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Spreadsheets masterlist

Just gonna make this a sticky post of the spreadsheets that I make. Still working on updating the ones I did previously with season information but the new ones I’ve listed have all that down. Any names down there that don’t have links yet means I’ve not quite made the data presentable yet, but they’re coming…soon-ish.

List after the jump.
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#228 – Oshibudo: Fairouz Ai

A very quick feature on Oshibudo, one of my fave fluffy shows this season. I swear I’m not turning into a Fairouz Ai fanblog…it’s just that there haven’t been any pieces on my other favoured winter anime (Isyuzoku, Kyokō Suiri, ID: INVADED, Darwin’s Game, Somali & Haikyū!!) that I can cover;;;

Obviously, Oshibudo appeals to me in 2 ways – the yuri, and the idoling. I’m more of a (now very much retired) Kpop idol group maniac but there are a lot of similarities from an emotional viewpoint and watching this show does fill me with warm and fuzzy feelings…and the occasional cringey moment of regret. Recommended watch for fans of either yuri/idols just as long as you’re not crazy hardcore ‘cos the show really doesn’t go crazy hardcore on either of those aspects.

PS My oshi is Maki and of course MakiYume is my OTP \[^^]/

Surprising mismatch between pretty visuals and surreal jokes. The study of idol otaku terminology

Q: Tell us your impressions of the series after reading the manga and acting in the anime.

A: When I read the manga, I thought that this would be a beautiful story as the art was so pretty. Like in a shojo manga (laughs). However, the surreal jokes started flying around as I read further and that discrepancy [between the art and the humour] made me laugh. Also, I realised how hard it was to actually say aloud the words that slip out of the characters’ mouths so easily in the manga.

Q: It makes you think that otaku tend to be highly-strung and speak at superhuman speeds (laughs)

A: It was a learning experience for me; there were so many phrases that I didn’t know.

Q: It’s not only the members of ChamJam, the underground idol unit the Eripiyo’s oshi Maina is attached to – all of the girls in the show are cute.

A: I can feel Hirao Auri-sensei’s passion for drawing cute girls.

Q: Your character Eripiyo is an idol otaku who supports Maina, one of the least popular members of the group.

A: She’s a character with a unique and interesting choice of words and is someone whom all otaku can relate to. She gets to the crux of the matter in such a forthright way, which makes her worthy of being a top otaku – an otaku with great presence, in my opinion.

Q: It’s not uncommon for otaku girls to chase female idols nowadays, isn’t it?

A: Around two-thirds of the fan letters I receive are from women. I’m happy to receive support from people of the same gender. I’m only too aware of the feelings involved with being a fan and now that I’m a seiyuu, I’m learning how it feels to be supported by others too. I would be glad if I had a fan like Eripiyo…well maybe Eripiyo is a bit too much (laughs). But yeah, I can definitely relate to Maina’s feelings.

Q: It seems like she’s trying to attract Maina’s attention by always appearing in front of her in that red tracksuit…

A: Well, she can’t afford to buy any other clothes since she’s spent all her money on her oshi (laughs) Eripiyo is pretty and her love for Maina is genuine, and that is what makes her look beautiful.

Fairouz-san’s unique otaku research methods

Q: Was there anything you were particularly careful with when voicing this role?

A: My personal view is that otaku’s speech patterns can be divided into 2 types – the first type consists of those whose voices go higher when they’re excited, while the other type is the opposite: their voices become extremely low in similar situations. Eripiyo is in the latter group, which is why I pitched my voice slightly lower during my performance.

I’m an otaku myself; the excitement and euphoria I feel whenever I see new info regarding my oshi is no joke, so I was able to channel those aspects without hesitation. Recording for this show started right around the time when one of my favourite anime was being broadcast and there was this one episode that focused on my oshi character who I’ve loved for 10 years. I decided to record my own reaction watching the episode on TV for the first time, thinking that it might come in handy for the role of Eripiyo. So I recorded it, watched how I screamed without inhibitions and utilised that experience towards playing Eripiyo.

Q: That’s a unique technique (laughs) Did you receive any instructions in the studio?

A: I can get quite shrieky whenever I’m excited so I was asked to restrain myself a little. This anime is more or less a gag series but I was told that the aim is to show the beauty of the emotional connections between women. Essentially, I was allowed to perform however I wished.

Q: Your oshi Maina is a humble and cute girl.

A: Auri-sensei’s female characters are all cute but Maina is especially so – she’s a girl who comprises the best of everything that Sensei likes. She’s a little reticent and is unable to get out of her shell but that is exactly what makes her so good.

Q: You’d never think that she’s bottom in the popularity stakes.

A: All of the girls are cute though. It’s the management who are fiends for holding a popularity vote (laughs). There’s one part where I fully understood what Maina was going through – when I was to take part in my first ever anime event for my first ever starring role in an anime; I remember feeling nervous and uneasy before going on stage since hardly anyone knew who I was. There’s an episode in the series where Maina feels anxious when appearing on stage at Okayama Girls Festa and we see her gaining courage from Eripiyo who calls out her name – similarly, I had friends who came to my event who helped put me at ease.

ChamJam gives off an exquisitely good underground idol feeling! Who’s Fairouz Ai’s oshimen?

Q: What’s your opinion on ChamJam, the unit Maina is part of?

A: It’s nice that they give off such an exquisite underground idol feeling (laughs) Each member is outstandingly unique and they have a wonderful balance as a group.

Q: Eripiyo’s oshi is Maina – who’s yours?

A: Maple Doll’s Mei-chan*. I like blondes so I was keen on Yumeri at first, but when it comes to personality Yuka’s the best. Take their good points, put them together and you get Mei-chan, someone who really hits the spot for me. She hasn’t appeared in the anime yet so look forward to it.

*an ex-member of Reo’s former idol group

Q: Eripiyo’s otaku friends are a unique bunch too.

A: Kumasa-san is the classic example of the otaku. He has working experience so that’s probably what makes him such a level-headed person. Maeno Tomoaki-san’s ad-libs are amazing and he adds a lot of flavour to the character. Motoi’s a bit more complicated but that’s what makes him interesting. He’s a gachikoi, the type who’ll genuinely fall in love with an idol, but he’s also lonely. He’d love to discuss his oshi with other people but he sees other fans of his favourite girl as his rivals, so it gets a bit thorny. I think gachikoi types will be able to relate to his character.

Q: What is it like in the recording studio?

A: Many of my lines are gags so the humour very much depends on my delivery. I practised very hard at home and I’d be glowing whenever my lines got a laugh out of the other cast members and the sound director during the tests.

Also, it seems that I went a little overboard when we were recording the background sounds of the otaku [audience] scenes, so much so that the sound director had to tell me ‘please stop being so disgusting’ (laughs). We’d record all the calls at the end of sessions and I’d been thinking, ‘Oh I’ll probably mix in with the rest of the guys’ but nope – Eripiyo had to do hers in a separate take while everyone else watched. That meant I was screaming ‘Salmon Pink Maina!’ and ‘Hai! Hai!’ by myself which was a bit embarrassing but still fun. I also waved a King Blade around for scenes where I needed to get a little hyped, so that my voice would match the flow.

The ED song ‘Momoiro Kataomoi’ by Eripiyo – a ballad representing the days when she was pure

Q: The ending theme is a cover of Matsuura Aya-san’s famed Momoiro Kataomoi – what are your thoughts on recording it?

A: It’s a song I listened to when I was in primary school so I was a little over-awed. I wondered if I would be covering the original Eripiyo-style but was surprised to find out that the song had been rearranged as a mellow ballad. I was asked to sing it with ‘the fresh feelings from when Eripiyo first met Maina’. The song was in fact, chosen due to how the lyrics were linked to her emotions at the time. I sang the song with the aim of bringing out that purity & without losing sight of her character.

Q: What are your thoughts on seeing the show’s visuals?

A: I haven’t actually seen the episodes completely animated at the time of writing, but there is this part in the PV where (Eripiyo attempts to) pull off the trick of conveying her feelings within 5 seconds before she’s dragged away. It felt as if even the most articulate person in the world wouldn’t be able to fit all they wanted to say within those 5 seconds. I wanna see ChamJam’s dancing as soon as possible too. Their moves were smooth in the PV so I really want to see and hear the full version.

Q: What are your favourite episodes or scenes?

A: I love the relationship dynamics between Aya and Sorane. The self-assured Aya is aggrieved that Sorane, who isn’t all that attached to the idea of being an idol, is more popular than she is, and add to that the fact that Sorane does want to get along well with Aya. Regardless, there is a mutual respect between the pair that they both acknowledge – I love that scene.

Fairouz-san’s beloved idol is 2D!?

Q: Do tell us about your favourite idols or idol songs.

A: I do have a favourite 2D idol…Takadanobaba Jōji from KING OF PRISM. If we’re talking 3D then there’s this American dining chain called Hooters where the female staff dance at night. There’s a specific girl from a branch whom I love and I often visited the restaurant and cheered her on with Hooters-themed orange colours, giving her high-fives and so on (laughs)

Q: Eripiyo’s must-have items are her red tracksuit and her pink King Blade – what are yours?

A: Headache medication. They’re indispensable for me ‘cos my head hurts when I go to places with loud sounds such as the recording studio, the cinema and concert venues.

Q: Tell us once again what the attraction and highlights of Oshi ga Budōkan ni Ittekuretara Shinu are.

A: It’s a series that everybody – not only idol otaku, but people who have someone they are a big fan of or something that they really love, can identify with. I hope that you will watch this series while thinking about your true love. Also, I’d love for you to pay attention to as well as enjoy the girls’ delicate emotions and actions – not just the relationship between Eripiyo and Maina, but also all of the other couplings and their relationships too.

Q: Please leave a message for everyone.

A: Fans of the manga will finally be able to watch ChamJam in motion so it will be especially emotional for you. Those of you who have been wondering how the calls work will get to see it for yourself in the anime so it’d be pleasing if you could join in the calls with your King Blades as you watch. For those of you who are finding out about the series through this article, I do hope that you can relate to Eripiyo and her group of idol otaku friends; that you will find your oshimen in ChamJam or another unexpectedly weird oshi character like I did – please support the series!

#227 – Fairouz Ai

Another long-form interview with my favourite rookie seiyuu of 2019, Fairouz Ai, this time by Nico Nico Douga.

Who is Fairouz Ai? A long interview with the woman within whom Cujoh Jolyne resides

Interview/text/editing: Kanazawa Shungo
Interview/supervision: Harahachibunme Taro
Photography: Kanazawa Shohei
Hair: Je suis heureuse tokyo


Q: Fairouz-san, today you’re….

A: Ah you pronounced my name wrong, it’s Fai↑rouz – you say it the same way you say Fab-breeze (laughs)

Q: I’m sorry! So I’ll call you Fairouz-san, like Febreze.

A: But you can call me anything you like. ‘Fai-san’ is fine too!

Q: Okay (laughs) So let me start from the top again – let’s talk about all things Fairouz-san. Thanks for your time!

A: No problem!

Q: There have been rumours of Fairouz-san’s art skills making the rounds. You’ve brought some samples of your work today, can I have a look?

A: Sure! This..

Q: …eh, really?

A: …and this…

Q: …you’re too good.

A: Ah it’s embarrassing. I drew these 5 years ago (laughs)

Q: They’re amazing though.

A: I was in the graphic design department in vocational school. I’m not very good at anime-style art; my forte lies in more dramatic pieces.
I’d love to see some of these works featured in an exhibition; or maybe draw a manga and have it made into an anime someday.

Q: You’d never be able to produce such art unless you put in a lot of effort – did you like drawing from a young age?

