[Interview] Bessatsu Kadokawa Scene 03 – The Talented Expresser: Saito Soma

Released: 2020/8/31

Soma was on the back cover and had a 16-page feature.

※There was originally a digital version released too, but it seems to be unavailable now. Either way I will not be posting scans for this one. (It’s in stock on Amazon Japan)

Interview #1: Saito Soma’s Roots and Desire for Expression

Saito has charmed many fans through his voice acting, music career, and essay-writing. Here, we explore his roots and creative side.

(1) Voice Acting

Acting is all about how close you can get to that person.

Saito Soma has appeared in many popular series such as IDOLiSH7 (as Kujo Tenn), Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- (as Yumeno Gentaro), and Haikyuu!! (as Yamaguchi Tadashi). He’s received high praise from anime fans for his diverse yet detailed acting ability. Now that he’s reached the tenth year of his career, we asked him about his stance towards voice acting, his ideal image of a voice actor, and his unique theory.

There are a lot of interesting things about this job. First is the question of “How close can I get to a character that isn’t me?” This applies to all types of acting, not just in anime—acting is all about how close you can get to that person. However, different actors have completely different ways of approaching their characters. Some people link themselves to the character while they act, while others use data to construct the character logically. Even if the approach differs, what’s most important is how well you can synchronize with the character and the project.

I myself go through a lot of trial and error, but if you ask me for my ideal, I think it’s best to be able to act without thinking about anything. In real life, you wouldn’t think, “This is my personality, so this is how I should talk,” right? It’s important to use a logical approach at first, but I want to be able to jump from there to “unconscious” acting. Right now I’m having the most fun pursuing that.

As I gained experience, my perception of time changed. The other day, I was talking to a veteran voice actor and agreed with them that it’s very important how you perceive the duration of “one second.” In everyday life, a second passes before you know it—but when we’re recording and the line is one second too short, they’ll throw in another three words, meaning that it was quite a bit too short *laughs*. This job requires us to have a macro bird’s-eye view of the overall work, and at the same time, a micro awareness of “How do I perceive one second?”

This year, it’ll have been ten years since I debuted as a voice actor, but if you asked me ten years ago, “What do you think one second is?”, I don’t think I would’ve been able to give much of an answer. I think that being able to sense an expansive space in the duration of “one second” now is a sign that I’ve grown at least a bit. The more I continue down the road of anime, the more things I notice, and the more I find myself thinking, “This part is too short.” Voice acting really is a job where you can take pride in your technique. I hope to treasure each and every one of my roles while progressing towards my goal.

But if you ask me whether or not I’m suited for this job, I still don’t know the answer. Of course, I leaped into this world because I admired voice acting, but that doesn’t mean I analyzed myself and thought, “I have these traits and weapons in my arsenal, so I can put up a fight here.” After having the opportunity to be part of so many anime series, I do have my own methodology, but as I said before, it’s not good to be too caught up in analyses and theories. Even if you stick to your ways and use what you’ve learned that way, it’s of no use if it doesn’t match the project.

You need the adaptability to let go of your fixations.

Saito has gained a wide range of expressiveness through the many characters he’s voiced. He’s built up his own voice acting techniques and methods, but sometimes it’s important to discard them.

This is veering into philosophy, but I recently came across the word “non-self” in a book I read, and I thought it was really good. Not “selflessness,” but “non-self.” It’s important to have your own “self,” as in something that forms your axis, but if you adhere too closely to it, you’ll suddenly get left behind by the world which is always in a state of flux. For example, let’s say you get assigned to a character that’s difficult to portray. You read the script and come up with your own interpretation of what kind of person they are. But if you go to the recording and they tell you “That’s not right,” how do you react? Of course, it’s fine if you just think, “Oh, so I was wrong.” But if you don’t have that flexibility and instead think, “That can’t be true!”, then you’ll get bogged down. Everyone has their fixations, but you need the adaptability to let go of them when the time calls for it. When I see my seniors doing that, I think they’re amazing.

It’s a matter of calmly looking at the work as a whole and maintaining a balance—sometimes I do it my way and sometimes I express what I sense around me. So when interviewers ask me, “What is voice acting?”, I can only say, “Right now it’s like this.” I want to be able to enjoy all of the changes.

Voice actors actually have a lot of freedom thanks to the nature of animation. For example, when it comes to gasping, there are subtle differences depending on whether it’s from a sudden realization, surprise, or shock, making for countless ways to do it. Since we’re free from the restrictions of 3-D, more detail is expected from us. I think that’s one of the characteristics of anime.

Even in a live play, I think the principles are the same as voice acting. You have a script and you connect your heart’s movements with your body’s movements… I don’t have experience with acting in traditional plays, but I think the essence is the same: getting as close to a character in a fictional world as you can. Of course, due to the medium, the way you express yourself is different—a live play has the advantage of being able to use your body—so I’m personally really interested in it. I’m turning thirty next year, and I want to challenge new things.

My favourite movies? When I was a student, I watched more indie films than Hollywood blockbusters. I was interested in surrealism because of Nakajima Ramo, so I’d watch things like Un Chien Andalou. I also like sci-fi, so I watched everything from esoteric films like Donnie Darko to staples like A Clockwork Orange. After starting this line of work, I also began watching dubs of action and comedy films. I think that translation is amazing, and it’s educational from a voice acting perspective too.

(2) Music

I was seeking something different from everyone else.

Saito’s artist career began in 2017 with the single “Fish Story.” In 2018, he showed off his talent for composition, lyrics, and even CD cover design with his first album “quantum stranger.” His style combined his deep musical sense with “the voice actor Saito Soma’s” pop music. Now, he’s evolving that style even further. First, let’s take a look at his musical journey.

Rather than listening to music from specific periods or listening in a systematic way, it feels more like I reach out to whatever I like or am interested in. In elementary school, it was centered around what my parents listened to in the car: Yuming-san (Matsutoya Yumi), Inoue Yosui-san, Spitz. They also played a lot of the Beatles. I still like those songs, and I think they’re reflected in the music I write now.

I fully got into music in my first year of middle school because of a friend I made. His whole family was into subculture—his parents and older brother were all knowledgeable about pop culture and subcultures. He put his recommended songs on a MiniDisc for me, and on it was U2; “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Marilyn Manson; and Kinniku Shoujo-tai. Those varying genres of bands were my gateway, and I delved deeper from there. As for the current music at the time, my middle school years happened to coincide with the rock ‘n’ roll revival period. Some of the bands I liked were the Stripes, the Libertines, and Bloc Party. I listened to their songs a lot.

Looking back now, I think I was seeking something different from everyone else. It wasn’t that I was trying to reach farther, but rather, I proactively took in things that other people didn’t know about and weren’t interested in. I was looking for “someone who isn’t me, in a place that isn’t here.” I think it was music and fictional works such as novels, movies, and animation that satisfied that longing of mine.

I think I realized that it was important to absorb different things, contemplate them by myself, and decide what to do.

