Seiyuu Digest #30 – Takahiro Sakurai


sakurai-digest

It basically impossible to avoid bumping into Takahiro Sakurai when you first start watching anime.

Sakurai, known for his good looks and seductive smooth voice is not only part of the top 10 best seiyuu in the business, but he’s also everywhere even outside of it. As one of the most prolific seiyuu in the business with character credits that exceed 300 roles (in anime alone), he is the epitome of awesome, style, talent and versatility but not without its fair share of disappointments and struggles. This time we delve into Sakurai‘s vast career to get a closer look of what a top 10, royalty seiyuu is like after reinventing himself.

sakurai

KANJI 櫻井 孝宏
BORN June 13, 1974
OCCUPATION seiyuu, radio and TV personality, mc, narrator
HEIGHT 176cm

Seiyuu

Do you like white haired characters? Perhaps insanely charming characters? Or arrogant ones? Do you fancy anti-heroes? If the answers for any of these questions are “yes”, then Takahiro Sakurai is just the man you’re looking for. Almost everyone that has come into contact with anime has heard of him. With an extensive career that spans over 20 years, Sakurai is currently one of the most successful and famous seiyuu in the business.

Debut Sakurai

Born in Aichi (south of Japan) in 1974, Sakurai is the oldest of the three brothers. His family managed (and still does) a rice shop in the prefecture. Young Sakurai became interested in voice acting when he caught by chance a voice actor’s interview on television. Being influenced by an interview wasn’t all there is to his passion and drive to be a seiyuu.

While attending Okazaki Joetsu High School in Aichi, Sakurai was influenced by a language teacher to persue his passion. When he graduated from his high school he decided to enroll in Yoyogi Animation Gakuin in Nagoya. After graduating he joined 81 Produce. During his training school days he was already working in radio dramas earning a lot of experience in the process.

1996 – 1999

Seiyuu life isn’t as easy as you might think

He made his official debut in 1996 on TV anime Bakuso Kyodai Let’s & Go!!. Although his role was rather

Sakurai in 1999

unimportant, this small role was the beginning of everything.

From 1996 to 1999, Sakurai fought through various auditions not getting as many roles as he should or wanted, especially for a rookie trying to establish himself in the business. That’s why he claimed in an interview that he seriously thought about giving up on being a seiyuu in 1999 (25 years old), as it was incredibly hard for him to get any roles in anime. If it wasn’t for his roles in “Digimon Adventure” and “Kaikan Phrase” he would have given up completely on being a seiyuu.

The rocky start to his career was suddenly saved by those two specific anime and Sakurai continued developing his skillset in a wide array of anime and games in the years that followed this period.

2000 – 2004

Consistent stream of roles

Things started to settle down for Sakurai as he was finally getting his fair share of roles. INITIAL D Third Stage -INITIAL D THE MOVIE-GetBackers (lead role), SAMURAI DEEPER KYOHikaru no GoPrétear (Sakurai’s character songs are iconic for this series), Princess TutuSaint BeastPhantom – The AnimationTacticsGakuen Alice (lead role). As Ukiya Shun in Gatekeepers (2000), Sakurai finally had his time to shine – it was his first leading role and the start of something amazing.

Leon Oswald – Kaleido Star

Leon Oswald from the Kaleido Star is considered by both his fans as one of his best secondary roles.

For those who don’t notice those small technical details. The anime Prétear, Princess TutuGate Keepers and Kaleido Star, even Slayers Premiumall have one thing in common. The producer: Junichi Sato. It seems that Sato took a liking to Sakurai‘s acting, casting him in almost all the anime he directed in 2000 and 2001.

2005

Popularity growth

2005 was a revelation year for Sakurai. In between main/lead and secondary roles, he managed to see his small fanbase growing exponentially. If we need to talk about some of the most interesting roles in 2005 we need to mention at least the following 2.

Kira in Bleach

His role as Kira in Bleach fits one of the sterotypes associated with Sakurai. Quiet, awkward, looks like a weakling, all traits that, in a later stage of Sakurai‘s career, turned into his specialty. Loyal and introspective, Kira certainly spotted odd behavior better than anyone else in the series but that alone didn’t shed a good light over him. Caught in the middle of several dramatic events, he’s prompted with unusual choices and often is remorseful about those, ultimately giving the image of a bad leader. Sakurai’s portrayal was spot-on.

