A bit belated, but here’s a translation of the interview with Takemoto Eiji & Konishi Katsuyuki, the voices behind fan favourites Sergeant Tsukishima Hajime and Second Liutenant Otonoshin Koito.
Q: Tell us your impressions upon reading the original manga.
Takemoto: I like Hokkaido and travel there on average twice a year. So I was initially drawn in by how it prominently features places that I have fond memories of. At the same time, I only know of modern-day Hokkaido so there was also appeal in learning about the history and nature of these places, which I had not previously known.
Konishi: I’ve always loved the manga and was already reading it before I got to work on the anime. Guys do love these tales of adventure, don’t they? I tend to find myself watching programmes about hunting for mysterious buried treasure whenever they air on TV (laughs). Golden Kamuy is the kind of series that’s packed with such elements and I the characters are ever so charming. It’s not a question of good versus evil since each one of them is motivated by something different. Some possess beliefs; others act upon desire – they all have their own diverging objectives. On top of that, characters you once thought of as enemies suddenly turn into allies while people you thought were on the good guys’ side suddenly turn out to be traitors – it’s fun to never know what lies ahead. So I’m really happy to be cast as Second Lieutenant Koito.
Takemoto: I only learned of the series following my casting but I was quickly drawn into the story as I read it. Thanks to that I’ve dived into the e-books and continued using them as reference material during recordings.
Q: What were your first impressions of your respective characters?
Takemoto: For Tsukishima, I actually went back and reread the manga over and over in hopes of finding out the point at which Noda (Satoru)-sensei started to think about expanding the character.
He seemed like yet another mob character at first but unusually for a mob, he has fairly distinct facial features (laughs). I am quite curious to find out whether [Noda]-sensei decided to expand on the character halfway through or had created those distinctive designs with the intention of developing him as he is now, right from the start. I’d love to put the question to [Noda-sensei] if I had the chance.
Konishi: At first he looked like an ordinary squad member but he started standing out more and more over time, didn’t he? Lieutenant Tsurumi’s team is full of eccentric clods which makes Tsukishima seems like the inconspicuously plain one amongst them, but that’s probably what makes him stand out even more.
Takemoto: In Edogai’s episode there was this character called Maeyama alongside Tsukishima, wasn’t there? He seemed to stand out quite a bit as well so who knows, one wrong move and we might’ve ended up with Maeyama in Tsukishima’s current position (laughs). When you consider something like that, it makes you realize how Noda-sensei’s power of imagination and ability to expand on ideas seem inexhaustible. I’ve got to say I’m really impressed with how Tsukishima has developed into such a meaningful character with that face of his.
Konishi: My first impression of Koito was that he’s cool character with weird eyebrows (laughs). He’s cool and dependable and could’ve been the main character if this were some other series.
Takemoto: He’s got this kind of aura surrounding him.
Konishi: Yeap. But once you read on you’ll realize that he’s just a spoilt kid. He still has plenty of room to grow; many experiences he needs to go through to mature as a man. When you add that to the way he’s hopeless devoted to Lieutenant Tsurumi, I do think he’s the kind of character you could grow attached to.
Takemoto: Just when you think a new star of the series has come along! He suddenly turns out to be rather useless (laughs)
Q: Takemoto-san was part of the 1st series and Konishi-san joined in from Season 2 – how did the two of you approach the studio recording process?
Takemoto: I joined in midway through Season 1 but for the first 2-3 recordings all I said was ‘Yes’. My managed had informed me in advance, ‘The role’s a little special and you’ll mostly be saying ‘Yes’, but he’s a really important character’ – that really intrigued me so I read the manga and found out that it’s true; he barely says anything (laughs). However, as I progressed through the story I understood how important he is so I did worry about how I could adequately portray Tsukishima through that first ‘Yes’ of his’. I think that was the first time in my life I’d muttered the word ‘Yes’ so much (laughs). It was a mere ‘Yes’ anyhow. I wouldn’t find the ‘right’ answer no matter how much time I spent thinking about it. I’ve been working in this industry for 25 years and it made me reconsider how difficult it is [to express oneself] using such brief words.
Q: We see more of Tsukishima in Season 2 – how did you approach the role?
Takemoto: For the ‘Yes’, I tried to portray him as a serious character who didn’t stand out in any way. I made that the base [of his character] and that’s where I kept him, even as his amount of dialogue increased. He’s surrounded by insane people with Liutenant Tsurumi at the forefront, so Tsukishima’s presence mustn’t be distorted or the 7th Division would surely fall apart. Thus in Season 2 I tried to ensure that I played him as firmly, seriously and steadfastly as I could.
