The Golden Kamuy features just keep on rollin’ in! This time, we return to an interview with our main pairing of Sugimoto (Kobayashi Chikahiro) & Asirpa (Shiraishi Haruka).
The soul of an actor who understands Asirpa’s feelings of eating raw brains!?
Q: The first season got a very good reception with positive comments from various parties – please remind us once again what this series is all about.
Kobayashi: When we were recording, we did so to work-in-progress visuals that had no sound effects, so our knowledge of the series only went as far as what we knew from our acting dialogue. Even in that state you could feel the world of the manga being expanded and discover how characters’ lines would sound, or how certain scenes could be interpreted.
It’s funny, it’s sordid and it’s energetic – I was surprised by just how much a show can change with the addition of acting performances and sound effects.
Shiraishi: I got the impression that a lot of women were watching the show as well. They’d say things like ‘Asirpa-chan is cute’, and of course there were guys who’d tell me that the show is interesting and so on. Based on the many comments I’ve received from people who watched the show, I’ve come to conclude that men and women view the series in different ways.
The girls place greater importance on the characters while guys spend more time chasing the story.
The show is a hodgepodge of serious and comical elements, and it was amazing how each and every line from the assembled cast carried so much weight and depth. Acting alongside these actors gave me the chance to hear the words that I read in the manga come to life.
Kobayashi-san mentioned this as well, but the addition of the voices enhanced the potency of the show, while the moving visuals allowed you to make observations like ‘ah, he’s making such a cowardly expression’ during the comedy parts – both the fun and the serious scenes proved to be even more appealing in the anime.
There are quite a lot of perverted characters in this series, as well as a lot of weirdos. They might seem scary at first but you’ll find that they possess surprising sides that will endear them to you as characters – it’s pretty amazing.
Kobayashi: Yeah there are perverts here, there and everywhere (laughs). Someone like Tsurumi’s depraved as well but for me, it’s from the moment Nihei Tetsuzō appeared that I felt was the start of an endless procession of weirdos.
A perfect example would be Henmi Kazuo, and he was followed by Ienaga Kano – it was incredible to see the appearance of these lunatics that topped the ones that came before them.
Q: You mentioned the star-studded cast list a moment ago – it’s remarkable how Nihei’s ‘Boner!’ became the talk of the town. It shows how powerful both the character and the actor inside him were.
Kobayashi: The goods produced were amusing as well. The stickers that came with the Blurays and DVDs had things like ‘Boner!’ etc written on them and I thought ‘what the heck am I gonna do with this?’ (laughs). I wonder where the female fans are going to stick them? (laughs)
Shiraishi: We’re all delighted with them (laughs)
Kobayashi: I honestly don’t think anyone’s ever come up with stuff like this.
Q: There were goods made that featured a selection of our heroine’s weird faces as well – you won’t see anything else like that.
(photo from Shiraishi Haruka’s twitter)
Shiraishi: That’s so true!
Kobayashi: And leading the way was that mug!
Shiraishi: Have we ever seen a heroine with so many weird faces!? (laughs)
Kobayashi: When I got home I made sure that I carefully put the mug away in a glass display case (laughs)
Shiraishi: I’ve got that at home too. It’s so precious that I can’t bring myself to use it. I don’t want to drink from this!
Kobayashi: It’s an heirloom.
Q: Do you have any favourite episodes?
Shiraishi: Personally, of all the pervs in the series Henmi-san was the one that made me go ‘Ah…this creep…’ the most (laughs). Seki Toshihiko-san’s performance and his sighs of ecstasy made me go ‘Oh my god what is this!! It’s so funny but so scary at the same time!!’ (laughs). Seki-san’s acting was so impressive that it made me fall in love with Henmi.
One of the bonuses given out was a Henmi sparkling sticker – I’d stuck it on my IC card at first but it got in the way and prevented the card from being charged so I had to remove the sticker in the end.
