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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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#212: Fairy Gone: Maeno Tomoaki x Hosoya Yoshimasa

I’m trying to cover a few of Livedoor’s articles on the spring anime (at least the ones I’m watching anyway); next up is the Fairy Gone interview with two of my favourite guys – Maeno (Free Underbar) & Hosoya (Wolfran Row). The anime’s very watchable if not quite spectacular, but it’s a 2-cour P.A. Works show…which hasn’t worked well for me in the past [think Sakura Quest, NagiAsu or Kuromukuro]. We shall see….

Dub buddies from their rookie days. The Seiyuu Road for Maeno Tomoaki x Hosoya Yoshimasa

The gentle duo. You feel no ‘pressure’ coming from these two.

Watching the way they respond in their interviews, it is clear to see that they are exceptionally well-balanced actors who have a sense of ‘who they are’. Their broad-mindedness is something they have acquired after over 15 years in the business, though it might be seen as a potential weakness, it is also naturally linked to the wide-ranging qualities of their acting.

‘Maeno-san has a very direct approach toward his acting’. Hosoya reveals his impression of Maeno, but I feel that the line also applies to Hosoya himself.

How do these actors from the same generation who are also ‘comrades in arms’, view each other?

[Photography: Suda Takuma, Interview & Text: Hara Tsuneki, Production: AnFan, Hairstyling: Yokote Juri (Maeno), Kawaguchi Nao (Hosoya)]
How worthwhile it is to be entrusted to play both human and fairy

Q: The two of you play former comrades in the TV anime Fairy Gone, which starts airing on April 7. What were your initial impressions of the series’ setting?

Maeno: It’s a show that makes you think deeply about what ‘justice’ means. The story is set in the aftermath of the ‘Unification War’, and at the start we see the paths that the individual characters have chosen to take.

Some, like my character Free Underbar, choose to join the Dorothea organization that operates like the police, cracking down on illegal Fairies. There are others, like Hosoya-kun’s Wolfran Row who have become terrorists.

Hosoya: Wolfran’s life fell apart after he lost his family members in the Unification War and he ended up becoming a terrorist – I like that kind of backstory and was I’ve been making up all sorts of stories for him in my mind as I read the scenarios. “Was the ‘Unification War’ similar to the World Wars we’ve seen in the past, with dozens of countries caught in the crossfire?” Stuff like that.

It’s odd for me to be saying this about a terrorist, but I’ve got a good feeling about him. I’m sure Wolfran’s story will gradually reveal itself in the future but as this is an original series, only the scriptwriter and the director know what will happen.

Q: Have you not been informed of future developments?

Hosoya: It’s an original series so we have no source material to rely on. I’m thinking that they might pick up on the viewers’ response when it goes on air and reflect parts of that in the show.

Maeno: There’s a general outline for sure, but it seems that they’re still trying to figure out the best way to get to that point.

My overwhelming impression of this series is that it’s a ‘Western-style drama incorporating fantasy elements’. At the core of those fantasy elements is the premise that the characters ‘use Fairies as weapons to do battle’. That’s something new for me.

By surgically removing the organs of an animal possessed by a Fairy and transplanting them to humans, you can use the Fairies as weapons. The lead character Marlya (CV. Ichinose Kana) is however, able to summon the power of a Fairy even though she hasn’t undergone organ transplantation. While we’re on the subject of fairies, I suppose most people imagine them to be these cute creatures with wings, but most of the Fairies in this series are vicious (laughs)

Hosoya: It seems that they’re written to be weapons and arms of war.

Maeno: There are some that specialize in short-range attacks, others in long-range, and yet others that are good for recon.

Q: There are variations in the type of battle as well.

Maeno: We mostly see Fairy vs Fairy, Human vs Human types of 2:2 battles, which do have quite the depth to them.

Plus, we voice our Fairies ourselves. I feel that it’s particularly rewarding having the chance to do that. Each Fairy has its own motif, which is quite interesting to explore. Wolfran’s Fitcher is some eerie bird, isn’t it?

Hosoya: Yeah it’s a bird of some kind. I do the screeching (?) for that Fairy and Maeno-san does his wolf-like Fairy’s voice too.

When you listen to Maeno-san in the studio you can tell that it’s him to a certain extent, but when I do my ‘weird bird sounds’ for that bird thing, nobody recognizes that it’s me. They’ll probably do a bit of post-processing for the broadcast to take the ‘human voice’ out of it.

A human drama rooted in reality, like dubbing our voices to a western drama

Q: Maeno-san, your character Free is a dual-sword wielder who played a big part in the war.

Maeno: He and Wolfram used to be comrades who fought on the same battlefield but a lot of things happened and he’s now a member of Dorothea. He’s always calm and composed and has a penchant for risqué jokes; he’s similar to a certain famous Master Thief* and it’s quite a challenge to play the character.

*this would be referring to Arsene Lupin III

Q: There certainly are parts of the character that seem quite hard to grasp at the beginning.

