Alex Hom spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about voicing Yoshida in the Higehiro English Dub, how he met co-star Jill Harris (Sayu Ogiwara), and anime’s most brutal scene of the year…
Sayu’s mother telling her teenage daughter, “Here’s a slice of truth. I should have aborted you back when I had the chance!”
This interview contains major spoilers for anime series ‘Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway‘.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): Sayu’s mom (voiced by Lindsay Seidel) saying she ‘should have aborted her’ to Sayu’s face is the most brutal scene I’ve seen on television this year. That includes both anime and live drama.
What was it like recording Yoshida’s impassioned speech that she is still the only mother Sayu will ever have?
ALEX HOM: That was a really, really powerful scene to react to and just to record in general.
I think Yoshida as a character doesn’t exactly know where he fits in Sayu’s life. He’s kind of convinced himself that he is this parental figure, but he’s still kind of on the outside of it.
Yoshida only kind of comes to terms with the importance that he has in Sayu’s life in the last couple episodes.
I think part of the speech that he delivers to Sayu’s mom is the acceptance of his role in Sayu’s life… And also just trying to respond as powerfully as he can to that bombshell of a statement from Sayu’s mom.
I think Yoshida wants to show his protection over Sayu… But he’s still a little apprehensive because he’s in the presence of her biological family.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: According to the Consortium for Street Children, what Sayu’s mom tells Yoshida about being a criminal is actually true.
Article 224 of Japan’s penal code states, “If someone takes a runaway youth (who is less than 20 years of age) to his/her house and takes careful care of the youth, he/she might still be arrested and charged for kidnapping of minors even if the youth asked to stay at his/her house of their own free will.”
Knowing this, what do you make of Yoshida’s decision to take in Sayu and take care of her?
ALEX HOM: Honestly, I think it’s just coming to terms with an extreme difference in how things are handled. Obviously, we have our own preconceived notions of how to handle that kind of situation here in the West, but it’s very different over in Japan and how they handle things.
I’ve seen some comments in reception to the series, something along the lines of people wondering why ‘Yoshida doesn’t just adopt Sayu and take her in? He’s obviously so much of a better parental figure for her!’
But I think you start to realize as you watch the series and look into the dialogue a bit more… You realize it’s not that easy.
It’s a very severe situation to be found in. Taking care of someone that you’re not related to that is considered a minor. It invites a whole list of concerns overall. So yeah, it’s just a different perspective I think.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Would you ever do it yourself in real life in Yoshida’s place?
ALEX HOM: I definitely think I would do it if I was presented with such a situation where the person that needed a place had absolutely nowhere to go.
I think obviously I’d handle it a little differently. Either trying to reach out constantly to any kind of connection they may have or enlisting some professional help. I wouldn’t say law enforcement, maybe a mental health care hospital.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Have you met the rest of the Higehiro English dub cast like Jill Harris (Sayu Ogiwara) in real life?
ALEX HOM: Yeah! So actually I have a little bit of a funny story for meeting Jill for the first time. I hadn’t met her up until about maybe halfway through the recording of the Higehiro series.
I had another session for another show, Parallel World Pharmacy and she happened to be directing the session I was doing, but I didn’t recognize her.
I walked in, said “Hi”, and then I was like, “Okay, I’m just gonna jump in the booth!” So I jumped in the booth and we did the whole session… Then I remembered seeing her name listed under the assistant directing credits for the show that we just recorded.
I stepped out and said, “I’m gonna kick myself if I get this wrong, but are you Jill?” She was super sweet and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry!” I apologized for not recognizing her at first, but I said it was an absolute honor to work alongside with her on Higehiro.
I told her I loved her work and she was super sweet and understanding. I just hope she doesn’t hold not recognizing her initially against me!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: In my opinion, shows like Higehiro and Remake Our Life! are the future when it comes to getting a non-anime watching audience to give anime a chance. Their acting presentation is subtle, lifelike and heavily grounded in reality.
I feel the direction away from hyper (but fun) overacting in traditional anime, attracts an untapped viewership. Similar to what Welcome to the N-H-K discovered twenty years ago. What are your thoughts on the trend towards realism?
ALEX HOM: Absolutely, I agree! Don’t get me wrong, I love my over the top, super colorful & animated, shout matches anime.
But it’s interesting and honestly comforting, to see anime start to take more grounded approaches to storytelling & really tell stories that not just a typical anime fan would appreciate.
Higehiro is a depiction of life on-screen anyone can watch and appreciate, and gain something from. So I’m really excited for anything that comes our way that’s more grounded and realized in our own world.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: The scene where Yoshida thinks Sayu left him early and doesn’t answer her phone is some of your best vocal work on Higehiro. You can truly feel Yoshida’s panic and desperation.
What inspired you for the performance, has it ever happened in your real life?
ALEX HOM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think I can speak for a lot of people when we say we think we have more time with someone than we expect to… And then something happens, whether that’s the extreme example of someone passing away or someone just being out of your life or moving. Something like that.
I think we all assume that we have more time than we think we do, and then that day comes, or that time comes seemingly sometimes out of nowhere and it really takes your breath away.
It shocks you. You know, you don’t know how to to construct yourself. You don’t know what the right decision to make is concerning it.
So I think Yoshida in the episodes leading to it, you can tell he is kind of pushing off the whole concept of Sayu leaving. He’s not spending as much time with it with her as he should be. Yoshida’s kind of in a denial state.
