The premiere of the English dub of the romantic fantasy anime film The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is days away. I had the chance to watch the world premiere at New York Comic Con a few weeks back as well as chat with the two lead voice actors of the film, Patricia Duran and Gabriel Regojo ahead of the release.
The film’s synopsis reads:
Kaoru Tono heard a rumor: The laws of space and time mean nothing to the Urashima Tunnel. If you find it, walk through and you’ll find your heart’s desire on the other side…in exchange for years of your own life. One night, Kaoru just so happens to find himself standing in front of a tunnel that looks suspiciously like the one the rumor describes. He finds himself thinking of Karen, the sister he lost in an accident five years ago. To Kaoru’s surprise, he’s been followed by the new transfer student Anzu Hanashiro, who promises to help him experiment with the mysterious tunnel—but what does she want from Kaoru in exchange? And what will he have left to give, after the tunnel’s done with him?
Patricia and Gabe were kind enough to chat about their work as voice actors, bringing Kaoru Tono and Anzu Hanashiro to life, and their unique recording method for this film that was unlike any other they’d done before.
Nerds & Beyond: One of my main curiosities in terms of voice acting, especially in anime, is that a lot of anime characters are very young. How do you prep to bring characters who are at much different stages of their lives to life?
Patricia Duran: Yeah, that’s a really great question. Well, it helps that I work with teenagers. I teach theatre and acting to middle school and sometimes high schoolers. So, just being in that world and hearing them talk and how they talk helps. I know that for this movie in particular, John was very particular about the characters not sounding anime, and he really did not want me to be in my high pitch, he wanted it to sound more like me.
Gabe and I talked about this a lot, as we were going through the script, and as I was discovering, or more I was realizing how much we were alike when I was in high school. And so it kind of was just old habits die hard [laughs].
Gabe Regojo: Similar to Patricia, I work with a lot of kids as part of my day job, teaching artists with the Alley Theatre and getting to spend time with kids to see just developmentally where they are like, what they’re processing. But that and then just being able to recollect what I was like as a moody high schooler, so pulling from that was super helpful as well.
Nerds & Beyond: Let’s talk about tropes because I love a good romance trope, and this film hits some of the best ones. You have your friends-to-lovers, you have your emotional scars, you have first love … what are some of your favorite tropes both as a viewer and as a performer?
Patricia: I’m a sucker for romance tropes as well. And I also love [the] YA (Young Adult) [genre] a lot. When I was young I liked to write it, and I still like to write it — I actually wrote a book a couple of years ago that is still on my back burner. I agree, I do love the friends-to-more-than-friends, and I do like to play that as well.
Gabe: Yeah, I liked that this show offered, at least in anime as a genre, something that was not shonen or isekai and is more human. But also, this is a shitty trope, but it’s cathartic in that one of the pair makes the decision for both of them and then does their own thing without considering the other person’s feelings. It’s a trope for a reason, but it’s an effective story device.
Nerds & Beyond: Oh, for sure. I like that one, too.
Patricia: I think too, the arc of characters with a hard shell or a really big wall, and then finally getting to see them break that. I love that. I love playing that because you to get play with so much of a range as an actor.
Nerds & Beyond: You had an interesting recording setup for this film where you recorded in the same booth. How much did that add to both your experiences and your performances?
Gabe: It was super unique. Normally, we’re flying solo, and if you’re the first one in the booth for that project you’re just working with the Japanese actors. We did a pass of the film and then we were like, “What if we got in the booth together?” and it was just a blast. It was almost like a table read for like a play, just getting and going, moment to moment. It let us just like … “Ooh, I like what you’re doing here,” “Let’s do this,” “Let’s do that.” It let us play around a lot more, which I think you can hear, and it’s got a more cohesive quality, I think, as a final product.
Patricia: Yeah, absolutely. It is very unique and really kind of unheard of. But then also, Gabe and I have this familiarity. We’ve worked together as actors onstage before, so there’s a level of trust there. I just think the world of him as an actor, I think he’s just so vulnerable and just so open. It’s a gift to be able to play off of him and it’s easy to play off of him and with being able to be in the same room with the director and the sound engineer.
They were also working on revisions of the script and trying to make it as tight as possible and the way that teenagers speak. It’s always hard with a translation, and oftentimes, those translations feel like a Google Translate, and it can feel really, really, really stiff. They were really working hard to perfect that as well. A lot of that was going on, and they were wanting our feedback of “How does this sound?”, “Let’s try the sound,” so we did so many different takes of just different lines.
Nerds & Beyond: This film has mystery, a little bit of sci-fi, a lot of romance … It’s like this perfect melting pot of intrigue and heart. So what were your first reactions when you got the script to the film?
Patricia: Well, unfortunately, we don’t get the script. Usually, casting happens pretty quickly. Casting happened publicly, like mid-May, and then we really weren’t into the studio until June or so. And so, unfortunately, because I think of legality and just keeping things confidential we don’t we don’t get a script.
I always like Google the name and I’m like, “Okay, what’s this about?” Especially with John saying this is such a great script, we’re wanting it to be very grounded and realistic. I was very intrigued.
So, the script in real time that it would unveil itself, and as it did, I was just so thrown. I was like, “This is really good.” This is a really well-developed script and these characters are so rich, it’s visually stunning, it was just this perfect package. I would go home, and I was telling my husband, “I think this is really good. This is probably the best thing I’ve I’ve ever worked on.” So, I was just really pleasantly surprised and just blown away by it every day.
Nerds & Beyond: Do you think it helped that you learned it as you went? Did it make it easier or more authentic to just find out what happens in time with your character essentially?
