Kyousei Tsukui’s condition has been rapidly changing, but his spirits are as high as ever.

Since his debut in 1992, the character of Nyanchu has been a popular children’s character on Japan’s public broadcaster NHK. His name is a combination of the onomatopoeic sounds a cat and mouse make, indicative of the fact that he is a cat dressed like a mouse, so he can better understand their feelings.

▼ In this clip from 1998, Nyanchu learns a little English

He also has the facial expression of a golden age Japanese TV comedian like Sanma Akashiya and a gravelly-yet-buoyant voice to match. That signature tone is provided by Kyousei Tsukui, a voice actor who’s made appearances on many of anime’s greatest works from Anpanman to Trigun.

But without a doubt, Tsukui is best known as Nyanchu and still provides his voice after 29 years with such verve and warmth, that you’d never know that he had gradually lost the ability to move most of his body over the past two years.

In March of 2019, Tsukui noticed that he started stumbling in odd situations that he normally wouldn’t. In September, his problem was diagnosed as ALS and he went public with it the following month.

In March of 2020, Tsukui lost the ability to walk on his own, even with a cane. Despite all this, he continued to work and actually became more active. About the same time Tsukui started his own YouTube channel and continued to Tweet and blog fervently, giving deep insights to his lifestyle and treatments.

▼ Unfortunately his videos are only in Japanese, but this one from February gives an enlightening and sincere account of Tsukui’s adjustment to life in diapers. Judging by his lively voice you’d never guess there was anything wrong with him.

In March of 2021, Tsukui reported that his hands were in increasingly bad shape, but he decided to take a new lease on life starting 20 March. He wrote the following on his blog:

“I think I’ll do this mainly on Twitter, but… I will start counting up from today, 20 March, 2021. The ALS is steadily progressing, but… This is a count-up with the aim for the short future. I’m probably overconfident with all words of encouragement I’ve gotten, and I want to keep fighting. Anyway, this is Day 0.”

Although it’s still a message full of optimism, there is a bittersweet tinge to it suggesting that things are getting more challenging for Tsukui. He’s far from giving up though, and his candid yet dignified way of living with ALS has only endeared him even more to people of Japan, many of whom grew up listening to his voice and continue to express their concern and support online.

“I’ll donate money or organs. Whatever it takes…”
“That disease takes over so fast.”
“I can’t even imagine what that must be like.”
“I think it’s time for another Ice Bucket Challenge.”
“It’s frightening how fast ALS works.”
“I still have a talking and moving Nyanchu doll at home.”
“I had no idea Nyanchu was suffering from an incurable disease…”
“I think his voicing of Straight Cougar was just as famous Nyanchu.”

The fast-driving and equally fast-talking Straight Cougar from s-CRY-ed is still only one of the many notches on Tsukui’s voice acting belt, and he appears far from hanging up his microphone. Nyanchu is just as strong as ever and about to begin a new season, and there’s a whole world of anime voice work for him to keep going with. As we can hear in his YouTube videos, he clearly still has the chops for it.

“Count-up Day 3: I went to Akasaka for some voice work. My son got to come along to dad’s workplace (Haha). Thank you to the warmhearted staff who helped turn the pages of the script.”

So, let’s all support Kyousei Tuskui by continuing to enjoy his life’s work with him and by continuing to support the researchers searching for a cure for this dangerously aggressive disease.

Check out for more information on the disease and how you can help.

Source: Kyousei’s Blog, Twitter/@koubouya, Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Kyousei Tsukui
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