With 25 years of voice acting under his belt, Morikawa is one of the most respected and leading seiyuu in the Japanese entertainment industry. One of his most popular roles is the infamous villain Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. He's also done voicework for top actors in Hollywood films: Tom Cruise has specifically requested Morikawa to provide the Japanese voice for Cruise's characters, when the films are dubbed and released in Japan.
Morikawa is now a professor/lecturer at Katsuta, and together with Fukuyama Jun, he recently began his own voice acting company AXL ONE in April 2011. He has been recruiting younger seiyuu with impressive resumes, so the company has gained the nickname "seiyuu host club" for all its successful voice actors.
Early in the morning, APA was first in line to interview Morikawa. Not looking a day over 30, Morikawa possessed a deep soothing voice, the kind that lulls people in with its promise of comfort and ease. Talkative and cheerful, Morikawa took APA along for a trip down memory lane.
APA: How did you get into voice acting?
Morikawa Toshiyuki: My parents really enjoyed foreign films and dramas, so while growing up, I often watched them at home. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be cool to dub for those people in the movies?" More than anime, foreign movies are what got me into voice acting. However in order to get into the business, newcomers typically went to anime auditions. You can't really become a veteran without going through this process.
APA: Since you went to Katsuta, how was your experience at seiyuu academy?
MT: It's not exactly a seiyuu school. It's more like a specialized place for people who want to voice act. Like me, many currently active seiyuu graduated from Katsuta as well. 25 years ago, I enrolled as a student at Katsuta, and in less than a year -- about half a year -- I was able to become a seiyuu. In that year, I studied in the same class together with Sailor Moon's Kotono Mitsuishi and Sakura Taisen's Yokoyama Chisa.
In high school, I really liked sports, especially American football. Because you could be really loud. [laughs] I continued to play until I became a teacher. Actually, students and teachers played together. As a teacher, I played with many currently active seiyuu like Seki Tomokazu and Konishi Katsuyuki. At the time, Seki Tomokazu was only a high school student. Ah, reminiscing those days makes me nostalgic.
You can't get As, Bs or Cs like in regular school. It's more of like they're looking to see whether you are suitable or not. For example, the tests weren't entirely written, but they tested whether you are able to perform well and how bright and enthusiastic you are. It looks at your entire performance and whether you meet the expectations. In the end, the goal of assignments is to determine whether you can be a pro.
APA: Because voice actors in Japan are considered to be of celebrity status, does it affect your daily life?
MT: As a voice actor, I can still be somewhat known, but not, at the same time. My face isn't typically shown, so because of that, I can live a regular life. I can still walk on the streets and go shopping like any other ordinary person. But, now that there are increasing voice acting magazines and television shows, I think people can recognize me more now. I have met a few fans who have recognized me on the streets. [laughs]
APA: What are your three favorite characters and their trademark lines?
MT: Hmm... well one of my favorites is Sephiroth from Final Fantasy: "I'll give you despair."
Another one I like right now is a role I did last year. I played Naruto's father, Namikaze Minato: "Naruto, let's fight together."
And I was also Enel from One Piece. He's kind of a maniacal character, and he has this distinctive way of laughing: "Ya ha ha... ya ha ha ha..." [laughs] I've done so many roles in the past 25 years, so I've just come to love them all!
Click here for Asia Pacific Arts' article about Morikawa's panel at Anime Expo 2011.
For more information, visit the official AXL ONE website.