With heavy hearts, we have received word that veteran voice actor Fujiwara Keiji (藤原啓治) has passed away at age 55 just two days after the official release of Final Fantasy VII Remake (FFVIIR) in which he reprised the role of Reno. He has played other well-known roles such as Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV, Axel in the Kingdom Hearts series, the titular character’s father Hiroshi in the anime Crayon Shin-chan, as well as the Japanese dubbed voice of Robert Downey Jr. in the various Avengers related films as Iron Man/Tony Stark.
I first heard the news via a tweet by ORICON NEWS and I can’t express how much it shocked and shattered my heart to read:
“Voice Actor Fujiwara Keiji has died at age 55”
I instantly felt beside myself. I hadn’t followed his work all that closely in many years, but several of his roles meant a great deal to me. I always praised his work as Reno in Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, so I was really looking forward to hearing his awesome voice again in FFVIIR, but… my first introduction to his voice probably came when I was 16 and first encountered the anime series B’t X.
This alone holds some significant weight with me since it was always my dad, who passed away nearly 4 years ago, used to drive me down to a local comic shop that rented out fansubbed VHS tapes of anime, and that’s where I was introduced to this series. Driving down there was sort of our weekly ritual, and I remember it fondly. Fujiwara plays one of the main characters, Ron of the East, a character that I also own several animation cels of.
Although I didn’t really follow Fujiwara’s work all that closely and I don’t know many of his main roles, he still played many important characters to me, and that’s why the sudden news of his passing has really hit me and so many other fans extremely hard.
We Knew He Had Been Ill
When some of the first trailers for FFVIIR were released and we heard Reno’s voice, it was pretty apparent something was different. Originally, I thought they recast the role since the timbre of voice sounded much higher than before, but I came to understand that it was indeed Fujiwara portraying the role once more. Then why did his performance sound so different?
Apparently back in 2016, he was diagnosed with cancer and received treatment, but later returned to voice acting work in 2017 albeit with a more slow-paced schedule. From the perspective of a casual fan, things seemed like they were getting better. That’s precisely why this news has struck us hard. All we can do now is honor his memory by expressing our love and passion for his work. Even within the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re still very much plagued by old foes like cancer, and it really puts things into perspective.
As a simple, casual fan, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to anyone and everyone affected by his loss. He had such an enematic voice that could win anyone’s heart at the mere sound.
Condolences from Colleagues and Other Official Outlets
Following the public announcement, the outpouring of condolences on Twitter and other social media has been overwhelming.
“We would like to express our sincerest condolences to Fujiwara Keiji upon word of his passing. Thank you so much for your support throughout all of our freshmen endeavors. From the VR Kareshi production staff” — From all the VR Kareshi production staff