Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts Voice Actor Keiji Fujiwara Has Died
The gaming and anime communities have suffered a deep loss this week, as Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts voice actor Keiji Fujiwara has passed away. A lifelong standout among his peers, Fujiwara’s acting credits in major roles are too many to count, much like the number of lives his craft has touched.
Born October 5, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, Keiji Fujiwara was raised in Iwate Prefecture in Northern Honshu. In adulthood, he studied and with the Bungakuza theatre company before breaking into voice acting in 1990. Gamers know Fujiwara best as the voice behind Final Fantasy 7 Remake‘s Reno and the Kingdom Hearts series’s Axel, but his influence extends well beyond those roles. In anime, he was in Crayon Shin Chan as Hiroshi Nohara, Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as Maes Hughes, and Death Note as Shuichi Aizawa. Meanwhile, in live-action dubbing, Fujiwara has lent his voice to every single regionally released film starring Robert Downey, Jr., from 2000 all the way through 2020’s Doolittle. It’s no exaggeration to say the man was a star of the highest order, and everything his voice touched seemed to subsequently gain acclaim and longtime cult followings.
On April 16, 2020, hearts the world over broke to learn that Keiji Fujiwara lost his battle with cancer, dying at the tragically young age of 55, as reported by Anime News Network. Fujiwara passed on April 12, and his family has since “held a private wake and funeral.” His cancer treatment had likely been long ongoing, with the actor having “gone on hiatus“ between 2016 and 2017 in order to “undergo treatment for an unspecified illness,” well before his untimely death. Read a snippet of the fan outpour of condolences on Twitter below:
I am saddened to hear about the passing of Keiji Fujiwara, the Japanese voice actor of Axel, Reno and many others.
My condolences go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/OQg4ZCeY5F
— Quinton Flynn (@quintonflynn) April 16, 2020
Like the characters in the media with which he imbued his signature warmth and broad emotional range, Fujiwara was only further improving with time, so it’s painful to acknowledge his passing so soon. His family, fans, and peers will feel his absence equally as much while on-screen as off, in the many moments and experiences that could have been. It is unknown at this time to what type of cancer Fujiwara ultimately succumbed, nor is it clear what will become of his talent firm, Air Agency.
Though cut regrettably short, Keiji Fujiwara led an amazing life worth living. He built a career full of timeless roles that, while surely magical for him to inhabit until the very end, gave multitudes of players and viewers everywhere so much while asking for so little in return. The Japanese entertainment industry now has a Fujiwara-sized hole in its heart, and it will take a very, very long to heal.