Q: What about Koito?
A: As this series is based on an original manga, fans would already have their own ideas of what Koito should sound like. I’ve heard that Koito’s a pretty popular character as well. I did feel some pressure regarding those points, as well as the fact that he speaks a dialect. In fact his initial appearance had him speaking almost entirely in [Satsuma] dialect, so I was naturally concerned about that.
Takemoto: It’s full-on Satsuma dialect after all.
Konishi: Plus, it was a normal conversation so I couldn’t switch to high gear and hope I’d fool anyone. I had to think about the nuances and I consulted with the Satsuma dialect instructor on how I should sound.
Q: How did you handle recording the machine-gun Satsuma dialect that we see written in the manga?
Konishi: He’s speaking in proper Satsuma dialect, at such a speed. He’s not just making random noises; he’s saying things that do actually mean something. Having said that, the words are coming out of his mouth at such a speed that nobody can make out what he’s saying. The staff members were mean and told me to say my lines as fast as I could (laughs). Obviously he talks quickly in the manga too but it really is just too quick.
Takemoto: The Satsuma dialect instructor was quite strict too.
Konishi: That’s right. I tried speaking the way Sensei taught me to but I just couldn’t get their seal of approval. ‘Your pronunciation was spot on but it still sounds a bit off, let’s give it another go’ (laughs). There are subtle nuances only native speakers would comprehend.
Takemoto: Sensei sure had quite a lot of fun driving Konishi-kun further and further into a corner (laughs)
Konishi: Despite the back-and-forth I’d still get given 100 points each time. I was probably perfect (laughs)
Takemoto: This series is all the more realistic thanks to that rapid-fire Satsuma dialect.
Konishi: Though he speaks so quickly that I might actually be cutting corners here and there.
Takemoto: Nah, (we) feel overwhelmed merely listening to you speaking.
Q: Did you receive specific instructions on how to express Koito as a character?
Konishi: There weren’t any detailed instructions so I had the freedom to play it however I wished. In fact, I think I felt more pressure from the points that I mentioned earlier (laughs)
Takemoto: Me too.
Konishi: But you did the first season too.
Takemoto: True, but I still keep getting reminded by Sound Director (Aketagawa) Jin-san to ‘keep it serious, like you normally do’. If I sound a little too friendly he’d say, ‘Takemoto-kun, remember to make Tsukishima serious’ (laughs). There’s a short line in episode 14 where he says ‘Crap…I forgot my wallet’. I tried not to make him sound strangely greedy.
Konishi: Tsukishima asides, the 7th division is a complete mess.
Takemoto: Performance-wise, even (Otsuka) Hōchū-san changes his acting up from the tests to the actual recording and it’s like being punched in the guts. But he never loses his focus so it’s hard to remain stoic when my turn comes up. Also, the part where Koito whispers in [Tsukishima’s] ear was tough to handle.
Konishi: I just followed the script.
Takemoto: Yeah you followed the script. And I thought, ‘Wow this guy’s just as annoying as you expected him to be!’ and I could personally understand how people find Koito exasperating.
Konishi: We recorded that scene separately but I did put my own special feelings into it. Takemoto-kun came after me so he’d wait for my line before he began speaking. And I thought, ‘Just what you’d expect from him’.
Takemoto: Since Konishi-kun had pushed Koito’s annoyingness to the limits during the tests, I was able to record the scene imagining what he sounded like. I think we were able to link up our performances pretty well thanks to that.
Q: Tsukishima’s dedication and the big changes in Koito’s behaviour whenever he’s upset are their respective trademarks, so let’s discuss that. Are there any particular points that you considered when playing the roles?
Takemoto: We’re all playing army veterans, aren’t we? Thus, I’m quite careful about the way I speak – in a formal manner when speaking to my superior and more frankly otherwise. Whenever I get the scripts I do think a lot about the relationships involved; whether they’re professional or personal. As an example, [Tsukishima] often has to officially report to his superior Lieutenant Tsurumi and that is unmistakably a military-style report so I try to adopt a speaking style that emphasizes his status as a battle-hardened sergeant.
Q: Contrast that to his interactions with Edogai and Koito – you see another side to him.
Takemoto: That’s right. I wanted to expand on that side of him a bit more so I tried out a couple of things. Like being friendly (and getting shot down for it) as I mentioned earlier; that was part of the process (laughs). On the one hand I’d like to get more out of Tsukishima as a character but on the other I have to keep in mind the position that he’s in – I’m always aware of how hard it is to balance all those aspects.
