[Kawaii Kon 2012] Panel discussions: Horikawa, Miya and Amano

“Meet Ryo Horikawa and Kenichi Miya”

Putting your heart and spirit into whatever role you play is key to a good voice actor, Japanese actor Ryo Horikawa emphasized.

It’s that same heart that allows him to differentiate which American voice actors are good. “It’s about knowing the character, giving life to the character,” Horikawa said.

Kawaii Kon marks Horikawa’s first visit to Hawaii, along with fellow seiyuu (voice actor) Kenichi Miya. The two shared a panel on Friday, talking about their careers, their inspirations and the industry in general. That’s Miya on the left, Horikawa on the right.

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With decades of voice acting under his belt, Horikawa now runs a school for aspiring seiyuu. When asked whether it’s better for an actor to have a wide range of voices or to concentrate on one role, “It’s hard to say,” he replied. “There are those who can do multiple and are good and there are those who are known for one voice.” What’s most important, he said, is to “enhance what you’re good at no matter what type you are.”

Concentration is another key aspect to what Horikawa does. Because he’s played so many different characters over the years, he said he has to completely ignore all his other roles when he goes to voice another one. “It was challenging to play Vegeta at the same time I played a very justice-driven character with a baby face,” he said through translator Sachi Kaaihue, that latter description likely referring to Reinhard von Lohengramm from Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

As for Miya, he’s a student at Horikawa’s school and said that meeting Horikawa-sensei and coming to Hawaii are the defining moments of his career.

Not that Horikawa seems to regard himself as such. Despite the noteworthy roles he’s played — he’s most well-known as the voice of the angry Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, but he’s also done Heiji Hattori in Case Closed and Andromeda Shun in Saint Seiya — he downplayed it when Kaaihue called him “sensei” when introducing him at the start of the panel.

It’s probably because Horikawa regards himself as an eternal student, always looking ahead to the next role. When asked about his own defining moment, he said he loved all the characters he played. “The most important thing for me is to feel the new power inside,” he said, adding that he constantly wants a challenge, so he looks forward to the next job that could very well be the best of his career.

In fact, his latest role is one that he’s quite excited about. He has both a voice and a production role in Magical Dreamers, a new type of manga coming out for iOS and Android devices. Not only is it bilingual, it’s also interactive, with voices as well as printed text. (Jason will have more from that panel later.)

Both Horikawa and Miya said they enjoy their careers for the different lives in which they can immerse themselves. For Horikawa, the character of Vegeta is an excuse for him to yell all the time. “It makes me feel fun and excited. … I’m usually not like that in real life,” he said.

Miya is the same. He gets to go on adventures, go to war, and have relationships with the ladies — things that, he said through a translator, he probably would never get to experience in real life. (I’d argue against “relationships” being included in the “things Miya will not experience” list, though.)

But no matter what that next role might be, whether it be a teenage boy or an angry alien or something completely different, Horikawa’s up for the challenge. He’s pushing the e-manga as well as working to make his voice acting school truly international, so he’s still got a lot more on his plate.

“Face to Face: Yoshitaka Amano”

The same passion for his work can be found in Yoshitaka Amano. Wearing a just-purchased aloha shirt, the artist and character designer described how the vast majority of his artistic inspiration actually came from American sources.

He was a huge fan of Disney characters, he said, having grown up watching the cartoons. In the 1970s, when he was in his 20s, he was influenced by American pop artists such as Andy Warhol, and also by American psychedelic art. He was working in anime at the time, and those influences made their way into his character designs.

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Amano likes every character he draws — or at least he tries to, he said. Like Horikawa, he immerses himself into the person being drawn. “Even if it’s a bad guy or girl, there’s always something appealing,” he said through a translator. He really becomes the person, to the point where, if it’s a scary character, he said, he tends to become a little scary in real life.

But, he hastened to add, he usually forgets most of it after he’s done, so fans can be assured that Amano won’t stay a scary evil guy forever.

Still, Amano apparently better enjoys drawing the bad guys. Actually, he specifically said he enjoys doing the “cool” designs, which most often turn out to be the bad guys. He cited the vampire hunter D as an example of a design he’s proud of.

And in a declaration that warms my fangirl heart, Amano said that out of all the Final Fantasy games he’s worked on, he loved FF6 the most, although he couldn’t say exactly why that was so. In admitting that for the most part he likes easy, “comfortable” drawings because there’s less pressure involved, he pointed to FF6’s Moogle and Tina (called Terra in the English version of the game) as favorites.

But even with all the fame he’s accrued, Amano said he always harbored doubts as to the quality of his work. Did people like his art for itself, or did people like it because they enjoyed the game, anime, or other product that it was associated with? This was one main reason he said he stepped away from character design and went into the fine arts, which comprises about 90 percent of his work now. He’s even held a few museum exhibits of his artwork. All of what he described as “getting outside his small box” served to challenge his talent by having viewers focus on his art rather than the game or animated series.

Amano advises other artists to be the same way. For example, when designing a dragon, he said, we are influenced by what others have drawn before. But he “tries to interpret what’s in (my) own mind,” he said. “If you do that, you can be very different in drawing. Being different is important.”

Another key piece of advice: Love what you do. “Then you will work hard and if people don’t recognize you, you will still be satisfied,” he said.

Then in a complete 180, Amano gave this last piece of advice: Don’t listen to his advice. When asked what kind of counsel he’s received from other artists, he said he neither received any nor gave much to others. Which is good, he said, “because (I) learned to come up with (my) own ideas.” He finished: “Think for yourself. … Keep inspiration close to your heart.”