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Kingdom Hearts III round table interview with Miyū Irino, Miyano Mamoru, and Risa Uchida, the Japanese voice actors of Sora, Riku, and Kairi, discussing their journey over the past 17 years and how the series have shaped their lives


Kingdom Hearts III Ultimania, the official companion book for Kingdom Hearts III, released in Japan on February 28, 2019. The 736 page long book mainly serves as a guidebook and a detailed data book for everything in Kingdom Hearts III, but also contains concept art, character renders, and special interviews with the people who worked on the game. 

Here is the roundtable discussion with Japanese VAs Miyū Irino (Sora), Miyano Mamoru (Riku), and Risa Uchida (Kairi). DISCLAIMER: This is only a tentative translation. It is possible that there are mistakes. These interviews could have potential spoilers, please be advised. 

Thanks to KH13 Translators Solis and Mio-Chan for the translations!


Sora, Riku, & Kairi Voice Actor Roundtable Discussion

Part III

Roundtable discussion with the three voice actors who played Sora, Riku and Kairi.

Not only they talk about their thoughts on KHIII, but also about their memories of the whole series, in which they have been involved since their teens. (Interviewer: Ayuta Ōhide)

Riku: Miyano Mamoru

Kairi: Risa Uchida

Sora: Miyū Irino

~Getting over the desire as an actor allowed an honest performance~

It’s been twelve years since the last KHI FM+ Ultimania round table discussion, and seventeen years since KHI Ultimania.

Irino: I’m glad to be here again!

Uchida: I was thirteen at the first time, but now I’m over twice the age. (laughs)

Miyano: The first time was my teens, next was twenties, and this time, thirties. It’s my first time being involved in a series for so long.

Irino: There aren’t that many opportunities to be able to do it for so long.

Miyano: It’s rare for something to continue for almost twenty years. And because we’ve been doing it since our teens, we can see our growth in body, voice, and mind as the series progresses. The time spent with the KH series is our valuable treasure.

With such a long timespan, I’m guessing there would be some changes in your performances, even with the same characters.

Irino: Up until KHII, I was still close in age with Sora, so I was able to perform with almost my natural voice, but I had a hard time with KH Re:coded. I fiercely listened back at my voice in KHI so many times, thinking I had to recreate that voice...Back then, it took a while until I could “become Sora.” Having more experiences from teater and such made me hard to express Sora’s innocent heart, because I had a desire to do a certain kind of performance, so it made me harder to express Sora’s innocent heart. Nomura-san (Tetsuya Nomura, Director) and Shimizu-san (Youji Shimizu, Voice Director) would give me suggestions, but I would have opposing feelings about it…

Miyano: You had conflicts in your heart.

Irino: Yeah. I would struggle, thinking it might be impossible for me to do Sora anymore since it took so long to get back in character. But now, I try not to worry too much about it. Growing older, my voice has become more stable, and even if there are gaps between recording sessions, I can get back in character pretty quickly now.

Miyano: Shimizu-san also said, “Miyu-kun (Irino) seems like he’s gotten over it. He can become Sora instantaneously.”

Irino: I think I’ve been able to find the right balance between my feelings and “what it means to be Sora.”

Miyano: I have a similar experience with Miyu-kun, too. In KHI, I didn’t have much knowledge in acting as I do now because I was still in my teens. But that’s exactly why I was able to give an honest performance. However, I was in my twenties for KHII, and I had a strong feeling of “doing an act that I want to do,” which resulted in retaking many times because I couldn’t become Riku. Because I had that experience, I was able to prioritize “becoming Riku” when recording for KHIII. Also, Riku overcoming darkness and facing the light connected with me putting behind my thoughts on acting. This allowed me to directly express what I felt as Riku’s feelings. I think I was able to give back what I learned from working with KH into this work.

How about you, Uchida-san? Did anything change in performing as Kairi?

Uchida: Back in KHI, I wasn’t thinking much and was like, “I love this! It’s so fun!” (laughs) In KHII, I was a little more grown up, so I felt the pressure of the popularity in the series, wondering if it was okay for me to keep voicing her. I had to be conscious to sound like Kairi since my voice had also changed a bit. However, in KHIII...it’s a little presumptuous for me to say this, but I was like, “I am Kairi.”

Miyano: “(in a low voice) I...am Kairi!” (laughs)

Uchida: Yeah, like that (laughs). Even in times when I don’t have to record, Kairi has always been inside my heart. Though as not as much as her, I have gained experiences, so I believed in that and worked on the script without thinking too much about unnecessary things. It was fun because the Kairi this time has a lot of moments where you can really feel her presence. When Kairi says “Oh yeah, very memorized”* to Axel, it was originally in a more serious tone*, but it became like that thanks to the suggestion of doing an Axel impression. It became my favorite scene because it shows her humane and sweet side of her.