Cloud Strife

He wasn’t ready to was going to follow after he got casted to play Cloud Strife in the game series. Final Fantasy VII Advent Children is one of the best CGI movies Japan has ever made. There’s no doubt about that when you look at those graphics and notice that it still feels fresh instead of dated. This was the start of something great for all the game cast when the movie topped was selling millions at the box office. The story, the graphics but most importantly, the characters were amazing and critics never stopped pointing out this movie and eventually the fanchise, as one of the best coming from Japan. Sakurai‘s popularity exploded at that time. It seemed like nothing was going to stop in Sakurai‘s way to super stardom. His role as Cloud Strife is described by Sakurai as a fortunate event to him as he didn’t think he’d get the role nor the fame that followed.

62nd Venice Film Festival in 2005

62nd Venice Film Festival in 2005

Being the instant success the movie was in Japan, overseas critics started to get interested in it and what happened? The movie was showcased at the 62nd Venice Film Festival back in the same year. Sakurai is one of the few male seiyuu to ever set foot on an international film festival (and the first one ever).

2006

All hell breaks loose

2006 was a fantastic year in terms of roles in anime for him. He was starring in D.Gray-man as the stoic and chic Kanda, easily one of the most beloved characters in the series.

Yu Kanda in D.Gray-man

Kanda was quite possible the character that started the known stereotype that Sakurai tends to voice bishounens with some kind of issue within. The fact that Kanda is so by the rules and uptight that most people fear him early into the series. But that ruthlessness in him is what fans point out as being one of the charms behind that character. Sakurai‘s portrayal of Kanda‘s emotions from the early stages of working alongside Allen to the later stages of the series when several conflicts arise, showed that he was indeed a rising star in the seiyuu business. His popularity skyrocketed.

Haseo in .hack//Roots

Other role that marked this year was Haseo in the sci-fi anime .hack//Roots, series based on a popular Japanese mmo.

This role once again demanded a certain emotional detachment as the main character wasn’t that knowledgeable about human interactions, being an outsider. A loner by heart with a cold demeanor, Haseo was initially criticized as being incredibly rude – something that fans didn’t like at all both in the games and in the anime series.

With time the character developped his social skills and even his judgement and the criticism toned down a bit. What can we ascertain from this? Sakurai‘s performance was believable to the point that people were uncomfortable with the way he interacted with others or made his choices.

Still in the same year we were presented with the mega hit anime “CODE GEASS“. In this mecha/action/psychological anime, Sakurai isn’t in charge of the lead role, it was Jun Fukuyama‘s.

Suzaku in Code Geass

As Kururugi Suzaku, Sakurai managed to grab the role of a character that had everything to be an hero but instead has a completely different fate and role within the series. His righteousness is one of the main points when we talk about his character. Idealist and loyal, Suzaku faces several dilemmas as the series progresses, being a target of both hate and love from part of the franchise’s fans. But despite the mixed reactions regarding Suzaku‘s personality, he’s a pivotal character within the series. “CODE GEASS” is one of the most iconic anime ever made with some of the most fantastic performances ever.

Sakurai in 2007

So what went wrong in what was a perfect year? This is probably an issue that he really wants to erase from his career. Despite what most people might think, Sakurai was struck by a “plagiarism scandal” that could have ended his voice acting career in that same year.

To put it simply, Sakurai acted in “ETERNITY” a stage play back in 2006 with the theatrical group JOY. Turns out the script wasn’t original but a copy of Mitani Kouki‘s “Tokyo Sunshine Boys no Wana“. Kouki was known as someone that wouldn’t allow anything he published to be used – even for non comercial purposes – but JOY tweaked his script an actually performed it in exchange of a fee. When word got out that this play had plagiarised Kouki‘s work, all hell broke loose. The original script writer protested against the use of his script and demanded 81 Produce (Sakurai‘s talent agency at the time) some kind of compensation plus punishment for the ones that had plagiarized his work.

What happened: Sakurai apologized multiple times in several radio shows, statements and even went by himself to personally apologize to Kouki. 81 Produce then issued disciplinary period to Sakurai. He was banned from auditioning to new roles and had to withdraw from all his work – which included Cherry Bell, Comcha Countdown and other radio shows, public events, couldn’t be featured in any magazines nor write any opinion columns and “Sakurai Takahiro no Kako Warai” was to be cancelled. So the disciplinary period was incredibly though on him, only making it possible to continue the works he had already started and then he’d disappear from the public eye for about one year.

This issue riled up a lot of voices, some voicing their support to Sakurai – as he’s known to have a very loyal and strong fanbase that has almost an equal measure of women as he has men. But there were anti-fans lurking in the shadows waiting for this moment to happen so that they could bash him given the past criticism to his arrogant behavior on stage (refusing to sing on stage and belittle veteran seiyuu even if indirectly). The criticism was beyond anything we could even image – currently dating scandals still look like child’s play next to this issue. There were lots of disappointed fans and his fanbase took a massive hit. When we reached 2007, few people wanted to work with him and most fans didn’t even show interest in his comeback. For more on this issue you might want to check this website.

