Second in the series is Ōtsuka Hōchū, the distinct voice behind Liutenant ‘I’ve had half my brains blown out!’ Tsurumi. Ōtsuka’s been very prominent in recent years, playing memorable antagonists such as Ajin’s Satō and the Kizumonogatari series’ Guillotine Cutter. Tsurumi seems like the kind of role tailor-made for him, as he mentions in the interview.
Q: What are your impressions of this series?
A: I was trying to get a feel for the story and characters through reading the scripts and I found it really interesting. Receiving this casting for Lieutenant Tsurumi subsequently allowed me to recall a memory from my elementary school days, where I had borrowed a novel called Whistle in My Heart* (コタンの口笛, Kotan no Kuchibue) from the library.
It was such a long time ago that I don’t remember the exact details but I do recall that the story depicted the persecution faced by Ainu and how they tried to compromise, and that it was extremely interesting and exhilarating to read. It was my first experience of Ainu culture so thanks to that, I had a little bit of knowledge about the Ainu. Being given the opportunity to be involved with this work revived the excitement that I felt within me 50 years ago. I do feel a sense of affinity with this work and at the same time, I realize that I’ve been given such a good role.
*2 novels by Ishimori Nobuo released in 1957, which were turned into a feature film by Naruse Mikio in 1959.
Q: Please tell us your impressions of Tsurumi as a character.
A: He’s the sort of character that I’m very well-versed in playing – a guy filled with madness and ambition but also one who cares for his comrades. Anyway, he’s an endlessly interesting character. I mean, he’s got juices seeping out of his skull (laughs). That rendition alone tells you a lot about the type of personality he has, plus it also gives me plenty of ideas from an acting perspective. That means that I thankfully have no qualms over how to play the character and in fact, am having a ball with it.
Q: Is there anything that you’re particularly conscious about when playing the role of Tsurumi?
A: It’d be boring if I pushed his maniacal nature up front and centre right from the start so I tried making him as quiet as possible in the beginning. Tsurumi’s an intelligent person and it seems that he does have a rather colourful history. He can start off in a passive state but end up behaving rather chillingly, so I hope that I can liven up proceedings in a way that will reveal his true nature.
Q: So Otsuka-san, you too are looking forward to finding out how Tsurumi changes in the future.
A: Yes I am. I mean, he’s gonna run into trouble by the end of it all, isn’t he? (laughs) So I’d like to start off with my lever at 1/10th of the maximum output value and then raise my level gradually. At the same time, he’s the kind of guy whose actions conceal a meticulously assembled plan so I’m trying to bring that across in my acting to make sure that [what you see now] ties in well with future developments.
Q: Did you receive any specific directions from Director Nanba (Hitoshi) or Sound Director Aketagawa (Jin)?
A: Nothing special. If anything, the only advice I received was to inject more energy into the parts in his monologue where his emotions are gradually soaring.
Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the recording studio?
A: Basically relaxing. I’ve been going around to a couple of different studios to record for anime recently, and it seems that I’m always the oldest one there (laughs). This series though, features lots of colleagues my age and actors I’ve worked alongside on foreign film dubbing, so I feel like I’m finally back on home ground.
We share lots of chit-chat and gossip away; it’s pretty fun. Even when it comes to acting – when you’ve been working with someone for decades, you can generally predict what the other person is going to do. It’s like, ‘you’re gonna do this, so I’ll respond like this’ – it’s a bit like telepathy, in a way.
Q: Are there any lines from the beginning of the series that you feel are important in making the character’s charisma and presence felt?
A: I do think that the biggest hint that you’ll get is from that part where he’s talking about the juices flowing from his skull. I’m playing [Tsurumi] while thinking to myself, ‘Ah, this kind of guy is just awesome’. Through this line of work [I’ve learned that] a random line might turn out to be pivotal in grasping the essence of a certain figure. So be careful not to miss those moments when they come along – when you spot a line with such potential, make sure that you sink your teeth into it.
Q: You’ve played a lot of crazy villains in the past – is Tsurumi any different in any way?
A: Oh he’s different~. Since I often play villains I do worry about what I should do if he was similar to any of them, but that wasn’t the case at all. Even amongst the many characters with complex inner workings that I’ve done so far, [Tsurumi’s] a new type of person for me. I don’t see many opportunities to play a human from the Meiji era so it’s extremely fascinating for me. When I’m voicing my lines I try to maintain the mindset of someone who was living through that period of time.
Q: The anime has just started airing. To wrap things up, please leave a message for the fans.
A: Golden Kamuy is a type of series that you will experience for the first time, and that is true even for an industry veteran like me. It will be the catalyst for you to learn about the origins of modern Japan as well as the culture of the Ainu people – I think it will give people fresh perspectives on many things. Real historical figures appear in the show as well, so if you do happen to develop an interest regarding that aspect, you might wish to deepen your knowledge of the matter by reading the books.
Not only is this is a work that is packed with elements that will stimulate your intellectual curiosity, there is also a genuine sense of fun surrounding the story itself. I’m sure that there’ll be an army of developments awaiting in the near future so do please watch this series to its conclusion without taking your eyes off the screen for even a second.