Voice Actor Koichi Yamadera interviews, 2014

Koichi Yamadera holds a singular position in the hierarchy of Space Battleship Yamato voice actors, having played the top two characters at different times: Kodai in the Playstation games and Yamato Resurrection, and Dessler in Yamato 2199. This makes him an interesting guy to talk to, and resulted in these three publicity interviews for A Voyage to Remember, all published on October 10, 2014.

From the movie program book:

To be honest, I trembled at the thought of playing a charismatic leader in front of such masters.

I think I started from the first episode [of the original Space Battleship Yamato, and I certainly watched the whole TV series. Up until then, there was no big-scale SF anime that started with something like humanity on the verge of extinction, and I was attracted to a story in which Yamato confronts the crisis without ever giving up, even in such a situation.

All the characters were attractive, and the women, such as Yuki and Starsha, were beautiful. The enemy Gamilas weren’t just evil. It was a great work, filled with great music and a variety of charms. Although I was in the first year of junior high in those days, at the age when I was told I should graduate from watching anime, anime started coming out that even adults could enjoy, and I was engrossed in watching it.

Because it was such a favorite work, I was very glad to be able to perform the role of Susumu Kodai in Yamato Resurrection. I’d always greatly respected [voice actor] Kei Tomiyama, and now even more so. When talk of 2199 began, I surely wondered if I might get the part of Kodai, and I was surprised to be offered the part of Dessler.

I’d done different voices in the same work before; I once performed the voice of Marty in Back to the Future, and in a new dub I did the voice of Doc. I’d never had the opportunity to play both the hero and the enemy. I like Dessler more than anything, and because he’s such a worthwhile character, I decided to undertake it with pleasure.

The design of this Dessler is very youthful and much more handsome, so I wondered at first if I should give him a youthful image. But Director Izubuchi told me, “It’s OK not to be conscious of it.” I agreed, because after all the image of Dessler with Masato Ibu’s voice is a strong one. His low, calm tone had sex appeal with a listless feeling, charisma, gentleness, and an air of intimidation. You couldn’t take his words at face value, like a bottomless pit that makes you genuinely unsure what to think. It’s a multi-faceted role, and it was very interesting to perform. It’s the same in the last stages, as he devotes himself to inhuman behavior, because I played him as if there was just nothing left inside of him. I just played it very naturally based on what I felt from the script and picture.

However, the group who played the Garmillas military members around him was full of veterans such as Masashi Hirose [Goer], Yosuke Akimoto [Hyss], Norio Wakamoto [Zoellik], and Junpei Morita [Gimleh], and to be honest, I trembled at the thought of playing a charismatic leader in front of such masters. (Laughs)

Although all of Dessler’s active scenes are impressive, the scene of him pointing his gun at Talan, who tries to restrain him from using the Dessler gun, and saying, “I am starting a war,” leaves the strongest impression. It’s a scene of madness that looks into the true character of Dessler for the first time, and his confidence is unshaken to the last. It was difficult to give it that feeling.

Other than things related to Dessler, I really like the time when strange bonds grow between Analyzer and the garmilloid (Episode 9). Although I thought it was a standalone episode at first, the data obtained at that time becomes the decisive means to repel the garmilloids in the last fight with Dessler, when they fought Yamato hand-to-hand, and I was surprised when I saw that. Ah, I thought, that episode lives on here! 2199 is very skillful in the use of foreshadowing like that, and there are likely to be other things that I surely haven’t noticed yet. I’d already like to watch it again to confirm that.

I’m very glad that I could play such an important role and be part of this wonderful work. After all, I’ve always loved both Yamato and Dessler. Of course, it’s important that those who watch it are satisfied. Because Yamato has fans across a wide range of generations, I was worried that they’d say, “The work is good, it’s just the voice of Dessler that was disappointing…” (Laughs) Fortunately, since the work is a hit, there will be further development. Let’s hope that we’ll get to see some new activity from Dessler.

But even if he survives, it’s not likely to be in his character to form a friendship with Kodai as in the original works. (Laughs) And I can’t imagine him working to become someone else’s subordinate. But it’s impossible for him to return to Garmillas. Assuming that there is a followup series, if he revives one way or another, what kind of activity will we see? It’s fun to try and imagine it. I think that because he wasn’t shown to have definitely died, I also hope he revives in a new form. It doesn’t need to be an entirely new story. For example, wouldn’t it also be interesting to reconstruct this story from Dessler’s perspective?

From the Anime Anime website:

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Koichi Yamadera interview

What is Leader Dessler’s appeal?

