Mentioned: Anzai Chika, Uchida Yuma, Hirata Hiroaki, Noto Mamiko
※After the Qualidea Code interview is a Q&A about some of the books that Soma enjoys.
The Earth is suddenly attacked by unidentified enemies called the “Unknown,” which push humanity towards the brink of collapse. Three strongholds are built in Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba, and the boys and girls assigned there use their innate special powers to fight the Unknown. Saito Soma plays the role of Suzaku Ichiya, a young man who fights on the front lines as the leader of Tokyo. This interview was conducted when he’d just finished recording for the series.
Q: First, what were your impressions after reading the novel?
I read all of the novels that have been published, and I thought it was a really interesting concept—having leading authors show their individual flairs in a shared world, and even animating it. When I read the novel that my character Suzaku is the protagonist of, Sonna Sekai wa Kowashite Shimae (by Sagara Sou), his character was a bit different from what I’d felt at the audition. But strangely enough, now that I’m actually voicing him, there are aspects that feel the same as my original impression.
Q: Sonna Sekai wa Kowashite Shimae is a prequel to the anime, so Suzaku’s character certainly does feel a bit different.
You can imagine that something might’ve happened between the prequel and the first episode of the anime. In the novel, the mysterious girl Canaria talks with her friends Tsugumi and Suzaku. That Suzaku is a straightforward and honest man who can genuinely say that he “loves humankind,” and I sensed his original focus there. At the same time, his words are harsh, so he tends to be seen as unpleasant or high-handed. But, he faces the Unknown with sincere feelings. Normally you can’t grasp everything about a character just from the anime script, but the novel provided a lot of material for understanding him better, so it was important for voicing him.
Q: Suzaku’s relationship with Canaria and his rivalry with Chiba’s second-in-command Kasumi are interesting too.
Suzaku’s honesty means he doesn’t choose his words carefully, but he isn’t actually trying to rile up others. However, Kasumi is the sole exception—Suzaku does intentionally try to rile him up *laughs*.
Also, during the audition, there was the problem of what his stance should be towards Canaria. At first, I thought he would be quite harsh, but at the next recording after reading the novel, Sagara-sensei said to me that he was glad Suzaku became friendlier. The change was something that happened naturally after reading the original work.
Q: This series takes place in a dystopia, but what do you find appealing about the setting?
There’s a cold sleep shelter, and only the children woke up from it, gaining special powers called “Worlds” and being tasked with protecting Earth from the “Unknown”… That explanation might be hard to understand *laughs*. But, I think it’s also a story about a world on the brink of destruction, where adults and children build pseudo familial relationships. I’m quite a big fan of dystopia sci-fi, and I can feel the “solidarity between the ones still remaining” in this work. But, whether that solidarity is “happiness” is a different question.
Q: It’s also interesting how the world’s mystery is revealed bit by bit.
It makes me wonder if it’ll go the route where, once the full story is revealed, your perspective of the world will change completely. In that sense, nowadays it’s normal for anime to have a lot of dialogue and explanations, but this one is interesting in how it leaves room for imagination as it narrows down its setting. So, I think that even people who aren’t fond of sci-fi will find it worthwhile to follow the story one episode at a time.
Q: Did the director or sound director say anything to you regarding your role?
Rather than anything specific, it was more like we took it one episode at a time. The sound director, Ebina Yasunori-san, is someone I worked with when I was still a newbie. During the audition, he told me that when I was expressing Suzaku’s arrogance, all of my intonations were becoming monotonous. He taught me to make the character more alive, and I think that was a major influence for me this time.
Also, when I talked to the authors of the original novels, they said that Suzaku was the easiest to understand, so I got the impression that I shouldn’t try to make him too elaborate.
Something else I found difficult was that the three pairs, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa, spoke in very unique and characteristic registers. We haven’t been able to thoroughly discuss it with the director yet, but it feels like he’s guiding us along a very precise balance.
