Daisuke Ono interview, October 2017

Careful with the mentality of the role

Published in J Movie magazine Vol. 28 (Reed Co.), October 2, 2017

Daisuke Ono serves as a vocal artist in many anime works. He plays Susumu Kodai, the main character in Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love. Chapter 3, Pure Love Chapter, is the next theatrical release. We asked him for his impressions of the new work, for which he has played the Kodai role for five years.

Photo: Yoshiko Kojima
Text: Editorial Department
Hair & makeup: Mai Fukuda (Admix BG)
Styling: Sugi

The legendary anime Space Battleship Yamato was first broadcast as a TV anime in 1974.This and the subsequent series influenced many later SF works. In 2012, the seven chapters of Yamato 2199 began as a remake of the first Yamato. Currently, the sequel Yamato 2202 is being shown sequentially in theaters. In this work, the crew of Space Battleship Yamato goes on a magnificent space journey. Voice actor Daisuke Ono plays Susumu Kodai.

The stage is three years after Yamato saved Earth from a crisis. Kodai, who stopped the Garmillas invasion, represents Yamato‘s crew in 2202 as “one of the life forms living in space.” What kind of path should mankind follow? We pressed him for this ultimate question…

This is a remake of the Yamato saga’s masterpiece, Farewell to Yamato. It is a story anyone can enjoy, in addition to the many Yamato fans, due to its simple storytelling. We asked Mr. Ono, who had recently finished voice recording for this chapter, for his thoughts on the work.

I went on a journey with the staff and my costars

Interviewer: Yamato 2202 consists of seven chapters, starting with Chapter 1, Beginning Chapter and continuing with Chapter 2, Launch Chapter. What impressions have you received from those who have seen it in the theater?

Ono: I think the mission to bring a new Yamato to those who loved the original was accomplished by the previous series, 2199. But for people who know the original, I really feel that 2202 will be a work they’ll love even more. 2202 depicts wthe world and story of Farewell to Yamato, and those of the so-called Yamato Generation are really pleased with that. I’m not of the Yamato Generation myself, but I’ve heard from various places that Farewell caused a social phenomenon at the time. Just like the fans, the actors, staff, and sound supervisors who came together from the time of Chapter 1 are very pleased. I’m also proud of it myself.

Interviewer: How did it feel to stand up in the theater for the stage greeting?

Ono: At the stage greeting, I felt the viewers’ reaction directly. They strained to hear every word from Director Habara and the writer Mr. Fukui, and I listened closely, too. We think about future developments from every word of the staff team. I felt a true “Yamato love” in the air. When I stand in such a place at a stage greeting, it makes me love Yamato even more.

Interviewer: At the time it came out, Farewell recorded Japan’s highest box office income in the postwar years. This work is based on that masterpiece, but what was the road like from 2199 to 2202?

Ono: The journey of 2199 was physically long. If you measure it as a TV series, it consisted of about two arcs, but it took a year and a half to record something that would be broadcast in six months. So I felt like I traveled with my costars and the staff. Looking back, I feel that it was a really nice trip. On the other hand, there was also a sense of, “Where is this journey going?” at the time of recording. (Laughs) That’s why I was so excited, since we had gotten through it together and I felt passion all the way through the journey, and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. When I count the five years of that long journey since the beginning of 2199, I think, “we certainly went through a lot” but it was just a blink of an eye before 2202 started. There was a lot of joy when 2202 started. When I thought about how long this trip would be and what we have to accomplish, I trembled with both excitement and anxiety.

Interviewer: Was there also a part of 2202 where you felt a mental link to Kodai?

Ono: That’s right. Yamato is starting up again, and I wondered whether I should ride on it or not. There might have been a mental link there. But my frame of mind was, “If it’s expected of you, then you have no choice but to take the ride!”

Interviewer: In terms of that, this work (Chapter 3) is a surging wave compared to the first two chapters. How did you feel when you read the script?

Ono: Kodai has been suffering for a long time. Right at the beginning, Kodai is forced to choose whether or not to fire Yamato‘s Wave-Motion Gun.

Zordar of Gatlantis forces him to decide his love, to choose who to help. In other words, whose life would he save? It is the hero who is always pressed to choose. So it was certainly hard to read the script. If it was me, it would be really painful to be forced to make a choice that would have so much influence on human lives. But Kodai makes his choice, doesn’t he? In other words, he “chooses not to choose.” He takes all the responsibility, which makes him an impressive man.