Reporter: Katsunori Takahashi

The theatrical screenings of all seven Yamato 2199 chapters began in April 2012, and the nationwide TV broadcast was carried out on MBS affiliates from April to September, 2013. This project, which revived the 1974 masterpiece Space Battleship Yamato for the present day, pulled in a new generation as well as fans of the original, and became a big hit. This year, in response to Yamato‘s 40th anniversary, event screenings are taking place for the compilation film A Voyage to Remember on October 11 and the completely new feature film Ark of the Stars on December 6.

Just before we saw A Voyage to Remember, we spoke with Koichi Yamadera, the voice actor for Leader Dessler. Yamadera played the main character Susumu Kodai in Yamato Resurrection, and was surprisingly appointed the role of Dessler. Dessler is the villain of Yamato, who has continued to captivate fans for many years. What does Yamadera himself have to say about Dessler’s appeal?

[Translator’s note: the term “afreco” in this interview is industry jargon for “after recording,” in reference to the fact that voice recording is done after animation is completed. The English-language equivalent is A.D.R., which can mean either Automated Dialogue Replacement or Additional Dialogue Recording.]

Interviewer: First, please tell me how the part of Dessler in Yamato 2199 was decided. You previously performed Susumu Kodai after the late Mr. Kei Tomiyama in Yamato Resurrection, and now you’ve turned to the leader of the enemy.

Yamadera: I was surprised. The Kodai in Resurrection was an older character, so when I heard Yamato 2199 was being produced, I thought, “There are a lot of energetic young men, so the role of Kodai will be given to someone younger than me.” So when talk of 2199 came up and it was decided “not Kodai, it’s Dessler,” I gave it a go and said, “I’ll give it a try.” It was a lot of pressure. Fans of the original would surely say, “Why isn’t it Masato Ibu?”

I was a big fan of Masato Ibu when he played Dessler. He’s still a great actor with an excellent voice, even now. In fact, when I first went in to do afreco on Resurrection, if I had been chosen for the role of Dessler, I don’t think I could have even talked much. But when I heard the entire cast would change for 2199, and if someone else would play Mr. Ibu’s role, I wanted to do it by all means. It’s my favorite character.

Interviewer: I hear that you watched Space Battleship Yamato in real time when you were a junior high student. At what point did you understand the appeal of Dessler?

Yamadera: It’s his charisma, after all. He’s always calm and stable to the end. There are parts later in the series where he communes with Kodai, but originally he was cool-headed. All the kids felt like, “he’s unlike any anime villain that came before.”

Is there anyone who could watch Yamato and not come to like Dessler? For the Garmillas side, they have their own way of thinking, so this work isn’t simply a “good wins and evil is punished” story. I think that contributes to the fun of Yamato.

And there was Masato Ibu’s voice. I liked it when he said, “Yamato no shokun” [“Gentlemen of Yamato“] and I imitated that. Kodai, too. “Target scope open! Hado-ho hassha!” [“Wave-Motion Gun, fire!”] Right after my voice changed. I never dreamed that I could possibly play Kodai and Dessler later.

Interviewer: How did you think about strongly playing Dessler when you went into the afreco? A lot of new character arrangements were done for 2199.

Yamadera: Everyone watched it to understand the different situations. They’re all more lovely, and even Dr. Sado is cuter. And Tokugawa has a twinkle in his eyes. (Laughs) Dessler is also younger than his original image, and has a more handsome style.

Interviewer: How does Mr. Yamadera’s Dessler perform?

Yamadera: I love Mr. Ibu’s Dessler, and I could never match it. In every scene and episode, my reflex was, “Since it’s my own, I’ll do it this way,” and thought about how to play the feeling that was described in the lines. It’s presumptuous to make up a character with my own voice, so I leaned on the staff to tell me how the voice and expression of Dessler would be suitable for 2199.

Interviewer: What was the atmosphere of the afreco?

Yamadera: Because 2199 had a lot of characters, afreco on the Yamato side was carried out separately from the Garmillas side. Besides, I often recorded alone because of my schedule, and I thought about it like the lonely battle of Dessler himself. (Laughs)

Also, the voice acting on the Garmillas side started with Norio Wakamoto [Herm Zoellick], and it was full of strong, individual personalities. Even though Dessler is young, they all had to prostrate themselves before him because he’s at the top. I was just thinking about feeling the need to avoid defeat. There were times I was glad I was recording separately. If I’d recorded with them, I’d have been so nervous! (Laughs)

Interviewer: How did you get over the pressure of the role of Dessler?

Yamadera: I’m a defeatist by nature, so I try not to listen to other people’s comments. Because if I did, I’d fall into depression.

But this time, by chance I ran into the website of a someone who’s a fan of the original Dessler. They said, “This Dessler is great, too,” and praised me. I was surprised when I saw it, and said, “my Dessler is praiseworthy.” I had to cry when I saw that. I actually cried. Because I never though I’d get praise from fans of the original Yamato.

