Lino Fernandez Voice Actor

Tomoaki Maeno

In the production of the "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN" (hereafter referred to as "THE ORIGIN"), a crucial character is the newly created Lino Fernandez, who closes in on the true identity of Casval, who has become Char. This sole original character is portrayed by Mr. Tomoaki Maeno. Lino has doubts about his transformed friend, and he feels both delight and dread at discovering his true identity, as well as faith in his charisma. As the thrilling events unfold, his feelings change into alignment with Char. We spoke to Mr. Maeno about creating his performance as Lino, and how he captured and expressed the character.
- When did you first encounter "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM"?
Maeno: When I was a kid, I played games like "SD Gundam Side Story: Knight Gundam Tales" and "Super Robot Wars," and that got me interested in the actual anime, so I rented the videos and watched them that way. Thanks to that, when I was in junior high school, I had pretty much seen every series. So I'm not a fan of specific series, it's more that I like all the Gundam works in general. Even recently, I've enjoyed playing arcade games like "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: Bonds of the Battlefield."
- Did you read the original manga of "THE ORIGIN"?
Maeno: I came in through games, but I also read Gundam-related manga, so I read the " ORIGIN" manga as well. I thought the story was extremely interesting, the way it dug deep into what happened before the One Year War that we all know, and the way Char's early life became gradually clearer. So I read it eagerly, wondering how things would turn out. They were things you could only imagine in the timeframe of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM." We gained new knowledge about the history of the Universal Century, and things like the contentious relationship between Side 3 and the Earth Federation. It felt amazingly fresh.
- Did you get the role of Lino through auditioning?
Maeno: I didn't audition, I was offered the role, which shocked me. At the time, the character's name hadn't yet been decided, but when I heard that that he would somehow be involved with a story about Char's mask, I looked forward to being involved with such a vital element.
- Lino is a new character who of course doesn't appear in "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," or even the manga of "THE ORIGIN," so what did you think when the role was given to you?
Maeno: As a fan myself, to be able to be involved in Gundam's history even in a small way was a joy, but on the other hand I was very nervous about how to approach the role. I had almost no clues to work with, and had to create my performance from scratch. But since no one had played the role before, I felt maybe that made it easier to play too. Specifically because it's a new character, you're free from that pressure, and I was able to stretch out in the part. I figured that might be a good thing.
- Lino figures out Char's true identity, which is important in story terms, but the character also has a comedic relief side. How did you approach playing that?
Maeno: Playing the comedic scenes was fun, but the scene where he discovers Char's identity has a serious air, so I tried to be conscious of making that change smoothly. During the recording, I was advised not to do it in an anime style, but to keep my performance realistic, as if I were dubbing a movie, and I was grateful that they created an atmosphere where I was free to have fun. If I'd overworked the role beforehand, it would have been hard to respond to requests in the studio. So I came up with about three approaches, not inflexible though, and the lines I did in the first test easily decided it. After that, I listened to what everyone in the studio had to say, and that's how we came to the decisions we did.
- What was difficult about playing Lino?
Maeno: His sense of distance from Char. At first, Lino thinks of Char as a friend from high school. Right at the beginning, there's a scene where he says, "There's something different about you." But at that point he still thinks he's the original Char. Then gradually, things start to change, and he thinks, "This is like a different person." How much of that should I show? Should my performance of those suspicions be stronger or weaker? I had continued discussions with the sound director, Mr. Sadayoshi Fujino, about finding the right touches there while I did the work.
- On the other hand, what was fun about it?
Maeno: Lino is a character with a lot of ad libs, so it was fun figuring out how much to take from his expressions to reflect in his lines. When I saw the footage in rehearsals, it was quite close to complete, so I could search around in lots of ways, like, "When he does this action, I can ad lib a line there." That was fun.
- After Lino realizes that Char is someone else, did you change the way you performed him?
Maeno: Yes, I did. His suspicious probably turn to conviction when he asks that trick question, saying "You led the charge back then, too," and Char answers, "Oh. Yes, you're right." Then Lino's expression says, "Ah, I knew it!" and his strange smile is so memorable. After that, he must have done lots of digging himself and worked out that Char was Casval Rem Deikun. And then he doesn't use it to threaten him, but comes to believe in him as Casval. He gives him the mask as a follower of Casval, too, so that other people won't work out his identity. What's more, that mask is Lino's own modified lunaball mask, so Char ends up wearing something handmade by Lino. When you think about that, it's a true honor.
- What was the atmosphere like in the studio?
Maeno: Just hearing it's "THE ORIGIN" means there's pressure, and naturally I was nervous. But Mr. (Shuichi) Ikeda and the other veterans created a nice atmosphere that made it easy for us to work in, and there was a lot of friendly conversation during the breaks, so it didn't come out too stiff. In that sense, there was no strange uptightness and I think we did it with a reasonable amount of tension. I've known Kakki (Tetsuya Kakihara) who played Garma, since our vocational school days, and I also know Mr. (Kenta) Miyake who plays Dozle very well, so maybe that's the reason I wasn't too nervous. Personally, it was my first time seriously working with Mr. Ikeda, so I was a bit tense. But Kakki had worked with Mr. Ikeda on "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UC," and called him "Mr. Shuichi" with his first name, and I was a bit envious of that. (laughs)
As soon as Mr. Ikeda speaks, that's Char right there, so being on the mic next to him was like actually being with Char. It had my heart racing.
- What scenes left an impression in "THE ORIGIN III"?
Maeno: The middle of the loaded march exercise, when Garma falls off the cliff, and Char goes to help him. It's a scene where the distance between Garma and Char becomes decisively smaller. "Oh, they're friends," I thought, but whether or not Char himself actually feels friendship in unknowable. That struck me as very Char-like. There's a similar interaction with Lino. Even if he didn't wear the mask Lino gave him and just wore his sunglasses, I don't think he would have had any trouble. For him to actually wear the mask he was given appears to show Char's kindness in that scene. But regarding his true feelings, all we can do is wonder what he's truly thinking. It reinforced for me that Char is an unreadable man.
Also, it couldn't be helped because of length, and it wasn't depicted in the original manga, but I would have liked to have seen more of their daily life at the military academy. We see Char playing basketball and fencing, but I figure there must have been various other activities at the school that we don't see depicted, and as a fan I would have liked to have seen that.
- What's your impression of the "ORIGIN" anime?
Maeno: It made me realize again that there are lots of things you understand after growing up. I think perhaps many of those who watch "THE ORIGIN" are fans of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," but it's been made to feel fresh and fascinating even for those viewers, and to me that's purely amazing. Naturally, compared to "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," the art is many times better, and as a fan now I'd love to see the whole One Year War in this quality. It was truly an honor to be able to be involved in the history of Gundam, which has been supported by so many people, and in the history of Char through the role of Lino. As a fan myself, I'm looking forward to seeing further developments, and watching the direction "THE ORIGIN" takes along with everyone else.

Next time in our Relay Interview, we talk to Ms. Ko Shibasaki, who sings the Episode 3 theme song.