Kappei Yamaguchi & Megumi Hayashibara
Interview with a Voice Actor and Actress
Ranma ½ has already been airing and everybody is talking about it. What do you think about the voices of Ranma Saotome as you watch him on screen? Before we discuss it, I interviewed the voice actor and actress as to how they feel and what they think of playing Ranma.
What were the odds of Hayashibara-san becoming a nurse!?
So, Hayashibara-san belongs to Arts Vision. How about you, Yamaguchi-san?
Yamaguchi: Though I am a member of 21st Century Fox, a theatrical group, the group does not have managers so I asked Ken Productions to handle my management.
I know Hayashibara-san has been playing various kinds of roles, but Yamaguchi-san is playing a boy now and this is your first job. Please tell us how you became a seiyuu, or a voice actor.
Yamaguchi: I wanted to do a job related to dubbing. I graduated from a high school in Fukuoka and attended Tokyo Announce Gakuen, a technical school. On the way to the school from my place, there used to be a training studio named Sun House Music, which is no longer there. And Kenta Kimotsuki worked there as a lecturer. I attended his lecture and I thought I should study about the theater. I talked with Mr. Kimotsuki about that. Because at that time he had just made a theatrical group and looked for young people, I became a member of his group. Since then I concentrated on acting in the theater. Being chosen to play Ranma, I recalled that this was the job which I wanted to do all along. That sounds very rude. (laughs)
Hayashibara: So, you’ve been interested in plays in the theater?
Yamaguchi: That’s right. (laughs)
You mean you wanted to do wide-ranging dubbing jobs rather than become a seiyuu itself because you like anime?
Yamaguchi: Yes, but I liked manga. I was not as interested in anime, but I was interested in jobs relating to it since I enjoyed manga. I had not experienced acting at all, but I joined a theatrical group because it looked fun.
When did you join the theatrical group?
Yamaguchi: It was when I was 19.
So, how old are you?
Yamaguchi: I am 23, going on 24 though. (laughs)
Do you want to keep working as seiyuu from now on?
Yamaguchi: Yes. I want to do this job as long as I can.
Hayashibara-san, why did you become a seiyuu?
Hayashibara: To tell the truth I was a student at a nursing school. It is very difficult to succeed in the entertainment industry, plus we have to accept the fact that training schools cost a lot. But I found an advertisement for Arts Vision, the studio where I am now, that their training unit would train us for free. I happened to find it in a magazine called Debut on my way home from submitting my application for an entrance exam to a nursing school. (laughs)
“This is great!” I thought. (laughs) My parents were very opposed to me attending a seiyuu training school, but I made them let me try it, on the condition that I wouldn’t rely on them financially, and I thought I could get through any hardships that might come up. So, I attended both the nursing school and seiyuu training school, and since I couldn’t be absent from the classes of the nursing school like common colleges, my work was considerably constrained by time.
At that time the nursing school finished their classes around 5 o’clock and then they gave me a little job for Maison Ikkoku around 6:30. This was the first job I got in the industry. When I attended the seiyuu training school, I asked other people to change working schedules so that I could use my spare time such as summer vacation etc. I put my first priority on graduating from the nursing school while I worked on Maison Ikkoku. That was my first job relating to anime.
Even though you attended a nursing school, you became a voice actress. Was there anything that changed your decision? Or, did you want to be a voice actress from your childhood?
Hayashibara: I wanted to be a voice actress since I was a child.
So, you tried to become a nurse for the purpose of making living?
Hayashibara: Rather than to make a living, hmmm. Whether I could become a voice actress or not, is was too uncertain, and I thought the possibility that I could become a voice actress was very small. I was familiar with the work of nurses from my childhood because of my family business, so I decided to become a nurse. But I happened to find a magazine Debut, and from that moment all of the things worked well and I thought perhaps I really could become a voice actress. (laughs)
You have already played various kinds of characters since you worked on Maison Ikkoku. But I think your career as a voice actress is not so long…
Hayashibara: Yeah. It has been two years now since I graduated from nursing school. I worked on “Moeru Oniisan” the first year after my graduation. And I currently work on “Osomatskun”, “Makai Eiyuuden” and some others.
A Voice Actor Veteran Gave Me Great Advice
Let’s change the subject to Ranma. Had you read original manga stories of Ranma½ before you were cast?
Yamaguchi: You mean, before I was chosen? (laughs) I knew Ranma½ but I was not so interested that I read it every week. But because a weekly magazine ran it, I had read some chapters.
So, do you often read Rumiko Takahashi’s manga?
Yamaguchi: She is the creator of “Urusei Yatsura” and “Maison Ikkoku”, isn’t she? Yeah! I often read her works.
Did you watch their anime adaptations as well?
Yamaguchi: Yes. I watched both “Urusei Yatsura” and “Maison Ikkoku”.
Hayashibara: Since I had some connection with “Maison Ikkoku”, I have read quite seriously both “Maison Ikkoku” and “Ranma”. There was a rumor that “Ranma½” would be adapted into anime when the original manga episode began its run, right? And I thought if they actually adapt it into anime, I would be happy even if they gave me a small part. Because my career as a seiyuu began with Takahashi’s work, I thought, “Yipee!” if I could join this creation.