Kobayashi: Obviously you can’t scan it with that in the way (laughs)
Shiraishi: It was a shame ‘cos I’d stuck it somewhere designed to make it stand out as much as possible. I’m also fond of the part where Ienaga talks about how you should, if you’re feeling unwell in a certain part of your body, consume the same body part as a cure.
Kobayashi: One body part for another, as they’d say. Oh, would you like to try it? Which body part do you need to cure?
Shiraishi: No no no! (laughs) Ienaga’s just so beautiful and has such a refined voice so I was thinking about whether I could gain such a pretty voice or face myself… (laughs)
Kobayashi: Oh, so you’re gonna start off by eating the face? (laughs)
Shiraishi: I’m kinda scared of eating that, but I might be slightly interested (laughs). But no! It’s still too scary~! (laughs)
Q: Asirpa is pretty amazing, brains being one of her favourite foods.
Kobayashi: Isn’t that a first for any female character in the world?
Shiraishi: The other day I ate pig brains for the first time ever. It was really good!
Kobayashi: What did they taste like?
Shiraishi: It kind of looked like baked shirako, and there wasn’t anything particularly strange about it – just a bit sticky, very rich and delicious.
Q: I could probably enjoy eating it if I was served the dish without being informed what it is, but if you told me it was brains I would just say ‘no’…
Kobayashi: You’d probably ask what it is.
Shiraishi: It does look kind of shocking, those wrinkles in the brain. But now I can understand Asirpa’s feelings about recommending the dish to other people.
Kobayashi: So it does taste good. That part in the manga was pretty intense, when she’s digging the brains out of the deer’s skull and eating it.
Shiraishi: It certainly a big visual impact. There were quite a lot of scenes throughout the series that left me wondering ‘can we even broadcast this?’, but when you see it on air for real, it seems quite normal.
Kobayashi: Yeah, they did air that scene.
Q: But that just shows what it means to be alive. The meat and the fish that we normally consume come in product packaging so eating it in its raw form reminds us how we are taking away a life – to live, we have no choice but to hunt and eat our prey.
Shiraishi: That’s exactly right!
Kobayashi: This is the kind of life that hunting tribes of the past would have lived.
‘Dick-sensei was great!’ – a masterful performance that garnered acclaim
Shiraishi: Each and every pervert in the show has a cute side to them, which is why all the Golden Kamuy pervs are so lovable.
Kobayashi: Each character has their own saving grace.
Q: It’s testament to the brilliance of the veteran cast members that they can produce performances that have such impact while still leaving behind something that can capture your heart.
Shiraishi: Tsurumi’s ‘Oh my, it’s a kitty!!’ line for example – Otsuka Hōchū-san had so much fun acting that part out (laughs)
Kobayashi: It’s a Hōchū-san that you don’t get to see too often when he’s working on film dubs (laughs). I’ve never seen him like that before.
Q: Sugimoto, possessing the nickname ‘The Immortal Sugimoto’, is portrayed as someone who never holds back against his enemies, but he’s also a man full of emotion. As a soldier standing on the edge of death, his body is riddled with scars yet he’s also shown to be a guy who loves cute things – those contrasting sides make him a charming character.
Kobayashi: I didn’t really feel it until the anime started airing, and everyone described Sugimoto as ‘cute’.
Shiraishi: He’s cute!
Kobayashi: Really!? From a guy’s point of view, he just seems strong and cool and reliable – that’s all I see him as. Women say someone like Ogata is ‘cute’ too and I gotta admit that I’m thinking ‘Which part of him!?’ (laughs)
They’re watching it from an angle that’s completely different from my own, which I suppose relates back to what was mentioned earlier – that men and women view the series differently.
Shiraishi: All of the men that appear in Golden Kamuy are strong. But when we see glimpses of their adorable sides we just think that it’s ‘gap moe’.
Kobayashi: Oh, so that’s what it is!
Shiraishi: Well, the common assumption is that Sugimoto is strong isn’t it? But he’s not only strong, he’s also kind – so when we see Sugimoto looking at flowers and going ‘cute!’, then we see him as being cute too.