It should come naturally, but it’s hard to believe in oneself. No matter how much uncertainty I felt, once I stood in front of the mike, I’d get serious and tell myself that nobody else could do this but me. “I am Dessler.” When I think that in front of the mike, I can’t help but play it comfortably. The switch comes when I stand in front of the mike facing the script and the screen. It’s different from the former Dessler, and I’m grateful to everyone on the staff who created the new Dessler.

Interviewer: What is your overall impression of the work called 2199?

Yamadera: I’ve loved Yamato and thought about it since my days as a junior high student, and I think this work’s fine attention to detail makes it overflow with Yamato love. Since it is made by people who like Yamato, including the director, there is respect for the original.

Nevertheless, the elements of Yamato‘s revival are everywhere now, and it has spread out so that people who don’t know the old Yamato also enjoy it.

Interviewer: The battle scenes are also impressive.

Yamadera: Time has passed since the original was broadcast in 1974, so of course the imaging technique has changed, too. When I first saw Yamato, its expression and battles made me think, “there is such an anime now,” and it became a classic.

And it’s also full of service. You couldn’t find such cute kids in the old Yamato crew. And there’s the sexy part. I never dreamed there could be a bathing scene on the way to Iscandar (Laughs), and there are episodes that go more deeply into the characters. But even though it touches on all these various characters, it doesn’t blur the overall story. It’s a great composition.

Interviewer: Lastly, I think the series will continue to infinitely expand in the future, and I expect you are also a fan of 2199. Please tell me what you look forward to as a voice actor.

Yamadera: I think 2199 played a big role in connecting various generations to Yamato. Yamato doesn’t end with the old stories, and now young anime fans can ask, “Was there such a classic?” and look back on the past. It’s a really great work with momentum, so the one thing I want is for it to keep going.

My biggest concern is what will happen to Dessler. In fact, I haven’t been told anything at all about future plans. Will I appear in the future? If the work keeps expanding, I’ll feel great loneliness if I don’t get to appear. It could make me say, “I wanted to be on the Yamato side!” (Laughs)

Interviewer: There’s actually no direct depiction that Dessler died.

Yamadera: Personally, I think I’ll definitely appear again and become even more appealing.

From the Dogatch website:

Koichi Yamadera longs for Leader Dessler in Space Battleship Yamato 2199! He intended to decline the role at first!?

The Space Battleship Yamato TV series was a monumental achievement in SF anime that premiered on Yomiuri TV in October 1974 and sparked an animation boom in Japan. This year, the first Yamato TV series will celebrate its 40th anniversary. In commemoration of this, a completely new Yamato 2199 feature film titled Ark of the Stars will be released on Saturday, December 6. Also, prior to this, a special compilation version titled A Voyage to Remember, which looks back on the 26-episode TV series from a new viewpoint, attracted great attention when it was released on October 11.

TV Dogatch interviewed Koichi Yamadera, who plays the role of Leader Dessler in Yamato 2199 – A Voyage to Remember. He has had two duties in the Yamato series, previously playing the hero Susumu Kodai in 2009’s Yamato Resurrection. We asked him to look back at that time and how he brought charm to the role of Dessler, and also to speak about the highlights of the film.

Interviewer: You played the hero Susumu Kodai in Resurrection. What was your impression when the part of Dessler in Yamato 2199 was decided?

Yamadera: I was surprised when I heard about it, and thought, “I wonder if I’ll get the part of Kodai again?” I wondered if it might be a “grown-up Kodai” in the new Yamato series since I also grew older, and I was surprised to hear that it would be the part of Leader Dessler! I was surprised twice! (Laughs)

Interviewer: What kind of character is Dessler, the leader of Garmillas?

Yamadera: Although he’s an enemy when you judge him from the Yamato side, Leader Dessler is a character with extreme charisma. If he was just cool-headed and cold-hearted, I don’t think he would have such a following. There are various characters on the Garmillas side, including some who start a coup de tat, but there are other subordinates who believe in him and they all have odd quirks and habits.

Interviewer: Did you consciously play the role of Dessler with charisma?

Yamadera: The reason Dessler is popular isn’t because he’s a villain, even if you call him a villain. There is justice on the Yamato side in that they fight to protect something, and there is justice and ideals on the Garmillas side. Dessler has ideals, and when he invades others, he doesn’t intend to let them go to ruin. His purpose is unification. In other words, Dessler is attractive because of his sense of justice and ambition rather than self-interest. So I thought I needed to perform that firmly.

Interviewer: What did you learn from senior voice actors who appeared in the original Yamato?

Yamadera: As a rookie, the advice I received from my seniors was, “Don’t become a jack of all trades and a master of none.” Although Kei Tomiyama (the first Susumu Kodai) had many roles, I learned from various seniors that, “For me, I don’t constantly change my voice. Rather, it’s the drama that changes it.”

