A director’s interpretation? (Arslan) Also…


We must learn to identify with another. I began this entry back in early January, trying to make it as considerate as possible.

Now, it couldn’t come at a better time as a show’s second season heads this way, as does a kick-starter that everyone has been looking forward to. But more importantly, I think, I am getting annoyed by typical, heated arguments of insulting ones’s intelligence that gets passed as facts or as cool. I’m also offended by being seen as ignorant of the visceral range of a person’s acting, or told that “actors aren’t one trick ponies” because I disagree with a casting. Then again, I live in a country where it’s looking possible that the next President behaves like a schoolyard hair-slick-back bully from the streets. That’s cool no? And just this morning, and I mean April 4, I saw someone’s video about bullying.

I am motivated now.

So, this entry all began with one show and how it bothered me a little bit. I’m not the type of person who gets deeply disappointed in what I watch, so I wanted to further ponder on it to get it out of my system.  What brought this up and why couldn’t I just leave it alone? It first started off with me coming across an interview and a bulletin board. I wanted to know the core of my disappointment, to see reason behind it because I’m about to pose an argument.

And, I kind of felt like a jerk kicking on this one guy.

While working on the entry, I came across different, interesting perspectives. Understand that I like being free and seeing different principles, and I also don’t tolerate those who insult others with a different opinion.

I’m not even sure if I have everything here that I want, or if fully proofread.

maskscar

“God tier”.  Usually given to someone who has died or has worked for decades. Hate that word sometimes. It’s a straight-line absolute answer to one’s “Favorite albums or actors of all time” reflecting only nothing but what has aired or was released during the last two or three years.

And sometimes, I really hate Kaji Yuki’s fandom, and this irrational worship for him, Tokyo Ghoul, Attack on Titan, Diabolik Lovers, and when it comes to high testosterone and psychotic performances. That is the same case for many popular entertainers.

Furthermore, the recent adaptation of The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki) was far from being a memorable epic to me. I hope, I hope it changes second season because I’m really just looking forward to Ecbatana. Also, I think it’s almost over? Arakawa Hiromu will have to make a new ending? I do expect a new character and the mention of a “treasure” and more on that evil magic guy with the cloak and hood, but I won’t elaborate.

With that said, I think I’ll make a series tagged “How to enjoy [insert title]?” With Terraformas, GARO Crimson Moon, Nobu The Fool, Ninninger, and Arslan coming to mind. Think of anything you don’t like, or heard received bad ratings, and give me suggestions.

On to the main topic. WARNING, there are some spoilers on ARSLAN.

Kaji Yuuki (梶 裕貴) is a relatively new voice actor in Japan and he’s known for voicing various, objectively so, popular characters. If you’re a regular anime watcher in present time, especially for the past five or so years, there’s no way of missing this guy. You could write it out as common knowledge perhaps.

High School DxD, Aquarion Logos, Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, Seven Deadly Sins, Noragami, and that is a very short list. I probably first met him in Aquarion or Final Fantasy XIII (he voices Hope). He’s also one of the in-demand voice actors; you don’t have far to look in MAL, with Kaji being in TOP 15 favorited people.

You can gain a better perspective of this “favorite people” popularity by looking at who stand along side one another. Johnny Yong Bosch, Miyazaki Hayao, Sakurai Takehiro, Crispin Freeman, Steven Blum — those who gained huge activity in counties outside of Japan, especially as main or regular characters. If it was Japanese voice actors alone, Kaji would be in the TOP 10. To be concise, Miyazaki is a Japanese director known for his Ghibli movies, often released in the West via home medium or theater. These are the type of names often dropped in discussions of “sub” and “dub”.

I don’t like the use of an elite cast as a persuasion, at least mainly, to watch and enjoy a show, when the cast is only one part of the production, and the entire project can be a bunch of junk. Sometimes it gives me the feeling that it is bait for something awful. “Watching for mostly voice actors” is effacing the character(s), making a work into a small commodity. I don’t like going with the over popular appeal. Popularity has its share of fandom using character assassination. Watching something “with my favorite voice actor” in it would be a separate challenge.

