”My chest tightened, and I couldn’t speak.”

Rika Matsumoto is a veteran among veterans. Not only has the 54-year-old voice actress been working in the anime industry since she was 20, she’s spent the last 26 in the same role, Pokémon protagonist Satoshi/Ash.

Having been the voice of Satoshi for nearly half her life, you’d think rattling off lines as the wandering Pokémon trainer has gotten pretty easy for Matsumoto. However, since the airing of last Friday’s Pokémon episode in which Satoshi steps down from being the series’ main character, Matsumoto has revealed that she almost didn’t make it through her final recording session for the character.

According to a post to her Instagram account:

“I’ll never forget the last recording session [for Satoshi]. It was on January 27. At the moment when I had to record Satoshi’s last line, ‘Once I say these words, it’ll be the end of me playing Satoshi.’

When I realized that, my chest tightened, and I couldn’t speak.

‘Sorry, please give me five minutes,’ I told the staff, and they kindly let me have them. Then I put everything I had into Satoshi’s voice.”

▼ Rika Matsumoto

Without getting too much into spoilers for Satoshi’s last episode, his final line in the series isn’t a shocking revelation or dramatic upending of anything we know about the character and his place in the Pokémon world. Rather, it’s a reaffirmation of his core values, and that likely made the moment all the more emotional when it came time for Matsumoto to say goodbye to Satoshi.

Of course, the ending of Satoshi’s time in the spotlight has been reverberating with fans too, many of whom have reached out to Matsumoto to say thank you for 26 years in the role. The voice actress has responded to them with:

“Life is all about looking for tears of happiness, and the kind messages I’ve been receiving from everyone have been making me cry nonstop. Thank you all so much, from the bottom of my heart. I am filled with gratitude for all of your thoughts. At the same time, I honestly still haven’t sorted out all of my own feelings [about the role ending]. I’m going to give myself time to work through them naturally, like the winter snow melting in the spring.”

And of course, even if Matsumoto (who also recently absolutely nailed a one-take performance of the Pokémon opening theme song) isn’t going to be voicing Satoshi every week anymore, the memories of the character’s journey, and voice, will live on.

“I’ll be happy if Satoshi can live on in everyone’s hearts. As a performer, I will put my heart and soul into continuing to do my best as a way of thanking you for the love you have shown me.”

Though the final Satoshi episode aired on March 24 and Matsumoto posted her message on March 26, her last recording session was on January 27. Compared to 26 years in the role, though, two months isn’t very long at all, so it’s no surprise that she’s still mentally processing the end of Satoshi’s arc, but it sounds like she’s also excited about what comes next in her career, and that it’s going to be something for fans to look forward to too.

Source: Instagram/rica.matsumoto via Oricon News via Hachima Kiko
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