We go back again to the main pairing of Sugimoto (Kobayashi) and Asirpa (Shiraishi) for this interview.
Q: We hear that you went straight into recording for Season 2 after Season 1 was done.
Shiraishi: That’s right. Recording sessions continued without any breaks in between.
Kobayashi: And that’s why we slipped into the process relatively seamlessly.
Shiraishi: The TV broadcast itself was over but we were aware that a second season was coming – that rejuvenated our feelings as we continued [recording].
Kobayashi: Plus, we knew we’d be kicking off with a bang; an episode that packed quite the punch. That made me realize I’d have to work equally as hard on this one.
Q: With this 2nd cour, did you feel like you were getting closer to your character?
Kobayashi: As I mentioned, we remained immersed in the characters as we continued in our roles – the amount of time we spent recording started getting shorter. There were a couple of episodes that required minimal direction [from the staff] as well, weren’t there?
Shiraishi: That’s right.
Kobayashi: The actors would occasionally be entrusted with the dialogue. It felt quite refreshing to perform under such circumstances. And there were a lot more instances where I felt we were able to interact more comfortably. This was partly thanks to our seniors, but another major factor was the fact that the cast’s teamwork as a whole has improved. In episode 23, I happened to notice Terasoma (Masaki)-san* nodding his head going ‘That’s right’ in response to one of my lines. When I saw that I started grinning – it was a nice feeling (laughs). It kind of feels like we’re putting on a stage performance when the cast members are in sync in such a manner.
*voice of Kiroranke
Shiraishi: In Asirpa’s case, a lot of her dialogue in the first season involved explaining things while Season 2 is more focused on showing her emotions. Taking that into consideration, I think the dialogue exchanges were more enjoyable this time around. Also, [the cast’s] performances increased in expressiveness whether it was for the emotional scenes or for the comedic ones; allowing us to get even more intimate with the characters, I felt like something was bursting open within me (laughs)
Kobayashi: Bursting open? (laughs) That’s the first I’ve heard of it.
Shiraishi: For example, in the second half of Season 1 I had to call Ushiyama ‘Dick-sensei’ and the others were like ‘Isn’t that hard to do?’. But when Asirpa says something like that she does it without feeling any shame at all. It does feel kind of surreal, which is why I said it’s like something is bursting open within me (laughs)
Kobayashi: You’re right, I didn’t feel the existence of any sense of shame throughout recording.
Shiraishi: That’s true. In fact, I was only thinking about how to express how funny and cute Asirpa was during those scenes. As it was a 2-cour series I was able to get a firm grasp of the role and the end came around in the blink of an eye.
Kobayashi: Yes it came really quickly.
Shiraishi: I was thinking ‘I don’t want this to end!’.
Q: Thus, did you feel a tinge of sadness when starting to record for Season 2, knowing that the end was in sight?
Kobayashi: Not initially, but I did start to feel that way by the 19th or so episode. We’d be going for meals after recording, musing ‘ah, there’re only 5 episodes left…’ or ‘I wish there was a 3rd season’, things like that.
Shiraishi: I’d really like to do a 3rd season. The cast members all love the manga and I myself would like to continue playing this role for as long as Noda (Satoru)-sensei continues to draw the series.
Q: Looking back on Season 2 – there were changes in the composition of the factions [in the series] as well.
Kobayashi: We had Tanigaki and Ogata from the 7th Division joining up with the group. They used to be enemies but surprisingly, nobody seemed to bear any grudges against the others. As long as everyone shares the same objectives they can still act as a team and share meals together, even if they don’t really get along with each other. Those aspects felt realistic and were interesting to see.
Shiraishi: Asirpa tends to be quite mischievous when she’s with Sugimoto and Shiraishi, but she’s a little harder on Ogata. Like how she keeps reminding him to say ‘citatap’ when he’s pounding away (laughs)
Kobayashi: She’s a bit like a teacher (laughs)
Shiraishi: We didn’t see too much of such interactions during Season 1 so this 2nd season does offer new insights. The way she said those lines was a bit playful as well, and I enjoyed acting out those parts.
Q: How did you feel about recording this time around – was there a sense of freshness compared to [the previous season]?
Kobayashi: It felt refreshing to have Hosoya (Yoshimasa)-san and (Nakata) Jouji-san standing side-by-side at the mics. I didn’t interact much with Tanigaki and Hijikata previously.
Shiraishi: That’s right. I’m always left spellbound by the resonance of Nakata-san’s voice whenever he calls Asirpa by name (laughs)
Kobayashi: He’s got such a good voice, and it reverberates.
Shiraishi: Hosoya-san did say ‘I wanted to talk to Sugimoto more’, didn’t he?