The Scary Guy

In an attempt to cast the fear of the devil in me, the production staff of Arslan Senki picked Kaji for the ever vicious Silvermask. Even when I saw him his name listed in cast, shortly before watching the trailer, I thought, “Ah, no, this isn’t good. I already know what he’s going to sound like”. Like someone eating gravel, or clenching a lot, which is a bad sign.

How did I get that feeling? I told myself that I wasn’t going to like it.

I can already tell that Kaji pushing it, a low baritone (sure, that’s what voice acting is. Pushing over limits. Screaming, animal characters, etc). Then, throughout the airing of the first season, I was so upset in the way Mask spoke, having little to no inflection. And I’m sure as heck not the only one. Or maybe the only ones who shared the same annoyance as I did was Japan. How strange, and this is their native language.

I am not the type to dislike one’s performance, at least not so fervently. I say this because I am somewhat familiar with Silvermask. Even if you were more familiar, I don’t think you’d have Kirishima Ayato in mind as his voice pick.


 

From TVtropes:

Badass Baritone: A badass with a relatively deep voice, even though he is voiced by Yuuki Kaji, whose voice is known for being rather high in pitch.


Have you not seen Sean Barrett’s performance (or maybe the British English dub is way too repulsive. Yeah I know, it’s pretty out of place)? Furthermore, for those who really delve into anime history, or are Hunter x Hunter, GUNDAM, or ONE PIECE fans, Ikeda Shuuichi, the previous Silvermask, needs no introduction:

Ayato, or Kite/Char, or a character from Dark Souls. Such a hard pick. Furthermore, Barrett has a wide activity in narration. That reminds me, seeing a comment on 2chan along the lines of “Silvermask having a Ojiisan (old man) voice.” I could say that “ojiisan” serves as an archetype villain voice, especially a very big boss type of villain. You can think no further than movies: Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Hugo Weaving. Oh, but they have such overwhelming presences (and are not always the bad guy), and its convincing. Typical, but convincing, thus the selection.

Director

Speaking of “select”, here’s the core of this article.

The animation producer of Arslan TV series was Tsuchida Daisuke (土田 大亮), who also did Terraformars Season 1, Chie’s Sweet Home, and Senyu. According to Twitter and Arslan.jp, Kaji won the audition and he was surprised. I was kind of steaming, despite knowing that directors can call a choice by a whim. I pretty much said, “Well I’ll just shut up then since he [Kaji] was awarded the role.”

I also found an interview from said producer, in which he spoke of the villain role:


 

――声優について、敵役側ではいかがですか。(About the voice actor, playing the villain part?)

やっぱり梶(裕貴)さんですね。経歴は伏せますが、銀仮面卿って単純な悪役じゃないんです……。だから、悪役声の人ではダメだという話にはなっていたんですよ。むしろ本来なら主人公を張れるぐらいの人でないと、成立しない。そんな中、梶さんはハマっているなと。いかにも悪役という人よりは、普段正義の味方をやっている人が演じる。そこに大きな意味があるんです。


It basically talks about how Kaji is usually the hero role and is known for playing a main character/good guy. I thought it said, “it’s not a villain role”. I got mad at first, thinking it was an misinterpretation saying “Kaji is not a villain”. In other words, my contention to the performance was correct. But then, after further inspection, I realized that it says that he’s not familiar as the villain role. The last line says, “There is a big significance.”

Kaji needed the role?  Or it is important for him to play Mask? I could say the same thing for various other actors (see P.S below), but Kaji is currently inclining towards iconic otaku commercial.  What also surprised me was seeing people hating Namikawa Daisuke’s Narsus. I didn’t look further into the reason as to why. It could’ve been his tone. And I mean, they hated it with a passion.

