope to be able to voice various types of roles in various types of works in the future. Please continue to watch out for various different Kobayashis!
Kobayashi’s agency Yu-Rin Pro isn’t particularly anime oriented, so it’s interesting to see that they’re pushing him in that direction now. The only seiyuu in recent times I can remember coming from Yu-Rin Pro is Arai Satomi, who has since left to become freelance…