Interview With Kaiji Tang
Location: Otakon 2021
Interview Date: 8/7/2021

Kaiji Tang stands in the woods, holding a sword over his shoulder. He's wearing a blue button-down shirt.Samantha Ferreira (Anime Herald): What were the early days of recording, what was like recording in the early days of pandemic? What types of challenges do you remember having to contend with at the time?

Kaiji Tang: Oh, man. The early days of COVID. We had no idea what to do, basically, for the first month. The entire industry was, like, in disarray. We knew everything was on fire, and we’re like, “How are we going to produce any of this in time for anything?” At first, it took very brave people to mention, “hey maybe we can try recording from home!”

All the studios hated that idea because, you have to understand, all of them want the performances on the same mic, right? And to get actors to get that same mic is so hard. But over the course of the year, they figured out some ways to send mics to people, gave them time to find these mics. We found cost effective measures, because, because the mics the studios use are all like $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 mics, right? Not affordable by the regular actor. So there’s a, $800, $900 kind of variant, and it took most people like half a year to get it. But, at this point, enough people in the city have gotten it, where we can more or less produce everything from home. So that’s been nice.

Still from Yakuza: Like A Dragon - Ichiban, wearing a red suit, looks up at the camera and waves meekly.

Ichiban Kasuga (Yakuza: Like A Dragon)

Sloan the Otaku: Who would win the fight. [Jujutsu Kaisen’s Satoru] Gojo or [Bungo Stray Dogs’ Osamu] Dazai?

Kaiji Tang: Look, I love Dazai. I love Dazai. He’s great. He wouldn’t win that fight. (laughs) There’s no way! There’s no way.

Okay, so Dazai, even if, somehow, his power worked on Gojo, right? He needs to touch people. He needs to make physical contact with someone. Even if, somehow, the universe’s power system, like, synergized, right, and he could take Gojo’s Infinity Wave. I guess he’d have to wait till he was asleep? I don’t know if Gojo’s thing even turns off when he’s asleep, you know. Yeah, I don’t think he’s winning that fight! I think he would maybe win a war of wits, you know, maybe like an intellectual battle. But no, not, not, not a not a boxing fight.

Samantha Ferreira: What was your experience in building out the character for [Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s] Ichiban? How did you get into the head of this guy who just seems to be equal parts manic, sober, and valiant?

Kaiji Tang: Yeah, Ichi was a really big treat to jump into. I was able to, you know, I did some homework on the original Japanese game, because I had the clients there with me the entire time. They had an Alpha build of the game for me to sort of investigate, and go through, and play through. They show me some of the cutscenes in the original Japanese that they had already recorded.

It was a team effort of a bunch of people. It was, like, three people from the company, [and] my director. We worked all the time to keep him in this very specific space, because Ichi, you know, he’s like this very lovable like kind of very passionate guy, right? And he has this tendency to get really, really hyped and energetic, and really into the things he does. But, if you maintain that energy, it doesn’t actually sound that great if you just keep hearing something like that though, right?

So we had to keep this nice balance of “okay, the player is going to be playing for this amount of time, they’re going to be listening to him talk for this amount of time, what probably is the best kind of music for them to enjoy the experience? Maybe we don’t go super hard here for very…” Yeah. It was like it was putting a lot of jigsaw pieces together, because we knew we had to maintain the flow of the game, as well as the performance. So, it took, like, five, six people, all at once that that make him what he was for the entire thing.

A brown-haired man smirks as he holds his chin.

Osamu Daizai (Bungo Stray Dogs)

Sloan the Otaku: Alright, so Dazai and Gojo are practically the same character! (laughs)

Kaiji Tang: They would be best friends, probably.

Sloan the Otaku: Oh, absolutely! What was the most fun, scene to voice over for both of these characters?

Kaiji Tang: Oh, man. I had a really, I had a really good time with the Bungo Stray Dogs shorts, the little minis. I thought that was a really cute show. I loved the scene in that show, where Dazai calls Kunikida a green onion. American audiences won’t really get it, but it’s this pun in Japanese. Basically, he’s calling him, like, kind of like a housewife, right?

So that was a really hilarious thing, because no one else will get it. It’s just me [and] the director, it’s like “haha he’s going to, but I don’t know if we can say that!”

But in in Jujutsu Kaisen. I really thought the Juju scroll on episode 23, with the Formation B, was probably the most I’ve laughed in a long time recording anime, because aw, poor Megumi! Just him and, like, the one brain cell that the three other share between them, you know? And he has to deal with that. That was that was a really good time.

Samantha Ferreira: You also voiced Vegeta in the Toonami dub for Asia, correct?

Kaiji Tang: Mmhm!

Samantha Ferreira: How did you end up winning that role?

Kaiji Tang: Just like any other! I think they were producing this new dub for a new market, and Bang Zoom! just happened to get the license for it. And, yeah! There was a lot of confusion at first, you know, because the folks who the auditions got sent out to were like, “we’re prettysure the show is being done, but you know… [and] I’m pretty sure it’s on TV already!” But it turned out [to be] a lot of fun. And, you know, to be able to step into Vegeta’s shoes for even just, like a season or so, it’s a very precious memory I will hold forever because, you know, big anime fan. Love Vegeta. You know, good times.

Still from Jujutsu Kaisen featuring a blindfolded man with white, spiky hair.

Satoru Gojo (Jujutsu Kaisen)

Sloan the Otaku: What would you like to see the future of voice acting, evolve to?

Kaiji Tang: Ooh, that’s an interesting question! Um, so they’re hopefully not filled with AI voices. There is a slight danger in that right now because there are so many programs out there right now that can basically, you can feed someone’s voice into it, and they can just replicate their mannerisms, their speech patterns… it’s very impressive. It’s very impressive tech.

However, there’s this stirring in the community, and we’re like “are these robots going to take our jerbs?” And, you know, I can see that. I can see AI tech, they’re giving us the little thing, I can see AI tech doing stuff like commercial reads and, like maybe, maybe audio books right? But hopefully they won’t replace the flesh and blood actors. You know, selfishly, hopefully they won’t!

But we’re still a bit away from an AI making actual acting choices. So,1 we’ll see if the technology gets there. It’ll be interesting if it does. We’ll see what kind of transition that will have, and what kind of impact that will have on the industry itself. But yeah, we’ll see. I think it’s too early to tell. Fingers crossed [that] I still have a job in ten years!

Anime Herald would like to thank Kaiji Tang and Otakon for sitting with us for this interview. We’d also like to thank Sloan the Otaku for granting permission to publish their questions!