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Jay Hickman Interview: Joichiro Yukihira on Food Wars!

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Jay Hickman spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about voicing Joichiro Yukihira on the Food Wars! English dub, the father/son relationship of Joichiro & Soma, and the Saiba origins backstory episode on The Third Plate.

This interview contains spoilers for Food Wars! Season 3, The Third Plate.

Interview with Jay Hickman on Food Wars! (Transcript)

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Typically, this kind of wandering single father would be presented in a negative light but it’s not like that at all on Food Wars! Joichiro kind of walks in and out of Soma’s life and it’s fun. He’s really a mysterious figure in a lot of ways. I was wondering what you think of this rarely seen positive image?

Jay Hickman: Well, I’ve really enjoyed the character just to level set there. I mean, on so many levels, he’s been just a terrific character to play and kind of explore with. But that particular aspect of him really is an interesting one because you may or may not know, I’ve been cast to play a few dads in my day. And they sort of run the gamut in terms of anime dads, in terms of their importance to the story.

I think many of the times they’re just kind of a set dressing, or it’s just important for you to know that the protagonist has a father. Or sometimes if it’s kind of a teen coming of age and anime, the father is there to provide an obstacle to the teenager to go do whatever it is they want to be doing. Like they’re grounded or what have you.

But yeah, some of them have been more prominent and even kind of maniacal but I’ve never really encountered one like Joichiro. I think what I’ve discovered with him is that he’s undertaking all of these actions for the benefit of Soma at heart. He’s accomplished what he’s wanted to accomplish in his career.

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Maybe there are some regrets, maybe he looks back and thinks if I could have done this one different thing… Maybe, it would have been more fulfilling. And so he’s taking all of these life lessons and kind of giving them to a son, but not directly.

They never have a sit down heart-to-heart where he was like, ‘Soma, I want you to do this thing! I think you’ll be well-suited to do this thing with your life or undertake this career. Here’s some mistakes I made that you should be sure not to make.’

Jay Hickman

Voice Actor Jay Hickman – Photo Credit: Jay Hickman

Like, he never does that. But you can kind of get the sense after a while that he is sort of very subtly pulling the strings in a way that will set Soma up for success. And so the idea of him being kind of the wandering father, you’re right!

You never get the sense that he’s kind of a reviled deadbeat dad. And I think that speaks a lot to what their relationship must’ve been like, prior to season one, episode one. You get some flashbacks, of course.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

But it’s clear that they’ve been a single father and son duo for maybe eight, nine, possibly even 10 years, by the time that we meet them for the first time. And so they’ve established a rapport that clearly works for them.

I think too, that when we first meet Soma, he has no idea about Totsuki Academy. Joichiro though knows that it’s definitely where Soma needs to be. I think one of the things that makes the viewer comfortable with the idea of Joichiro just sort of, packing his son off and leaving him on the doorstep of this place with a note, is that I think he knows full well that Soma’s going to be in very good hands there.

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

He will clearly be challenged. He will clearly come up against antagonists. But only those that will help make him better. But at the heart of it, to the extent that he needs something nurturing, he’ll get it there.

And I guess we never see, whatever deals Joichiro struck to get his son to Totsuki or get him to be able to go take the transfer student test in the first place or whatever it was.

But the fact that Soma ended up at the exact same dorm as his dad with the exact same dorm mom. You can’t imagine it’s entirely coincidence. If Joichiro was able to make those arrangements, then you knew that he knew Soma would be in good hands.

As a viewer, you’re like, it’s true. He’s not living under the same room with his dad anymore. But I think his dad realizes in terms of career advice he’s taught Soma most everything he can.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

To get Soma to the next level, they need to be separated for a while. And Soma is to be kind of run through the gauntlet of Totsuki. It’s a very important part of his character arch.

In season 3 episode 21 of Food Wars! (“He Who Clears a Path Through the Wilderness”) you learn about Joichiro’s backstory. His need for perfectionism, the pressure of having to constantly better yourself as a prelude to a drive to madness

I was wondering if you connected with that whole plot line, especially in regards to your voice acting career? Do you listen to your own recordings and compare often? For Joichiro of course, this caused him to leave Totsuki altogether.

