Tetsuya Kakihara Interview @ Anime Expo 2016
Kakihara is best known for portraying young male characters with a fiery personalities; Natsu from the anime Fairy Tail, Simon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Toudou Shinpachi in Yowamushi Pedal. He also lent his soft high-baritone voice to many handsome characters in Otome games (Shin from Amnesia) and Yaoi-themed anime (Akihito from Finder Series). During Anime Expo, we were lucky enough to sit down with voice actor himself and ask him about some of his current and future work.
TONO: It is your first time at Anime Expo. What is your first impression of AX so far?
Kakihara: My impression of AX? So cold!!! *laughs*
It’s crazy cold here [in the interview room]. I was made to realize the difference of body type between Japanese people and American people thanks to the room temperature in this convention center. I was thinking that I should have worn more clothes, but on the other hand, this seems normal to American people. It was a culture shock.
TONO: Haha yeah, you might be able to see the cultural difference simply by what people wear here.
Kakihara: Well maybe everyone at AX is too excited to be here that they don’t really care how cold it is though. But yes I do see that everyone is having a great time here!
TONO: I heard you spent your childhood in Germany but did you find any difficulty living in Germany as a Japanese person?
Kakihara: Hm, I was already in Germany since I was little…
TONO: So it was normal for you to live in Germany? Can you speak German fluently?
Kakihara: Yes, it was very natural for me to live in Germany. I think I had more difficulties when I first came to Japan.
TONO: Oh really? When you first moved to Japan?
Kakihari: Yes. Germany is my homeland. I came to Japan when I was 18 years old so I feel like I had to accommodate myself to live in Japan.
TONO: So how about living in Japan when you first moved there? What was the hardest obstacle for you?
Kakihara: The difference of sense between German and Japanese people. Like a sense of value, characteristics or environment that you grow up with… I cannot name every little thing but it was different enough for me to feel the difference. So as an example, if I had to pick one between America and Japan, I would say that my personality fits in America more than Japan. I can speak frankly or can say no without hesitation. I can also feel free and be myself without worrying about all the solicitude.
TONO: I see I see.
Kakihara: Sorry, am I answering your questions right?
TONO: It’s OK, that question was a bit hard to answer. Maybe there are too many differences between Japan and Germany and it’s hard to name all of them.
Kakihara: Since growing up in Germany, I think Japanese people can be small-minded in regard to how they perceive things compared to Western cultures. Japan is a collectivist country so they feel more comfortable if everyone is on the same boat. I was occasionally censured as being different living in Japan. Of course sensitive Japanese people are a part of Japan’s beautiful culture but as for small hearted Japanese people, I have to disagree with them. I think people would realize the size of their own caliber when they go outside of Japan for the first time.
TONO: These words by someone who grew up in Germany like you mean a lot. I’m sure you experienced and struggled through cultural differences.
TONO: So when you moved to Japan from Germany, did you already know that you wanted to become a voice actor? Is it the reason why you went to Japan?
Kakihara: Yes, I wanted to become an actor, but to be honest I was originally indifferent about the career. Before I left Germany, I just really wanted to go to Japan and I had always thought that I would go as soon as I turned 18. At that time, I was working as a kindergarten teacher, and when kids didn’t listen to me, I would talk to them in an anime voice saying “You have to listen to your teacher!” or “You have to be nice to your friends.” Surprisingly they listened to me when I used my anime voice! This made me realize how global and popular Japanese anime is even though we were in Germany and that’s when I first thought the animation industry is very interesting. It was really simple but that’s how I got interested in becoming an actor and voice actor.
TONO: Did you have an opportunity to watch Japanese anime or play Japanese video games in Germany?
Kakihara: Actually I was not really interested in anime but I liked video games! I still remember when I visited Japan on my summer break and my cousin gave me this Japanese video game. I was extremely impressed when the video game characters started talking in the game! At that time, there weren't many video games with voiced characters. Due to this video game, I realized for the first time, that actors even play characters in video games and in the future, a voice actor’s role may expand through multiple media. Since then, I started playing more video games.
TONO: That’s great! We also noticed that you have played various characters before such as a hero type or villain but is there any other type of characters that you would like to challenge in the future?
Kakihara: Hmmm… Actually I get asked that question quite often. I am 33 years old now and I’ve been working as a voice actor for 16 years now but I feel like I have already played so many different types of characters so there’s not really specific role that I would like to play for now. Actually I have never wanted to play specific type before because I believe that everything is fate. I think the 'God of Entertainment' allots a part to me and I happen to play “that character.” Now here I am in Los Angeles as a voice actor and I’m sure this is a blessing from God as well. I always believe that a perfect role for me at the time is assigned to me so it’s not about me wanting to challenge specific character but more like fate wanting me to play it. This is when I realize that “Oh yeah I haven’t played any character like this before!” So what I mean is that if it’s a role that I can image and wish to play, I don’t need it. If that role is a character that I have never expected, then I can expand my skills as an actor. Therefore, I would love to play any character that I have never seen before and I will make sure to polish my skills.
TONO: Yes please! I’ll be looking forward to it!
TONO: Lastly can you give a message to your fans in America?
Kakihara: 16 years ago, I went to Japan from Germany alone and I was definitely a nobody. Today, I have kept doing what I love as an actor and now I even made it to Los Angeles. Of course I put lots of effort chasing my dream but the fact that so many people around the world have been supporting me also has helped make who I am today. I knew that characters that I played like Natsu from Fairy Tail, Simon from Gurren Lagann, or Ryuho from Saint Seiya Omega are really popular in America but if I missed the audition or opportunity for any characters, I don’t think I could have been here right now. Every character is very important for me but as long as there is someone who likes the character that I play, I want to cherish those characters forever. If there’s even one person who supports me in America, I would love to come back here again and again. Japan might be far from you guys but I will keep trying my best to produce more amazing work to a big land, America from a tiny island, Japan. Thank you very much!