Tsuchida is familiar with Kaji’s previous work. Was there even additional direction/callback? Then, there’s the large possibility of giving new talent chances, especially if they’re getting popular. Thus, the reason for the Arslan cast. A familiar set from Tokyo Ghoul, Terraformars, and Attack on Titan.

You’re probably asking, “Doggie, did you look at an ‘anti’ forum on purpose?” No, it was a “[insert program here] voice actors” forum. I always like to give new or unfamiliar talent an opportunity when I watch something. No, rather, it is inevitable. 

Mask Impressions

Back to the Mask performance.

It’s not about an age to shoot for, and I think Hermes or Hilmes, is around 30 or late 20s.
So filled with hatred of Pars, his former kingdom or rather, the kingdom he wishes to reclaim, that he was willing to call his aunt “a monster”.

What I sought for during Arslan’s airing were significant scenes of Mask such as his appearance at the citadel and Bahman, and his first challenge. Of course, near the ending, he is tasked to do a rousing sermon.

ONORE (DAMN YOU!) DARYUN!” Really man? A voice of hundred characters barely stabilizes behind a thin, raspy barrier.

Mask sounds like a mentally-damaged maniac, and not the kind in one’s favorite crime drama. Perhaps the big brother who wants to scare you into thinking there’s a phantom under the bed to eat you if you didn’t sleep. It’d probably be a good portrayal on his part if it wasn’t someone like Silvermask or Sonic (OPM) with that disgusting voice, or wasn’t something edging on a fit of passion with a ton of spit in this throat.

This describes the image perfectly:

“梶はヒルメスにしたらやや声が若く感じるが、
「精神的に大人になりきれないヒルメス」
というイメージにはマッチしているようにも思える

“To some extent, voice feels young. ‘Hilmes (Hirumes) can not become an adult mentally’ seems to match the image.”

I asked myself a few times, “Is there any way that I can find acceptance in this? Some reassurance?” About ten or so episodes later, I couldn’t get myself to like it. Another person from bulletin board described it well: 喘息持ち (Asthmatic). I think the person was referring to a pant (saying “Hyuu“) Doesn’t seem very nice does it? Maybe too much smoking?

Why does this man with a dark justice and ambition must have such a straining voice? So that Kaji could become a villain, opposite of the usual, according to director? This does not mean that I demand the return of Ikeda Shuichi from the movie, OVA, and cassette tape drama of Arslan, or maybe not “ojiisan”. That would be a very obvious choice to go with the baritone.

Looks like Arakawa-Mask has a different approach compared to the original. The original Mask, from the Tanaka Yoshiki story, had his entire  head covered with a metal mask with horns on it. Therefore, when he spoke, the voice echos against the metal. The horns are a nice touch too.

oldmask

hiyamasky

While Arakawa-Mask looked like he’s at a masquerade party. Handsome, your obvious dangerous rival. I guess he stands out as a “general” because the other soldiers look so bland and short in stature compared to him., and the cloak gives him a mysterious feel. There’s also some good shots of him in the OP. Since I said “rival”, it made me think of what rivals in modern anime typically sound like, and that’s probably the image that Arakawa and the anime adaption staff was going for.

Archetype rival is often handsome, cold, adult sounding (look no further than Pokemon), and who often voices these character these days? Some good examples are Miyano Mamoru (Riku), Midorikawa Hikaru (like always?), Uchida Yuuma seems to be going in that direction, definitely Hino Satoshi, Suzuki Chihiro, Kamiya Hiroshi, Sakurai Takehiro (in more ways than one), Toriumi Kousuke (Yowamushi). And if not the direct rival, then a support character of an enemy side.

And all you have to do is lower your voice. Very typical.

About “We have range/we’re not one trick ponies”

I’ve heard many voices, and cartoonish, character acting always had this stance of strong portrayal. Always loved cartoons. There are roughly over 4,000 seiyu in Japan (lain.gr.jp, seigura directory), with considerable few in the forefront. There may be 1,000 or so in acting union.