In elementary school, I was aware that I was living as a model student. As a child, I lived my life thinking about how I should act to get adults to accept me… So when I learned about rock, punk, and literature, I think I was shocked to discover that those things existed in the world. They were vulgar in a good way, and very free. They made me think that maybe I’d been living my life not thinking about anything. I didn’t rebel against my actual lifestyle, but I wrote songs and prose, trying to become a me who wasn’t a model student. I think I realized that it was important to absorb different things, contemplate them by myself, and decide what to do.

I prioritize entertainment value above all else.

Considering that he’s been delving deep into music ever since middle school, it was inevitable that he’d start his own artist career. Just like with voice acting, he has his own unique stance when it comes to music too. His central principle is entertainment value that a wide variety of listeners can enjoy.

When it comes to the music career of “the voice actor Saito Soma,” I prioritize entertainment value above all else. My voice acting work came first, and the various connections I made through there gave me the opportunity to release songs and perform live. But I don’t exactly try to show my true colours there in a “listen to what I have to say” way. In all of the songs I’ve released so far, there hasn’t been a single message song or love song. I’d say I’m more similar to Pete Doherty (from the Libertines) who also often wrote lyrics about fictional settings. Although as a listener, I do enjoy message songs too, and there are love songs that tug at my heartstrings.

Also, rather than songs that say “You’re not alone,” I’m more drawn to songs that say “It’s okay to be alone.” Like Elliott Smith’s lyrics, or in terms of Japanese bands, ART-SCHOOL, BURGER NUDS, GRAPEVINE…that kind of introspective mood. I want to mix that element into the voice actor Saito Soma’s pop music.

My songs don’t have any of that “Happy! Yay!” stuff in them, so they might not be suited for live concerts *laughs*. I was in a band when I was a teenager, but at that time, I was already thinking, “I want to create the best music” instead of “I want to perform live.” That hasn’t changed, so when I’m composing, I don’t think about whether I’ll be able to reproduce the songs at a concert. For example, “Waltz” and “Lemming, Ai, Obelisk” have a ton of layered vocals. It becomes a question of “How are you going to perform this live?” *laughs*

I also like albums that have concepts, and I’m fussy about CD jacket designs too. CDs are more than just music—you can put them on display and the lyrics cards are fun to read. I suspect that we’ll be the last generation to experience the appeal of CDs, so I want to provide the enjoyment of holding music in a physical form. For the packaging, I work together with the record label’s producer and designer. While I do present my own design direction, the staff also suggest a lot of ideas that I think are great. I love how it feels like we’re creating it as a team, and it’s a lot of fun.

(3) Writing

I don’t include any personal messages in my writing at all.

Saito Soma is also known as a writer. In 2018 he released his first essay collection, Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, and he actively does writing work. We asked him about his history as a reader and how he feels about writing.

Writing was my first interest, not acting or music. Everyone in my family was a different type of reader, so our house had lots of books and I naturally ended up reading from a lot of genres. My tastes were probably closest to my grandmother. Her bookshelf had the first edition of Kojima Nobuo-san’s Zankou, and it was just amazing. In middle school, I liked reading Dazai Osamu-san, Oken-san (Otsuki Kenji), and Tsutsui Yasutaka-san, among others. I also liked South American literature like Borges and García Márquez.

I wrote as a hobby in university, and after working as a voice actor, I received an offer to write an essay serialization. The serialization was published as a book in 2018, and circumstances permitting, I’d like to release a second one.

I consider essays a form of entertainment too, so I hope the readers have fun reading them. If I were to write fiction, I’d like to write a curious and bizarre story.

One time, the editor in charge of my essay collection read me a short story. It was about someone who regularly drank in Kichijoji, and at some point he accidentally wandered into an ogres’ feast, where he was made to gamble by guessing which of nine fingers was a human finger and licking it. I’d like to turn that kind of thing into an entertaining pop story, but I haven’t been able to find the time… I hope to be able to plug away at it.

Just like with my music, I don’t include any personal messages in my writing at all. I don’t think there’s any connection whatsoever between my creative works and my own thoughts and beliefs. I think that’s probably because…creating is a hobby for me. I’m not doing it with the intent of expressing my feelings… For example, I might walk outside and think, “It sure is bright,” and when the wind blows, “This feels nice.” Even if I directly convert those situations into my creations, I don’t add my own emotions to them. If there was something I really wanted to assert, I think it’d be better to say it straight out instead of going through a creative work.

Column: Tell us your recommended autumn entertainment!

First is Dazai Osamu’s “A, Aki” which can be read on Aozora Bunko. It’s about a professional poet who keeps notes on poetry materials because “you never know what kind of request will come in.” When they flip to the page for “autumn,” what’s written there is “Dragonfly. Transparent.” It shows how genius Dazai was.

Also, though the genre is horror, Tsunekawa Kotaro’s Aki no Rougoku (Autumn Prison) has a peculiar setting but is very easy to read. I often say that I like bizarre stories, and I recommend this to people who wonder what I mean by that.

As for anime, Zettai Shounen. For me, autumn is the season for sci-fi, and this anime does a great job at blending slice of life and sci-fi elements. I own the DVD boxset and have watched it many times. *laughs*

Interview #2: Saito Soma’s Artist Career – Chapter 2

The second chapter of Saito’s artist career has begun with the “in bloom” series (three digital releases) themed around “the changing of seasons” and “what comes after the end of the world.” We asked about his preferences when it comes to lyrics and producing his own music.

I feel that I can be bolder now.

Saito Soma completed Chapter 1 of his music career with his first album quantum stranger (2018) and his mini-album my blue vacation (2019). The “in bloom” series that marks the start of Chapter 2 consists of three songs: “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette,” which are themed around “the changing of seasons” and “what comes after the end of the world.” Entering this new phase, he said he thought that he could be bolder music-wise. In this interview, he reflects on his career so far and speaks about where he currently stands as an artist.

My personal music career began with my debut single Fish Story, which Oishi Masayoshi-san wrote for me. Then came my second single which was centered around “the end of the world” (Yoake wa Mada / Hikari Tatsu Ame), my third single Date which I composed and wrote lyrics for by myself, my first album quantum stranger, and then my first live concert (quantum stranger(s)). With that, I felt that I’d reached a milestone. I hadn’t done everything yet, but the two years since my debut had flowed very nicely, so I thought that I could call that “Chapter 1.” The final part of that chapter was a song called “Epilogue” that was released in March this year.

Up until now, I strongly felt that “as long as I’m a voice actor, I want to produce music that has entertainment value.” That still hasn’t changed, but when I heard what my listeners had to say, I also felt that I could be bolder now. There were things that I’d originally decided not to do, but in the EP I released last year (my blue vacation), there was a song with a darker atmosphere than anything I’d released before. I’m also trying new things with “in bloom” which will be the start of Chapter 2.