Kobayashi: It’s good that he doesn’t go ‘Eww, gross~!’ though.
Shiraishi: All of the characters are cute. Sugimoto sometimes goes ‘It’ll be alrightey’*, and I’ve noticed that Kobayashi-san has adopted a similar way of speaking lately. Like ‘’*Oh realleh’?* (laughs)
*she says なんとかなのぉ (Nantoka no-o) where Sugimoto adds a small ぉ at the end of his sentence.
**similarly, this is そうなのぉ？(Sou na no-o)
Kobayashi: Now that you mention it, perhaps I have been doing that! I was rewatching 203 Kochi the other day where its leading man Aoi Teruhiko-san took part in a battle that was so terrible that he’d lost his mind by the first half of the film. And at that moment, Sada Masashi’s song kicks in.
Tanigaki, Tsurumi and Ogata are similar characters, people who’ve lived through situations that have numbed their feelings towards life-and-death. The battlefield is their home and even Sugimoto too, will not hesitate to kill whenever he senses imminent danger. It’s a preconditioned reflex, and all the characters in Golden Kamuy possess that same trait.
The Sugimoto that thinks of animals as being cute is probably the person he has always been from the start; it’s inevitable that the war changed him and this leads to the contradictions in his appearance but I do feel like he originally was a kind young man who loved flowers.
Q: Let’s talk about Asirpa-san now – she’s another character with ‘gaps’ between her personality traits.
Shiraishi: That’s right (laughs)
Q: That applies to the acting as well – seems a pretty tall task to play the role when she has lines like ‘Osoma is tasty’ and ‘Dick-sensei.
Shiraishi: But those words, be it ‘Osoma is tasty’ or ‘Dick-sensei’ or ‘That’s shit!!’, didn’t feel embarrassing for me to say as I think of Asirpa-san as a child.
It’s only after recording is done and dusted when my seniors turn to me and say, ‘that line was kinda…’
Kobayashi: Like, ‘that Dick-sensei was great!’ (laughs)
Shiraishi: When I hear that being said to me I can only go ‘Ack!’ (laughs). The embarrassment came late. But I had awesome fun while I was performing, shouting those words at the top of my lungs.
Kobayashi: It was a great ‘Dick-sensei’, filled with your entire soul.
Q: On top of that, the conflict that you showed when Asirpa was trying out miso, thinking ‘Osoma = shit’ – that was splendid!
Shiraishi: For that part, I was instructed to keep the exact ‘Happu, happu’ line from the manga* – in most cases, you would make ‘Haa…, haa…’ kind of breathing sounds, but I was asked to exaggerate those bits and keep the ‘Happu’ intact; and the line ended up sounding like SFX.
Like the comical scene it’s meant to be, I played it with the goal of making sure everyone enjoys watching it. Same goes for the ‘Hinnnnn!!’ part** that follows. If I allowed the end of the line to drop off it would result in a more natural sounding ‘Hinn…!!’ but I was conscious about enunciating the word with clarity so that it would stand out.
That’s why I’m really happy when people tell me ‘I love that scene’.
*from chapter 20
**from chapter 25, the infamous ‘Hinnnn!! Don’t Die Sugimoto!’ scene. ‘Hin’ is an onomatopoeia indicating crying sounds
Q: The double entendre of the ‘Osoma is tasty’ line was funny as well.
Shiraishi: That was probably Asirpa-san’s first funny scene.
Kobayashi: Is that so? I’d always thought she was a funny person though…
Shiraishi: Her lines were mostly exposition up to that point, so I thought that scene opened up the comedic possibilities for her.
Kobayashi: So that was the moment she awakened!
Q: Like the moment in The Miracle Worker where Helen Keller learns of what ‘water’ means.
Kobayashi: Which in this case, means that ‘Osoma’s tasty’ is the equivalent of ‘water’!
Q: And at that age, she’s already a pro at hunting and surviving in the wild – that’s another hugely charming aspect about her.