Kobayashi: I know right? It seemed like they might have, but they didn’t actually talk to each other all that much. But starting Season 2 I’d started go for post-recording meals with Hosoya-san more often, where we’d discuss drama theory at length (laughs)
Shiraishi: Ah, those ‘cultural talk’ gatherings. To be honest, it’s too deep for me and at times I can’t even follow the conversation.
Kobayashi: I’m so sorry (laughs)
Shiraishi: But it’s a chance for me to listen to my seniors engaged in conversation so I’m happy to spend time doing that. I’m very grateful for the fact that I get to act alongside [the entire cast] in the studio; it’s a welcome experience despite the nerves that I do feel. And even after recording is done, I get to hear so many stories while we’re eating – that’s something unique to working on Golden Kamuy. Also, there were few women involved with the series so I was quite anxious about what I should do in the studio. Thanks to our eating sessions those worries faded away halfway through recording the show.
Kobayashi: Is that so? Us oldies are just doing our own thing, are you OK with that? (laughs)
Shiraishi: I do have a lot of fun. It’s kinda hard to start a discussion regarding the deeper aspects of acting when you’re a junior [like me]…
Kobayashi: That’s true.
Shiraishi: Plus I’m able to receive advice about script lines. I’m rarely afforded the opportunity to talk about the wider scope of acting – for example, ‘what kind of works should I study?’ etc. During the Golden Kamuy recording sessions I got to see quite a lot of acting-related talk going on over the course of normal conversations. And I took down notes of the names of the shows that had been mentioned (laughs)
Q: Please tell us about any Season 2 scenes that you found particularly memorable.
Shiraishi: There was a scene in episode 17 where Asirpa and Sugimoto were talking about dried persimmons; it was a high-point of the first half [of the season] so I was feeling a bit nervous about it.
Kobayashi: That’s the one and only scene in the series where Sugimoto lets his guard down in front of Asirpa. It was definitely a major highlight for me both plot-wise and performance-wise so I played that scene as if I was putting my acting career on my line.
Shiraishi: I almost cried watching Kobayashi-san’s performance.
Kobayashi: Really? It truly is difficult though, to emulate the state of mind of a soldier who’s been through the war. I like movies and often watch them – I’ve noticed that the actors in films made around the Showa 50s period (late 1970s) still give off the air of ‘war’. Having survived such situations invariably toughens one’s outlook. It seems inevitable, given how the times would have changed – that even if they tried to relax when they’re speaking, they’d still sound like a man who’s lived through the war; someone like Mifune Toshiro encapsulates that kind of aura.
It remains difficult for me but I put in a lot of effort so that I could get just a little bit closer to exuding a similar kind of aura. From an acting perspective, other highlights would include the sea otter scene, as well as the final Abashiri battle. Before recording I’d already identified those 3 scenes as being pivotal to the series.
Shiraishi: I’d like to say something about this (laughs)! I liked the sea otter episode…
Kobayashi: I know right?
Shiraishi: But! Running parallel to that was a scene where Asirpa and Inkarmat were having a serious talk. Thanks to the sea otter hotpot, nothing registered in my head….’I don’t want to lose out to the sea otter hotpot!’ was what was going through my mind as I was acting (laughs). I mentioned this in another interview as well, but I’d be glad if you could keep watching the Bluray and DVD ‘til you can properly gauge what Asirpa and Inkarmat are talking about.
Kobayashi: When you’re watching that part for the first time, sea otter hotpot is all you’ll end up paying attention to (laughs)
Shiraishi: That’s right. The scene itself may have taken place in a different location but we actors were sharing the same booth so it was a huge struggle to maintain a serious tone while desperately trying to hold back my laughter (laughs)
Kobayashi: I was thinking ‘Alright, the sea otter hotpot is over!’ and when I turned back I saw your solemn face staring back at us (laughs). It was hilarious.
Shiraishi: All I was thinking was ‘don’t get sucked in by the sea otter hotpot, don’t get sucked in by the sea otter hotpot…’. Asirpa would have no knowledge of the sea otter hotpot incident so I had to remove all traces of sea otters from my brain in order to become one in mind with Asirpa (laughs)
Kobayashi: Apart from that, the scene in episode 21 where Toni Anji first appears was remarkable. Toni Anji begins his attack when Sugimoto and co. are in the open-air baths so they ended up fighting in the buff. So there was this and the sea otters as well; you can see how the skin exposure element has increased dramatically in Season 2.
Shiraishi: And of course, I have to mention the turbulent developments in the series’ climax scenes. In episode 1 there is a part where Asirpa extends her hand to reach for Sugimoto; in the climax episode, we see their hands being separated. The acting during those moments was completely unforgettable.
Q: The decisive showdown in Abashiri Prison was pretty intense. What was it like in the studio?
Kobayashi: Rather surprisingly we were relaxed and having fun. There was so much packed into episode 24 with all sorts of happenings and recording was a lot more chaotic than usual. I think we didn’t even have time to collect our thoughts until the episode was over.
