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Dogasu's Backpack | Features | Newtype Web Interview with Yuko Kobayashi

In late May 2021 the entertainment website Newtype Web posted a two-part interview with voice actor Yuko Kobayashi (小林優子), best known by most Pocket Monsters fans as the voice of Satoshi's rival Shigeru. The interviews were conducted to commemorate the character's return in Pocket Monsters (2019).

Below is a translation of both parts of the interview.

On the morning of May 28th, 2021, hours before Pocket Monsters (2019) Episode 068 "A Rival for Gou!? The Path to Mew!!" was scheduled to air, Part One of the interview was posted.

Below is an English translation of the original Japanese interview.

Interview with Pocket Monsters' Shigeru, Ms. Yuko Kobayashi (Part One)
"Please cheer on Shigeru, who has a little something extra about him this time"

Satoshi's good rival and comrade-in-arms, Shigeru, is coming back to the animated "Pocket Monsters" series! In the episode that airs Friday, May 28th entitled "A Rival for Gou!? The Path to Mew!!" Satoshi and the others are visiting Dr. Ookido's laboratory when they happen to run into Shigeru. It seems that Goukazaru's gone missing from the lab and so Satoshi and Shigeru team up to go look for it. We asked Shigeru's voice actor, Ms. Yuko Kobayashi, what was going through her mind when she was playing Shigeru for the first time in roughly 12 years.

The character you play, Shigeru, hasn't appeared since the Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl animated series from around 12 years ago, right?

Kobayashi:  "We've made it through all twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac since then, haven't we? (laughs) I actually didn't find out Shigeru was coming back to the show until people who saw him in the show's opening told me, but at that time I still hadn't had gotten any official word about me coming back to do the part or anything like that, and so when they'd say "congratulations!" I'd think "waitaminute, how should I react...?" (laughs). Of course I was holding out hope I'd get to reprise the role and so when I did end up getting the call from my agency I actually did think "Woo-hoo!" I was really happy to get the chance to be reunited with Shigeru again."

You could say that Shigeru is a boy who serves as Satoshi's rival. But from your point of view, Ms. Kobayashi, what kind of character do you think he is?

Kobayashi:  "If I say that Satoshi is very honest and straightforward, and that he's a pure-hearted boy, then I'd say that Shigeru is...well, if they were in school together they'd both be in the same class, but Shigeru's a little bit more grown up acting and kind of looks down on his rival (laughs). He can also be a bit of a contrarian who purposefully says things that he knows will get under Satoshi's skin and get him all riled up. If Satoshi is straightforward then Shigeru's the opposite of that, with his own way of doing things. I think that's part of what makes Shigeru so special."

That personality of his, that has an effect on the way you perform him?

Kobayashi:  "Oh, absolutely. He likes to tilt his body and lean in to talk to people, you know? Like when he calls out to Satoshi, he'll tilt his body just so and call out "Sa~toshi-kun" in this kind of singsongy voice. Well you know, in the animated Pocket Monsters series from 1997, the first scripts we'd get would just have those parts written out normally, "Satoshi-kun," without that little extension on the first vowel sound there. But then I started calling him "Sa~toshi-kun" in the recording booth and it just sort of stuck. At some point, they actually started to write it out as "Sa~toshi-kun" in the scripts as well."

Translation Note:  Shigeru's taunt of "Sa~toshi-kun" was localized as "Ashy-boy" for the English dub.

Are there any episodes from that first series that stick out to you?

Kobayashi:  "Shigeru's always looked down on Satoshi, but there was this one time, and one time only, where he actually complimented him. He told him "You've raised your Pokémon well." He had always thought of himself as being better than Satoshi but at that moment, for the first time ever, Shigeru recognized Satoshi for the Trainer that he is. I really love that episode and remember it well."

I see. When you saw the script for this new series, what kind of impression did you walk away with?

