On the second day of ACEN, we attended another press event, this time with veteran voice actor Tohru Furuya, who’s been working in the industry for over 50 years! Classic anime fans will recognize him from such work as Kimagure Orange Road and Mobile Suit Gundam, while modern otaku may recognize him from huge series like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece! Here are just some of the questions from the press and his responses!
Q: Can you tell me how music has changed in Japan over the years since you began?
A: In the old days, anime music was specifically written just for the animated show. Eventually, it came to be that shows would ride on the popularity of major artists and their existing songs. When it comes to popular shows such as Dragon Ball, One Piece, or Saint Seiya, they have the budget and they still write their own music for the shows.
Q: How do you feel you’ve evolved as a voice actor since you began to where you are now?
A: Since I started 50 years ago, which was such a long time ago, the biggest thing that’s changed is the evolution in recording technology. When I started, we had no videos. We just had a big screen that we would project film onto and record. Since sound editing technology was still not as mature as it is today, if there was someone who messed up their line we’d have to retake the entire scene all over from the beginning.
Today in the studio, we have a standard four microphones. Each microphone has an individual display in front of it. Even if someone flubs their line, we can just retake on the specific line and edit that in. Recording has become significantly easier.
So in the old days, since we had a projector screen that had to be darkened, our script would be spotlit. This was in the dark and very hard to see the faces of the other cast members, but today we work with video displays that are well lit. We have an easier time reading from the script, although this makes it a little more embarrassing to perform love scenes *laughs*.
Q: Who’s your favorite character you’ve played and why?
A: Up until recently, Kyosuke Kagura from Kimagure Orange Road was my most favorite character because when playing Kyosuke, I could go back to my own teenage years. Today, though, my favorite character is Tohru Amuro in Detective Conan because the show is very popular with girls.
Q: What is recording anime like in Japan? Here, it’s basically just like we’re dubbing, so it’s just like an actor who moves by themselves. Are you with other people? Do you perform with others?
A: As I hinted before, the studio has four microphones. It means that the entire cast gathers into the booth and record together. When we do a 30 minute show, it’s split into two parts – the first part and second part – and the 15 minute parts are recorded in these chunks. When us voice actors put in the sound, there is no audio to the anime at all at this point. The voice actors put in the voices first, and then music and sound effects are added on top of that.
Today, there are so many anime titles and shows we make at the same time that it’s almost never that we have finished animation by the time we perform. A lot of times, we might be lucky to be performing it against line work drawings. Other times, we’d be performing onto timed word balloons that just say “dialog”. There really is no “sense” of performance from the individual cues that are not coming from the animation, so we voice actors really need to talk to the director and understand the scene and perform according to our understanding.
Q: What would you say is your single greatest challenge when voicing new characters you’ve had to overcome in your career?
A: When I get around to performing a new character, I always go through an audition process. I start by gathering information about the character and a lot of times that might be looking on the internet or animation magazines. Animation magazines are pretty quick about publishing information about upcoming shows, so I read through that and go through my interpretation of the character that I’m auditioning for. If it’s based on a previously made material, I’d be sure to read the book or manga. Once I pass the audition, before going into the studio for the first time, I would go through the script, read through it, and go through character simulation at home as though it was the official take. After that, I would go to the studio for recording and perform in the way I would imagine my character to be, work it out with the director, and figure out how the character should be.
Q: What was the hardest character to convey?
A: The most difficult character I would say would be the one who I thought wouldn’t match my voice, which would be Dr. Kousaka Tokita from the movie Paprika. This is a character who weighs over 200 kilograms (author’s note: for American readers this is around 440 pounds), so I didn’t think this was a fit for me and turned it down initially. The director came back to me and said “Play the character as though they’re a pure hearted teenager” and I thought “This would be exactly the same as playing Amuro Rei from Gundam”, so I took on the role.
This was Tohru Furuya’s first ACEN, and we hope it won’t be his last! We were happy we had the rare opportunity to hear a man with such a long and extensive acting career give his insight on how much the industry has changed! He has a lot to share with the world, and a lot he can still give.