Thankfully all of this is in the past and Sakurai made an effort, changing his personality to what fans now know of him.

2007 – 2009

Regain the lost trust

Circa 2007

It took a lot of effort for Sakurai to redeem himself after countless formal and public apologies issued about the event. While he didn’t stop working as a seiyuu, he knew better than anyone that he had to prove himself before it was too late and all his popularity went down the drain. Fans that were calling him a “criminal” back in 2006 certainly changed their minds, as the following years proved that Sakurai more than redeemed himself, he showcased a completely revamped self that appealed and impressed a lot of people, shutting down almost every malicious comment about him. The stakes were high: he needed to bounce back or he’d have to say goodbye to the seiyuu life.

While 2007 isn’t a particularly prolific year for him, his roles in Saint Beast (second season) and Zombie Loan (both mediocre anime that received mostly mixed reviews) showed that he still had the trust of some anime producers, enough that he was reprising one of his roles and got a new one as the leading man. Quality didn’t matter at that time, what he needed was something to be afloat. And he got exactly that. His secondary roles in anime such as Naruto and Zero no Tsukaima helped changing things aroud for him.

Sasori in Naruto

Sasori is exactly the type of character in which Sakurai tends to shine. Cold, aloof and ruthless, the character appeared in one of the most important arcs in the Naruto series and he certainly made an impact. The performance as Sasori established once again Sakurai‘s prowess to make secondary characters come to life in a way that one would think they are the main ones. Regardless of the fans rooting or not for this character, there’s no denying that it’s one of his strongest secondary roles.

2008 marked his return to major anime series as he was back for the second season of CODE GEASS to reprise his role as Suzaku. Contrary to popular belief, the producers didn’t want to replace him even with controversy lingering in 2006 and by 2008, when most of the dust had settled, the producers announced the returning cast with Sakurai‘s role intact.

This was also the year in which he joined one of the major hits in the BL universe: Junjou Romantica.

Misaki in Junjou Romantica

He got the main role as Misaki Takahashi, a high school student (later a college student) that has his life sort of shaken by a renowed author that goes by the name of Akihiko Usami. [We won’t dive into detail about this anime and its plot because this might be a bit too much for people that don’t fancy this anime genre. Also: spoilers. We want to avoid them.]

Misaki‘s personality leads to a lot of funny encounters and situations to which Sakurai is a master at reacting to. This role allowed Sakurai to branch out and reach a wider female audience.

In the same year he was casted in yet another BL/shounen-ai anime, this time around Kyou Kara Maoh!.

Yuuri Shibuya in Kyou Kara Maoh!

As Yuuri Shibuya, he was once again with a role of a weakling that suddenly is tasked with something that was deemed ridiculous or impossible. With this role Sakurai was able to showcase more of his comedic skills, receiving some good reviews for both his performance and the anime as a whole. As it is with everything shounen-ai, more female fans flocked his way.

2010 – 2014

Idol seiyuu

The prolific years had finally arrived. By 2010, Sakurai was in almost every anime with more than 6 roles per season and a lot of games and dubbing gigs in the middle of it all.

takahiro (1)

Who doesn’t remember how amazing was Psycho-Pass‘ antagonist, Makishima?

Who doesn’t remember Ja’far from the Magi anime series?

Well, while we’ve mentioned two of his 80+ roles in this span of time (you read well) of course you’ll start to ask: where are the other iconic roles? We’ll do a breakdown for you.

2010 to 2014 is, hands down, Sakurai‘s most prolific era. It was the era in which having him working on an anime project was already a good indicator that people would tune in for their shows. Whether those would be successful or not is a completely different thing. Certainly his strength lies in his ability to morph his voice in a specific way that enables him to portray antagonistic characters with better than anyone else in the industry, those characters that might seem righteous and idealistic but in the end, they are just the thing to make chills run down our spine with their cutthroat speeches.

Claude Faustus in Kuroshitsuji II

Still in 2010, fans were presented with a new season of Kuroshitsuji, one that wasn’t going to follow the original source material – taking into account that the first season had caught up with the manga and there was not enough material at that time for a new season. With a new season and a new story arc there came a new butler and his master. Claude Faustus might have ticked some people off but he was undoubtly a sexy butler with a hidden agenda.

Luka Crosszeria in Betrayal Knows My Name

Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru (Betrayal Knows My Name) was released in 2011 and presented a star-studded cast that would make most anime producers envy it: Takahiro Sakurai, Daisuke Ono, Soichiro Hoshi, Daisuke Ono, Jun Fukuyama, Mamoru Miyano, Nobuhiko Okamoto and many others. As Luka Crosszeria, Sakurai was once again in charge of a mysterious bishounen with a cold distant aura. The anime’s borders between shounen, shoujo and shounen-ai were blurred which caught the fans’ attention easily.

