SUTORAIKUanime Exclusive: Interview with Yamaguchi Kappei

SUTORAIKUanime is pleased to share our exclusive interview with the highly versatile and legendary voice actor Yamaguchi Kappei at Anime Revolution 2013. His visit to Vancouver was surely one to remember for both his fans, and all of us here at SUTORAIKUanime.

As this was our first year conducting video interviews, a few unforeseen setbacks came up which have delayed the release of our video interviews by a few weeks. As we have outsourced production of the video interviews, it is difficult to coordinate everyone's schedule accordingly. With that being said, please expect this post to be updated with the video interview before the end of the month.

Many of the roles you've taken throughout your career are roles in which the character is a younger boy or a teenager. Your ability to perform younger-sounding voices has been one of your signature traits in the Japanese voice acting world. In the past, were there ever any conflicts in which you were told to act as an older character, with a deeper voice and you found it difficult to adapt to the needs of a particular character?

Ah, well let's see...I currently am doing those kinds of older roles. I've had so many roles as kids and young boys, and my natural voice itself is not so low, but more of a mid to high-tone. Moreover, because my roles have mainly been kids, perhaps my acting itself hasn't become that of a “grown-up.” Perhaps not so much for anime, but especially when I'm dubbing for foreign dramas, I feel that my acting itself, rather than my voice, may be somewhat “immature.” This may be the challenge for me right now.

We had the chance to interview Nakata Jouji at Anime Revolution 2012, who stated that his role in Escaflowne and a few other shows were targeted towards those who view anime during the late night time slots, and as a result he's better known for his roles in anime which aired during the day such as Keroro Gunsou which was more popular with children. Having also played a role in Escaflowne and Keroro Gunsou, do you feel that this is generally the case as far as, being recognized for the roles in anime you play?

I think I'm more known for the roles I've played for shows oriented for younger audiences.

Given your extensive history in the voice acting world, out of the hundreds of roles you've had a chance to play, off the top of your head, are there any voice actors that you've particularly enjoyed working with?

When I think of it this way, the voice talents I've worked with have all given me motivation, and they all have something I don't have myself. They all have something distinct to them, something they can only have in them. So in that sense, there are many things I respect of them. In that respect, I would like to continue working with all of them.

Are there any voice actors in particular that you would like to work with, that you have yet to have a chance to work with?

Hmm, people who I haven't worked with, that I would like to work with? Let's terms of the voice actors, I've worked with most of them, and the ones I haven't worked with are those who are just making their debuts. With that in mind, the ones I do want to work with in the coming future would be those that don't fit under the “voice acting” genre, but actors.

This is a question from our readers. One of your most recent roles, Yamada Hifumi in Danganronpa, is a stereotypical anime otaku. How do you feel about playing a role that is quite the opposite from what you have been used to playing in the past?

Well...let's see...I don’t particularly find him to be a role that's in an “opposite” position per se. Indeed, I do see him as being a role that of a somewhat different genre than what I usually do, but having said that, it motivates me to bring up my imagination, so I'm quite enjoying this role.

Being a voice actor, or any actor, often entails two parts of life: public appearance in the media, the “work” side, and a more private side perhaps involving family and personal life in general. In contrast with some of the younger voice actors in Japan, you do have a family. Do you try and separate your work and your private life? Have your children ever expressed any interest in pursuing voice acting as a potential career?

Well yes, my children are starting to grow, and they are still trying to determine what kind of path they should pursue. That being said, they do seem to have some interest in voice acting. So for my children, I do hope that they can pave the way to what they want to do. As far as work and private life are concerned, I don't particularly feel that I am separating them all that much. But as far as my work goes, I'm always “playing” a role, so I'd say it's inevitable that there will be a bit of a separation.

How do you feel you've evolved throughout the 20 or so years you have been a voice actor? Are there particular aspects in your voice acting that you present differently now compared to how you would've presented it 10 or 20 years ago?

Ever since I debuted until now, I've always been seeking a change as I worked, so I'm always looking for a “new” me. In that respect, I'm sure I have changed quite a bit since the day of my debut to now, personally. But I really like the changes that occur in me, so when I look back to the works I did close to my debut, I can say to myself, “wow you're working hard at it!” But having undergone the changes, if I was questioned whether I like myself from back then or my present self, without a doubt I would say I like my present self. So I've become a very positive thinker.

You are undoubtedly one of the most respected veterans in the voice acting world. What are some tips you would give to someone younger who is aspiring to become a voice actor?

Let’s see! After all, animation and manga needs to get its audience excited. So I think that the actors playing roles in them also need to live their life with excitement. You need to see a lot of different things, embrace a lot of different sensations, and live life full with energy – I think those are very important. And of course, having the acting skills.

What kind of challenges should one expect in regards to voice acting?

The things that young people aspiring to become voice actors would find difficult? there such saying as “hitting a wall” (Editor's note: facing a challenge, as if there is a wall blocking one's way) in English? After all, working as an actor means you're consistently hitting a wall, and it comes down to how you work with it – whether it's surpassing it, breaking it, climbing it, or detouring around it, you're always breaking a wall. But once you get over one wall, you're immediately facing the next one, so you essentially keep repeating this process of breaking and hitting walls. So ultimately, how you survive is the big challenge, so I would like the aspiring voice actors to have a tough heart.

Out of all characters you have voiced thus far, would be willing to demonstrate a voice impression of your favourite character of choice for us?

That's difficult...I love all my roles. It would be easier if you tell me a role, it's hard for me to decide. Do you have any requests?


Here we go…“People praise me, and keep praising me, and call me 'Usopp the Glorified!' You guys, from today, are one of my 8000 friends!”

This marks the end of our interview with Yamaguchi Kappei

We would like to thank  D.I.S/C Photography in collaboration with Cosplay Victoria who helped us with photography and videography of this interview, as well as Yuuri Kirie of Going My Way Sub-culture for translating this interview.