Interview with Roxas’ Voice Actor Kouki Uchiyama

This interview came from a special sixteen page spread in Japanese gamer magazine Nintendo Dream June 2009 issue. Please do not repost translation without crediting to Heartstation.

The real face of the voice actor who breathes life into Roxas

The voice who perks up the charm of Roxas, selected as the hero of ‘KH358/2Days’. Mr. Kouki Uchiyama, chosen to be the voice of Roxas, graciously appears, let’s see if we can spot here the Roxas of this game.

The Opportunity to Act as Roxas

–First, please tell us the details of how you came to act as Roxas.

Uchiyama: I feel I have something of a destiny with ‘Kingdom Hearts (from here on referred to as KH)’. That is, from the first time I worked in the voice industry, at the time of my first regular piece, my sound supervisor was the sound supervisor of ‘KH’. Through that fate, I received an audition. In truth, first I heard I was auditioning for the part of Hayner, who appears in ‘KHII’. And so, I received the script for Hayner’s part and was reading it, but, they said ‘please try reading for this part too’, and it was Roxas. Because I’d heard it was pretty much decided as Hayner, I thought, ‘that’s no good, they don’t want me’, and I went and lost a bit of confidence (laughs).

–But, Roxas is more of a leading character, isn’t he.

Uchiyama: Consequentially that was true, however, wasn’t it? At the time I did it without being let to hear any information or anything, so I was a little uneasy (laughs).

Roxas-Role Voice Actor: Mr. Kouki Uchiyama

Belongs to the Sunflower Theatrical Troupe (Gekidan Himawari). He is currently active in such roles as that of Neku in the DS game ‘The World Ends With You’, and Soul of the anime ‘Soul Eater’.

Acting as Roxas

–Acting as Roxas, were you made to have a portion of hardships?

Uchiyama: At the time of ‘KHII’, I had heard beforehand that the role of Roxas existed as a sort of shadow of Sora, who was the whole main character. It was explained to me that he is a boy, but, he carries a dark thing somewhere in his heart, and because I’m not the cheerful and lively type myself (laughs), I thought this was a challenge I could do. After that, as for my memories of the time of ‘KHII’, I remember that recording took an extremely long time. It took about seven days in all, but we’d record once, then there was a gap in time, then we had recording again–it was that kind of feeling. However, there was a reason that recording took time; the people on the other side of the booth where I spoke my lines took a long time to examine. I could see many staff from Square Enix and Disney and the like discussing it, and it felt like I was part of an incredible production.

–Was that waiting time terrible?

Uchiyama: It couldn’t be called terrible at all, really, the acting was fun. The sound manager, who really understood me, would politely say ‘like this, it would be even better’, and so I only responded to it with all my power.

The Mr. Kouki Uchiyama that Mr. Nomura Speaks of

‘When the role of Roxas was decided, we decided in a beat and asked Uchiyama’

–Because Roxas is the hero of ‘KH358/2Days’, Mr. Uchiyama’s voice in it a lot, isn’t it.

Nomura: Roxas has a lot of lines, doesn’t he. That reminds me, at the time of the last recording, I remember Uchiyama was very disappointed, saying ‘is this the last time I’ll do Roxas, then’. Uchiyama probably thought that because this time, we are describing about Roxas without any leftover things.

–Did Nomura support the performance that had Mr. Uchiyama’s shadow in it?

Nomura: No, when Uchiyama came in to audition for a different title, he was already a child with a shadow (laughs). That time, he was an upper primary school student… no, maybe he was in middle school. In any case, it was when he was little, but even though he was a child, I thought he had a quietly refined voice. He didn’t fit the character he was auditioning for at the time, but I thought, if there’s a character that fits him someday… and so, when the role of Roxas was decided, we decided in a beat and asked Uchiyama.

–After that, because he was in the middle of acting as Neku, the hero of ‘The World Ends with You’, it felt like Mr. Nomura might have been buying and promoting Mr. Uchiyama.

Nomura: I also thought there was no one but Uchiyama for Neku’s voice. That reminds me, lately he’s also in charge of the leading role for our humble company’s anime, ‘Soul Eater’, isn’t he.

–That doesn’t mean Mr. Nomura made recommendations, does it.

Nomura: It doesn’t mean I made recommendations, but, correspondence came from the people in charge of the company, confirming ‘It’d be good to use Uchiyama, wouldn’t it’. Because I think that Uchiyama is a really good voice actor, I want his participation in various roles next time, too.

Meeting with Roxas again after a number of years

–In ‘KH358/2Days’, you’re playing a Roxas from a time before ‘KHII’, and so what have you been careful about?

Uchiyama: Firstly, my own voice has changed. At the time I did ‘KHII’, I’d thought my voice had pretty much finished breaking, but years later, my voice is still changing a little. When I hear my old voice, I even think ‘uwah, how cute!’–it’s that completely different. And so, I had to be conscious of producing a slightly higher voice, trying to come close to my ‘KHII’ voice at a level that would not make it weird.

–We heard from Mr. Nomura that you were disappointed that ‘this is probably the last of Roxas’.

Uchiyama: After recording had finished, I thought, ‘I won’t be doing Roxas anymore, will I…’ I thought ‘KH’ was, even in my short acting and voice acting life, a monumental piece, see. The voice recording was also extended time, and some years after recording the game will come out… with that kind of feeling, it was a piece that was held inside my heart for a long time. I was happy to act one more time this time, but, ‘this is probably the end’, ‘I probably can’t act anymore’–there were heaps of sentimental feelings.

–The words ‘monumental piece’ came up, but, what kind of piece is ‘KH’ to Mr. Uchiyama?

Uchiyama: It’s a monumental piece, and… if I try and think, when I was in primary school I was incredibly moved playing ‘FFX’. I thought ‘this game company is awesome’, and because it means I’m appearing as a main character in a Square Enix game, it’d be fine even if I retired now (laughs), that’s the kind of piece it is.

–That reminds us, you are also the leading part in Square Enix’s anime piece ‘Soul Eater’. For that, you acted Soul, who had a different image to Roxas, but, was that difficult?

Uchiyama: Let me see, it felt like ‘Soul’ was bringing something I didn’t have. On the other side, at the time of acting as Roxas, I was myself. I put out the life-sized performance of myself at that age as it was. Because I approached it by thinking about what I would do if it were me, it was Kouki Yamauchi rather than Roxas, wasn’t it. Without minding about anything, without feeling barriers or any kind of pain, I think I acted without any worry.

‘It was Kouki Uchiyama rather than Roxas, wasn’t it.’