Sakurai was then casted in fantasy/action anime Nurarihyon no Mago.

Kubinashi in Nurarihyon no Mago

Kubinashi doesn’t stray one bit from the types of characters he had been portraying in 2010. He’s gentle, polite, serious and loyal – where did you read those qualities before? Also he looks like a weakling in comparison with almost all the other cast but in fact he isn’t. Although not a main character, he somehow has his spotlight in some episodes – with fans getting to know the character’s background story. Sakurai returned for the second season – Nurarihyon no mago: Rise of the Yokai Clan – to reprise his role.

Despite what fans think, Sakurai isn’t casted for that much shoujo anime. What makes people think that is that when he’s casted in shoujo, he 90% of the times takes the lead role for himself. From 2010 to 2014, he was only part of 4 shoujo anime – in contrast with the 30 plus anime from other genres. That’s where Sakurai‘s trademark bishounens lie.

His roles in Otome Youkai Zakuro (2010) as Kei Agemaki, Suki-tte Ii na yo (2012) as Yamato Kurosawa, Oukami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji (2014) as Kyoya Sata and his secondary role in the Akatsuki no Yona (2014) as Kang Tae Jun all stood out. Kei and Kang are a bit awkward whereas Yamato and Kyouya are the exact opposite. Kyoya is the cliché guy that acts all cold but actually cares about the girl – this is no spoiler, the title already gives off that vibe -, Yamato is a complicated character, not because he has a lot of depth – most people think that he’s shallow – but because of certain events. Once again bishounens and Sakurai seemed to be on the same wavelength.

What made things interesting in this era was in fact, the versatility that Sakurai showcased, delving into all kinds of characters and anime genres. Comedy is no stranger to him and fans could notice it from his hilarious performances in Daily Lives of High School Boys (2011) as Yuusuke TabataSakura-so no Pet na Kanojo (2012) as Jin MitakaShirokuma Café (2012) as Polar BearServant x Service (2013) as Taishi Ichimiya and with his odd role in Dog & Scissors as Kazuhito Harumi.

Shounen is, as always, the genre in anime that gets the most exposure and is more commonly adapted from manga. Despite some minor setbacks in the past, Sakurai kept his roles in shounen pretty even between seasons. As we reached 2010, and with his sudden popularity increase, he was in more anime than ever per season and was a constant presence in the genre.

Ja’far in Magi

Ja’far is one of the closest individuals to King Sinbad (voiced by Daisuke Ono), he’s reserved, serious, nut in contrast he can be rather violent and short-tempered. For those that read our description of Kubinashi in Nurarihyon, well, this is almost a carbon copy of that character – even the fact that they somehow use a string to subjugate/eliminate enemies. Ja’far has some comedic scenes within the series but he’s mostly found judging Sinbad‘s decisions or trying to reason with him thus showing his seriousness. Sakurai reprised the role in both seasons of the anime (two seasons in 2013) including the Sinbad spinoff that was released in 2016.

Then came more secondary characters come into the mix: Coco in Toriko (2011), Rook Banjo Crossfield in the Phi Brain: Puzzle of God series (2011 and 2012), Hanzo Hattori in Brave 10 (2012), Sting Eucliffe in Fairy Tail (2013), Izumo Kusanagi in K (2013).

Yet another batch of secondary characters that made an impact in whichever series they were featured on: Crusty in Log Horizon (2013 and 2014), Leon Kuwata in Danganronpa: The Animation (2013), Shido Dairenji in Tokyo Ravens (2014), Akechi Mitsuhide in Nobunaga The Fool (2014), Shin Acura in Chaika – The Coffin Princess (two seasons in 2014) and many others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More white haired characters joined Sakurai‘s repertoire as well: Rabou in Noragami (2014) and Alcor in Devil Survivor 2 (2013).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the same year and season Sakurai was casted in sports anime Diamond no Ace (two long seasons from 2013 to 2016) and Baby Steps (two seasons in 2014 and 2015). Not only the sports in question are different but both characters are complete opposites.

We can’t forget that Sakurai is a master of piling up several roles in the same season for the exact same anime genre. Take mecha for example: this is one of Japan’s beloved anime genres. In 2014, following the hype created by Valvrave (even with its poor writing and execution) and the new Gundam series, more and more producers decided to put more mecha series out there. 2014 almost felt like a mecha oriented year with so many series – some of them incredibly well received by the critics. Buddy Complex was a bit of a lackluster despite the rather interesting cast, still as BizonSakurai had his time to antagonize everyone. The same can be said about Trillran in Gen Urobuchi‘s mecha/sci-fi anime Aldnoah Zero (2014); Norio Kunato also fits the bill in Knights of Sidonia with his obsessive behavior.

