※This was a half-hour segment of Aniplex’s 48-hour stream that replaced their planned stage event at AnimeJapan 2020 (which was cancelled due to COVID-19).
Q: What’s your nostalgic “taste of home”?
Soma: The fried chicken in lunch boxes, like the family-size ones we’d bring to school sports events. Specifically the way it’s already gotten cold, so it isn’t crunchy anymore–that’s the best. There’s this karaage flour I always use, and whenever I eat it I immediately get transported back to that time.
Q: What is your weakness?
Yuma: Do you even have any weaknesses? Soma: I have nothing but weaknesses Kensho: Mornings. *everyone lamenting about mornings* Soma: Are you the type that’ll keep sleeping for a long time if you fall back asleep? Kensho: Yep Soma: Saaame… Soma: I used to wake up early, but as the years passed I got worse Yuma: I wake up super early… like, at 3am Kensho: Huh? Soma: What lolol Soma: Doesn’t that mean you haven’t gone to sleep yet? Yuma: I used to have a habit of going to sleep at 8pm, and then waking up at 2-3am to play games Kensho: What kind of lifestyle is that?! Yuma: I’d get yelled at if I played at night, so I’d go to sleep early so that I could wake up early and play Soma: What a clever kid
(More weakness talk) Soma: I’m bad with heights… as well as holding thin objects *picks up pen* because my hands naturally shake, same with when I’m holding up scripts. What else… I feel like I have nothing but weaknesses… maybe I was born on the wrong planet lol Soma: Oh and ALLERGIES, it’s so bad right now… I seriously wanna cry
Features: Saito Soma (Tama in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Mentioned: Kurosawa Tomoyo (Koma in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Hanazawa Kana (Momo in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Uchida Yuma (Beh in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Shirai Yusuke (Tora in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Hatano Wataru (Gon in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Ono Kensho (Pochi in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Maeno Tomoaki (Bull in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Yashiro Taku (Waka in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~) Nanami Hiroki (Kai in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Q: After voicing Okamoto Tama thus far, what do you feel is this anime’s appeal?
When we were recording Episode 1, we were told, “The theme of this anime is ‘bringing healing and relaxation.'” When I was taking the audition, I also had the impression that it was going to be a relaxing show about the daily lives of the cute characters from Tama & Friends. And of course, it does have that straightforward kind of healing, but it’s more than just that. It also healing in the form of extremely wild scenarios that make you laugh in a way different from regular comedy. It has a wide range of appeals that don’t fit in the peaceful slice-of-life genre.
Q: What did you take into consideration when voicing Tama?
I feel that a crucial aspect is how I depict him living by his cat-like instincts. What makes him catlike and cute is his lack of consistency, like how he suddenly leaps towards anything that catches his interest. I acted while considering what he would be feeling and thinking.
Q: Like how in Episode 1, he goes to a stranger’s house and eats their food.
Episode 1 really made me feel, “He’s in human form, but he’s still a cat.” As you mentioned, he’ll trespass on someone’s property and eat their food, or hear a sound and ditch Pochi. Those aspects are what make him catlike, and you can really feel that he’s whimsical (in a good way). Since he’s a cat, I naturally have to bring out traits that I don’t possess, so it was fun to voice him.
Actually, the recording sessions themselves were a lot of fun. Everyone was really friendly, and it truly felt like “Third Street” there. Kurosawa-san was just like Koma with everyone doting on her, and Hanazawa-san was like an older sister watching over us. Yuma-kun and Shirai-kun were having fun too. Our camaraderie was there from the very first episode.
Q: You’ve worked with many of these voice actors before. Did you talk to them about the project beforehand?
If I ran into them at other recording sessions, then we’d of course acknowledge it. Hatano-san is my senpai from the same agency so he’d often talk to me about how it was going to be a struggle speaking Kansai dialect for his character. But, I think everyone talked more after the recordings began. We talked a lot about how Uchitama?! wasn’t what we were expecting *laughs* but also that that was what made it really interesting. As the recording progressed, we’d talk about the past episodes we enjoyed.
Q: I’m sure the viewers also thought it betrayed their expectations in a good way.
Oftentimes when we read an anime script and think “This is clearly comedy,” the voice director will actually ask us not to make it too comical. But for Uchitama?!, we were told at Episode 1 that it was okay to make it funny, and I think we were all just like, “Oh, okay.” After that, in Episode 2 when Kuro and Gon were talking about breasts while Beh was playing tag with an otherworldly creature in the background, we realized, “Oh, it’s this kind of show,” and everyone had a lot more fun with it. *laughs*
Q: Indeed, Episode 2’s “Peace” section was shocking.
Even the recording session became kind of incomprehensible *laughs*. First off, the amount of laughter during the test run wasn’t something we normally see. Even though it’s just a test run, people generally try not to make any noise besides the dialogue. But here, we’d burst out laughing.
Q: What kinds of things did you laugh at?
They explained to us that Kuro and Gon’s conversation would be the main focus of the recording, and Beh’s whole part would be recorded separately, so he should step back from the mic. Despite that, Yuma-kun stood proudly in front of the mic and started the test run with a super loud voice. We had no idea what was going on and burst out laughing. That carefreeness of his does resemble Beh. *laughs*
Q: It sounds like there were many instances of the cast challenging themselves to express their characteristics during the test runs.
