The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles shows main characters Ryunosuke Naruhodo and Susato Mikotoba getting off at a train station in London. Rina Takasaki, the voice behind Susato in the game’s English voice track, says that she could relate to her character’s journey through that moment. “I was also a teenager when I landed in Britain for the first time, full of ambition, determination, and admiration for the foreign culture,” she recalls to me over email.
Takasaki still vividly remembers the moment she arrived in the UK, though for her it was through Heathrow Airport rather than Victorian-era King’s Cross Station. After getting into her shiny black cab feeling ecstatic, she saw the vast capital as she was driven around the city, much like how Susato rode a horse-drawn vehicle towards the Whitehall Supreme Court in the game.
“I instantly loved the music and the pictures that have a 19th century feel that portray a beautiful collaboration of Japanese and Western worlds of the era,” Takasaki says of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. She was excited when she was offered the part; she says she could almost smell the fumes of the steamship, the leathery smell of old furniture, and the burning candles.
Mark Takeshi Ota, Ryunosuke’s English voice actor, relates to his character through being a foreigner. Ota is Japanese-German, and he has lived in Great Britain for the past nine years. He says to me in an email, “Before coming to the UK, I lived for one year in the US, six years in the Netherlands, and one year in Japan.” Similarly to Ryunosuke’s character, Ota thinks that there is a lot of excitement in discovering new things and meeting different people. He remembers feeling that way whenever he moved to a new place.
“Every little thing is just exciting, because it’s so different from what you’re used to,” he says. “There’s a certain innocence to that, which I guess leaves you after a while, but I suppose I had a chance to rediscover it a bit through Ryunosuke.”
Both voice actors were new to the Ace Attorney series. Ota played a couple of the games in the series to get an idea what sort of game it was. He also watched The Great Ace Attorney’s Japanese cutscenes before recording, so he was able to listen to his Japanese voice track counterpart, Hiro Shimono. Given that the two games in Chronicles have been out in Japan on Nintendo 3DS for a few years now, he was able to research Ryunosuke’s character to help with portraying him.
“He’s a bit younger than me, a bit more insecure in the beginning,” says Ota. “He goes on a bit of a journey throughout the game to become more confident in what he does, especially also having just come to a new country.” Ota has lived in five different countries, and through his experiences, he easily connected to Ryunosuke.
Takasaki, on the other hand, never played any of the games in the series, but knew about the franchise and how popular it was. After booking her role as Susato, she looked up the Japanese version of the game. She tried not to look up too much information about Susato; she wanted to go into recording with a fresh mind, to receive direction and bring in a bit of her own personality.
Both actors shared similarities with their characters. Besides both living in England, they share Japanese heritage and language that they, publisher Capcom, and audio services company SIDE UK felt were important to bring to the English voices of the game’s main characters.
“I think it was a deliberate choice to cast and record the game in London given its setting,” explains SIDE UK casting director Martin Vaughan over email. He believes Capcom wanted the game’s London to feel as authentic as possible, so it made sense to record the English voiceover in London too.
Takasaki had already worked with SIDE several times for other productions. She was actually recording something else for the company when she received a phone call from her agent about The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. “When I was putting options together to present to Capcom, along with my assistant Jessica, I knew I wanted Rina to be in the mix,” Vaughan says. He previously cast Takasaki as a character named Noda in the first-person shooter game Warface. When he saw the description for Susato, he thought of Takasaki straight away.
“To be able to understand [Susato’s] personality and the thought process, it is very helpful that I fully understand Japanese language and culture,” Takasaki says. She was born and raised in Japan, so not only does she understand the language, but she also knows a lot about Japanese culture, mannerisms, and ways of speaking that let her bring nuance to her role.
In the game, Susato is an extremely polite, humble, and well-educated Japanese woman. She has a strong posture and makes sure to show respect to others by adding certain words, such as the “-sama” suffix, which is the Japanese equivalent for “sir” or “madam”.