Takahiro Sakurai in 2012

So what are we missing from his iconic characters in 2010 – 2014? There’s at least 3 different characters that need to be talked about.

First we have Griffith from Berserk (not the 90’s take on the series but its remake). Sakurai voiced the main character for all 3 movies. It was interesting for fans to find a character so pure in the middle of such a violent anime. But there he was, Griffith, a charismatic and beautiful man that was, in fact, the main antagonist in the series.

If there’s something Sakurai‘s fans have learned is that whenever he’s voicing a white haired character, chances are that it’ll turn out to be a traitor or the main antagonist. Berserk is a classic and although Griffith‘s role is no longer Toshiyuki Morikawa‘s, Sakurai still managed to add his own touches, making the character all the more memorable.

Most of you must be reading this and thinking? Were is they? There’s two characters missing! Look no further.

Uta in Tokyo Ghoul

2014 had yet another gem to showcase. Tokyo Ghoul was the talk in town for over one year thanks to its strong themes and violence – even if hilariously badly censored. Uta is one of the characters that sort of assists the main character. His demeanor can rub people off in the wrong way, especially in a first meeting situation. Uta is overly friendly and loves to tease others. He sort of is an information broker, once again with a hidden agenda. As friendly as he can be he can change significantly and display utter indifference to certain situations.

Sakurai grasped Uta‘s essence flawlessly and, despite Uta‘s lack of spotlight in both seasons of the anime, it still manage to impact the viewers.

But if we’re talking about iconic roles between 2010 and 2014 we need to talk about this specific one:

makishima

Shougo Makishima in Psycho-Pass

Shougo Makishima is a trademark character for Sakurai. Psycho-Pass, Gen Urobuchi‘s masterpiece is a cyberpunk, psychological, crime, action anime that has enough material to make you question certain things in life. It’s an anime catered to the seinen demographic – although it’s been categorized in the past as shounen, but given the themes and the overall dialogues, it’s far from filling that description-, and one that sci-fi fans had been so eager to lay their eyes on.

The sci-fi genre is mostly crowded with mecha – Japan’s sacred anime genre – and action sci-fi with a bit of law enforcement in the mix was a thing of the past, most specifically buried with the final episode of the classic Ghost in the Shell.

Psycho-Pass‘ first season was announced in 2012 (aired in 2013) and the anticipation for not only a new sci-fi anime, but also a new Urobuchi penned story and the newly announced cast was through the roof.

Sakurai was going to portray the stoic, idealistic and incredibly smart Makishima in his quest against the Sibyl System. Playing opposite Tomokazu Seki and Kana Hanazawa was more than enough to make the cast already one of the bright spots in the middle of such a dark tale.

And if we’re talking about Sakurai‘s iconic roles Makishima is certainly one of them. The way he portrayed the twisted personality hidden inside of that uptight facade received a lot of praise from his fans and fellow seiyuu alike. We consider this role as Makishima as his second rise to fame, comfortably establishing himself as a top tier seiyuu. People still talk about this character and Sakurai‘s iconic performance after all these years.

Sakurai later returned for the second installment of PSYCHO-PASS in 2014 but as a new character – Sho Hinakawa – that was slightly different from what he’d portrayed in the previous season.

Joining INTENTION

The big news in 2014 was that his contract with 81 Produce was expiring and insiders were already speculating that he wouldn’t resign with the talent agency and instead would follow the steps of Daisuke Namikawa and Daisuke Hirakawa and go freelance. But at the same time Kenichi Suzumura‘s own talent agency “INTENTION” started to sound like a safe choice if Sakurai was ever going to choose working under a talent agency again. It wasn’t a surprise to his fans when in June 2014, INTENTION announced that they Sakurai was now with the company – bringing the best friends together.

Sakurai made his first appearance in a seiyuu event while under INTENTION at Otomate Party 2014. During the greetings section he humbly announced himself as being part of the company, leaving the mc for the panel – Suzumura himself – proud by also a bit embarrassed at that scene.

2015 –

The seiyuu everyone loves

Takahiro Sakurai attending TIFF in 2016

Sakurai‘s popularity increase was enough to having him feature in even more anime and games than ever before. He was never a lead man as most of his fans know, Sakurai always clinches secondary roles that make an impact in the story, most of them iconic, and that’s exactly what we got from him from 2015 up until now.

Sakurai‘s popularity increase was enough to having him feature in even more anime and games than ever before. He was never a lead man as most of his fans know, Sakurai always clinches secondary roles that make an impact in the story, most of them iconic, and that’s exactly what we got from him from 2015 up until now.