The sound director, Koizumi Kisuke-san seemed to be enjoying it. Sound directors each have their own direction styles, and Kisuke-san is the type who first asks to show him how we want to do it. It’s a lot of responsibility on us, but it gives us the opportunity to experiment. So, during Episode 1 it really felt like we were the ones creating it together. It was great. After the test run, Kisuke-san came into our booth and asks, “Hey uh, how much of that was serious?”
We’d gone overboard with the ad-libbing, to the point where he couldn’t tell how much of it we were actually planning to do in the real thing. Were we serious about it, or were we just experimenting with different approaches because it was the test run? No one knew anymore *laughs*. That added to the humour of the show, and the recording sessions were a lot of fun.
Q: It sounds like you were raising hands to volunteer to do the next ad lib.
The mood at the recording sessions was absolutely great, and I’m sure it’s reflected in the anime’s mood too. I wish we could show you what it was like somehow. Maybe they could release a blooper reel as a bonus CD, or we could do a dramalogue at an event.
Especially in Episode 1, that scene when Tama trespasses into someone’s yard and eats their food and goes “Yummy!”–in the real recording I said it cutely, but during the test run it was completely in the realm of “There’s something wrong with this guy” *laughs*. The rest of the cast actually liked it, but I surmised that it probably wasn’t going to fly, and said it cutely instead *laughs*. ((Soma demonstrated what it sounded like during the January stream.))
Uchitama?! is full of serious-minded voice actors, so even though they play around during the test run, they usually perform their role properly for the real recording. That means there are a lot of takes that no one else has heard besides us. Personally, I wish we could show you that recording atmosphere in some way.
Q: It sounds like there were a lot of ad libs. What kinds of things did you add for Tama?
Actually, Tama doesn’t have room for ad-libbing. If I play around too much with Tama’s acting, it gets jumbled up with the other characters and the central axis moves out of place. So for Tama, instead of inserting ad libs, I make a point out of him “not thinking of himself as cute” and often shift my acting in that direction. I’ll say things in an unexpectedly non-cute way, or follow the script but in a tone that probably isn’t what the script intended. I want to create a gap where “his uncuteness is cute.”
So, I use a lot of strange voices too. Not to the point of being a joke, but still within the range of being funny. I try to add elements that aren’t purely one-sided to cuteness, but I don’t do anything super crazy. In that sense, I’m jealous of Beh who has so much freedom to play around with. *laughs*
Q: Even though you can’t play around too much with Tama, were there any scenes when you experienced Uchitama?!’s unique style through him?
The most memorable one was from the drama CD we recorded after doing Episode 1. It’s going to be included with Volume 1 of the Blu-ray/DVD release, and the contents are just way out there.
For example, there’s a scene about coughing up hairballs. On that day, I happened to run into the sound director when I stopped by the convenience store. I asked, “For today’s hairball scene, you want it in a sort of stylized, cute way, right?” and he said “Yeah, that’s right!” But, during the rehearsal I messed around with it anyway, voice actor’s nature and all. I made a crazy sound like “Kaaa! Puh!” *laughs* No one said anything, but during the real recording when I did a clean, cute version instead, the staff said “Why didn’t you do it the messy way you did before?” *laughs* I thought to myself, “Weren’t you guys the ones who said to make it cute and uplifting?!” *laughs*
In the end, I had to redo it the way I did during the test run, and I had a premonition that perhaps Uchitama?! wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed in Episode 2.
Q: I’m excited to hear what it ended up sounding like.
I think the anime will have aired up to Episode 7 by the time that volume is released, and if you’ve watched that far, you’ll probably be able to accept it by then. But just know that I had to record that after only knowing Episode 1. I did it nervously, confused as to why it was okay *laughs*. Please listen to it.
Q: When people buy the volume, is there anything you’d like them to pay attention to when they watch the accompanying episodes again?
Uchitama?! has a lot of scenes where multiple conversations are going on at once. Beh’s often in the background, and if you look carefully, sometimes he’s doing something crazy, and sometimes he’s not doing anything at all. Personally, I’d like you to pay attention to him. I feel a sort of horror aesthetic from him, and that’s because Yuma-kun is superb. When Beh’s staring at something, he’ll suddenly bring out a voice that makes me wonder where on Earth he got it from. Maybe Yuma-kun is also secretly connected to an alternate dimension like Beh’s bandage is…
Q: Hahahaha. Moving on, can you tell us about Tama’s character song “Hidamari wo Sagashite” that you sung for the ED?
When I sung it, I wanted it to be an upbeat, relaxing song that conveys Tama’s simple-minded cuteness. But this song was actually really hard! The range of notes was so wide. The verse was really low, but the chorus was really high. Plus, the key was originally even higher, but I said I couldn’t reach that key in Tama’s voice, so they lowered it for me. Consequently, the verse became too low, and I couldn’t make it sound like Tama. This anime is great on the music side, but I think they demanded a lot from us. *laughs*
Q: Were there any other difficult songs?
The final episode has a song that we all sang together, and it was difficult to align the key because there were both male and female vocals. Also, considering the cast, it’d be impossible for the characters’ voices to all match the key perfectly.
For example, if the character’s voice was very low and the song went to a very high note, it’d be difficult to sing that part with emotion. In that sense, I think we all struggled to sing that song together. Please look forward to hearing it.
Q: It sounds like you faced several trials. What do you think you gained from participating in this series?