As for the title “in bloom” itself… at first, I didn’t plan on giving it a name. But the producer at the record label told me to give it one because it’d be easier to promote it that way *laughs*. “in bloom” was originally going to be a song title. To put it simply, it means “after the rain, flowers bloom”—it relates to the theme of “after the end of the world.” Dazai Osamu wrote a story called Roman Dourou. It’s about five siblings that like books, and there’s a part that goes, “It says that everyone lived happily ever after, but what we want to know is what actually happened after that, right?” and I thought, “True!” I wanted to depict what happens after my “end of the world,” and that was going to be the song called “in bloom.” After the rain, beautiful flowers bloom. It also has the imagery of changing seasons.

Saito Soma’s second chapter is starting with the three songs in the “in bloom” series: Petrichor, Summerholic!, and Palette. From the lyrics to the sound production to the vocals, every song is packed with new expressions.

“Petrichor” is a shuffle beat song. The rhythm has a swing to it, and when you first listen to it, it sounds like a normal pop song—but when you look at it from a different angle, you see that it’s more than what it seems. In that sense, I think it’s a bold song. As for the lyrics, technique-wise, at first I wanted to write it without a single foreign loanword. I wanted it to feel like the “new music” genre from the 70s and 80s. But as I was writing, I thought, “There isn’t much point in imposing this restriction by myself” *laughs*. The tentative title back then was “Amadare” (raindrops dripping from eaves/etc), which led me to “Petrichor.” Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on soil. I chose it because it’s a song themed around rain.

“Summerholic!” seems like it’ll be exciting at a concert, I think? It’s an up-tempo song with a cheerful melody. Although the lyrics are about spending summer cooped up in your room *laughs*. I put a lot of homages into this song. Specifically, the Libertines, the Cribs, and Ojamajo Doremi. The chord progression is commonly used by English rock bands, so it has a UK rock aesthetic. The melody has a summery atmosphere. The lyrics are about not going outside to play, instead eating ice cream and drinking beer in an air-conditioned room. Even though it’s bright and sunny outside, the protagonist chooses to enjoy spending their time at home.

“Petrichor” is about the rainy season, “Summerholic!” is about summer, and the third song “Palette” is about the transition from summer to fall. It tends to be a sentimental time of year, but instead of giving it a name, I decided to try turning it into a song. The lyrics are quite optimistic. At first I wanted to make them darker, but my mind changed bit by bit as I was writing. Before you realize it, summer is gone and the season has changed—and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I was rewriting the lyrics up until the day of the recording, and it became a song that expresses painful feelings within grandiose sound. I want “Palette” to be heard in the loudest volume that your environment will allow for. I think it’s an immersive song, so you can even pretend you’re the MV’s protagonist when you listen to it. *laughs*

For all three songs, we were joined by amazing musicians. “Petrichor” was done quite experimentally, while I could really feel the band’s groove in “Summerholic!” and “Palette.” Ono Takemasa-san’s (from KEYTALK) guitar solos greatly exceeded the scope of the demos. That’s the thrill of creating music as a team, and I’m thankful for it.

As for the sound, I consciously produced the songs in the style of Western music. By not increasing the number of notes, it creates gaps where you can feel the groove. I also emphasized listenability, but they did end up being quite bold. Also, I obtained quite a lot of equipment during the stay-home period. I used to create my demo tracks by recording myself singing to my own guitar, but now I can do some of the programming myself too. I want to combine the best aspects of analog and digital.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are restrictions on all artist concerts. Saito is no exception, but he seems to have an idea of what kind of live performance he can do.

Live concerts aren’t possible in the current situation, but there’s nothing that can be done about that. If the situation improves, I’d like to try an acoustic concert. My songs aren’t the kind where everyone gets loud and hyped up anyway *laughs*. I think it’d be nice to have people listen to them carefully in acoustic form. Dirty Pretty Things’ first album Waterloo to Anywhere had an acoustic version of one of the songs as a bonus track ((note: Japanese edition only)), and I suspect that it was recorded in a big area, which sounds really fun. I think it’d be nice to have a fun acoustic concert with the musicians for everyone to see. It’s only a thought, though—nothing’s been decided yet.

I’m actually not that comfortable with my own concerts. When I’m standing in front of people as Saito Soma, rather than a character, I don’t know how I should act. But I gain very much from it. Brainstorming with all of the staff, spending time to prepare, and then putting on the show itself—the sense of accomplishment after making it through isn’t something that you can feel just anywhere. Year by year, the joy of concerts is budding within me.

Staff Interview: Saku

Saku is a composer, lyricist, arranger, and guitarist who has been deeply involved with Saito’s music. We asked him about Saito’s songs, lyrics, and nature.

It’s my role to organize Soma-kun’s ideas and brush them up.

Saku has been the main arranger supporting Saito Soma’s music from his third single “Date” up until now with the “in bloom” series. He’s also done composing and guitar work for artists like Kanjani∞, Aoi Eir, Haruna Luna, Amamiya Sora, and Kito Akari. We asked him about how he met Saito, as well as the nature of Saito’s music and character.

I met Soma-kun in 2018 when the record label producer introduced us to each other. I joined them when they were drinking and we talked about various things. We hit it off right away because of our similar tastes, like how we both liked GRAPEVINE. He showed me the song “Reminiscence” that later became part of his third single Date. It had a bit of a GRAPEVINE feel to it, and after listening to it once, I really liked it. From there, I got to be the arranger for his songs. It was right when he started doing his own compositions and lyrics.

Soma-kun’s songs are a bit unusual. The chord progressions and melodies have unexpected parts that make you think, “It’s going that way?”—anyway, they’re unique. For example, “Summerholic!” has parts where the chords and melody don’t match up, but when you try to change the chords to the right ones, something feels wrong. That’s Soma-kun’s characteristic quirk. Building up his songs as an arranger is extremely stimulating, and I’ve gained a lot from the experience.

His lyrics also have a unique world view. Every time he sends me a song, I look up word definitions *laughs*. I understand the content, but I’d never be able to write these lyrics myself.

It seems that at first he used his iPhone to record himself singing to his guitar, but lately he’s been able to do his own programming and the quality of his demos has greatly improved. He also sends me reference tracks, saying things like, “I want the rhythm to be like this song” and “the guitar should sound like this song,” and they’ll be songs that only an enthusiast would know. The noise guitar reference for “Petrichor” was an artist named Arto Lindsay, and I didn’t know who that was *laughs*. Soma-kun really is knowledgeable about a lot of different music.

We’re trying new things with the “in bloom” series. The saxophone phrase in the intro to “Petrichor” was Soma-kun’s idea. In the demo he played it with guitar and asked to use a saxophone for it. It’s my role to organize Soma-kun’s ideas and brush them up.

He’s also an amazing vocalist. He has the strength you’d expect from a male vocalist, but his high notes also feel like a woman’s vocals. He also has a clean falsetto, so we often layer the chorus melody with one an octave higher. Soma-kun seems to like doing that too. When we’re recording, he doesn’t just sing the way that was planned—he also gives suggestions, like, “How about this way?” It’s really fun to make changes on the spot like that.