In 2015, Sakurai reprised several of his roles: in Tokyo Ghoul √A as UtaSidonia no Kishi 2nd season as Norio KunatoDiamond no Ace second season as Miyuki KazuyaK: Return of the Kings as Izumo Kusanagi and the long awaited return as Misaki Takahashi in Junjou Romantica 3.

But not everything was about reprising roles. 2015 had its fair share of interesting roles in various anime genres, proving that Sakurai won’t settle for a specific genre, even if he’s often typecasted as those troubled or cocky bishounens (that may or may not have white hair).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

His secondary roles include appearances in Gintama, Gangsta, Haikyuu!!, One Punch Man and Death Parade, of course many others could be featured here but knowing Sakurai, the list would be enormous.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When it came to leading roles, Sakurai was rather dark and surgical. Ferid Bathory is a downright sadist with a little obsession in his head. Akechi is a level headed, cold detective, Ruki is cold, indiferent and possessive, the only bright spot might be Kanade in First Love Monster and even him had his fair share of flaws.

2016 was a rather quiet year for Sakurai. He returned to the Magi universe for its spinoff season “Magi: Adventure on Sinbad” as the young Ja’far. Griffith was also back in Berserk and Sakurai reprised the role once again.
His new roles included Valbero in mafia/crime anime 91 Days, Rohan Kishibe in JoJo’s Bizarre Aventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Yuta Usui in Days and Shagard in The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To complete this overview of 2015’s roles we have both Ajin and Mob Psycho 100 – two strong entries in Sakurai‘s repertoire. Cold and analytical, Tosaki is the complete opposite of Reigen, a con-man that isn’t particularly good at his job, often leading to hilarious situations.

In Bungou Stray Dogs Sakurai voiced Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, a rather arrogant and self boasting character that hates to have his offers rejected. Tazaki is once again the 360. Intellectual, calm and collected you couldn’t even say that they are voiced by the same person.

John in Genocidal Organ

Now in 2017. After facing a lot of difficulties – original studio filled for bankruptcy, a lot of the original staff was replaced – the movie adaptation of novelist Keikaku Itoh‘s books (part of Project Itoh‘s project) Genocidal Organ is finally going to see the light of the day after suffering from several delays. Sakurai takes the role of John Paul, a soldier facing a lot of dilemmas. More roles will certainly announced during this year. So far he is already set to reprise his role for the second season of Uchouten Kazoku.

Music

Regardless of how he now talks about singing, Sakurai was actually part of a band. You read it well. He was part of a band in 2003-2004.

R16

We were in 2003 and R16 were the new talk in the seiyuu business. The duo comprised of Takahiro Sakurai and his best friend and fellow seiyuu Kenichi Suzumura. The unit released two singles 沈まない太陽 in 2003 and “Separate Way” in 2004. The duo sang some of the songs featured on their radio show “Cherry Bell” airing every friday since 2003 in Japan. They disbanded in 2004.

Sakurai hasn’t ventured to singing, at least by himself since 2006. Although he does have some character songs in his repertoire up until the mid 00’s, he refuses to partake in any music related activity, even taking into account that he does have a good singing voice – even when he’s just joking around.

You’d expect that Sakurai would follow the trend that started to set in 2007, when all top tier or up and coming seiyuu started to venture into solo or unit debuts. Reality was a bit different for him. Even if he wanted to do anything solo wise, he couldn’t as he was still shrouded by that plagiarism scandal and given his previous stance about singing, it was more than clear that he wasn’t the least interested in dipping his feet in the music business. And even if he wasn’t with the remnants of that scandal lurking around, he had already issued a statement saying that starting from 2006 he would never again perform character songs or even perform as a singer.

Sakurai recording back in 2005

So what happens when he’s play some character in anime and the characters get solo/unit/duet songs? He doesn’t sing and either his song is replaced by a drama track (like in the Diabolik Lovers franchise character songs) or there’s no release at all for him.

He’s made few exceptions to his “not singing” policy:

  • in 2012 alongside Hikaru Midorikawa he performed the song ラプンツェル for Disney Love Stories.
  • Comcha Countdown vocal CD’s

As we said, there are some – rare – instances in which fans can actually hear him sing. Comcha Countdown has been releasing vocal CDs every three years. He and Yuka Iguchi (his co-host) sing a duet song and then they are off to their solo song. There are three CDs available for those that are curious: 2011, 2014 and 2017. This seems to be the only outlet in which he makes an exception and actually sings.

For the fans wishing that Sakurai could join the music business: better to accept the reality, he doesn’t want to sing unless something really groundbreaking happens.