Patricia: Yeah, it was kind of like unwrapping a gift every day. Thankfully, we got to do retakes, and I was like, “Oh, this is what she meant earlier,” and “I really should say that line differently earlier.” So, I’m really grateful that we got so many different passes at it to be able to dig in even deeper for the performance to be hopefully full and authentic.
Gabe: Yeah, 100% in that I would love to have the script beforehand, but it’s such a unique way to begin to work on a project, discovering it moment by moment. I remember turning to Patricia after the film and being like, “Hey, there’s a whole lot of movie I didn’t see!” But being able to spend so much time with this project and this film, it always revealed something new each time we got into the booth and each time we went back to re-record.
Nerds & Beyond: So, Kaoru Tono is traumatized, to say the least. All I wanted to do during this whole movie was wrap him up in a hug. How did you get into those deep dark levels of him?
Gabe: You know, using my imagination for the things that I couldn’t pull from my own lived experiences, but just pulling from that. The things that I could be like, “I remember doing this” or “I’ve been there,” and using those as jumping-off points. And then, you know, because it’s not live we have the benefit of like, “Oh, you know what, I don’t think I would say it that way,” and then we could go back and take another run at. Just trusting in the script, trusting in my co-star and trusting in the director and sound engineer just to be like, “That sounded dumb. Let’s try something else.” Truly just filling in the gaps with imagination, and then pulling from my own life where I could.
Nerds & Beyond: Hopefully not too much! [laughs] What are your hopes for him moving forward after the movie?
Gabe: Well, you know, that he finally goes to college and figures what he wants to do for the rest of his life, and finding joy in that. Then, just spending time with Anzu, they have a lot of ground to cover.
Also, now that he’s he’s able to come to terms with his grief and push past it, the world’s open to him. So, I hope he gets to live his life.
Nerds & Beyond: I hope so, too.
Anzu’s struggles were really relatable for me, and I think that a lot of people with creative aspirations will feel the same. Did being a person in the arts help you kind of identify with her and her struggles?
Patricia: 100%. I think that all of those doubts, all of those fears, all of those comparisons, I have said or thought or have heard or have battled at some point in my life. And yeah, I think that I think that any artists can definitely relate to those struggles for sure.
Nerds & Beyond: What are your hopes for her moving forward?
Patricia: That she no longer compares herself to anyone and to know that there’s enough room in this world for everyone’s gifts, and to just continue to step into and to be honest and truthful to herself and to her dreams and her passions, and to keep walking her path and not anyone else’s path.
Nerds & Beyond: Favorite scenes. Mine are the fireworks and the festival. I was rooting for them so, so hard in that scene. What are yours?
Gabe: Aquarium. I think the background storytelling … and you know what, with the background storytelling, I can expand that. Like, just the little scenes where there’s no people, it’s just the backgrounds telling me the story.
Patricia: I love those two, too. I’m gonna say the restaurant.
Nerds & Beyond: I was talking to another anime voice actor at New York Comic Con, and we were talking about why audiences, especially Western audiences, love anime so much. We mentioned that the men in particular in anime are allowed to be emotional, whereas in Western media they’re much more boxed in. You both have done other work in anime, have you found that to be true? That they are a little more emotionally free in anime versus our Western media?
Gabe: Yeah, for me, I think there is, definitely. Even just being silly, Western male characters tend to be very stoic. like I think a good example is Ryan Gosling and everything prior to the Barbie movie. I only recognize him as very stoic and stone face and not doing a whole lot. And then Barbie was like, “Oh my God, that’s funny. Yeah, he’s got emotional range.”
But I also think, too, and I can’t remember where I remember reading this or seeing this, but it was something along the lines that in Western culture, there’s an emphasis on the external, whereas in Eastern media, it’s about reflection and the internal life. And I think that’s reflected in the media we consume. Western media tends to be like, what external forces can I control and exerting my will and desire. Whereas more Eastern, for lack of a better expression, Eastern media tends to be the characters are growing and developing. Like Dragonball Z has been running forever, and Goku continues to evolve and grow and become a better version of himself.
Patricia: That’s brilliant, yeah, that’s really good. I think there seems to be more of a freedom for the men to express themselves more emotionally and that it’s not taboo. And I think that that’s just so refreshing because I think we all long for that freedom. We all long to be heard and seen, and to not hide our feelings and to be able to freely express them.
Nerds & Beyond: Did you learn anything about yourselves or take anything from your character’s journey from this story and apply it to yourself?
Gabe: Communication, [laughs] is key.
Patricia: It was a great reminder in not comparing myself to anyone.
Nerds & Beyond: All right, time for some rapid-fire questions. Just the first answer that pops into your head and some of these questions are just to validate my own choices [laughs].
First, best Girl Scout cookie?
Gabe: Thin mints.
Patricia: The coconut one.
Nerds & Beyond: What color would your lightsaber be?
Nerds & Beyond: If you could join any existing anime currently airing or finished as a voice actor in a new role, you’re not taking anyone else’s role, what are you joining?
Gabe: Yu Yu Hakusho.
Patricia: I would say Dragonball Z.
Nerds & Beyond: Are you going to Hogwarts or Middle-earth?
Nerds & Beyond: Leather or denim jackets?
Patricia: Faux leather.
Nerds & Beyond: Crocs – Yes or no?
Gabe: Yes. My wife loves crocs. They’re cozy.
Nerds & Beyond: Yes! I have some on right now. The Demon Slayer ones actually.
Last question and it relates back to your film … what’s the best date location, an aquarium or a fireworks show?
Gabe: I love the aquarium, but it’s fireworks. That was hella romantic.
The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes English dub is in theaters on November 3. Tickets are on sale now. Be sure to check out our review of the film!