A: When I was young I could only draw like your average person. Even when I was in junior high the most I could manage was to trace my favourite manga. When I entered high school I had a classmate who was really good at art and that inspired me to want to get better at drawing – that’s when I started drawing for real.

Q: They’re truly amazing. You use numbers as motifs etc – any particular significance behind them?

A: Not really. They’re just random. I wonder if I had anything on my mind when I was drawing these…maybe I did.

Q: It feels like there are various themes weaved into each picture. People might interpret them in their own way (laughs)

A: I’ll leave that up to the research groups then (laughs)

Q: Have you ever thought of becoming a professional artist?

A: Illustration work tends to involve drawing anime-style art or game characters but I was never good at that. My style is more theatrical so I thought it’d be better for me to draw as a hobby.

Q: Rather than drawing whatever’s required of you as part of a job, you’d rather draw the art and motifs that you wish to.

A: Yeah. Obviously, I’d be happy if anyone out there appreciates and likes what I draw.

Q: Have you been drawing anything recently?

A: Umm, not really…not since I started weight training (laughs)

Q: Didn’t expect the talk to suddenly turn to weight training (laughs)

A: I felt like my muscles might waste away if all I did was sit down and draw (laughs) But having my art being praised in this way is giving me the motivation to take up drawing once again.

The influence of ‘How Many Dumbbells Can You Lift?’

Q: You mentioned muscles – the main character of How Many Dumbbells Can You Lift?, Sakura Hibiki, has received a great reception. Your life must have undergone pretty dramatic changes because of this [role] – what are your thoughts on this?

A: How Many Dumbbells Can You Lift? happened to be my first ever TV anime so I didn’t even know what recording in a studio was like. It’s definitely my first big step as a seiyuu.

Plus, I was finally able to relate positive news to my mother and father! A lot of friends have sent me messages about the show as well; I’m really glad.

Q: It’s pleasing to get a good response from people close to you.

A: That’s true not just of people I’m close to, but also of the many people who hear my voice through the role of Hibiki; which has turned her into a much-loved character. It makes me really happy.

Q: Looking through the comments on Nico Nico, we can see many users going ‘an amazing seiyuu has appeared’.

A: I’m glad! Thank you.

But when I watched episode 1, I was thinking ‘How stiff my performance sounds’. I had a negative mindset and was prepared to see ‘So wooden www’ kind of comments.

So it was a great relief to hear a huge round of applause from the viewers at the advance screening event, and to see the anime broadcast and get a good response!!

Still, I do accept the fact that, as many suggest, I am tone-deaf when it comes to singing.

Q: Ehhh really? I thought you were very good though.

A: No way, it only seems so because ‘Onegai Muscle’ is an easy song to sing.

Q: It’s a song that includes quite a fair amount of dialogue-like parts.

A: That’s right. I’m lucky to have been given such a song. I know I’m tone-deaf but I still like to sing karaoke so I hope I get to continue singing forever. I’m glad I’ve kept singing even though I’m not so good at it. I never even imagine a day would come along when I’d be judged in such a way. It makes me happy.

The Fairouz Formula: ‘Stress Relief Method’

Q: You mention that you were ‘worried in advance of (your shows) being seen’ – what exactly does it feel like? Do you lose your appetite etc?

A: I never have problems with appetite! I’ll talk to my white rice and say ‘you’re so tasty!’ (laughs) When I’m feeling down…I start looking up the procedures to obtain permanent residence abroad (laughs)

Q: Does that mean…you want to escape from Japan? (laughs)

A: It’s more on the level of ‘where should I live if I can’t make it as a seiyuu?’ (laughs) I look for people who feel the same way on Yahoo! Answers. For example, I’ll look up phrases like ‘I don’t have confidence’ or ‘I hate myself’ on Yahoo! Answers and I’ll find that there are lots of people like me out there. It gives me courage when I realise that I’m not alone.

Q: So the prospect of obtaining PR overseas and Yahoo! Answers is what gives you courage.

A: Yeah and it made me think, ‘What’s the point in worrying about things that have already happened?’. For example, recording might not have gone well but that’s because of my own lack of skills – there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it after the session is over.

Q: I see. So you have the self-awareness to realise that you’ll need to switch gears.

A: Maybe so. Before I began weight training I’d tend to drag my feet about but now I tell myself ‘Just get to the gym and start moving your body before you have time to grumble!’ When I work out I’ll always go home feeling refreshed, and that stops it from feeling like a drag.

Q: But you must’ve been busy over the last few months. Do you still have time to go to the gym?

A: I have plenty of time to go to the gym! I’m not that busy (laughs) It’s a little painful to say so myself though… (laughs)

Q: I think that pretty soon, you won’t have any time to spare for it!

A: I wanna get busy!

Childhood memories

Q: Now, let’s hear about your younger days. What’s your earliest memory?

A: When I was in kindergarten I went to Disneyland with my family. Maybe it’s because I was overly excited – I ran off the moment I got there and they couldn’t find me until it was time for the night parade (laughs)

Q: Eh, all the way ‘til night? You mean you walked around alone for a half a day?

A: Yeah. My family searched high and low for me and had no time for any of the rides. So day turned into night, and one of the cast members took me to where my family was. And I was like, ‘Hey mom, where did you guys go?’. It seems I had no idea that I’d gone missing.

Q: That’s awesome (laughs)

A: I’ve been crazy since I was a kid (laughs)

Q: You were the kind of kid who’d run around non-stop.

A: There was no stopping me. My report cards would say ‘bright and cheerful child’.

Oh, and this seems a bit of a contradiction to my crazy character but my mother’s a very strict disciplinarian so I was often described as a child with impeccable manners towards her elders.

Q: I have thought that you are a very humble and polite person since we first met during the briefing session.

A: Really? I think that’s down to my mother’s education – I’m very glad.

Q: What are your parents like?

A: Normal parents (laughs). Can’t say that my personality’s similar to either one of their’s. My father’s Egyptian and my mother’s Japanese.

Q: What language do you speak at home?

A: When my father’s around, both my mother and I will speak Arabic.

Q: By the way, do you know how your parents met?

A: I’ve asked them before and the answer I got is ‘it’s a secret’.

Q: Ehhhh (laughs)

A: They even keep it a secret from their daughter! Both of my parents don’t like to talk about themselves. While I on the other hand, can’t stop talking (laughs)

Q: You’d like to find out someday, right?

A: Yeah. I used to be anxious to find out how but now, I’m not too bothered. As long as I know that I’m a child born to a loving couple like my parents, it’s really not a problem.

Q: Oh, what wonderful words!

A: Rather than knowing how they came to love each other, it’s better to know that they still do love each other right now! (laughs)

Egypt: My roots, my pride

Q: Do you remember what kind of child you were in primary school?

A: I was an outdoorsy kid. Going down to the river, building secret bases, playing with frogs.

Q: Er, you played with frogs huh (laughs). I can’t imagine it at all…

A: When I was a schoolkid, I had this toy car made from building blocks. I’d put a large frog on it and take it around for a spin (laughs)

Q: You were quite a rascal of a child (laughs)

A: I also liked Yu-Gi-Oh! It was only when Yu-Gi-Oh was popular among my classmates that I was treated like a cool kid ‘cos I was half-Egyptian. Can’t say I’ve ever been popular otherwise.

Q: That so? You seem like a person whom a group would revolve around.

A: Not at all. Throughout primary school, junior high and high school I was always seen as ‘the lame [wannabe] entertainer’ (laughs)

Q: Oh noes… (laughs)

A: Yeah I was really very lame. Though I did get paid a little more attention when the Pharaoh and Millennium Ring turned up in Yu-Gi-Oh.

Q: Does it bring a sense of familiarity to you when you see Egyptian things appearing in not just Yu-Gi-Oh, but the anime and manga world in general?

A: Yes I was so happy! I’ve always had a bit of a hang-up over being biracial. That’s why I was so happy when more and more people said to me that they liked Egypt because of anime and manga shining the spotlight [on Egypt]. That’s when I realised, ‘This shouldn’t be a complex that I have – it should be a source of pride’.

Which is why I felt so happy when I read Part 3* of JoJo. When I made friends with fellow JoJo lovers they’d go ‘Oh, you’re Avdol!’

*Part 3 of JoJo, Stardust Crusaders, is set in Egypt.

Q: I see (laughs)

A: I’d go ‘Yeah! I’ll bring out Magician’s Red!’ (laughs)

Q: And you actually went to Egypt and started living there, correct?

A: Yes, I was there from the second semester of fifth grade.

Q: It wasn’t because of your parents’ work but rather, you went there of your own free will.

A: That’s correct. My parents remained in Japan, while I went to Egypt alone. I spent one and a half years there ‘til my graduation from primary school.

Q: It wasn’t a short-term overseas study programme?

A: It wasn’t a programme of any kind. Both Japan and Egypt are my countries of origin, right? So I thought, ‘I need to know more about Egypt!’. When I mentioned that to my mother, my paternal grandmother who was living in Cairo said, ‘Why not come and study in a Japanese school in Cairo?’ and off I went.

Q: ‘I want to learn about Egypt because my roots lie there too’ – that’s a very advanced way of thinking for a fifth-grader.

A: Maybe so, but it could have been down to my environment. After all, I’d always had certain preconceived views myself. I wanted to know ‘What would xxx seem like from the eyes of an Egyptian?’!

Even if I wished to refute other people’s biased opinions, there wasn’t much I could say because I knew nothing about Egypt. That’s why I wanted to live in Egypt for real and observe the people living there. So that may have been my motivation, to ‘fight back against prejudices!’

Q: I see. You had a firm purpose, or should I call it a ‘strong will’?

A: Yes, I think so.

Q: How was life in Egypt?

A: I got homesick.

Q: Yeah, that’s to be expected.

A: Nobody in Egypt understood the Japanese aspects of who I was, y’know? Even if there was something I wanted to say, I couldn’t ‘cos the Arabic words just wouldn’t come to me. Plus, I wasn’t able to talk to my mother since there wasn’t LINE or Skype back then and international calls were too expensive.

Q: Do you recall the specific Japanese aspects that seemed incomprehensible [to Egyptians]?

A: For example, let’s talk about food.

The big supermarkets over there do sell Japanese food so I’d buy seaweed to eat and everyone would be making faces that said ‘what are you eating?’

Also, Egyptians value the family unit. But I think it’s important to spend time alone and there were days when I’d rather people not come into my room. I tried to be a little too considerate and it ended up wearing me out.

Q: Did you watch any anime or read manga while you were alone at home in Cairo?

A: Not really. I couldn’t get my hands on them anyway. You didn’t get overseas shipping back then like you do now. I did read some manga brought back by kids who’d gone home to Japan for holidays.

Q: Did you not bring any manga or videos from Japan?

A: Nope. I wasn’t much of an otaku back then. It was only when I was in 6th grade and about to return to Japan that a new student came in and they told me what was popular in Japan at the time. Gintama, D.Gray-man and BLEACH etc.

Q: They’re all Jump series.

A: I’m not sure if I was influenced by that but when I came back to Japan I pounced on shonen manga and got addicted. Since then, I’ve become a [shonen] limited otaku.

Q: A limited otaku (laughs). Was there any kind of such anime or manga culture in Egypt back then? Did they show series on TV every week, for example?

A: They were showing Detective Conan and Captain Tsubasa, things like that. Oh, and Naruto. But due to censorship rules they couldn’t show naked women or swimsuits etc, so the series that they could broadcast was limited. The Sexy Technique in Naruto was censored too.

A cat with bloodshot eyes in Egypt

A: There was one unforgettable event that happened in Egypt. It’s a bit of a horror story, can I talk about it?

Q: Do go ahead.

