While I wouldn’t say that Aketagawa Jin is my favourite sound director when it comes to castings (if push came to shove, I’d go for Kimura Eriko’s eclecticism) but he is definitely someone who’s close to my heart, purely for his ability to spot and cultivate raw young talent over the years – the likes of Tomatsu Haruka, Hikasa Yoko, Ishikawa Kaito, Kayano Ai, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu and Taneda Risa have all passed through his hands.
For all the accusations he faces of favouritism and getting way too close to his chosen seiyuu talents, Aketagawa himself remains extremely low-profile, shunning interviews and choosing not to get on SNS. That means it’s harder to get a true picture of what the guy is really like. One thing’s for sure though – Aketagawa’s a people person and gets along extremely well with both staff and cast members, you can tell that from the way others speak of him.
Aketagawa is often described as a lively character, and that personality of his comes across in his directing choices – he tends to favour energetic, animated acting (生き生き is the phrase I have in mind) which is why he gets hired for OTT things like Kill Me Baby!, Shokugeki no Soma and Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan. Not to say he can’t handle the more subtle, low-key stuff though – his long list of credits includes series like Aoi Hana, Hourou Musuko and AnoHana after all.
He is definitely guilty of picking the same people over and over again within a certain period of time though; that you can almost spot the seiyuu cliques that form as a result of constantly working together on Aketagawa shows. Just think of that large but loose collective of seiyuu acquaintances that includes people like Minase Inori, Sakura Ayane, Uchida Maaya, Kakuma Ai, Onishi Saori, Murakawa Rie etc etc – they’re all AkeJin faves. I have nothing much against that though – Aketagawa has such a deep pool of seiyuu contacts and works on so many shows over a season/year that you don’t really notice similarities in his casting choices too much, as opposed to say…Bones or Shaft series.
Here are a few bits and bobs from over the years. First one is an interview with the Nagi no Asu kara director and producer, just the section where they mention Aketagawa in particular:
Tsuji Mitsuhito (producer): There are lots more episodes that we couldn’t mention in regular interviews. For example, in the 2nd episode, when Gyomenso emerges from Manaka’s knee it’s supposed to say ‘See you later’ but during tests, Gyomenso’s seiyuu Tamura Mutsumi-san ad-libbed ‘I’ll be back!’ in a smug tone, which sent the studio into peals of laughter (laughs)
Shinohara Toshiya (director): During recordings for episode 16, Ishihara [Kaori]-san who voices Sayu-chan, got the words mixed up. She was supposed to say ‘Did you know? You can’t get married if you’re relatives to a third degree’, but ended up saying ‘You can’t get married if you have three heads’* instead – everyone burst out laughing.
*third degree – sanshintō (三親等), three heads – santōshin (三頭身)
Q: Speaking of voice recording – what kind of person is the sound director Aketagawa Jin?
Tsuji: Our relationship goes back to CANAAN, which means I’ve been working with Jin-san for about 6 years now. For Nagi no Asu kara, I’d say that the final episode was the most memorable. Yanagi Nagi’s ‘mnemonic’ was used as an insert song in the episode, but we had initially readied it for use in the 25th episode…well, actually it was back in the 18th episode or thereabouts (laughs). The decision was only made at the last minute but we actually had 2 versions prepared [for ep18] – a version with ‘mnemonic’ and one with the BGM. Ultimately, we went with the BGM version so Jin-san had kind of given up, thinking “so we aren’t going to use ‘mnemonic’ at all?”, but he managed to fit it in, and at a very good point at that, during the final episode.
Shinohara: I first met Jin-san on Hana Saku Iroha. Prior to that, whenever you mentioned ‘Aketagawa-san’ you would think of his father (Aketagawa Susumu) first – his image happens to be very strong, but [Jin] is a completely different type of character by comparison. His father is quiet and gentle with a spirit of a craftsman, while Jin-san is bright and lively and good at getting seiyuu on board [with his ideas]. What impresses me about his work is his outstanding sense when it comes to music selection. Throughout the series I only ever asked him for a total of 3 changes in the song he had initially selected for first tests. Every time we went through the tests I’d hum, thinking – that was good! Also, this may be completely unrelated but when I think of stories involving sound directors, I think of…dieting? (laughs) For some reason a [low] carb diet is getting popular amongst staff members; producers and managers included, but the one who followed it most seriously was Jin-san.
