The panel began with lighting issues but the stage was soon lit enough to continue. Seki-san greeted the crowd with konnichiwa to which the fans responded in kind. Hilariously, Yoshida-san looked around a moment and asked, “Minna nihongo wakaruno?” “Does everyone understand Japanese?”
- Audience: Hai!
Yoshida: Ja…ore kaeru. *gets up to leave* *audience laughs*
The panel opened with Seki-san introducing himself.
- Seki: I am a Japanese seiyuu, Tomokazu Seki. Thank you for coming! This is my second time in Baltimore.
They jumped right into the Q&A.
- Q: *in Japanese* Thanks for coming. *in English* I find that unlike many other voice actors, when you do a role, it is not always easy to tell that it is exactly you. I was surprised at the number of roles that I knew. How do you approach, modifying your voice to make each role so different?
Seki: I don’t really think about what this character sounds like, I just look at the picture and the first voice that comes to mind, that’s what it is. *fans laughs* When I’m given a direction to do a voice of a character that I can’t see a picture of, I often get a comment like ‘You know, that character didn’t really suit your voice.’ *audience laughs*
Q: I really like Domon Kasshu. Can you please do the whole cut of ‘Bakunetsu God Finger’.
Seki: Oreno kono tega maakani moeru! Omae o taose todoroki sakebu! Baakunetsu! God Fingeeeeer! *fans applauds*
Yoshida: *looks at him* What he said. *audience laughs*
Q: Since you’ve done so many anime roles, which has been your favorite show to work with?
Seki: Memorable-wise, Domon Kasshu was my first lead. It is very memorable. You all might have seen it, but I’m in the show Psycho Pass. *fans cheer* I’m in the lead in that.
Q: Before recording anything, do you warm ups for your voice? What kind of warm ups do you do?
Seki: Yeah, before getting into character, I smoke alot. *audience laughs* *voice request, Minamoto no Kurou Yoshitsune Harukanaru Toki no Naka de* Nozomi-san? Yes, here I go, *shouting* ‘Nozomiiiiiiiii!’
Q: You were Hidaka Ken from Weiss Kreuz. Can you tell us how it was working on it?
Seki: It was a project that was started by Koyasu Takehito-san. It was a project in which we would voice characters as a Weiss unit. We would also have to be ourselves like an idol group and do events. *audience laughs* It was 20 years ago, I’m a bit older now. Being treated like an idol and having to act like an idol was embarassing. If I could see us now, I don’t really like it. I love acting. When I was voicing the characters for the animation, it was great. I was embarassed at the same time.
Q: Thank you for so many memorable voices. During the development of Super Robot War Z, an agent once mentioned about giving someone the role of Toshiya to somebody and heard in the backround a voice someone hopping around going ‘Yarimasu, yarimasu, yarimasu, yarimasu!’ Did you in fact do that?
Seki: Really, it wasn’t me! But it really is a popular franchise in Japan, there are many voice actors lining up to be in it. There are alot of up and coming voice actors who put that as their goals.
Q: What is it like working on Transformers, the live action movie?
Seki: It is based off of the comic of cars that transform. The fact that the car that I drive, transforms and becomes a robot, it was fun for me.
Yoshida: What kind of car was it?
Seki: It is a Nissan Elgrand. Elgrand? Is it sold here?
Q: What is like working on Fullmetal Panic?
Seki: One of the things my character had to do was to spout military lingo like I spoke it everyday. That was kind of difficult. I still don’t know what bilateral something 3.5 was. *audience laughs* I had to really quickly spot those lines and make it sound like I knew what I was talking about. And the character I was portraying was a 17 year old highschool student. I’m 41! ‘Make it sound younger! Make it sound younger!’ *audience laughs*
Q: You did the voice of the Mobirates in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. In Mobirates voice, can you say ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Tuxedo Kamen’?
Seki: Set up the scene for me! *audience laughs* I’ll jump in for you!
Fan: Ikuze! Gokai change!
Seki: *shouting* Suuuuuupidaman! *fans applauds*
Fan: Gokai change!
Seki: *shouting* Taaaaaaaxedo kamen! *fans applauds* It is the ‘Power Ranger’ parody.
Fan: You also do the Alpaca in Akibaranger right?
Q: You said many times now that you’re 40, you’re an old man. *audience laughs* You still play alot of young man though. What is your secret?
Seki: Secret? What is it? You tell me! Maybe I’m sort of lecherous? *nods nods* *laughs*
Q: How was it voicing Mepple in Futari wa Pretty Cure? What was it like saying ‘mepo’ in all of your sentences?
Seki: It was embarrassing. *voice request* Nagisa! Henshin suru mepo! *audience applauds*
Q: The 4th Sengoku Basara game will be out next year. You’re the voice of Ishida Mitsunari. What can you say about the game? Look forward to seeing?
