OK, raise your hands. Who among us didn’t fall in love with Daisuke Kambe during The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED? No one? Thought so.
Thanks to our incredible partners at Aniplex of America, we had a chance to sit down for an interview with series director Tomohiko Ito and the voice of Daisuke himself, Yusuke Onuki, to talk through production of the series, its characters and more.
Check out the full interview below and let us know what anime interviews you’d like to see next!
Director Ito, you’ve adapted various manga and light novel series into anime, but was there anything different that you did for this series, which is mostly original?
Ito: It all started around 2016, when we were recording for the anime ERASED. A Fuji TV producer named Taku Matsuo approached me and brought me the novel The Millionaire Detective (by Yasutaka Tsutsui and Shincho Bunko) and asked me if I was interested in adapting it into an anime.
As the title suggests, it was about a millionaire detective who would use his endless funds to solve cases. But at the time, I was like: “What am I even supposed to do with this? I have no idea….” I was planning to work on this if we didn’t have to use the actual scenarios depicted in the novel in the anime.
Did you receive any inspirations from past characters you’ve dealt with when you were deciding how to portray Daisuke Kambe and Haru Kato onscreen?
Ito: I figured if I was going to have a millionaire protagonist, I also needed someone who would have a much more down-to-earth point of view. So I figured I’d add one and make them his partner. This was a concept I came up with very early on.
Mr. Onuki, this was your first time voicing the lead in an anime, but how was this endeavor different from doing musicals or dancing?
Onuki: I ended up with the role of Daisuke through an audition. I’d never done a voice acting audition before so I thought this was an excellent opportunity and said I would love to give it a shot.
Ito: I’d seen Mr. Onuki in the TV drama Born To Be A Flower that came out in 2018.
Onuki: Oh, really?
Ito: I had watched that drama with my wife, and we would often talk about how great Mr. Onuki was.
Onuki: I’m very happy to hear that. Thank you very much!
Ito: So I asked him if he would be interested in auditioning for The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED.
Onuki: Oh, so that’s how I got this invitation. Even during the audition, the director would tell me, “You’re definitely like Daisuke Kambe,” (laughs) and then I really did end up as the role of Daisuke.
Ito: Well, you even came to the audition looking sharp in a suit.
Onuki: Yes. For my audition, I was dressed in Armani from head to toe. Even my necktie was Armani (laughs).
Ito: That outfit definitely looked expensive. You definitely had the right kind of vibe.
Onuki: (Laughs). Well, I figured wearing that would make it easier for me to get into the role as well as seem more like Daisuke Kambe in general.
Ito: That image is still very strong in my mind. Mr. Onuki is an onscreen and stage actor, so I was hoping he’d be able to bring something slightly different to this role and this series than a voice actor could.
What surprised you in your first attempt at being a voice actor?
Onuki: There were numerous things that surprised me. For Episodes 1-3, I had recorded my parts alone, separate from everyone else. But from Episode 4 and on, I had recorded with the rest of the cast.
When I saw that there were four microphones in the studio and all of the cast members would change in and out at incredible speeds to record their roles, I was very surprised.
When recording voices for roles in Japan, it’s common to have the whole cast in one room and for them to share a set number of microphones.
It sounds like everyone did a great job sharing the mics for this series, too.
Onuki: That’s one of the things that surprised me. Also, the voice actors move their bodies way more than I thought they would during the recording sessions. Your body naturally moves when you’re trying to express various emotions. And if your heart is into it, your voice will do its job, as well.
I thought that was very similar to doing musicals or live-action roles. Timing is extremely important, and being able to play off the other actors is also important. Just because they’re voice acting, they’re not just using their voices to do these roles.
It’s very important that they immerse themselves into the world of the series and then understand how their characters will act within that world. I would observe the others and their performances and try to learn and absorb what I was seeing from them every episode.
So you got to experience how deep the world of voice acting can be.
Onuki: Yes. Seeing them physically act out the roles as well as hearing their voices during recording, I realized that voices seemed to have a focal point. Some voices sound much more persuasive than others. I really learned a lot every day.
Ito: I had a lot of freedom with the casting, and since this was a detective story, I tried to make sure to have a really big guest every episode with the cast.
I didn’t actually tell you this before but…I had Daisuke say the same monologue in Episode 1 and in the final episode, and when I listened to them, I thought, “Wow, he got even better.” (Laughs.)
Onuki: Wow, thank you very much!
Ito: In the first episode, Daisuke says his monologue in such an indifferent way, so you can tell how coldhearted he can be. But in the final episode, you can sort of hear some emotions he may have kept hidden.