Q: What is the recording atmosphere like?
The six main cast members are close in age, so it feels like we’re experiencing the characters’ high school atmosphere in reality. Plus, we still don’t know what the next plot developments will be, so it feels like we’re going through the same thing as Suzaku and the others—suddenly being thrown into a world where we have to fight.
As for the recording itself, the six of us sit in a row, and the Chiba pair (Anzai Chika and Uchida Yuma) are really funny, so everyone’s always laughing and having fun thanks to them. Of course, there are also senpais like Hirata-san and Noto-san, so it feels similar to the story’s world. I’m supported by my friends and senpais, and all of the staff assess our voices very earnestly. We spend a long time carefully crafting each episode, so it feels like everyone is synchronizing better with each one.
Q: The dialogue pacing also strikes a delicate balance between comedic and serious elements. How did you act out those?
It really is fun when you’re talking seriously in one scene and then laughing in the next. But for Suzaku, he uses a relatively serious tone no matter the scene. Personally, I think it’s because he speaks so seriously that he contrasts the other characters, so the rest falls upon the recipient of his words, the visuals, and the viewers’ interpretation. I hope you’ll find it entertaining.
Q: Is there anything you do to preserve the condition of your voice and throat?
Suzaku is a character that does things briskly, so I strive to speak bluntly. But, when you’re too blunt, it turns into something else, so I keep in mind to balance it with speaking clearly. So, I bought a facial massager to loosen the stiffness in my jaw and tongue *laughs*. I also try not to catch colds.
Q: By the way, do you have anything in common with Suzaku?
I wonder… Suzaku is a rather single-minded character, right? His favourite saying is, “I can handle it myself” *laughs*. I think he’s a man who won’t be satisfied unless he does everything himself, and stubbornly insists on doing something about the current situation. From another angle, it means that he’s bad at relying on others. I’m closer to that type myself, so perhaps we’re similar.
Also, Suzaku has a chuunibyou side that he’s oblivious to. He gives people’s abilities alternate names… I’m definitely not like that, but I can kind of sense something similar between us there *laughs*.
That said, I want to prioritize what kind of person Suzaku Ichiya is over whether or not I resemble him. I want to voice him for who he is, without letting our similarities take the lead.
Q: In that case, what do you think is important in voicing him for who he is?
Not reading ahead in the story. It’s not exclusive to this series, but in this case, Suzaku has been placed in a certain situation, and he makes his own predictions and takes his own actions. I want to maintain the feeling of being directly connected to him, and value the fact that “Suzaku Ichiya is there.”
Also, it’s interesting how each of the characters have different stances in their conversations. I make sure to remember to have a clear distinction between “how Saito Soma would want to respond to that line” and “how Suzaku would actually respond to that line.” During conversation scenes, if I conform too much to the other person speaking, then it won’t sound like Suzaku’s talking anymore. So, I take care to maintain that sense of balance.
Q: What is your current goal as a voice actor?
I think the most important thing is attitude—expressing my lines properly, without pridefulness. It’s always easy to say you’ll do something, but putting it into practice correctly is difficult. So, I always keep my attitude in mind, as a caution to myself. In addition to humility, I also think that impulsiveness is important for acting. Instead of just protecting myself, I also need to break free from that protection. Maybe that’s why “balance” was the theme of today’s interview *laughs*.
I absorb various things from anime, books, films, and stage plays, and I want to leverage those when I’m addressing people or listening to them speak. Those are where my foundations lie, and I’d say my goal is to build on those, pursuing different forms of expression through reading performances and whatnot. To leap at things I don’t know, while also taking careful steps. I hope that my words will reach the ears of many.
Book-Related Questions for Saito Soma
Q: What’s your favourite quote?
* “If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons why men drink.