Maeno: During tests for episode 1 recordings, I was drawn in by the serious lines which gave a dark touch to the overall story. I’d adopt a frank, ‘nice older brother’ aura during the lighter scenes but gets rough for the battles. I was instructed to make him someone who’s able to turn the screw when he needs to. It certainly got a lot easier to play the role from that point onward.

There are so many facets to the character that even I can’t begin to quantify them; certainly, he has a number possibilities ahead of him. The image I have in my mind is that ‘I’m dubbing the voice for a foreign actor named Free Underbar’.

Hosoya: This was mentioned at the start, but Wolfran lost his beloved wife and daughter in the war and the story begins after he’s become a terrorist. He doesn’t really appear much in the opening episodes and even when he does, the scenes don’t appear to be incredibly meaningful.

The director is the type of person who ‘doesn’t want the viewers to be able to gauge what kind of person he is’ from early on. It’s a directing choice. I don’t think it’d be interesting if I were to spoil it now.

Maeno: Guess we can’t say anything about it in this interview either (laughs)

Hosoya: That’s right. So I’m sorry, but there’re very few things I can give you an answer for (laughs). If I were to discuss ‘this is what I feel’ about a certain point, people would think ‘I’ll keep that in mind as I watch’, wouldn’t they? There wouldn’t be any meaning to this being an ‘original’ series any more (laughs)

There’s no source material so I think it’s best if you watch the show every week wondering ‘what’s gonna happen?’

Maeno: The series is structured in a way that makes it tough for us to get a firm grasp of the characters, and that applies to both Free and Wolfran. Before recording, Director Suzuki [Keinichi] will talk us through [the episode], saying ‘this character’s role within the series is such, and their actions are based upon certain strategies’ – that proves to be of great help to us.

He asked us ‘would it be useful if I drew up a map showing the ‘spheres of influence’ that represent the character relationships?’, and when I answered ‘that would be a great help’, we got a diagram the following week.

While this may be an original series where it’s hard to read ahead, the methods the creators utilize make it extremely easy for us.

Hosoya: In most cases, anime scripts have ‘…’ written in them to signify parts where sound is added in for the purpose of linking scenes together but Fairy Gone doesn’t have too many of them. These sequences are commonly seen in live-action films featuring actors, but the use of visuals and intervals [in Fairy Gone] is an interesting way of doing things.

Maeno is frank and witty; Hosoya’s the life of the party?

Q: Now, the two of you have worked together on a number of shows apart from this. How do you view each other as actors?

Hosoya: Maeno-san has a very direct approach towards his acting. I think he’s a very diligent person.

If you take one look at him you’ll know that he’s not a man of many words and gives off a cool impression; once you talk to him, you’ll find out he’s very frank yet kind. I talk to him normally; even when I’m thinking ‘If I say this now he’ll probably think I’m a weirdo’, he’ll just listen to me as usual (laughs)

Maeno: I appreciate hearing you say that (laughs). On the other hand, when I look at Hosoya-kun – in baseball jargon, he’s like a pitcher who can throw a variety of pitches into different zones. He’s an actor who has the power to throw a strike down the middle, yet also capable of throwing a nasty pitch to take the strike.

Hosoya: I think I like doing stuff like that. To me it seems normal but other people don’t get it most of the time? I’m not saying ‘I want to be a weirdo’ though.

Maeno: Nah, I meant that you’re an interesting actor! (laughs) It’s not easy to throw a pitch that flies into the strike-zone at the very last moment.

Hosoya: Thank you. I’m glad.

Maeno: Hosoya-kun’s acting may seem rather rough to some, but Wolfran himself is calm, in a good way. You could actually say that about Fairy Gone as a whole – that the acting closely resembles what you hear in foreign films.

Hosoya: Yeah, it does feel that way.

Maeno: The two of us have been working together on dubs for foreign shows since our rookie days, and the Hosoya-kun you hear now is close to the image he had back then.

Hosoya: Maeno-san has the voice of a leading man. I feel he has the type of sound that is essential for a protagonist. There is lightness and brightness in his voice, and he possesses the ability to soothe people listening to him.

If the dialogue’s heavily oriented toward the style utilized for foreign productions, some people might think that there’s a little ‘something’ missing from [the acting]. Like, ‘it’s not flashy enough’. Maeno-san’s a person who responds to such needs by adding a unique edge to his words. It’s not something I’m capable of, so when I look at Maeno-san I’ll think, ‘this is the voice of a man who’ll always stand in the middle’.

Maeno: I don’t really get what that entails but I’m grateful for what you said. Also, Hosoya-kun’s more or less the life of the party in the studio and it helps that he’s quite talkative. I’m not the that type so it’s great that he’s always on hand to rescue me.