Onuki: I was always worried about how you felt about my acting, so hearing that sincerely makes me happy.
Ito: Because the series was only one cour (11 episodes total) and because COVID-19 was happening, we really didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk after dubbing sessions, so I didn’t really get to tell you what parts I thought you did really well.
Onuki: With just the first episode, we don’t know how Daisuke is going to end up, and I think by the final episode, I had gotten used to the whole recording process much more, too.
But after 11 episodes and everything that happened in those episodes, I think that I was finally able to fully put all my emotions into the role of Daisuke.
Director Ito, did you conceal what was going to happen in the story to the cast?
Ito: Well, I wasn’t intentionally concealing information. Rather, the cast didn’t really ask about the story, so I didn’t really say anything either. Miyano (who plays Haru Kato) said, “There’s totally a spoiler for the final episode in the Episode 10 script!” Was there, though?
Onuki: One of the scene descriptions had revealed Shigemaru Kambe’s true identity.
Ito: Oh, I see (laughs). Well, when it comes to actors, some find it easier to work and understand their characters if they know what’s going to happen in the story, while others find that they can give performances that are more genuine and fresh when they don’t know what’s going to happen next. So I usually just let the actors decide how they want to do the role.
Onuki: I’m definitely the latter example. I don’t want to overthink the role by knowing too much further ahead and want to just do the role naturally. I think it’s better for me not to think too deeply and just concentrate on the script when it’s in front of me.
I thought that worked better for me, so I didn’t really ask about what was going to happen next.
Did you know that Daisuke Kambe and Haru Kato are extremely popular on the internet? A lot of fans totally fell for their charms, and each fan seems to have a personal favorite.
Director Ito and Mr. Onuki, who are your favorites? Also, please tell us which character you relate to more.
Onuki: I definitely saw how popular the series was on social media, and I’m very honored.
Ito: I’m glad the characters were popular. This was in a book I was reading the day before yesterday, but apparently characters are everything lately. This happens when creating an overseas drama series, but they first make the characters and then build the drama and story around them.
They say it’s more important to move the story around the characters rather than having the story dictate everything. This series relies on Daisuke and Kato and what they do quite a bit, and the character designs and voices ended up very memorable. I think people saw that this series fit with what’s been popular in the last few years.
So as long as Daisuke and Kato kept things interesting, that’s all that really mattered. I think people enjoyed seeing what those two would do in the various situations they were put in. I’m grateful that I was able to create Daisuke and Kato as characters. I actually talked about this the other day with Mr. Araki [Chief director of Attack on Titan] (laughs).
Onuki: I personally like Daisuke. I think I’m much more like Kato, so I kind of admire Daisuke.
Ito: I’m pretty sure I have about the same amount of love for them equally (laughs). But I figured if you put Daisuke in crazy situations, he’d do really interesting things. Like in Episode 4 where he just spits out the prosciutto. It’s really easy to make him do thoughtless things like that.
I had written him as a character that has a different sense of values than most other people, so I figured he could do some thoughtless things every now and then and people wouldn’t hate him. So that made him easy to depict, and I had a lot of fun with him.
Onuki: I was so curious about the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, so I actually went to a shop that specializes in prosciutto and compared various kinds. I ate five different kinds…and there actually was a difference. The Jamón Ibérico de Bellota just melted in your mouth.
I’m just like Kato and I always just eat the prosciutto from the supermarket, so I would’ve been happy with the prosciutto that Kato served (laughs). But the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota really was good!
We really enjoyed the way you portrayed Daisuke Kambe spitting out the prosciutto in that scene.
Onuki: Everyone laughed when we recorded that scene. I think the rhythm of the animation just worked really well with my acting. Apparently, Mr. Miyano also really enjoyed the sound I made when I spit out the ham and when I said “natto” (laughs).
The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED has a lot of characters, which means a big cast, as well.
What did you think about when you were writing the various relationships the two protagonists had with the other characters, and Mr. Onuki, what did you think about when you interacted with the other characters?
Ito: In the department that Daisuke and Kato work in, Kato is basically the only one who does any actual work. It’s basically a gathering of all of the troublemakers at the MPD. So I made sure that whenever I had to show them onscreen, they didn’t seem serious or motivated in the least (laughs). Apparently, they might’ve been doing work somewhere else.
So Daisuke basically fit right in. I’m pretty sure I remember saying, “I want them all to cause as much trouble as possible for Kato,” in our staff meetings.
