At Anime Expo 2016 in Los Angeles, California, Anime Now! got the chance to sit down alongside other reporters and interview Junichi Suwabe, a voice actor known for acting in such roles as Space Dandy’s titular character and GANGSTA.’s. Worick Arcangelo. A veteran voice actor, Suwabe has been working in Japan’s voice acting industry since 1995. In addition to a successful acting career, Suwabe has been performing as part of the musical unit Phero☆men alongside fellow voice actor Kōsuke Toriumi (Tales of Vesperia’s Yuri).
[Note: Questions asked by Anime Now! will be marked with the “AN:” tag. Any questions asked by other reporters will be marked as such.]
AN: If it was possible for you to speak to yourself before you became a voice actor, what kind of advice would you give?
Advice… That’s a hard question. Hm… I think I’d like to give myself this advice: “You’re going to have to do a lot more things than you’re expecting, so you should start trying to study about countries overseas as soon as possible. You should start practicing singing. You should start practicing dancing. You should start trying to improve in multiple areas while you can.”
Reporter: You say that, but you’re very skilled and popular when it comes to dancing and singing. Is the reason you want to give that kind of advice because the industry has changed?
The skills that are expected of a voice actor have changed quite a bit within the past ten years or so. One of the reasons for this might be because the state of physical media is changing, but possibly the biggest reason is that what fans expect of voice actors is changing. As a person who performs, I have to adapt to this. That’s why I think it’s extremely important to study in various areas.
Reporter: You have quite a prestigious voice acting career, Mr. Suwabe. What do you think about the changes in the industry?
Hm… Personally, I think that being able to challenge many different things brings many positives to both my personal and professional life. There are a lot of fun things as well. On the other hand, however, there are times when having to do things that weren’t expected of me as a voice actor originally places a large burden on me. How can I explain it…? There are many times when I am faced with demands that force me to use more than the skills that I currently have. I’m always doing my best to achieve what is being expected of me.
Reporter: Do you have any interesting stories about things that happened during recording sessions recently?
Recording? Do you mean for animation?
Interesting stories… Hm… Well, I was a part of an anime called GANGSTA.. A large number of male characters appear in this anime, and there are quite a few characters that are fairly mature in terms of age. The voice actors playing those characters were also older men. GANGSTA. is a crime story, you know, and these actors voicing these characters also had a very… how do I put it… stern appearance. They gave off kind of a scary vibe. There were a lot of people wearing sunglasses or glasses, and some of them had facial hair. It was really funny, because it kind of felt like an actual gang was recording in the studio.
Reporter: I noticed that you had experience in filmmaking before you became a voice actor. Do you think this has helped you in your craft of voice acting, and if so, how?
…As an actor, you normally do not think about anything but your own role, but I think that the role of a director forces one to look at a work as a whole and keep the balance. When you know that, you’re able to think about what is expected out of the role you’re playing, as well as to look at the work as a whole. I think having that career experience is an advantage for me. Though, thinking about the work as a whole has both its positives and negatives. Wow, this is a hard question. (laughs)
AN: Has there been anything that has surprised you or made you happy during your trip to the states?
It’s my second time coming to America, but last time I came here, I went to Atlanta. This time, I’ve come to Los Angeles, and I went to go see the convention… There were many passionate anime fans in Atlanta, and I feel there are even more people here in Los Angeles enjoying animation and pop culture. It makes me very happy. I guess the other thing I have to say about America is that it’s big! The continent is big, the streets are big (laughs), and the food is served in big portions. From a Japanese perspective, everything just felt really big.
Yesterday, I went over to Santa Monica… and this might just be something in Santa Monica, but there were a lot of people walking with their dogs. I live with my dog, but the majority of businesses won’t let you come in with a dog, so the first thing I noticed was that there are a lot of places that allow dogs (laughs).
Reporter: What’s one thing that you’d like to try, but you haven’t done before, professionally and in your private life?
As a voice actor, I think it’d be great if I was still able to participate in lots of works and play lots of characters in the future. I think people might think, “Junichi Suwabe is the kind of voice actor who plays these kinds of characters.” I’d like to raise the quality of the voices of the characters people expect me to play, but I’d like to also play a character that completely goes against my image up until now and make people say, “Suwabe can play this kind of character!? I’m so surprised!”
There are lots of roles that I think I can play personally, but there’s no chance for me to do so. I think I’d like to keep trying to challenge those kinds of roles.
In terms of my private life… I had mentioned this earlier, but creating a work–whether that be a television drama series or a movie–has been my dream since childhood. If given the chance, I’d like to create something like a movie with myself as the director. I’m actually producing multiple variety shows for television right now, so I’d like to try taking on a movie too.
Reporter: What genre would the movie be?
Hm… There are a lot of genres, but it’s got to be… (dramatically) suspense. That, or… (even more dramatically) horror. (laughs)
AN: Would it be live-action? Or anime?
Live-action. I’ve never worked as an animation director. (laughs) I think that if I were to make it myself, it would be live-action. I think I’m more suited to acting in animation rather than directing.
Reporter: Out of the characters you’ve played, which one do you think you’re the most similar to?
I think there’s at least one part of every character I’ve played that’s similar to myself. For example, a character that has an unwavering conviction, or one that’s gentle, or one that’s determined and puts in a lot of effort.
To be perfectly honest, though, out of all the characters I have played, I believe that there has not been a single character that perfectly matches all of the traits that make me who I am. However, even in characters that have a personality that is the complete opposite of mine, there is bound to be at least a little something that is similar to me.
…Actually, when a character has a personality that is so different from mine, it lets me enjoy acting the role because I can let my imagination go wild. It’s a little difficult to choose just one that’s the most similar to me, so I’m going to have to give you the extremely vague answer of, “They’re all similar to me, but they’re all different from me.” That’s my answer. Is that OK? (laughs)
AN: What does it feel like to think that your voice is being heard by people all around the world?
It’s a really… strange feeling. The language that I use in my profession is Japanese and I think that, usually, only Japanese people use the Japanese language in their everyday lives. I think that it’s wonderful that people from other countries are listening, understanding, and enjoying my acting. Of course, I am thankful to the people within Japan who are cheering us [voice actors] on from the bottom of my heart, but I feel the same way about the fans overseas. I always have the sentiment of “thank you for enjoying the things that we make” inside of my heart.
Wrapping up the interview, a reporter asked if there are any voice actors under Suwabe’s tutelage. While Suwabe did not answer this question, he did mention that he often listens to what other younger voice actors have to say, and gives them advice from time to time, mentioning Free! voice actor and vocalist of OLDCODEX Tatsuhisa Suzuki as one of those people.
Thank you to Junichi Suwabe for the interview opportunity.