This time, both Ono Kensho-san and I are using voices much higher pitched than our natural voices. I’m the type that produces high tones by tightening my vocal cords, but Kensho-san’s the reverse, producing Pochi’s high pitched voice by relaxing his throat and using a technique resembling falsetto. I learned that his way of doing it sounded softer and really cute. When you tighten your vocal cords for high tones, it produces a sharp, strong sound, but if you relax them, it sounds cuter. So, I stole Kensho-san’s voice acting skill for myself.
Also, Bull has a lot of scenes that said “ad-lib the rest,” and Maeno-san’s the type who can perfectly output what he’s got. Not only that, but his ad-libbing even fits perfectly in the cut. There are many people in the cast who are extremely skilled in their approaches to their roles, so I’m constantly learning new things.
Q: It sounds like a great place to work. Still, learning about these different ways of producing high pitched voices makes me realize how amazing the professionals are.
When you speak in a low tone, there’s a high overtone included at the same time, and you can skim that upper layer and make it ring out stronger. That was Kensho-san’s approach, and seeing it was enlightening. But in the end, I thought the contrast between Tama’s sharp voice and Pochi’s soft voice was very fitting for their relationship.
Also, there were a lot of scenes with Tama and Pochi talking to each other, and the timing of Kensho-san’s “Huh?” lines were so in sync with me that sometimes I lost track of who was talking. So, we usually didn’t have to go through several retakes. It’s not like we pre-planned it or anything either, so I could really feel the synergy between Tama and Pochi, which was great. By letting my voice out based on intuition rather than logical thinking, sometimes our timings would happen to match up, and I felt that was very much like Tama and Pochi themselves.
Q: I’m looking forward to seeing more great dialogues in the next episodes. Lastly, please give a message for everyone looking forward to the rest of Uchitama?!.
Uchitama?! will continue in this way… but, I expect more and more guest characters to visit. One of the great things about this series is that even though they can already come up with plenty of entertaining stories with the Third Street crew alone, we get to see even more expressions when the guest characters come in. So, please look forward to the guest collaborations in each episode. And before that, please make sure to watch Episode 8! *laughs* I think you’ll find that Uchitama?! has the potential to be even more. Also, the style of the series means that it can continue for a second and third season, so please watch until the very last episode. I’m sure we’ll be able to meet the Third Street residents again if you buy the home video releases, so please give us your support!
Soma’s Favourite #1
From Episode 2: “Peace” Story: One day, Kuro and Gon are lying on the river bank and reflecting on Third Street’s peacefulness. Meanwhile, Beh is chasing a butterfly, and the bandage on his cheek peels off…
Soma’s Comment: The scenarios in Episode 1 had a “wait and see” feeling to them; there were a few parts that were a bit tricky, but the content was relaxing. However, Episode 2 is where Uchitama?!’s true direction starts to become apparent. Beh’s multidimensional game of tag is one of my favourite scenes!
“My Name is Bull” Story: Bull has just moved to Third Street, and he’s practicing his introduction so that the other animals will respect and fear him. Kuramochi-kun takes him out on a walk, and they go to Third Street’s animal oasis: Cafe Tulip. There, he has a fateful encounter.
Soma’s Comment: It was a very fitting scene for an insert song. Even though it was a comedic scene, it gave me a strange, almost heart-rending feeling. As a viewer, I wanted to feel sorry for poor Bull, but at the same time I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of the scene. The mixed emotions it created left an impression on me.
Soma’s Favorite #2
From Episode 3: “The Weakest Guy on Third Street” Story: One day, Kuro and Gon spot Pochi being glum in the park. When they ask what’s wrong, he says that he’s depressed because he couldn’t show off in their tournament to see who the strongest animal on Third Street was. Gon tells Pochi about the legendary delinquent wolf.
Soma’s Comment: Wasn’t the Pochi episode adorable~? Kensho-san’s always saying that “cuteness can be created,” but when I asked how, he said “Determination! I have to believe that I am cute!” *laughs* In this episode, there’s a scene where Pochi makes a very un-cute noise, and Kensho-san said he learned it by finding a “weird dog and cat noise compilation” on a video site. The result was superb, and I could really sense his professionalism.
Soma’s Favorite #3
From Episode 6: “Battle of Dogs and Cats” Story: The Third Street Crazy Cats are an intimidating force that keep the peace on Third Street. But one day, Bull falls to major injuries, and explains that their territory is being targeted by the Seventh Street Young Kings, led by Waka the husky.
Soma’s Comment: First, I wondered why they suddenly broke out into rap *laughs*. For Tama, I just prioritized rapping cutely. There was a guide provided, but I think everyone changed the flow themselves, so each character’s rap showed originality.
Yashiro Taku-san (who voiced Waka) was really funny. His voice was thicker and stronger than what I was imagining while reading the script. I thought he was going to use a lighter voice, so the unexpected aggressiveness turned it into a serious rap battle for me, no laughing allowed.
Shirai-san wanted to rap too, but was sadly rejected. Yuma-kun threw a product name into his ad-libbing and it was absolutely hilarious, but wasn’t allowed. This episode’s recording was a lot of fun too. *laughs*
Soma’s Favorite #4
From Episode 7: “Cat Cafe Violet” Story: Momo sighs, looking at the empty seats in Cafe Tulip. When she finds out that the reason why customers aren’t coming anymore is because of a cat cafe that opened in the neighbouring town, she springs out the door to investigate. The other Third Street animals chase after her, and Nora guides them to the cat cafe, where they find…
Soma’s Comment: Kai is so handsome! Nanami Hiroki-san’s voice was a great match for this beautiful, androgynous character, and I could feel the compassion radiating from his acting. All of us were wondering how he could express that kind of coolness. Nora’s unintentional attitude was cute too.
