Though the world of anime lost this legendary seiyuu in 2013, fans will remember him for his deep and powerful voice. Prior to becoming a seiyuu, he participated in his high school’s drama club. During his senior year, he got a job with NHK’s (think of it as Japan’s equivalent to PBS) affiliate in his hometown of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture. During that time, Kenji Utsumi worked on radio dramas. After he couldn’t progress anymore, he moved to Tokyo and initially did voice overs for commercials. Thanks to the help of a friend, he found his way to anime, starting with Ookami Shounen Ken in 1963 as One-Eyed Jack.
Shortly after, he had his true break out as as Inspector Rokugou in Mach Go Go Go, aka Inspector Detector in Speed Racer. As a matter of fact, Kenji Utsumi married one of his co-stars on that show, Michiko Nomura, who is most famous as Shizuka in Doraemon. Their son, Kentaro, is now head of their agency, Ken Production. As for Kenji Utsumi’s illustrious career, read our top 5 to find out!
5. Braiking Boss from Casshern Sins
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: October 2, 2008 – March 16, 2009
As crazy as it sounds, Utsumi actually played Braiking Boss in the original Casshern series in the 1970s! Yes, this character is a robot, but a robot with a plan for world domination. As Braiking Boss, he effectively demonstrates how authoritative he is with his deep voice. Even as a robot, he demonstrated various emotions, mostly anger and impatience. Whenever his minions fail, he went crazy like Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars trilogy. So, if you want true classic villainy (and why people fear of robots taking over), Utsumi’s portrayal of Braiking Boss in this dark remake gets that job done!
4. Alex Louis Armstrong from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Fullmetal Alchemist (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
- Episodes: 64
- Air Dates: April 5, 2009 – July 4, 2010
Just like the other characters featured on this list, Alex is a big guy, but has a more comedic presence. He loves to strike poses as if he’s Hulk Hogan whether he’s in combat, or just doing manly stuff. He may not have any alchemy skills, but he has pure strength and is well versed in hand-to-hand combat to go toe-to-toe against the Homunculi. He tends to express his masculinity in a more poetic manner, and tries to be motivational when things are down. Plus, Utsumi’s voice managed to express Alex’s genuine care for the Elrich brothers and his upbeat optimism. When it’s all said and done, Alex is a teddy bear, and Utsumi excellently found a way to soften his deep voice to express those qualities.
3. Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Platform: PS2
- Publisher: November 17, 2004
- Release Date:
From video games, we have to give credit to his role as Volgin in Metal Gear Solid 3. Volgin is a sadistic man who loves to torture people, but has grand ambitions. Utsumi’s voice just had this way of capturing all the small and big things that come with Volgin. When he said his opening lines of “Kuwabara, kuwabara,” the trembling in his voice just sends shivers down your spine. And when he expressed his love for torture, you feel as if he’s right in front of you ready to punch you with electrified fists with your face covered in a plastic bag (and you’ll piss in your pants, too!).
2. Genji Kamogawa from Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit)
- Episodes: 75
- Air Dates: October 4, 2000 – March 27, 2002
In comparison to his other notable roles, Kamogawa is very small in size but big in charisma and authority as a head boxing trainer. He has a mix of Mick’s stubbornness from Rocky with how he treats his fighters, but has wise training methods that are similar to Mr. Miyagi’s from The Karate Kid. Utsumi somehow managed to find that balance and bring that character to life. He’d usually be strict on his fighters but is never afraid to show compassion. In comparison to most of Utsumi’s famous roles, Kamogawa exhibits a parental side considering that his two top prospects, Ippo and Takamura, don’t have any father figures in their lives, and he shared great chemistry with the seiyuus of those respective characters to make those relationships believable.
1. Raoh from Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
- Episodes: 109
- Air Dates: October 4, 1984 – March 5, 1987
If there is one role that Utsumi will forever be remembered for, it is Raoh from Hokuto no Ken. This is the character that defined him as the guy you go to when you need someone to play a manly man. If Utsumi could have been a pro wrestler (or manager), his role of Raoh certainly nailed it. The way he delivered Raoh’s trash talking and his views is akin to how a pro wrestler cuts a promo. He had this charisma that towers the rest of the cast, and it makes you believe (and cheer for) his goals to be one with Heaven. Putting aside his grand ambitions, deep down inside, he was still capable of loving his brothers, and when he’s defeated, he accepts it like a true warrior. If there is any performance that could be called Utsumi’s best, it’s his final words that he had no regrets as he faced towards the sky.
When fans think of Kenji Utsumi, they think of someone like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. He over towered you, looks down upon you, and has you at the palm of his hand. He was one of the few seiyuus that knows the power of acting through your voice, and the roles we selected best reflect that. Other than our top 5 roles, what are some of you favorite roles of Utsumi? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.