The adaptation of Ranma into anime was decided quite a long time ago. But they had some problems with the hero’s voice because he is the kind of character that we have never seen before who changes sex. There were some ideas of a man and woman doing the voices (this idea was adopted after all), of a man playing both types of Ranma and of a woman playing both. I even heard of the idea that one seiyuu would do Ranma’s voice and change the tone of voice according to Ranma’s sex, using a voice changing machine. They settled that two voice actors will do Ranma’s voice. So, please tell us about the first audition? I guess you recorded your voice on tape?
Yamaguchi: Yes. When I first tried doing the voice, they requested that I would do the same voice for the girl part as I did for the boy part, and we recorded it. Around two weeks later, I was asked to do a girl’s voice for the girl parts (laughs). They wanted to know how much I can make the tone of my voice similar to that of a girls. My voice is not so high in the first place. I would say that I prepared for playing the boy part more than for the girl part. And then I hadn’t heard anything from them for quite a long time. I had forgotten about that rather than giving up (laughs). But suddenly they said that they wanted me to play Ranma. I thought, “Really?” and I was rather happy (laughs). That’s what happened.
Hayashibara: I auditioned for Akane’s voice and not Ranma. Because I liked “Ranma ½”, I really put all of my energy into it. When I auditioned, I shouted many times, “Deyaa~~” and “Dahh~~~”. I think they chose me as to play Ranma because of those shouts. But when I heard from my office that I might be cast, I thought I would play Akane, of course, and I practiced Akane’s voice at my house. I was very surprised to hear that I was chosen to play Ranma. To tell the truth, I don’t know they auditioned for a boy and girl Ranma at all.
They spent quite a long time on the audition process, didn’t they?
Yamaguchi: No sooner had they chosen us than we started working on the dubbing.
So, both of you were chosen, and what did the sound director ask you for your first work?
Yamaguchi: For boy type Ranma, to put it briefly, he asked me to play like a guy. It is because the key of my voice is higher than usual when I play him. So, he meant, he wanted me to play the role with my lowest voice. And I think because it was my first job, he said that the important thing was conveying our own feelings rather than to try to play our roles well.
Hayashibara: Because Ranma is quite boyish, rather he is inherently a boy, I planed to play him very aggressively, shouting “Doo-eeehh”, but they asked me to play girl Ranma very cute. But because he speaks boy’s language, I can’t help but to play him boyishly. But for my part, Ranma is a girl and I play him cute and brave. When I read the original manga, I didn’t have this idea and I thought Ranma was not so different whether he was a boy or a girl. So I was very confused since “cute but brave” were not compatible for me. But I concluded that if a man plays the manly part, I thought it would be interesting for Ranma to be very different when he was a boy or a girl.
So, have you talked each other about how to play Ranma?
Hayashibara: When Kappei-kun speaks into a microphone in rehearsals, I also speak his sentences behind him, sitting on a chair. And I realized how Kappei-kun plays the role comparing his way with my own. We’ve come to know each other’s style.
Yamaguchi: So, there’s no need for us to talk about how to play Ranma before we work on it.
Please tell us what kind of atmosphere is in the studio.
Yamaguchi: I think it’s very good, but I don’t know if it is better than other studios. I feel it’s comfortable for most of us young people.
Hayashibara: When we worked on the first episode, I mumbled, “Ranma is not a boy, but a girl.” Ohbayashi-san, who plays Akane’s father spoke to me and said, “You are a girl, aren’t you? Just do it in your way.” I was really, really happy with it. I appreciate him for his little advice.
Please try to look at Ranma’s voice in a long-term perspective
Takahashi’s fans are very enthusiastic. I guess you had some difficulty at the event. So, what happened?
Yamaguchi: Yeah! They complained to us quite a bit. That event was for Urusei-fans. We had some bags in a quiz event. On one side of it, Lum-chan was depicted and other side was Ranma. When they saw an “o” mark on Ranma while “x” on Lum-chan, they disappointedly said, “Eeehhhh-----.“
Hayashibara: When we heard that, we said to ourselves sadly, “Lum-chan is qualified for an “o” mark. Damn it.”
Yamaguchi: Mr. Chiba, the coordinator, asked the fandom to cheer for “Ranma” because the event was for Ranma. But the audiences said, ”No~~~~.” Every time we held an event, we feel the greatness of Urusei Yatsura. So, we want to take over what seiyuu veterans left behind with “Urusei” and “Maison”, and to make Ranma popular like these masterpieces as soon as possible.
Hayashibara: So, I want them to evaluate our performances in a long-term perspective. And some of fans who disappointedly said, “Eeehhh……” at the event may become big Ranma fans one year later. You bet!
Yamaguchi: The most important thing is our efforts, I guess.
In conclusion, please give some comments to the fandom.
Yamaguchi: I want fans to be satisfied with our performance as soon as possible, and I will make an effort to become Ranma rather than just play the role well. So, please support us.
Hayashibara: Eventually, the success of our job depends on fan’s support, and I want them to take a long time before they evaluate our performances. I think fans will feel our enthusiasm and I want to live up to their expectations.
Translation by: Toshiaki Yamada
Mr. Yamaguchi's credits include:
Ranma Saotome (male)
Kiki's Delivery Service
Ms. Hayashibara's credits include:
Ranma Saotome (female)