Seki: The content was sorted rebooted. You go back a little. Some things happened before never actually happened. The boss, Hideyoshi and Mitsunari are enemies, but they never had a scene together. I think the fact that they added scenes where they’re actually conversing would be something to look forward to. And Mitsunari gets a sidekick. *voice request* Iiiiiiiieyasu! *audience applauds*
Q: I’ve seen your work many, many years ago starting with Escaflowne and I’ve been following your work ever since. From that time until now, what has changed-if anything-in your approach to acting. What did you learn?
Seki: I’ve aged. *audience laughs* I’m starting to understand what the pros think about. I was just acting like myself when I was doing Escaflowne. I was a young guy, starting to set out on a goal. Now, with age comes experience. Far it be for me to say it myself, but I think my acting has improved alot. There is more depth to it.
Q: In alot of the characters that you voice, they tend to scream alot. Do you like playing those characters?
Seki: It is a great way to vent out my daily frustrations. *audience applauds* I’m sure all of you have moments where you just want to scream. If you did that, I’m sure the police would talk to you. *audience laughs* I get paid for this. *audience applauds* I think I found the ultimate job. *voice request for Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara* *shouting* Hideyoshi-samaaaaaaa!
Q: When recording for Mobirates’ voice for Gokaiger, did your voice get sore recording all 35 team names in a row?
Seki: We had to record all those takes, 170 words. I recorded them each separately within a half hour period. But each time, I get paid as a character for each one of those. So as a paycheck, it was amazing. So the amount of damage that my throat must’ve suffered was alleviated by the amount. *voice request* Than, gokai change.
Fan: *complete with motions* Gokai change!
Seki: *shouting* Gokai five!
A fan had voice request for Mitsunari concerning Ieyasu. The entire line was on the ipad which Tomokazu-san was able to read from. Yoshida: That’s kind of prepared. Bringing your lines up saying, ‘Can you read this for me?’
- Q: *in Japanese* Can you say Amuro’s line, ‘This Nu Gundam isn’t for show’, but for God Gundam?
Seki: God Gundam wa date janai! Fin Funeru! *audience applauds*
Q: I’m a fan of yours and of Sugita Tomokazu, the voice of from Gintama and Kyon. I read that you two have a rivalry. Can you tell me about that?
Seki: We’re now in the same agency, so we’re very friendly with each other. *audience laughs*
Seki: Yes, now.
Seki: Before… *hesitant* we were friends…in the same industry and we’re…friends now. *audience laughs*
Yoshida: What did you hear about their rivalry?
Fan: I just read that since they have the same names, that was the basis of their rivalry.
Seki: *laughs* The same can be said about Seki Toshihiko. When it all comes down to it, we’re all a group of actors in the same pool, trying to get the same role. Everyone’s a rival really. *voice request of Gilgamesh from Fate/Extra with the pose* What is the line?
Fan: It is the line…where you get naked in front of everyone. *audience laughs*
Seki: *laughs* I might arrested for this. *audience laughs* *poses with arms in front of chest* *pause* I have to remember how I did it. So this will be nude. *pause* A-U-O…cast off!
Yoshida: I have no idea what you guys just did. *audience laughs*
Q: What is your favorite role and least favorite?
Yoshida: What is with you people asking ‘what is your favorite kid and least favorite kid?’ *interprets question*
Seki: A role that wasn’t fun…. There were some stories that I didn’t quite like or enjoy, but a character I didn’t quite like portraying…I don’t remember them. Not saying that I didn’t like the character, a character that was difficult portraying was anything with a high voice…like the Mepple character from Precure.
Yoshida: Besides Domon, any character you particularly like?
Seki: Kyo from Fruits Basket. Everyone likes that character. *fans applauds* The cat right?
Q: Before you became a voice actor, did you attend any special school for it? There are voice acting schools in Japan.
Seki: So I went to one of the voice acting schools and spent five years studying. I joined when I was 16 years old. So I debut when I was 21.
Q: As someone pointed out, you have to do alot of screaming voices. Do you have to do anything special to take care of your throat for all the yelling that you do?
Seki: Other than smoking habitually…not really. *audience laughs* I think…cigarettes. *nods* It goes against the trend I think.
Q: Are there any anime-not necessarily ones you’ve been in-that you like watching or is your favorite?
Seki: Magziner Z.
Q: Is there a character that you wished you could’ve voiced?
Seki: Oh, Vegeta from Dragon Ball. That is one that goes on forever. *voice request for Chichiri from Fushigi Yuugi* Wakade no da!
Q: I was at Sakuracon when Shiotani Naoyoshi, the director of Psycho-Pass mentioned a story. The character Kogami began as a smoker since Seki-san was complaining that he never have enough time to smoke. I was wondering, how much truth is in that?