Onuki: I really want to know about their circumstances individually. I really want a spinoff or something to find out how they all ended up there.
Ito: I have a vague idea about that, but nothing set in stone. I don’t want to ruin things by saying anything about that and making it official. I want the viewers to be able to use their imagination.
The task force members had a star-studded cast. What was recording with them like?
Onuki: I was just in awe and wonder seeing all those veterans work, but Ms. Ueda, who played Mahoro…her acting was truly amazing. She had so many variations just for the “Mister” line. Also, Mr. Kamiya who played Chosuke Nakamoto would have some episodes where he would only say something at the very beginning and at the very end of the episode.
Those couple of lines he would say really left an impact with me though. He had such a presence, but it was also like…”Wait, what?” (laughs). Mr. Miyano and I would always talk about that.
Ito: Viewers overseas might not get the significance of this as much, but I’m really glad that I got to cast Mr. Rikiya Koyama (who plays Katsuhiro Takei) and Mr. Kamiya. There are definitely people out there who understand the significance of those two working together. I would love to know what overseas fans think of the Japanese voice actors and their acting.
I hope they sound like what they think the characters should sound like.
Translator’s Note: So the significance here is that Akira Kamiya and Rikiya Koyama both play Kogoro Mori in Case Closed. Rikiya Koyama took over the role after Kamiya had played him for years.
GIZMODO JAPAN supervised all the tech used in this series. What was collaborating with them like?
Why did you decide to work with them? This seems like a rather unique collaboration with an anime series.
Ito: I think what we’re doing with the tech in this series is pretty similar to the 007, Mission: Impossible and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. But I wanted to get the feel of exactly how far into this future this series might be, so I was very grateful to have GIZMODO JAPAN’s advice on that.
Onuki: When we’re recording our scenes, the animation isn’t usually done yet, so we have no idea what the gadgets look like. I really had no idea what was going on with the spray at the time.
I wondered, “What the heck kind of technology is this?” (Laughs.) There were so many neo-futuristic gadgets that went far beyond my imagination, but when I actually saw what they looked like, they were much more understandable and seemed like something you’d see in real life. I thought it was amazing.
They actually talked about being cautious about technology advancing too far in the story itself. We saw very advanced technology like HEUSC (the AI butler) and adollium make an appearance.
Ito: There really weren’t too many comments on the fact that no one really talked about HEUSC’s betrayal. But in the end, they became a part of the task force, so maybe people saw some humanity there.
Onuki: HEUSC definitely shows some humanity in the drama CD (laughs).
Director Ito, how do you think your directing style has evolved since you debuted? Did you learn anything new from doing this series?
Ito: Lately, I’ve been thinking about adding more people to work on my projects. I’m starting to get a better grasp of my own capabilities, so I’d like to expand my projects by having more new people at the table reads and such.
Mr. Onuki, was there anything you think you gained from your experience since this was your first time voice acting in an anime? Have you noticed any changes?
Onuki: I started off my career as a dancer, but I had experience using my voice through acting, singing and being in musicals. After seeing the other voice actors use their bodies in their acting and how they managed to balance their voices up close, I was able to see that any tension that’s in your body carries over to your voice.
I tried out the things I learned through voice acting in various other new projects. I think I have much better control over my voice now and can use that experience in various situations. Also, TV dramas are shot pretty quickly, but the recording in animation is done even faster. I think I’ve gotten even better handling various situations.
I truly learned a lot through my experience as a voice actor, so if possible, I would love to do more voice acting roles. Daisuke was pretty quiet and somewhat expressive at times, but I would love to play even more emotional and expressive roles.
Ito: After working on various TV series, I truly understand how important the voices are more and more. There are a lot of people who just watch these TV series on in the background, so it’s very important for the voices to be able to express a lot of information.
It’s not just the animation that’s important in a scene. The sound is equally important. That’s why eventually, I want to try prescoring, too. I want the actors to be able to feel relaxed and take their time with their acting and then animate to that, but it’s extremely difficult to do schedule-wise. There are still a lot of things to work out there.
Director Ito, so the fact that you brought in Mr. Onuki seems to apply to what you said earlier about wanting to bring new people into this environment as well as having people realize how important voices are.
Ito: This project turned out even better than I could’ve imagined, so I’m very grateful.
Onuki: Thank you for giving me such a huge new opportunity like this.
Ito: I want people to be able try something new with my projects. I like being able to say, “I helped nurture that person.” (Laughs.)
Onuki: I will continue using everything you taught me in my future endeavors!