10th interview and finally we get one with Shiraishi’s CV Itō Kentarō!
Q: We hear you’re a fervent reader of Weekly Young Jump, the magazine that Golden Kamuy runs in – what were your impressions of your series when you first read it?
A: My first impression was: ‘Wow, this is coming out with all guns blazing’ (laughs). Noda (Satoru)-sensei’s previous series Supinamarada! had already shown off his knack for vibrant facial expressions. That’s why I had pretty high hopes upon hearing that Noda-sensei would be writing a series with this kind of theme. This might sound a little condescending, but from a manga reader’s viewpoint, I do believe the that nothing matches the thrill that comes from turning the pages of a comics volume. As you turn the pages to read Golden Kamuy, you’ll find that each and every panel has the potential to either surpass or betray your expectations. The ideas and expressions contained within are just mind-blowing; it’s as if Noda-sensei is controlling the rhythm as you turn the pages – you can’t help but be exhilarated by the joy of reading the magazine.
Q: Since you’re a manga reader, did you ever harbour hopes of being part of the cast if the series were to receive an anime adaptation?
A: I certainly did. Seeing how it gained in popularity and recognition levels made me feel certain that it would get an anime adaptation at some point. I even put pressure upon myself to read the manga in depth so that I’d be prepared for the auditions no matter what role I was asked to try out for. Having said that, such thoughts would disappear from my mind whenever I read the manga with only a sense of pure enjoyment left behind.
Q: Were there any characters that you were particularly fond of?
A: To be honest, when Shiraishi first appeared, I vividly recall thinking ‘if I were to get a role in this series, it’d be something in the line of [Shiraishi]’ (laughs). It’s a bit presumptuous of me to say so myself, but I honestly thought that I’d be the happiest person alive if I was to voice Shiraishi. Perhaps if I was a bit younger I might’ve considered the role of Sugimoto as a possibility.
Q: Were you conscious of anything in particular during the auditions for Shiraishi?
A: I just wanted to perform my vision of the ideal Shiraishi. I went all-out with no room for regrets in my recorded audition tape and told myself – ‘if I fail, then it’s because [the image I have of Shiraishi] doesn’t match the anime’s vision of Shiraishi, and I will give up’. When you audition for a series where you have little knowledge of the source material, you do tend to wonder whether you’re on the right track. But for [Golden Kamuy] I was familiar with the manga and I had no such hesitations. There was however, a fear within me that I might be too fixated on the image I had [of Shiraishi]. Noda-sensei would certainly have his own vision for Shiraishi, and other readers would have their own interpretations as well. That would obviously apply to the anime staff as well, but I was sure that these individual views would all overlap at a common point, and I wanted to ensure that I didn’t lose sight of that.
Q: How did you approach the first day of the recording sessions?
A: I decided to reset whatever image [of the series] I’d had beforehand to zero. An anime production is a group effort after all. I also do theatre on the side – if you tried to act based solely upon your own opinion, you’ll end up sticking out like a sore thumb. To prevent that from happening I told myself, ‘Calm down, first of all’. And try to be flexible.
Q: What were your thoughts, once you’d had the chance to interact with your co-stars?
A: When I saw Chika-chan [Kobayashi Chikahiro] and (Shiraishi) Haruka-chan performing, it felt like the Sugimoto and Asirpa I’d pictured in my mind when reading the manga, were right there in front of me. It gave me confidence in my views [of the characters] and I felt comfortable being part of the group. Shiraishi’s role within the story is pretty well-defined, which in a sense makes him easier to get to grips with compared to the other male characters.
Q: This is your first time working with Kobayashi-san and Shiraishi-san, isn’t it?
A: On an anime, yes, but I had worked with Chika-chan on a foreign dub production just before Golden Kamuy started. Same for Haruka-chan; we’d previously worked together on a foreign drama dubbing and I had a chance to chat with her during a post-recording drinking party. So yes, we were all acquainted but not quite buddies so there was a desire within me to make sure we synced well both as acting partners and in terms of our characters. With that in mind, I was able to naturally build up a rapport with the two of them in the run up to Shiraishi joins Sugimoto’s group in the story.
Q: Did you receive any specific directions from Director Nanba (Hitoshi) or Sound Director Aketagawa (Jin)?