Tsuji: That’s true, he’s gotten quite slim. Gorgeous bento boxes are available at the studio but the menu items have somehow started getting healthier with an increase in single servings (laughs). I’m not sure if it’s due to that, but I’ve managed to lose 3kg.
And secondly, a short interview with Aketagawa Jin himself from when he was working on Potemayo .
Q: What does the job of a sound director entail?
A: Simply put, it is a role that involves overseeing everything sound-related. Dialogue, sound effects and music – the job is to direct…no, arrange all of that. For the dialogue, I act as an intermediary between the actors and the director. For music, the intermediary between the composer and director. And for sound effects, between the soundmen and the director. I guess that’s pretty much it?
Q: How did this job sound directing Potemayo come about?
A: J.C.Staff Producer Matsukura-san just said to me ‘This anime is based on a manga so I’ll leave it up to you~!’ (laughs). Later on I received the manga in the mail and he went ‘It’s over to you now!’. That was all (loud laugh).
Q: Did Producer Matsukura not explain the work to you?
A: Not at all (laughs). The manga volumes were just casually delivered to my company office and I’d just read them and start to think about a lot of different things. I did of course meet up with Matsukura-san sometime later on to discuss the direction of the anime and what we had in mind for casting.
Q: What were your impressions of the series after reading it?
A: For Potemayo and Guchuko, I first considered the direction I should take when it came to their voices. I immediately thought of Potemayo as being cute. In Guchuko’s case it could’ve gone either way and I had to think about which to go with. I decided to base it upon what I’d hear at the auditions. Considering the cuteness we were aiming for with Potemayo, we could’ve gotten someone who delivered clear and easily-understood reactions, or we might also choose to go with someone like Hanazawa [Kana]-san who has a childish, tottering style – either direction was a possibility. Once again I decided to put it through the audition process, and that was how we ended up in favour of the Hanazawa-san direction as you hear it now.
Q: Going through the auditions, was there an overall direction that you were looking at with regards to the cast as a whole?
A: The series has a lot of characters so first and foremost, we had to ensure that there weren’t any overlapping characteristics. For Potemayo and Guchuko, the reactions seen in their acting were going to make or break the show so I requested that J.C. Staff produce some illustration material for the purpose of the auditions. They were just line drawings with a limited amount of movement, and I had the actors match their voices to that. In a sense, I think it was easier to grasp the image of the series through those visuals rather than just by reading the scripts as per the norm.
Q: What were the important points working as a sound director during the Potemayo voice recording sessions?
A: Director Ikehata [Takashi]’s laughter ‘hurdles’ are set slightly higher than most and he can be severe about it at times, so it’s my job to get across to the actors that they should put in performances that get as close to Director Ikehata’s sense of humour as possible. I think it was a pretty good atmosphere [in the studio].
Q: How about the sound effects and the music?
A: Well in the end, this series is all about the characters reacting and being in motion. Particularly Potemayo and Guchuko, who both move in a way that makes you want to add animated sound effects to accompany the visuals. There is quite a bit of ‘reaction-type’ of dialogue which can be treated as sound effects by themselves, and that might mean that they ended up clashing with actual inserted sound effects. And then you’d have Potemayo, who despite being in the background when other characters are interacting with each other, would continuously make ‘Honoho’ kind of sounds. Should I mute the sound effects to produce a clean sound, or should I nuke the reactions of the characters other than Potemayo and Guchuko to make it sound cleaner? If you’re not careful with things like that you might mess it all up. Having to balance these issues made this series a tough one to work on.
