During Otakon 2011, Toonzone was given the opportunity to have an exclusive interview (via interpreter) with Japanese Voice Actor Akira Sasanuma. Akira Sasanuma is known for his work as Dearka in Gundam Seed/Destiny, Link in Twilight Princess, and Austria in Hetalia. Bob Shirohata, the Director of Hetalia, was also present in the room but the focus of the interview was on Mr. Sasanuma.
TOONZONE NEWS: What has been your favorite role to voice thus far?
AKIRA SASANUMA: That would be Austria from Hetalia of course. This was my first opportunity to be eligible to voice the character without going through the audition. So this is something special for me but because I was chosen for Austria without the audition, I didn’t really expect this show to be a big one. As you know, it has become so big and everybody from around the world is cheering for us. I’m astonished that I was chosen for this part and I’m really thankful. I want to say thank you for that, as well. Even from now on, I’ll probably keep on working in acting; this show will still be in my heart for many years.
TOONZONE NEWS: How do you generally approach your roles? How do you find the appropriate voice, your character’s center?
AKIRA SASANUMA: Of course, looking at the character I give a certain image to the voice by looks or what type of body feature they have. But even when I have something already in my mind, that might not be the same from the Director’s image or other creator’s image. While I do come up with a certain voice for them, it’s always a collaborative session. I’m talking with them and then have their image come through to make the live character image to this particular voice. Sometimes they want to have a little bit more adult voice; sometimes they say they want to have a little bit more childish voice. So it’s a collaborative session, a creative session to decide what type of voice would fit that character.
TOONZONE NEWS: How was working on Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and then becoming a part of what sort of revived the Gundam franchise?
AKIRA SASANUMA: Well of course, Gundam is one of the big titles in Japan so being chosen to be a character among that big name is really my honor. However, as a voice actor, whether that particular work was successful as a business in the sales is really not much of a concern to be honest with you. It is rather whether that particular work was fun and enjoyable, interesting work that counts for the actor.
AKIRA SASANUMA: If there is opportunity, very well.
TOONZONE NEWS: What has been the most difficult role for you to voice, a role that has really pushed you to your limits?
AKIRA SASANUMA: Link, from Zelda.
TOONZONE NEWS: Any particular reason?
AKIRA SASANUMA: The hardship was that there is no real line to Link. You have to do all the acting by breathing and making odd sounds to make people understand what Link wants to express. Until that came through they asked me to keep on trying again and again, so it was a really hard job.
TOONZONE NEWS: Speaking of Link, did you feel any pressure taking on such a huge, iconic role, even though it had no dialogue as you mentioned?
AKIRA SASANUMA: There was no particular pressure because it was a big title. As an actor I always do my best when I am chosen for a particular character. So as an actor, regardless of which character I portray or how hard it is, I always do my best and that’s the only thing in my mind.
BOB SHIROHATA: I didn’t even imagine, nor even thought about how it is going to be taken by so many people. This time I came to the United States and see so many fans loving it so much, I am really honored by it and I’m really thankful for that.
AKIRA SASANUMA: As I said earlier, the only thing for me is to do the best. However, once noting all these fans being fans of this character so much I’m now more wishful of, “Hey, let’s have more fans, and let’s make people love this character more.” I’m more eager to it.
Toonzone would like to thank Mr. Sasanuma and Mr. Shirohata for taking the time to conduct this interview, as well as Otakon press operations for setting it up. I would personally like to thank staff members Juu-Kuchi and purplehairedwonder for help with forming questions/and in general bouncing ideas off of them. This interview has been edited and condensed.