What an interesting question because I mean, I do share some of his sense of perfectionism. But I think it’s easy to say, not to that extreme. The way it was portrayed in season three, he was having so much trouble, finding worthy competitors, and thus finding ways to better himself. It just led to this severe burnout, I forget the term because it’s been a while since I watched it, those particular episodes, but it was this ‘Valley of Despair’ kind of thing.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

And they actually show, symbolically, like he’s walking through this kind of completely arid valley, no one around he’s completely isolated and maybe despondent. And so yeah, the way he finds his self back from that obviously is a very interesting kind of story arc. The way that it shapes his relationship with his son, when we come to modern day, I think is heavily influenced by that period in his life.

I think you can see in as much as he wants to challenge Soma and do what’s best for Soma and help Soma experience on his own what’s best for him. I think at least in the back of his mind, he’s kind of percolating there and making sure that he’ll be able to provide for Soma the most enriching experience in this kind of culinary world. Without Soma going through what he went through.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

But more to your point, I know what it’s like to want to get something just right. I’ll be very honest with you. I think this is something that I have mellowed a little bit on as my career has progressed, actually.

I think at the beginning, when I was looking to either first break into the world of entertainment or kind of after I had at least got my foot in the door to make a mark… I was very hard on myself in terms of achieving what I perceived to be the ideal.

And this could be in anything it was in, from small things to large things. I think in terms of if I was putting down an audition and if it was something… You know I did some on-camera work years ago.

It was different for that because you go to an audition, you walk in and you sign in, and then you walk in the room where the director is, and the person behind the camera, and maybe a couple other people, someone reading opposite you. And you got pretty much one shot.

Jay Hickman

Voice Actor Jay Hickman – Photo Credit: Jay Hickman

I mean, sometimes they’ll ask you to do it again, or sometimes in rare circumstances, you might be like, ‘would you mind if I gave that one more try?’ And sometimes they’ll say yes, but what I’m talking about mostly is those auditions that I was able to record myself.

So if I was putting myself on camera to send in a taper, a clip, or if I was doing a voiceover audition… Yeah, back in the day, I would just go again and again, and again, like, it’s not quite right. It’s not quite there. The weird thing is with auditions, you get them to a point where you’re happy with them, and then you send them off into the ether and you just kind of forget about them.

At least that’s been my approach is that it’s best, it’s best that way to put your absolute best foot forward, send the audition off and then get on with your day. Then if word comes back that you’re booked, it’s like a wonderful surprise. And if you never hear from them again, well, you’re not expecting to, because you’ve moved on to the next thing.

Joichiro Yukihira and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

So, I guess it’s funny in that way, like all that, all that perfectionism and all that kind of meticulous attention to getting it perfect. Who knows? Who knows if it paid off or not?

I mean, I guess because I would get, I don’t know the law of averages, like one out of every five auditions might result in something. So in 80% of the cases where I was driving myself to just get it absolutely perfect, absolutely the apex of my skill set and talents…

Whoever saw it on the other end is like, ‘Eh. This guy over here I think will be better. Let’s go with that.’ So I suppose there are some parallels, but yeah, I mean, Joichiro is a special character in that, at the time that he was looking to challenge himself so much, he could not be beaten.

Like they just could not find anyone to beat the guy. I know his roommate Gin (Dojima) was number one seat. He was number two seat.

Joichiro Yukihira and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

But in all of his battles, he just had a special drive. It seemed to try to find anyone who could beat him. He was even doing a regimental Food War vs 50 chefs at a time. He’s next level, as they would say.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

So I guess I have not yet achieved that level of excellence, in pretty much anything I’ve done, to the point where I’d be like, ‘Who? Who on this planet can take me on?! Who I ask?!’ I’ve found plenty of luck finding worthy competitors.

