The following interview and press conference with Sasaki Nozomu (佐々木) was conducted at Sakura-Con in Seattle in April 2009
by J!-ENT’s Michelle Tymon and Ian Ferguson.
Note: For this interview, we use the family (last) name and then the first name second.
Sasaki Nozomu has had an extensive career in the Seiyuu business. His credits include Urameshi Yusuke from “Yu Yu Hakusho”, Tetsuo from “Akira”, Mouri Shin from “Yoroiden Samurai Troopers”, Eriol from “Card Captor Sakura”, Wyvern from “Mahou Sentai Magiranger”, Naoe Nagi from the “Weiss Kreuz” series, and Johann Liebert from “Monster”, just a few roles on his impressive resume.
Sasaki Nozomu was born on January 25th, 1967 in Hiroshima, Japan. He is currently with the seiyuu management firm 81 Produce. His first major role in anime was Tetsuo from “Akira”, one of the most renowned anime of all time. Other than anime, he also does Japanese dubbing for numerous American TV shows like Steven Hyde in “That 70’s Show”, David Silver from “Beverly Hills 90210”, and most recently, Mr. Map from “Dora the Explorer”. He has also won the Seiyuu Grand Prix numerous times.
Sakura Con 2009 was an incredible experience for me because I got to meet two of my favorite seiyuus of all time. Just like Yamaguchi Kappei, I have been following Sasaki Nozomu’s career since his early days. I first heard his voice in “Yoroiden Samurai Troopers” when I was younger but I didn’t really know about voice actors at the time. It was in “Yu Yu Hakusho” that I started to take notice of his name and his career. “Yu Yu Hakusho” to this day remains as one of my favorite series of all time and he was a major contributor to that. So to have the opportunity to meet him was an honor. There were series I started to watch solely because he voiced a character in the series. He is a versatile actor and I’m always excited to see what he comes up with next.
Fans at Sakura Con 2009 had the honor of seeing Sasaki Nozomu in a Q&A, performance, and meeting him in an autograph signing. Another thing he was able to surprise the Sakura Con attendees with was his English skills. At the Q&A and press conference, he spoke mostly in English and only had to ask the translator to translate his Japanese for him a few times. There was quite a line for his autograph signing and he took the time to speak to each of his fans individually in English and to thank them.
Over the years, he has definitely tried various roles, not limiting himself to a certain character stereotype. From Tetsuo to Mouri Shin, to Yusuke to Eriol, all are extremely different roles from each other and he pulls them all off extraordinarily well. Following his career from the beginning, fans can see that his voice has evolved over the years and that he puts in so much of himself to successfully bring each character to life. This was his first appearance in the US and hopefully he will be coming back more often considering the US anime fans would love to have the chance to see him again.
Press Conference Questions:
J!-ENT: You were speaking English very well at your Q&A earlier today and I was wondering how long have you been studying English and do you speak any other languages?
Sasaki: Thank you very much. I’ve liked English as well as America a lot ever since I was a child. It is normal to start learning English in school around 7th grade in Japan, roughly when kids are around 12 or 13 for about 6 years so I started out learning it that way as well. So for formal learning, that was it but because I liked English so much, I started reading the “Peanuts” comic strips because I really liked Snoopy. However, once I started my work as a seiyuu, I lost the time to study English, but my love for the English language and America was always there. About 7 or 8 years ago, I decided to make time to study English once again so I bought books, listened to CDs, and watched DVDs with English as the language. Up until this point, I hadn’t really had the chance to actually use my English in conversation with someone. Actually when I got to Sakura Con yesterday as well as today is my first time really speaking English to anyone. It seems like people are understanding my English so that makes me happy. I would like to use this experience to push me to keep on studying English. The hard thing for me as a Japanese seiyuu is that I always have to study Japanese so that sometimes brings up difficulty in learning English. As for other languages, I really like learning other languages so right now I’m studying Spanish a little bit as well, but I’m only able to do greetings for now.
Soy Source: You said earlier that even while you are learning English that you have to study Japanese as well but what specifically are you studying and how are you studying?