Hosoya: I’ve discovered the trend these days of ‘Engaging in People Talk in the Lobby’ (laughs). We don’t have much spare time so you can’t have the sort of deep conversations that you’d have at an afterparty; instead it’s often things like ‘a senior veteran seiyuu talks about his younger days’ or Maeno-san and I talking about ‘What people who are born in 1982 think about’ – I really like such ‘people talk’ (laughs)

Maeno: You’re always chatting away animatedly, aren’t you? (laughs). You’re knowledgeable so you can discuss a lot of different topics and if there’s some genre you’re particularly interested in it becomes like a machine-gun conversation…specifically, regarding urban legends – you just won’t stop (laughs)

Hosoya: I do love those. Urban legends (laughs)

Q: Do the two of you have any routines that you have to go through before you get in front of the mic?

Maeno: Nothing in particular; I think there’s just a stance that you naturally adopt once you face the mic.

Hosoya: I think I roll up my sleeves or touch my nose, things like that.

Maeno: You touch your nose?

Hosoya: Maybe it’s a habit? There are times when you do similar stuff.

Maeno: Oh if that’s the case then covering my ears would be something I routinely do. It just comes naturally (laughs). I used to be a bit rigid during recordings but I’m more tuned in to the performances going on around me nowadays.

The dialogue in Fairy Gone carries great significance and there is lots of interaction between Free and Marlya, so I pay close attention to Ichinose-san’s performance.

Q: What are your impressions of Ichinose-san?

Maeno: She’s pure and honest, just like Marlya herself. That’s why I try to adopt as natural a speaking style as I can during recording.

Randomly – Ichinose-san’s left-handed, so we exchange notes about stuff like what left-handed people do in certain situations. Such idle talk can often feed back into our roles so I do appreciate these occasions.

Hosoya: I had the chance to speak to Nakajima Yoshiki-kun for the first time during my ‘People Talk in the Lobby’ sessions – he’s a really unique and interesting person and seems reliable. There’s an episode where I’m in awe of him. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.

The ability to comprehend each other’s stance toward acting, today

Q: Do you take into account the audience reactions when it comes to your performance?

Hosoya: Not at all (laughs). I’m not aware of it, nor do I wish to be made aware of it. Personally, I just do what I want to do. I might be feeling pretty good about something that others might think ‘this guy doesn’t get it at all’ or ‘I’m not feeling him at all’ – it’s quite common.

Maeno: But that’s just a super direct approach that you take and even if you’re wrong, the staff would be sure to correct you.

Hosoya: I’m not too fond of ‘interpretations’ or stuff like that… (laughs). 100 people will have 100 different ways of interpreting something, and none of them could be defined as being ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’. I’m not keen on being judged either (laughs) Part of me is thinking ‘We’re all human, aren’t we?’.

Which is why ‘I choose to do what I want to, based on my instincts’. So in the end I guess I only do whatever I want to do (laughs)

Maeno: I take people’s views seriously, but a series is not something I can create on my own… Although the main aim is to focus on the acting, my stance is that I must not allow the ‘colour’ of the individual that is Maeno Tomoaki to be noticeable.

Sometimes, people say to me ‘I didn’t even realize that it was Maeno-san until I saw your name in the credits’. For me, that’s proof that the character has a ‘life of its own’ and it’s the best type of compliment to receive.

#211: Sarazanmai: Uchiyama Koki x Horie Shun

A short interview with 2/3rds of the main male cast of Ikuhara Kunihiko’s fascinating Sarazanmai. Uchiyama is as dour/sour as ever, so I’m always amused to see whoever’s (un)fortunate enough to be paired up with him…

We live in times when the demand for ‘seiyuu’ is increasing

Ikuhara Kunihiko, who’s produced works such as Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), Penguindrum
(2011) and Yurikuma Arashi (2015), is coming out with a new TV series starting April 11th, titled Sarazanmai.

When you think of Ikuhara works, you think of their unique settings, unpredictable storylines and inimitable worldviews.

Two of the show’s leads; Uchiyama Koki (Kuji Toi) and Horie Shun (Jinnai Enta), now have first-hand experience of what ‘Ikuharaisms’ are.

The two are working together for the first time on this series. We hear their honest thoughts on what they learned from watching each other in the studio, what they think of the present era where the demand for ‘seiyuu’ is increasing, and we even get to hear Uchiyama giving Horie life advice (!?).

[Photography: Saiki Yoshimichi, Interview & Text: Watanabe Chisato, Production: iD inc.]
During recording sessions, Director Ikuhara faces an avalanche of questions from the cast

Q: Had either of you watched any of Ikuhara-san’s works before?

Uchiyama: I hadn’t seen them, so Sarazanmai was my ‘first encounter’. When I read the script I found it very interesting but at the same time, there were parts that made me go ‘What the heck is this?’, plus many other elements that were intriguing.

Horie: I like Ikuhara-san’s works, having watched Utena, Penguindrum and Yurikuma Arashi. The impression that I got was that there were consistently difficult themes that run throughout his series; I was sure that Sarazamai would be the same and the auditions did indeed drive that point home.

Q: So you did audition for the series, right?

Horie: I auditioned for all 3 junior high school students. The audition didn’t involve any dialogue [with a partner] so I had to think about what sort of reactions each of the characters would have.