[*The Japanese quote is along the lines of “I’m sure he got it memorized.”]

Irino: Kairi joins the battle, too.

Uchida. Yeah! Ever since KHII, Kairi and I have both been wanting to fight along and be useful to everyone, so I’m very happy we got to fight this time.

Miyano: It’s kind of cool feeling the history as our dreams become realized.

Irino: In the KHI Ultimania, we talked about wanting the KH series to continue as long as the FF series because there were eleven installments back then, but now, including the spin-offs, they’re about the same number now.

You also said, ”If it continued for that long, we’d be in our thirties.”

Miyano: It really did happen! (laughs)

Uchida: At that time, it was only a dream of wishing that were to be the case, but...I’m really grateful.

Miyano: It’s an amazing feat to be able to make this many installments. I think that’s how strong people’s love is for the KH series.

~Sora’s expressions are what Irino’s initial thoughts were reading the script~

Between the main story and each Disney worlds, what kind of order did you record in?

Irino: We started recording with the script that was finished first. Because of that, I was acting without knowing the general flow of the story, but for me, that was a good thing. Sora responds so honestly to everything that happens around him. If new information is presented to him, he’ll speak his honest thoughts; if there’s difficult information that should have been explained to him before, he’ll be like, “What was that again?” (laughs) I also didn’t know any of the events that were to happen until I received the script, so I was able to portray my initial thoughts reading the script as Sora’s feelings. By the way, this was the first time we used storyboards while recording. Until now, we only had the script, but with the storyboard I was able to picture the scene and include some improvisation.

You weren’t informed of the Disney worlds that were included either?

Irino: Yeah. In fact, I avoided asking which worlds were included so I could be surprised when I found out (laughs).

What was the world that you were most excited about, Irino-san?

Irino: I was like ”It’s finally here!” when I found out one of my favorite Disney movie, Toy Story, was in the game. Talking with those characters, battling in that world really made me excited. Also, I was really happy seeing Sora as a toy.

Miyano: Man, you’re so lucky being the main character. I was so jealous of you singing Under the Sea in the KHII Atlantica!

Uchida: Ahh, I was jealous too!

Miyano: Though, even if Riku were to go to that world, I don’t think he would sing Under the Sea…(laughs)

Miyano-san and Uchida-san, are there any Disney worlds you would like to visit?

Uchida: I want to go to all of them...

Miyano: For me, Agrabah in KHI would be the number one. I love the world of Aladdin. Also, it’s the same as Miku-kun, but I love Toy Story so I want to go to Toy Box as well.

Uchida: I think I would go to Atlantica so I can sing Under the Sea. But I also want to go see Elsa from Frozen!

Irino: Riku explored worlds in KH3D, so maybe it’s Kairi’s turn next?

Miyano: Yeah! I wanna play that so badly! I wanna see Kairi dress up in different outfits.

Uchida: I wanna play it too!

Miyano: There won’t be much battles, and most of it will be fun missions like the Pooh world…

Uchida: That’s a peaceful one!

Miyano: Let’s make “Kingdom Hearts Party” where Kairi is the main character! (laughs)

Irino: The three of us could go around worlds, too.

Miyano: Kairi’s in the center, and Sora and Riku follow her?

Uchida: Oh, that’s reassuring! That sounds fun.

Miyano: (Looking at the development staff in the room) Can we for once have an adventure as the trio? (laughs)

Uchida: Yeah, I would really like that to happen.

Irino: Someone’s always looking for someone else, so the three never are together.

Miyano: Maybe, our biggest dream is to travel with all three of us. It is what we wanted to do in KHI. We never did end up using the raft to sail away from the Destiny Islands.

Uchida: If the three travelled together, I wonder if Sora would choose where to go next?

Miyano: I’ll be the one to choose.

Irino: Yeah. Sora would probably say “I’m fine with wherever Riku decides to go!” I feel like if Riku’s with them, everything would go smoothly. With Sora, Donald, and Goofy, they would argue like, “Where are we going?” “I don’t know.” “Think harder!” “Shut up!” and nothing progresses at all (laughs).

Actually in the previous roundtable, we got into a discussion about wanting a game with Kairi as the main character. Uchida-san mentioned “Imagining being the main character already makes me nervous, so you can make it but please don’t release it.”

Uchida: Hahahaha! (laughs)

Irino: It was the one where we said, “Let’s do it as an Indie game.”

Uchida: It’s too much of a waste to do it as an Indie game (laughs).

Miyano: That’s right! (laughs) Disney and Square Enix are making it!

Irino: Two major companies are coming together to make an Indie game? We’re going all out!

