Q: Tell us your impressions upon reading the original manga.
A: It was very interesting. I think the premise itself is amazing: the map of the location of the gold has been tattooed across the bodies of a group of prisoners and to decipher the code, you’d have to carve the skin off each of them. It also tells the tales of soldiers who went through the Russo-Japanese War; the way historical facts are mixed in with the story is mesmerizing. The protagonist Sugimoto is a very human kind of guy. The series doesn’t only choose to take a positive approach, it also includes elements of savagery and craftiness – it’s the kind of story that guys would love.
Q: It’s fascinating to see how these different elements come together.
A: It’s not just serious developments all the time – there are plenty of gags thrown in as well. Furthermore, those gags aren’t flattering at all for women since they actually end up looking rather masculine. What’s great about author Noda (Satoru)-sensei is that he simply draws whatever he wants to. The characters’ faces are made to look deformed during the gag scenes – he could probably draw them prettier if he wished to, but that grotesqueness (excuse me for saying that) is what makes it so fun and amazing.
Q: What impressions did you have of Tanigaki as a character?
A: He reminded me of the actor Takakura Ken. Sugimoto has a little bit of crazy in him; an aura that shows through the stillness of his motions and speech, while Tanigaki is the opposite. He may have experience of killing people in the war, but he’s a very pure and clumsy guy at heart. That’s what made me think of Takakura Ken. I’m hoping that I can [make Tanigaki] live up to the image of Takakura Ken that I have in my head.
Q: Can you describe your feelings when you found out about being cast as Tanigaki?
A: I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be better if he wasn’t voiced by me?’. After all, Tanigaki’s not the talkative type. I feel that, when such people express themselves, there is a need for their words to possess the kind of power to persuade others, and I also think that they should sound deeper, lower, and rougher. My voice isn’t anything like that though, so I hoped to bring it closer to the character as I imagined him to be.
Q: Is there anything that you’re particularly conscious about when playing the role of Tanigaki?
A: From time to time and wherever possible, I try to channel Takakura Ken (laughs). Though it’s probably at a level where viewers wouldn’t actually be able to recognize it as so (laughs)
Q: Did you receive any specific directions from Director Nanba (Hitoshi) or Sound Director Aketagawa (Jin)?
A: In terms of the character’s image, what I had imagined was practically the same as the vision that the Director and Jin-san had. However, for the scene in episode 3 where Tanigaki discovers Asirpa up in the tree, there was a particular line of dialogue that serves as the crucial point – in order to maximize its impact, the preceding line needed to be ‘spoken gently’. The difference in impact between those 2 lines was much more apparent in the final take than what I had originally come up with, so I was very grateful [to the Director and Jin-san] for the improvements that were suggested.
Q: Do you think that your performance has changed, progressing further into the story?
A: Tanigaki is one of the soldiers of the 7th Division, a position that puts him under a lot of stress. Being a soldier, his commander’s word is law. As he spends time living with the Ainu people away from the 7th Division, you can feel his demeanour softening. Actually, the tempo of the dialogue on the guide videos that we received prior to recording was markedly different; I could tell that his lines had been modified to sound gentler. I do believe that he wouldn’t be able to get along so well with the Ainu people he cares so much about if he had approached them with the mindset of a Japanese soldier. Rather than changing as a person, I think it’s more a case of different aspects [of his character] emerging, depending on the situation he’s in.
Q: Along the way, he encounters Nihei Tetsuzō.
A: The scenes between [Tanigaki] and Nihei, played by Ōtsuka Akio, had great impact from start to finish. It was a priceless experience for me, spending time with him. I haven’t had many opportunities to work alongside Ōtsuka-san prior to his, so I was keenly observing the way he spoke and carried himself while we were in the waiting area. I recall that during breaks, Ōtsuka-san would insist that he wanted to do the voice for Nihei’s hunting dog Ryu (laughs). ‘cos he knew that Ryu would stay alive even after Nihei’s death (laughs). Seems that Ōtsuka-san really likes this series.
Q: Do you have any memorable stories to share from the recording sessions?
A: During the recording sessions, we have sections where we record background noises, things like the sound of people talking in a crowd etc. As a rule, we have to adopt voices that sound different from our own characters. For whatever reason, Tsuda (Kenjirō), Kobayashi (Chikahiro) and myself, oh and probably Sugita (Tomokazu) too, decided that we’d talk as if we had severe underbites (laughs). That was funny.
Q: Going through recording, are there any lines from the series that you feel are important in making the character’s charisma and presence felt?
A: Personally, the line that I thought most captures Tanigaki as a person was one from episode 9 – ‘So there are people who intend to betray Lieutenant Tsurumi? Who?’ [said to Corporal Tamai]. No reason behind that choice, I just really like that line.
Q: We look forward to seeing how Tanigaki develops moving forward. Finally, please leave a message for the fans.
A: It’s a series that has assembled a wonderful cast and is a very professional place to work – the more you chip away at the characters, the bigger their presence becomes. The actors and staff members will similarly work towards bringing this series to a higher level, so it would bring me much joy if you were to look forward to the developments as you watch the show.