The event started with the advance screening of Episode 1.
After the screening was the talk show with Soma, Kensho, and secret guest Yuma. They praised the show, and had been excited about how cute the characters were while they were watching from backstage. Soma talked about how amazing it was that the characters retained their animal traits even in human form.
The cast all agreed that Episode 2 is crazy. According to Yuma, it’s “literally” crazy, so that’s something to look forward to. And apparently, Episode 3 will show off Pochi’s adorableness. They also told some sweet behind-the-scenes stories, such as how the cast was proactive with ad libbing.
At the end of the event, they announced the Blu-ray/DVD sales and a special “3rd Street Flower Festival” event that will be held on May 10th.
According to Kensho, Uchitama’s true nature is still hiding during Episode 1, and it has yet to unlock its full potential. Please watch the anime when it airs!
Broadcast: 2019/12/24 @ 9pm JST Original URL:https://live.nicovideo.jp/watch/lv323313275 (no longer available) Original Name: うちタマ?! 3丁目通信 クリスマス特別号 Guests: Saito Soma, Ono Kensho, Shirai Yusuke, Uchida Yuma, Hatano Wataru (MC)
(Cast is drinking drinks based on their characters) Soma: There’s something solid in here! Everyone else: What? Soma: *takes another sip* Oh, never mind, there isn’t. Everyone else: ??? Soma: Sorry, I lied. Everyone else: Why???
(Cast is talking about Tama) Kensho: The PV was way too cute Yuma: (softly) Yeah… Kensho: (softly) Yeah… Soma: Why are you whispering among yourselves? Hatano: But it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he’s so cute, it’s like the role was created so that Saito Soma could play it Soma: Well, that’s just how it is sometimes… *makes cat pose* Everyone else: AAAAAAA welp, Merry Christmas! Hatano: Presents for everyone!
(Announcing the next stream) Hatano: Another stream has been announced for next month! *lists off details* Hatano: As for the content… Saito-kun, if you would Soma: Uh…….. *laughs* Everyone else: What’s wrong? Soma: Um… well you see, today’s program is a live special, right? Hatano: Yes, it’s a live stream Soma: Today’s is a “live special,” and the second one is a “special” Shiraimu: …Oh, so… Soma: Are you ready? Can I say it? Soma: It’s… already been pre-recorded *Everyone laughs*
(Opinion Survey corner where they hold up the name of who they think matches the topic the most)
Q1: Who here do you think is the most cat-like? Soma: Shirai (he lives freely at his own pace) Kensho: Saito (he’s cat-like; he even looks like a cat (awkward laughing from Soma) and when you’re talking to him, you wonder what mood he’s in, like a cat that’ll approach you one day and ignore you the next. also the way he hides his neck *points out Soma’s turtleneck sweater*) Shiraimu: Saito (they didn’t talk much when they first met, but after getting to know each other better they got closer in a flash, also he has the aura of a cat) Yuma: Shirai (he doesn’t get influenced by his surroundings and he sticks with his preferences, like how he always wears green)
Q2: Who here would be the most likely to bite their owner? Soma: Ono (rather than the angry kind of bite, a playful bite *Kensho makes biting motions*) Kensho: *Blank* (everyone is nice) Shiraimu: Saito (Saito Soma will play-bite you, he seems like he’d be good at getting people to spoil him *Soma makes biting motions that gradually turn into head-banging*) Yuma: Uchida (uhh yeah, playful bites *makes biting motions and weird faces at the same time*)
(Lost Item challenge where they pick topics and time limits from a box, then draw them within the time limit for the others to guess)
Shiraimu (Time limit: 15 seconds) Correct answer: Dog doing a handshake
Soma (Time limit: 20 seconds) Correct answer: Cat tower (Soma didn’t really know what it looked like and was shocked they got it right)
Yuma (Time limit: 10 seconds) Correct answer: Pizza (they were thrown off for a while, thinking it must be related to dogs/cats)
Kensho (Time limit: 3 seconds) Correct answer: Cat toy (“3 seconds was plenty!”)
Bonus Round: Hatano (Time limit: 15 seconds) Correct answer: Mapo tofu (they all answered at the same time, and everyone said something different, so they discussed it and tried again, but different answers came out again, and finally on the third try they got it right)
Soma’s Santa hat is the only fluffy one
Soma mentioned that he often goes out to eat with Yuma, and went with Shiraimu before too
*Soma was on the back cover of this magazine and had a 10-page feature. There was also a pin-up poster.
Q: Voice recording is currently in progress for the TV broadcast beginning in January. What’s your impression of the story?
When I asked the staff about Uchitama?!’s concept, they said, “We want it to be an anime for people in need of everyday healing and relaxation after a long day at work.” And after doing the recording, I found that it really is that kind of anime. It has more comedy than I was expecting, and the characters’ fun, energetic daily lives make you smile and chuckle. I act my part with the desire to make it that kind of healing anime.
Q: What’s the appeal of Okamoto Tama, the character you voice?
This anime is about animals that have been anthropomorphized, and Tama is in his human form in Episode 1 already, but he’s still a cat on the inside. He acts based on instinct and reflexes. Of course, he doesn’t think of himself as cute, but his free-spiritedness looks cute from an outsider’s perspective. His nature results in him getting lost a lot, but that helplessness is also part of his cuteness.
Q: You voice both the human and animal forms. What do you take into consideration when voicing them?