For the music too – the anime is filled with dialogue that is already interesting on its own so rather than spoiling them with inappropriate music floating in, it would be better to just leave the scenes as they are. On the other hand, there might be cases when it’s more interesting to have music over the scenes so I have done it on occasion.
Q: So tell us what the appeal of the completed version of the Potemayo anime is.
A: Frankly speaking, I’d be happy as long as I find it interesting myself! …is my take on it (laughs). Right now there aren’t any set patterns or anything like that so I suppose in a sense, that the show’s appeal might lie in how it finds different ways to be interesting depending on the scene at hand? Having said that, I still wouldn’t describe this as a one-liner kind of gag show. I was quite conscious of that fact while we were working on the show but well…there are scenes that do call for one-liners in the end (laughs). Whatever works at a given time and place, I suppose, as long as it’s interesting.
Q: Please leave a message for the fans who are looking forward to the anime’s broadcast.
A: Fans of the manga will be able to enjoy this anime, as will those who have not read the original work – do look forward to it!
Q: Thank you very much.
While we’re at it, let’s have a quick look at the Potemayo cast and see how often Aketagawa has worked with the individuals over the years.
Kitamura Eri (Moriyama Sunao) – AkeJin hired KitaEri a couple of times in the late 00s but rarely since, and not in the last 4 years since Neptunia [which was just rehiring the game cast]
Hanazawa Kana (Potemayo) – HanaKana remains an AkeJin fave but she’s a busy lady so he obviously can’t always get hold of her. Prince of Stride Alternative & Junketsu no Maria are some of their recent works together.
Tsuji Ayumi (Guchuko) – I think Tsuji has been hired maybe only once or twice by Aketagawa [Tonagura! being the other one off the top of my head]. She’s not worked that much anyway.
Kawasumi Ayako (Natsu Mikan) – A long-standing favourite of Aketagawa’s, stretching back to Geneshaft in 2001 and more recently in Danmachi Sword Oratoria & Shokugeki no Soma.
Kaida Yuko (Takamimori Kyo) – Kaida’s forte is dubs & not really anime, but AkeJin has hired her on & off over the years in things like Railgun, Moretsu Pirates & Queens Blade.
Kugimiya Rie (Kasugano Nene, Seki Tomari) – Another way too busy lady. They’re working on Twin Angel Break this season though.
Tokita Hikaru (Kirihara Mudo) – I don’t think she’s been in any anime in the last 5 or so years…
Kondo Takayuki (Hatsushiba Kaoru) – He was in Shokugeki no Soma & the High School DxD series, but haven’t seen too much of him around lately.
Hamada Kenji (Moriyama Kodai) – A veteran who pops up in minor roles in quite a few Aketagawa shows. Last year, he was in Active Raid, Norn9 & Bubuki Buranki.
Okamoto Nobuhiko (Natsu Yasumi) – A firm fave with AkeJin over the last decade, he gave him his first lead role in Sola  & continues to cast him here and there. Recently heard in Danmachi Sword Oratoria, Starmyu & MonHun Ride On.
Inoue Kikuko (Moriyama Miku) – She’s everyone’s favourite, isn’t she? Currently in Uchoten Kazoku S2.
Toyosaki Aki (Shiina Shizuka) – Another firm fave over the years. Recently cast in AkeJin shows like Flip Flappers, Kuzu no Honkai and Re:CREATORS.
Yahagi Sayuri (Hanabusa Eiko) – Part of the To LOVEru franchise so she’ll always be working with AkeJin in some form.
Fujimura Ayumi (Hachiya Yoshimi) – I remember her being in some of Aketagawa’s shows in the 00s like Kyoran Kazoku Nikki, Hatsukoi Limited. & Aoi Hana but nothing much of late. Guess Norn9 doesn’t count since it was a carry-over from the game.
Yasumoto Hiroki (various) – While not a first-choice leading man with Aketagawa, Yasumoto does get hired for sub & minor roles – he’s Mimasaka in Shokugeki no Soma & Kishward in Arslan Senki & was in Active Raid, Aldnoah Zero & Hataraku Mao-sama! – to name a few.