A: In terms of major aspects, I was told ‘you’re trying to sound too cool’ on the first day of recording (laughs). I suppose I didn’t want to come off sounding too affected initially. While trying to maintain a carefree attitude, thinking ‘the first impression is the most important and I’m gonna produce a performance that makes viewers get even more excited!’, I had to let a bit of sex appeal slip out.
Q: Shiraishi’s existence is for the sake of comic relief – what’s your view on that?
A: I think it’s important to balance the extreme sides of his personality. There are scenes where you see how the more foolish [Shiraishi] is, the cooler it makes Sugimoto seem and that does set the tone for the series. Though he is comic relief, I can honestly say that I don’t actively seek to make people laugh through my performance – it’s natural character traits such as Asirpa’s weird faces and Sugimoto’s girly nature that I find even funnier (laughs)
Q: Those parts really do steal the show (laughs)
A: That’s right. (I) may try my best to stand out as much as possible but in the end, Shiraishi exists as a part of Sugimoto’s group. There were plenty of laughs brought about by the interactions between the main trio and at the halfway point, I’d forgotten about Shiraishi’s role as comic relief. On the contrary, the more [Shiraishi] tried to stand out the more he was deemed to be ‘useless’ – I think that better reflects the status of their relationship, to be honest (laughs)
Q: What’s the mood in the recording studio like?
A: The pool of acting talent was pretty deep, a rare sight in the recording studios of recent years. It’s the gathering of members who have much experience in dubbing foreign works, which made it quite a lavish environment to work in when you consider the current state of Japanese animation works. Given my age [note: currently 45 years old], it was a rare chance for me to adopt the stance of a junior actor, or should I say…a place where I could behave childishly (laughs). I’m the kind of guy who likes to fool around with my seniors but I did have the impression that the personal relationships formed in the [Kamuy] studio somewhat resembled the ones developed between the characters in the series. As more and more veteran actors came in, the clearer my role within the story was, and from that point onward, recording progressed more smoothly.
Q: Were there any differences between recordings for the first and second seasons from an acting viewpoint?
A: Thanks to his colluding with Hijikata, Shiraishi starts to harbour a fear of Sugimoto and the drama that builds within his consciousness was something I tried to remain keenly aware of. Still, I wouldn’t say that my approach towards the role altered too significantly over the course of 24 episodes. I’ve played quite a lot of aggressive roles since I was young but ever since I turned 40 I’ve been trying to make a theme out of producing performances that are a bit more restrained, in a good way. And Shiraishi has proved to be the type of character that allows me to draw out a lot of different weapons from my arsenal.
Q: Do you have any favourite episodes?
A: I like all of them, so it’s hard to choose (laughs). If I had to pick one, then the racecourse scene in the 12th episode was a good opportunity for me to stretch my acting range? Shiraishi’s being toyed around with by Inkarmat, so it was an episode that gave me plenty of room to flex my acting muscles. No matter which other character Shiraishi’s involved with, the conclusion always seems to be that he’s useless, and I get a kick out of that. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about something like that being a part of this cast but really, [Shiraishi] is such a meaty role (laughs)
Q: The DVD bundled with Vol 17 of the manga animates a popular story from the manga where Shiraishi falls in love.
A: It’s an essential episode from Shiraishi’s point of view. When I first heard that the anime would be covering the Abashiri Prison arc within 2 cours, I had prepared myself for the inevitability that this story would be left on the cutting room floor (laughs). So I’m happy for the story to be adapted in this format. The content is of course amazing, but the cast is even more so. With so many veterans already on board, I just couldn’t help but expect a legend class actress to fill the Sister’s role. And of course, it turned out to be Shimamoto Sumi-san. She’s perfect, what else can I say? I mentioned my wish to put in more restrained performances earlier on, but I’m also aiming to be able to switch between two extremes the way Furukawa Toshio-san does. I was very pleased that I was able to work with Furukawa-san, who voices Kumagishi Chōan, this time around. You’ll get to experience a story about the libido of the man they call the ‘Escape King’, so please look forward to it.
Q: Lastly, please leave your thoughts about having played Shiraishi.
A: This opportunity to play Shiraishi has afforded me many experiences and new encounters. I will utilize what I’ve learnt as fuel for my daily undertakings as an actor and persist in my belief that there will be Season 3 announcement in the future. I also hope that all of you will read Young Jump weekly like I do in preparation (laughs). And I look forward to seeing you all again as Shiraishi soon.