Uchiyama: Kuji Toi was the only one I auditioned for.

Horie: I was just glad to get the call to audition since I like Ikuhara-san’s works; even if I’d failed my audition I would’ve treated it as kind of like an audition for ‘commemoration’ – but I passed, so I was very happy when I heard the news.

Actually, I found out that I’d ‘passed’ from Murase (Ayumu, CV of Yasaka Kazuki)-san. I was working with him on some other show when he said to me ‘Let’s give our best for Sarazanmai’ and I was like ‘What!? Did I get picked!?’ (laughs)

Q: Did you face any difficulty during recordings?

Uchiyama: Nothing too extreme. That’s probably down to the fact that Director Ikuhara outlines his thoughts and the intent behind the story during the recordings for each episode.

Horie: There are instances where we see very Director Ikuhara-like cuts such as the ‘Dosukoi!’ parts spliced into the story, so it’s kind of hard to rely on reading the scripts alone. But Director Ikuhara will explain the details thoroughly every time so I just have to align my performance with his vision, which in a sense, is very easy to understand.

Uchiyama: He does take up quite a huge chunk of time before recording explaining everything. He might say something like ‘for this episode, we only know so much about this character so far, but certain things happened to him in the past that makes him who he is now’. So by the time we get to recording we’ve already gotten a pretty firm grasp on future developments, understood the background of the character as well as his thoughts.

Still, if there are things that the cast doesn’t understand then we’ll ask the Director ‘what does this mean?’, and that happened quite a lot.

Q: Recording was completed a year ago – what was the mood in the studio like?

Uchiyama: It didn’t necessarily feel like anyone was taking the lead; it was actually very calm, with a naturally pleasant atmosphere.

Horie: That’s right. It was Teiko-san (Azuma Sara)’s first voice acting work so she did bring a breath of fresh air to the sessions. I was a little nervous since there were a lot of senior seiyuu involved, but it was the type of studio where, once the recording tape was turned off, I could relax.

To be honest, I think the Director might’ve been the life of the party (laughs)

Uchiyama: Now that you mention it, I do feel that way too (laughs)

Horie: Also, the staff members would be bringing in sweets from Asakusa (the show is set in Asakusa) every week. Pudding or doughnuts or rice crackers. They were really tasty.

Q: One of the things that appeals about Director Ikuhara’s works is how you can’t tell what’s going to happen in the future solely based upon watching episodes 1 and 2. Do let us know some points we should look forward to that will enhance our enjoyment of the show.

Uchiyama: Each character has his own drama going on, and the complicated situations will gradually become clear. If you continue watching up until the end, the way you view the episodes will completely change from your initial impressions – even episode 1.

Horie: Your impressions of the characters will change by the episode. You’ll realize that scenes that just seemed to pass by in the first 1-2 episodes actually have key points hinting at the future hidden within them. Events that make you think ‘Oh really!?’ will continue to happen, and increasingly so.

‘Uchiyama-san laughs when he needs to laugh’, ‘Of course I laugh, I am human after all’

Q: The two of you worked together for the first time on this series – have your impressions of each other changed from what they were initially?

Horie: In terms of changing impressions…I discovered that Uchiyama-san laughs when he needs to laugh.

Uchiyama: Of course I laugh, I’m human after all (laughs)

Horie: I’d thought of you as this icy cool guy… (laughs)

Q: Uchiyama-san, what do you think of Horie-san?

Uchiyama: I’m not sure if you can call this a change in impression, but there was this once when 3 of us – Horie-san, Teiko-san and I, went for a curry after recordings. Oh wait, what sort of restaurant was it again?

Horie: Nepalese food! I think it was Teiko-san who invited us.

Uchiyama: Oh yeah. We had some free time after recording so we were like ‘let’s go’. Looked places up online and found a place that none of us had been to before, and we ordered curry with ‘normal’ spiciness level but you ended up sweating a ridiculous amount.

I’d never seen someone sweat so much before; it was like he’d just stepped out of the shower.

Horie: And he’s not speaking in metaphors either – it was, rather embarrassingly, quite true…(blushes)

Uchiyama: I was surprised by that.

Q: Do you think such shared experiences helped bridge the gap between the two of you?

Horie: Yeah. I do believe our hearts are less distant than before, or at least I would like to think it is so…

Uchiyama: That’s right. Thanks to seeing that amazing sweat…

Horie: Oh god it’s embarrassing! I want to overwrite that memory! (laughs)

Uchiyama: But of course it was my decision to go eat there so I do feel a bit of remorse over it… (laughs)

Horie: Oh it’s fine! But next time, let’s go somewhere that’s not spicy!

Q: What do you think of each other’s approach towards acting?

Horie: It’s quite embarrassing to say this in front of the man himself but…I had this impression that Uchiyama-san has a very stoic approach toward his work and I found out that my views were the same before and after meeting him. I thought it was amazing how he firmly understood his role and place within the work as a whole, and that he was able to perform accordingly.

