Adrenaline-fueled, bombastic fight scenes that last several episodes are the driving force behind famous anime such as the Dragon Ball Z and Naruto series. The main characters start off strong, but become even stronger as the story continues, facing more formidable opponents each time. Each fight is a battle where their life is on the line, yet they inevitably win by a hair because of the powers of friendship, justice, or some other idealistic notion. But every once in a while, it's refreshing to find an anime that disposes of these tropes and gets straight to the point. In this regard, One Punch Man sure doesn't pull any (ahem) punches. The first "battle" of the series ends in around the same time it would take Goku to start to yell "Kamehameha" (and not execute it fully until twenty minutes later). Balance of strength between protagonist and adversary is completely disposed of as the unbeatable duo of Saitama and Genos trawl Z City－not to protect its citizens, but to search for a worthy opponent.
The face of a jaded superhero.
To get a closer look at the inner workings of this action-comedy, here's an interview with the voices of the superhero duo Saitama and Genos.
Furukawa Makoto (Saitama)
Ishikawa Kaito (Genos)
What was it like voicing each of your characters?
Furukawa: Saitama doesn't have any standout points, so it was really difficult. The point I really focused on was the mindset of the strong, of someone who had already reached the pinnacle. His soft side is similar to me, so I started imagining Saitama's voice from there. But sometimes I can be sarcastic, which is a little too much for his character, so by toning that down I got closer and closer to finding Saitama's voice.
Ishikawa: I think that Genos' main quality is that he's a cool-headed cyborg, but as I was voicing him, I got the feeling that he was stoic. There's an extreme gap between being stoic and being serious or comedic, so to figure out his voice I just decided to just practice voicing him without imposing any restrictions, then discussing with the voiceover director about which parts I should bring out more, and which I should suppress. In other works, it's pretty much generally decided how a character reacts to different events beforehand. But for this series, we had to decided what would be best based on each individual scene.
What's it like reading the dialogue for your characters' interactions?
Ishikawa: If Genos doesn't manipulate him, Saitama doesn't become emotional, so the process of building that up is really fun.
Furukawa: There's a scene in Saitama's room where Genos points out that "Sensei, you're bald even though you're young." I thought at that time that if anyone was told that, they'd want to scream. (laughs) Usually Saitama is the tsukkomi (straight man), but sometimes Genos takes that role as well. They're a manzai comedy duo without specified roles.
The two of you have worked together before. Were the dynamics different for One Punch Man and previous works?
Ishikawa: They were super different! Conversations with Genos don't flow normally－he likes to throw curveballs just to see how Saitama reacts, which is usually by saying, "Cut it out," which amuses Genos immensely. There are a lot of uncertain points, and the show can get a bit surreal. In Golden Time we were regular college buddies, but now it's like we're a sketch comedy duo or something. (laughs)
Saitama and Genos have an offbeat teacher-student relationship. If you were to think of people you think of as mentors, what would you say you have learned from them? And how have you used that knowledge in acting your roles?
Ishikawa: I don't have anyone in particular, but I think anyone could become my teacher. From how to conduct myself at events, to how to perform different scenes, there's so many things I can learn. I don't disguise my inexperience around my seniors, so in that regard I'm similar to Genos. (laughs) If there's someone I respect, I'll want to learn from them, and even if they don't directly teach me, I'll learn by watching them from the sidelines. I think i used these things a lot when acting as Genos!
Furukawa: I'm not as observant as Ishikawa-san, so I think that's amazing. I entered this industry because I'm interested in anime and games, so even now I look at the voice actors I work with through a fanboy's eyes. It's probably bad that I do so. (bitter laugh) But I think that's the same perspective Saitama has about heroes. He's a little awkward but gives his all on the things he is able to do, and works towards his ideals.
This interview was first published in the November issue of Animage magazine.