#119 – Kawanishi Kengo

Name: Kawanishi Kengo (河西 健吾)
DoB: 18 February 1985
Hometown: Osaka
Agency: Mausu Promotion
SNS: Twitter, Blog

Kawanishi is another recent example of seiyuu who have gained belated breakthroughs in the anime seiyuu world. A 2005 graduate of Amusement Media Academy (AMG), he was a junior in Office Kaoru until June 2012. After freelancing for 7 months, he signed with Mausu Promotion where he remains today. The change seemed to work for Kawanishi – he had mainly been working on dubbing foreign TV series up ‘til then, but around 2014 Aketagawa Jin started casting him in a steady stream of mob roles which culminated in him being cast as the lead in G-Tekketsu (Mikazuki Augus) and co-lead in Monster Strike (Kagetsuki Akira).

Da Vinci recently interviewed Kawanishi.

Q: Why did you want to become a seiyuu?

A: ‘cos I loved anime and games since I was a kid. My high school was an escalator school so I could’ve gone straight on to college to study and after graduating, gotten a normal job. But it seemed boring and I wondered whether I’d be able to tolerate it. What appeared more interesting to me was the entertainment world. However, I wasn’t good at computers or programming or drawing or writing so the one path that seemed like it could work for me was that of an actor’s.

Q: So you attended AMG Osaka.

A: When I went along for an experience-cum-briefing session, I got the chance to participate in a recording exercise with the AMG students. It was more or less my first experience of acting and initially I was so nervous I thought I wouldn’t be able to get a word out, but I managed to pluck up my courage by thinking, ‘It’s not likely that my entire life would be ruined even if I fail or get laughed at here’. In retrospect, I think I did give my all that day. And that session made me think that seiyuu work was fun.

Q: Did you also like reading manga, in addition to watching anime & playing games?

A: My family ran a coffee shop so we’d have copies of Shonen Jump, Shonen Sunday and other magazines lying around. I do think I was influenced quite a bit by them, and I still buy my own copies to read nowadays.

Q: What kind of image did seiyuu work have for you?

A: At one point in time I’d get together with friends to watch a CG anime called Transformers – it was a pretty quirky show. Since I’m a seiyuu now I know that we put in quite a bit of ad-libs into our lines, but back then I did wonder why the characters would say such funny things. We’d all imitate what they said, it was the hip thing to do.

Q: Did you ever imagine that you’d want to do more anime work, or concentrate on dubbing instead?

A: I didn’t really think about focusing about on a particular genre, I just wanted to do voice work in general. I think the reason I have started to see more work on anime is because my voice is suited for the medium.

Q: You started a Twitter account 5-6 years ago. What was the reasoning behind that?

A: It was partly because of advice from my manager, who said that it would be better for me to increase my opportunities to interact with the public since I’m in this line of work. At first I was writing a blog, it was only later on that Twitter emerged. It’s simple to use, isn’t it? And that is why I update on Twitter more than I blog these days. All you need to do is start up Twitter and you can see my updates right away if you follow my account – I like how easy it is.

Q: You can connect with your fans that way too.

A: I do think it’s important to have a platform where you can have people say to you that they like the shows you work on, or the characters that you voice. I try to answer as many questions put to me as possible on Twitter as well.

Q: You voice the main character Mikazuki Augus on Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans. What was your first impression of him?

A: He’s a character that is hard to read so at first, when I was reading his lines I kept wondering just what he was trying to say. In a way, I was at the mercy of the role. At the same time it was the first time I was voicing the central character, so I did have some nerves.

Q: Did it change later on though, the way you dealt with Mikazuki?

A: In Episode 1, I was conscious of the fact that he was a character whose traits weren’t clearly defined. As the story progressed, his humaneness became more apparent and I started to find more common ground between myself and Mikazuki, and he became easier to play. I would try to perceive how he would think, try to find that common ground between us and then fine-tune the character before I acted it out. By the 3rd or 4th episode I felt relaxed enough to be able to take in the other characters’ lines as well and I started enjoying acting out the role.

Q: So what was the common ground between yourself and Mikazuki?

A: First of all, let’s put myself in the middle of things – we get along well with the people directly around us, but outside that circle it’s a cold place. However, when one manages to break through that barrier and becomes friendly, or rather, becomes liked by that person in the middle, the distance between them immediately disappears. After some time, Mikazuki was able to shake hands with Kudelia and I felt then, that we were both similar types of people.

Q: There are a few sweet scenes where Mikazuki, without being conscious of his own feelings, behaves kindly towards Kudelia and Atra. What do you think about that side of him…?

A: People used to say I was a guy who tried too hard to please everybody – maybe it was the influence of manga, but I thought it would be better for me to always behave courteously towards women. Though I would never do the stuff Mikazuki did. Maybe we share some of those traits too.

