Sakuracon 2015 - Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Shinichiro Kashiwada

Japan-A-Radio was part of a group interview with the voice of Sword Art Online's Kirito, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Producer Shinichiro Kashiwada during Sakuracon 2015.


Q: Can you describe the audition process for Sword Art Online?

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (YM): Well how I got the audition was through the agency, but during the actual audition itself, well I haven't had too much experience, I can actually remember, I can count on one hand how many roles I had that year, so having said that, when I entered the audition and saw the other people there I said "well, that's the end of me, I'm not going to get it." So, because of that mindset, I was able to go in with a very natural... I could just be myself. I saw it as a learning experience, I wasn't going to get this job so the fact that I was being able to act naturally, I think that hit director Ito's heart, so I think that's how I got the job.

Q: What are your thoughts on Sakura-Con?

YM: So when I came here I was like "Am I at Comiket?" The scale is so big and I see all these cosplayers who are cute and cool and very pretty.. I thought "Am I in a fantasy world?" and for example when I bumped into a life sized Link I thought "Oh my gosh that's a Link right there!" So it was beyond my imagination and its been full of surprises.

Q: After working together on Sword Art Online 1 and 2, tell us a memorable moment you had while working together.

YM: So from the perspective of working on this together for a long period of time, starting from the very first preview of the work, its not something I experienced before, everything was new to me. So to me it feels like the existance of SAO itself, it feels like it brought me to where I am right now and to help me develop.. for example having regulars on while doing a radio show that's also a new experience too, so there wasn't a time to relax but at the same time I think it also was something important that taught me to take a breath and relax.


Shinichiro Kashiwada (SK): As far as the overseas interactions, that's become a lot more frequent, and moving from the 1st series to the 2nd series, the 1st series, wasn't quite so big so there wasn't so much pressure or exposure but with the 2nd series there was a lot more pressure, so I was glad to have been called to Sakuracon last year and this year as well and if we're able to continue the series I hope to be called back again as well.

Q: Speaking of pressure, when Sword Art Online was first announced as an anime series, obviously the light novel sold a lot of copies in Japan, how much pressure was there originally from the fans, how much pressure did you guys put on each other, and if there is a 3rd season how much more pressure will there be to produce to the level of the previous seasons?

YM: So, first of all the pressure from the director, Ito-san was probably the strongest pressure directed to us, but, its not so much giving each other pressure.. I'm not really good at giving other people pressure but I'd like to be given more pressure, especially pressure from the fans, it acts as a sort of, how should I put it, forceful motivation from the fans, it forces me to motivate myself so, even if there was a season 3 I feel that doing the best I can at that time will produce the best results, so keep pressuring me actually, its probably what I need.

SK: From a production standpoint, the director and the character designer are at the top so, they really want to make something into a great product, so the director Ito-san is so good at the scheduling and controlling the acting performance and Adachi-san has great character designs so it improves the quality so it's kind of like, they're a great tag team together so even if there is a third season, they would continue working in that way. Just to add to that Ito-san make the schedule but Adachi-san is so focused on the quality that he ruins the schedule due to time consumption.

Q: What are your impression of the English Kirito? (Bryce Papenbrook, who was also at Sakuracon).

YM: So being in Japan I don't get any opportunity to listen to the dubs unless there's these type of opportunities so having heard Bryce's acting, I can tell that he's very good at grasping Kirito's character and that he's good at being mindful of... even if its just the breathing or when he's acting as "Kiriko", those details I can tell he's putting in so much attention to that and having heard everything at Sakuracon I'd really like to watch the dubbed version from start to finish.

Q: You've done the voices of Kirito from SAO and also of Sora from No Game No Life, both characters are described as gaming geniuses, and they're both very strong, powerful characters, has he gained any self-confidence from playing those characters, and also does he play any games?

YM: So on the question playing games or not, yes I do play games a lot, but whether acting as these characters leads to confidence, I do gain a lot of experience and that helps me develop my skills through acting these characters but in terms of developing confidence, well if I start taking in too much of these individual characteristics into my own personality then that totally messes with my own personality, so I try and draw a line between "this is Matsuoka, this is Kirito, this is Matsuoka, this is Sora" and so on, (translator) and as Kashiwada-san was commenting on which character would be closest to Matsuoka-san's character, he feels that he is at ease when he is acting as Sora.