Interviewer: What characteristics did you reflect from the original Leader Dessler?

Yamadera: Such a cool villain did not exist before then. I loved it! He wasn’t a villain after all…but in terms of a villain’s role, he was insanely cool! And it wasn’t just Dessler, I loved Masato Ibu, who served as the voice actor at the time. One of the things that inspired me was the interesting expressions in his voice when he was on The Snake Man Show. That work was my bible, and was one of the things that made me want to become a voice actor.

(The Snake Man Show was a radio show derived from a project started by Moichi Kuwahara and Katsuya Kobayashi in late 1975.)

Interviewer: Now you have the role of Leader Dessler. Did you feel any pressure?

Yamadera: Honestly, I was troubled when I first heard about it. I thought fans would say, “Why isn’t Masato Ibu doing Dessler?” But if this role was to be passed on to someone else, I thought I wanted to play it myself despite the pressure. The new Yamato was made after the original with love and respect, and I thought it would be good to participate not because of my performance, but since the work depicts the character of Dessler with great depth.

Interviewer: When you find yourself in doubt, is there something like a “decisive factor?”

Yamadera: In fact, I was in doubt when I took over as MC on Oha! (a children’s variety show on TV Tokyo).

I said to myself, “what will you do if someone else does it and becomes popular?” and I thought I should try it anyway. (Laughs) I mean, would it be shameful to imagine that? So when I’m in doubt, I remember that it’s better to regret doing it than to regret not doing it, and wonder if it might have been good. Then, even if the results aren’t as good as you expected, there is still value in having the experience. Although you may need courage to refuse something, when in doubt I think that it’s better to try it.

Interviewer: It is said that you have a rainbow of voices. What did you think about when making the voice of Dessler?

Yamadera: I always think about talking in a voice that fits the role. At the time of Resurrection, I had the opportunity to talk a little with Masato Ibu (voice of the original Dessler), and he told me that in order to give Dessler charisma, “Let out the very best voice you have inside of you.” So I kept Dessler’s voice low.

Even if I succeeded in delivering an “appropriate voice” with an “appropriate performance,” I worried in many ways that I might ruin such an important role.

Interviewer: What worried you the most?

Yamadera: That when I spoke, I wouldn’t do a voice good enough to get them to say, “That’s him!”

Therefore, whether I do the voice of a dog or the voice of a duck, I put a twist on it with my whole bag of tricks. I think that’s my weapon. But I think the most important thing for a “voice actor” is not to change the tone in various ways. I think even if you change your voice skillfully for different appearances, if it’s superficial you won’t be convincing to the people watching.

Interviewer: How did you finally decide on it?

Yamadera: If you compare a picture of the character to the old days, since his appearance is so youthful and smart, would a younger sound feel better at first? I thought about that, but because Masato Ibu’s voice had such a strong image, I didn’t think it would be suitable for the role of Leader Dessler, who governs a large number of people. So I consulted with the director, and because he said my image of Dessler was good, I finally decided to play his voice in lower tones.

Interviewer: What’s the true challenge of playing Dessler?

Yamadera: it’s true that you can be right for several roles, but in most cases there’s just one actor for the part. Since there are so many actors and voice actors, once they choose me, I have to be the best. For me, the scariest part is for the viewers to say that I’m overdoing it. This time, I was a little scared until I started to do Dessler. I’m constantly terrified of someone saying, “Yama-chan, you’re really forcing the charisma.”

Although it is said that it’s good to do various roles, you don’t pass as a pro if it sounds unnatural. Therefore, I follow the advice of Kei Tomiyama (the original Susumu Kodai) and take care of my vocal quality so I don’t start to neglect it in the performance. Well, how was it this time? (Laughs) I’ll have to leave that up to the viewers.

Interviewer: What do you consider to be the charm of Space Battleship Yamato?

Yamadera: There are too many, it’s hard to put it into words. (Laughs) If I put it coolly, it means “fighting at the risk of your own life to protect something important.” Every character has their own drama, which is depicted in exquisite balance with the interplay of the group. Furthermore, it is depicted more deeply and intricately in Yamato 2199. Yamato has been loved for a long time, and the best part of the original has been successfully rebuilt so that people who see it now find it convincing. I think that’s the best part of this work.

Interviewer: Your final message, please!

Yamadera: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Japanese SF anime began from here. Space Battleship Yamato is appealing because the best conceivable staff has newly built it up, so it has to be interesting. It is a work to be loved all over the world, but when the Japanese look at it again, I think its appeal will be more deeply understood. To the generation watching the latest anime, it’s surely a work that will stay in the heart. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is overflowing with charm that can’t be summed up in one word, so please give it a look. I think it will become a lifetime treasure.

The End

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