Can a man and a woman
be "just friends"?
We ask the Rocket trio

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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Buzzfeed Japan Interview with the Rocket-Dan

On the evening of September 21st, 2019
the entertainment website Buzzfeed Japan posted an interview with the voice actors who portray the Rocket trio; Megumi Hayashibara (Musashi), Shin-ichiro Miki (Kojirou), and Inuko Inuyama (Nyarth).

Below is an English translation of the original Japanese interview.

Can a man and a woman be "just friends"? We ask the Rocket trio

In the animated "Pocket Monsters" TV series, a mysterious presence known as the Rocket-Dan are always getting in the way of a group of children. This trio of bumbling goofballs has the worst luck ever but remain committed to living as a group of lovely charmy villains. What's the secret to their amazing teamwork over the years? We asked the voices of Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyarth -  Megumi Hayashibara, Shin-ichiro Miki, and Inuko Inuyama - to find out.

In the animated "Pocket Monsters" TV series, a mysterious presence known as the Rocket-Dan are always getting in the way of a group of children. This trio of bumbling goofballs has the worst luck ever but remain committed to living as a group of lovely charmy villains.

Something new is happening to that Rocket-Dan. For the first time in the 22 years the TV series has been on the air Musashi and Kojirou faced off against each other in a Pokémon battle!

What's the secret to their amazing teamwork over the years? And what meaning did that battle have for them?

We asked the voices of Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyarth -  Megumi Hayashibara, Shin-ichiro Miki, and Inuko Inuyama - to find out.

A peek behind the curtain behind the birth of Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyarth

Main Image

These days the three of you are all perfectly in sync, but what was it like when you were first cast as the Rocket-Dan?

Hayashibara:  For me, I had connections through the (Magical Princess) Minky Momo cartoon so I was called in. But when I found out her name was going to be "Musashi" I thought it sounded a little boring. Maybe because it's based on Musashi Miyamoto...?

Miki:  The Pocket Monsters video games were already really popular by that point so the casting call was packed with tons and tons of people. But that's all I really remember...

Inuyama:  That's because this all happened more than 20 years ago. But we never could have imagined this project would have ended up becoming as big as it did.

The only other person I remember from where we had our auditions was this woman who just kind of took over command of the room. She was like this little firecracker in the middle of the lobby. That person turned out to be none other than the voice of Satoshi herself, Ms. Rica Matsumoto (laughs)

Staying as-is! We've heard that the Rocket trio improv a lot while in the studio. For example, their catchphrase "ya na kanji" wasn't in the show's early scripts.

Miki:  Yeah, it'd be too depressing if all we did was scream when we got blasted off. I have this memory of the three of us huddling together to agree that it was OK for us to suggest an alternative.

An ad-lib is something that just sort of comes out organically, right? Just adding a new line in and of itself doesn't make it an ad-lib, y'know? If you say unnecessary things then that just becomes background noise. And as far as production is concerned it just becomes unusable garbage. So it's a really tricky tightrope to walk.

Hayashibara:  And if other people think it's a good idea then your own ego gets in the way and makes you want to push for it even more...

Inuyama:  But that catchphrase is important for the characters themselves. Musashi says it a lot. It just feels right.

Hayashibara:  That makes me happy to hear. Musashi is someone who gets carried away and so it makes sense for her to want to get the last word in.

Miki:  But that's not because Ms. Hayashibara herself feels that way. It's a rhythm that sort of develops naturally among the three of us.

How can a man and woman be "just friends"?

So will Musashi and Kojirou ever become romantically involved?

(everyone bursts out laughing)

Hayashibara:  No way!

Miki:  Not even a little! Not one bit! There's nothing strange going on between the two of them.

But you know, Kojirou's fiancé Rumika does look a lot like Musashi...

Miki:  Well...they do have the same voice (Rumika is also voiced by Ms. Hayashibara). We actors look at the two of them and think "absolutely not" but I suppose the adult fans who have been watching since they were kids see them as something more than just friends.

Inuyama:  If the two of them were involved with each other romantically then they wouldn't have been able to work together in the Rocket-Dan all this time. But just looking at the two of them you have this dramatic man and woman duo standing up against a rose background so I guess it's a bit strange.

Hayashibara:  But Musashi has her midriff exposed and wears a tight miniskirt and...

Inuyama:  It isn't even the tiniest bit sexy.