Soma-kun’s human nature? How do I put this… He’s really a good kid *laughs*. He’s polite to everyone, he’s friendly, and everyone loves him. It comes really naturally too. It doesn’t feel like we’re just work associates—it feels like Soma-kun, the producer, the engineer, and I are in a band together. He often sends me LINE messages like, “I hadn’t given Foo Fighters a proper listen, but they’re cool, huh?” *laughs*

I hope that Soma-kun will continue to demonstrate more of his individuality. He already has a lot of dark songs, but I think he can step into his dark side even more. But since Soma-kun’s really nice, I think he’ll also compose songs that will make his fans happy.

Bonus: Off-shots from the photo shoot (2 per tweet GIF)

[Interview] Livedoor News – From Subculture Boy to Actor: What Colour is Saito Soma’s World?

Original Article: https://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/17211623/
Published: 2019/10/15

Saito Soma (Tama in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)

Ono Kensho (Pochi in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Kaji Yuki (Nora in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Uchida Yuma (Beh in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Maeno Tomoaki (Bull in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Shirai Yusuke (Tora in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Hatano Wataru (Gon in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Nakajima Yoshiki
Nakao Ryusei

Saito Soma is a popular voice actor, known for roles such as Kujou Tenn from IDOLiSH7, Tsurumaru Kuninaga from Touken Ranbu, and Yumeno Gentarou from Hypnosis Mic.

He’s demonstrated his many talents over the years, beginning a music career in 2017 and releasing his first essay collection in 2018.

Coming upon his 10th year as a voice actor, he says, “There’s the ‘Saito Soma’ in quotation marks, and then there’s the normal Saito Soma. By linking the two well, I’ll be able to express myself in even more ways. I think I’ll make that my personal theme for the future.”

The image others want to see from him versus his natural self. Perhaps it’s because of that gap that he has such a wide range of expression. While reflecting on how the voice acting industry has changed him, we ask him where he is now.

“It’s cute seeing a cat’s instinctive actions performed in human form!”

The Tama & Friends ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~ franchise began with character goods in 1983, and became loved through all sorts of media forms, ranging from manga and school exercises to picture books and anime.

The new anime Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~ casts popular voice actors to familiar characters like Tama, Pochi, and Tora. We interviewed Saito Soma, who will be voicing the protagonist, Okamoto Tama.

Q: How did you feel when you got the role?

Various works these days are based off of anthropomorphization, but I was surprised that the beloved franchise Tama & Friends would become one of them. I had no idea what the anime setting would be like, so I was genuinely excited to find out.

Q: It seems that Episode 1’s recording has concluded. (This interview was conducted in August.) Did you voice your role as a cat or as a human?

It was completely as a cat. In their world, only their outer appearance is the humanized form.

I think the most unique trait of this anime adaptation is that it makes use of both the humanized forms and the actual animal forms. For Tama, the humans see him as a cat, but when he’s talking to Pochi or his other friends, they see each other in the human forms.

So, it’s important for me to keep in mind that he doesn’t follow the logical thought patterns of humans. He lives through his natural instincts as a cat.

For example, when a cat hears something, its natural reaction is to go towards the source of the sound, and that’s depicted as-is, to make it more realistic. I think that depicting those cat actions with a human form is a fun experiment.

Q: So, what did you keep in mind when voicing Tama?

Instead of acting more cutely than necessary, I think it’s closer to a cat’s natural appeal to express that cuteness in ways other than my voice.

For example, in Episode 1, Tama gets lost with Pochi (CV: Ono Kensho), but despite being lost, he still goes “I’m hungry~” and eats the food at someone else’s house without asking *laughs*

Tama doesn’t try to act cute; it’s a result of his natural actions. Hopefully, the viewers will think, “Oh, you were hungry so it’s not your fault. There there.”

Q: What about becoming more cat-like?

We voice the parts when they’re in their animal forms too, but real cats don’t actually say “meow,” right? So, I prepared in advance by watching videos.

However, when it comes to animation, I’ve never thought that it was important to be true to real life. What’s more important is having “a sense” of realism.

I strive to not adopt too many real world elements, so that my own imagination won’t be inhibited.

“When I voiced the child form, Shirai Yusuke said ‘That was good, I guess?'”

Q: What was the recording session like?

It was extremely peaceful. Many of us had co-starred often before, so the atmosphere felt comfortable right from the get-go.

The cat that Kaji (Yuki)-san voices, Nora, is an intelligent and cool character, and Kaji-san went all-in on voicing him that way… but his acting was so perfect that everyone would tease him for it *laughs* Kaji-san responded to our teasing in a hilarious way, and sometimes he’d tease me and (Uchida) Yuma-kun (voice of Beh) too *laughs*

Q: Who was teasing Kaji-san–

*interjects* It was Maeno (Tomoaki)-san (voice of Bull) *laughs*

Q: And who was teasing you?

I guess it’d be Shirai (Yusuke)-kun (voice of Tora). When I voiced Tama’s child form, he said, “That was good, I guess?” *laughs*

Aside from him, there were other people like Yuma-kun, Kaji-san, and Hatano (Wataru)-san (voice of Gon) who would also crack jokes at every opportunity, and I think this harmonious recording setting will bring about good results.

Q: You have the lead role, but what was your position during recording?

While the title is Uchitama?!, it’s definitely not a Tama-centric show. It depicts the lives of the Third Street inhabitants from various angles, and the cast includes many veteran senpais, so I didn’t have to get overly fired up.

If I have to say, I guess when we’re recording separate character lines, the first to speak is often Tama. I experiment with how cute and entertaining I can go, and pass the baton to the next person.

Q: I know it’s only been one episode, but what was the input from the director?

As of now, nothing at all *laughs* The audition for this show was done by sending in voice samples, so I guess what I submitted was close to what the staff wanted.

Tama shows what he’s feeling right away, so instead of overthinking it, I felt that it’d be better to feel what he’s feeling and output it directly.

It’s an ambitious project, and I think the best part of putting it together will be seeing how far beyond people’s expectations we can take it (in a good way). The creation team is still making sure to keep Tama’s character flexible.

I think it’s great when we, as actors, incorporate our presentation ideas, developing the characters and the work as a whole with each recording session.

“The type that withdraws from excessive human interaction”

Q: Now then, if you were a cat, what kind of cat do you think you’d be?

A Somali cat… Actually, there’s a guy named Nakajima Yoshiki at my agency (81 Produce), and he told me to say Somali *laughs* “Your names are similar, so it’d be good, right?” Apparently, Somalis have a clear voice, like a ringing bell.

Q: How would you like to be raised?

I’m the type that tends to pull back from excessive human interference, so I’d prefer to only be pampered very occasionally. A moderate amount of being left alone and a moderate amount of pampering… I wouldn’t want to be taken care of like that. I have my own life, so… *laughs*

People are people, cats are cats. I believe that each has their own territory.