Seki: *laughs* Not enough time to smoke…I didn’t say that I wanted more time to smoke. My complaint was that he didn’t have time to inhale enough before he speaks his lines. *audience laughs* I was like, ‘He is not really smoking!’ *audience laughs* Since it is a keepsake of an old friend, he should be savoring it instead of puffing along and saying his lines. So we discussed it and got him to linger and take his time smoking before his lines.
Q: You’re a Kamen Rider fan? What is your favorite Kamen Rider series?
Seki: Yes, my favorite is…Stronger. Oh…you know it? Charge up! *voice request of Domon from G Gundam* Ore no kono tega hikatte unaru! Omae wo taose todoroki sakebu! Hissatsu, Shinin’ Fingaaaaa! *audience cheers*
Q: You do alot of shouting parts. Are there are any other kind of roles that you like to play?
Seki: Ah…I like to play to play a mediocre middle-aged man. I like doing those characters.
Fan: I would watch it!
Seki: Arigato gozaimasu! *audience laughs* *voice request for Kougami from Psycho-Pass* Akaneeeee!
Yoshida: How are you doing [concerning your voice]?
Seki: I’m reaching the point where I need to go have a smoke. *audience laughs* I’m running out of nicotine.
Q: I heard you’re a fan of building gundam models. What have you built?
Seki: I don’t build alot of gunpla. In fact, I like to create the base using clay and build what the mold would be from in clay. In terms of gundam models that I have made, the last one I remember making is God Gundam. *audience applauds*
Q: When you started in the past, you worked with people like Ogata Megumi. Was it fun working with them? Was there anyone you particularly enjoyed or looked forward to working with?
Seki: Mmmmm…who? From the guys, Ishida Akira. For the girls, Hanazawa Kana because she is cute. *nods*
Q: When you get cast for the role, do have a way to prepare for the role or do you rely on the director to tell you how to perform your role? Do you like to know what is going to happen to your character? Or do you like to read your lines not knowing what is going to happen?
Seki: I develope the character the way I think is best and present it to the director. And if the director wants to have something changed, I work with him to come up with the voice that he is looking for. It depends on the character and the time and the situation it calls for. If the character doesn’t know what is going to happen to him, I don’t want to know. But if it is a type of character that already knows everything already, I like to know before it actually happens in the story. But most times they don’t tell you whats going to happen to your character.
Seki: *voice request tongue twister with Sosuke from Full Metal Panic!* Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago.x3 [Raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg.] *audience applauds*
Yoshida: I have a question, is that in the actual show or do you just want him to do a tongue twister?
Fan: I just want to hear him do a tongue twister.
Yoshida: You’re an evil, evil person. *audience laughs*
Q: You did Tatsumi Kanji from Persona 4. How did you prepare for the scene when he was first introduced?
Seki: It is very interesting since his external appearance appears scary, but he is sort of almost feminine on the inside. I try to keep all that in mind for the character.
Q: Recently you did the final chapter for the drama cd for Fruits Basket. What do you think about meeting the cast members again, you guys haven’t been together for over 10 years.
Seki: It was strange at first, but we just got back into things right away.
Q: Yzak [Joule, Gundam Seed] is my favorite character. What does Yzak mean to you?
Seki: When I was first cast for the role, I was told ‘You are playing the bad guy. You will die early’. And it turns out in production that he wasn’t so bad. That he didn’t die so soon. So the director said, ‘When you’re trying to portray the bad guy, you aren’t really playing out to be the bad guy, so if there was any reason that he survived, it was from your performance.’ For me, I saved Yzak’s life. *audience applauds*
Q: Your character Kinomoto Touya from Card Captors Sakura, what was your inspiration for playing the caring older brother?
Seki: I personally don’t have any siblings-sisters or otherwise-so I had to imagine what it would be like if I had a sister whom I really cared for and I took it that way.
Q: What are the changes in the industry since you became a voice ator? Are there any young voice actors that you want to point out?
Seki: So the industry definitely has changed. There are alot of younger voice actors coming up in the ranks than before. It is a good atmosphere. Mamoru Miyano.
Q: There have been times when you have come to voice an pre-existing character that is very iconic, like Kamen Rider Amazon. What is it like to come into a pre-existing role and not being able to start from scratch?
Seki: I do a lot of studying and seeing the previous performances for the lead. I try to honor the original. But for Amazon, I tried to be faithful to the original, but I also wanted to add a wildness that may not have been there. I put myself into the role.
Q: You did Anisawa Meito in Lucky Star. How did you come into that role?
Seki: That role was in Anime Tencho first. The story was very popular with another group who were doing animation. So like riding on the coattails situation [in creating the series]. *song request* I don’t remember the melody. *audience laughs* *start singing*
It’s amazing the amount of voice requests that he went through in this panel. Lots of shouting requests as well. And the singing at the end? Awesome! It’s wonderful to hear him expound on classic series like G Gundam as well as the mention his recent works like Psycho-Pass.