Char Aznable Actor

Shuichi Ikeda

In this installment of our relay interviews, we speak with Mr. Shuichi Ikeda, who has performed the role of Char Aznable ever since the TV version of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" (hereafter referred to as First Gundam). How does he feel about the work called "THE ORIGIN"? And what are his thoughts on returning to the role of Char in a new film production after a long absence? He talked to us about his 36-year history with Char.
- Roughly when were you offered the role of Char in THE ORIGIN?
Ikeda: About one or two years ago. Actually, I did an audition to play the role of Char this time. I was nervous about whether I would be able to play Char again. Full Frontal in "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UC" was a different person from Char, and it would have been nice to create something new, but this time around it's Char. My feeling was, "Will I be able to fulfill Mr. (Yoshikazu) Yasuhiko's image?" I did the audition while looking at Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings, and I wanted to confirm whether it felt like Char would look back at me and approve. So I figured, just let them listen for now. As for my personal impression, it felt as if Char was approving, so that's how I took on the role.
- What are your thoughts on playing Char once again?
Ikeda: It feels really fresh. I think you have to approach it with that fresh feeling. And it was kind of thrilling. Although, while I feel positive about being able to do it again and I was delighted to be given this opportunity, the pressure is incredible.
If I may be allowed to say something that will make me sound like a valedictorian, I do now feel thankful that no one else walked off with the part of Char. When I heard they were going to animate THE ORIGIN, I thought it wouldn't matter if they changed Char. Somebody other than me could do it. That's what I thought then, but if someone else had done it, I probably would have been vexed, so I'm really glad that I did get to do it.
- THE ORIGIN is an adaptation of the past chapters, but since it's a story set in the past, what kinds of impressions did you have?
Ikeda: It's been close to 15 years since the comic started. When I first saw them, the story was unfolding in the same chronological order as First Gundam. I wondered, "What is Mr. Yasuhiko thinking, tracing the story like this?" So I didn't read it very seriously. Of course, when I later read it properly, I realized how it was changed, but that was how I felt at first. And the thing that changed my feelings the most was around "Chronicle of Char and Sayla." I started to feel deeply interested in how their past would be depicted. For instance, Zeon Zum Deikun was different from what I'd imagined, and he was depicted as a somewhat wavering character. I had envisioned him as someone more filled with self-confidence. But he wasn't that, and he wasn't this splendid person. He was actually a troubled man. Those kinds of elements were in the comics. With the social backdrop, too, there was that atmosphere of student activism that we ourselves saw when we were young. We actually saw lots of brave-minded women like Roselucia. Those elements made the past chapters objectively very interesting.
- Having read the past chapters, and now playing Char, do you intend to change anything in particular?
Ikeda: I don't think I'll change it that much. So even if, later in the story, the time comes when that line -- "No-one likes to admit to them" -- is said, I think it'll become the same famous line that everybody knows. There are several more episodes to come, and I don't know how I'll be playing Casval Rem Deikun, but I don't think Char will change.
- Ms. Mayumi Tanaka is playing the young Char (Casval) on this occasion, but what was your impression on seeing that film footage?
Ikeda: It's lovely. That's what I think. This is a hard role for anybody to play. If you ask what Char's youth was like, every fan has their own image, right? So when I met Ms. Mayumi Tanaka and spoke to her, she herself said, "Am I really okay for this?" and I said, "You're fine." I think she absolutely did a great job.
- The role of Artesia is being played by Ms. Megumi Han, the daughter of Ms. Keiko Han. What can you tell us about the role of Artesia?
Ikeda: I've known her since she was in high school. So I really never imagined that something like this could happen. At the time she wasn't a pro, and now she's become a splendid voice actress. For her to be playing Artesia seems like some strange twist of fate. Apparently when she was young, she met Ms. Yo Inoue too while she was alive, so there's some kind of connection there. I'm happy that those links brought her to this role. And when I think that later on she'll be doing Artesia and Sayla, and that we'll be performing together, I can't sit still! I'm going to try my hardest to keep up with her.
- Please tell us what the atmosphere was like at the post-recording.
Ikeda: I wasn't in it much this time around, so I was at the studio quite late and the recording was finished soon after. However, there was an area next to the recording studio where the cast and crew could wait, so I spent some time there watching. As for the atmosphere, everyone seemed to be working very hard. At first the studio was very quiet. Normally there's some small talk at least, but there wasn't even any of that. When Ms. Mayumi Tanaka is the lead in something, she usually livens up the mood on site, but she didn't talk much this time either. Everyone was tense, and you could feel a real sense of nervousness around the place. That made me nervous too, I guess.
- What was your impression upon playing Char again after so long?
Ikeda: This time around, Char isn't a captain or even a lieutenant commander, he's a lieutenant junior grade. When they asked for a comment during recording, I even made this bad pun about how "I was careful (chui) about the lieutenant (chui) part." (laughs)
We had most of the art by the time of the post-recording, so it was easy to do. At the beginning of First Gundam, there's the scene at the very start where my subordinates Denim and Slender are together. This had a fresh feeling, with those kinds of connections to it. Recently, when I play Char, I'm often re-voicing the old footage again. But here, I'm watching new footage for the first time, so that felt fresh as well. I'm a bit worried about whether or not my voice is fresh over Mr. Yasuhiko's fresh animation. (laughs)
- What were your thoughts after watching Episode 1?
Ikeda: It's great. The song playing over the last scene has a great feel, too. It's kind of a grown-up story, but the last scene gives you a forward-looking impression. I was also struck by the depiction of Jimba Ral. Ramba Ral is so cool that his father comes off looking like an idiot. It made me think, well, there are fathers like that, and I thought it was nice that Mr. Yasuhiko portrayed him that way. Mr. Chafurin's performance was perfectly suited for it. (laughs) That's what I mean. The depiction of each character was wonderful. Like I said before about Deikun being a troubled character -- that's exactly what makes the Zabi family seem so magnificent.
It's a very adult tale, but you never feel like you can't make sense of it. For example, with Frontal in "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UC," he says lots of things, but his dialogue can be hard to understand. But that doesn't happen in THE ORIGIN. The dialogue is quite clear, once you think about it. I hope the youngsters will pay attention to that, and embrace it, and talk about it.
- As of Episode 2, Casval changes his name to Édouard Mass, and you'll be playing him. But were you conscious of him being Casval, not Char?
Ikeda: I think he differs from Char in some respects, so I was conscious of that. Of course, Casval does change places with Char, and I think portraying that well is the first hurdle to get past. When is Casval Rem Deikun discarded to become Char? The death of his mother is the impetus for that, and I think the performance around that is a key point.
How do we express the difference between the real Char, and Casval before he replaces him? That's for later in the story, but I think that's a heavy area. I'm thinking of various approaches right now.
- We're looking forward to your full-fledged involvement from Episode 2. Do you have any final message for the fans, please?
Ikeda: Truly, I think I will be with you all for a while longer, and I think this will be a work to be proud of. I would be grateful if everyone can stick with me.