When we think of cats, we imagine them saying “meow,” but they don’t actually meow cutely like that. I did research videos beforehand, but when it comes to animated works, I don’t consider “realism” that important, and instead believe that having “a sense of reality” is what matters. If you put too much of the real world in, you lose room for imagination. Tama’s a character who immediately expresses what he’s feeling, so I try not to think too much, and strive to directly output what I feel.
Q: What kind of direction or post-recording feedback did the director give you?
There wasn’t really any… *laughs*. A positive interpretation of that would be, since Uchitama?!’s cast was decided by audition, the Tama I proposed was probably close to what they’d envisioned. Also, this project itself was very ambitious, and I felt that the creative team didn’t want to lock Tama into a specific voicing style either. So, the characters and the anime will be developed as the recordings progress, with the director’s ideas as well as our ideas as the cast. I think this is the most exciting part of creating something new, so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming recording sessions.
Q: Do you have anything in common with Tama?
I usually don’t look for common points between myself and the characters I voice, not just for this anime but for others as well. Of course, I do think about it when I have to, but for example, in Tama’s case, a lot of his actions won’t make sense as a human. It’s only natural, because he’s a cat. Since these actions are normal for him, I have to think about how his mind works when I act. So, I don’t really feel that I have anything in common with him. Oh, but Tama’s full of curiosity, so he’s often shown shifting his attention to anything that catches his interest, and we might be a bit similar in that sense. There are times when I find something interesting and instantly become obsessed.
Q: Do you ever get lost like Tama does?
I don’t really get lost. Smartphones are truly amazing *laughs*. But for some reason, I often make electronics go haywire. In fact, earlier when I was on the way here, it kept showing me as still in Tokyo Station. I guess the me inside Google Maps often gets lost. *laughs*
Q: Which characters besides Tama are you interested in?
They’re all very charming, but I’m sure the other cast members would all say Bull. He’s a peculiar one, and I think he broadens Uchitama?!’s potential. By Episode 1, he’s already making you think, “So Uchitama?! has this kind of vibe too.” His voice actor, Maeno Tomoaki-san also seems to have a lot of fun voicing him, and he’s allowed to ad-lib freely as long as it fits the character. So, please keep an eye out for Bull.
There’s also the adorable Beh, voiced by Uchida Yuma-kun. I had my own impression of the character when I read the script, but he took it in a very different direction–in a good way. I’m always wondering, “Where does Yuma-kun pull that acting from?” and I’m thinking that his brain might be connected to an alternate dimension… That’s how uniquely cute his acting is.
So, I’m interested in Bull and Beh. That said, all of the other characters are weirdos too, really. *laughs*
Q: What’s your impression of Tama’s good friends, Pochi and Tora?
Ono Kensho-san’s high-pitched voice for Pochi is very cute. Character-wise, Pochi’s got a tough life… He’s prone to getting dragged into things *laughs*. Tama’s a free spirit, so Pochi gets pulled into his antics, and that relationship between them is one of the central pillars of Uchitama?!. I’m looking forward to working with Kensho-san more.
Shirai Yusuke-san’s Tora is a very energetic character, but he’s careless at times. I didn’t get to have these kinds of lively dialogues with Shirai-san in the other works we’ve shared, so it was refreshing. Also, since Shirai-san and I both like the colour green, we exchange news every time we meet. *laughs*
Q: Finally, a message for the readers, please!
Whether you’ve always been a fan of Tama & Friends or Uchitama?! will be your first time meeting them, I’m sure that it’ll bring you healing and smiles. There’s still some time before it starts airing, so please look forward to it until then. Thank you for supporting Uchitama?!.
Bonus off-shots from Twitter/Instagram (Insta ones have multiple pages):
Features: Saito Soma (Tama in Uchitama?! ~Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?~)
Mentioned: 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!
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.
※The event report and photos are from the evening session.
After introductions, the first corner was the “History Club’s Research Findings,” where the voice actors presented their partners’ best scenes. Soma went first, and he selected the scene from the final episode, where Canaria falls from the crumbling bridge after the building collapses. He picked it because her screaming was cute, and said “I guess this is what moe is.”
Next was Yuishi, and she selected the scene from Episode 9 where Ichiya screams, “There’s only one person who could do this… KASUMIIIIIIIII!” But apparently she’d picked the same one for the daytime session, so the cast and the audience all burst out laughing because that really must’ve been the one best Ichiya scene.
Moving on to the Kanagawa team, Ao-chan revealed her pick for Hotaru. Apparently she’d written Hotaru’s “Utsuhami” move, so the video footage showed all the scenes of her using it throughout the show. Ao-chan had been imagining the one from Episode 1, because she liked the view of her butt in that scene.
For Maihime, Fuurin chose the scene from the final episode when she found out that the boss unknown they’d been fighting was Yuunami Airi. She referenced Hime’s strength and wisdom upon making the realization, overcoming the pain, and understanding what she should do next. Ao-chan was really happy that her partner understood her so well.
Next was the Chiba team. For Kasumi, Chikape chose the scene where he confronts Ookuni Mahiru in Episode 8. She liked how he dealt the final blow so that Asuha wouldn’t get her hands dirty. She also talked about how Kasumi had a lot more lines starting from there, and Yuma struggled with the increased word count.
Lastly, Yuma selected a scene of the Chigusa siblings chatting at home. He said “Asuha-chan’s a real cutie” like an uncle would, but he also said he liked this scene because you can see how close the siblings are.