A: There’re a lot of stray cats in Egypt and they’re filthy (laughs). It’s not like in Japan where you get your cute ‘nyaaa~~’ kitties – instead, you get cats with bloodshot eyes.

Q: And they’re always hunting prey?

A: They’re hungry beasts, these cats (laughs) So I had some parakeets at the time. Two budgies, to be exact.

Q: I have a bad feeling about this…

A: I came back from school one day and 1 of the budgies was gone. So I asked our maid ‘why is one of the budgies missing?’ and she said ‘it was dead when I came in so I dumped it in the rubbish bin’ (laughs)

Q: Nooo! That’s cruel!

A: I was thinking ‘Oh god, it must be a bug!’ (laughs) Bird flu was going around at the time so it was dumped as it was deemed dangerous. So I was going to the rubbish dump with tears in my eyes when I came across a cat with bloodshot eyes that had a budgie in its mouth – it looked right into my eyes and went ‘Miaoww!!’.

It had my beloved budgie in between its teeth! I was so traumatised (laughs)

Q: I’m not sure I should laugh.. you’re laughing, Fairouz-san, that’s why I’m laughing too.

A: Ah I’m sorry I shouldn’t be laughing, right? (laughs) And that, sums up my 1.5 years in Egypt!

A cheerful personality cultivated in Egypt

Q: How was your life in Japan after spending time in Egypt?

A: I found it even harder to get along with other students than before I went to Egypt. As a ‘returnee’, I had no idea what was trendy in Japan at the time so I couldn’t keep up with the conversations.

There’s also one other thing I regret. I took English classes in Egypt but I couldn’t understand them at all and was disappointed. So when I returned to Japan I started attending English tuition when I was in my first year of junior high. One day in class, kids started making fun of me saying ‘this person’s showing off her English just ‘cos she lived overseas’. I was frustrated, thinking to myself ‘That’s not even true! I only started learning after I came back!’

Q: Ah…that’s infuriating to hear.

A: Yeah, that happened. But still, my cheerful personality is probably due to my time spent in Egypt, I think.

Q: So there are many cheerful people in Egypt?

A: Lots of cheerful people there. Everyone was so kind and considerate. People are also very chatty and they’d be keen to strike up a conversation with anyone.

Q: I think that’s contributed a lot to your charming nature now, Fairouz-san.

A: Yeah, I’m thankful!

I want to be strong like Jolyne

Q: When did you start thinking of becoming a seiyuu?

A: When I was in high school, and it was thanks to Nico Nico Douga.

Q: Our company! We’re all pleased to hear that.

A: It’s not lip service either – it’s the truth. I became a top class otaku in my 1st year of junior high and was constantly watching videos on Nico Nico.

Q: Thank you.

A: I should be the one thanking you.

So yeah, you’d see certain comments in videos going ‘Ora ora ora ora’, ‘Muda muda muda muda muda’ or ‘But I refuse’, right? I was just so curious about them so I looked them up and discovered that they were lines from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The art happens to be in my favoured dramatic style too.

So I was in junior high and didn’t have much money, but I went ahead and bought the first 5 volumes of Stone Ocean. I’d mistakenly thought that it was the first arc of JoJo. I read it, but couldn’t understand anything at all. I was like, “Huh? What? Who’s DIO? Who’s Jotaro?” (laughs)

Q: They reset the volume count starting from Stone Ocean*.

A: Regardless, I did think the protagonist Cujoh Jolyne was so cool and I wanted to know more about here. I started collecting JoJo bit by bit and by my 1st year of high school I had the entire set. I still found it tough to adjust when I entered high school but I’d find courage whenever I looked at Jolyne.

Jolyne is a 19-year old girl who was betrayed by her boyfriend and falsely imprisoned despite her innocence, and all the while her dad is in critical condition. She’s in dire straits and completely messed up at first, but her resolve only strengthens.

She’s exactly the kind of woman I want to be. I thought, ‘I want to be as strong as Jolyne!’

My worries over my inability to adjust in school seem trivial when compared to Jolyne. I’d fire myself up with the thought that ‘Jolyne wouldn’t cry over something like this!’ and thanks to that, I’ve overcome many painful situations since. And not just in high school – [she’s helped me] even when I was job hunting or working, and now that I’ve gotten into this industry. I tend to contemplate things a lot, and it is Jolyne whom I’m devoted to. Jolyne, and the JoJo series has been the Bible of my life.

*The original JoJo series consists of 63 volumes across 5 arcs. From the 6th arc Stone Ocean, the volume count was reset to Volume 1.

Q: It’s amazing…just listening to you speak about this makes me feel overwhelmed. Is there anything special that you do so that you can become as strong as Jolyne?

A: The one scene that resonates with me and gives me strength is when Jolyne is sent to the prison quarters and gets faeces thrown in her face. Normal girls would go ‘what century are we living in again?’ or something like that, but she replies with ‘the one thing I can’t do in here is to build up unnecessary stress or allow my mental strength to wilt – I have a mission to fulfil while I’m here so I’m going to grow stronger in these circumstances’.

I just love how inspiring this scene is. I still go back and re-read it whenever I’m low on confidence or feeling a bit down to gain a bit of courage. ‘Jolyne’s doing her best too!’

Q: Jolyne resides in your heart now.

A: That’s right. She’s the key to my optimism!

JoJo also happens to be my first taste of voice acting. A group of JoJo fans gathered and started doing something similar to recitals through Skype group calls. We’d decide on which episode of which part we’d do that day, and rotate the various roles amongst ourselves.

Q: So such meetings do exist. Did you take part as well, Fairouz-san?

A: I took part in the recitals when I was a freshman in high school. I’d never done any acting prior to that – I was just keen to join in with the thought of ‘wanting to be a character in JoJo!’, but I ended up being praised for what I did. I couldn’t wait for each JoJo recital after that and would often do readings on my own. The thought did occur to me that I wanted to act in a JoJo anime adaptation and voice a character who aids Jolyne’ – and that is why I became a seiyuu!

Q: Ohhh!

A: Sorry for being long-winded….

Q: It’s alright. I thought it was wonderful, that you went from putting voices to a manga, to actually becoming a seiyuu.

A: Yeah.

Q: Do you still read JoJo?

A: Of course! And I still do my own recitals. I’ll listen to what I’ve read, and go ‘Nope, that sucked’ (laughs)

Q: If arc 6 of JoJo were to be animated, you’d really want to be in it.

A: I’d probably cry if that were to happen (laughs) But I couldn’t pull off Jolyne. I’d love to play a character that fights alongside Jolyne, someone who’s there to lend her a hand.

Q: You never know, you might get an offer to do Jolyne…

A: Obviously if that was the case then I’d do my best to bring out the ‘Jolyne inside me’ that I’ve carefully nurtured – so watch out! But of course I’d love for Jolyne to be voiced by the worthiest woman in the world and for me to observe from behind.

I’ll believe in the words of the people who support me

Q: Knowing that you wished to become a seiyuu, was there any reason that you chose to enrol in Pro-Fit’s training school amongst the many available schools?

A: The instructor at the training school was Shioya Yoku, the voice of Zepelli in JoJo. I thought that if I joined Pro-Fit, I might have a chance to appear in JoJo (laughs)

Q: So you went to Pro-Fit in a calculated attempt to get into JoJo (laughs)

A: I was in regular employment when I started attending seiyuu training, so I had to pay my own way through school. There were financial and time constraints naturally but yes, I agree with the reason you gave (laughs)

Q: What did you do in training school?

A: Basic vocalisation skills, enunciation, etudes, acting basics.

Q: What were your thoughts on the professional industry, once you dipped your toes in it?

A: I had no idea how far I could go but I decided that my voice would be louder than anyone else’s. During lessons or roll call I’d scream ‘YESSS!!!’.

Q: Sounds good!

A: Even in the recording studio nowadays, people tell me ‘you always greet people so cheerfully’. It’s a habit from my training school days.

Q: You must have gone through a lot during training school, affiliation tests included. Did you feel nervous?

A: The intention was to give up the dream of becoming a seiyuu after a year if things hadn’t gone well in Pro-Fit’s training school. Since I’d already made that decision, I didn’t feel too many nerves – I was determined to push myself as hard as I possibly could without cutting any corners.

Q: You’d strengthened your resolve. Do you remember how you felt when you made your seiyuu debut?

A: My first thought was ‘maybe my type of personality won’t be easily accepted’. But a friend said to me, ‘Don’t listen to anyone who thinks negatively about you; rather, just believe in the words of those who support you’. That’s the way to go!

Q: That really is the way to go!

A: I came to think, ‘Who cares what the masses say!’ (laughs) So yes, it’s helped to strengthen my spirit.

Q: And you’ll get tens or hundreds of thousands of people who watch a series and say or write whatever they want to.

A: When I was in my 1st year as a seiyuu, I was sometimes shocked by what I saw when I googled myself but I’ve stopped doing it lately.

But more importantly, fan letters! I’ve realised that I should prioritise listening to people who’ve taken the time, effort and have the heart; as well as spending on stamps and delivery costs, to get their words to me. In that sense I think I’ve grown up a lot.

Q: I feel like writing a fan letter to you now.

A: Fan letters can be read and re-read endlessly!

I want to be known as ‘the filthy voice’

Q: You mentioned that you like karaoke and singing. What kind of songs do you sing?

A: I’ve always listened to Vocaloids on Nico Nico Douga or anisong on Nico Nico medleys and oh, I love Maximum the Hormone! My friends are super happy when I do my ‘death voice’.

Q: Fairouz-san, you have a beautiful, clear voice by nature that’s suitable for acting. Somehow, a death voice is…

A: Oh it’s fine to describe it as a ‘filthy voice’ (laughs)

Q: No way (laughs)

A: It’s okay, everyone says the same thing (laughs)

Q: I love how your voice has got a slightly gritty edge to it. There aren’t too many people who can do it very well.

A: Ah, I’m not really aiming for that though; it’s just what I normally sound like. In fact, what you hear now is just my voice putting on its ‘Sunday best’ (laughs)

Q: (laughs)

A: When I’m talking to friends I’ll be saying things like ‘Uheheeeee’ and they’ll go ‘that’s a disgusting voice!’. It’s just normal to me so I’m not really conscious about it, but I suppose I like producing all these filthy sounds – it’d be great if they made people happy.

Q: Are you sure you want your fans to say that you’ve got a ‘filthy voice’?

A: I’d be glad. I want to be told, ‘Fairouz-san, your voice is so dirty today!’ (laughs) I’d like to make that a kind of signature chant or cheer!

Q: Okay, I’ll make sure that phrase is set in bold (laughs).


I’ll try to spam it all over Nico Nico.

A: Thank you (lol)!

Always smiling, illuminating others

Q: You’ve discussed how your roots lie in Egypt. Is there anything you can think of doing that involves Egypt?

A: Interest in Japanese anime is growing at a tremendous pace, not only in Egypt but throughout the Arab world. There was even an event called the Dubai Comiket. I have seen both Japanese and Arab culture for myself so I hope that as a Japanese seiyuu, I can be the link between Japan and the Arab world.

Q: It’d be great if Japan and Arab could produce something together.

A: Co-produced anime sounds like a good idea. I’d love to produce something like that. Work on character designs too.

Q: As a seiyuu, you might even voice characters in Arabic.

A: I can only manage conversational Arab. If I had to say things like ‘I’ll X or Y to overcome my destiny!’ I’d be completely lost (laughs). I need to study Arabic more from now on.

Q: The possibilities are endless for you.

A: Thanks. I’d be glad if it was so. Obviously voice acting is my main calling but there are a wide range of activities I could get involved in. Seiyuu don’t only have to voice act. I want to be a multi-talented [actor] and try out a bunch of different things!