Every actor can portray, as their careers depended on it, a type of range and transitions. Kaji voice is charismatic enough to play a nice-looking man. Kaji can’t be an actor without his flaws, nor without captivating an audience of an augmentative stance. Is he supposed to be perfect? And I am not “anti-Kaji” myself, having enjoying him various shows.

So, I see “he’s a villain” or “not a typical villain” in Japanese comment. What kind of excuse is this?

There are various ideas of the image called “villain” or antagonist. Kaji played various jerks who opposes another. The timbre he has does not make him sound very convincing with a low tone compared to those who has effectively utilized their low spectrum in a variety of roles as a commander, a military/police veteran, etc. Indeed, he can “go low” just like every one else, every other actor, but the sound of it will depend on how it resonates  and the character. Why is this? Because we all have approximate ranges, frequencies, and have to do mouth-and-nose and psycho-emotional coordination in how we emote. High and low has their different tones. Also, we don’t sound the same.

As there is the pressure of making Mask very vile, since he considerably is, the decision of making him have a baritone with (sometimes) a suppressed tension was a valid path. Along that, he has a noble presence. That is one reason why the stupid Kaji-sludge voice bothered me.

Furuya Toru (古谷 徹), who voiced boys and heroes for the majority of his life, about a fifty-year veteran, known for playing the role as Amuro Rei, probably has the same career stretch as Kaji. His voice quality suits a particular handsome guy or a youth, especially a repressive or nerd type. His villain roles are very very few, but are his best known ones Ribbons Almark of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Andrew Fork from Legend of Galactic Heroes? Windaria is a bit different as it was a corruption, and there is Prince Endymion? Surprisingly, Andrew Fork sounds interesting and there was no stress coming out from a guy who is a battle adviser and an imperial officer. With that said, for some reason, due to expansion of anime, I can already count Kaji receiving more ANIMATED roles in a year than Furuya probably had in his life. I could be DEAD wrong since Wikipedia doesn’t unveil everything. In one year, let’s take 1970s and 1980s, Furuya is listed with about five shows on each year; Kaji is about double that. It might have to do in part with the shows that he has been lasting for two cours or more, such as Dragonball, Saint Seiya, Sailor Moon, and Kyojin no Hoshi. Many classic shows lasted throughout the year or more, especially robot shows.

I honestly remember seeing many comments about Tuxedo Kamen/Mamoru Chiba and how Furuya’s “low tone” isn’t liked.

Are Kaji (Vic Mignogna, and other names) allowed to have the same criticism?

Suggestions

You’re probably wondering, “Well Doggie, if you don’t like it, then list better choices”.

Someone suggested Suwabe Junichi. If it’s Suwabe, then he would lay down the sex appeal. Same with Toriumi Kousuke, but he ended up with the goofy prince of Sindura instead.

Hino Satoshi might’ve been good too. Suzuki Chihiro, Tsuboi Tomohiro, Itoh Kentaro, Morikawa Toshiyuki. Morikawa has a lot of sex appeal and renowned for voicing such characters akin to Silvermask. It would be a “stereotypical choice”, but he’s also known for popping up randomly as different support characters so you don’t think about pressing him with a “type”. Itoh Kentaro will have the problem of sounding very rough, but he often plays a character opposing a protagonist.

Another suggestion from 2ch was Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Nakamura Yuichi, Kuroda Takaya (黒田崇矢) and Sugita Tomokazu, but I think Sugita and Kuroda might be too astringent. Maybe if you want a really really hammy Silvermask that’d sound like he’s a buff dude in armor. Suzuki (Ban from Seven Deadly Sins, Tachibana Makoto of FREE) would make a good choice if a smoother, slightly younger sound equivalent to a cool-headed noble senpai archetype. However, I have a bit of a trouble dealing with Suzuki’s scream. Kuroda is absolutely sexy.

Hearing Hatano Wataru’s Jaswant in Arslan just makes me more upset that he doesn’t get a regular role, nor does he even get to reprise Jousuke in JoJo Part 4. In fact, plenty of the supporting cast are awesome, especially the Marzbans (the military commanders). Okawa Toru voicing Kharlan for example, and Konishi Katsuyuki voicing Shapir and Esfan.

