Last weekend at the Madman Anime Festival, I had the incredible pleasure of meeting and interviewing the Director of the hit anime series, One Punch Man, as well as the man behind the notable voice of its popular leading character, Saitama, the guy who is just a hero for fun.
The two men and their entourage were very professional. Having interviewed only English speaking guests in the past, it was a completely different experience interviewing Japanese speaking guests as I had never worked with a translator before. Thankfully, the entire process was extremely professional and well managed. Not only were the guests, Shingo Natsume, the Director of One Punch Man, and Makoto Furukawa, the voice of Saitama, super polite but they were rather down to Earth as well and really nice people.
Here’s my interview with the One Punch Man guests.
Q: What was the audition process like for the role of Saitama? How did you decide on Saitama’s voice?
A: At the beginning of the process, I was given a script for the role of Saitama. At the time, my idea of Saitama’s image was that he was a little bit more stylish, with a bit of cynicism and utilised accents here and there in some sentences. Initially, I played my role according to what I felt the character of Saitama was like. The Director then made a few suggestions, asking me to try this and try that and we ended up creating Saitama’s character. After the audition, I didn’t think that I would get the role because Saitama seemed very different to me. I was incredibly surprised when my manager called to inform me that I got the role.
Q: Is it hard to switch between different voices for different projects that you work on?
A: Switching between different voices is not that hard. To create a 30 minute episode, we usually spend about 5 hours in the studio, and when you finish one episode or project you go on to the next. It’s not uncommon to switch from one character to another. I mentioned earlier that myself and the Director created Saitama’s character but that’s not exactly quite true. Technically speaking both the creator and author of One Punch Man were present when developing the first episode of One Punch Man. Together with the producers, we debated and discussed Saitama’s character. That was how we created the character of Saitama. For me, Saitama’s role and character becomes clearer in each episode and I’ve found recently that Saitama’s character is embedded in me quite deeply, so no it’s not that hard to switch between characters.
Q: What was it like working with One-sensei and Murata-sensei, the creators of the One Punch Man? (Was there any collaboration with them to develop the anime adaptation?)
A: It was very exciting and a new experience altogether. It was really interesting selecting which parts of the series is going to be animated and for these sessions, we always worked in collaboration with One-sensei and Murata-sensei. Whenever there was something we didn’t quite understand, we could easily turn to One-sensei and Murata-sensei. There were many moments where we felt saved by them and it was really good having them there as these were people who worked in creating the manga at a closer deadline and by a particular period so there was a lot to learn from them. One-sensei in particular had a lot of ideas and he’s fantastic for that. Murata-sensei would make suggestions of characters and One-sensei would just come up with them, so it was a real honour to be able to work with such talented people.
Q: What are the processes of adapting an anime from a manga series?
A: There are plenty of different ways. Manga can be published either weekly or monthly and they are written in such a way that after 18 chapters, there’s a climax. One particular chapter of a manga doesn’t equal to one episode in an anime. So there’s often several chapters included in one episode of an anime. One of the ways to include several chapters into one episode is to look at the flow and create peaks in the story to create a climax. Controlling this is very important so you need to determine what you are going to focus on and what you aren’t. In addition, manga is very black and white and 2D, whereas in anime, you have movement, lots of colour, background music and voices. The point of where you have to imagine these particular things without disrupting the point of the particular series is quite difficult. The first thing we do is read the series very well and analyse it so that we understand it and are able to read the fine lines to understand the series and then create the visual effect and movement.
One of the aims is to go higher than the original manga series. We’re adding sound and movement to it, we’ve got things you can’t have in a manga, so it is quite challenging and difficult. The One Punch Man manga is already really good so it’s difficult to try and surpass that. I think we did really well though and One-sensei and Murata-sensei told us how it’s done really well so we’re very pleased with how it all went.