Q: I see. By the way, regarding your answer to the cat question, how did you and Nakajima Yoshiki-san end up talking about Somalis?

I go drinking with Yoshiki often these days. I don’t know much about cats, but he’s a cat lover, so he answered instantly. I looked up pictures and saw that they have very pretty faces, but it’s embarrassing to say that with a proud face *laughs*

Q: Do people say you’re like a cat?

Not much. Sometimes someone will say “I don’t know what you’re thinking; you’re like a cat,” but there are also people who say the opposite, that I’m like a dog. So, I guess I’m not particularly cat-like.

Q: Do you think you have the characteristics of a “cat-type boy”?

Stuff like “whimsical” might describe me, but I don’t think someone who would say “I’m a cat-type boy” would actually be a cat-type boy… right? *laughs*

Q: Are there any books that come to mind when you think of cats? What are your recommendations, being the bookworm that you are?

I like sci-fi, and cats often appear in sci-fi works. I don’t know if it’s because a cat’s perspective of the world is sci-fi-esque, but sci-fi authors from all sorts of times and places put cats in their novels.

There are three books I’d like to recommend. The first is Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The story has nothing to do with cats, but the title relates to the game of “cat’s cradle.” It’s the first book that comes to mind when I hear the word “cat.”

The second is Robert A. Heinlein’s The Door into Summer. This one is a classic sci-fi masterpiece, and a cat appears in the story. If I recall correctly, the new translation that came out recently had the cat on the front cover too.

The third one is Akiyama Mizuhito’s Neko no Chikyuugi. It’s a light novel, but I love Akiyama-sensei’s literary style. I encourage sci-fi lovers and cat lovers to read it.

“10 years is the starting line. I want to mature more.”

Q: Next year marks your 10th year as a voice actor. Congratulations!

Thank you.

Q: You’re currently 28. When you debuted, did you have a goal to continue until you were 30?

I didn’t have a concrete goal like that, but my senpais often told me, “Keep going for 10 years. When you’ve gone for 10 years, you’ve reached the starting line.” Those words really stuck with me, and I’m nothing short of grateful for the turns of fate that allowed me to come this far.

Although I didn’t feel this way when I first debuted, right now I want to hurry up and turn 30. In life, there’s a period when youth and freshness are a strength, but ideally you should build your accomplishments and mature more. To that extent, I want to do expressions with a depth that can only be attained through years of experience… for example, by challenging a role I’ve never done before.

Q: What kind of role would that be?

Something like an older character, or an extremely powerful villain. There are a lot of things where I think, “I haven’t acted this type of character before since it wasn’t asked of me, but I’m sure I’d like it,” so I hope I run into a work that’ll allow me to output that. But in the end, our work is a collaborative effort with the creators and staff. I always value the bonds that connect us.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to challenge in your music or writing?

For music, I released my first full album (quantum stranger) in December last year. It… wasn’t quite “Season 1”, but I feel that it wrapped up cleanly. Next, I want to present music that I didn’t try in Season 1.

For example, so far I’ve been intentionally writing orthodox songs with a verse, bridge, and chorus, but I’ve always liked songs that don’t follow that pattern. An understanding of that template will allow me to break free from it, and hopefully people will accept what I have to offer. My goal is music that’s irregular but seeps into your ears and body.

Q: How about on the writing front?

I’ve thankfully been given a lot of writing work, but I’ve always wanted to write a traveler’s journal, and I want to try it if my schedule will allow for it. I even want to spend several days exploring Europe.

I also want to write fiction, but first, I want to try expressing what I see and experience with my own eyes, as an extension of the essays I’m currently writing. Year after year, I feel that traveling has become more and more important in my life, and I want to create various works based on that.

“You can’t put conditions on emotions. I want to remove the excess filters on my heart.”

Q: Have your experiences in music and writing provided feedback for your acting work?

They use different circuits, so it doesn’t quite feel like feedback.

I purposefully use music and writing to express myself differently from the voice actor Saito Soma, so I think that if I were to link the two sides, I would end up limiting my creations to an extremely narrow world. The results will be better if I don’t try to do that.

You can’t put conditions on emotions… It’s important to stop thinking things like “It’d be better to feel this way” or “I should think this way.”

There’ll be moments when I think that while acting, but for myself, composing music and writing is work where I remove those so-called excess filters on my heart. So, to me, voice acting work and creative work are two equally important wheels that I can’t function without.

Q: What about the reverse, then? Do you receive feedback from your voice acting work?

A lot. That’s also because, before I set my sights on becoming a voice actor, I already liked composing music and writing.

Working as a voice actor for so long has definitely changed my way of thinking and feeling for the better, and those changes are greatly reflected in my music and writing.

My teenage self wouldn’t have been able to write the songs I’ve released so far.

Q: I read your essay book, Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, but after hearing what you said, now I want to read your future essays, five or ten years from now.

Thank you. I intentionally wrote the essays in that book to be read easily and smoothly–both in literary style and content–but in the end, I think they were only read because of the existence of the “Saito Soma” in quotation marks.

On the other hand, there are so many things that the “Saito Soma” in quotation marks will never be able to express to the world, and I think that’s because I’m holding myself back… Wait, but that doesn’t mean I’m talking about anything unethical *laughs*

I feel that if I can better link the “Saito Soma” in quotation marks with the normal Saito Soma, I’ll be able to express myself in even more ways. I think I’ll make that my personal theme for the future.

“Now is the time for grounding, not pursuing ascension.”

Q: About a year ago, you spoke about the word “ascension” in interviews and whatnot, which left quite the impression.

I’ve always liked the occult and spiritual things, and “ascension” is a spiritual word referring to the soul rising to the next level.

Q: You said that “encountering this word suddenly changed [your] way of thinking; it was like [you’d] been released from [your] chains, and living became a lot easier and more enjoyable.” You also said that “when the next ascension comes, [you] want to grab onto it and accept it.” Have there been any recent developments?

Life sure is complicated. Right now, I don’t feel as “chained down” as I did during that past interview. Back then, I did feel as though life had become easier, freer. But everything has different sides to it, and now I see that there was a good side and a bad side to that state.

I think it’s probably not realistic for things to always be getting better. You take one step forward, then fall several steps back. It’s a back-and-forth cycle.

If there’ll be another moment when my heart feels set free, then that’ll happen when it happens. Right now, I’m not going to forcefully focus on pursuing ascension, because grounding (living with your feet on the ground) is important too.

Q: Did leaving that “ascended” state affect your work?

Over the years, I’ve been granted more and more opportunities to do expressive work outside of acting, such as my music and writing activities. Because of that, my thoughts are moving more and more rapidly, and there are certainly some things that I can’t create without being in an “ascended” state. For example, lyrics and melodies.

On the other hand, I’m certain that there are also expressions that also come from a “grounded” state.