Q: Lastly. You’re so versatile and have many gifts – what do you think is your greatest strength; your greatest asset?

A: My positive attitude! Thanks to Jolyne I have unwavering, sturdy feelings, so I want to be a cheerful person who’s always smiling and illuminating others, so that everyone can say ‘Looking at Fai-chan brings me joy’.

Q: You’ve already brightened up many people’s days, and you’ll continue to shine your light on many others in future.

A: Thank you. Someone wrote ‘Fai-chan, you are someone I admire’ and ‘Fai-chan, I want to be like you’ in a fan letter…I used to be a person who thought that about others. I’ve always been an admirer so I never thought that I could be a person that someone else admires. To have that said unto me; to think that I could be a shining light for someone else makes me extremely happy. From now on, I want to become a person who can make other people cheerful and bright.

Q: I look forward to your future success! Thank you so much for giving up your time today.

A: Thank you! I really enjoyed talking to you freely today!

#226 – Somakimi: Saito Soma & Uchida Yuma

Quick 30-min translation of a short piece with Saito Soma & Uchida Yuma regarding Saito’s variety show ‘Saito Soma no Wagokoro o Kimi ni’ (Saito Soma brings the Heart of Japan to You) aka Somakimi. The series, a spin-off from Eguchi Takuya’s Ore-Iya show, features Soma exploring the ‘Heart of Japan’ through various Japanese cultural experiences such as shrine visits, bonsai, sake brewing and so on.

Q: First of all, please tell us how you became friends.

Uchida: What…was it? Seems like we were always together by the time I’d noticed it (laughs)

Saito: Weren’t we introduced by Ishikawa (Kaito)-kun?

Uchida: Oh yeah, we were introduced by a mutual friend!

Saito: Before we met, I’d heard from Kaito-kun that ‘he’s fun and a really nice guy’ (laughs) And true to his word, he turned out to be a really interesting guy when I met him. Yuma-kun has always been very frank when speaking to me, which means I don’t have to put my guard up around him too much.

Uchida: After getting acquainted we started working together quite frequently and would often go for meals together…and that brings us to where we are today. We once spent around 5 hours at a restaurant, just the 2 of us (laughs)

Saito: Oh yeah, we did (laughs)

Uchida: I was just thinking that I’d like to talk to Soma-kun more – our schedules matched up, and we spent all that time talking. I admire Soma-kun as he possesses a lot of traits that I lack, and it’s really fun to be with him.

Q: Uchida-san, what do you like about Saito-san?

Uchida: He’s very logical, thinks about a lot of things deeply and is very passionate! He may look cool but he’s a guy who’s full of fire! When we stay together past midnight you can start to feel that passion flowing from him. He’s also a very genuine person and I feel at ease when I’m with him.

Q: Saito-san – what do you like about Uchida-san?

Saito: I think his smile is wonderful.

Uchida: Yes! (smiles dazzlingly)

Saito: (laughs) Yes, that smile encapsulates everything that is good about Yuma-kun; his pleasant personality, friendliness etc. Also, I love to see Yuma-kun eating! I discussed this with (Okamoto) Nobuhiko-san before as well – that it’s wonderful to see someone eating so much food so deliciously. When I’m dining with Yuma-kun, all I need to do is look at him eating and I am filled with bliss. He’s also a very considerate, good listener no matter what you have to say, which makes me think ‘What an incredibly kind person he is’.

Uchida: Woah, heeheehee, I’m glad.

Q: Let’s talk about the filming. For volume 3, the 2 of you took part in a wagashi (Japanese confectionery) course – what did you think of it?

Uchida: I had fun, but it was really tough…! This time, we tried to make nerikiri – I learned for the first time, just how intricate the process is. It takes a lot of time as you have to use your hands to make them one by one, and not by using a [pastry] mold. When I consider how much thought goes into each individual piece of wagashi, the importance of the history of our culture really hits home. I saw how big and broad the fingers of the (store owner) father who taught us how to make the confectionery were. From his fingers alone, you could understand that they were the fingers of one who had been making these sweets by hand for many, many years.

Saito: Through this programme we were able to observe various methods of creating [confectionery], and what I learned from it was that ‘no matter what you do, “100% fearlessness” is unnecessary, neither is “100% gracefulness”. In the making of wagashi, there are sections where you have to use a bit of strength. However, if you overdo it, the shape [of the wagashi] might crumble so you have to apply a gentle touch – both elements of power and subtlety are needed. Some of the techniques used are relevant in acting as well; in terms of how a performance changes depending on whether you apply too much or too little. My experiences here have taught me about flexibility in calibrating between 2 different types of approaches and I hope it will aid me in expressing myself in a way that suits a character or a story.

Q: In volume 4 we see you tackling ramen making at the request of Uchida-san. It’s surprising to see a link between the Heart of Japan and ramen. Why choose ramen?

Uchida: Why ramen, indeed (laughs). I think Soma-kun’s tried out a lot of Japanese ‘experiences’ so far so I wanted to pick something that hasn’t been done yet. I was looking up a couple of things when the thought ‘Ramen is a food culture that Japan should be proud of’ suddenly occurred to me. Ramen originates from Chinese cuisine but has evolved in a way that’s unique to Japan and should be considered Japanese now, in my opnion. I personally love ramen and was greatly interested in it so I was really happy when my request was granted!

Q: What are your thoughts now that you’ve tried your hand at it?

Uchida: It was tough… but, it was tasty too!

Saito: That’s a very Yuma-like summary.

Uchida: (laughs)

Saito: Ramen-making is so hot, in many ways. You need to boil the noodles and grill and sauté the ingredients in the kitchen at the same time so I was expecting it to be hot, but not quite that hot – the heat was from another dimension (laughs) But we saw how our mentor’s eyes sparkled as he remarked ‘it’s so fun to make (ramen) this way’ and I could see how ‘fiery’ he was. It was incredible watching how he multi-tasked efficiently and enjoyed himself so much.

Q: How did you like eating the ramen that you made yourselves?

Uchida: It was quite emotional… you do think, ‘I boiled this ramen with my own hands!’ or ‘I prepared this soup myself!’. You don’t only think that it tastes good – you start feeling a strange sense of attachment to your creation. We also got to learn about the toil that go into a (ramen) master’s work as well as seeing the overall process so while I was eating the ramen, I definitely understood how ‘it tastes so gentle as we know how tenderly the noodles were handled as they were drained’.

Q: What about your tsukemen, Saito-san?

Saito: I grew up in Yamanashi, and I never ate tsukemen there. It was only after I moved to Tokyo that I tried it for the first time. You know how there are foods that you’ll fall in love with the moment you taste them, while there are others that you’ll have to keep trying before you start to understand their appeal – tsukemen fell into the former group right from the start: It’s totally delicious!. And today, I was able to recall the impact I felt upon my first taste of tsukemen…that’s how delicious it was. Oh, and the kakuni (stewed pork cubes) was superb!

Uchida: That’s right! This shop’s kakuni is amazingly delicious.

Saito: It’s gotten me in the mood to go drinking sake with kakuni as a snack (laughs)

Uchida: That would be awesome!

Saito: I know right!?

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for people who are looking forward to the DVD.

Uchida: I had the chance to take part in various activities with Soma-kun. It was fun, wasn’t it?! It’s great to get to try out experiences that I’d never thought of doing before and I enjoyed being with Soma-kun. I wasn’t nervous and didn’t have to feel like I needed to try too hard – in fact, I was a little worried whether it was alright for me to behave the way I normally do (laughs) Please watch this DVD and I’d be glad if you could feel ‘the heart of Japan’ in your daily life!

Saito: Thank you for your continued support. Yuma-kun is the featured guest in volumes 3 and 4 of this DVD series. Both volumes feature experiences of making and eating food – I have always loved cooking and also enjoy eating with Yuma-kun so the proposal this time definitely allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. Plus, it was interesting that Yuma-kun and I were very much in sync today reaction-wise, which doesn’t normally happen.

Uchida: You’re right, our synchronisation rate was high! So in sync that it made me think ‘are we really that perfect of a fit with each other!?’

Saito: (laughs) I had a very comfy and fun time thanks to Yuma-kun being there, and it felt like we worked up a good sweat. This was the final session of filming for Season 2 of Somakimi as well…. We tried a lot of different things this time around when compared to the first season. The best thing about trying out these experiences with guests is that they can come up with ideas and thoughts that I never would be able to. I was able to experience a new ‘Heart of Japan’ thanks to everyone who took part in my show. If there are future opportunities to continue this series, I would be grateful if I could search for the ‘Heart of Japan’ with both my guests and the viewers. Thank you so much for supporting Somakimi!

#225 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.4: Kobayashi Yusuke & Amasaki Kohei

It’s hard to use up all the vegetables on your own! Popular seiyuu Kobayashi Yusuke & Amasaki Kohei discuss ‘Daily Meals’

Vol.4 of Cookpad’s Hoshiai no Sora features, this time with Kobayashi Yusuke (Tsukinose Nao) & Amasaki Kohei (Ishigami Taiyo)

The bento of my memories: “Miso soup!?”

Q: This series focuses on the story of a soft tennis club so this is a question related to that – what ‘memories of club activity meals’ do the 2 of you have?

Kobayashi: I have memories of the bento boxes served during tournaments as being insanely delicious. It was just the normal nori karaage (fried chicken with seaweed) bento box but somehow, it tasted really good.

Amasaki: Noriben is tasty, isn’t it? The balance between seaweed and okaka (bonito flakes) is great. I was in the swimming club and I’d always get super nervous so I could barely eat during competitions. My mother would make me bento boxes but I just couldn’t eat anything…

Kobayashi: What would she make for you?

Amasaki: Things like miso soup.

Kobayashi: Eh! Miso soup?

Amasaki: She was thinking of foods that I could eat even if I was feeling jittery, so she’d put rice and miso soup in vertical thermal lunch boxes that had heat-retention functions.

Kobayashi: Thermal lunch boxes had gone mainstream already!? They didn’t exist during my school days…ah, how times have changed (laughs)

Q: Hoshiai no Sora features scenes of Maki cooking – do either of you cook regularly?

Kobayashi: I haven’t made anything too fancy lately but when I first started living alone I’d cook dishes like beef stew and nikujaga (meat & potatoes). I liked to invite guests over so I’d ask them what they liked to eat in advance and then attempt to make the dish.

Amasaki: Amazing! You’re at an advanced level. Since I started living alone in Tokyo I’ve been cooking diligently, in order to keep my food costs down. Unfortunately, it’s tough to use up all the vegetables when you’re living alone…

Kobayashi: That’s true, I know what you mean.

Amasaki: That’s why I’ll chop up vegetables into ready-to-cook portions and put them into storage bags to freeze. But I wasn’t so good at it in the beginning.. Ingredients that have been frozen will never taste as good as when they were fresh. It was disappointing, so I’d look up books to find out which ‘vegetables are suitable for freezing’ and packed those away. I’d heard that electricity bills can be reduced if you pack your freezer to the max, so I just shoved as much food into it as I could (laughs)

My mapo tofu failed because…?

Q: In the anime, Maki whips up some Chinese dishes. Do either of you cook Chinese food?

Kobayashi: I often cook mapo tofu. I recently tried making it from scratch without using ready-made ingredients but for some reason it didn’t taste so good. I wonder what went wrong…

Amasaki: Was it too spicy?

Kobayashi: Nope, I didn’t want it to be spicy so I didn’t add any spicy seasonings. Maybe that was the problem?

Amasaki: That must be it. I like dishes that are so spicy they make my tongue tingle & recently, I’ve been looking to eat dishes that contain Sichuan peppers. But of course I can’t make it at home myself – fried rice is the extent of my Chinese cooking skills.