Q: Obviously Sword Art Online is a very popular series and Kirito is a very popular character, how has your life changed as a result of being involved with Sword Art Online?

YM: Well, you're asking kind of a realistic question there but as an actor who developed his strengths thanks to all the staff that brought me into this and all the other actors that I've had the opportunity to work with, I actually had the least amount of career experience amongst all the other actors yet I was the main role, the lead, basically I wanted to bring up the spirit to lead them and bring them through and keep them going at it. To add to that, I've been able to move to a new place, to a living environment that I can feel very good about.

Q: My next question is actually for Kashiwada-san, you announced yesterday the new series that you were working on, Asterisk War, are there any more details you can tell us about the series at this time?

SK: It's going to start broadcasting in the fall of 2015, and we'd like to simulcast it overseas if possible, with Aniplex or someone else, one of the things we want to do with Asterisk War, similar to Sword Art Online and Kirito getting a big reaction when fighting, we want to do the same with the hero and heroine who are fighting for their lives, to show that kind of story. To add on to that its with SAO and the whole simulcasting to the United States and the world that we're able to do Asterisk War so we hope you all look forward to it.

Q: Question for Kashiwada-san, were you able to visit places in Seattle this year? You were here last year as well so I was wondering if you had a chance to do some sightseeing yet? Also the same question to Matsuoka-san...

SK: I haven't had time so far this year but I have some free time tomorrow and hope to do some sight seeing as time permits.

YM: I'm the same, tomorrow I have some free time so I hope to see some sights.

Q: You've voiced a wide range of characters, are there any type of characters or archetypes that you would like to voice for?

YM: I've been thinking about this for quite some time and I'd like to do a.... bad enemy character, even if I had the opportunity to do so I've kind of done it with High School DxD where I voiced a really weird, psycho kind of screwed up character so to speak so I really want to try out a really cool, its kind of hard to read his mind kind of character...

SK: That's not happening, your voice is too hero like, its too "good".

YM: Really?

SK: Ok, I'll see what I can do.

Q: What was the funniest moment or who is the funniest person on the show?

SK: Matsuoka-san was the funniest.

YM: No, Hirata-san (the voice of Klein), he was really in-sync with the sound director Iwanami-san, he goes at his own pace.. he in his natural state when he's acting but he kind of has that aura of being in his role and you can tell he's been through a lot, and each utterance that came out of Hirata-san I couldn't help but laugh.

SK: We spent a lot of money on cast.

Q: What kind of hobbies do you have?

YM: Even before working on the new series Food Wars, I started to do my own cooking, at least I've been trying to even if I'm busy, but around when I started recording for Food Wars, I wanted to give myself time to do something, and that ended up going to cooking, so from around November of last year I've been trying to do my own cooking, breakfast and dinner – no lunch cause I'm out working, and as far as some of the recipies from Food Wars is concerned, I've actually tried most of them and most of them are doable.

Q: Has Matsuoka-san had a chance to do any dubbing of American shows into Japanese?

YM: No, I haven't. If an opportunity arises I'd like to try.

Q: We're coming to the end of the interview, are there any closing comments for the American fans?

YM: Well, let me start with this, my name is Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, and I'm a voice actor, just from my point of view, before going abroad I've been confined in the Japanese world, but after experiencing this first hand both at Singapore and here at Sakuracon that there are so many fans around the world and that I'm happy that there are so many people watching shows such as SAO and No Game No Life and many other works that I've been in. I feel that I wish to continue to have fans not just in Japan but around the world enjoy the shows that I'm in, as an actor I'd like everyone to cheer me on.

SK: A few years a go people though that "If this show is popular in Japan then maybe it's popular overseas as well," but now having the opportunity to come and see the actual reactions of American fans, recently I've come to believe it doesn't really matter whether a show is popular in Japan or outside Japan, we can just aim our shows to be popular on a world stage from the start of the production, that's the feeling that I would like to share with everyone.