Q: Not being “ascended” doesn’t mean that you’ve taken steps back, though.

Indeed, it’s not a straight path. Being able to experience things in more varied ways is important as both a voice actor and a person, so I’ve accepted that now is the time for that.

Q: Lastly, is there anything your senpais have said to you or taught you about acting that you still take to heart today?

When I was in training, I was taught by Nakao Ryusei-san, a veteran at our agency, for a year. Ryusei-san taught me detailed techniques and whatnot, but he also taught me the mental attitude to have as a person and an actor. Among that was the “wait” attitude.

For example, when you receive a script, how should you spend the days left before the recording? There’s no right answer or anything. Obviously you have to read the script and prepare, but continuing to think about it constantly is a valid approach, as is doing something completely unrelated, because sometimes hints will come to you on their own. But, you also have the option to take it easy or have sneaky thoughts.

The same goes for the recording session. How do you interpret the time when it’s not your turn? Is it simply a time when you have no lines, or should you watch your senpais’ acting and try to absorb anything you can? That one change of attitude can make that time worthwhile. It’s what he called the valuable “wait attitude.”

When you get used to work and life itself, there are times when you’ll unintentionally forget to be nervous. When that’s about to happen, I remember what Ryusei-san said and focus my mind.

Q: It’s called “wait,” but it’s actually telling you to be proactive.

Yes. I’m a bit of a contrarian, so I interpreted it in the reverse: “This isn’t standby time; it’s free time that I can use to improve myself.”

Do you lament the current situation, or do you use it to change for the better? I think it all depends on your “wait attitude,” so when painful times come, I want to value those experiences.

Bonus off-shot from Soma’s fashion stylist:

Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu – Crystalline World

Released: 2018/10/31

※This essay was specially written for the book release of Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

Crystalline World (Kesshou Sekai)

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A classic thought experiment in philosophy.

My stance used to be that if I couldn’t perceive something, then it didn’t matter if it existed or not. So my answer to the above question was “No.” For example, in terms of communication, it didn’t matter what the intent behind my words was—the only thing that mattered was how people perceived them.

I happened to stop by a secondhand bookstore in Jinbocho, where I found a certain photobook. It was by Ana Barrado, an American photographer. The book, which had commentary by Asada Akira-san, retraced the work of sci-fi writer J. G. Ballard, evoking in me that dreamlike feeling of being awake yet asleep at the same time, on “that day, someday.”

The monochrome photographs captured rocket ships, tropics, vegetation, and the vestiges of humanity’s passionate craving for the unknown. It reminded me of Chirico or My Bloody Valentine in how it felt like I was tripping while sober. I couldn’t settle down, yet there was no need to rant and rave. Outer space and the tropics; a faraway place and where I am now. One and all. Elements that resonate and conflict. A state of calm.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books from genres I haven’t perused before. For example, I didn’t use to be interested in photography or architecture. I think it was because I didn’t think they were things I could create with my own hands. On that note, writing and music felt like they were within my reach. Perhaps who I am today began when I pretended that that shallow mindset was “interest.” That grand misunderstanding and assumption is forming who I am now, like a crystal lattice.

Of course, I still love them—in fact, my love for them is growing at an accelerating rate. But I now have a wide range of interests in addition to those, such as art, photography, architecture, fashion, engineering, machinery, political science and economics, mathematics, and traditional performance art. Ignorance is wonderful in some respects, but now that I have this superficial level of knowledge, I have to keep learning more forever. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic way, but rather that I truly want to do that. In the past, I read in a textbook that the word “philosophy” comes from the Greek “philosophia,” meaning “love of wisdom.” I do believe that I love “knowing.”

It’s said that in the year 2045, the technological singularity will occur and AI will surpass human intelligence. Wise people discuss its merits and their concerns, manipulating the masses. As I waver, I find myself right in the middle, wanting to see what will become of this world. Like Ana Barrado, I just want to be there, cherishing the game of drifting between fiction and reality. Like Erik Satie’s furniture music. Like a flower in Noh.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

My answer now is “Yes, probably.” And I, too, wish to live quietly and peacefully, like a tree standing still in an empty forest. That, or to keep listening in my heart for sounds that should not be heard.

I gently drift, waiting for the final moment when everything becomes a crystal, sparkling as it melts together. Not running or fighting. Not denying or affirming. Simply drifting.

(Thoughts on Ballard/Barrado)

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #15: Milk Boy, Milk Girl

Published: 2018/8/10
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/454

※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

When they’re distributing lunch at school and someone is absent, that’s when the war for the leftover milk begins.

Not to brag, but I was an extremely active young boy up until elementary school. I was the type of kid who would take the initiative to start a game of dodgeball during recess. I ate my school lunches heartily too, and I always participated in rock-paper-scissors battles for extra food.

My favourite part was the milk—I loved chugging down that cold, smooth, white substance, emptying the bottle in one go. I assume everyone in my class recognized me as “the hero who averages two bottles.”

Even at home, I often got scolded by my parents because I’d drink milk straight from the carton at every opportunity. On average, I probably drank over a litre of milk every day—casually. I liked flavoured milk too. Coffee milk, fruit milk, banana juice, melon milk; I’d gulp down anything that caught my eye.

So naturally, my fridge at home is always stocked with milk. However, recently—to be precise, in the past half year—something’s been very wrong. When I drink milk, there’s about a 100% chance that my bowels can’t handle it. I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m writing about this in a public-facing essay, but this is a grave situation for a milk lover like me. I did hear before that Japanese people aren’t very good at digesting milk, and even in my own family, my father didn’t like milk for that reason. But still, what on earth happened to the young Saito who everyone acknowledged as a milk boy?

My research led me to a depressing reality. As I wrote earlier, it would appear that many Japanese people are poor at decomposing “lactose,” a component of milk. Additionally, the enzyme that does this, “lactase,” decreases as you grow up. The gist of it is that it’s secreted when you’re a baby so that you can absorb nutrients from your mother’s milk, but production is reduced when that’s no longer necessary. This is only one theory, of course, since studies are still ongoing. I can’t present definite proof here, but it certainly does feel like my milk tolerance has weakened compared to when I was a child.

When I was in third grade, I suddenly broke out into hives after eating my favourite food, karaage. “Ah, love is such a sorrowful thing,” I thought, and the sorrow I feel right now is by no means inferior.

That said, it’s not that I can’t drink it at all. As long as I can still drink it in small amounts, maintaining an appropriate distance, I should be able to continue my relationship with the milk girls.

As I wrote this, I arrived at my usual cafe. I often stop by here between jobs, and I order the same drink every time. I’ll be ordering that today too, of course.

“Excuse me, could I get cold milk?”

I can’t help that I like it.

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #13: Cherishing Plants

Published: 2018/4/27
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/454

※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#13: Cherishing Plants

I’m not good at growing plants. Or rather, I wasn’t.