Uchiyama: I don’t think I’m stoic at all; rather, I’m quite the laidback person.

Horie: There are things that you will be convinced of simply by watching his performance. Maybe it’s just me who feels that way, but your facial expressions (during recording) show that you’re not taking a haphazard approach to it at all.

Q: Uchiyama-san, what do you think of Horie-san’s approach towards acting?

Uchiyama: That he wasn’t a young boy messing around.

Horie: Not a lot of people like that around, y’know (laughs)

Uchiyama: True (laughs). We only worked together for 1 cour and I’ve not watched the finished product yet, so I probably haven’t grasped all of Horie-san’s abilities yet.

If you can stick with the things you’re bad at, a path will open up for you

Q: Recently, we’ve seen that a seiyuu’s range of work covers not only acting but also expands to singing and dancing.

Horie: I joined this industry when the requirements were already high, so for me it just seems like the norm.

Uchiyama: Industry conditions and the skills required will always change with the times, so the styles employed by people who entered the industry 5 years ago will be different from those who came in 10 years ago.

Q: Do you feel that you’ve been able to respond flexibly as the demands increase?

Uchiyama: My personal view is that people who want to conform will, and those who don’t want to, won’t.

Horie: Are you the type of person who can respond flexibly, Uchiyama-san?

Uchiyama: Nope, I can’t do it at all.

The sort of personality I have is one where if I overdo stuff, everything will just fall apart (for me). If I’m doing something I’ve never done before, I’ll just try my hand at it first and if I start to think ‘this isn’t going well’ then I become convinced that I won’t produce better results even if I keep trying – basically the paths available to me start to disappear from my mind. There isn’t much [in life] that I want to do, but I wouldn’t hesitate to put in effort to not have to do the things that I don’t want to do – I guess you could say that I possess a ‘process of elimination’ approach to life. Which is to say, I will avoid doing the things that I don’t want to do.

Q: Uchiyama-san, you mentioned in an earlier interview that your way of dealing with work involves ‘seeking not to persevere, nor to heap logic upon logic’.

Uchiyama: Everyone has things they’re good at and others things they’re not so good at – the basic idea is not to push yourself too hard and have a feel for only doing ‘things you think you can do (based on experience)’ and ‘things you could probably manage to do’.

Horie: I tend to start blaming myself whenever I fail at something… I’ll push myself, thinking ‘Why can’t you do it well?’. I’m still looking for a method to overcome that; it’s tough…

Uchiyama: Still, even if I don’t seem to be suited toward something, I’ve found that perseverance does seem to elevate my abilities and I can make that ‘something’ my own – it has happened quite often.

Horie: It has?

Uchiyama: Yeah. I never thought I could actually make money off doing voice work, for one thing – it really did just seem to happen at some point in time.

Q: Maybe it’s one of those things that’s come about as a result of the experience you’ve accumulated?

Uchiyama: I’d never consciously thought about amassing anything; it just somehow happened after years spent walking down this path. Even if I’d thought ‘Is this the right thing to do?’, the experience just naturally piled up over the years and I ended up gaining certain types of skills. There were things that I’d never wanted to do because I couldn’t do them well or I wasn’t suited toward them, that eventually turned into things ‘I don’t want to not do’.

So even if Horie-san thinks ‘Hmm’ about certain things right now, there’s always the possibility that you might see a path open up for you if you just stick at it for a while.

Horie: This has turned into a life counselling session. That really touched me. I saw a ray of light coming from Uchiyama-san’s words!

#210 – Reflections on Yagate Kimi ni Naru 7-13: Takada Yūki x Kotobuki Minako

Finally, we get the continuation of this piece which came out at the tail-end of the anime last year. The manga is drawing to a conclusion with only a couple more chapters before the curtain comes down on what has been a pretty emotional ride – my only hope is that we’ll get to see the ending in animated form as well. Please announce a Season 2 during the event end-May! (fingers crossed)

Hope found within the improv, and parting words for Yū and Tōko

Second Half: Inside Tōko’s heart, and how Yū faces her burgeoning feelings

Q: The TV anime aired its final episode in December last year – tell us how you feel about the show coming to an end.

Takada: Firstly, ‘I’m really curious about what happens after this!’. The manga is continuing its run and while the TV anime features original scenes, it’s come to a stop for the time being but it did feel like a truly wonderful conclusion.

To be honest, I was a little worried about not being able to show the student council play in the anime. But the inclusion of an improvised part for the play during their aquarium date in the final episode allowed Yū to show a little bit of her true feelings…the lines were almost like a confession, words designed to confront Tōko. It’s a scene that’s unique to the anime and I was very happy to be able to act that part out!

Kotobuki: I started feeling lonely once the final episode was over (laughs). I was grateful to have worked alongside such wonderful cast and staff members and we did talk about how ‘it’ll be sad not to see each other every week’ after the series is done, and I feel glad to have worked on a production that made people feel that way.