Games

Up until 2006, Sakurai was the face of Square Enix. The Final Fantasy games are the epitome of everything he has done in the gaming world. Nothing has come closer to the fame and quality of both  He has so many game characters credited under his name that it’s impossible for us to mention every single one, especially when it includes otome games (which he has been credited a lot) but also all the other games, even localizations (foreign games dubbed for the Japanese audience). Naruto, Crisis Core-FINAL FANTASY VIIBinaryStarPSYCHO-PASS, Sengoku Basara 4Juuza Engi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ 2, GakuenK, Double ScoreBLACK WOLVES SAGA.hack franchise, Tokyo Babel and others are featured on his extensive credit list.

Regardless of the game genre, the majority of the characters he plays are good looking with a stoic demeanor (or with white hair).

Dubbing/Narration/Drama CDs

Sakurai is also active in dubbing. For those who don’t know this but are fans of the franchise, he is the official voice of Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) in Twilight. Other credits worth mention include: Piranha 3DMaps to the Stars (once again dubbing Pattinson), Bionicle: The Legend RebornElizabeth IKamen Rider: Dragon Knight, GOAL!! series, CSI Miami, Baywatch, and Romeo + Juliette. There’s even more roles he’s dubbed but these are the most eye catching/relevant.

He has also voiced/dubbed tv comercials, pachinko games, mobile apps, between many other things. In the drama CDs department he’s a well loved name for Rejet and Otomate‘s games. Some of his roles are in drama series such as DIABOLIK LOVERS, Dynamic Chord, Crazy CircusAre you Alice?√HAPPY+SUGAR=DARLINDouble ScoreTaishou Kyuketsu IbunBLACK WOLVES SAGALDK, KISS X KISS, Vie Durant and many others. He used to be one of the top seiyuu in the BL world but he retired from doing such works.

Radio

Sakurai has been incredibly active in radio hosting since 2000. With over 20 radio shows he’s hosted/guested in since his debut, he’s certainly a radio veteran, and one that really knows how to conduct a conversation or do a skit with ease.

Kenichi Suzumura, Miyu Matsuki, Takahiro Sakurai – Cherry Bell

Cherry Bell (2003-2015) and Comcha Countdown (2002-) are two of the longest running radio shows in Japan. Cherry Bell was cancelled in 2015 whereas Comcha Countdown is celebrating 15 years in 2017.

Comcha Countdown add for Coca Cola – Takahiro Sakurai and Yuka Iguchi / Credits: KoePota

He’s also active in his own radio show P.S. Genki desu. Takahiro (P.S. 元気です。孝宏) since 2013.

Other radio shows include: K of Radio 4th (2015), Daiya no A 〜 netto Koushien 〜(2013 – 2016), Magi Radio – CaravanCode Geass Rurukuru Station (2008), Berserk radio (2011 – 2013) and .hack//G.U.RADIO (2006- 2007),

Theatre

Nobunaga's Fool live reading and play event in 2014

Nobunaga’s Fool live reading and play event in 2014 / Credits: AnimateTV

Despite his never ending crowded schedules, Sakurai still finds some time to take part in some plays and live reading events.

He was the head of the theatre troupe JOY in 2006 but after unfortunate events he’s refrained from leading his own troupe again. But fans can find him in other kinds of events still related to theatre. [A disclaimer: whenever he is set to appear in a play and/or live reading – the tickets tend to sell out quickly].

Stand up comedy events such as ADLIVE (2014 and 2015), live readings like Nobunaga’s fool in 2014 and even a theatre play with Cherry Bell in the last decade show just how much he has branched out, keeping the same quality as you’d expect from him.

Cherry Bell started off as a radio show but as it’s popularity grew, so did the mediums in which the show presented itself. This event, dated 2003 or 2004 is a great example of that. The three hosts created a live theatre to showcase their stand up comedy skills and the result was this hilarious play.

Hero Q (theatre troupe created by Tomokazu Seki and Konishi Katsuyuki) called Sakurai for two of their plays in 2009 and 2013 – カラクリ雪之JOE変化 (2009) and トンボイ!! – TOMBOY (2013).

Takahiro Sakurai, Irino Miyu and Misato Fukuen for 「カラクリ雪之JOE変化」

カラクリ雪之JOE変化 (2009) was an historical play that counted with a golden cast of stage veterans: Irino Miyu, Konishi Katsuyuki, Tomokazu Seki and Misato Fukuen.

トンボイ!! – TOMBOY (2013) was the complete opposite – mood and even cast wise. Sakurai acted opposite to Tomokazu Seki, Ryotaru Okiayu and Kensho Ono, between others.

Television

Sakurai Takahiro no Kako Warai

Sakurai is well known by viewers in Japan not only because he’s one of the top 10 seiyuu in the business, but also because he’s got his own show running for over 10 years on AT-X called “Sakurai Takahiro no kako warai“. This show airs monthly and hosted by Sakurai alone. The show often counts with several seiyuu guesting on it for talk and game corners.

