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Hideaki Anno is a well-known animator and director. He is not, however, a well-known voice actor. Prior to 2013, he appears to have a total of two voice-acting credits to his name - a minor character in FLCL and a minor character in Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai. There's nothing terribly surprising about either of those - both were created by Gainax while he worked there; I'm sure nobody objected to letting their ace director have some fun in the recording studio.

Then, for some reason, Anno was cast as the adult voice of Jirou Horikoshi, the protagonist of Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. Why?

I know that Miyazaki has never been a fan of hiring from the usual stable of anime voice actors, but you'd think he'd at least want somebody who had some experience in the field...

  • Anno worked under Miyazaki on Nausicaa, so they knew each other in some fashion, but I still can't imagine why Miyazaki would cast Anno to voice a major character. – Torisuda Nov 10 '14 at 23:52
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There was an interview with Anno on Youtube (which has unfortunately been taken down) where he mentions a few relevant things:

  1. He had to audition for the part
  2. Miyazaki joked that he'd give the part to Toshio Suzuki (ex-Ghibli) if Anno didn't get the part

He also said:

It's my first time voicing a main character, so I figured it wasn't going to be easy. At first Miya-san told me that the character was quiet one and that there aren't lots of lines and I believed that. But after seeing the storyboard, I was surprised. There were ton of lines, songs, French, German. I felt like I was fooled.

In another interview (which was also taken down from Youtube) Miyazaki mentions during a meeting he got the idea of casting Anno and Suzuki seemed on-board with the idea, but the others weren't too keen. He said that when him and Suzuki were bouncing ideas off each other, Anno's name "just came up". It's no secret that Anno and Miyazaki go way back, so when he was asked to come in for an audition, Anno couldn't refused and he turned out to be perfect.

The youtube interviews were both taken down but there's more info:

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