The manga is still ongoing so I’m quite curious as to where Tōko’s feelings are headed towards but of course, Yū’s words in the last episode saved her, in a sense. There was a scene that made me think ‘I’m so relieved’ and I found myself crying when I first read the script. I do think that I was able to handle the challenge of recording that final episode because of the feelings I had.

Q: Episode 6, the midpoint of the series, also marked a turning point for Yū and Tōko with a significant change in their relationship as a result. How did you approach recordings for episode 7 in light of the changes?

Takada: The riverbed scene in episode 6 was where we saw Tōko-san’s feelings deepen and Yū making a decision to keep her own feelings hidden. Despite possessing that knowledge, I tried to keep Yū’s emotions whenever she encounters Tōko-san the same as they were when they first met.

It goes without saying that Yū’s undergoing a lot more emotional turmoil after the events of episode 6 if compared to the first episode. But I was careful to keep those feelings locked away whenever she was speaking to Tōko, making it seem pretty much like Yū’s wearing a mask.

I think it was important to ensure that the Yū that we see from the outside remains unchanged but as for the feelings hidden within her..it’s a completely different story. I wanted my acting to to show clearly the differences between those 2 conflicting feelings during the second half of the series. And that’s why the feelings of frustration inside me started growing bigger and bigger from episode 7 onwards…(wry smile).

Q: Kotobuki-san, what was it like for you? In the earlier interview you mentioned that you chose to approach recordings without reading the manga – did you make any conscious changes in your performance moving into the second half of the series?

Kotobuki: The first half of the series was all about the discovery of love and learning how to face Yū, but starting from episode 7 we see Tōko starting to grow a backbone as she uses the student council play as ‘a way to look at, and face up to the one thing that weighs upon her most’ – her sister.

In order to play the Tōko who’s pouring out her feelings, I approached recordings with a mindset of showing Tōko as ‘a younger sister’ rather than ‘the dependable Tōko’.

Q: Not the elegant Tōko we all know from being the student council president or an honours student, but Tōko as a younger sister.

Kotobuki: That’s right. I tried to make the instances where she’s getting into character as easily recognizable as possible, and I tried to incorporate elements of what being a younger sister is like. On the other hand I was also trying to show how she softens whenever she’s in the presence of Yū so when you look back on the series you may oftentimes notice a sharp edge to her.

From Kotobuki-san’s perspective: The relationship between Tōko and Sayaka

Q: From here on, let’s talk about the highlights from episode 7 up until the end. Episode 7 starts off with Koyomi asking Yū ‘What kind of person is Nanami-senpai?’ and from there we see Yū considering and describing the attractiveness of Tōko.

Takada: If you think about it objectively, I’m sure you’d draw the conclusion that she does indeed like Tōko-san. Gotta say though, that Koyomi-chan’s line of questioning is sharp. Of course, she’s doing that for the purpose of writing the screenplay for the student council play, but she’s just so perceptive! To the point where Sayaka-san mentions later on in a monologue, ‘Koyomi-san…does she really know nothing?’ (laughs)

The conversation between Sayaka-san and Miyako-san was also from episode 7. There was a hint of sadness to the exchange between the two of them, but it’s a scene that will make you fall even more in love with Sayaka-san.

There weren’t many opportunities for Sayaka-san to express her thoughts and feelings in the first half of the series so when she confided in Miyako-san regarding her feelings for Tōko, it was a scene that made me realize ‘so this is the way she’s been thinking’.

Kotobuki: Episode 7 was certainly a turning point in how people viewed Sayaka. For me the best scene in the latter half of the series was the one where Tōko and Sayaka compared their test scores. The words ‘I’m so glad you’re here, Sayaka’ left a huge impression on me.

Up until that point, I’d generally felt that even though there were times when their conversations were pretty straightforward, most of the time Tōko would be thinking along the lines of ‘If I say this, then Sayaka will do this’. But for that particular scene, Tōko was sincerely speaking to Sayaka as a friend and relaying the gratitude that she felt – it might just have been the most genuine conversation they’d ever had.

This is also purely based on my own imagination, but I don’t believe Tōko and Sayaka’s relationship will ever falter. On the other hand I could see Tōko and Yū not talking to each other if certain things were to happen.

I think the relationship between Tōko and Sayaka will persist as long as Sayaka doesn’t take that step forward. It might be painful for Sayaka but from Tōko’s perspective, I hope that their current relationship be maintained as it is.

Q: What do you think of Kayano-san’s performance as Sayaka?

Kotobuki: There was this part where Kayano-shi’s chilling voice sent shivers down our spines even though she wasn’t speaking particularly forcefully; it’s an exquisite balance that could only be achieved by someone like her.

Takada: For that scene in episode 6, where Sayaka-san says to Yū ‘Do you honestly think I’m naive enough to believe that?’, I was standing at the mic next to [Kayano-san] and it gave me serious chills. Since I’m Yū, I felt determined not to lose out and tried my best to stand up to her and acted as defiantly as I could, but when I watched the episode on air I realized, ‘Ai-san is truly amazing’.

