Q&A with Nobuyuki Hiyama at Anime North 2017


Picture from the AN page on him

Nobuyuki Hiyama is a well respected, long time voice acting veteran. Off the top of my head, my favorite role of his is the Director of Shirobako, but he has a ton of anime and video game roles.

I was only able to attend the Q&A session held on Sunday (May 28, 2017). I jotted down some of the questions and answers but pretty scrappily (it is hard) so forgive me for paraphrasing a lot and for any missing/incorrect info. The answers written here are also much shorter than his nice long replies. Anyway, I hope you find his responses interesting (I liked him a lot!).

Shirobako 874

I wish I had remembered this line and asked him to voice it.

Words in [] are my additional commentary though all of this is paraphrased.

The new wrestler in Tiger Mask W is very powerful and strong. Who is he?

Well, he wears a mask so his identity is a secret.

[The original question was very long winded, had allusions to WWE and stuff and confused everyone, but I think that was the gist of it.]

You do lots of screaming and difficult sound effect voice acting. Does voice acting strain your throat?

No, but it strains my brain.

[He laughed and was pretty jolly when pointing to his head if I recall correctly.]

I have a request, could you voice Link’s grunt?

Okay, I have some special rules for this. I ask this of anyone whenever I am requested a voice. People who came here on Saturday and Friday had to follow them so you have to as well. Please close your eyes and imagine the character. He If you don’t know what Link looks like, he is a small boy with a green triangle hat. Now imagine him.

HIYAAA sound!

[It was amazing!]

The Super Robot Wars game series had you reprise many of your earlier roles. Which character did you enjoy redoing the most?

I have almost the same amount of love for every character I voiced, but I think my favorite was Might Gaine. It was a lot of fun.

[Note: Can’t entirely tell if Might Gaine refers to the series, a collection of characters or a single character.]

How do you get into narcissistic roles? [‘get into’ in the acting sense of the phrase.] 

I imagine myself as the most handsome person!

In Japan, many people have Itasha cars and participate in Itasha car events. You voiced a character in Initial D [Nakazato Takeshi], so have you ever been to an Itasha event and autographed an Initial D car?

No, I never knew they held Itasha events, but I have seen lots of those Itasha around!

[The translator then explained Itasha refers to cars that have been decorated with anime decals.]

You have been voicing Siegfried in the Soul Calibur games for a long time. How did you handle his evolution game to game?

This series has been going on for a long time, so as you can imagine, he changes. So, the staff tells me ahead of time how they want his backbone to be.

[I think he was trying to say that he just goes along with what the writers and other staff expect of Siegfried in that game.]

You voice Ikkaku Madarame in Bleach. If you had your own Zanpaktou [the magic swords in Bleach] what powers would it have?

I love Japanese swords. I actually own a lot of swords myself. Oh, they are not real though, they are model swords. If I had my own Zanpaktou, it would be an ordinary, regular sword, not a model sword.

[According to ANN, Historical research is a hobby of Hiyama’s. That makes sense. I can’t convey it here, but he definitely seemed very happy to talk about swords, far more than I expected.]

[There was a question about whether he’d be redoing a role in a remake of one of his previous series. I didn’t catch the name of the series or the character sadly (r something and y something I think), but he hadn’t heard of the remake so of course he wouldn’t be reprising his role.]

What roles did you not get, but you wanted to get?

I believe it is destiny if I don’t get a role I want. As an example, I auditioned for the role of Kira in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure [Part 4 – Diamond is Unbreakable] and I didn’t get it. Toshiyuki Morikawa got it. He cheated!

[Hiyama sounds like a believer in Fate or Destiny. He often mentioned how roles would come to him not the other way and whether he would get the role or not was all part of fate.]

Could you talk about your experience with Tetsuko no Tabi, which is an anime based on a real life story?

In that anime, I voiced Mr.Yokomi who is a real person. He came to recording sessions many times! It was very strange to act in front of him. I was very happy happy enjoyed it.

[Some question about his favorite Link sound and whether he could voice it.Hiyama decided to voice Link’s attack sound.]


[I loved it.]

You have worked with Project Soul [I think the question was about Soul Calibur but I didn’t write it down…] for many, many years. What is your relationship with the staff like?

It is professional. We don’t go outside for drinks or anything like that.