Uchida: If it’s actually happening, release it properly please (laughs).

By the way, do you play the games you have been involved with after it has been released?

Irino: I usually play all of them.

Miyano: I also play them as much as I can.

Uchida: ...I’m bad at games, so...In KHI, I couldn’t leave the Destiny Islands.

Irino: Oh yeah, I remember you said that!

Miyano: (Sarcastically) Whaaat!? People like that exist?

Uchida: I do exist, right here (laughs). Luckily, I have friends who love the KH series, so I’ve seen the movies.

Miyano: I remember replaying KHI so many times. I would save right before each cutscene with Riku in it so I could watch it at any time.

Irino: Yeah yeah!

Miyano: That’s why I ended up with so many save files (laughs).

Irino: Me too! By the way, when I went to get a massage last time, we got invested in talking about video games. The person at the store said “I love KHII so much that I don’t want it to end, so I keep on doing Gummi ship missions to avoid finishing it.” (laughs) I’m the type that finishes it once, then hundred-percents the game, so I was surprised to find someone like that.

Miyano: I understand that feeling, though! That’s why I still haven’t finished FFVII.

Irino: What, you haven’t!?

Miyano: Thinking about the game ending makes me so sad that I couldn’t put the last disk in.

Irino: The last disk...isn’t that almost the end!?

Miyano: Yeah, all that’s left is the last dungeon, but I couldn’t do it when I thought “It’s going to end.” It’s the worst state, playing up to that point and not seeing the ending. (laughs)

~“My friends are my power!” connects with “Alone, I’m worthless.”~

[NOTE: The next few questions contain story spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III. Please be advised.]


The most striking point in the story this time was when Sora lost his friends and screams out of misery.

Irino: That was a shock…

Uchida: Yeah…

Miyano: Looking at him made me sad…

Irino: When I read the script for that scene, I was so moved, knowing that even Sora could become like this...When everyone disappears and the connections are lost, Sora becomes vulnerable...In KHI, there’s the quote “My friends are my power!” but the quote from this time, “Alone, I’m worthless” is connected in my heart.

Miyano: You know, Sora always was the light for everyone, right? Even that Sora breaks down if something that terrifying happens. Watching him explode his emotions against that situation was tough but also a precious moment, making me realize, “Sora is a regular boy, too.”

Irino: From an acting standpoint, it was hard measuring how much I should express the negative emotion as Sora. In the end, I stopped thinking about it, and did as it came naturally to me. I was already in the “becoming Sora” mode, so I had to believe what I expressed was what Sora felt. There are many scenes in KHIII that show Sora like we never did before, such as breaking down like in the scene I just mentioned, and goofing around with Donald and the others, so I discussed in length with the sound directors and staff on how expressive I should be.

The scene where Riku and Riku Replica talk on the shore of Destiny Islands was also memorable.

Miyano: I also love that scene. The way Riku says, “Take the time you need” to Riku Replica shows his deep understanding of Riku Replica and it really warms my heart. Up until now, he would have gloomier thoughts because he was fighting with his own darkness, but the Riku now can truly speak the word of light. You know, the reason why Riku fell to the darkness was originally because of his jealousy towards friends and his wish to protect his precious ones. While living through one’s life, it’s hard to completely get rid of darkness, but by experiencing things and growing from it, one can accept it and face forward. Both Riku and Riku Replica made the decision not to fight the darkness, but to take in the darkness and live as one of the light. I think that’s what their strengths are.

The part where Kairi tells Axel, “There’s no holding back,” for players who know KH Days, must have been hard not to remember Xion.

Uchida: When I first found that text in the script, my heart couldn’t stop pounding. I tried to say that line as cheerful and bright as possible without thinking about Xion, but I just couldn’t...It was very hard for me, but I did my best to say it as Kairi.

How did you approach voicing Kairi and Xion differently?

Uchida: It’s not like I have outstanding skills as a voice actor, so I tried not by changing my voice, but by making it seem the inside is different. Even if it’s the same line, Kairi and Xion have experienced different things, so their words will have different meanings. I focused on differentiating that point. This is just my personal image, but Kairi is an ideal girl I aspire to be, whereas I empathize with Xion more...although I’m not as dignified as her (laughs). That’s why, in terms of “becoming Xion,” I felt it was easier to do than Kairi.

Speaking of Kairi, the scene where Sora and Kairi share the Paopu fruit left an impression on me.

Uchida: Me too. It’s a precious scene, as well as a moving one…

Irino: We recorded both possibilities of eating and not eating the Paopu fruit. It wasn’t decided which to use at that time, but I guess the one they eat was chosen. I think Nomura-san was struggling to figure out how much he should depict those two’s feelings.