Does it inspire you personally the way Joichiro is always willing to to risk everything? When he puts up Restaurant Yukihira as collateral, it’s pretty big, it’s practically his life’s work but he’s very lackadaisical on it. Do you apply that risk taker method to your own life and take risks when they present themselves? Or do you still find yourself taking more of a conservative approach to your acting/voice-acting career?

Yeah, I mean it is inspiring in some sense. However, it’s an interesting question because I think as we learn more about Joichiro’s mindset, we question what does life’s work mean to him? Maybe Soma is his life’s work. The diner obviously is hugely important to Soma.

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Certainly at the beginning, it’s all he can talk about. Almost all the way through season one, he just keeps telling people, ‘I’m just looking to get better so I can go back and take over the family business and do my dad proud and beat him in a food battle some day.’

That’s the extent of his vision for his life… Joichiro I think knows much better. We may never get a chance to have an in-depth interview with Joichiro himself to find out, what was your thinking throughout these steps in raising your son?

But it may well be that creating Restaurant Yukihira, a diner would be a temporary one. That this would be something that him and his son could bond over.

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

It would be something where they could be in kind of close quarters and he could really show him the essence of cooking at least, not five-star James Beard level stuff… But this is how you make people happy through cooking, through culinary skill. It’s a very kind of intimate setting at the diner and they get to know their customers as well, and really make & establish a rapport.

It might just be that Joichiro felt that was an important lesson for Soma, as he entered and started to grow into his own in the culinary world. You got to start with the basics, here’s some basic recipes, music, and here’s how you get to know your customers and make something for them that not only will satisfy them for a meal… But really have a positive impact on them.

Maybe once he had done that, I think by the time again, episode one, season one, they’re having their fried rice battle. It’s battle number 489, I think Joichiro sees that Soma’s just about ready.

Like, he’s got the basics down, and he knows how to cater to customers. Later in that episode when the evil developers are there and trying to buy out the diner so they can put up their high rise… The way Soma handles himself, just solo to chase them off through the power of his fantastic cooking.

Joichiro Saiba and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Saiba and Gin Dojima in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

I think Joichiro knows this chapter in his life has served its purpose, and now it’s time for the next one. And so, the idea of him being prepared to sacrifice it all. I mean, I guess it comes from his time as a student at Totsuki winning battles through Food Wars which was the currency there. That was how you proved yourself, where if you weren’t taking a risk, what was the point?

I guess there’s something to that we can apply in real life, even though, it’s obviously a fictional show and these are animated characters. At the end of the day, no one is terribly worried that they might lose the family business and be kicked out on the street.

But there is something to the idea of pursuing excellence and having a need to be ready to make those gambles, to really do something special. I think if you play it conservatively, you can do fine. It’s like playing the stock market, I guess.

You can get a portfolio that is kind of low risk. It’s conservative, and you can be almost guaranteed to make 3% on your total principal year over year. That may be fine for some people, it might be all they need.

Jay Hickman

Voice Actor Jay Hickman – Photo Credit: Jay Hickman

It’s the people who are really willing to go for those risky bets where they can make a hundred percent or more on a trade. The ones that do well are the ones that when they bet, or when they gamble, everyone looks to them as being like, ‘Oh, this is the new guru of Wall Street.’ This person is a real kind of financial genius. And that may or may not be true and maybe just, they took a total lucky stab at it and were fortunate.

I think it’s true that if you want to get to that level and reach that pinnacle, you do need to be willing to take some risks. So yeah, for sure. I think any reminder of that I can get, be it through the genre of anime shows that I’m in or otherwise, or other places in life where I see people taking a risk and it paying off…

Or even taking a risk and it not paying off, but having been worth it to them because they knew if they wanted to get to that next level, they had to take a risk. Sure. I think I’d definitely take inspiration in that! I think the more examples of it I see, the more I am willing to try that out as well,

Despite Food Wars! being a fairly light hearted anime, I see so many advanced, mature themes in it. In ‘The Third Plate’ I felt the whole plot line was an Orwellian allegory akin to Animal Farm.

Essentially, Central representing communism where everybody cooks and prepares food in the same agreed fashion and the Food War structure itself representing capitalism. The best dish advances, the loser falls behind. What’s your take on the Azami Nakiri led plot-line in Season 3 of Food Wars!?