Shiraishi: She’s able to expand on and make use of the knowledge and skills that have been passed on to her by her father. It’s almost unheard of for a child of that age to be able to take what they’ve learned and actually apply it.
Rather than staying at home and sewing, Asirpa-san would prefer to go out into the mountains – the combination of talent and her natural disposition allows her to make use of her knowledge to live life to its fullest. Seeing how she imparts that knowledge to Sugimoto and the rest makes me respect her. I think she’s cool.
Q: Another element is the Ainu language – how did you find it?
Shiraishi: The Ainu language as difficult, but it’s not that bad for me compared to Fuchi who’s always speaking in Ainu. Ichijō (Miyuki)-san must’ve struggled.
For Asirpa we mostly hear Ainu interspersed into her Japanese speech so I try to make sure that there aren’t any weird intervals when she’s switching between the two. The Ainu language has a few syllable sounds that are silent and are not pronounced. I’m always practising at home so that I can prevent myself from sounding like I’m stumbling over my words.
Kobayashi: You’d always be practising that whenever I observed you from the side. You’re like an Ainu person for real.
Shiraishi: No way! (laughs) It really did make my heart beat faster though. Especially during the first episode when I was just explaining one thing after the other, with difficult words and intonation randomly slipped in throughout – I had to be careful not to be distracted and let my Japanese get sloppy as well.
Q: Was there a specialist Ainu instructor present in the studio?
Kobayashi: Yes. Nakagawa Hiroshi-sensei, who supervises the Ainu language used in the manga, was present, as was an Ainu native who provided guidance for the songs.
We also went and ate Ainu cuisine ourselves; definitely a case of learning [about the culture] while on the job.
An even bigger pervert kicks off the show!?
Q: Starting with ‘Hinna hinna’, there are many Ainu words that we have learnt. There’s so much information packed into the show – what were the learning points for you?
Shiraishi: This series, which has given me the opportunity to play Asirpa, reminded me of the simple things in life, like showing gratitude after hunting your prey. This is how we know we’re alive.
Kobayashi: My appreciation for food culture has greatly increased. The bear sacrificial ceremony for example shows how we’re closely connected to Mother Nature. I definitely felt that way as well.
Q: Season 2 is kicking off soon. It hasn’t been too long of a downtime between seasons – how did the 2 of you feel about the wait?
Shiraishi: There wasn’t a gap in terms of recording – we went straight into the 2nd season after the first had ended. So for the cast members, it didn’t really impress upon us, the feeling the show had concluded – I’m sure that will come to us in the future.
The series was rebroadcast, plus there are ongoing Blu-ray & DVD releases so I never really felt like Golden Kamuy had ended after Season 1. So it’s more like a period where I was waiting for the excitement to start up again.
Q: Season 1 ended with Inkarmat’s identity still a mystery, while Hijikata and Tsurumi’s future movements remained unknown as well. What characters have piqued your interest, moving into Season 2?
Kobayashi: It’s gotta be Edogai Yasaku, the first guy we see in Season 2. We had all kinds of perverts in the first season but now we’ve got this guy, who tops them all for perversion, kicking the season off. Edogai-kun is the perfect pervert to crown the season premiere!
He’s a man who would doubtless be described as a pervert no matter who you ask – but he, like the others who came before him, is a wonderful character that will be much loved. He gets pretty intimate with Tsurumi-san so look forward to those interactions! Lots of crazy scenes await!
Shiraishi: Cikapasi’s cute too.
Q: That would be the kid who’s fixated on boobs. Edogai is quite the bizarre character himself, but he does seem awfully cute in the world of Golden Kamuy.
Shiraishi: Yeah I wonder why. Ah, these exquisitely cute, interesting characters drawn by Noda Satoru-sensei. That’s why people get addicted to Golden Kamuy! I’m sure we’re all mesmerized, thinking ‘Why are these dangerous guys all so cute!?’ (laughs)
Q: Having said that, I’m concerned whether Edogai’s ‘works’ are allowed to be shown onscreen.
