Yoshitsugu Matsuoka & Shinichiro Kashiwada Interview @ Sakura-Con 2015
While in Seattle for Sakura-Con 2015, we sat down behind closed doors in a round table interview with voice actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka who is best know for his work as Kirito in Sword Art Online, Sora in No Game No Life, and Yukihira Souma in Shokugeki no Souma; and Producer Shinichiro Kashiwada who has worked on Oreimo, Sword Art Online, and Fate/Zero.
Questions asked by The-O Network denoted in blue.
Can you take us through the audition process for Sword Art Online?
Matsuoka: Well, how I found the audition was basically through the agency. However, when I went to the audition I knew that I didn't have that much experience. I mean, I could honestly remember how many roles that I had that year. So when I went to the audition and saw the other people who were there, I immediately thought that,. “well that's the end of me and that I'm not going to get the role.”
I figured that since I wasn't going to get the part, I may as well use this as a good learning experience. Since I had this mindset, I think I was able to go in audition with very naturally and just be myself which really helped to touch director Ito's heart. I think is what really helped me land the job.
What are your thoughts on Sakura-Con so far?
Matsuoka: So when I first arrived, it made me really feel like I was at a Comiket in Japan. There's so many skillful cosplayers here, and I see so many who are cute, are cool and are really pretty. It made me ask myself, “am I in a fantasy world?”
For example, when I bumped into a life sized Link, I was like, “Oh my gosh! That's Link right there!” So it's been beyond my imagination and full of surprises.
T-ONO: Having worked together on Sword Art Online 1 and 2, could you share any particularly memorable moments with us while working on the project?
Matsuoka: It's honestly been my first experience working on a project for this length of time. So when I first saw the previews, everything was new to me. So the entire existence of SAO, really helped me develop into the voice actor that I am today. For example, being a regular in a radio show was a new experience for me. So while there hasn't been a whole lot of time to relax, this experience reminded me that it's very important sometimes to take a pause or take a breath and relax.
Kashiwada: As far as the overseas interactions, it's become a lot more frequent. In terms of the series, when we were moving from 1 to 2, in the first series, there wasn't as much pressure to have as much exposure. However, since number one was so successful, we really felt the pressure to come up with a good story to please the fans. It really pleased me to be called overseas to Sakura-Con last year and this year. I'm really enjoying it and if the series continues, I hope to come again.
Speaking about pressure, before becoming an anime series, Sword Art Online was a successful light novel series. If there is going to be a season three, how much pressure would there be by the fans and each other to produce quality that was exemplified by the previous season(s)?
Matsuoka: So from a pressure standpoint, the strongest pressure was coming from Director Ito. In terms of pressure, I honestly don’t prefer giving it, rather I’m the type who wants to receive it. When it comes to pressure from fans, I find that it gives me extra motivation to force myself.
So if there is going to be a season three, I think I would just need to do my best at that current time and I believe that would produce the best results. So keep pressuring me, as that’s probably what I need!
Kashiwada: From a production standpoint, the director and the character designer are really on top of applying the pressure as they both really want to make something a great product.
Director Ito is really good at scheduling and guiding the acting and performance. Adachi-san (character designer) really has some good designs, so this increases the quality of the artwork. The two of them tag team and really work well together, so even if there’s to be a season three, it would continue in that way.
What are Matsuoka’s impressions of the English Kirito (Bryce Papenbrook)?
Matsuoka: So living in Japan, I don’t really get an opportunity to listen to the English dub unless it’s at an event like this. Having heard Bryce’s acting, I can tell that he’s really good at grasping Kirito’s stature and even something as minor as breathing. I can really tell that he’s putting in a lot of detail, especially when it came to Kiriko, the female version of Kirito from Gun Gale Online.
Having heard everything, I really want to watch the dubbed version from start to finish.
T-ONO: Matsuoka-san, while you are mostly famous for Sword Art Online, you’re also Sora in No Game, No Life. Both characters are very strong and really like to play games. Do the roles help your confidence and secondly, do you have time to play games in real life like they do?
Matsuoka: As far as playing games, yes I do play games. As to your first question about confidence, I do find that I’m gaining a lot of experience by playing these characters and this helps me to develop my skills. However, if I were to start taking too much of these character’s personalities, I find that it really interferes with my own personality. So I try to draw a line between who I am, who Kirito is and who Sora is.