Another great question! I saw a documentary a while back, they were talking to the originators of the anime in Japan, it was an hour long documentary on kind of just behind the scenes of Food Wars!, like how we kind of took it from manga to the screen.

The creators at some point commented, ‘Frankly, we had no idea Food Wars! was going to go on for this long! We love the show, we’re excited that it has been well received but to be very candid… We did not realize there would be such a demand for it that we would be asked to make a season three and then a season four and then a season five. I think they were in the middle of season three at the time this documentary was made.

And so I think when a show is going through that sort of growth, I think there’s a challenge for them on what is the arc for this coming season? Like we just finished this great story arc in season X, and I think the characters have really come into their own and we’ve got a happy ending.

Oh, we got picked up for another season. Oh, we did. I mean, that’s great. What are we going to write about next season?

Like, I think there’s a sense of creating a plot and a theme for the next season that allows people to kind of see what their favorite characters are up to for starters but also to introduce a novel element. A challenge to our favorite characters, one not yet faced. ‘It would be great to plop them into this environment and see what happens to them there!’

So I think it’s natural that for a show like this one that is just becoming so beloved and captivating for people, that it would make sense to kind of use real life themes. To build on those themes in a way that would make for a compelling kind of plot line.

Joichiro Yukihira holds trophy in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira holds trophy in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

I don’t know that it’s as much, the idea of the creators using the platform of their show to kind of teach any sort of societal or moral lessons or anything. But rather, ‘let’s look at the world around us and what’s going on. What are some themes that seem to be captivating to people today that that would work within the framework of the show that’s been established?’

I kind of looked at it like that. Again, I don’t have a seat at the table, and I’ve never once had the privilege of speaking to the creators of this amazing show. But, if I were to guess, I think it would be more something along those lines where, how can we take, either well-known societal or historical, kind of themes, and then overlay it with the basic premise of our show in a way that would be interesting?

That may be what happened there, and it was extremely well done. Even without some sort of realization of what the characters and the kind of organizations might’ve been a metaphor for. Yeah, I was definitely sucked in, I wanted to know how it was all gonna work and they wrote it really smartly for that.

Joichiro Yukihira, Soma Yukihira, and Mayumi Kurase in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira, Soma Yukihira, and Mayumi Kurase in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Whenever you are introduced to a villain or movie villain or whatever, the ones that you can sort of see their point make the very best ones. I mean, if you’ve got a maniacal mustache, twirling, Dick Dastardly, like that’s one thing for the protagonist character to overcome.

But if it’s someone who comes in and they’re working at cross-purposes with your protagonist, you learn more about what their goal is. And you’re like, ‘God, I don’t know! Some of it sort of makes sense, I guess.’

I mean, if they sort of have a point like that, at least in my mind, it makes for much more interesting viewing.

Have you been able to do dubbing work on season four of Food Wars! at all? I know since the pandemic started, everything’s been delayed.

I do not know anything about season four, that’s the honest truth! I quite candidly do not know where all that sits in terms of the show coming over to English speaking audiences. I mean, I think it was back in April, the folks that Toonami were talking about their interest in bringing additional seasons of Food Wars over. It was all in negotiations and deals were being worked out but yeah, to be honest, I’ve not yet even heard about a season four dub.

Food Wars!’s popularity and outreach stateside has grown exponentially on an unprecedented level post-Toonami. When I covered Anime NYC 2019, the Crunchyroll simulcast premiere for The Fourth Plate had legions of fans sitting wall to wall hours in advance.

Everyday the Facebook and Reddit fan groups are getting thousands of new members. What does it mean to you to know so many people are being introduced to Joichiro and your work?

Yeah, it’s really been remarkable! I mean, I think I can say this with some confidence that even when I was first introduced to the show, by being called in to voice this character, we had a sense that it was something special. We had no idea at that time that it was going to end up on Toonami when we were recording it.

