SUTORAIKUanime Exclusive: Interview with Nakata Jouji

SUTORAIKUanime is pleased to share our exclusive interview with the highly prolific and talented voice actor Nakata Jouji at Anime Revolution 2012. Questions were asked, and answers were given.

Before commencing your career in voice acting, you were a TV actor best known as Sir Cowler in Choushinsei Flashman and Great Professor Bias in Choujuu Sentai Liveman of the Super Sentai Series. Fundamentally, what motivated you to become a voice actor? Was it a progressive interest, or was there a sudden spark of ingenuity that guided you to pursue your career?

Not even I know! When I was worked for the theatre, actress Michiko Nomura asked me to work with her. She's a very famous voice actor who's worked on Sazae-san. Her husband's name is Utsumi Kenji, he's famous for roles like Norimaki Senbei in Dr. Slump. When I met his wife Michiko, she suggested I become a voice actor, and that's how it was started. At the same time, I was doing live action drama along with some voice acting roles. Once I received my paycheck from both my live action acting roles and my voice acting roles, I was very astonished by the difference in the amount of salary received! Upon examining both figures, I decided to take on the role of voice acting.

Given your highly successful voice acting career, was there a show that triggered or initiated your rise to fame, so to speak, if there was such a show?

A lot of my roles are from anime that's aired during the night time, geared a little more towards mature audiences. One of the notable ones would be Escaflowne, a robot anime that I've done. A little more recently, I've done the Count of Monte Cristo which has also aired late at night. The tendencies with the late night shows is that a lot of the more hardcore fans, they would recognize my roles because they would be more of the target audience. However, in order for someone to gain that recognition, you really would have to take on a role that is airing at a more prime time. For me, that was Corporal Giroro in Keroro Gunsou, because that aired during prime time when not just the kids, but the adults would be watching as well. Therefore, I believe that is the role that brought me the recognition from a more general audience.

Kotomine Kirei is one of your biggest recent voice acting roles, how closely were you able to work with other respected individuals such as Urobuchi Gen and Nasu Kinoko who both play significant roles in the Type-Moon franchise?

Nasu Kinoko started as an amateur in the doujin culture, so to speak. Knowing that background, that got me a little closer, because Nasu recognized my roles in the tokusatsu field, so there was a similar background which got me a little more familiarized with Nasu. Since then, I've been involved in just about all of the Type-Moon works. Just recently, we had a 10-year anniversary for the Type-Moon works, and during that celebration, when I actually started counting the number of roles I've been involved in that pertained to Type-Moon, I realized I was in practically every single one of them. Very recently, on the Type-Moon website, there was a character popularity contest. Out of the choices on who you were able to vote on, it wasn't just the Type-Moon characters that were in the selection, but they also included Nasu Kinoko and myself, so that made me feel a little proud.

Having played such a wide variety of different roles, protagonists and antagonists alike, what type of role do you generally enjoy working on, since you have a reputation for taking the roles of villains?

When you take the role of a character that's very distinct, they tend to be a little easier to portray. I find that a lot more of the villains have those kinds of personalities, so I can put in a lot more emotion into villains, more so into those characters that don't have as much personality. Master Megatron from Transformers or Hody Jones from One Piece, those kinds of characters are much easier to act as. But out of all the characters that I've enjoyed the most, and the easiest to portray, it'd have to be Alucard from Hellsing. It's been about ten years since I've started that role, and I really enjoy playing that role. When the characters stand out a little bit more distinctively, it's a lot easier to deform them and make them cute or what not, change them up a little bit, something else I enjoy doing. It relates back to the whole Corporal Giroro thing, but not just that, characters like Kotomine who is young and handsome probably made me gain recognition and allow me to become more popular.

The Amagami franchise is one of the things that primarily motivated myself to begin delving into the Japanese pop culture and anime scene, wanting to get closer to the industry, and respected individuals in the industry such as yourself. Knowing that the narrator in the Nakata Sae arc in both seasons of Amagami SS were voiced by you, I found your role highly comical and "fresh" compared to the roles you've had in the past. How did you enjoy working on something so different, such as a narrator for a romance visual novel adaptation, how did it interest you in the first place?

I love taking on new challenges that gets me more experience and what not, and in that respect, taking on such a different role was something that I did enjoy doing. But of course, because it was something new to me, there were some uncertainties when I took on this role. Amagami is directed by the same director who directed Solty Rei, so that was how the offer got to me, but because the narration role was so different, it came as a bit of a surprise that I got such a different role. I've done narration in the past, so it wasn't something completely new to me. I have done a little more of a cheery, comical narration, when I was involved in shows like variety shows and such. In that respect, I did enjoy that role.

Did you enjoy hearing my narration?

Yes, very much so!

Aside from roles in anime, you've also had several other position dubbing roles for American films, such as 300, Sex and the City, and The Little Mermaid, just to name a few. How do those roles contrast with the anime roles you've had in the past?

There isn't a profession such as voice acting where one is dedicated to doing voice dubbing roles. Typically, it is more so that actors would be taking on the dubbing roles, it wasn't so much that there was a profession dedicated to doing voices, back in the past. Nowadays, there are many people who want to dedicate themselves to simply voice acting, so now there's more of a trend where there's actually a profession that's really dedicated to the sole purpose of dubbing. In my personal opinion, say if an actor who has perhaps done some voice dubbing roles, and goes into a voicing role, that might be too much of a hardship when it comes to dubbing for such a two-dimensional work such as anime. On the contrary though, someone who is dedicated to doing voice acting roles who's never done dubbing roles, their voices might be trained so that they're leaning towards too much of a moe voice, which may not be the most appropriate for dubbing roles for foreign films and what not. For me, because of my acting background, when I'm doing dubbing roles for foreign films and dramas, because I'm voicing for someone who's actually three-dimensional, someone who's actually alive, I feel a lot more comfortable doing those kinds of roles. When I'm voicing for anime, I get rather extraordinary characters who you wouldn't imagine what they would do just from the looks of it, so in that respect, it gets creative and it's a lot of fun for me.

What advice would you give young people who are interested in Japanese pop culture and anime who are aspiring to become voice actors, where would be the best place to begin?

As long as you have that really strong motivation to get into the voice acting field, no matter what path you take, I believe you will be able to reach your goals. I want people to treasure that feeling of liking that field and carry that one with you in achieving your goals. Through experiences such as maybe watching something or talking to people or hearing something, whatever you experience will somehow connect to what you're trying to achieve, so that experience will definitely contribute to attaining your goal. I wish everyone good luck!

Some say you are the Morgan Freeman of Japan, what do you think of that title?

I would like to refrain from commenting in regards to this question, because I'm simply too flattered to be compared to him, so I really can't comment!


This marks the end of our interview with Nakata Jouji

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