Konishi: As for Koito, the most important point is how fluently I can speak the Satsuma dialect. Unlike standard language, it is impossible for me to figure out the intervals between lines over the course of a conversation in Satsuma dialect merely by reading the words. All I can do is mark up the text to get a better handle on things, which is tough. Added to that is the fact that the Satsuma dialect written in the script can differ from the Satsuma dialect that the instructor speaks. When such a situation crops up, I start off by selecting 1 of the 3 speaking patterns to use. There would have to be adjustments made to the script depending on my choice, so it’s quite challenging.
Q: On top of that, you’d need to consider the relationship dynamics when you’re appearing alongside other characters.
Konishi: His Satsuma dialect basically only slips out when he’s lost his mind in the presence of Lieutenant Tsurumi so I don’t have such problems during conversations with Tsukishima. As Takemoto-kun mentioned, Koito and Tsukishima are both proper soldiers when the occasion calls for it. It’s just that he becomes useless in the presence of Lieutenant Tsurumi. In that sense, Tsukishima’s a very important person to Koito. That’s why he thinks so highly of him (laughs)
Takemoto: After all, the core component of Koito’s personality is his Satsuma dialect.
Konishi: When it comes to Lieutenant Tsurumi his emotions become hopelessly erratic and he just suddenly switches to crazy mode. The way he swings between both moods is another challenging aspect.
Takemoto: Tsukishima may be older but in terms of position, Koito is higher up. He’s forced to pass on messages to Tsukishima in spite of that and he does piss you off sometimes – I’ve got to give credit to Konishi-kun for making Koito so good.
Konishi: It’s because you’re my partner, Take-pon, that I can say things like that so easily.
Takemoto: The relationships we actors have is pretty similar (laughs). [Konishi] brings out Koito’s selfish side very well, and anyone who listens to his lines would say he’s cute.
Konishi: I hope that’s true. Anyhow, I’d love for my portrayal [of Koito] to be well-received.
Q: Are there any specific scenes that you feel are vital in showing off the appeal and presence of your characters?
Takemoto: It’s got to be the exchange between Tsukishima and Koito in front of Lieutenant Tsurumi. It’s a very interesting and important scene, and they proved to be a great pairing up ‘til the ending ‘How annoying’ part of the dialogue.
Konishi: They balance each other out well.
Takemoto: Yeah. A perfectly distorted balance (laughs)
Konishi: You kind of feel that Tsukishima forcibly summed it all up.
Takemoto: When I read that scene in the manga, I thought to myself ‘What kind of performance will Hōchū-san deliver? And how will Konishi-kun react to that? And how should I myself in turn, respond?’ – I was very much excited going into recording on the day of that scene. The result was that they both exceeded my expectations; it was incredibly entertaining.
Konishi: For Koito maybe it’s all about the posture he adopts when dealing with Lieutenant Tsurumi, or how he turns into a complete mess. That’s just how he is though, so I very much appreciated his character as I was playing the role. Speaking of which, there aren’t actually many scenes where Koito behaves properly, are there? (laughs)
Takemoto: He was great when he was fighting on the airship.
Konishi: That’s about it I guess? When he next showed up, you’d forgotten he was ever [cool] like that (laughs)
Q: What’s the mood in the recording studio like?
Konishi: Koito doesn’t appear in many episodes so honestly, I can’t say that I spent enough time in the studio to be able to savour the atmosphere. But the cast members did go for meals after recording so I could see how good the teamwork was. Plus, it was familiar faces all around in the studio anyway so it didn’t really occur to me that I was working on a new series. In that sense it was a pretty comfortable studio for me to work in.
Takemoto: The studio was a place where we didn’t have to work too hard at creating the ‘mood’ – it was just an environment where we could concentrate on our performances. We had Konishi-kun struggling with his Satsuma dialect and others having trouble with the Ainu language, but we’d all look upon them kindly (laughs). ‘Do your best! Everybody knows you’re capable of doing it!’
Konishi: And when I pull it off they’ll all go ‘Wooahh~’ (laughs). It’s a great help, mentally.
Q: Lastly, please leave a message for the fans.
Takemoto: For Sergeant Tsukishima, his buddy or should I say partner, Second Lieutenant Koito has finally appeared. I think you’ve been looking forward to seeing this combo so I think we’ll be shaking & stirring up the world of Golden Kamuy and making things even more fun so I ask for your continued support.
Konishi: Koito makes his appearance in Season 2 so my first thought is that I hope that he is well-received by the viewers. I’m also aiming to become one of the show’s supporting pillars so I’d like to be accepted as a member of the Golden Kamuy family, with your help. Thank you for the support.