And then once the possibility of her being gone finally hits him, he’s at a loss for words. He doesn’t know what to do. So yeah, it definitely came from a personal spot… But I think it’s something everyone can kind of agree and relate to.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Kyouya Yaguchi makes Yoshida question himself about Sayu, telling him he’s no better. How did the whole scene in “Starry Sky” make you feel?
ALEX HOM: That scene was actually one of my favorites to record and really dive into emotionally because something Yaguchi says in that scene really sticks out to Yoshida. I think it’s the line where he says ‘You just want to feel like you’re saving her.’ And Yoshida doesn’t really have a response to that.
Yoshida kind of of steps back and holds his breath because he can’t necessarily deny it. He does derive some satisfaction from being Sayu’s savior and he can’t deny that.
So he’s caught in that feeling and that’s where Yaguchi knows his weakness. Yaguchi taps into that and makes sure that Yoshida knows, that he knows. It’s a really, under the layers, deep scene.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Why didn’t Yoshida pull Sayu from that convince store job after the incident with Yaguchi (voiced by Ry McKeand) in your opinion?
ALEX HOM: Actually, that was honestly a personal issue. If I was in Yoshida’s spot, I would’ve definitely advised her to find a job elsewhere.
I think it was just a case where there wasn’t enough time to delve into that subplot of Sayu possibly leaving her job and finding something else.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Jill Harris (Sayu Ogiwara) told me in our interview Higehiro’s Dub ADR Director Jonathan Rigg wanted the direction of the series to be subtle and understated. Like a traditional live action TV drama. What was asked of you by Jonathan for your performance as Yoshida?
ALEX HOM: Yeah, that’s absolutely what we were aiming for with Jonathan! He was super accommodating about it.
I love his directing style, for the first couple episodes, he would, tell me, “Okay, you know how reactions and breaths are normally done in anime? We’re gonna dial that back down and we’re gonna try and be as subtle with it as possible.”
I was fully in support of that because I knew it was a more grounded story being told. But it did take some relearning and unlearning of some tactics used in the choppiness of anime where you go over the top.
For this series we had to really dial it back, but we eventually found a natural setting for it where it just fit comfortably.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yoshida never cries until he meets Sayu’s mother. What was it like to record a truly broken Yoshida for the first time?
ALEX HOM: At least recording wise, when it comes to doing those really strong emotional takes, it’s usually the music that gets me. The music that accompanies the scene is usually what gets me to kind of really start to tear up and get emotional with the scene itself.
But I think it just kind of came naturally, being with Yoshida for twelve episodes up to that point and understanding how important their dynamic is. How Yoshida and Sayu treat each other.
It was really natural to tap into those emotions and let Yoshida cry, which is very seldom scene in the entire Higehiro series.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Yoshida not only makes Sayu’s life better but the opposite way around as well. What are your thoughts on their relationship being co-dependent?
ALEX HOM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s something that you can tell Yoshida doesn’t want to admit to himself until she’s almost out of his life. But you can see the effects on his life are very, very clear in the beginning.
Yoshida’s apartment is trashed. He’s not really taking care of himself and working so much overtime. Yoshida’s really just not doing what he needs to do to ensure his best quality of life. But as soon as Sayu steps in, that’s when things start to get better.
The color palettes and the episodes get brighter. The whole imagery behind the show and him shaving is a very clear sign of him changing and taking better care of himself as a result of Sayu’s influence on his life.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Are you surprised that Sayu’s fated encounter makes Yoshida fully abandon his sort of goody goody, law abiding nature? He even sneaks into Sayu’s school and goes on the rooftop without much pushback.
ALEX HOM: Yeah, I do think there are times when Yoshida is more than willing to do something that is maybe not following the law or the best choice… So that he can support Sayu. But I also think he understands that no one has ever gone to that length to support her.
So he feels it’s kind of necessary to kind of push the envelope every now and then to make sure that she’s supported and that Sayu achieves what she wants to do.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Did you audition for Yoshida? Jill Harris told me she was contacted over Twitter by ADR Director Jonathan Rigg regarding the role of Sayu Ogiwara. That Crunchyroll doesn’t do auditions as much anymore.
ALEX HOM: I actually also did not audition. I had done previous work with Jonathan Rigg on his last show Trapped in a Dating Sim. He knew my voice and my tone, how I spoke basically.
I think he kind of just figured I fit right for Yoshida and I got an email that said they were interested in casting me for the role. I came in and we found the voice and the cadence. It ended up just working out that way.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Will you be at Anime NYC for a dub panel on the Higehiro series?
ALEX HOM: I wish! Honestly, when it comes to figuring out how panels and conventions go, that’s still something I’m very, very green on.
I still need to figure out how one goes about getting invited to conventions. But I would love to! If that ever becomes a reality and anybody would be interested in watching a panel that I can be on, I would love to be a part of it.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What made you want to become a voice actor?
ALEX HOM: I think a lot of things, but it comes back to always being a big fan of any kind of voice acting growing up. Whether that was cartoons, video games, movies, there were moments and vocal deliveries that really resonated with me.
I wanted to be able to provide that for somebody growing up too, as humble or not humble as it may sound.
Not even somebody growing up necessarily, somebody that might be just going through something difficult in their life. I wanted to give a performance that would help them in any way, shape or form and really just resonate with them.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Alex!
ALEX HOM: Thank you!
– Be sure to read our exclusive Jill Harris Interview on voicing Sayu Ogiwara in the Higehiro English Dub!
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– You can stream all thirteen episodes of the Higehiro anime adaption English Dub as of tonight on Crunchyroll!
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