Kazuki Takahashi began penning a manga series titled Yu-Gi-Oh! in Shueisha’s Shonen Jump magazine in 1996. It followed Yugi Muto, a meek but kind high school boy who gained an alternate personality named “Yami Yugi” after putting together The Millennium Puzzle, a mysterious ancient artifact. This inspired an anime adaptation titled Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters that began airing in Japan in 2000 that eventually aired worldwide. In celebration of the manga’s twentieth anniversary, a movie titled Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS with Takahashi on the staff as story-writer, script-writer, character designer, and executive producer premiered in Japan earlier this year.
Playing a major role in his story is Seto Kaiba, the eccentric rival of Yugi Muto. Despite only being a teenager, Kaiba serves as the CEO of KaibaCorp, a company focused on the development of technology to enhance the experience of the Duel Monsters card game. Through perhaps something one would call the “Heart of the Cards” (a term used often in the English dub of the anime), Anime Now! was given the rare opportunity to sit down for an interview with the Japanese voice actor of Kaiba: Kenjiro Tsuda.
An esteemed actor with many credits under his belt in not only animation and games but also as a stage actor, Tsuda has been acting as Seto Kaiba since the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters anime began airing in 2000.
“At the beginning, I understood the character to be Yugi’s rival–the hero’s rival. As time passed, however, I came to find that he was a very strong character. Little by little, I began to realize that Kaiba was a one-of-a-kind character. […] I enjoy Kaiba even more than I did when I had just started acting as him.”
So, with this kind of enthusiasm toward his character, what did he feel when he knew he was going to be able to come back as Kaiba, and on the big screen no less?
“I didn’t think I’d be able to act in Yu-Gi-Oh! again, so I was happy. Really happy,” he told me, “After hearing that it had a script by [Kazuki Takahashi], I got the feeling that we had to make this work into something good.”
Kaiba plays a central role in the film, coming in contact with Yugi for an extremely passionate battle. After seeing the film, one of the first impressions I heard from Japanese fans was that Kaiba was very over the top and yelled a lot throughout the film. When I asked him whether this put a strain on him, he said that yelling in action-oriented works is the norm, so it wasn’t anything crazy.
“I actually get asked this a lot, but honestly, when you’re in stage plays, you’re doing that same thing for two hours or more straight so it’s not that big of a deal,” he told me, “I see people write about how hard it must be to do Kaiba’s voice all the time, but I’m like, ‘Uh, no it’s not,'” he laughed, “It actually surprises me. It makes me think, ‘If you’re not able to put out that kind of a voice, there’s no way you’d be able to work as an actor in the first place.'”
With such an over-the-top role, would he ever want to be buddies with his character if given the chance in real life?
“I definitely don’t want to become friends with him. I don’t think anyone really does.” He laughed.
Despite this rejection of friendship, Tsuda did have two things to tell him if he ever met him: “Glad to see you’re doing well” and “I’m always in your care.”
Since Tsuda has been acting as Kaiba for over ten years, I asked him why even now, his character shows such obsession with the pharaoh. He told me that Kaiba’s real obsession might just be something else: strength.
“I feel that [that obsession] ended up being directed at [the pharaoh],” he told me, “But I don’t feel like that’s all there is to him. He has spent his entire life believing that the only thing that he can do is try to become stronger.” Tsuda had an interesting word to describe him: “a seeker.” In the case of Kaiba, the actor believes that he is someone who is looking for a path. In turn, this desire for a path in life manifests itself as obsession.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is popular, both within Japan and outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. When I asked him about how he feels about being in a work that’s so loved all over the world, he told me that he’s very thankful.
“I do know there are many fans overseas… And I do want to meet them at an overseas event or something, but I think if I ask I’ll get told that my schedule is too busy,” he said with a grin, “But I do want to go. I do.”
With the film scheduled to premiere in the United States and other countries around the world, Tsuda has some advice for people going to see the movie.
“There are lots of points I’d like people to look out for, but in my opinion, Kaiba has powered up a lot–I think it’d be great if those who watch the movie would do their best to try and keep up with him.” He also noted that he finds the growth of the other characters from the original story: Yugi, Jonōchi (Joey), Honda (Tristan), and Anzu (Téa)–to be very interesting, since the film takes place approximately a year after the original ending of the story. Despite the timeframe of the film, he suggested it to those who have even the tiniest interest in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
“I think the film is something that can be enjoyed by both fans of the original work and people looking to become fans in the future. I’d really like it if everyone would give it a watch.”
Ending the interview, Tsuda gave me some parting words to our readers.
“After all this time and with a script by Kazuki Takahashi-sensei, the staff and cast have put their all into making this a movie filled with spirit. […] Whether you got into it from the card game, the anime, the original manga, or anything else, I’m very happy that there are people that are part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! fanbase. I would sincerely appreciate it if you all would continue to support Yu-Gi-Oh! with even greater power in the future. Thank you.”
Yu-Gi-Oh! THE DARK SIDE OF DIMENSIONS opened in Japanese theaters on April 23, 2016, in Taiwan on September 15, Hong Kong on October 13, Malaysia on November 24, and in Singapore on December 1. The movie will also premiere in the United States and Canada on January 27, 2017, in Australia on February 2, in Italy on March 10, and in Germany on March 12.
The newest Yu-Gi-Oh! television anime–Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V–is currently broadcasting in Japan, as well as in the United States and Australia.
Kenjiro Tsuda’s Profile
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© Kazuki Takahashi/Yu-Gi-Oh! DDMC
Photo Credit: Masahiro Ito (TRANSISTOR)