Home Interview: Kaiji Tang Talks Voice Acting and Roomba Dreams

Interview: Kaiji Tang Talks Voice Acting and Roomba Dreams

If you are at all familiar with the English anime dub scene, you’ve probably heard of Kaiji Tang, currently best known as the voice behind Jujutsu Kaisen’s Satoru Gojo and Osamu Dazai from Bungo Stray Dogs. The voice actor is very active on Twitter/X, where he engages with his fans and shares fun facts about his daily life, roles, and interests. So when Gojo and Dazai topped the Anime Corner’s Summer 2023 Best Male Character ranking, we saw this as a perfect opportunity to discuss Kaiji’s career, the characters he voices but also future plans!

Q: How did you get into voice acting? Tell us a bit about your journey.

A: Pretty randomly. I did a podcast for a dubbing studio and they brought me in to read for a few of their shows. I blinked, 17 years past, and here I am. It has been a crazy ride. I think what kept me in it for so long was my falling in love with acting as a skillset. It’s something you can improve upon endlessly without ever reaching perfection and that’s really exciting. It’s also brought so much joy to my life. Through this job, I’ve met some of the best people ever. I’m still trying to voice a Roomba* but I can’t seem to book that job for the life of me, so if any of you know anything…

*NOTE: Roomba is a brand of robot vacuums. Some models have language features and are able to describe what they are doing or “answer” voice commands.

Q: How do you prepare for a new role or character?

A: It’s difficult to do a lot of last-minute preparation for a job like this. I wanna say 60% of the time you’re jumping into the booth knowing almost nothing about the character you’re about to be performing. Generally, you, the performer, the director, and the client if they’re available work together to build the character when we first begin to work the lines. In a perfect situation, you get sent the materials the night before so you have an evening of researching the character. A lot of times you don’t get that. Cold reading becomes an invaluable tool at that point; the ability to read anything as if you’ve read it a thousand times before. Most working VAs are master cold readers.

Q: What was it like preparing for the really popular roles like Satoru Gojo in Jujutsu Kaisen or Osamu Dazai in Bungo Stray Dogs? Both characters had an established fan base before the anime even got announced in Japan.

A: Oh man I almost lost Dazai before I even started. I was on my honeymoon out of the country when I got the email that I had booked Bungo. The problem was they were trying to book me the following week. I wasn’t even going to be back in the country until the end of the month. At that point, I had given up on it because I wasn’t going to come back early from my honeymoon. Fortunately, the studio found a way to do a bunch of my stuff immediately the second I got off that plane and it ended up working out! Phew.

Same kinda deal with Gojo but a bit less dramatic! When I first got the JJK sides I was *so* tired. Like I had just finished recording a fighting game and I was spent. So when I got the auditions I was *this* close to just skipping the whole thing. Seriously I almost talked myself out of it. I didn’t know anything about JJK at the time so I literally had no idea what I would have been missing. But I did’em. Kinda glad I did.

Jujutsu Kaisen – Episode 1 English Dub

Q: As you know, Gojo and Dazai were chosen as the top two favorite male characters of the season by the Anime Corner community. When it comes to the two of them, what traits do you think appeal to fans? What do you like the most about each one of them?

A: I think people like how these two can be so incredibly potent and at the same time just two of the biggest dorks you’ve ever met. They are incredibly silly men. There are a lot of good nuanced reasons these characters use humor in this way and as an actor, I think that’s the thing I like best about them. 

Bungo Stray Dogs – Episode 53

Q: Did you expect fans’ reaction to this season of Jujutsu Kaisen? The community has been on fire with edits and your performance has received a lot of praise.

A: I did not! I’m so glad and happy fans have taken to this new season. From the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful. 

Q: Does your own personality ever mix into the characters you voice?

A: You know my wife would say Gojo’s trollish nature is very similar to the way *I* troll my wife, but I think that’s character assassination, to be honest with you. The woman mains JP in Street Fighter 6, who are you going to trust here?

Q: What is your favorite anime that you’ve worked on and why?

A: So there’s a kid’s show called Doraemon. I play the big bully kid, ‘Big G’ in our version. The reason that was my favorite is because my first human memory as a kid was looking at a Doraemon comic. So to be able to work on the show later in life was an amazing full-circle moment.

Q: How difficult do you find matching the emotions from the original Japanese voice acting? Have you ever met the original Japanese voice actor of a character you voice?

A: I have never met any Japanese voice actors, unfortunately! Hopefully, I get to one day. We sometimes have to fine-tune the emotion from the original Japanese side. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t translate well and we’ve got to transmute it into something similar but more palatable to an English-speaking audience. A one-to-one copy of the original vocal music gets you that classic ‘anime sound.’ And as much as *I* love that sound (bring back hilarious 80’s/90’s style dubs) a lot of directors steer away from it these days. 

Q: Have you ever faced any challenges or issues with your voice? How do you take care of it?

A: Oh yeah. Earlier on in my career, I over-committed to a screaming role for way too long and way too many days in a row. I’ll save you the gory details but it was not attractive. The only way I could heal it was by not talking for a couple of weeks. Don’t put yourself through that folks, don’t accept that four-hour throat ripper. 

Q: Can you describe a typical recording session in any of the shows you worked in, maybe one of the more recent ones?