Kobayashi: Fried rice is easy and good.

Amasaki: I’m quite picky about my fried rice and have been researching for a while on how to make fried rice that’s not clumpy. To drain the moisture from the rice I use frozen rice that’s been shaken loose, and I also adjust the time and amount of heat used.

Kobayashi: That’s amazing (laughs)

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for Cookpad News readers.

Kobayashi: Hoshiai no Sora is an anime about soft tennis but it is not just about that – it’s a series that focuses on home environments. When I first read the scripts my honest thoughts were ‘I wonder if there truly are people from such family backgrounds..?’ but when I spoke with people in their early 20s, I realised that there were actually many such families and it surprised me. This show gives us an opportunity to think deeply about the root cause of these issues and what we can do about it. I wish for all age groups; be it the generation that will become parents in the near future or the generation that already has children, to watch this series.

Amasaki: We’ve been discussing food in this interview and it’s allowed to me realise once again how important ‘meals’ are. Recalling food I used to eat brings back memories and feelings from days gone by, filling me with nostalgia and reminding me how nervous I used to be. Scenes depicting mealtimes occur quite frequently in Hoshiai no Sora so I’d be grateful if you could watch the series while reminiscing about your school days and the food you used to eat when you were a child.

(Text: Kawano Yumiko)

#224 – Okamoto Nobuhiko

Livedoor feature with Okamoto Nobuhiko from earlier this year about all things yakiniku.

Why Okamoto Nobuhiko loves meat so much: ‘Yakiniku’ makes life worth living

Today is the 9th of February aka ‘Meat Day’ (2-9/Niku no Hi). The enticing smell of sizzling meat, the feeling of juices overflowing in your mouth, the taste of umami that spreads across your tongue as you chew….The mere thought of ‘meat’ alone is enough to make one drool and there is without doubt, an army of ‘meat’ lovers out there.

Popular seiyuu Okamoto Nobuhiko voices many characters including Boku no Hero Academia’s Bakugō Katsuki, is one of those who’s fascinated by ‘meat’. In fact, he loves a certain meat so much that his ‘dream is to run a restaurant’ serving ‘yakiniku’. Whenever he gets wind of any trendy new eatery, he’ll be there in a flash.

I wish to listen to Okamoto-san discuss his beloved ‘yakiniku’ while actually eating it! So we decided to meet at a restaurant that Okamoto-san frequently patronises.

Photography: Niizuma Kazuhisa, Interview & Text: Omagari Tomoko
Styling: Asai Naoki (Vigroo), Hair: Takahashi Ayumi

Featured Restaurant
Namaiki (生粋)
Address: 2F, 6-13-7 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Phone no: 03-5817-8929
Business Hours: 17:00-24:00 (last order 23:00). Reservations can be made for 15:00 onwards

It’s common sense to not drink alcohol when consuming delicious food

Our meeting place is ‘Namaiki’, which is within walking distance of Suehirocho Station in Tokyo. Okamoto-san often comes here in a private capacity, and it’s famous among foodies as a place where you can barely get a reservation.

According to Okamoto-san, ‘Eating delicious foods always has me feeling exhilarated’ and he’s in great spirits today too. With greetings out of the way, we make our way into the restaurant.

Q: Do you often visit this restaurant?

A: The first time I came here was for a meat party with Sugita Tomokazu-san. Sugita-san’s a massive meat lover and he thought it’d be a good chance to take us to a good place that was hard to get hold of reservations for, and it turned out to be ‘Namaiki’.

I have come here many time myself since, with my parents and also for a friend’s birthday party.

Q: What kind of place is this?

A: Namaiki is a yakiniku restaurant that follows in the footsteps of the famed Yoroniku in Omotesando, Tokyo, and everything on the menu of this particular sister store is delicious.

The restaurant also has an elegant ambiance and would greatly please any guests you bring. Apart from ‘Namaiki’, I often patronise ‘Misuji’ in Akasaka as well. I’ll always order a course menu.

Menu – 6300yen Course

  • Kimchi 3 types, Namul 3 types
  • Lean sashimi
  • Salad
  • Yukhoe bruschetta
  • Heart, lean meat, tongue, konbu
  • Lean meat
  • Soup
  • Torched wagyu nigiri
  • Fillet silk-loin
  • Dashi misuji (shoulder blade cut)
  • Zabuton (chuck) sukiyaki
  • Sōmen
  • Shaved ice

Q: The ambiance of this restaurant is also its selling point.

A: They use a very different type of roaster. The ones you usually see in casual-style eateries have a duct attached to the table that sucks up the smoke. There’s another type of roaster that pulls down the smoke beneath the table and that’s what is used in high-end restaurants like Namaiki, to reduce the amount of smoke emitted.

I do like the bustling shops that use the exhaust duct up top but let’s be honest: that type of roaster will always result in smoke and oil clinging to your clothes and bags, while the noise of smoke being sucked out is so loud that it blocks out conversations. Now that I’ve learned of the appeal of smokeless roasters, I definitely favour going to places that use them.

Q: Is beer the perfect companion to yakiniku?

A: I can’t hold my drink very well so once I’m drunk I won’t have a clue what anything tastes like (laughs). It’d be a waste for me to go to a high-end restaurant and not remember what I’d eaten. Which is why I tend not to drink, though I’ll have a glass if everyone’s having one when we’re out celebrating somebody’s birthday.

In terms of specific drinks, I usually go for makgeolli or a strongly-diluted rum & coke (laughs). I’ll stick to the Perrier for today!

Yakiniku: A childhood ‘reward’ for a job well done

Q: Have you always loved meat since you were young?

A: I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember! For example, my parents would ask what I wanted to eat as a reward when I’d won a badminton tournament in junior high or when I got into my desired high school – the answer would always be ‘Yakiniku’!

My father is somewhat of a food connoisseur as well so he’d sometimes take us to a hotel buffet or a Michelin guide-featured restaurant when I was young. Of course, I was just a kid so I couldn’t tell whether something was delicious or not (laughs)

Q: And yet, you already had an interest in consuming delicious food when you were a child.

A: It’s true that I’ve always loved yakiniku, but it wasn’t until I became a seiyuu that I started eating for pleasure. A producer working on my travel programme ‘Okamoto Travel’ is a foodie and one day, he brought me to a yakiniku restaurant: the experience was so amazing that it inspired me [to pursue food].

He brought me to a certain famous yakiniku restaurant in Asagaya and I was stunned to discover that such an incredible restaurant existed in this world – that served to ignite my ‘gourmet fever’. I then looked up various popular yakiniku places online with the intention of paying them a visit and that’s how it all started.

Q: How often do you eat yakiniku?

A: I think I eat meat on average about 3-4 times a week. Mostly yakiniku, but I’ll switch it up and go for steak or other meat dishes sometimes.

Q: What’s your mindset like on the days when you know that you’ll be going to eat at your favourite places?

A: Work definitely seems to go smoothly from the morning (laughs). No matter how tired I am, I feel like I can give my best with the knowledge that ‘meat awaits me at night!’

I’ll consume jelly drinks and fish sausages during recordings to stave off just enough of my hunger to prevent my stomach from making any sounds (laughs). When it’s time to head to the restaurant my stomach will already be growling – I’m starving!

Genres, areas, specialities. The seiyuu world’s ‘Meat’ Club

Q: The lean sashimi is here. Let’s eat!

A: Wow, the colour of the meat is so beautiful, so inviting. When you see meat like this, it’s important that they’re served on appropriate dishes. No matter how good a food is, having it served on a paper dish would be doing a disservice to its quality.

Oh and by the way, Kimura Ryohei-san is someone who’s interested in tableware. When we’re eating together he’ll often remark on how ‘that plate is cute!’ – I’ll imitate what he says too but it’s only recently I’ve come to understand the importance of tableware.

Q: You mention Kimura-san – is he someone you often eat yakiniku with?

A: We have a ‘Meat Club’ community where the meat lovers gather. We all have our own specialist fields – for example, Ryohei-san is an all-rounder whose knowledge stretches beyond yakiniku and covers a lot of other ground. He knows a lot of French and Italian places that I’m not familiar with.

We also have Yasumoto Hiroki-san who loves yakiniku but his forte lies in knowing places where alcohol lovers meet to eat yakiniku, like a certain stand-up eatery under the train tracks in Kanda, and so on. I’m more familiar with the Asagaya area so we’ll mostly take turns making reservations.

Q: I’m surprised that there’s such a thing as being a specialist by area (laughs)

A: There are places where it’s tough to make reservations as they tend to decline first-timers. Speaking from personal experience – there was this restaurant I really wanted to go to but I was turned down all 3 times I went to negotiate with them directly (laughs). The yakiniku restaurant that I currently patronise most often too, required frequent visits to build up a relationship.

So you can pretty much see how we’ve all developed our own little niches and we’ll invite others and receive invitations too, saying ‘shall we go to so-and-so if I can get a reservation?’.

Seiyuu love meat because it’s ‘good for the throat’?

Q: Simple question here – why do seiyuu love meat so much?

A: I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s said that meat is good for the throat. Lean meat in particular. They say that if you eat a lot of meat when your voice is in bad shape, the protein will help to repair your throat.

Thus, when you’re feeling unwell or screamed too much you should eat meat. All the youngsters in training school who are hoping to become seiyuu – when you’re feeling ill or find yourself being unable to shout properly: please eat meat. I’m glad I love meat too!

Q: Do you do most of your research online?

A: It’s mostly through word-of-mouth nowadays. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve acquired knowledge from a producer foodie, my seiyuu colleagues and manga authors as well.

There are restaurants that have low ratings on gourmet information websites but are actually very good, so I don’t trust the internet that much. Plus, I have fairly child-like tastes so even if I went to check out certain places, I sometimes end up thinking ‘I’m not old enough to understand this kind of taste’ (laughs wryly).

Q: What do you mean by ‘child-like tastes’?

A: I suppose you could say that my preferences are fairly immature – I don’t like tough meat, for example (laughs). Just recently, we did a segment on the Meiji Tokyo Renka radio show that involved comparing 100g of 400yen roast beef with a 100g portion of 1000yen meat and I favoured the cheaper meat.

The  expensive meat was thicker and tougher while the cheaper one was tender and easy to chew…. I love meat that’s melt-in-the-mouth!

5: heart, lean meat (tsuchinoko), tongue. 6: lean meat (shinshin/cut from thigh). 7: torched wagyu nigiri. 8: fillet silk-loin

Arguing over how to grill meat? Seiyuu’s personal yakiniku rules

We finally enter the yakiniku portion of the course menu. The Namaiki staff grill the meat to perfection, with Okamoto-san watching intently. There is much that he is curious about due to his keen love for meat. Does having so much love for meat lead to specific preferences about grilling and eating methods? Let’s find out his Rules Of Yakiniku.

Q: Do you have any rules when it comes to eating yakiniku?

A: I must always eat white rice! I like to order rice from the beginning of the meal to go with the meat.

A course often starts off with tongue but when rice doesn’t come with the tongue, I’ll have a word with the staff and ask them to bring the rice (laughs) I’m the type who likes to eat beef tongue with rice.

However, when I’m eating a course meal in a place like Namaiki, rice-based dishes will emerge at a timing that the chef deems suitable so I’ll just go with the flow.

Q: What about any rules when it comes to grilling meat?

A: I’d like to eat the rice before it cools down so I’ll often order a ton of meat and grill it all at once but…this method makes Ryohei-san mad (laughs) He’ll say ‘Eat it slowly and savour the taste!’. I’ll say “Sorry~~”, but continue to grill the meat anyways (laughs)

Q: Everyone has their own specific preferences.