Kobayashi:  "Well for starters, when I first saw that Shigeru refers to Satoshi as "Sa~toshi-kun" then I breathed a sigh of relief (laughs). I thought that was a great place to start reconstructing Shigeru again after being away from him for so many years. In other words, the whole experience was a blast from the past. But I also remember feeling a bit uneasy on my way to the studio."

Even a veteran like you, Ms. Kobayashi, can still feel unsure from time to time.

Kobayashi:  "But when the recording started and I heard Rica (Matsumoto, Satoshi's voice actor) use "that voice" I could feel Shigeru coming back to me just like that. Hearing Rica's voice made me feel at ease. "Ah, that's it, that's how you do it!" That's what it was like during the recording."

So it sounds like you were able to record all together in the same room.

Kobayashi:  "That's right. Because of COVID we were all in our own separate booths, of course, and we had to communicate to the staff using an intercom system, but we could at least hear the other actors' voices and bounce off each other's performances like that. It was really fun to be able to act everything out in real time. It was also the first time in a while that we were able to actually look at other actors in person...we were all wearing masks, of course, and we had a piece of clear plastic between all of us, but we were still able to scream out "Ms. Yuko!!" and  "Ricaaa~!" to each other."

It sounds like a class reunion or something like that (laughs)

Kobayashi:  "I'm really, really grateful we could all record together and be face-to-face with the actors who play the show's main characters, like Gou's voice actor (Daiki) Yamashita and (Dr. Ookido's voice actor) Mr. Kenyuu Horiuchi. I felt uneasy on the way to the studio but when the recording actually started those feelings washed away as we all started working together. It was really great."

Do you have a message for the viewers who are looking forward to Shigeru's return?

Kobayashi:  "If you're a new viewer then you'll probably wonder who that boy is who's talking to Satoshi with such a familiar tone (laughs). Satoshi's comrade-in-arms, his good friend, his rival...being able to play Shigeru again after 12 whole years personally makes me very happy. It was a lot of work to get back into the groove of things after having not recorded after so long but I had a lot of fun once I finally got there. I hope that sense of fun translates to the screen and that you'll please cheer on Shigeru, who has a little something extra about him this time."

Interviewer, original Japanese text:  Shoutarou Miya (宮昌太朗)

On the morning of May 31st, 2021, the Monday after Pocket Monsters (2019) Episode 068 "A Rival for Gou!? The Path to Mew!!" debuted on TV-Tokyo, Part Two of the interview was posted.

Below is an English translation of the original Japanese interview.

Interview with Pocket Monsters' Shigeru, Ms. Yuko Kobayashi (Part Two)
"That invigorated feeling Shigeru had when he got Fire's feather stands out to me"

In "A Rival for Gou!? The Path to Mew!!" Shigeru, who's back after a 12 year absence, sets out with Satoshi and Gou to find out what's behind Goukazaru's disappearance from the Ookido Laboratory. In this second part of our interview with Shigeru's voice actor, Ms. Yuko Kobayashi, we take an even deeper dive into her thoughts on things like the scenes that left a strong impression on her and what her memories are of the Pocket Monsters series.

Ms. Kobayashi, you went in to record for Shigeru again after being away from him for so long. What did you notice about him that made you feel just how much he's grown and changed?

Kobayashi:  "I was struck by how he has this crystal clear goal now and how that's a pretty big change from what we've seen from him up until now. Of course I'm referring to him working to complete the assignments given to him, one after the other, in order to become a member of the Project Mew team. I think that if you take a step back and look at the big picture then these concrete first steps he's taking toward his Project Mew goal are, at least compared to the work he's been doing as a Pokémon Researcher, getting him really fired up."

It also seems like his personality's become a little more aggressive than it was before.