Watering and fertilizing them at regular intervals, giving them sunlight… It sounds simple when I put it in words, but I just couldn’t do it. I realized this at a fairly early stage, so I generally never invited plants into my house. I didn’t think flowers were particularly beautiful either; I was more attracted to solid things like minerals and structures.

But lately, I’ve been cherishing them very much. I now share my home with Eucalyptus, Olive, Sansevieria, Pilea glauca, and Tillandsia tectorum, among others, all of which are growing quickly. No longer am I only capable of loving a Roomba.

If you asked me what caused this change, I wouldn’t be able to give a clear answer. I always liked the shapes of cacti (and succulents in general), but I had no interest whatsoever in things that required watering.

I have two sofas at home; one of them is a moss-green-coloured one from Karimoku. Next to it is an ironwood side table, which I decorate with dried eucalyptus leaves. It looks just like a scene I saw in Casa, which kind of makes me laugh too.

Naturally, plants each have their own characteristics and ways of compromising. In the past I thought there was no way I could do such a difficult thing as raising plants, but people do change over time.

By watering and fertilizing them, I feel like I’m energizing my own heart as well. However, they show me different faces depending on the day, and sometimes they wilt even if I’m watering them the same way as always. They seem a bit unhappy these days, probably because of the temperature. I can sense the state of their lives in how they don’t fully conform to logic. It’s said that it takes three years to master watering, but I think I still have a long way to go.

The book version of this essay has been revised from when it was originally published online. There are times when I think I’ve escaped from stagnation—only for my heart to be caught in a different haze. I imagine that these back-and-forths are an inevitable part of one’s daily life. Still, if I persist in my watering, things will sprout again. I think I’ll trust in that and persevere, keeping my enthusiasm in check.

In the future, I’d like to live in a house that resembles a museum. I’d want to relax there, surrounded by lots of books, plants, and things of an ancient flavour. That’s how my state of mind has been lately.

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #12: Fishing Story

Published: 2018/4/1
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/432

※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#12: Fishing Story

(Please read this while listening to my debut single, “Fish Story.”)

Trout fishing often comes up as a motif in Brautigan’s novels, and I’m quite fond of it.

Since fishing is fundamentally a task of waiting, what’s critical is how you choose to spend that vast amount of time. By nature, I’m extremely bad at doing nothing. Whenever there’s downtime, I feel compelled to do something. At first I brought books with me, but I quickly tired of them. I spent those days restlessly staring at the water’s surface, feeling the need to do something.

If you ask me whether I prefer sea fishing or river fishing, it’s definitely the latter. My favourite is the simple kind without using a reel. Driving out into the mountains, leisurely dangling the line in a ravine—and if there’s a catch, cooking and eating it on the spot. Not being able to drink alcohol is a shame, but the deliciousness of river fish eaten in the serenity of mountains cannot be described in words. The other day I caught a large char, and I instinctively shouted “Fiiish!” like Grander Musashi. I also want to try fly fishing and pond smelt fishing. The world of fishing is profound.

That said, lately there’s been a change in how I spend my time waiting. As I stare absentmindedly at the ripples around the float, my consciousness separates from my body and completely different ideas well up. My mind is freed from the bounds of three-dimensional logic and begins to make incoherent connections. It perhaps bears similarity to the state I’m in before falling asleep.

These days, the main purpose of my trips is the time spent letting my mind wander, not the fishing itself. You may be thinking, “Can’t you do that at home?”—and you’re right, but it’s not the same. What’s important is the setting; it has to happen in the remote mountains, surrounded by the trees’ whispers and the animals’ breathing.

I haven’t bought a new pole in quite a while, so I think I’ll visit a fishing store soon and procure some supplies. Oh, maybe I should get a new knife while I’m at it.

Well, I’ve never actually gone fishing before, though.

(The song ends)

TL note: A “fish story” is an extravagant, exaggerated story. In the case of Soma’s debut single, the lyrics are about a person who makes up fantastical stories to cheer up their hospitalized friend. (If this reminds you of Yumeno Gentaro’s “Scenario Liar,” yes, the resemblance is uncanny.)

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #9: Mount Fuji

Published: 2018/1/5
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/384

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#9: Mount Fuji

Editor N told me to go see it, but I shrugged and said, “That’s not possible.”

And yet here I am now, writing this manuscript in a cafe at Mount Fuji Station, drinking lemon juice and listening to ART-SCHOOL. You really never know what’ll happen in life.

The lemon juice is sour, but that’s good.

At the cafe in front of the station, the lovely laughs of the local madams and the smoke coming from the nearby men’s cigarettes are both pleasing to the senses. Those are good too.

I recently learned how to accept various aspects of life and myself, and living has become much easier. Ochiai Yoichi-san, Tomabechi Hideto-san, and the Buddha all say the same thing. In the wise words of Nakamura Tempu-san, “Life is what your heart interprets it as,” and for some reason or another, that concept has sunk in.

The driving force behind my actions is often enough “anger,” and one of my themes in life is to not let that emotion influence me too greatly. There isn’t any specific thing that started it, but time and time again, I’ve been saved by oracles. (For some reason, whenever I’m standing at the crossroads of life, I always receive a divine revelation from god. For more details, please see the issue of VOICE Newtype that I was on the cover for.) Well, I phrase it in a way that makes it sound like I took up some crazy religion, but that’s really just how it feels.

Today I’m going to be meeting my elementary school friends for the first time in ten years. Memories change over time thanks to rosy retrospection, but I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable night nonetheless.

The ice in the lemon juice clinks against the glass. There’s still a bit of time left.

I didn’t see a dream on the first night of the new year, but I did see Mount Fuji. This will probably be a good year, and that’s enough for me.

I think I’ll relax and enjoy life, slowly and steadily. I pray that your lives will be blessed too. Happy New Year.

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #7: The Left Ear’s Significance

Published: 2017/12/16
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/362

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#7: The Left Ear’s Significance

I always grasp rhythm with my left ear.

The other day, I happened to see a video of myself doing a song recording. Concerts aside, I usually don’t get to see how I look when I’m voice acting or singing. As I watched, I noted that I tended to furrow my brow, and that I was wearing something that a senpai bought for me. But then I realized: I had my hand on my left ear the entire time. To be precise, my hand was on the headphones, since it was a recording. But at any rate, throughout the course of that short video, I never took my hand off of my left ear.

I hadn’t been conscious of it at all, but I realized that during recordings, I do always grasp the rhythm and check the melody with my left ear. Even during concerts, I listen to the clicks (sounds that maintain a fixed rhythm) and check the overall volume balance with my left ear. It’s not just when I’m singing, either. Even with voice acting, if I’m recording by myself, I only put the headphones over my left ear. Even during radios, I only use the left earphone.

I try to be attentive to my physical mannerisms when it comes to work, so it felt like I’d fallen into an unforeseen pitfall. Was there something significant about my left ear? Not as far as I could tell. I’m right-handed, so it could be that my body is more balanced that way.

