Goemon Ishikawa XIII: The Samurai That Cuts All

As of today, on December 2nd, 2019. It’s been reported that Makio Inoue, a voice actor known for voicing Goemon Ishikawa from Lupin the 3rd for over thirty years has passed away at the age of eighty. Now while he is not the first voice actor for the character as he picked up the role in Part II, this voice became the voice for the character. Lupin the 3rd Part II was the show that kicked Lupin into the legacy it has today. Part I was cancelled before finishing and because of reruns it got a second shot with a new show. This new series gave more focus to the overall cast compared to the previous series and did present a stronger sense of comedy. Along with that it still kept in mind what changes the first show had which was paint the characters in a better light. This new spotlight easily gave these characters a longer life in the media and with that gave these voice actors a whole lot of work. One of those being Makio Inoue who went on to voice the iconic samurai from 1977 until 2010 with the short special Lupin the 3rd Last Job which was also the last time for Goro Naya, voice of Zenigata and Eiko Masuyama, voice of Fujiko Mine. These voices are big and important to the history of these characters so to tribute Makio, let us just look at his history with the character and maybe some other things along the way too. 


Before getting to voice the samurai, he was doing some smaller roles on pieces like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. His first role with a proper name came with Prince Frank from the Princess Knight series. Then came 1977 with Lupin the 3rd getting a second chance with a new show and Inoue got the role of the fourth member of the group. Now one thing people will notice about Goemon at times is that he is rather silent and could not even get some major presence in certain episodes. A show like Lupin is all about amazing the viewer with wonder of treasure, heists, and what else can come up in the life of thieves. Goemon Ishikawa himself is one of those amazements. Part II really highlighted Goemon with the Zantetsuken sword while it was noted to do amazing feats before, this show made sure to show that. Goemon sliced about anything into pieces and did it under insane time limits as well. For that reason alone, they had to make sure to not overdue things and save him for some great moments. 


When a voice actor has to deal with a character like Goemon, a simple grunt becomes extremely important. Goemon is brought to life thanks to some simple sounds at times. Inoue knew how to make Ishikawa express many emotions through those sounds. On top of that any samurai is found in intense fights so that idea of grunts and simple sounds is enlightened even more during duels. It’s like watching an action film and hearing how intense a fighter is, for a voice actor they follow the same principle, luckily, they don’t deal with stunt work though. Then when Goemon does get to have some lines or even comedic moments, Inoue knows how to make the character feel so reserved still. The lines are quick to the point, which yes, I know that is thanks to a writer, but the voice actor still has to deliver them and know how fast to say them too. It’s a reason like that; he got to continue the role for the character until his retirement, his voice became part of the image. 


Another role that Makio got to do right before continuing more on Lupin was Captain Harlock, a huge name in the anime world. Starting as the character in 1978 he got to continue this role until 1998. A space pirate character is a huge jump compared to a samurai in the modern world and yet the performance still stands so strong. The aspect of silence still held important for this role as Harlock is no coward in the face of danger and risks his life in many encounters. The captain can have a strong stance and a strong glare, but if the voice was off, that image would crumble. Many of his previous performances helped to make sure he landed this role down perfectly. Then as we see it still holds true to many people that he still stands as the Captain Harlock. 


Continuing in the 80’s is when we reach the Part III era of the show where the whole cast from Part II returns. From this point onward the only actor that passed away was Yamada who played as Lupin in the 90’s. Kenichi Narata soon picked up the role and his time starting out was probably not easy. The man recently noted that the cast was like a family welcoming him in. He said Inoue was his senior that kept him a kind man. In a way you have to think that the character can live on in an actor especially when they do it for so long. Goemon Ishikawa XIII was an honorable samurai that wanted to surpass Lupin one of these days. Even if he helps in heists, he never truly kills unless it was a duel or fighting someone, he thought was not good of heart. Goemon also had trouble slicing down a woman at times since most of the ones he comes across with are harmless. Goemon also held pride with how he stood true to himself and respected Lupin as a man who got to live life freely. It seems the samurai did that to the new thief in red way back in the 90’s and onwards. 


Goemon over the years as a character got to change and grow. Even with a new voice actor there is a new presence with the samurai. The current voice for Goemon is Daisuke Namikawa and some of the work he has been given recently put Goemon to the test. Like in Goemon Splash of Blood where his pride gets destroyed and he trains until the day he can restore it. Then in Lupin Part V, Goemon has to question if he is truly Lupin’s friend or just another tool. He then had to see if he can finally defeat the thief and when he won, it came with regret. 


Inoue had similar moments before where he thought he had mutual love with a woman from his tribe, but ends up betraying him in Dragon of Doom. Goemon did slay her, but he still felt sorrow from doing this. Most of Goemon’s most famous moments do deal with women as some are true to their word and help the samurai only feel more encouraged to help. Goemon with women though is that he is quite shy around them or even has a bit of a weakness at times. Inoue completely changes the voice for him so well at these moments where he is still quick to the point, but in a more dodge the question type of personality. This even leads to some of his most comedic moments where he can get quite loud at times because he tries to fight his inner desires. In the end, Goemon is a good samurai that deserves to get a bit of affection every now and then. 


Now there is what awaits the samurai in the future for Lupin Part VI and many movies still to come up like Lupin the 3rd: The First. While we await new things for the character, we also still look back on the character’s past. Makio Inoue has so much work done with the character that is near impossible to think of Goemon without him. How the character grew through time along with the actor, these two were inseparable because of that. They both got to witness the amazing adventures of being alongside Lupin and put input in their own special ways. The Zantetsuken sword may have lost of its true wielders, but it will always continue to slice through the night sky with new hands. Thank you, Makio Inoue. 

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