That predated the great Toonami announcement by, I don’t know, at least half a year, maybe a full year. But, when I was first called into to do this character, the director, you may know his name, Kyle Jones, I’ve been privileged to work with him for many, many years. He told me he was working on this new project and he has a role for me, to use his exact words.

He’s like, ‘You’re going to be the cool dad.’ And that’s all I knew. I’m like, that sounds terrific. And I knew it was a cooking show.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

When I got in the booth for the first day, we had a little run down and he told me what the show is about basically, and told me about Joichiro & Soma.

All I knew was that it would be given a DVD release by Sentai Film Works and then put on HIDIVE the streaming service that was built into the equation. But it just seemed like there was something special about this show, even at that time. There was a general sense of that. And then when it was announced for Toonami, obviously we were thrilled!

I think this was really only the third show that I had been in at a time that had made it to the Toonami block. And it was very exciting for me, I think just in general it’s why we do what we do, as kind of artists or creators or performers.

We like to entertain people. Yes. But I think it’s also very meaningful if we can be a part of something that matters to someone for some reason, or resonates with them or connects with them on some level that’s important to them… There’s a little more gratifying than that.

When I get to meet people that love these shows at conventions & screenings and whatnot, to hear them tell about their first encounter with the show that I’ve been in or their impressions of a character that I’ve voiced, and how much they enjoyed it.

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira and Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

And in some cases how it was meaningful to them on some level beyond just entertainment, it’s just humbling. It’s just so lovely and gratifying. I mean, that’s kind of at the heart of it. That’s why we do what we do, and why we keep seeking to do more of what we do.

So, yeah, I think, I’ve been able to have those sorts of reactions for years and years of my career to date. But to know that a show like this one was going to end up on Toonami, it meant obviously that the audience would have the chance to see it and hopefully love it. Hopefully, have it inspire them in some way that was just going to be magnified exponentially. That was extremely exciting.

And then to watch how it unfolded on Toonami, particularly as it got to season two, by that point, obviously, the Toonami folks had seen whatever reaction they got out of season one. They’re like, ‘Well, this is worth it to keep doing this. This is getting a good enough response.’

Voice Actor Jay Hickman - Photo Credit: Jay Hickman

Voice Actor Jay Hickman – Photo Credit: Jay Hickman

We were starting to really see some fan reaction online, people were starting to get engaged with the show. And even in season two, there were people who were like, ‘I wasn’t so sure about this show in season one, but I like where it’s going! Like, I’m cool with it now.’

So to see people coming around in that way was super fun! I loved the show from the get-go. I thought this is such a unique and exciting show! But, I wouldn’t have predicted that it would be received at this level where the demand just seemed to be growing and people continue to be hungry…

Apologize for the pun! For more. But it’s so thrilling and I hope that the creators have lots more exciting and compelling ideas to turn out to keep it all going.

I’ve read your Reddit Q & A from a year ago and I was a little surprised how you tried applying multiple times and had no answer back.

In fact, it wasn’t until your girlfriend applied herself and you accompanied her & kind of lucked out that some prospects dropped out, that you finally got a chance to showcase your talent. Does it ever cross your mind how you were this close to not being part of a career you were a perfect match for?

I guess it hasn’t. I haven’t given it much thought and I think my mindset at the time was at that point in my career, I had already been working as an actor professionally. I had even already done, I mean, I had an agent, so I was getting work, doing TV commercials and the occasional very small film role.

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

And the agent that I worked with also had a voiceover department. So after I started doing some on camera work, they were like, ‘Have you thought about voiceover?’ And I’m like, ‘Only in my dreams!’

I would love to do that but I would have never imagined walking up to you and saying, I think I should be in radio commercials. They’re like, why don’t you give it a shot? And so, as auditions came in, they would call me up, have me come in, read the script, record it in their little sound booth, they’d send it off.

Slowly, I started to get some work there to the point that I was like, okay, so this is something I can do. I was obviously loving it. It’s such a fun career. And if you can get enough work doing it, that you can sustain yourself, wow, what a dream!