Q: Was there ad-libbing during the (G-Tekketsu) recordings?

A: Most of the time I stuck to the script but Oyassan (Nadi Yukinojo Kassapa)’s seiyuu Ono Atsushi is the type of person who tends to go with the flow and mood. He’d say ‘If it was Oyassan he’d say things like this!’ and change up his dialogue. I think Ono-san would be the one who put in the most ad-libs.

Q: Did Oyassan influence you to do some ad-libbing too…?

A: Yes he did have some impact. During the fight in space with the Turbines, there is a scene in the hangar where Oyassan and Mikazuki have a conversation about not being able to complete maintenance in time – we did some ad-libbing there. While we were doing the tests before recording, I started to think that based on the relationship between the characters, we could do something a little bit different than what was called for. So I put in a light joke and Oyassan delivered a riposte – we changed it up a bit. It was left in for the broadcast.

Q: You’ve been involved with quite a few anime up to this point – are you the type who proactively adlibs?

A: If there is an opportunity to adlib, I will. It would be ideal to try out the adlib first during the tests, but if something comes to mind after that, then I’ll just give it a shot. I have had a couple of interesting ideas come to me when I’m waiting for my turn at the mic.

Q: Is there anything that you do as a routine before recordings?

A: You often see athletes going through a routine to get themselves in the right frame of mind in the run-up to a match but I don’t really have such practices myself. Probably only to the extent of making sure I eat a proper meal before recordings in the morning. I don’t want to get overly fixated on the character so I only check my scripts 1 or 2 times. Also, I only review the mistakes I made previously when I’m in the studio.

Q: Which one of your works has been the most unforgettable for you?

A: This will be related to dubbing – my first regular role was in a long-awaited show where I played a guy who was also the MC in another movie (though it wasn’t a spin-off). I was glad when the sound director called me in to work on the movie as well. It’s an unforgettable show for me.

*note: I believe this refers to the role of Chad Dylan Cooper in Disney Channel’s Sonny with a Chance and its quasi-sequel So Random!

Q: Let’s talk about your private life for a bit. What do you do in your free time?

A: I’m the indoors type – if someone asks me to hang out then I will go but otherwise I just stay at home. I do my laundry, eat my meals, review whatever I have to review or just roll around (laughs). I’m the kind of person who likes to take things slowly.

Q: Do you play games on your days off?

A: Mobile games are prevalent nowadays so when I have the time I do play them. Like when I’m on the train or when I’m watching TV. The games I play are the usual stuff that everyone plays, things like Puzzle & Dragons, Shironeko Project, Tsumtsum and also Monster Strike, the anime of which I appear in. I mostly play games that I see in magazines or that I learn of from work – that’s the normal pattern.

Q: Which seiyuu do you get along well with?

A: Murata Taishi-san, who I also worked with on Orphans. We’re quite close in age and we got to know each other well. He’s a little older than me but I’m the one who messes about with him…though he might not be so fond of that (laughs).

Q: Are there any characters you love?

A: I’m obsessed with CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth; I bought and watched things like the OVA as well – and there was a time when I liked the main character Shido Hikaru. She’s a really lively girl.

Q: Have any of the characters you’ve voiced influenced your lifestyle and personality in any way?

A: The dubbing process involves listening to the complete dialogue by the original actors through headphones and replacing them with Japanese dialogue. By comparison, most anime recordings use half-finished visuals so you mostly have to imagine the characters by yourselves as well. This is why I think anime has a deeper penetrative effect and a bigger influence on me.

Q: What sort of roles do you want to voice in the future?

A: Rather than the MC, I’d like to play the antagonist or the second lead. I used to think that I’d like to voice something like the Red Ranger in sentai shows or other hot-blooded roles but I do believe that cool types suit my voice more. Mikazuki happens to be a cool character but most of the time, those types are the second leads. I think my voice shines more in that kind of position.

Q: These days, a seiyuu’s range of work has expanded, but what other challenges would you like to take on?

A: My stance is that I will sincerely take on any voice work that I am offered; by making the request, it shows they have expectations of me. Whether it’s dancing or singing, rather than wanting to take on the challenge myself, I will do my best at whatever is asked of me – that is how I strongly feel.

Q: We look forward to your future success! Lastly, please leave a message for the readers.

A: There is no age ceiling for this profession so I hope I can continue to be an actor and seiyuu until the day I die. Seiyuu have gained a lot more recognition in recent times so perhaps, there will be some out there who read this article and go on to seek a career in voice acting. What I want to say to these people is that this job is extremely fun, yet tough. But if you feel that you want to go down this path, work hard. One more thing I can say is that if you persist with it, someday, something great will happen. So do work hard until that day comes.


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