A: That’s right. Ryohei-san is a lot more nitpicky. Even when it comes to yakiniku, he’ll be going ‘the grilling net should be half-salt and half-sauce’. So that the flavours won’t mix – grill on the salt half if you want salt flavour and on the sauce half otherwise.

Q: Do you go for yakiniku alone?

A: I do that quite often! I’ll go to chain restaurants or solo yakiniku restaurants quite regularly. I’ll eat silently and quickly slip away when I’m done.

Q: I see. So what do you order when you go for yakiniku?

A: First up, tongue. If they have yukhoe then I’ll have that for starters as well. After that comes the loin, skirt and ribs. I’ll request for fillet at the end. Loin and ribs are the most popular items that customers order so you can easily tell the quality of a restaurant from those two cuts. ‘What kind of meat will they serve?’ is the thought that’s in my mind when I make my order.

‘Eating is Life’. Opening a yakiniku restaurant is my dream

Q: Did you take down any notes for all the restaurants you’ve eaten at so far?

A: I’ll definitely take notes on my mobile phone not only about the restaurant, but about the origin or the specific cut of meat whenever I eat something that makes me think ‘this was amazing!’. If I can’t recall the details then I’ll take photos. Ryohei-san uses an app to record video specifically, but I prefer to leave with photos.

Q: Because you wish to record the delicious memories?

A: Maybe because it’s a pleasure to eat. It makes life worth living (laughs) I place a lot of importance on eating so I want to maintain some kind of record.

Q: That kind of curious mind is great.

A: When I was in school I worked part-time at a fast-food restaurant and I’m thinking how great it would be if I worked in a yakiniku restaurant now. Wouldn’t the staff meals be superb? And you’d get paid for working there….it’d be bliss.

Q: If you love it so much, why not run your own yakiniku restaurant?

A: I have actually thought about it for a bit. It’d be great to create a yakiniku restaurant to suit your ideals. In fact, I do still think that ‘It’s okay to make mistakes, let’s give it 5 years with the aim of not going under’. There are celebrities who run yakiniku restaurants but no seiyuu have done it yet, so I do want to give it a shot.

Still, looking into aspects such as the meat procurement process makes me realise how difficult it would be… and allows me to appreciate just how amazing yakiniku restaurants are.

Q: It appears that loving meat can open up other job opportunities too.

A: Yakiniku knowledge can prove to be a very useful communication tool with older people as well.

Some of the senior seiyuu veterans have shared information about good restaurants. Sometimes I’ll even ask if they can take me with them! (laughs)

Sugita Tomokazu and Uchida Yuma too – the seiyuu yakiniku circle

Q: When you’re at yakiniku restaurants with other seiyuu, does the conversation revolve around work?

A: Actually, no. We’ll mostly be exchanging food tips, talking about how ‘that place is really good’ etc. We also discuss real-life issues like ‘how are you managing your money?’ or ‘what are you thinking of pursuing in the future?’ (laughs)

If we wanted to discuss acting we’d be more likely to do it in a casual izakaya. We’d get all heated and debate about how ‘your acting is so on and so on~’ – if we were to come to a place like this we’d probably want to concentrate on eating the delicious food (laughs)

Q: How is the bill handled on such occasions?

A: I’m a little bit older so I’ve not only been splitting the bill 50-50; I tend to pay for my juniors more nowadays too.

Oh, but when I came to Namaiki with Sugita-san, he picked up the tab by himself. Sugita-san will always foot the bill whenever we go for a meal together. He’s like an older brother who’s always looking out for me.

Q: Who amongst your seiyuu juniors then, are promising yakiniku enthusiasts?

A: I often invite Uchida Yuma to come along. He loves meat and whenever we go for a meal together, he eats so much that it makes me happy just watching him.

Once, around 6 of us went to a shabu-shabu place in Yoyogi and we ended up eating 10kg of meat, with most of that being consumed by Yuma-kun (laughs). When we were doing Starmyu together we’d go for yakiniku at lunchtime if recording had finished early and then we’d head straight to our next recording session from there.

If you were to eat with me, I’d like someone who eats lots

We’ve arrived at the main dish on the course and the yakiniku portion is about to come to an end. Thanks to Okamoto-san’s ability to naturally answer any question thrown at him, the interview has proceeded smoothly. Fun times are sure to be had whenever Okamoto-san eats yakiniku with his friends. With that in mind, we move on to the next topic. If you were to eat yakiniku with someone, what kind of person would you prefer? Would you go for yakiniku on a first date? We research Okamoto-san’s views on dating through the lens of ‘yakiniku’.

Q: What’s your opinion on going for yakiniku on a date?

A: It’s an option, isn’t it? I’ve got this image of girls actually being the ones who prefer yakiniku these days.

Q: What about yakiniku on a first date – is it a possibility?

A: Eh, would you consider it impossible? They might dislike the fact that the smell of smoke clings on to their clothes but if you were to pick a smokeless roaster place like Namaiki then I think that it’s definitely an option.

Also, it’s better for the guy to grill the meat on a yakiniku date. If a girl handles the grilling, there’s always a chance that the sauce might get onto their long hair and clothes.

Q: That’s kind of you. Would you get disillusioned though, if your partner on a yakiniku date ended up eating most of the meat?

A: Not at all. That would be awesome. In fact, I’d welcome it! On the other hand I might get a little sad if they said ‘I’m full now, that’s me done for the night’; I’d be thinking ‘but it’s so tasty….’. Especially since the main dish comes out towards the end of a course meal. So I’d definitely be happy with someone who eats loads when we’re out for a meal together.

Q: What gestures would you look out for from your partner when you’re on a date?

A: I think it’s wonderful when you see someone showing consideration for the staff members in a restaurant. I have much respect for restaurant workers so I definitely wouldn’t want them to be disregarded. This applies to both women and men.

Eating makes life worth living. The reason why Okamoto Nobuhiko is particular about food

Q: We’ve discussed various topics so far but let me ask this: if you eat such delicious food regularly, won’t you run up fairly substantial food costs?

A: You’re right (laughs). However, everyone has differing views on how one should choose to spend their money, be it on clothes or living somewhere nice – for me, it goes on ‘food’ and ‘travel’. If I had to pick between clothing, food and shelter I would always choose food! (serious face)

Q: You have no preferences when it comes to fashion?

A: Amongst my generation of seiyuu, I’m the one who rarely ever buys clothes. Maybe only 20% of what everyone else purchases. I have little interest in fashion itself, and I’d be fine with wearing anything, to be honest.

However, fans would notice it if I always wore the same shirt so I try to buy 2 new ones every season. If it were up to me I’d wear a uniform every day (laughs)

Q: You mention that you eat yakiniku 4 times a week – what do you eat on the other 3 days?

A: I’m completely useless at cooking so I’m often cutting corners when it comes to food. Sometimes I’ll be like ‘I’m eating good food tomorrow so I’ll just make do with vegetables and gummy sweets today!’ (laughs) I usually end up at convenience stores during lunchtime or go to soba chain restaurants near the train station.

Q: What are your thoughts now that we’ve come to the end of the meal?

A: I’ve had a very wonderful time! Ah, Namaiki’s silk-loin is definitely my favourite dish – but the tsuchinoko (tender cut from the short rib) was really tasty too.

I love the ‘melt-in-the-mouth lean cut’ but when you think about it, ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ and ‘lean cuts’ are contradictory aspects. Yet, it’s a reality here! I was surprised to find that there are cuts of meat other than the fillet, that melt in the mouth

Q: Okamoto-san’s respect towards yakiniku is clear to see.

A: I’m truly thankful. I’ll be heading to the studio for recording afterwards so this meal has given me plenty of energy!

I’m glad to be able to visit a yakiniku restaurant for work and for it to take place at an esteemed establishment such as Namaiki has proved to be a valuable experience. I would like to relay my gratitude to the staff of the restaurant. I’ll be visiting you again in a private capacity soon!

#223 – Uchitama: Shirai Yusuke x Umehara Yuichiro

Livedoor interview with Shirai Yusuke and Umehara Yuichiro, two of the cast members from the upcoming winter 2020 anime Uchitama!? by MAPPA & Lapin Track, which is based upon Tama & Friends, a series of mascot toys from the 80s. The first part of the Uchitama interview series was with Saito Soma which I might (or might not) do….

The popular ‘80s character ‘Tama & Friends~ Do You Know Our Tama?~’ is getting an anthropomorphic anime that will be broadcast on TV from January 2020. Livedoor News previously interviewed Saito Soma, who voices the main character Okamoto Tama and this time, we speak to Shirai Yusuke, who voices the playful Kiso Tora and Umehara Yuichiro, who voices the hot-blooded Mikawa Kuro.

A few years separate their respective seiyuu in terms of debut years but these two made their breakthrough at the same time and have frequently co-starred; their relationship is fairly open and both speak of a ‘trust between them’. Known as cat lovers, the two of them discuss everything from cats to recording sessions to their first impressions of each other.

Photography: Kawano Yukika, Interview & Text: Sakuma Yūko, Production: Anfan
Hair: Sugimoto Yōko (Shirai), Yazaki Mai (Umehara)

They both kept goldfish caught from goldfish scooping games as pets

Q: The two of you co-star in the TV anime Uchitama?! which has a cat as its main character, and this photoshoot features Momiji-chan the cat. Let’s hear your thoughts on the cat.

Umehara: Calico cats are cute, aren’t they? It has good style.

Shirai: Just what you’d expect from a cat model.

Q: It posed perfectly for the camera.

Umehara: I’ve had a couple of photoshoots with cats but this has been most obedient, easiest cat to work with.

Shirai: I’ve got a monthly cat café show called Nekorobi Danshi and Momiji is one of the friendliest cats I’ve seen.

Q: Uchitama!? features dogs as well. Have either of you had pet cats or dogs?

Umehara: I personally haven’t.

Shirai: Me neither. I was one of 3 siblings so our household was pretty lively and we never thought about getting a pet dog or cat.

Q: Have you experience of keeping any other pets apart from dogs and cats?

Shirai: I’ve never kept any pets since I lived with my parents. When I was a kid I did go insect collecting and kept beetle larvae, that was the extent of it.

Oh, and goldfish. My brother came home from the festival stalls with a goldfish that he’d gotten from goldfish scooping and we named it Mint. It didn’t live very long but I was just a kid and it made me sad. I remember that we all helped to make a grave and buried it there. I still recall the shape of its fishbowl clearly.

Umehara: I did keep goldfish a few years ago too. I brought them home from a goldfish scooping game and they died the next day. I was so sad that I bought 2 more and tried to raise them properly. I got an aquarium and a starter kit but they both died within about 6 months… Yeah, I did get sad about it after all.

Q: So which do you prefer, dogs or cats?

Umehara: Cats by far.

Shirai: Have is always been that way?

Umehara: Yeah I’ve always preferred them from the start.

Q: Any reasons for your strong stance there?

Umehara: There was a cat in my grandmother’s house a long time ago and that’s shaped my views. I haven’t had many opportunities to get close to dogs so I guess it’s a natural decision.

Q: What do you like about cats?

Umehara: I like how they’re independent; you don’t have to take them for walks and you can just leave them alone. It’s cute that they’re so feisty. I actually like how humans are the ones who have to approach cats and get their attention.

Q: How about you, Shirai-san?

Shirai: I think I originally preferred dogs. But after I started working on the cat café show, I’ve switched to being a cat lover.

Dogs are more, ‘Look at me! Take me for a walk!’ – thought that’s quite cute too. You’ll never see that coming from a cat though. You can leave them to their own devices. That kind of distance makes them easy to deal with.