Tōko and Sayaka, Sayaka and Yū, Yū and Tōko

Q: Episode 8 started off with a scene where Sayaka bumps into a senior from her junior high days.

Kotobuki: The way that senior talked to Sayaka without feeling any sense of guilt was just…a crime~ (laughs). It’s one of my favourite episodes thanks to the direction choice of having the 3 girls ask each other about their favoured colour of hydrangea.

Takada: And the scene where Yū and Tōko-san take shelter from the rain. Tōko-san’s eyes during that part were….!

Kotobuki: Her eyes definitely weren’t smiling during that ‘What exactly do you mean by ‘happy’?’ line. We saw that in episode 2 for Yū; now it’s Tōko’s turn to have the light disappear from her eyes (laughs). I mean, the scene just before that was them enjoying themselves. Flirting under their love umbrella, fighting over whose shoulder will get wet as they fail to cross the road when the walk signal turns from green to red…you were wondering ‘Just how much do you girls [love each other]~’ (laughs)

Takada: They were totally flirting~! What happy times!

Q: The part where Yū retorted ‘No way!’ when they were fighting over the umbrella – I enjoyed that from the bottom of my heart.

Takada: I was pondering what kind of nuances I should put into that line, and I thought that the scene would be one that would make viewers feel happy so I gave Yū a sort of ‘younger sister’ kind of feel for that part (laughs)

Kotobuki: It was really cute~!

Takada: Thank you! (laughs)

Kotobuki: I’d like to mention that us seiyuu are generally given a free hand when it comes to acting out scenes where the characters’ faces are not shown. I do usually try to stick to reciting my lines at the designated timing but for this particular scene, we really did go to town with our acting.

It’s such a happy scene with the two of them sharing a laugh against a peaceful backdrop. so for the light to go out of Tōko’s eyes so suddenly intensified the fear factor. I do think their little exchange on the way back home made Tōko happy though, and it’s another one of my favourite scenes.

Takada: I think that Yū feels very happy when Tōko-san cheerfully starts talking about her childhood as she’s the only person Tōko-san would confide in. A part of Yū is thinking, ‘Oh, so I’m the only one whom she can talk to about this’.

Those soaring feelings are probably why she carelessly allowed the words ‘I was happy’ to spill from her lips. They’re words that Yū would normally never say, which means she must really have been enjoying that moment between them.

Q: Takada-san, what was your favourite scene?

Takada: I do love the scene that we’ve just been discussing, but my personal favourite scene has to be the one between Sayaka-san and Yū. Up until that point, their only interactions had been through student council activities or had involved Tōko-san; they’d not had too many one-on-one scenes prior to that.

Feeling nervous but still managing to invite Sayaka-san to a fast food place and then sharing french fries with her…what an amazing scene (laughs)

Q: As discussed on the radio show, the timing and the nerve of Yū’s invitation to Sayaka really was something (laughs)

Takada: She really is a fierce one, isn’t she! I couldn’t help feeling so nervous at the time (laughs) Watching it on TV, I was going, ‘You go girl!’.

Q: How did you develop Yū’s feelings in this particular scene?

Takada: Yū calling out to Sayaka-san was triggered by that one thing Dōjima-kun said. “Do you not get along well with Saeki-senpai?. My interpretation was that Yū, not wanting the atmosphere within the student council to get heavy, sincerely wished to talk to Sayaka-san alone.

Plus, Yū’s the type of girl who’d never let her nerves show outwardly. In this scene, a lot of things would be going through her mind, including the thought that ‘Sayaka-san might or might not accept my invitation depending on my actions and choice of words’.

So Yū had the guts to casually invite her out, and Sayaka-san eventually became aware of Yū’s feelings and caught herself thinking ‘Damn, it’s so uncool that my junior is having to be considerate of my feelings’. Seeing how she managed to draw out Yū’s feelings made me think just how mature Sayaka-san is.

And in the final scene, that exchange where Sayaka-san complains about how much trouble Tōko-san can be and Yū replies ‘I totally agree’…I really love those parts!

Kotobuki: I did feel happy, from Tōko’s perspective (laughs) Despite what they say, you can tell how both of them are thinking about Tōko. I’m sure that they’re words that can only be uttered when you feel an attachment to the person involved.

The Most Magnificent Erotic Pass: The Keyword: “PE Store Room”

Q: And now, the 9th episode that shows the sports day scenes. What a magnificent pass we’ve reached…!

Kotobuki: Oh yes, the Erotic Pass!* (laughs) At the end of the 8th episode, we started getting ‘Next week, we’ll have that scene….!’ type of reminders from everyone from the director to [Nakatani] Sensei to Editor Kusunoki!