Shiraishi: That’s right.
Kobayashi: Also, (Otsuka) Hōchū-san was having a blast (laughs)
Shiraishi: When we’re recording the staff will give us instructions on what sort of expressions we should have for certain scenes. Otsuka-san would try to emulate those expressions through his acting and we were always looking forward to seeing what look he has on his face (laughs)
Kobayashi: It’s business as usual [for him], not only in that aspect but for the show as a whole and I mean it in a good way. The story itself is always exhilarating and we find ourselves getting caught up in the momentum as well.
Q: We have a situation where the individual forces are in constant disorder [when put together].
Kobayashi: That’s right. The potential presence of traitors amongst your allies, and the question of whether Nopperabō is truly Asirpa’s father – all these bits of foreshadowing were brought into the fold over time. I did feel like I was acting in a constant state of uneasiness.
Shiraishi: I agree with that. In episode 24, there’s a fairly emotional incident that causes Asirpa to break down in tears. Up ‘til now we’ve only seen the resilient exterior of Asirpa and it’s moments like these that make you realize she’s but a child. The inclusion of the dream sequence was significant too.
Kobayashi: Yeah. That wasn’t in the manga; it was an anime-original scene.
Shiraishi: That’s why I was worried about how to handle the scene. I’d been mostly relying on picking up expressions from how they’re depicted in the manga so I really struggled to find an answer as to how I should express myself when they put this original sequence in front of me. I acted out the part keeping in mind that it would serve as a bookend for the Golden Kamuy anime series; the last scene that would be delivered to the viewers.
Q: Describe your feelings now that the series has come to an end.
Kobayashi: When recording episode 1 I was thinking ‘what should I do’ and when episode 2 came around I was still thinking ‘what should I do’ – week after week, my head was constantly focused on the episode at hand. That cycle kept repeating and we’d reached episode 24 before I’d even realized it. I’m incredibly pleased to have gone on this journey as Sugimoto. I was able to go through a lot of different experiences and it has been the happiest 6 months of my life. Above all, I am so glad that Shiraishi-san is Asirpa. It’s probably a little impertinent coming from me, but the other cast members were outstanding and perfect for their characters too. I truly enjoyed being able to work with such people.
Shiraishi: I’m truly happy to have encountered the role of Asirpa and it’s also been a blessing for me to be able to work with all these great seniors. What an enjoyable 6 months it has been. Although I felt initial anxiety and [a similar] ‘what do I do?’ over the prospect of having to act as Asirpa using Ainu dialect, I was determined to perform to the best of my ability. Thanks to Nakagawa (Hiroshi)-sensei’s coaching I was able to familiarize myself with the Ainu language and Asirpa as a character. I am extremely happy and blessed to be able to say ‘I am Shiraishi Haruka, the voice of Asirpa’.
Kobayashi: We’re both the same with our ‘we feel blessed’ theme – sounds like a death-flag. But we won’t die! (laughs)
Q: Did you get emotional in the moments after the conclusion of recording?
Kobayashi: I’m feeling kinda emotional right now (laughs) When you look back on the process like this, something just wells up inside me.
Shiraishi: I know what you mean. I don’t want it to end.
Kobayashi: Please confirm a third season soon.
Shiraishi: Yes! I’m really curious to find out if Sugimoto and Asirpa will be reunited.
Q: Last of all, please leave a message for the fans who watched the series until the end.
Shiraishi: Thank you very much to everyone who watched this all the way to the end. As the show was airing, I was very happy to hear feedback from manga fans such as ‘I wanted to see that scene!’ or ‘That was really fun’. As a fan of the manga myself, there were many scenes I was glad to have been a part of. If you were to ask me to name the highlights of the show I would have trouble answering as there are just too many to choose. The series may be over now but you’ll be able to rewatch it over and over on the Blurays and DVDs. Especially the sea otter hotpot and the Asirpa-Inkarmat serious talk scenes that run concurrently – please watch them (laughs)
Kobayashi: Shiraishi-san’s already said everything I’d wanted to say so this is going to sound repetitive (laughs). During recording I was constantly thinking about whether we’d be able to meet the expectations of the fans. It’s probably true for the entire Golden Kamuy team, to be honest. I turned those hopes into strength and I was able to handle countless challenges filled with confidence as well as tackling working on the series with utmost sincerity. I hope viewers of the series will have enjoyed themselves as that would be a source of great satisfaction to us. Of course, I hope you enjoyed the sea otter hotpot scene as well, amongst others.
Shiraishi: Oi I just asked people to pay attention to the other part as well! (laughs)
Kobayashi: I hope that these kinds of interactions that we’ve been sharing will be carved into your memory alongside the series itself (laughs). Thank you