It was also impressive that Captain Okita’s presence gave Kodai the power to decide. When the spirit of Captain Okita said, “Show your readiness,” Kodai made the decision to “follow his own feelings.” It’s the soul he should have inherited, but at the same time it may be based on his own ego. That’s why I can identify with it.

The sense of a spiritual link with Kodai

Interviewer: What kind of atmosphere was there at the recording site?

Ono: There wasn’t much direction from Mr. Habara or Mr. Fukui. Of course, they gave us the necessary information, and all the information is packed into the script. But what was described in this Pure Love Chapter was difficult to express emotionally.

Kodai is obviously troubled, and his weakness is also revealed. I was worried about how much to put on the table for Kodai. But Mr. Habara and Mr. Fukui gave me a lot to go on. “Please be even more upset than you think you should be. You can go all the way.”

Interviewer: With that intention, it seems like you pushed hard with Kodai’s passion. It’s an interesting change to have more scenes of conflict as you get older.

Ono: Kodai was the tactical officer before, and now he is the acting captain of Yamato. So already, the idea of “I’ll be okay no matter what” is completely gone. As a voice actor, I’ve gradually passed from a position of being a young man to being in middle age. I’m not the youngest any more, and there are young men coming up watching me while the seniors expect me to have faith in myself. Honestly, I worry about “What am I supposed to do now?” I didn’t worry at all before. It was just, “Go for it!” (Laughs) In that way, my own mentality is linked to Kodai. I definitely think the Kodai of the previous work was me, and there is the feeling that Kodai this time is Daisuke Ono.

During the performance, when I play Kodai I want to play a valiant part. But since there is heat it flips over backward and I’m at a loss.

Interviewer: It’s science fiction, but the appealing place that is unique to the series is how any generation can identify with the drama unfolds.

Ono: That’s right. I think a lot of people can feel, “There it is, this is it!” For example, if you were to apply this Yamato to modern people, as you rush recklessly through your work day a friend advises you of one thing while a senior pushes back and you get disapproval by an elite from another company. It reflects modern society.

In fact, this time it’s based on Farewell, a work that came out in 1978 when I was born. Mr. Fukui said, “Instead of just doing the old work as is, we’re incorporating elements that are appropriate to modern society.” I feel like that is reflected in the work every time a new chapter moves forward.

Please see it with “readiness” by all means

Interviewer: Kodai’s relationship with Yuki Mori (Houko Kuwashima), his sweetheart on the Yamato crew, will also change. What are the highlights of the Kodai and Yuki scenes?

Ono: Yuki gets on board Yamato in hiding from Kodai, and it’s striking when he tells her to “Get off.” The cool Kodai from before loses it there. I like that it’s very easy to understand. His thoughts toward Yuki always come from the depths of his heart. The scenes I like most this time are the ones that show that. I’ve talked with the other cast members about why this chapter is titled Pure Love, and when I saw the whole story the meaning of the subtitle became clear.

Interviewer: Sayaka Kanda is also participating in the 2202 series as Teresa. Please share your impression of her and also of Hiroshi Kamiya in the role of Keyman.

Ono: I’m recording with both of them. As for Ms. Kanda, we previously received voice actor awards together. I never thought I’d see her again on 2202 this time, so I was genuinely happy for me to see her on site where I became the chairman. I think Teresa is a very difficult role, because it’s shrouded in mystery. I feel she is sincerely working at playing Teresa. She takes direction seriously and can respond to it immediately. I think she has a good ear. The most important thing for an actor is to have a good ear. Rather than a good voice, my former teachers told me an actor has to have a good ear to draw on the intention of the production and respond to it immediately. You listen to the performers around you. I think she is such an actor.

Mr. Kamiya is a very reliable senior. There are also many mysteries to Keyman, who he plays, but Mr. Kamiya personally asks questions of the director and Mr. Fukui. Honestly, that approach is the reverse of those of us in the Yamato crew so far, so it’s impressive that he is so proactive about it.

Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the fans who anticipate the future of the series.

Ono: You may think you’ve seen the ferocity and might of the enemy Gatlantis in the chapters so far. In terms of what’s so scary about them, Gatlantis talks about a great love as if it surpasses that of Yamato‘s crew. To everyone who watches, most of the development so far has been about human love, but I think you’ll also feel something like a fear of love. In addition, you won’t see only the positive side of “love.” As the spirit of Captain Okita said to Kodai, everyone please see it with “readiness” by all means as things develop in the future. Also, there’s a great moment in the last scene of this third chapter. Don’t miss it!

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