Sasaki: For the basics, most of it consists of vocal training and voice maintenance. Besides that, I usually like to give myself a specific topic to research and that usually includes reading books and actually speaking and I like to set specific goals like using what I learned within 3 months. Since I’m always working, depending on how it’s going, I try out what I’ve been studying at work as soon as possible. There are times that I just try it out at work, even though I haven’t practiced it and I’m actually working, just to see if I can make it work. Since I am learning English because I like the language, I also like learning the differences between English and Japanese. The way we use our voice, the pronunciations, the way the tongue is used as well as the mouth is very different between the two languages. Because of this, while I’m learning English, I feel that I am learning things about Japanese that I didn’t know before so I find that very interesting. So lately I’ve been specifically studying phonetics and pretty much the mechanics of speech and how the muscles are used in both languages. I’ve been reading and comparing books for both languages in that subject and how they differ from each other. Of course I don’t think I’m going to use all of this knowledge immediately, but I feel that eventually all of this will be useful in some way in the future. Because of that, I like learning all I can about vocalization and phonetics.
Japan-a-radio: Is there anything that you’re involved in right now or anything that’s coming up in the future that’s exciting for you?
Sasaki: I’m doing a role in “Dora the Explorer” right now because it’s being dubbed in Japanese and I’m doing the role of Mr. Map. In the original show, they speak both English and Spanish to help native English speakers learn Spanish. So when we are recording for the Japanese dub, we speak in Japanese and English so it’s very interesting. Basically we speak Japanese and sometimes we put English words in the Japanese sentences. Right now, that is the most interesting role I’m doing in anime.
J!-ENT: Is there any specific anime you watched when you were younger that inspired you to this career path?
Sasaki: Actually, I wasn’t very interested in anime. I didn’t know much about animation and I wasn’t really interested in acting itself. But somehow I got into this industry but it’s not because I watched anime and that was inspired to become a voice actor. But I watched “Tom and Jerry” and I liked it a lot and there’s also this anime called “Mahou Tsukai Sally” which is for girls, but I really enjoyed it. I was very young at the time. I like movies a lot more so I watched a lot of American TV dramas and movies that were dubbed into Japanese so I suppose that inspired me a lot more than anime. Sometimes I do voiceovers for TV dramas like “Beverly Hills 90210” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “That 70’s Show”. I enjoyed doing voices in dramas as well as anime so maybe I’m not from anime, I’m from movies and TV dramas.
J!-ENT: Over the years, you have played many different characters that are completely different from each other such as Yusuke from “Yu Yu Hakusho”, Eriol from “Card Captor Sakura”, and Naoe Nagi from “Weiss Kreuz” but what was the hardest role to prepare for?
Sasaki: It’s always hard for me to create a role. In my younger days, I just did the voice and didn’t think much about it at first and just did the role. But since I’ve gotten older, I started thinking about how I should do every role more. I don’t pick up any roles specifically because they are difficult. All of my roles have been difficult in different ways but I enjoy doing them. For example in “Yu Yu Hakusho”, the difficult part was to bring out the most energetic, cheerful and enthusiastic part of me to match Yusuke and bring it out strongly. As for Naoe Nagi, I wanted to bring out the realism. I wanted to make it seem like someone like Naoe Nagi really existed, and wasn’t just a made-up character from an anime. So it was hard to act out someone being normal in a very unnatural situation. As I also mentioned in the Q&A panel, Johann in “Monster”, is a very special character. The way I use my voice, the fact that the character keeps evolving throughout the series, expressing the stages of change he goes through, and trying to keep a balance with the other seiyuus were all very difficult in this role. Each specific role is difficult in very different ways. Also in the series I mentioned earlier, “Dora the Explorer”, the hardest part of that is the proper pronunciation of English words.
N/A: What is your Impression of American Anime Fans?
Sasaki: American anime fans are great, they are so great. I’m really impressed. I just came to Seattle yesterday and this is my first time participating in an anime convention so I didn’t know what to expect or how big it is or how many people would be here. So I was very impressed to see so many people here and so many people cosplaying around here and it’s wonderful. I feel like I’m a fan of theirs. I just finished a performance on stage a couple of hours ago and they were all very friendly. Yesterday we were at a party and I talked to a lot of American anime fans and they were so nice and I had a ball. I really enjoyed talking to them and I was impressed that they like anime so much and I could tell how much they loved Japanese anime and Japanese voice actors. So I feel very honored to be here at Sakura Con and I hope I get another opportunity to come to another anime convention to see even more anime fans and talk to them as well. This is a great opportunity for me so I hope they like me as well.