Home Interview: Masaya Fukunishi on Voicing Kafka in Kaiju No. 8

Interview: Masaya Fukunishi on Voicing Kafka in Kaiju No. 8

At this year’s Anime Expo, we had the opportunity to interview Masaya Fukunishi, the voice actor for protagonist Kafka Hibino in Kaiju No. 8. We asked about plenty, but made sure to get an understanding of how Fukunishi-san came to play Kafka, how he felt about being tasked with the main character role, his mindset when voicing Kafka, and his perspective on some other aspects of the series.

Becoming Kafka

Before auditioning and being selected to voice Kafka, Fukunishi-san was already a big fan of the series. I started off by asking how it felt to voice the main character of a series he followed and enjoyed, something he was happy to explain.

“I was a huge, huge fan. I actually learned about this series from Chapter 1, when the first manga chapter came out, and I’ve been following it ever since. I love the series so much that when I was cast in the role, I did so much prep that actually when I was in the booth, I wasn’t nervous at all.”

This prep ends up paying dividends; despite Kafka being a quite layered, nuanced character with a lot of differences from a typical anime protagonist, Fukunishi-san plays him incredibly well. Kafka is unique in that he’s already fairly old, meaning he’s had the opportunity to try for his goals in life — and fail at them. He’s failed the examination to join the Anti-Kaiju Defense Force multiple times while his childhood friend with whom he promised to join had become a Captain. Fukunishi-san explained how he blended that aspect of Kafka, his age and experience, with the more hopeful and positive sides of him.

“So, I’m a little younger than Kafka—I’m 29 years old right now—but I’ve been in the voice acting industry for around 10 years. And in these 10 years, I was never cast in the role of a main character or protagonist of an anime. So in some ways, I can really relate to Kafka, because I could feel what Kafka is going through. I just have to tap into that emotion, kind of blend it with my performance. And I think that gives a good balance of what I’ve been through building up 10 years, plus that sliver of hope.”

During the audition, Fukunishi-san played him like an older man and modified his voice to feel closer to that age. I asked about his process for finding and finalizing the right voice for Kafka amidst the many different vocal templates he’d formed in his head over the course of 10 years of voice acting.

“When I auditioned for Kafka, I actually aged him up a little bit and made him more of a middle-aged man. But then when I was simply talking, they asked me, Fukunishi-san, I think your natural voice might actually be a better fit. So I went in for a second audition and submitted it and I was cast in the part. It [Kafka’s voice] really leans closer to myself in terms of templates. But one thing I do keep in mind when performing characters—I think with Kafka he has a wide range of different facial expressions. I look at his facial expression, what I see on the screen. And what I’m voicing it to. And I try to match whatever’s happening, what I see his facial expression do. I apply the same technique to a lot of the roles that I do as well.”

His favorite amongst those facial expressions, the “half-Kaiju face.”

Kaiju and Other Characters

Moving on to the rest of the world of Kaiju No. 8, I wanted to focus for a moment on the way Kaiju are perceived within the context of the story and how that perception affects the story. Specifically, Kaiju are talked about almost as if they’re natural disasters. When one appears, people either panic or act calm based on the weather-like threat level assigned to it and go into shelters not too dissimilar from those erected to keep people safe from storms. Fukunishi-san explained his perspective on this aspect of the series.

“I think when you take a natural disaster in our own reality, of course, there are a lot of specialists and scientists who have researched it, but no one is able to prevent a natural disaster. You can only adapt to it or deal with the aftermath of what it leaves in its wake. So I imagine if there was some being or entity or creature that could intervene or prevent an actual natural disaster. In some way, I feel the Kaiju Defense Force is a metaphor for that. I can see why the general public would want to support their efforts. So I try to imagine that and superimpose it on top of reality. Imagine living in Japan, we have a lot of earthquakes. If there were a hero that could suppress an earthquake before it even occurs, I think that that would garner a lot of support.”

Finally, I asked Fukunishi-san what character resonated with him most other than Kafka, who he’s already expressed being able to relate to and empathize with. He explained:

“I mean, I am so deep in Kafka, it’s hard to really resonate or relate to any other characters. I just watch them and feel this sense of awe. But in terms of my own performance when acting as Kafka, I think Mina—or Asami Seto-san who performs Mina—is a huge support because she, even in the anime, gives Kafka a lot of words of encouragement and I find the same kind of assist in her performance that I can tap into when performing. And to add on to that, I was actually an admirer of Asami-san, the voice actress who performs Mina. When I see her acting, I can also relate to Kafka because I look at her and have that same amount of admiration I had before I became a voice actor. I was already a fan of hers.”

We’d like to thank Masaya Fukunishi for taking the time to speak with us as part of Anime Expo 2024. The first season (one of our top picks for Spring) of Kaiju No. 8 concluded and was immediately followed with the announcement of a sequel anime.

Images via Crunchyroll
© JAKDF 3rd Division © Naoya Matsumoto/SHUEISHA

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