A: I arrive up to 30 minutes early because that’s prime free coffee time. When I was a younger actor I wouldn’t eat lunch sometimes because I knew there’d be snacks at the studio. So I get in, the receptionist says ‘Wow, you’re early!’ and I wink and say ‘That’s me!’ and immediately make my way to their coffee machine. Technically you’re not supposed to have a lot of dairy products before you record but you know what screw it I deserve those two coffee creamers. So then I sit and I disassociate on my phone for 30 minutes while I drink free coffee and then they bring me into the recording booth when they’re set up. We attack the lines and make stuff fit into place where they have no business fitting but this is the business of fitting stuff into place where they have no business fitting so let’s get this bread. After our scheduled recording time is over or when we finish our materials we all say goodbye to each other and this is the last acceptable time you can get a free cup of coffee out of the studio.

Q: How do you handle recording emotional or physically demanding scenes? Do you have any standouts?

A: We work the emotional stuff really hard. They say the hardest parts of acting are making someone laugh and making someone cry. I’m a fan of levity but when drama is in the story it needs to be respected and given the seriousness it’s due. Every actor has a different toolset when it comes to how they handle these emotions because every human has a different way they handle theirs. A lot of us use the emotional recall technique. But it’s a hard skill to master if you haven’t finished getting in touch with how you as a person handle feeling all your feelings. I like the ending to Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I think it came out pretty well.  

Q: How often do you record your lines alone compared to doing it together with fellow voice actors? What’s the interaction with other voice actors during a project like?

A: For prelay projects you get to record with a group which is always a fun time! The actors are there for you to play off of and the energy is pretty high. But for anime and video games, you’re almost always alone. So you have to develop skills not only to bounce off other humans but also bounce off of people who aren’t even there. 

Q: Is there something specific you can pinpoint as the biggest challenge you faced in your voice acting career?

A: Well I’ve gotta fight Skynet now for voice-over gigs, that kinda sucks.

Q: How do you work with directors when creating a character’s English voice? Is there some particular example where a director’s input significantly changed how you portrayed a character?

A: So before I start any new character I say the same thing to every director: ‘What if we did Macho Man Randy Savage’? And 99.9 percent of the time it’s a no. Sadly. But one director by the name of Lisa Ortiz had the courage to say yes and that’s why Ash has a Pokemon battle with a guy who sounds like Macho Man Randy Savage. 

Q: To move on to the fan stuff, what’s it like going to anime conventions and events as the English voice of several iconic characters?

A: It’s been a delight, truly and utterly. I’ve been able to meet so many amazing and kind people. Been able to eat food in so many new places. Work the events with friends old and new. Absolutely incredible. 

Q: What is your favorite part about attending anime conventions?

A: So currently the JJK cast is getting sent out to a lot of places together. Myself, Adam [Yuji], and Anne [Nobara]. We happen to like each other very much and also happen to play the same trading card game: Magic the Gathering. So after a hard day, we might settle into the hotel lobby to get a game or two in. It’s wholesome and a nice way to settle down from a long day.

Q: Can you share a memorable fan interaction or experience?

A: Someone rolled up to my table in a life-sized prison realm at an Australian convention. First of all, how dare they. And second, they didn’t even let me climb in. I was devastated twice.

Q: Which character that you’ve voiced do you relate to the most?

A: I wanna grow up to be like Ichiban Kasuga. I relate to and respect his outlook on life. To be able to come back from rock bottom with gratitude and a smile in his heart, that’s damn respectable. You get it, Ichi. 

Q: Do you have a dream role or a type of character you’d love to voice in the future? Is there a franchise you would love to be a part of?

A: I’ve always wanted to voice Chucky from Child’s Play. I dunno, I think he’s hilarious and very puntable. I also would love to voice that Roomba like I mentioned but I suck at getting these auditions man, like does someone know something I don’t?!

Q: Do you watch anime in your free time? What are some of your favorites?

A: Slayers, Slayers Next, and Slayers Try are still masterpieces. Food Wars (please don’t judge me). And Keijo (you can judge me a little). 

Q: How does being a voice actor affect your perception when you watch animated shows? Do you ever go think about mouth movements not matching the voice lines or something similar?

A: Oh my goodness yes it’s actually annoying. You can’t help it. You do a job for 17 years and suddenly everything is like ‘They should have moved that one left’ or ‘That was supposed to be a c[losed] m[outh] reac[tion], not an o[pen] m[outh] reac[tion]‘ or ‘They really needed to massage that, ahhhh.’ It’s crazy.

Q: Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self starting in voice acting?

A: Get some therapy and feel your feelings. And my god, quit drinking.

Q: What are your future goals in the voice acting industry?

A: You can tweet at me @KaijiTang if you have any leads on Roomba gigs, I’m openly desperate.  

Q: Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about that you can share with the fans?

A: JJK season 2 and Apothecary Diaries are now dropping weekly! The JJK video game Cursed Clash is out soon. You can check out Detective Pikachu Returns now on the Switch. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is coming fast. And a bunch of stuff I’ll announce soon on my Twitter! Thank you so much!

We’d like to thank Kaiji Tang for taking the time to talk to us and we really hope he lands that Roomba gig soon!

Interview by: Tamara Lazic and Marko Jovanovic

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