Miki:  That's a testament to the power of Ms. Hayashibara. She really is amazing!!

Hayashibara:  Now hold on a minute...!

-- It's a show watched by children so you're trying to stop yourselves from making it too erotic...I guess?

(all burst out laugh)

Miki:  You mean Ms. Hayashibara!!  This Ms. Hayashibara, right here!?

Inuyama:  She's always going around saying "I want my own pheromones" and was even talking about going to go buy a book about it.

Hayashibara:  About 20 years ago I wasn't feeling my groove and I was at a bookstore one day and found myself reaching for a book called "How to Give Off Pheromones in Five Minutes." But I stopped myself, saying "No! This isn't something you should learn from a book!" But maybe I should have bought it after all.

Miki:  It's fine if it's for a role, right?

Hayashibara:  Sure it is. But I wasn't able to give Musashi even a drop of sexiness.


What can men and women do to be friends with each other?

Miki:  If you start off looking at it as "man and woman" then I don't think it'll work.

Hayashibara:  Here we go! Miki-kun the philosopher! He's really good at jumping right into the thick of it.

Miki:  You say that as if it's a bad thing! I mean that if the two people who get along with each other just happen to be a man and woman then they can be friends. With the Rocket-Dan there's a man, woman, and Pokémon. Every member of that friend circle is of a different sex...well, you get what I mean.

If you take one of those six point radar charts to map out our all our strengths then Musashi's, Kojirou's, and Nyarth's would all balance each other out, probably. If you put all three together then you'd get 100 points.

Inuyama:  Musashi's graph would be all over the place while Kojirou would be more like a middle management type so it that'd be difficult to balance. Nyarth knows how to game the system and when it's best to play up the whole being a Pokémon thing...

Miki:  Nyarth is basically a human at this point.

Inuyama:  A human...yeah, I guess. Him having to remember "Oh yeah, I'm a Pokémon too, Nya" means that even he forgets that he's a Pokémon sometime.

Miki:  You can look at it plainly without being biased.

What do you think is the secret of the trio's lasting friendship despite the three of them being so different and each having their own strong sense of individuality?

Hayashibara:  There must be a reason why they don't wear the same black uniforms as other members of the Rocket-Dan.”One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel" and all that. If they changed to the black uniforms then they could live more comfortably and wouldn't have to sleep outside, sure. But that's not what they're after. They just want to contribute to their Boss, no matter their current situation. The three of them are connected by this common understanding.

Miki:  If they see other people hurting Pokémon then they get mad and say "That's terrible! Awful!"

Pokémon are not things, they're living creatures and the trio loves them accordingly. And they're always by our side.

Hayashibara:  There are a lot of instances where they think about their Pokémon as they separate from them. For Musashi, there was that scene where she told Dokucale to "Get out of here!" so it could follow its heart, and with Kojirou I really like that scene in Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation The Movie "Mew and the Wave-Guiding Hero, Lucario" between him and Chirean.


Miki:  That's the part where Kojirou goes "At least you (can run away)" as he throws himself in the way to protect Chirean, right?

Hayashibara:  Even though normally Pokémon are there to fight each other.

Miki:  The trio and their Pokémon have a deep love for each other.

Hayashibara:  It's the underlying goodness within people. Nyarth once does it go...we're not the evil of evils...

Inuyama:  "We're not the evil of evil, but the evil of justice Nya" (laughs)

At first glance it might seem like a contradiction for the Rocket trio to be this internally consistent.

The goofy Rocket trio that we all know and love become serious "villains" for a while there, didn't they?

Hayashibara:  That was like a boot camp for the three of us. We had to calmly think "So wait, we were actually evil this whole time?" It was really lonely. It would have been one thing if they were these cold-hearted roles from the very beginning but to change things mid-way like that was too much.

Inuyama:  It didn't feel right for Nyarth to deliver these ultra serious lines so a lot of the time he would just kind of shut his mouth and not say anything. It really was a test because up until then Nyarth had been brimming with human-ness.

Miki:  The Rocket trio is connected to each other thanks to their kindness. I'm glad that training we went through clarified that for us.

What's in store for the Rocket-Dan in its 22nd year?

Musashi vs. Kojirou

In the episode of Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon that aired on July 21st, "Musashi vs. Kojirou! The Battlefield of Truth and Love!!" Musashi and Kojirou had their very first battle.

