Masaya Fukinishi on being the voice of older anime fans’ hero as Hibino Kafka: Kaiju No. 8

Virginia Glaze

Kaiju No. 8 is one of the hottest anime series of the season, but it’s got one pretty big difference from other major shows popping off this summer — the age of its main protagonist, Hibino Kafka.

Kafka is an unassuming guy in his early thirties, something that’s a far cry from most Shounen anime protags, who are usually in high school or, at the very most, just starting university. 

We got the chance to speak with Kafka’s voice actor, Masaya Fukinishi, about what it’s like voicing an older character in such a breakout Shounen anime like Kaiju No. 8 compared to his younger roles and the coming-of-age fare currently dominating the market.

Hibino Kafka from the upcoming anime series Kaiju No.8

Despite Kafka being older than most shounen protags in popular anime, Fukinishi believes that the character’s “old-school” spirit actually makes him more relatable to certain audiences.

“A lot of manga focuses on the younger high school kid who has a bright future,” he told us in an exclusive interview at Anime Expo. “It feels exciting, and it’s full of possibilities. So it’s rare to see a protagonist who has more years under their belt. It almost feels like there’s a sense of counting down to some kind of time limit or deadline.”

“I think there’s a certain fear or anxiousness or anxiety that is depicted in Kafka’s character, which I find very interesting. But in spite of all that, I think Kafka’s almost humanness, so to speak, is very old-school in how he approaches.  And that brightness, I think, translates to a really, really relatable hero.”

When it comes to curating a voice for Kafka, Fukinishi goes all-in — much like Kafka himself, a character with whom he instantly felt a kinship in the booth due to his colorful expressions and strong visual cues.

“This is gonna sound like a really smart answer, but there’s a certain feeling I get as I fall into character more. When I perform a character, I begin to realize, ‘Oh, I’m becoming that age. I’m starting to transform.’ So when I play an older character, I naturally feel myself aging. Or when I play a younger character, I feel myself becoming younger,” he explained.

“But in the case of Kaiju No. 8, when I read the original manga all the way back from chapter one, I could already tell, ‘Wow, this is a character that I would be really good at.’ Because I think Kafka as a character has a lot of color in terms of his range of expression in the anime adaptation.”

“Whenever he’s running, I can really see, ‘Wow. He kind of looks pathetic in a way.’ So when I get that visual cue, I do that and I feel myself aging in a way.”

Kafka Hibino

In fact, Fukinishi says he shares a few traits with Kafka, one of them being that the character is “very expressive.”

“On a more serious note, I think that when we approach our work, I always try to exert whatever my maximum is at any given moment in time and search for where that limit is,” he told us. “I think Kafka kind of does the same in his own right. And one more — he has a nice smile.”

During our conversation, Fukinishi proved that he’s just as animated as the character he plays in Kaiju No. 8, constantly wearing a big smile and speaking with his hands as he excitedly gave us his answers. It’s clear that he’s a big fan of the show, and he even shared a moment that left both himself and the entire cast in stitches in the recording booth.

“This is for myself and the entire cast who we were recording with that day: There’s a scene where Hoshina Soshiro, the second in command, laughs kind of maniacally. And everyone just burst out laughing in the studio.”

Kaiju No. 8 has just wrapped up its first season, and it’s already accrued a massive fanbase as viewers can’t wait to see what’s next for Kafka in his journey as a half-human, half-Kaiju member of the Anti-Kaiju Defense Force.

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