Prior to Ryotaro Okiayu’s birth, his father briefly worked at a film company and would still get free anime posters and animation cells from his friends who were still there. Thanks to these souvenirs, it got young Ryotaro into anime. He enjoyed drawing anime and re-enacting his favorite scenes to the point that he decided he wanted to be a seiyuu by the time he was a freshman in high school! There weren’t many training schools in his hometown of Osaka during his youth but still managed to find one. After graduating, he moved to Tokyo where he had a cousin. Ryotaro Okiayu found work in radio and commercials, and eventually found his way into anime. So, what are some of his best 5 roles?
5. Alucard from Akumajo Dracula X Gekka no Yasoukyoku (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)
- System: PlayStation, Saturn
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami
- Release Dates: March 30, 1997 (Japan), October 2, 1997 (North America)
Though Okiayu plays the role of Trevor Belmont in the Netflix animated series for the Japanese track, his first foray into the franchise was playing Alucard in the Japanese version of Symphony of the Night. Thanks to the character’s youthful looks, life experiences of being immortal, and aristocratic upbringing, Okiayu’s deep and dignified voice manages to find a way to balance those qualities. He is driven to stop his father’s quest for revenge, but he doesn’t show much emotion and tends to be calm whenever he’s in combat. It’s not a sense of confidence, but more of a sense of if he lets his emotions get to him, then he knows he can’t fight clearly, which shows a great sense of the character’s combat abilities and experience, and Okiayu manages to masterfully exhibit those qualities to perfection.
4. Treize Khushrenada from Kidou Senki Gundam Wing (New Mobile Report Gundam Wing)
- Episodes: 49
- Aired: April 7, 1995 – March 29, 1996
For many older millennial and younger Gen-X anime fans, your gateway to Okiayu was probably that of Treize in the Japanese version of Gundam Wing. With his deep, dignified and soft voice, he uniquely captures Treize’s aristocratic position. He speaks elegantly and carries himself with authority and confidence. As Treize, you believe that the character is chivalrous and honorable in his own way despite his grand ambitions for power. While he’s not definitively a villain, he is an antagonist, and through Okiayu’s performance, you do feel the complexities and straight forward ness of Treize, and it sucks you into the character.
3. Kunimitsu Tezuka from Tennis no Ouji-sama (Prince of Tennis)
- Episodes: 178
- Aired: October 10, 2001 – March 23, 2005
Okiayu’s role as Tezuka is probably one of his most famous to both Japanese and international fans. As captain of the Seigaku Tennis Team, he appropriately deepens his voice to give a sense of authority and maturity, and it perfectly reflects he looks older than 15. As Tezuka, he’s all business and whatever humor he conveys, tends to be incidental. He brings a necessary charisma not only as a captain, but as a star tennis player and if anything were to go down, he’ll handle it with class (unlike Serena Williams did against Naomi Osaka). If anything, his personality and competitive edge is something akin to a young Michael Jordan and Okiayu does a great job of portraying that trait of Tezuka.
2. Zero from Rockman X4 (Megaman X4)
- System: PlayStation, Saturn, PC
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: October 1, 1997 (Japan), September 25, 1997 (North America)
For another video game role, we have Zero from Megaman X4. Though a large percentage of Okiayu’s characters are absolutes, Zero is a notable exception to that rule. Thanks to his deep voice, he does a great job of exhibiting the character’s outward confidence and take no prisoners attitude, but also hides that he cares about other people. Compared to the outgoing and friendlier X, through Okiayu, fans get an edgier and more aggressive character who acts first and thinks second, but deep down inside, he can admit that X is the true hero due to not being able to overcome his complex of once being one of the bad guys. Thanks to Okiayu’s performance, you feel that Zero is more human than robot with the emotions he presents and hides.
1. Yuu Matsuura from Marmalade Boy
- Episodes: 76
- Aired: March 13, 1994 – September 3, 1995
If Ryotaro Okiayu had a breakout role in Japan, it definitely has to be that of Yuu Matsuura in Marmalade Boy. Since the kanji of his name means “play,” he knows how to bring out that aspect of his character with his initial teasing of Miki and tends to laugh a lot in comparison to other characters he plays. Though this character is slightly older than Tezuka, he uses a slightly higher pitch and brings a lot more humor. He shows that he’s caring about the people around him, and he’s someone who tends to use his outgoing personality to hide his feelings true feelings for Miki before they become a couple. If you want to hear a less serious side to Ryotaro and how he can do humor, the role of Yuu is something you need to hear.
His distinct deep and soft voice has been applied in many roles. He can be the hero, the villain, the romantic, an aristocrat, a sadist, a punk and just about everything you can think of. No matter who he plays, he has this distinctive way of seducing people to him by creating this charisma to his character. In the coming weeks, we also look forward to hearing how he plays the role of Mansaku Tsunomata in the upcoming (and LONG overdue) 7SEEDs anime. Beyond what we picked, what are some of your favorite roles of Ryotaro Okiayu?