What’s your impression of the original manga?
I’m still trying to understand the story and the characters as I read the script, but I think it’s very interesting. Sparked by the role of Lieutenant Tsurumi that I received this time, I remembered that when I was in elementary school, I borrowed and read a book from the library called Kotan no Kuchibue (The Whistle of the Ainu Village). It was such a long time ago so I don’t recall the content in detail, but I remember how I read it feeling very excited by the story about the persecution of and the reconciliation with the Ainu. It was my first experience of getting in touch with the Ainu culture, and thanks to it I knew a little about the Ainu. Golden Kamuy revived that excitement I had five decades ago. I thought, Why does this feel like fate, I got such a good role.
What’s your impression of the character Tsurumi?
He’s a character of the type that I often do; but while he’s full of insanity and ambition, he also feels like a good war buddy. In short, my interest in him is indefinite. And it’s also because of the juice seeping out of his skull. (laughs) Even from only that scene we can see his whole personality, and it sparked a lot of ideas about how to play him too. Thankfully I found no trouble acting as him, and I’m excitedly doing it.
Is there anything that you particularly pay attention to in acting as Tsurumi?
Because it wouldn’t be exciting to blatantly put his insanity upfront, at the beginning I acted calmly. It’s because Tsurumi is an intellectual person, and he’s gone through a lot in the past. I want to build up excitement from this static state to finally revealing his true nature that makes people go “Scary! Scary!”
Looks like you yourself will continue acting while enjoying how Tsurumi’s demeanor will change later.
That’s right. But it will be difficult at the end. (laughs) That’s why at the beginning, I only used a tenth of my full power, and slowly raised the gear. And then, because he’s a man with detailed plans behind his actions, I think I must try acting that will reveal it with a bang and tie things nicely with future developments.
Did Director Nanba (Hitoshi) or Sound Director Aketagawa (Jin) give you any order regarding your acting?
There was nothing special. But if I have to name one, I received an advice to vary my pitch in the parts of the monologue when emotions gradually increase.
How’s the atmosphere in the recording studio?
Generally calm. I’ve appeared in so many anime, and lately when I go to a studio, I’d be the oldest there. (laughs) Since for this production I work with people of about the same age as I am and people who’ve often worked with me in dubbing Western films, I kind of felt like returning to my home ground. We can also gossip and chat a lot, so it’s fun. And in terms of acting, because we’ve worked together for dozens of years, we more or less understand about what each of us will do. We can harmonize in such a manner like, You will do it like this, right? Then I will react like this.
Are there any lines that you feel important to show the charm and the presence of the character at the beginning of the series?
Certainly the lines that gave me the biggest hint to grasp the image for my acting: the lines when his brain juice seeps out of his skull. It made me really enjoy playing as him, thinking of how great this man is. When we do this kind of work, small things become hints for our lines or points that reveal the character. Therefore, we have to be careful not to miss what we felt during such occasion, to tightly sink our teeth into it when we thought, “I found it!”
You’ve acted as a lot of insane villains before, but is there anything different about Tsurumi?
He’s different! I’ve played many villains before, but when I tried to think whether there was anyone resembling him closely, I found none at all. Even among complex characters that I have ever played so far, he’s the first person of this type. I also have never got the chance to play a man from the Meiji era, so I’m greatly interested about this role. When I say my lines, I try to be absorbed into the role as someone who was born in that era.
The anime has started broadcasting recently. Lastly, please give a message to fans.
Golden Kamuy is the first work of this type that I encountered in my long career. I think this work gives us the chance to learn about the Meiji era, which can be considered the origin of modern Japan, and the Ainu culture, and also presents us a lot of new points of view. Many real-life characters also appear, so if you’re interested, then it will be good if you read books to deepen your knowledge. It’s not only a work full of elements that spark your intellectual curiosity, but the story itself is truly fun. Various developments await in the future, so please watch it until the end without missing even one second.
Original interview here.
As always, suggestions and corrections are welcome!