Miyano: It’s a delicate scene of Sora and Kairi’s honest feelings. Watching them made my heart beat fast. They probably don’t realize it themselves, but if they didn’t have romantic feelings for each other, it wouldn’t be such a heartwarming scene (laughs).

Irino: But I don’t think sharing the Paopu fruit necessarily means they have romantic feelings?

Miyano: No no no way, cuz, I didn’t get any charms from Kairi…

Irino: You mean the Good Luck Charm?

Uchida: I’m sorry! (laughs)

Miyano: In KHI, you two tried to leave the island without telling me!

Irino: Maybe Kairi was the reason Riku turned to the darkness. I wonder if seeing Kairi doing so well with Sora made him feel left out?

Uchida: ...Oh, so it was my fault all along (laughs).

~The dream is for KH to expand more and connect with different franchises~

What kind of impressions do you have of Nomura-san, the KH series director?

Irino: We’ve been recording together for so long that we’re kind of like a family.

Uchida: He’s an amazing person, but still talks to us freely and he’s really nice. When I went to the KH Orchestra Concert in Osaka with him, he showed me pictures of his pet cat (laughs). He is always so considerate and devoted.

Miyano: The KH recording site is always so warm, but I think it’s because Nomura-san cares for not only the casts, but for the staff as well. He’s the kind of loving person that you’re family with once you’ve worked with him. Even though he gives off an impression that he doesn’t talk too much, he says a lot of jokes. During one of the sessions, he came up to me with a serious face, starting off with, “You know what, Miyano-kun…” I was scared of what he was going to say next, but then he continued, “...I have that same T-shirt as you.” (laughs) I did tell him we should wear it together.

Irino: After the talk show at the Tokyo Skytree, I asked Nomura-san to take a picture together, and we went to take one at the Keyblade Graveyard photo spot. I thought he would reject the offer, but he hung out with me.

Miyano: You guys are so close (laughs). It’s because you guys are father and son of the creation.

Irino: That’s right (laughs). I actually think in KHIII, Nomura-san portrayed himself as Sora. He would probably deny this if we told him in person, but I felt those parts were there.

The installment this time ends the Dark Seeker saga that continued for 17 years. Looking back at it, how do you feel?

Irino: For now, it’s the end. I have the impression that I was able to delve deeper into the work of KHIII than ever before. When the series began I was only a child, so all I did was go to the studio and perform. This time, however, I was invited to so many things: the orchestra session recording BGM, the development site in Osaka, and so many interviews...It’s because the series has continued for so long that I have been allowed to be involved more. It’s a special feeling.

Looking at the secret movie, it looks like the story will still continue.

Irino: I’m very excited. There was thirteen years in between KHII and KHIII, so I hope it’s faster next time.

Miyano: I hope to see them soon.

Uchida: We’ve recorded in our teens, twenties, thirties, so…

Miyano: Next is forties? (laughs)

Irino: I wonder if I’ll be able to properly do Sora’s voice (laughs). There’s veterans who can  still perform with the same voice after so many years, so we need to work hard, too. This marks a break in the series, but KH itself is still growing, and I would like seeing it go on, moving to new developments and become something that can intertwine many elements around the world.

Miyano: “Connecting” is the theme of KH.

Irino: I would like to become friends with other characters from different works.

Lastly, please leave a message for fans who enjoy the KH series.

Miyano: For those of you who have supported us since the beginning, I’m guessing that reading this roundtable discussion feels nostalgic. To be able to have that kind of history is an honor to me as an actor. I cherish every moment of this joy I receive from fans and think about them when I record for the KH series. For those of you who are playing KH for the first time, I would like you to play from KHI and notice our changes, and also fall in love with the series as a whole. With your support, we should be able to come back together soon, so please look forward to the future of KH!

Uchida: The reason why the KH series I love have been able to continue for so long is not only thanks to the creators and casts, but thanks to the people who play these games. It’s not my place to say this, but I am filled with gratitude for those who love the KH series. Thank you very much! I know you’re curious about what will come next, but for now, please enjoy KHIII. I’ll also read the Ultimania and try to beat the game (laughs).

Irino: The KH series is a work of art that we, not only the creators, but also the players, all spent so many years creating and growing. I would like to see this series grow even further and make dreams a reality with the power of “friendship.” Nomura-san has so many ideas that it might be hard for people around him to make those ideas realize, but I’m excited like Sora, thinking, “I wonder what’s coming next?” For now, let us enjoy KH to its fullest and then head towards the future altogether!


Here are the other news stories that have previously come out of the Kingdom Hearts III Ultimania:

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Damn even the Japanese voice actors also want a Kairi centric Kingdom Hearts game! I also want that game Nomura so please make it happen!

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