Next was the “Theatre Club’s Reading Drama.” The script was specially written by the three authors of the original novels, and was about a school festival.
The scenes included:
Ichiya being thrown off by Canaria innocently asking, “I have an important question… Who does Icchan like?”
Conversations between Ichiya and Kasumi where, as usual, you couldn’t tell if they got along or not
With the Kanagawa team constantly entering their own little world, the Chigusa team flirting with each other, and Ichiya at Canaria’s mercy, all of the characters were playing the funny role, and it was an endless string of laughter.
When they were discussing the after-party’s background music, Kasumi started humming Canaria’s song, which leads to an impromptu musical because Asuha wants to hear him sing.
Kasumi (CV: Yuma) passionately sang that famous song about “wanting wings” while retaining the atmosphere of Canaria’s song. Everyone in the room was charmed by his singing voice.
The drama ended with the same words as the anime’s final scene: “See you.” “Later.”
The next corner was “Pair vs Pair Club Activity Challenges,” where the cast competed to win a wonderful prize. The first challenge was the “Pantomime Club Challenge,” where each team competed in a gesture game.
The Chiba team went first, with Yuma as the gesturer and Chikape as the guesser. He acted out Asuha showing up to save her brother from Ookuni, and Chikape barely guessed it within the time limit.
Next was the Kanagawa team, with Fuurin as the gesturer and Ao-chan as the guesser. The topic was Maihime splitting the Aqua Line in half, but it was a close struggle. Ao-chan figured out that she was splitting something in half, but couldn’t get the Aqua Line part, so they sadly did not complete the challenge.
Lastly was the Tokyo team. Their topic was hidden from the audience as well, so the audience joined Yuishi in guessing the answer. The topic was from the final episode, when Ichiya saves Canaria from the collapsing building, and Yuishi easily guessed it right.
The teams complained that there was too much variance in difficulty between the topics, so to be fair, they were all given 5 points.
Next was the “Broadcasting Club Challenge,” where they did a corner from the show’s radio, South Kanto Tri-City Defense Force Broadcasting Club. They had to eat two types of ham and guess which one was more expensive.
All of them chose B, but the answer was actually A. The fact that all of them got it wrong made for a great punchline.
Since it was a three-way tie, the final game would determine the winner. It was the “Volleyball Club Challenge,” where each team served soft beach balls into the audience, trying to get the most distance. The team members took turns as the tosser and the server, and whoever caught the beach balls could keep them as a present.
Soma was the winner, so the Tokyo team received 10 points.
With 15 points total, the Tokyo team was the winner, receiving a pair of 5000-yen gift cards for Asakusa Imahan, a wagyu beef producer. There was also a prize raffle for the audience.
Features: Saito Soma (Ichiya Suzaku in Qualidea Code) Uchida Yuma (Chigusa Kasumi in Qualidea Code)
Mentioned: Noto Mamiko (Yuunami Airi in Qualidea Code)
“In the end, the only one who has normal conversations with Suzaku is Kasumi *laughs*”
Q: Please introduce your characters.
Soma: Suzaku Ichiya is the current head of Tokyo. He’s the strongest person in Tokyo, but he’s also prideful, arrogant, and unconsciously takes on an aggressive attitude. He’s not aware of it himself, though *laughs*. The word “cool” is often used in his character descriptions, but I’d say he’s more of a hot-blooded guy. He gives the impression of having a fierce passion. Also, he generally only talks to his second-in-command Canaria as well as Chiba City’s Chigusa Kasumi. *laughs*
Soma: The three authors told me directly, “Suzaku generally only talks to these two.” Canaria’s a bit of an oddball herself, so in the end, the only one who has normal conversations with him is Kasumi. *laughs*
Q: His chuuni lines stand out, huh?
Soma: He’s the typical chuunibyou. He even thinks it’s cool to give his abilities a second name. *laughs*
Q: That showed right from the start, in Episode 1. Did you receive any specific instructions?
Soma: No, it was pretty much as I thought. Suzaku has a rebellious side, but on the inside, he’s true to his impulses. In future plot developments, he has the widest range of emotions out of all of the characters, so I’m following his emotions rather closely. Since it’s only Episode 1, you’d expect to need more time to develop each character, but Suzaku will take a while…
Yuma: (The author) Sagara-san said “With a smile!” *laughs*
Soma: I really can’t get a read on him *laughs*. He said “That was the best Suzaku I imagined!” and I didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. *laughs*
Q: Were you aware of how he ended up with that personality?
Soma: The novel was a separate thing, so I wasn’t keen on referencing all of it, but when I read the first volume, Suzaku was quite different from how he was in the anime’s first episode. The novels take place before the anime, and back then he was really direct. His unawareness was the same, but he’d say things like “I love this world” out loud, and he wasn’t comfortable with chuunibyou naming. Then, at the end of Volume 2 which came out recently, you find out what happened to him to cause that change. But at the time of Episode 1’s recording, I honestly didn’t do any advance planning.
Q: What about Uchida-san’s character?
Yuma: Chigusa Kasumi is an older brother, but he has poor communication *laughs*. He only talks to his younger sister (Chigusa Asuha) and sometimes Suzaku, and he ignores pretty much everyone else. But, he has the most common sense out of all of them. Most of the city leaders are the pushy type, but he provides the normal perspective, albeit not out loud.
Soma: He has normal values, like how he’s repulsed by chuunibyou.