A request to voice one of his characters [I think it was Tales of Graces Veigue Lungberg’s famous Kureya]

In Shirobako you played the role of the Director. What was your favorite scene to voice? [I asked this and I figured his voice was tired so I didn’t ask him to recite a line.]

The Director is normally a very comedic character, but there are scenes where he starts giving out orders. I like those scenes because they show my acting ability.

Question about voicing Hiei in Yu Yu Hakusho [The asker asked this in Japanese and I don’t recall exactly what she asked.]


(from MAL)

I somehow ended up called the first Love Hunter. Woah! [laughter and I don’t recall how he lead up to that sentence but it’s with respect to Hiei being very popular with young girls.]

When I initially auditioned, I did so for Kuwabara [I think I am not sure] and not Hiei, but they asked me to voice Hiei instead. It is really common to audition as one character, but then get another role instead. Hiei is a very typical evil villain. EVIL LAUGH [He did an evil laugh!] That was the audition pitch, an evil laugh.

But, because I am an enemy, Yuusuke defeated me. Then I appeared as a good guy. What happened? I don’t know. His personality changed. When he was a villain he spoke so much, but as a good guy, he mostly just said ‘baka’.

My coworkers said I was stealing all the money by acting all the lines and they were the easy lines. [He paused and smirked a little.]

Do you know what they mean by that?

I worked really hard in the gaiya [?? I can’t find the exact word or definition, but in anime voice acting, he was referring to background characters or side-effects] and stood out. My voice was all over the anime. It wasn’t the case back then, but with the internet now, people would be complaining about that!

Yuu☆Yuu☆Hakusho is a really important part of my career and I am very happy the 25th anniversary has people talking about it again!

[He then did some Hiyae voice thing.]

What has changed in the VA industry over the years?

There has been lots of change. I would never have guessed I’d be invited overseas someday. [Note: He’s been overseas many times now, but he probably never imagined it when he started.] That proves anime and games are loved outside of Japan too.

As for the VA job, some VAs sing now or they are the MCs on the radio. I would never have imagined that in the earlier days. Us voice actors can’t chose our jobs and can only wait for jobs to come. That said, there were so many jobs I’ve been offered and I am very grateful.

Was it difficult to act as Kojiro [this one from Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman I believe] who’s a bit different from most characters you voice and are you like him? 

It was not difficult because Kojiro is a very easy to understand character. And I am nothing like him.

[Paraphrased the question a fair bit. I think Kojiro is meant to be very thug and evil or something, so if I recall correctly, Hiyama was pretty firm in pointing out that the two are nothing alike.]

Does Sonoko love Makoto in Detective Conan

She’s always blushing around him, so I think so!

[This was another strange long windy question by the Tiger Mask fellow. I think they’d only seen a few episodes of Conan so they never realized Sonoko and Makoto are actually going out. The asker confused everyone over what they were asking and Hiyama somehow concluded the above.]

Some question about his role in Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu [I am now reasonably sure they said Ginga Eiyuu but I didn’t realize that was Legend of the Galactic Heroes].

Before the anime aired, I didn’t know it had a novel. I watched the first season and got really interested, so I read the entire thing. I really liked it.

At the time I was working with the Sound Director of Ginga Eiyuu on something else [Aketagawa-san I believe] and the third season of Ginga Eiyuu was coming out soon. There are a lot of characters involved in Ginga Eiyuu. While we were drinking, I was told that there are too many characters and that they are running out of voice actors for them.

I know I said before that you have to wait for a job, but here I started dropping some hints asking if I could be in it. The Sound Director asked what role I wanted. I thought about what character I wanted since I’d read the novels. All of the main characters had already been taken by then as it was the third season. I said Knapfstein. This was a rare case in my career where I asked for a role. That is why even though I only acted as Knapfstein four times, it was a very memorable role.

[This was a very nice response and I think Hiyama had to stumble and think a fair bit before he basically pulled a name out of a hat. At least if my memory is correct.]

Those are all the questions I wrote down.

Hiyama then asked the audience if Canada has gambling. We tried to tell him about casinos and what not.  He then talked about how in Japan he’s on this boat racing radio show (Valkyrie Turn I think) and they would like to make it an anime. So, he encourages everyone to tune in (you can still listen to it even if you are overseas).

Finally he closed by saying he’s really happy with how anime and games have become liked outside of Japan and requested us to continue supporting his work. Arigatou Gozaimas.

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