Frankly Okawa, I wish it was you as Mask, so you could make up for Deboss (KYORYUGER).

———

Stop, fans

To quote someone else:
“Didn’t have to force it” but I can’t find Japanese message. Indeed. That also reminds me of someone replying against the performance of One Punch’s Sonic: “He’s trying.”

“Trying”?

I think if that’s being said, from someone who is a big Kaji fan, and that especially includes the remarks from Twitter such as “I don’t think it fits at all” or “not suited” or “I’ll have to grow into it”, then that someone must have a piece of doubt inside of him/her. The loyal fans even have their doubts, rightfully so. You must and can have doubts. You are allowed to.

You don’t “try”, you do it. You get an audition, which you were offered “good luck” to, so now you must do it. What is the point of competition [audition]? The point of having other choices or another pick?

There can be “better suited” or “I think this can sound much better if.” That is allowed.

I’ve worked on this entry for months. I am a big slowpoke and I’ve been busy too. Before then, it’s been Ace Attorney, its been My Hero Acadamia, its been Fairy Tail, etc. Speaking of “My Hero”, a comment about Todoroki opinion on YARAON:

梶アンチでは無いがアルスラーンのヒルメスはキツイもんが有った。
演技云々より声が軽すぎて。(というかヒルメスに限らず合ってる声優のが少ない)

つかツンツンした発音するガキっぽさの有るキャラか
高くも低くもない中間めな穏やかか道化さのある青年キャラ以外は合わないような。

Todoroki seems OK at the moment by the sound of the trailer. It’s the same as Kiznaiver.

By the way, Taraon blog and Ota-suke (Taraon often has magazine scans), are being used as references for announcing a single voice actor’s cast addition. Pretty common among ANN and Crunchroll. Why couldn’t Kaji be accounted along with the rest of the cast? Or additional cast?

Also, why the common use of Kaji? When we have various other “boy” voice actors of a sprouting performance such as Ishii Makoto? Abe Atsushi? Kakihara Tetsuya? I left out Natsuki Hanae since he’s somewhat tailing Kaji. Also, Souma Saito.

Kaji fans, or maybe anime and drama fans in general, seem to have a “scream” obsession. Extroverted performance that can stimulate your responsiveness to the show. Here are other “sprout” voice actors of various generations: Okano Kousuke, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Nanbu Keiichi, Furukawa Toshio, Tanaka Mayumi, Shiraishi Yukinaga, Iwata Mitsuo, etc. Same with above-mentioned Abe, Kakihara, and Saito if you want more recent examples. I also like Asunuma Shintaro (浅沼 晋太郎).

Screaming a lot is dangerous.

The Question of Why

I am reminded of something else, which is seeing the age old question recently: “Why does everyone hate [this person]?”

Seeing this on MAL, especially a lot of criticism on Kaji, I wondered myself. I couldn’t say that I “hate” the guy. He’s cute as a button, a gamer, and he’s probably like every other actor with aspirations of playing any character. TO have those aspirations, you have to be allowed to take some smoke. Not the type to play the buff or old guy. Maybe a girl one day; I think he’ll do okama just fine, just look at Haruka of Dimension W.

If I had my own answer, I think he and others in the main line are establishing what anime should be, especially for boys. It felt like this for maybe 10 to 15 years. People had admit that they don’t like to watch shows before a certain year.

You often see famous (?) VAs in romantic visual novels and drama CDs. Kaji (and Hanae or Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) is usually the inexperienced brat and someone orthodox, or a character with a high frequency. So that’ll give him plenty of room to be in various shows since they incline towards boys and girls.

As Mark Hamill had said, “I want to be the bad guy.” He’s darn good at it too. I should touch up on this topic again the future.

Links

Arslan Anime Twitter: Eagerness

Interview from animation producer, Tsuchida

OKMusic Japan: Tsuchida interview

 

 

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