Yuma: Yeah *laughs*. He’ll say out loud, “That’s weird!” Their world is crumbling and is quite different from our modern society, but his views are the most similar to ours. Also, he generally doesn’t communicate, or rather, he’s given up on trying. It means that the others can’t tell what he’s thinking, but I think he’s actually quite considerate of them.
Q: Did you struggle with anything on the acting side?
Yuma: It was full of struggles *laughs*. First off, right off the bat, the author Watari-sensei told me “Don’t trust the script” *laughs*. He meant “be natural,” but the characters’ had such strong personalities that it was hard to get the right sense of distance. Even if Suzaku had a loud outburst, Kasumi would mutter “No, I…” under his breath.
Soma: It was a simple matter of volume.
Yuma: Yeah! Our volumes were completely different *laughs*. Even in Episode 1, when Kasumi talks after Suzaku, the “natural” way results in a contrast that makes you go “Huh?! Did he say something?” The character is poor at communication to begin with, so it was difficult to grasp the distance between him and the others. He also thinks it’s uncool to show his emotions, so it was difficult to balance talking to the others without showing emotion. Even now, I’m still pondering how much emotion to show and how much to react.
Q: Are you a worrier, Uchida-san?
Yuma: I try not to, but once I get caught in the trap, I can’t get out *strained laugh*. And that did happen this time *laughs*. But as of late, I get the feeling that I’ve gotten closer to the right balance for Kasumi.
“Personally, I want Free Gravity!”
Q: What do you think of each other’s special ability (World)?
Soma: Ah, Vampire Bat? (The alternate name Suzaku gave to Kasumi’s World)
Yuma: Stop that! *laughs*
Soma: In Episode 2, Suzaku wants to give everyone’s abilities names like that, but Kasumi retorts saying “Don’t tell me you give everyone one of those,” and I thought, “This world has retorts in it!” *laughs* It was pretty crazy of Suzaku to respond with, “Yeah, problem?” though.
Yuma: Yeah, he didn’t even hesitate. *laughs*
Soma: This is completely unrelated, but you know the manga Chihayafuru? It has a character named Suou Hisashi who has incredibly perceptive hearing, but since he hears people’s voices so well, he’s really soft-spoken. I thought Kasumi had the same issue.
Yuma: Oh! *laughs*
Soma: Being able to identify an object and its location through sound reverberations is definitely a support ability though.
Yuma: Totally. In practice he does take shots, but he doesn’t have any combat ability.
Yuma: That’s his limitation, but he’s aware of that, so he doesn’t fight on the front lines. Since he’s so aware of himself, he doesn’t push himself past his limits.
Q: But, having such good hearing is a powerful weapon in its own way.
Yuma: Being able to hear only tells you “The enemy’s coming!” and nothing else, so he can’t do anything! Although, in Episode 1, he was running fast enough to keep up with the flying Suzaku, right?
Soma: Yeah! That scene was really funny *laughs*. Suzaku was bringing Canaria and two other students in the air with him, but Kasumi was running on the ground by himself *laughs*.
Yuma: Yeah yeah! I thought,”You’re surprisingly fit!” *laughs*
Soma: He was the only one being left behind. *laughs*
Yuma: Since he’s part of the Chiba force. He still manages to help out though, so I think he was given the bare minimum ability. Personally, I want Free Gravity (Suzaku’s World, the ability to control gravity).
Yuma: He can fly in the sky.
Soma: I’ve used Free Gravity in my dreams three times since we began recording for this show.
Yuma: *laughs* You did, huh?
Soma: In the world of Qualidea, the ability to fly in the sky is incredibly important, and in the novel they often talk about how there are people who have two Worlds, who are called Duals. If one of them is the ability to fly, then they’re basically a super elite. But, Suzaku doesn’t have the ability to fly. It’s just that he can use his ability to move through the sky. That really has the allure of a light novel or manga protagonist—using knowledge and wit to strengthen your own abilities.
Soma: So when I watched Episode 1, I thought he was really acting like a protagonist.
Yuma: Yeah, he was! At first when we were recording, everyone was like, “What’s with this guy?” But when the anime was completed, they were like “Oh, he really is a protagonist!” *laughs* It was moving, right?
Soma: Animation and sound really are important. *laughs*
Yuma: They are. When you’re only looking at his personality, it’s… yeah.
Soma: Yeah, it really did make you wonder what he was supposed to be. And at the drinking party after Episode 1, Sagara-san said, “Well, your good impression of Suzaku is only going to deteriorate from here,” and I was like, “What?! He can get worse?!”
“It doesn’t make them uncomfortable. That’s how male friendships change.”
Q: I’m sure he’ll improve… probably…!
Yuma: Is there a moment when he does? But, by the time this interview is published…
Soma: People will already know that Qualidea Code isn’t a battle anime, right?
Yuma: It’s not just about fighting.
Soma: Episodes 1 and 2 are meant to mislead. Around Episode 3, you start to think that something’s not right, and that it doesn’t seem like it’ll revolve around battles.
Yuma: In Episode 1, they fought.
Soma: And Episode 2 was the swimsuit episode!
Yuma: And then in Episode 3, our heroine Canaria coughs up blood. *laughs*
Soma: And then there was Suzaku’s arrogant way of asking for a favour *laughs*. “You, save Canaria!”
Yuma: It made you go, “What?” *laughs*
Q: It was mainly Suzaku’s fault in the first place. *laughs*
Soma: Yeah! Everyone else came too out of the kindness of their hearts, but it was about 80% Suzaku’s fault.