Kashiwada: Which character do you feel closer to?
Matsuoka: I feel closer to Sora.
T-ONO: Obviously Kirito has become a really popular character alongside Sword Art Online. How has acting as Kirito changed your life, if at all, since you’ve taken the role?
Matsuoka: Haha, you’re asking a bit of a realistic question there. I guess that as an actor, Sword Art Online really helped me to develop a lot of my strengths. Especially thanks to all of the staff that brought me into this along with all of the actors that I’ve had a chance to work with.
I actually had the least amount of roles compared to all of my other co-actors (before Sword Art Online), yet I was the lead. So essentially, I wanted to bring out the spirit to lead them through and to keep going ahead.
Just to add on, I’ve been able to move into a living space that I’m satisfied and can feel good about.
Kashiwada-san, yesterday you announced the new series that you’re working on: the Asterisk War. Are there any more details that you can tell us about the upcoming project at this time?
Kashiwada: So it’s going to be broadcast in Fall 2015 and we want to simulcast it overseas through Aniplex or something. When we showed Kirito fighting, we got a really big reaction and we want the same with the heroes (from Asterisk War). They’ll be fighting for their lives and we want people to really enjoy that story.
It’s really because of the Sword Art Online experience that we got to work on Asterisk, so we hope that audiences really look forward to it.
Kashiwada-san, were you able to go around Seattle like last time?
Kashiwada: Yes I was last year, but this year I haven’t had a chance to yet. Since I’ll be able to stay until tomorrow (4/5/15), I really want to do a little bit of sightseeing as time permits.
Matsuoka: Yes, the same here.
T-ONO: Considering the wide range of characters that you’ve voiced, are there any other archetypes or types of characters that you haven’t tried voicing but would like to?
Matsuoka: I’ve actually been thinking about this for quite some time, but the one role I really want to try is villain. Even when I had a chance to do so however, it was something that I only had a chance to at my High School DD (drama club?).
It was a really weird, psycho type of character. So I’d really like to try out a cool character that’s hard to read.
Kashiwada: No that’s not happening as your voice is way too hero-like. It’s too good.
Matsuoka: Oh, really?
Kashiwada: Okay, I’ll see what I can do.
What was the funniest moment or who was the funniest person on the show?
Kashiwada: Matsuoka is the funniest.
Matsuoka: Hirata-san [voice actor for Klein] is really in sync with Iwanami-san the sound director and tends to go at his own pace. He’s really in his natural state when he’s acting, but he still has that aura of being in his role. You can kind of tell that he’s been through a lot. Each word that comes out of Hirata-san, you can’t help but laugh.
Kashiwada: Yah, we’re spending a lot of money on casts.
T-ONO: Matsuoka-san, in your upcoming anime series, Shokugeki no Soma, you play an anime character who cooks a lot. Do you cook yourself in your free time? Additionally, have you tried cooking anything from the series?
Matsuoka: So even prior to having that role in Shokugeki no Soma, I’ve been doing my own cooking even when I’m busy. However, around the time that I started recording for Soma, I was trying to find something to do with my free time and decided to devote it to cooking.
So from maybe around November of last year, I’ve been trying to cook breakfast and dinner on my own. I don’t get a lot of time to make lunch as I’m usually outside recording around that time. For breakfast and lunch though, I do try to make time to cook on my own.
As far as recipes from Soma are concerned, I’ve pretty much tried most of them and can say that they’re something doable.
Has Matsuoka had a chance to try and dubbing of American shows into Japanese?
Matsuoka: Nope. However, if an opportunity arises I would like to try.
T-ONO: Since I know that we’re running low on time, we were wondering if you would like to close with any messages to your American fans.
Matsuoka: Let me start with this. My name is Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and I am an anime voice actor. So just a little bit from my point of view, until this experience of going abroad, I’ve been pretty much confined into just the Japanese world. However, having met my American fans first hand, in both Singapore and here at Sakura-Con, knowing that there’s so many fans who watch anime that I’ve been in worldwide really makes me happy.
I want to continue to have fans who enjoy my work support me and cheer me on.
Kashiwada: So up until a few years ago, I used to think that just because it was popular in Japan that it would become really popular overseas. However, recently seeing the reactions of fans worldwide has made me realize that it doesn’t matter what language the fans speak. We can aim to be popular worldwide from the start of production. So please, cheer us on.