Kobayashi: Hmm. I think Season 2 starts off crazily. We could end up with all sorts of bits being pixelated when it goes on air; that would be pretty bad (laughs)
Q: What did you think of Uchida Yūma (Edogai)’s performance?
Shiraishi: It was hard for me to stifle my laughter. And that ‘Innn!’* of his.
Kobayashi: When he hurls those rocks he screams ‘Innn!’
Shiraishi: He was asked to say that word as it is too.
Kobayashi: Uchida-san was like ‘Really?!’ at first but he made it sound as human as possible and produced an ‘Innn!’ that seemed like he was having lots of fun (laughs)
*From episode 2 of Season 2, & chapter 79 where Edogai’s hurling bits of coal at his pursuers – Innnn is an onomatopoeia to signify using physical strength/making effort
Q: From an actor’s viewpoint, does this series have a lot of dialogue that is very challenging?
Kobayashi: I do think it is. I think this series was definitely something something different for a lot of the others as well. That was true for Otsuka Akio-san (Nihei Tetsuzō) and Seki Toshihiko-san (Henmi Kazuo) as well. They’d say ‘Wow, I had fun!’ as they left the studio.
Shiraishi: You can see how much fun people had from the comical scenes they did, and the same goes for the touching scenes. For the parts in the manga that brought tears to my eyes, I do hope that I can produce a performance that makes the anime just as emotional, and that makes me extra nervous on the days when we have to record those scenes.
Q: We also look forward to Asirpa-san’s interactions with Dick-sensei.
Shiraishi: Asirpa-san loves him too (laughs). The memories that were evoked when they ate curry together somehow led to her gaining admiration for him (laughs)
Kobayashi: I don’t understand their relationship at all (laughs). I’m sitting next to them but I’m still clueless, I haven’t an idea what they’re talking about (laughs)
Q: We’ll be moving into the crux of the story soon – what are your thoughts?
Kobayashi: The first season saw a lot of characters appearing, where we spent time getting introduced to all these people and learning about their motives. In the second season, we’ll see rapid developments in the story-line.
In terms of highlights, you’ll start to see the character relationships get messed up – you’ll think ‘these 2 guys used to be enemies, why are they getting along now!?’, and [the group] gets increasingly disparate. That mish-mash feeling builds up quickly throughout Season 2, with the story getting more and more interesting as well.
Q: When enemies become allies they tend to appear weaker, but we’ve got people like Ogata etc who are very reliable.
Kobayashi: You gotta wonder, just how tough is that guy?
Q: The ability to divide or work with anyone for the sake of a common goal – it makes you feel that everyone is a professional.
Kobayashi: Each one of them has their own solid motives and they never lose sight of their goal, so if something were to get in their way, be it friend or foe, they would not hesitate to shove them aside. And that’s what’s amazing. Everyone in the series has a smart head on their shoulders. That applies to Asirpa-san and the other kids as well – they all see what’s going on.
Shiraishi: Asirpa-san too, makes her own reasoned judgements, is capable of baffling Hijikata, has the ability to negotiate – she’s amazing.
Q: That’s why everyone looks up to Asirpa-san.
Shiraishi: Oh yeah! They don’t treat her like a child. They have full trust in her, that’s why they call her Asirpa-“san”*.
Kobayashi: Yeap, we all call her that.
*the ‘san’ honorific is usually used between equals/people of a similar age, with ‘chan’ the more common honorific used for a young girl of Asirpa’s age
Q: Lastly, let’s have some words in support of Season 2.
Kobayashi: Every episode of this season will be packed with a greater number of intense scenes than you saw in Season 1 and the 30 minutes will be over before you realize it. Please look forward to enjoying that intensity!
Shiraishi: The relationship between Sugimoto and Asirpa deepens even further this season – I’m cherishing the role as I’m performing those parts, so I’d be grateful if you could keep an eye out for them.
There are of course, many emotional scenes, as well as plenty of perverts to look forward to – even the line-up of guest cast members is amazing. Let’s enjoy this journey together ‘til the end!