Kobayashi:  "I think so too. I received direction from the show's sound director, Mr. (Masafumi) Mima, to deliver my lines more like he's always challenging someone. In the past Shigeru would just kind of lean forward and say something along the lines of "Gee, I guess I'll do bla bla bla" but this time around Shigeru tends to give a more straightforward "OK, that settles it; I'm doing this." One example of this is the scene where Shigeru and the others are going into the gorge right at the start of the second half of the episode, where he has these really long stretches of dialogue."

It's the scene where Shigeru basically explains the general premise of the episode, isn't it?

Kobayashi:  "That's right. Even though this was expository dialogue I was told to deliver it not like someone just rattling off a bunch of bulletpoints, matter-of-factly, but instead as someone with a sense of conviction who has a clear goal in his mind of what he's doing. I was directed to treat this dialogue as if Shigeru was solving a puzzle inside his own head, thinking about what's going to happen, working out how each step leads to the next. I ended up having to retake those lines so many times. I'm at the age now where I don't get told to "do it again" all that much anymore (laughs) but I could see just how important it was to everyone to get this juuuuust right and seeing that made me really happy."

For a lot of fans it's been a while since they've seen Satoshi and Shigeru actually talking to each other and so I'll bet it was a really great experience for you two as well.

Kobayashi:  "It was. There's that scene where the two of them are walking together, shoulder to shoulder, and it's thanks more to their relationship as childhood friends than their relationship as "classmates" that made that scene what it is. You know how when you go to a school reunion and you'll be transported back in time to when you were a student there, at least for a little bit? Well I think something similar to that must have been happening for those two. We were also directed to make the ending of the scene sound like it was ad-libbed (laughs). I feel like that shows the amount of trust the staff has in Satoshi and Shigeru, and in Rica and me."

On the other hand, what was it like to interact with Gou? It feels like Gou might look up to Shigeru as someone who's a little bit more of a veteran than he is.

Kobayashi:  "In this episode I think Gou-kun was basically the third wheel at times (laughs) and it was interesting to see him think things like "I'm not going to let myself be ignored"... I think that Shigeru, maybe, was able to tell right away that Gou-kun does have some skill about him. He recognized that...and then he started to egg him on. It's just like how he used to get Satoshi riled up back in the old days...when I was playing Shigeru, I played him as if he was imagining Gou-kun making the same faces Satoshi used to make."

When you look back on this week's episode again, were there any scenes that you really liked or that stood out to you?

Kobayashi:  "I really liked the scene where Fire made its grand entrance. I thought the part where it spread out its wings out was really something else. But remember, the goal in this episode was for Shigeru to complete his mission of getting ahold of one of Fire's feathers. And so when he did get that feather you could see how invigorated Shigeru was feeling. Before I went into the recording of this episode I was told to "make up some things Shigeru would say about him reaching for his goal," and I wonder if I was asked to do that little exercise in order to make me more in tune with who Shigeru has grown into. I think I maybe wound up being able to become even more in tune with Shigeru."

By the way, what is your favorite Pokémon, Ms. Kobayashi?

Kobayashi:  "I really like Blacky. It's one of Shigeru's Pokémon, you know, and I really loved it when I used to call out "Blacky!" and it would respond with this great "Bulah!" sound (laughs). Blacky was played by Satomi Ko'orogi-chan who, as you know, has a really cute and high-pitched voice. But for Blacky, and only Blacky, she came up with this surprisingly deep voice (laughs). Whenever I think about the Pokémon I like I always think of Blacky first. Other than that...well, there's Pikachu of course! Pikachu's just so cute, after all."

I see (laughs). Well it's time to wrap things up, but before we go, can you tell us what kind of show Pocket Monsters is to you, Ms. Kobayashi?

Kobayashi:  "I think that for a show to have as long a history as the Pocket Monsters animated series does is something really amazing and I am so proud to have been able to play Satoshi's rival Shigeru in that very first series. To me, Pocket Monsters is one of the more major roles on my resume. I am so thrilled to be a part of this precious show that I love so, so much."

Interviewer, original Japanese text:  Shoutarou Miya (宮 昌太朗)

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