At the point that the advertisement showed up in the back of the paper for anime or animation voiceover, it was right up my alley. I had grown up watching cartoons, trying to imitate certain characters, do Mel Blanc’s voices, it felt like it was in my blood. I would probably just keep soldiering on until I found my way into it.

And maybe it would have been more Western animation. I like the fact that I kind of got into this element of the industry doing anime. Who knows. But, I think there was something in me that wasn’t going to stop until I was in a recording booth, doing voices for animated characters.

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

It just, it was a lifelong dream of mine. After I’d gotten a little validation from some of the local commercials and stuff, that it was marketable, what I could do, I was like, ‘All right, then I’ll just keep going!’ I will push and push until I’m doing it full time or what have you.

So, yeah, it was a stroke of luck, I think. In the immediate kind of weeks, months, or a year that followed that I was there, it was definitely something that was present for me that I was thinking about like, ‘Wow, can you imagine If I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time?’ But after a while that was with ADV films at the time they were growing, they were bringing on new directors.

So I got to meet new directors and they were putting me in their shows and at some point it started to feel so familiar. It just felt right. It felt like what was happening was meant to be happening.

I didn’t think about the ‘what-ifs’ anymore. It was just like, ‘This is the new normal, I’m in the anime industry.’ And I keep getting asked to come back and do bigger and bigger roles, I guess that signals that I’m doing the right thing!

I’m where I’m supposed to be. So I just sort of let that become my new foundation, for what would follow.

From speaking to voice actors throughout the years, I realize it’s a bit of a solitary experience rather than what fans imagine. That it’s rare there’s another voice actor working opposite you in the booth. I was wondering if you had a chance to meet most of the other voice actors working on Food Wars! despite this? As it definitely feels like Food Wars! would be a fun anime series to be a part of.

Yeah, I think in terms of the mechanics of voicing a character and being in the booth, it’s very much like the other examples you’ve heard about. We do have one actor at a time in almost all circumstances. It’s rare, even pre COVID, for there to be multiple actors in a booth.

If there’s a purpose sometimes, like if you’re doing Wallace sessions or something, if there’s a handful of people that are at the studio at the same time, for some reason, and they’re all working on this show, maybe the director can call them all in to do some murmuring customers at a restaurant or whatever. But yeah, by and large, we’re in there one at a time. Yeah, we never get to play off of each other! And that is something that I’ve just gotten used to.

I presume everyone else that does this as well has grown used to. It’s one thing to be on a stage in a production, a live production or on a TV set or on a movie set. That give and take between actors is so important. You don’t get that in the booth.

However, you look for new cues, you look for new sources of inspiration. We were fortunate in that everything we’re doing has already been done in Japan.

We’re walking into a process where there’s already a completed production, that in 99% of the time is a show that has done very well in Japan and is known. The reason it has come to America is because it did well in Japan.

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 'The Third Plate'. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Saiba in Food Wars! Season 3 ‘The Third Plate’. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

And it did well in Japan because it was well produced and well-directed and well acted. We’re getting this high quality product delivered to us that we then turn into something for an English language audience.

Even in those cases where sometimes when I walk in to a show and we’re recording the first episode or the first episode in a batch… I may be the last guy to show up. So like maybe all the voices in English language are already laid down and I’m just filling in.

So I get everyone’s work, I get everyone’s tracks to work off of. That’s a nice thing to have! Sometimes I’m the first one, and I’ve got no fellow actors to work off of… But we do have the Japanese, which is nothing to sneeze at!

I mean, so we can listen to what’s been done, obviously at a high quality level, and we can play off of that. That’s sort of the process. I’ve never felt terribly solitary.

Even though I’m in a booth by myself. I mean, across the glass, there’s always two friendly encouraging people, that you’re working with and can see and interact with in real time.

And then, you do feel as long as I’ve been in the industry, I’ve come to know many of my fellow actors quite well. To get to know their voices fairly well. Even without knowing who’s in the cast, I walk into a show for the first time, walk into the booth, put on the headphones and several actors have already been there and I’m playing opposite.