Well, I could take my time reading books to find the answer, but these days, it’s best to ask other people—or the internet.

So I googled it. The first result had shocking information! It’s often said that the left brain and right brain are responsible for analytical and intuitive thinking respectively. Going off of that, the signals from the left ear go to the right brain—in other words, the part that excels at processing sounds intuitively.

This means I have musical sense, right? I gloated to myself, but as I continued reading the article, it spelled out a music composition theory where the right ear is superior for rhythm and the left ear is superior for melody.

Wait, then it’s the opposite…?

Thinking back, there were certainly songs that I could never sing well, regardless of the melody’s qualities or my musical tastes. And when voice acting, there were days when I was lacking explosive power in my impulsive roles.

Perhaps if I wear the headphones on different ears depending on the situation, I’ll get even better results. What an elegant idea. I’ve obtained yet another new skill. I chuckled to myself.

It never even occurred to me that I should’ve just worn them on both ears from the start.

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #5: Sanma

Published: 2017/9/30
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/323

※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

Note: Sanma is the Japanese name for the fish Pacific saury or mackerel pike. Both of the English names are clunky to use repetitively, so I am leaving it in Japanese. (There will be a glossary at the end for the rest of the food vocabulary.)

#5: Sanma

The sanma season has come once again. No matter what anyone says, sanma has to be shioyaki—grilled with salt. No grated daikon, no soy sauce. If you have to garnish it with something, at least keep it to kabosu. Lay the salt on a bit strong, grill it just a bit too long, and eat. Kabayaki, tinned, sashimi, sushi, al ajillo—I’ve tried all sorts of preparation styles, but none of them beat shioyaki.

I’m from Yamanashi, which doesn’t border the sea, but since I begged for sanma so much, we always had it on the dinner table once a week. I wasn’t very good at using chopsticks as a kid, so my father would flake the flesh nicely for me and my sisters. Later on, I developed some independence and insisted on doing it myself. Naturally I couldn’t do it well, and the poor sanma fell into pieces as I ate. I wasn’t discouraged, though, and eventually I became decent at it.

Lately, I often see people cut the fish at the head and use chopsticks to slide the flesh off all at once, removing the backbone in one go. But when eating fish—especially sanma—I don’t want to do that. I think back to that time when I battled with the sanma day after day, wanting to be able to eat it cleanly without using any secret tricks.

Sanma has connected me to people.

My senpai showed me a nearby izakaya. It has a disorganized atmosphere but the food is incredible, so I continued to go there occasionally. There weren’t really any other customers around my age, and I doubt the employees paid any attention to me sipping away at my drink. Late one summer, I saw that shioyaki-style sanma had been added to the menu, and I ordered it immediately. As I was waiting, a couple sat down next to me. They seemed slightly older than me, and they ordered sanma too—but apparently, I’d ordered the last one for the day. Timing is a cruel mistress, and as soon as the waitress told them the bad news, my sanma arrived. “Yes, that’s the last one,” she said. I wanted to run away.

I had an apologetic look on my face as I stared at the sanma.

Yep. It has a nice face.

I took a gulp of beer, held it in my mouth for a bit as I wet my lips, then took a bite of the sanma.

Ahh, this is it.

The flesh had just the right amount of fat, the grilled surface of the skin matched exquisitely with the salt, and then there were the innards, which I couldn’t eat when I was a kid. It was all irresistible.

This calls for sake. I ordered Hakkaisan to add more splendour to the rotation.

Before I knew it, the sanma had cleanly vanished, leaving only the head, bones, and tail behind. My sake ran out at the same time, so I called the waitress. “Oh my, you eat so cleanly,” she said.

The couple heard her and looked at my plate. One of them said, “Ohh, bravo!” while the other said, “The sanma must be satisfied too.”

The waitress offered me a beer as thanks for the sanma, and I took her up on that. The couple ordered drinks at the same time, and we found ourselves making conversation as we drank.

I still go to that izakaya often, and the employees all remember me now. Occasionally I encounter that couple again, and we drink while talking about how great all of the food there is.

Ah, I must go. The sanma is calling for me. If any of you spot me at an izakaya, giving a sanma my undivided attention, please just smile and carry on.


  • Sanma – Pacific saury / mackerel pike
  • Daikon – white radish
  • Kabosu – a type of citrus fruit used for its juice
  • Shioyaki – grilled with salt
  • Kabayaki – fish is split down its back, cut into smaller pieces, dipped in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce, then grilled
  • Al ajillo – fried in chili garlic oil
  • Izakaya – informal Japanese bar

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #4: Pocari

Published: 2017/4/22
Original URL: https://kiki-voice.jp/journal/209

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#4: Pocari

At any rate, I love Pocari.

For as long as I can remember, my drink of choice has always been Pocari. On the way home from swimming class, in my water bottle at school sports events, and accompanying my meals—all Pocari.

However, when I was a child, my parents were rather strict (thinking about it now, it was only natural). They insisted that I only drink tea or milk with my meals, so the most I could do was secretly drink it at night while eating rice crackers. I wasn’t a heavy drinker at the time.

As an aside, when I was young, I thought that the alcohol my parents drank so appreciatively must have been something like Pocari. I’d even pour Pocari into a plastic bottle cap and sip from it.

Anyway, I maintained an appropriate relationship with Pocari until I turned eighteen. The change occurred the spring that I began living alone. In my own domain, with no parents to stop me, I was free to choose when I woke up and what I ate. I rapidly grew more intimate with Pocari.

Pocari first thing in the morning. Pocari at lunch. One last Pocari before going to bed. Pocari was always by my side.

When I turned twenty and began drinking alcohol, the water content in my body had already been mostly replaced with Pocari.

By the way, did you know that the word “Pocari” represents several different flavours? Even if you only look at the format, there’s canned Pocari, bottled Pocari, Pocari Sweat powder, Pocari Sweat jelly, and so on and so forth. There was also Pocari that contained a sweetener called stevia, and lately, I see a lot of the mild-flavored one called Ion Water.

My favourite and the one I’ve known the longest is canned Pocari, but regrettably, it’s inconvenient to carry around. I drink bottled Pocari when I have a hangover in the morning, but I just can’t get enough of canned Pocari’s sweetness lurking within a cold, metallic exterior.

If I were on my deathbed and I could have one last taste of something, I’m certain that I would not choose beer, fried chicken, or umeboshi—it would most definitely be Pocari.

They say that the world of voice acting extends far and wide, but I’m sure that there is no one who loves Pocari more than me.

So, I’m always open to work, Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • This essay was originally published on Soma’s 26th birthday.
  • Soma read this essay aloud at the 3rd release event for his book. At the 1st and 2nd events he drank water, but at the 3rd event he had Pocari since he was reading the Pocari essay.
  • Readers voted for their favourite essays in the book and this one ranked #4, which surprised Soma a lot.
  • At the release event, Soma wondered if he could make his own commercial song and send it to Otsuka Pharmaceutical in hopes of it leading to something.