Sakurai no Kako Warai

Due to the plagiarism issues in 2006, the show faced some initial broadcasting struggles – being readily cancelled in 2007.  Thankfully, with the end of the embargo to Sakurai‘s works, the show made its return and, as we’re writing this Digest, the show is still alive and kickin’.

P.S.しゃべります。孝宏

P.S しゃべります。孝宏 in Australia DVD cover

It’s common knowledge that Sakurai does travel a lot and he actually enjoys it. China, Italy, Australia, United States are some of the places he’s visited and in which he recorded his “P.S. Shaberimasu. Takahiro” series. For this variety series he tends to travel alone, delving into various activities while trying to get to know the places, its people and food.

Random Facts

Sweats buckets

Code Geass event in 2008

Code Geass event in 2008

In 2008’s Code Geass event Sakurai was teased by both Takahiro Mizushima and Ken Narita due to the fact that even with aircon on, fresh clothes and everything, he was sweating buckets while all the other seiyuu remained unfazed. In almost every event there’s a fellow seiyuu that notes that and keeps poking him because of it (Magi Maharagan event in 2014 – Toshiyuki Morikawa).

Fake megane

sakurai

Takahiro Sakurai‘s vision is perfect – as he stated himself – still he’s often found with spectacles on his face. He confessed that wearing spectables since his debut wasn’t something he had planned for himself, instead it was his company (81 Produce) that suggest him to wear because as they said his face was deemed “a bit scary”. He’s been called fake megane and megane seiyuu by most peers and fans because of that. For Sakurai‘s full explanation behind him wearing spectacles, just check the video below.

Baseball fanatic

sakurai-42

Well known to his fans is the fact that Sakurai loves baseball more than anything. He’s often found sporting baseball jerseys on his weekend radio show Comcha Countdown or even talking about it.

Gets often embarrassed when it comes to cheesy stuff afterall he still gets called “cool”

When prompted to perform chessy lines Sakurai actually doesn’t have any issues, the problem is how to deal with the aftermath. The cringeworthy “doki doki” ments that he’s pretty good at, usually deal a lot of damage. Sakurai‘s corny pickup lines in the Diamond no Ace game back in 2014 are good examples.

Tibetan sand fox long lost brother

No words needed to explain the uncanny similarities between Sakurai‘s gaze and the the tibetan sand foxes’.

At times he’s untamable on stage

Sakurai looks and acts cool but in reality he’s as goofy as Kenichi Suzumura, Daisuke Ono, Jun Fukuyama or even Mamoru Miyano – together. Alone, if he’s on good terms with the cast, he’ll start teasing everyone, make funny remarks or out of nowhere adlibs. But with close friends (one or all of the names mentioned above), hell breaks loose. One example would be Sakurai‘s appearance in Banpresto – show hosted by his best friend Kenichi Suzumura and Ryota Osaka.

Without revealing his age, one wouldn’t think he was the eldest of the three seiyuu when he continuously acted like a kid, messy things up, making fun of everything and even complaining about his clothes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He’s an idol seiyuu (seiyuu whose popularity rides mainly on female fans due to his looks) but at the same he’s a respected veteran seiyuu that is slowly treading to legend status. Just by looking at his aura that is noticeable. His fanbase is stronger than ever and his popularity is high and solid, although not being on par with younger seiyuu such as Mamoru Miyano or Kaji Yuki, regardless, Sakurai is almost always in the top 20 for most “Favorite Seiyuu” polls in Japan to prove that he’s still well loved by the public.

Fans love his unique voice tone – reason why most veteran seiyuu have been found “replacements” but Sakurai never saw his workload reduced even with the new flock of seiyuu debuting every year. Unique voice and unique deliverance are just some of the things that made him one of the best and most requested seiyuu for almost every entertainment outlet. The eternal secondary actor that steals the show, the lead actor that everyone wants, Takahiro Sakurai.

With this we complete another Seiyuu Digest. Interesting enough, next month our digest will be about another seiyuu that was featured on CODE GEASS.

Can you guess who it is?

Write your guesses in the comment section and we’ll see if everyone is right in May!

 

Advertisements

2 responses to “Seiyuu Digest #30 – Takahiro Sakurai

  1. Thankyou! atlast we get a clear explanation on what have happen to Sakurai-San.

    From your opinion who is the top 10 seiyuus?

    Like

    • You’re welcome! About my opinion on who are the top 10 seiyuu I’ll save that for an article we’ll publish soon about that 🙂 Thanks for visiting our website!

      Like

Tell us what you think about it

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s