Good wine, a friend, or being dry,
Or lest we should be by-and-by,
Or any other reason why.” (From Scotch to Sentou by Tamura Ryuichi)
In one of his books, the poet Tamura Ryuichi introduced this quote from scholar Henry Aldrich, who was a dean of Christ Church at the University of Oxford. I completely agree! *laughs* I also used to be a reckless drinker, but recently I’ve been trying to drink more maturely, and this quote is always present in the side of my head. I love how it combines humour and moderation. It’s also encouraging, when something bad happens and I want to relax a little and overcome it with humour. Although, in the case of Tamura-san the first-class drunkard, I think he uses this as an excuse to drink. *laughs*
*English translation was taken from Wikiquote.
Q: Which books would you like to read for an audience?
- Dazai Osamu’s works
- Raymond Carver’s works
- Tamura Ryuichi’s works
- Kyuusekai by Fukuma Kenji
Since I was born in Japan and was accepted into this line of work, I really do want to try Dazai Osamu. A major title like No Longer Human would be nice, but Dazai also has many works that are humorous or lyrical. He has a masterful writing style with an incredible sense of rhythm. His works are almost a century old now, and yet people today can still latch onto the rhythm when they read them out loud, which isn’t something that can be said of most compositions from that long ago.
I’d also like to try a translated work, especially from an author like Raymond Carver, or something that’s been translated to modern Japanese by the translator Kishimoto Sachiko. I get the feeling that we rarely get the chance to recite translated works, so it sounds like it’d be interesting.
Next is poetry. There’s the orthodox Tamura Ryuichi-san, and Fukuma Kenji-san’s Kyuusekai also left a deep impression on me. In reading performances, we can express ourselves with more than just our voices—for example, acting theatrically to the beat. So, I think it’s important to consider what you’re reading and how you’re doing it.
Q: Which books would you recommend for men?
- A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes
- Naze Anata wa “Aishitekurenai Hito” wo Suki ni Naru no ka by Nimura Hitoshi
A Lover’s Discourse was written by Barthes, a modern theorist. I think there are many people who believe that philosophy is boring, but this book is simply a collection of love stories, so I think it’ll hit home for young men who are struggling with love.
Next is Nimura Hitoshi-san’s Naze Anata wa “Aishitekurenai Hito” wo Suki ni Naru no ka (“Why do you fall in love with someone who won’t love you?”), which really struck me on a personal level *laughs*. It’s written in a rough style and talks about how you should confront yourself. My teenage years were gloomy *laughs*, and I want someone in the same situation to read this book and tell me what they think, because I believe that it saved me, just a bit.
Q: Which books would you recommend for women?
- Suki Suki Daisuki Chou Aishiteru. by Maijo Otaro
It’s not so much a “recommendation,” but something I’d like to hear their opinions on. I’m a fan of Maijo-sensei and have been reading his works ever since his debut work. The writing style in his novels has speed and incredible readability. It feels intoxicating to read, too. This book is a sci-fi romance and begins with, “Love is a prayer. I will pray.” I’d like to hear a woman’s opinion on the rest of the opening. *laughs*
Q: Which books influenced your life?
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- Jigokudou Reikai Tsuushin by Kouzuki Hinowa
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
When I was little, we had my grandmother’s copy of Encyclopædia Britannica at home, and I’d always be reading it during my free time. My mother would also read it to me, and she was really good at it. But, my parents would fall asleep quickly, so I guess I’d end up reading it by myself. For me, that was my formative reading experience.
In elementary school, the series I read the most was Jigokudou Reikai Tsuushin. It was like an occult version of Zukkoke Sanningumi (a series of children’s books) *laughs*. The three main characters were elementary schoolers named Tecchan, Ryouchin, and Shiina, and I loved Shiina-kun so much that I even wanted to make my surname Shiina *laughs*.
After that, I read a ton of things that combined sci-fi, youth, and summer elements. Qualidea Code fits that perfectly, huh? *laughs* If I were to name one of them, it’d be Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I’ve reread it many times, and I want to have a life that I too can call “Nice, Nice, Very Nice.”