Additionally, Susato wears traditional Japanese clothing in the game, which Takasaki says she loves doing for work and real-life occasions. She feels like she is representing the culture when she does so, and the same goes for when the character Takasaki is portraying wears traditional clothing.
“In fact, I’m fond of all the traditional outfits in the world. I think they are all beautiful in a special way. It corrects my posture whenever I put on traditional Japanese clothing,” she says.
During lockdown last year, Ota hosted a Zoom meeting where he answered questions about how to get into motion capture work. Through that, he came in contact with Chris Hopkins, a producer at SIDE UK. A few months later, Hopkins asked him to submit a voice sample for a job that, at that time, only had a codename.
The job was specifically looking for voice actors of Japanese heritage. Vaughan explains, “Even though we hadn’t worked with [Ota] before, his voice sounded like such a natural fit for Ryunosuke that, again, it was clear he would be a great option to suggest to Capcom.”
Watching the Japanese versions of The Great Ace Attorney’s scenes was helpful in giving Ota an idea of the game’s mood and what kind of character Ryunosuke was. Ota says that you can learn a lot by just listening to the audio of another voice actor, even if you don’t speak the same language. In his case, it certainly didn’t hurt that he spoke Japanese, which meant he was confident discussing the pronunciation of Japanese names with localization director Janet Hsu and voice director Matthew Delemere.
“When I speak English, I automatically slightly anglicize my Japanese middle and surname,” Ota explains. He and Hsu agreed that the same approach of anglicizing the characters’ names would be appropriate for the game. Instead of pronouncing “Ryunosuke Naruhodo” or other names with a Japanese accent, he enunciated them how a primarily English speaker would.
Ota adds, “I was also actually quite keen on not necessarily ‘putting on’ a strong Japanese accent for [Ryunosuke], and I was really happy that this wasn’t expected of me here.” He says that there’s often the expectation that people whose second language is English will speak with a thick accent. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it isn’t. Neither is right nor wrong; it’s just that people are different.
“[Ryunosuke] came to London and wanted to be able to speak ‘proper’ English and be able to speak it very well to be regarded as an equal. At least that’s how I approached it,” says Ota. Upon reflection, he loves that his natural accent reflects all of the places he’s been, with a bit of German here, an Americanism there, and a flavor of Dutch along with a hint of Japanese. Now, there’s also a chunk of British, because of where he lives currently.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is one of the notable projects that both Ota and Takasaki have been involved in. “It was an honour to play the role of Susato. I’ve been very fortunate to have been given opportunities to play tough female characters, which I particularly enjoy doing,” says Takasaki. While Susato may not seem tough given her sweet and feminine look, she’s an incredibly independent, determined woman. Susato is definitely one of Takasaki’s favorite characters to voice so far.
“I’ve done hundreds of auditions in the past, and I fully understand how tough it is to land a job, so I felt incredibly grateful and appreciative,” she continues. “I have always enjoyed working with SIDE very much, so I couldn’t be happier that I was able to collaborate with them again!”
Ota was unlucky enough to have torn his meniscus the same day he was asked to submit his sample for the game. The following day, he recorded his sample lying in bed under his duvet, unable to walk. Due to his injury, he had to turn down motion capture work but was ecstatic when he received the email that he had booked the voice of Ryunosuke.
“The timing was just right, though, as I was able to walk fairly well by the time the recording took place,” Ota says. “I’d like to think that I had a bit of good karma coming my way because I offered to help people with that initial Zoom and ended up getting work that way, even though it wasn’t something I expected out of it.”
Ota says it’s great that Capcom tried to find Japanese actors for the main characters in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ English dub. Vaughan says, “Games have moved forward a great deal in this respect in the past few years, and it’s so great to give opportunities to talent like Rina and Mark when characters like this present themselves. Each of them brings something special to their roles that I think wouldn’t be there had we not cast the roles authentically.”