SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show is best known for getting Japanese talent directly from Japan to Australia. As part of this year’s SMASH! event, Japanese voice actor HIDEO ISHIKAWA was invited to SMASH! for his first Australian guest appearance ever. As expected, Ishikawa’s appearance certainly did not disappoint.
For many years, Ishikawa played the role of Uchiha Itachi aka the ninja who assassinated his clan (with the exceptions of his brother Sasuke). Acting in both Konoha’s and Sasuke’s best interests throughout the series, it is then later revealed that Itachi slaughtered his clan to prevent a coup d’état. Playing the role with a spectrum of pokerface personalities, Itachi’s character would not be successful if it weren’t for Ishikawa’s exceptional portrayal of Itachi.
But that’s not all. Ishikawa is also best known for his roles as Jushiro Ukitake (Bleach), Kiccho Fukuda (Slam Dunk), and Full Body (One Piece). And of course, if you’re a huge gamer, you may know Ishikawa as the voice behind Squall Leonhart (Final Fantasy VIII), Auron (Final Fantasy X) and Pierre de Chaltier (Tales of Destiny).
Since we love sharing animation goodness, check out random extracts from the panel below. Enjoy!
Q: What are your thoughts on Japanese popular culture here in Australia?
A: As we entered through the entrance to the convention, I noticed a lot of cosplayers dressing up in amazing outfits from shows that have only just come out in Japan. Even though there is a bit of distance between Japan and Australia, it seems like the culture itself is not so far away.
Q: Ishikawa-san, you have voiced so many roles. How do you find yourself adapting to character changes, and voicing various different roles?
A: I don’t find it difficult — it really depends on what is happening in the story. All I have to do is match the emotions and what is happening on screen. However, they might sometimes ask me to do certain scenes which can be difficult. For example, they might ask me to do the voice of a five-year-old, and that can be really difficult. I’m 46, so you know, there are some things that I can’t do [laughs].
Q: Earlier in the series, Itachi is portrayed as an evil character, and then we slowly find out that he has various motivations. Were you aware by the eventual complexities?
A: When I first received the role as Itachi, I thought to myself, he can’t be ~that bad. I continued to play the role as normal, hoping that Itachi will be a good brother to Sasuke.
A: I have never actually played a character that is super smart like Itachi. I’m not actually a smart person myself so I hope that when I’m playing the character, I hope it doesn’t reflect on the character.
Unlike characters who tend to yell when they move or do an action, it is very hard to play characters that keep their emotions inside. So in terms of playing Itachi, he doesn’t exactly yell his move, but instead, he kinda just says his lines in a cool, deep voice *insert badass Amateresu line* That is one of the things that I hope to make a point whilst playing a character like Itachi.
Q: Itachi is the top of his group, and graduated before anyone did. What were you like during school, and what would you have you studied in ninja school?
A: My best subject in school was music. I actually went to a music college and studied opera *insert random opera singing*. So if I was in a ninja academy, I would actually study opera. I would defeat the enemies with my voice *insert opera again* [audience is wowed by Ishikawa’s talent].
Q: Itachi only has one sibling which is Sasuke, and he is Itachi’s greatest motivation in life. What are your thoughts on Itachi’s devotion to Sasuke?
A: I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. Itachi basically lived his life just to be killed by Sasuke — I don’t think that is something that I would be able to do myself. This selfless act really shows his love for Sasuke.
Q: Jushiro Ukitake is the 13th Captain of Soul Society who is inflicted with lung disease. Has there ever been a time when you were ill or under the weather but you still have to be 100% with your performances?
A: When I catch a cold, my throat doesn’t really act up. But my nose! In my backpack backstage, I have so many packets of tissues. I actually went to the supermarkets to buy them [audience laughs].
Q: Bleach introduces the concept of the after-life in the form of Soul Society. However, there is also the concept of Hollows and the world of Hueco Mundo. What are your thoughts about an after-life like Bleach‘s?
A: Well, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It just basically means, when you die, there is something waiting for you. Dying can be scary, but if there is something like the after-life waiting for you, then that’s pretty good.
Q: Shinigami in Bleach possesses unique swords. From Shinkai to Bankai, what kind of power would you wish for yourself?
A: I don’t think they will allow anything like that in Australia or Japan. So obviously I don’t have one, but if I did, it would be something really big.
Q: We’ve noticed that you tend to put your hand behind your ears during your voice-acting performances. Does it help you in some way?
A: This technique is actually used by a lot of Japanese voice actors. By doing that, it makes the voice much clearer. Why don’t you guys try it? [audience murmurs in agreement].
Q: What is your favourite Itachi scene to voice?
A: The scene where he dies [audience awws]. But in Naruto, Itachi dies twice — he dies once by Sasuke, and then he gets revived from the dead, and then he dies again.