Yuma: It’s because he went by himself!
Soma: I thought the “You, save Canaria!” in the script was a misprint. I figured it was probably supposed to be “Please save Canaria!”, but it was exactly as written *laughs*. What a strong personality.
Q: But in Episode 4, Canaria…
Yuma: Yeah. *laughs*
Soma: And then Suzaku transforms into his second form… *laughs*
Yuma: *laughs* He’s there every episode, but something’s wrong with him!
Soma: He becomes a powerless man.
Yuma: Even though he was always berating people for being useless.
Q: Is there anything we should look out for in your future dialogues?
Yuma: Their love deepens!
Soma: Without a doubt! We can’t say why *laughs* but Suzaku ends up only talking to Kasumi.
Yuma: We can’t say why, though. *laughs*
Soma: Well, to be frank, I barely have any lines *laughs*. I honestly feel kind of bad about it; it’s like I scream for a bit in the A-part and then go home.
Yuma: Even though you’re first in the credits. *laughs*
Soma: But, Suzaku’s conversations with Kasumi really are the cause of a lot of his mood swings. At the end…
Yuma: They develop a good distance between them. It’s like, they both have aspects that tick off the other, but it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. That’s how male friendships change.
Soma: It’s all about the riverbed.
Yuma: A fist fight at the riverbed. *laughs*
Soma: But, they don’t really show it on the outside. Suzaku continues to say things like “Shut up, trash” until the very end, and I thought it was a nice balance.
Q: So the relationship between them is what we should look out for?
Soma: Yes, I think their relationship is the most important part! *laughs*
Yuma: It’s the crux of Qualidea Code! But it’s unexpected when there are three factions and so many other pairs. *laughs*
Q: Kasumi seems to be interested in Suzaku from the start, but was that out of irritation?
Yuma: He’s given up on interacting with everyone else, but for some reason, Suzaku alone will still pick fights with him. But, he doesn’t actually mind it that much. He might even be a bit happy about it. When Suzaku comes to him, he doesn’t mind it, but it just makes him a little gloomy.
Soma: He can’t reciprocate honestly. *laughs*
Yuma: Yeah *laughs*. He’s too embarrassed to.
“Out of the six main characters, I’d go with Asuha. She’s cute.”
Q: I’m looking forward to how Suzaku and Kasumi turn out now *laughs*. Which of the female characters do you two like?
Yuma: Oh, you said female characters.
Soma: Umm, out of the six main characters, I’d go with Asuha. She’s cute.
Yuma: My little sister is cute, right?
Soma: Actually, I’m not attracted to the little sister trope at all, because I have younger sisters too.
Yuma: What do you like about Asuha, then?
Soma: I think I’d get along well with her. The others are, you know… a pain to deal with, right?
Yuma: Honestly, yeah. *laughs*
Soma: #1 and #2 in brute strength, and a scary girl. *laughs*
Yuma: “Smile, smile!”
Soma: The Chiba team is fairly down to earth.
Yuma: Yeah, you can understand them just from talking to them.
Soma: Asuha blushes a bit in Episode 2, right? That was nice *laughs*. What about you?
Yuma: I like Asuha a lot as a person, but personally, I think I’d go with Hime.
Soma: How come?
Yuma: It seems like it’d be easy to win her over. *laughs*
Soma: …O-Oh, right. I thought something similar about Asuha, but I picked my words more carefully! *laughs*
Soma: That’s your style, right Yuma-kun? It does seem like it’d be easy to have Hime in the palm of your hand. Just give her treats.
Yuma: Yeah, it’d be easy to bait her. She cheers up when you give her what she likes, and whenever you have a problem, she’ll do something about it for you.
Soma: “Don’t worry!”
Yuma: “I’ll defeat any baddie that comes. Bam!” And then you go “Good girl, Maihime!”
Soma: Outside of the main six, I’d pick Mother Yuunami.
Yuma: Mama! Yeah.
Soma: She’s like a mother and an older sister at the same time.
Yuma: Yuunami-san has a good personality, and she’s also cute. And then in the later half… well, I really can’t say it here.
Soma: We can’t say it, but it only works because it’s Noto Mamiko-san, right?
Yuma: It really has to be her!
Q: Lastly, tell us what we should look forward to in the rest of the series!
Yuma: The relationships change greatly after Canaria’s disappearance. Suzaku loses the most important person to him, and their city loses their second-in-command, which is a big deal. The environment changes as a result, and the stable balance they had in place gradually becomes lopsided. It’s hard to explain, but please pay attention to what they discover after the balance falls apart.
Soma: The story makes major progress in Episodes 3 and 4, but the world that we thought was fixed in place in Episodes 1 and 2 is changing. It’s like the template is betraying us.
The story will continue to defy expectations in a good way, and I hope the viewers will enjoy seeing Qualidea Code’s world change away from what you thought it was.
And personally, I hope you’ll wonder when Suzaku Ichiya will be able to speak normally again! Please remember him and his fragile mental state. Also, there are three ED themes, although we don’t know how they’ll be used either.
Soma: It’s a question of timing. Maybe the next episode… We want to build hype, but…
Yuma: Episode 4 will probably have a special ED, right?
Soma: So, please look forward to the new OP/EDs too.
Yuma: There really are various three-way collabs here! (Referencing how the project is written by three authors, and the OPs/EDs are sung by three artists)
Soma: Indeed. The story gets more interesting from here on, so please look forward to that.
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*
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?
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.”