‘Cat boys’ dislike being controlled. Their fickle nature is a trait they share in common

Q: The main character in Uchitama!? is a boy named Tama; do you see any of those characteristics applying to you two ‘cat boys’? For example, cat boys are known to have traits such as ‘disliking being controlled’, ‘tsundere’, ‘fickle’ and ‘shy’.

Shirai: That describes me to a tee. Except for tsundere.

Umehara: Aren’t you tsundere?

Shirai: Deredere…that’d be weird too (laughs) I’m neither tsun nor dere. Just normal!

But I wouldn’t like being restricted. I wouldn’t like to be controlled or having to put up with what other people say. I’m shy as well, though I’m more moody than fickle, I’d say. I suppose I resemble a cat in that sense?

Umehara: I don’t like being controlled either. As for whether I’m a tsundere, I’m not sure…

Shirai: Oh yes you are. A tsundere.

Umehara: Am I a tsundere? (laughs)

Shirai: You are a tsundere.

Umehara: I see. Okay, I’m a tsundere (laughs) And yeah I’m shy and fickle too. I suppose I’m a ‘cat boy’ if we look at those criteria. On the other hand, what’s a dog boy?

Shirai: Someone friendly? Who’ll wag their tail at anyone?

Umehara: Ah, I see. Then that’s definitely not me. I’m a cat.

Q: The two of you share unexpectedly similar personalities.

Umehara: That’s right. We never chat idly when we’re together. Both of us are basically quiet types.

Shirai: It’s the same when we’re in the dressing room. But then Ume-chan will start deliberately shooting rubber bands across the room (laughs)

Umehara: Yes, I shoot rubber bands (laughs)

Shirai: And he puts rubbish into other people’s bags (laughs)

Umehara: Oh that happened too (laughs)

Q: Does that desire to pull pranks come impulsively?

Umehara: I do actually have my own reasons, Shirai-san’s dressing room…

Shirai: Er, my dressing room?

Umehara: His stuff was strewn all over his dressing room table. That’s why I ended up doing that.

Shirai: You tidied it up!? I see. So you did have your reasons (laughs)

Umehara: Yes. I was tidying things up.

Shirai: But you put some rubbish in there too? (laughs)

Umehara: Yes I’d mix the rubbish in (laughs)

Q: Do you see any ‘dog boys’ among the Uchitama!? cast?

Umehara: That describes Uchida Yuma-kun (voice of Kawara Beh) perfectly, doesn’t it?

Shirai: That’s true, despite him voicing a cat.

Umehara: (Ono) Kensho-san (voice of Yamada Pochi) is similar too. He’s friendly…or sociable, rather.

Shirai: Maeno (Tomoaki)-san (Kuramochi Bull) doesn’t really resemble a dog.

Umehara: Yeah he’s not much of a dog. But he doesn’t feel like a cat either.

Shirai: Hatano-san (Wataru, voice of Noda Gon) is more like a dog, if I had to pick.

Umehara: True, he’s more dog-like.

Shirai: He’s always cheerful no matter who he’s dealing with. How about Kaji-san (Yuki, voice of Nora)?

Umehara: Kaji-san’s probably not a cat.

Shirai: But he’s not a dog either. (Saito) Soma-kun is kinda like a cat pretending to be a dog? He’s definitely friendly, but he does have cat-like sides to him. A dog-like cat!

Umehara: What the heck is that (laughs)

Shirai: I have no idea (laughs)

Battles in the recording studio: ‘Being cute!’ and ‘Trying to be cute!’

Q: What were your thoughts when you found out about your casting in Uchitama!?

Shirai: It’s a series that I’ve been familiar with since I was a kid so it felt strange at first. There was a sense of joy in knowing that ‘I’ll be appearing in a show that I watched when I was young’. I knew most of the cast members as well, so I was sure that it would be a fun show to work on.

Umehara: Initially, I was curious about what kind of story it would be and how the anthropomorphised animal characters would speak. Would it have a different flavour from the original series or would it follow in its footsteps and have a light-hearted, retro style?

Q: Recording has already started – how has it been?

Umehara: The animation switches between ‘anthropomorphic figures’ and actual models of ‘cats and dogs’. That was what surprised me the most when I first watched the rehearsal video. You’d jump into scenes with cats and the next cut would have humans instead. I’m curious to see how this will transmit to viewers when they watch it on TV for the first time – I personally found it interesting.

Q: Do your performances have to change alongside the switch between anthropomorphised characters and animals?

Shirai: When in animal form, we don’t speak the human language.

Umehara: We express ourselves using animal sounds.

Q: Are there any differences compared to voicing normal humans?

Shirai: They may resemble humans but they’re originally animals so I voice the character as I would a cat.

Umehara: Yeah. They’re conversations between dogs and cats so there’s no sneakiness and words exchanged are straight to the point. So I hope that viewers will accept what they see as it is. It’s only Kaji-san’s character Nora that has a different fur colour too (laughs)

Shirai: You’re right (laughs)

Q: He seems to have quite the history.

Umehara: I’m definitely curious about that part. The other characters’ conversations are straightforward. This is the kind of series that you can sit back and enjoy even when you’re tired.

Shirai: That’s right. There are many scenes with a comedic touch and you can relax and enjoy the story of their daily lives. The staff members mentioned that they wanted to make a series that would provide relief to those who come home tired from work.

Q: It hasn’t been long since recording began – how’s the mood in the studio so far?

Shirai: It’s really fun.

Umehara: Many of us have worked together before.

Shirai: Yeah. Our seniors are all kind and fun people so we’re able to relax. Everybody’s already laughing by the time we’re doing tests.

Q: Is that because of the performances?

Shirai: Yeah. The bull character voiced by Maeno-san is amusing, right? (laughs)

Umehara: He’s the gag character after all (laughs)

Shirai: Bulldogs are really active, aren’t they? Maeno-san’s having the time of his life playing this role and it shows.

Umehara: It’s almost like…a character who suffers from chunibyo disease.

Shirai: Yeah, he seems a little drunk.

Umehara: He looks scary so he tends to be shunned by others, but he’s actually cute on the inside. But hmm…maybe cute isn’t the right word… (laughs)

Shirai: A bit of a show-off but really, he just wants to get along with everyone else.

Umehara: Yeah, yeah. But he doesn’t want to be treated like a fool so he puts on arrogant airs. He’s a character with a cute contrast between his two sides.

Shirai: When he first laid eyes upon the cat (Hanasaki) Momo-chan (CV: Hanazawa Kana), that one-liner from Maeno-san was… (laughs). What a ‘cute’ line from Maeno-san, or rather, from Bull.

Umehara: That one line was pretty much Maeno-san personified anyway (laughs)

Q: What about Saito Soma’s Tama or Ono Kensho’s Pochi?

Umehara: Both Soma-kun and Kensho-san are using their higher registers in their performances. It’s quite tough for adult men to produce high voices but Soma-kun did comment ‘my throat is in really great condition today’ at the end of episode 1’s recording.

Shirai: Oh!? I didn’t know that.

Umehara: We were chatting about how it might get a lot tougher in future if we were going to use episode 1 as a barometer.

Shirai: Yeah I remember that he was being effortlessly cute. Kensho-san though, was repeating ‘like this!’ to himself…

Umehara: He was going, ‘I’m cute!!’, trying to fire himself up (laughs)

Shirai: ‘I’m gonna make him cute!’ as well.

Umehara: Ah yes, he did say ‘I’m gonna make him cute!’ (laughs)

Shirai: And the results were really cute, I think!

Shirai-san, who never forgets the heart of a child & Umehara-san, who’s clumsy at times

Q: We hear that you bring cola and beef jerky to the recording studio, Shirai-san. Do you still maintain that habit?

Shirai: Yes I do. I drank cola during recordings for episode 1 too. Whenever I’m feeling that ‘I need to be on my game today’, I’ll always drink cola.

Umehara: …how ‘bout today?

Shirai: Hmm? Today’s not about being ‘fired up’; I’m here to have a soothing photoshoot with a cat (laughs)

Umehara: Ah, I see (laughs)

Q: So cola fires you up?

Shirai: Somehow…it’s like a switch for me? And I’ll always have beef jerky in my bag.

Q: All the time!?

Shirai: All the time. But recently, I’ve stopped myself from eating it every day for the sake of my health. The salt content is pretty high after all. But I still drink cola every single day. Though I’m thinking of limiting myself to 1 per day.

Q: What’s your record…?

Shirai: When I’ve got events going on all-day long, I can go up to about 3 x 500ml bottles. It does help fire me up.

Q: Umehara-san, is there any food etc that you always bring to recordings?

Umehara: Something that I always have….probably lozenges?

Shirai: Wow, how responsible!

Umehara: Well, it’s only cos I tend to get a lot of phlegm… but I’ve got nothing like cola, nothing that’s a must-eat

Shirai: Maybe you have to work out before going out?

Umehara: Whether I work out or not depends on the type of character I’m voicing the following day (laughs)

Shirai: Eh, really!?

Umehara: ‘cos my voice will change.

Shirai: Are you for real!?

Umehera: Yeah, though it’s just my own perception. I feel like my voice gets deeper the day after I work out so I think I’ll skip the gym on days before Uchitama!? recording sessions.

Q: Because it’s important to be ‘cute’.

Umehara: Yeah. I do have to think about that; the fact that I would sound out of character if my voice gets too deep.

Q: Do either of you see yourself resembling your characters Tora and Kuro?

Shirai: Tora is an innocent, playful boy and I was probably similar to that when I was a kid. I do like fooling around now, but I think Tora is a character whose young image is a good fit for me.

Tora tries to play it cool sometimes and usually ends up running around in circles. I’m voicing the part thinking of how cute he is there. He’s a character who does whatever he thinks is fun without thinking too far ahead.

Q: Umehara-san – do you think Shirai-san and Tora are similar in any way?

Umehara: Hmmm…I wouldn’t say he’s mischievous, but Shirai-san’s quite the entertainer and understands the heart of a child – they’re similar in those ways.

Q: What about Kuro and yourself?

Umehara: I don’t think Kuro’s personality and ideals are at all similar to mine. I’m not the type whose emotions are written all over my face and I’m not like an older sibling who’s good at taking care of others… Ah, though we might share that trait of running around in circles when we’re trying to do something.

Q: Do you often find yourself running around in circles?

Umehara: How should I put it…I find that if I tell myself ‘I’m gonna do this’, I end up not being able to do it. Most of the time, I function better if I don’t put too much thought into things. Whether I’m just chasing rainbows or overthinking, I realise that everything seems to go wrong when I try too hard (laughs)

Q: Shirai-san, do you think Umehara-san is similar to Kuro in any way?

Shirai: Well it seems like Kuro’s a very hot-blooded character, isn’t he? And [Umehara] is the exact opposite (laughs). When you look at Ume-chan’s credits list, you don’t see too many of these hot-blooded types. It does feel fresh.

However, Kuro is also rather clumsy. Ume-chan’s a bit clumsy at times too.

Q: When?

Shirai: There was one time where we were trying to ascend an elevator and we found out that only Ume-chan had gotten on the one going down. Very occasionally, he slips up and does something like that. It made me feel like I’d stumbled upon something really rare (laughs)

The gap between us was bridged after a location shoot

Q: What were your impressions of each other when you first met?

Umehara: My first impression of Shirai-san was ‘I don’t get this guy’ (laughs) Both of us are men of few words.

Shirai: Hahaha (laughs). Hmm, what about Ume-chan…. Maybe ‘This guy doesn’t seem interested in other human beings?’

Umehara: (laughs)

Shirai: He’s very quiet so I started to wonder if he could even talk. Or if we would actually get along.

Q: What brought you closer?