Hayashibara:  When I first received the script I thought to myself "Why now!?" I don't know if this is me or if this is Musashi talking, but since Kojirou really loves Royal Mask I wanted to let him fight his idol. But at the same time there was this part of me that was like "I'm gonna win for sure!" and so there were mixed emotions.

Miki:  From Kojirou's point of view he'd be giving his victory to Musashi.

Inuyama:  I definitely thought Kojirou was going to win.

Miki:  How come?

Inuyama:  Because that would be the more interesting outcome.

Miki:  Hold on a minute (laughs). Is it because the easygoing Kojirou winning against Musashi would be a recipe for disaster?

Inuyama:  I thought that's the way they were going to go.

Kojirou & Hidoide

Why do you think Kojirou wanted to battle fair and square?

Miki:  It's because of his love for his Pokémon, without a doubt. He really has a lot of love for them...and it's not like that love for Pokémon is what put him up against Musashi in the first place.

But I was stunned at what happened after that! I thought Musashi would be upset...

Hayashibara:  ...but she accepted it calmly.

Miki:  A new Musashi emerged at that time. She sent him off saying "You'd better win the whole thing now..."

Hayashibara:  I think maybe it's because she didn't really have any real interest in winning the (Alola) league in the first place. She didn't really have any attachment to it.

Musashi & Sounansu

Miki:  Musashi is really quick to change her direction. If she's charging toward something and it doesn't work out then she'll turn on her heel and just start going in a different direction.

Hayashibara:  That part of her is a lot like me. On the other hand, Kojirou being slow to change course is just like Miki-kun.

Miki:  Just say I'm tenacious!   ....I think I'm going to have to have a drink tonight (cries)

Adult Friendships

You all work together just like the Rocket trio does...

Hayashibara:  I don't know if we get it from the characters we play or if it's because of all the small talk we do. We have a lot of shared experiences. Both at work and in our personal lives. I was out late filming, or I did this on stage the other day...things like that. By now, we more or less know what's bothering each other and how hard we're all working to overcome our problems. But it's also fine not to know everything about each other.

When we talk to each other we're quite casual while also getting right into it. The way we communicate with each other outside the Rocket-Dan becomes an advantage for each of us.

Miki:  There's a lot of things we wouldn't have come up with if the three of us hadn't been together. If we didn't get along so well from the start we wouldn't have been able to do this for 20 years (laughs)

Hayashibara:  But since it's a job it wouldn't matter either way because we'd have to do it even if we didn't get on with our colleagues.

Miki:  If that was the case then it would have been really tough. If it was a 2 vs. 1 type situation we probably wouldn't even be able to look each other in the eye.

Now that I think of it, there was never a time when two of us would have one opinion and the third would have another. When we're in the studio and we hear other voice actors give amazing performances the three of us all go "that was great" at the same time.

Inuyama:  And then when we all just happen to say "that was great" at the same time we burst out laughing.

Miki:  It's because the three of us are looking at our jobs from the same POV.

The Rocket-Dan's kindness and teamwork...we can see why people love them so much

Miki:  The bad guys who are loved...there's no correct right way to respond to that.

Inuyama:  That's because the very existence of bad guys in and of itself is a bit questionable (laughs)

Hayashibara:  But I was really moved when they made a real life version of that Nyarth balloon the Rocket-Dan uses back in 2017.

I didn't realize it at first but just inflating one of those things is a lot of hard work.

Nyarth Balloon

Inuyama:  So much so that the event had to be canceled due to strong winds.

Hayashibara:  As the Nyarth balloon was getting bigger and bigger the people who had gathered around to watch were all clapping and yelling out "you can do it!"

This wasn't AR or VR, this was something everyone was seeing in real life. I thought the power of the Rocket-Dan was really incredible.

Miki:  It's the wonder of seeing something from the Pokémon world come to life.

Hayashibara:  If they were just regular old villains then we wouldn't have been able to have that kind of experience. I know they have that Pikachu Outbreak event in Yokohama every year but the unveiling of that Nyarth balloon was an event as well.

Miki:  Because they were so beloved.

Hayashibara:  What's this "were" business!?

Miki:  But don't you think it sounds weird to say "they are loved"?

Hayashibara:  That's exactly the kind of thing Kojirou would say.

The animated Pocket Monsters Sun & Moon TV series
Now airing every Sunday night at 6:00pm on TV-Tokyo stations

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