I’m playing some sort of corporate renegade and I’m in a meeting with a bunch of other executive type people. And I hear their voices and they’re like, ah, I knew exactly who that is! It sort of amplifies the feeling of we’re still a family of actors that know each other well and respect each other, quite a lot.

There’s comfort in hearing those voices that you know so well. To segue on to the next part of your question for this show in particular, from day one, I was lucky to know many of the actors already quite well. Blake Shepard who plays Soma, I knew very well. He and I have been friends for a long time.

We joked about him playing my son! He is actually many, many years older than my real life son. So, we just joke at the idea of me being his dad and stuff.

Many of the other actresses and actors, John Swasey (Senzaemon Nakiri) is an important role in the show. I’ve known him for decades. Brittney Karbowski (Hisako Arato), I’ve known very well.

Luci Christian (Yuki Yoshino) I know very well, like it just these top tier actors and actresses.

So we’ve done many shows before, and it’s fun to kind of step into something new, kind of with them, at least metaphorically speaking, or figuratively speaking. Because the show really is as mentioned before, just wholly unique.

We’re having this experience and this sense of wonderment together. I’ve been able to see them live and in person, many times since the debut of Food Wars! We’ve even been at screenings together and been able to do a Q & A with fans afterwards. We’re getting to experience it together, at the same time in that way. So, yeah, that’s been a lot of fun!

During your Reddit Q & A, you mentioned being impressed by the fried rice dishes Joichiro and Soma make in the series premiere of Food Wars! Many fans asked if you’d ever prepared any dish from the show and you mentioned wanting to craft the potato roast Soma makes… Well, it’s one year later! Have you made it?

(laughs) It has not yet happened! I’m going to blame the pandemic. How about that?! But I am no less interested or intent on making that thing.

I guess, to be completely honest, one thing about me that is kind of relevant to the theme of the show is that I hate wasting food. I can’t stand it!

Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Soma Yukihira in Food Wars! Season 1. Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

That’s my one kind of just strange peccadillo, that I’m the Leftover King in our household. Like, they’ll make a dish, we’ll all enjoy it the first night.

And then the next night everyone’s ready for something new… I’m like, ‘Hey, there’s a whole tub of XYZ in the fridge! Why aren’t we tackling that?!’

So, it’ll normally be me eating leftovers while everyone else enjoys the new thing. Then, I’ll try the new thing the next night. That happens all the time in my house. I think tying back to your question about perfectionism…

If I was going to attempt this, bacon potato roast, I would want to get it right! Partially for the purposes of good pictures for the internet but also because I would hate to get it wrong and then have it be inedible. Then there’s this whole dish that would go to waste! Like that would just kill me.

I will double down a year later here today and say, I’m going to make this thing! I will do it. I’ll even commit to doing it before someone has the chance to ask me again in a year if I did it. So I’m giving myself a deadline now, but I’m going to make it happen and I’ll make sure you know!

Thanks Jay!

Thank you!

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Screenshot via VRV's HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Screenshot via VRV’s HIDIVE Channel. Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Follow Jay Hickman on Social Media

Jay Hickman as Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Photo Credit: Jay Hickman. Art Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

Jay Hickman as Joichiro Yukihira in Food Wars! Photo Credit: Jay Hickman. Art Credit: J.C.Staff and Sentai Filmworks

– Be sure to follow actor Jay Hickman on Twitter!

– Check out the in-progress entry for Joichiro Yukihira (Saiba) and Erina Nakiri in the developing Food Wars English Dub Database!

– The Natural Aristocrat® enjoyed Food Wars! The Third Plate courtesy of VRV‘s HIDIVE Channel.

– Be sure to take a look at the always in-progress Anime English Dub Availability Master List to find what streaming services carry your favorite anime shows dubbed.

– Buy the Food Wars! Season 3 Blu-ray now and see Joichiro Yukihira’s early days as Joichiro Saiba at Totsuki Academy!

Disclosure: The Natural Aristocrat® is an participant in Amazon’s Affiliate program and may earn a commission if you make a purchase from the link above.

Read a recap of Food Wars! Season 3 Episode 17 featuring a battle between Soma Yukihira and Akira Hayama.

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