Shirai: We spent a lot of time together during events and livestreams for Boeibu LOVE!, the first series in which we co-starred, so it kinda happened somewhere along the line…there wasn’t any specific factor; we’d already become friends by the time we’d realised it.

Umehara: What I recall is that when we went for a location shoot, it occured to me that ‘Shirai-san’s a lot more interesting when you push his buttons’.

Shirai: Oh? (laughs)

Umehara: I think we started getting a lot closer from that point. Up ‘til then I’d been thinking that he’s my senior and older than me so it’s not a very good idea to tease him too much…

Shirai: Really!? You don’t think that at all right now, do you?

Umehara: Nope, I don’t (laughs)

Q: So you had your reservations at first, but they flew away over the course of filming.

Umehara: That’s right. I came to think that he shines more when he’s provoked so I started teasing him (laughs) Shirai-san has a big heart and is forgiving; for that I am grateful.

Shirai: That’s totally true. I love being teased.

Umehara: Is that so?

Shirai: Yeah, that’s why I was happy (laughs) I think I’m a pretty forgiving guy which is probably why it’s fine to play the fool with me. Feel free to tease me more and more.

Q: Have your impressions of each other changed?

Umehara: Nah, I still don’t really get him (laughs)

Shirai: What, really!? (laughs)

Umehara: He’s basically kinda weird so I still haven’t quite gotten てぇ measure of him but at least, that initial feeling of stepping into the unknown has gone. I think Shirai-san is a mature, kind person.

Shirai: Ume-chan’s someone who likes to fool around. It took me by surprise when I first noticed that side of him. And as you can see, he plays tricks on me. I hadn’t pictured him to be that kind of guy so it did make me realise that he does indeed possess human characteristics.

Umehara: Just what did you think I was? (laughs)

Q: Is there any aspect of each other that you think, ‘I wish he’d fix this’?

Shirai: I run into Ume-chan sometimes near studios or out on the streets, but he deliberately pretends not to see me (laughs)

Umehara: (laughs)

Shirai: Even if I’ve spotted Ume-chan and try to wave at him he’ll take one glance and just disappear. I feel like I should just ram into his shoulder and run away (laughs) Please stop that.

Q: Did he begin doing that after you’d gotten closer?

Shirai: It’s because we get along well that he thinks such pranks will be forgiven. Nowadays I’ve switched to staring at him silently before walking off. But well, it’s fine now…but it did actually make me feel a bit sad at one point (laughs)

I suppose that equates to teasing on Ume-chan’s part. He looks cool, and he seems to enjoy it. And of course he’ll start horsing around backstage and put stuff into my bag.

Q: Did you only notice it when you got home?

Shirai: Nope, I found out before I got home (laughs) His pranks are easy to figure out. Shooting the rubber bands he gets from bento boxes after he’s finished eating; childish tricks like that…

Q: Sounds like a primary school boy (laughs)

Shirai: Yeah he does resemble a primary school boy sometimes (laughs) That’s why I’m never bored when I’m with Ume-chan.

But of course he’s an upstanding member of society! Ume-chan may look like this but he’s aware of his surroundings. Ah don’t misinterpret the ‘he looks like this’ part! (laughs)

Umehara: So true! (laughs)

Shirai: Ume-chan has a very objective view of things and often, remarks he makes offhand end up being helpful and help to liven things up. He’s also good at backing others up and that makes him a reliable work colleague.

Umehara: Obviously I would say the same of Shirai-san; he’s the type who gets things going during events and keeps the discussions flowing – definitely a guy who’s always hitting it out of the ballpark. I’m not good at being aggressive with jokes but Shirai-san is someone who can do that. He’s someone who’s always good at lightening the mood.

Q: On the other hand, is there anything you’d like to ‘fix’ about Shirai-san?

Umehara: Hmm…I wouldn’t say I want him to ‘fix’ it, but I tend to see him as someone who’s always playing mobile games. He seems to spend endless hours looking at his phone. Maybe he should cut it down a bit? He’s always in his own world even when we’re backstage so perhaps…moderate it a little… (laughs)

Q: In what way do you think you’ve both grown compared to when you first met?

Umehara: He hasn’t changed at all and I mean it in a positive way: Shirai-san is a person who really gives his all at everything without a single word of complaint.

When the mood in the studio is a little low, he has the capacity to reproach someone in a mature way but will also be positive and says ‘let’s do our best’. He doesn’t simply say ‘let’s do our best’; he finds the right words to say at the right time that gives you reassurance and makes you feel respect for him. He’s the kind of person who can gauge other people’s emotional states and knows when and how to act.

Shirai: Ume-chan’s a man who sticks to his own principles. He equips himself well or rather; he never allows himself to be shaken by trivial matters. He’s self-assured and isn’t affected no matter what people say to him. I’ve been working with Ume-chan since his debut and his trustworthiness is something that has not changed.

Answer at the same time! Shirai x Umehara’s In-sync Quiz

Q1: If Shirai-san was an animal what would he be?

A: Shirai – mouse, Umehara – mosquito

Shirai: OII! (laughs) A mosquito’s a bug!

Umehara: I’m writing this ‘cos you imitated a mosquito before.

Shirai: I did~ I thought I’d be some small animal. My face is kinda like a mouse’s.

Umehara: Rodent-like?

Shirai: Yeah yeah.

Q2: If Umehara-san was an animal what would he be?

A: Shirai – shoebill, Umehara – sloth

Umehara: Shoebill…

Shirai: Maybe it’s your eyes?

Umehara: Ahh~

Shirai: Also, shoebills are known for staying stationary. It feels like they’re always poising themselves for something.

Umehara: Sloths are pretty much the same. They don’t want to move.

Q3: What’s Shirai-san’s favourite phrase?

A: Shirai – ‘nah, no way’, Umehara – Oi! (or something)

Shirai: Eh, do I seem like a tsukkomi character?

Umehara: …it was when I was shooting rubber bands.

Shirai: …well, anyone would go into tsukkomi mode if they had rubber bands flying at them! (laughs) Maybe I only do that to Ume-chan since he’s always playing tricks. My ‘no, no way’ is the humble type. In a shy way.

Umehara: I’ve never heard you say that though? (laughs)

Q4: What’s Umehara-san’s favourite phrase?

A: Shirai – ‘Huh? (or something), Umehara – ‘Huh?’ (to Shirai-san)

Shirai: A match at last!

Umehara: I didn’t expect it to happen here.

Shirai: But you say that to everyone, not just me.

Umehara: Yeah. To Eguchi (Takuya)-san and so on (laughs)

Shirai: It’s definitely a habit he has.

Q5: How many times have we argued?

A: Shirai: 0, Umehara: 0

Umehara: Well, yeah.

Shirai: Yeap. We don’t.

Umehara: We’re not the type.

Shirai: We don’t get close enough to other people to want to fight with them.

Umehara: We don’t get along well with anyone else to even have people to fight with.

Q6: A place of memories for us is…?

A: Shirai – Toilet, Umehara – Yomiuri Land

Umehara: Eh, why the toilet?

Shirai: Uh…I wonder why? (thinks hard) Ah~! Yomiuri Land~!

Umehara: Yeah. I went there with Shirai-san recently for an event.

Shirai: So that’s why the answer came to you so easily~.

#222 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.3: Toyonaga Toshiyuki & Sato Keisuke

Milk battles in class! Popular seiyuu Toyonaga Toshiyuki and Sato Keisuke discuss their ‘memories of delicious school lunch’

Vol.3 in the Cookpad Hoshiai no Sora series continues with Toyonaga Toshiyuki (Soga Tsubasa) & Sato Keisuke (Takenouchi Shingo). This is Sato’s debut anime appearance – he’s a junior actor attached to Toyonaga’s Super Eccentric Theater group.

Q: This series focuses on the story of a soft tennis club – do the 2 of you have any memories of club activities?

Toyonaga: I was in the basketball club in junior high and in the school band in high school. The latter wasn’t a club officially, but we’d gotten permission to use a music room for practice and members would gather there during lunch breaks to talk about music games we were playing at the time. Ah, that’s youth~ (laughs). What club did you join, Keisuke?

Sato: I was in the basketball club during junior high too. For high school I was in the Going Home club but for the sake of entering a Mamachari bike race I would join in the bicycle club activities once a week.

Toyonaga: A Mamachari race? Even though you’re not a mama??

Sato: Well, it’s not a ‘Mama’s bike’ race, it’s a ‘Mamachari bike’ race (laughs). There was a tourney that rented a proper circuit for it. I only went to practice once a week but I soon got bored of talking about bicycles the whole time during club activities. For some reason, our gathering place was in an art room.

Toyonaga: How many club members were there?

Sato: 3.

Toyonaga: So 3 members plus an advisor? That’s pretty sad (laughs)

Q: In Hoshiai no Sora, cooking scenes play a key role in the story – do either of you have any fond memories of food you ate during club activities or in school?

Toyonaga: I loved the ‘kinako fried bread’ that was served in my primary school lunches and back then, I’d try to make it to school no matter what. I also loved ‘meat sauce’. The balance between the meat sauce that accompanied each portion of pasta would have to be perfect or else they’d run out of pasta when it came time for seconds. Talking of seconds, ‘milk’ was really popular in my class and it was always a battlefield. We used to play a game that resembled Menko with the milk bottle caps and us kids ended up drinking lots of milk as we attempted to hoard as many bottle caps as possible for our collection.

Sato: Milk was popular in my class as well. We were given milk in paper cartons that came with straws, and there were different flavours like strawberry and coffee.

Toyonaga: Eh! You didn’t get them in bottles? And you mean there were different flavours too? There was no such thing during my time. Ah, I can feel the generation gap now~ (laughs)

Sato: It was revolutionary when they introduced different milk flavours, and that led to fights as well.

Toyonaga: Seems fun. You were born at a good time.

Sato: When I was in junior high I had a lot of second helpings of the ‘school lunch curry’. It was first come first serve and I’d always win. That’s why other kids would start to chant ‘Ike Ike Keisuke~!’ (Go go Keisuke) and I became the ‘Hero of the School Lunch Hour’ (laughs). Those were really fun times.

Q: Hoshiai no Sora features scenes of Maki cooking – do either of you cook regularly?

Toyonaga: Only to the extent where I make something simple like vegetable stir-fries. My favourite food is ‘soy sauce’ so I often look up soy sauce-based dishes on Cookpad.

Sato: You favourite food is ‘soy sauce’?

Toyonaga: Yeah (laughs) No matter whether it’s a sweet and spicy dish or Japanese food, I love anything that’s soy-sauced based! What do you usually cook, Keisuke?

Sato: I cook once every 2 days or so and most of my dishes are miso-based.

Toyonaga: Soy sauce vs miso!

Sato: Miso is versatile so if you look up recipes you’ll find all sorts of things. I recently made miso-glazed imomochi (potato mochi) but with pumpkin.

Toyonaga: What? Isn’t imomochi made from potatoes? You should just call that ‘pumpkin mochi’!

Sato: Oh! You’re right (laughs)

Q: Lastly, please tell Cookpad News readers what the highlights of Hoshiai no Sora are!

Toyonaga: On the surface, this appears to be what people typically describe as a youth-oriented, school-based anime but the stories featured within are quite heavy and the individual characters’ family situations and mental conditions play a significant role. Look forward to seeing how the story develops in relation to soft tennis! And of course, there will be fun cooking scenes in addition to the serious parts. All the dishes look delicious and gorgeous, so do please pay attention to that too.

Sato: I think we’ll have gotten through some fairly heavy content by this point but do be soothed by the cooking scenes. The parts featuring Maki-kun’s cooking are depicted beautifully and with ever-loving care so please pay attention to them. I hope many people will see this show. Thank you!