*refer to the previous post for explanation of Erotic Pass

Takada: I’d read the manga so I was obviously aware of this particular scene, and I was thinking ‘Ah, we’ve reach this point…!’ After all, [the episode] starts off with Tōko deliberately shutting the door so that she can be alone with Yū in the PE store room (laughs)

Kotobuki: She transformed into Carnal Tōko! ‘I want it now!’ (laughs)

Q: And on top of that, Tōko starts to make a move on Yū without even locking the door (laughs)

Takada: Personally, I was thinking ‘if they’d shown that scene at the beginning nobody would’ve been able to concentrate on the sports events’ (laughs)

Also, I believe there are lots of people who watch the show broadcast in real time and when the episode aired, apart from the show hashtags, ‘PE store room’ also started trending (laughs)

All: (laughter)

Takada: I was wondering ‘what’s this?’ at first, but when I saw #yagakimi trending alongside it I knew ‘This is it!’ (laughs) It was such an amazing happening and made the ‘PE store room’ part the most memorable thing about episode 9 (laughs)

Q: (laughs) Watching that opening scene, we knew we’d finally reached Sports Day.

Kotobuki: I really do like the relay scene from the sports day episode. I’m personally quite partial to the ‘everybody works hard together’ type of shows and developments and immediately tear up when I watch such scenes! That’s why I was all ‘Ah, everyone’s working hard and doing their best (cries)’ as I was acting out the scene.

Q: Things didn’t go well for Yū and Sayaka at the beginning, but we got to see them do a perfect baton pass at the end of episode 8.

Kotobuki: I was really touched, thinking ‘they managed to do the baton pass!’ All of them worked hard towards accomplishing a specific goal, and that included the development of Yū and Sayaka[’s relationship]. It was the ideal arrangement for Tōko.

From Tōko’s point of view, working hard in the student council is symbolic of the perfect image of her older sister that she held, and to have the members do their best and strengthen their relationships at the same time, happens to be one of her wishes. In that sense, the scene proved to be particularly memorable.

Q: The scene where we see Tōko running in the relay – through Yū’s eyes, the rest of the ground has faded away and it’s only the two of them in the world.

Takada: Tōko-san’s coolness came out very naturally in that scene and I was able to confirm that ‘she’s indeed wonderful~!’. To have that part so magnificently directed & expressed is something that’s unique to the anime!

Also, the exchange between Yū and Maki-kun was memorable. In the midst of a conversation where they’re trying to reaffirm that they’re people who can’t fall in love, Yū’s ‘I don’t feel alone any more’ and Maki-kun’s ‘..I don’t think you’re the same as me though. That expression just now…wasn’t one that someone who isn’t lonely would make’ monologue felt tinged with melancholy.

Maki-kun is kind of a cheerleader for Yū’s inner feelings, which makes his presence all the more important. This scene, which is one of my favourites, reminded me once again of how he’s an indispensable character within the series.

Q: Maki’s charm lies in how he never takes things too far. His monologues reveal what he truly thinks, but he never voices his thoughts aloud to Yū.

Takada: That’s right. I think that reflects his policy of ‘being a spectator’. And while we’re on the topic of Sports Day, I loved the exchange between Sayaka-san and Miyako-san too~!

Kotobuki: I know right~! I love that pairing (laughs)

Takada: Upon seeing Miyako-san who’d come to watch Hakozaki-sensei participate in the teachers’ relay race, Sayaka-san was thinking ‘wow, she’s got a lot of free time on her hands…’ (laughs). Sayaka-san’s able to let her guard down in front of Miyako-san, which means we get to see expressions from her that we’ve never seen before~!

Q: And after the sports events are over, we finally get to see Tōko and Yū’s Erotic Pass…!

Kotobuki: This particular Erotic Pass is also one of my favourite scenes, but I never thought that Tōko would get Yū to sit on her lap! Tōko led Yū so naturally that it made me think, ‘Tōko, are you really sure you’ve never been in love with anyone before?’ (laughs). We see Yū stopping just short of a kiss but on the other hand, Tōko’s already moving in for the kill herself… (laughs)

And on top of that, the scripts had ‘….[heavy breathing] (return the kiss) s-sorry! If Yū dislikes it then I’ll…stop…’ written after the first kiss, so I was surprised by the force at which they were kissing. “That hard!?’ ‘Until they ran out of breath!?’ (laughs)

All: (laughter)

Kotobuki: Still, those actions stemmed from the fact that she cherishes Yū so much. Setting aside Yū’s true intentions, I think that Tōko was just glad that Yū had accepted her in the end. I think she felt a sense of security in knowing that she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. But Yū’s monologue at the end still made me sad.

Takada: It was an important episode where we got to see Yū slam on the brakes as she came to realize that she mustn’t overstep her boundaries. And once again we were able to see how far apart their hearts are.

Q: That was probably what made it the biggest Erotic Pass in the anime.

Kotobuki: That’s right. I feel like Tōko tried to bridge the gap between their hearts all at once. Let me mention that during recording, we had to use whispery voices at all times and have our hearts beating quickly, to simulate the physical closeness that Tōko-san and Yū were sharing at that moment!

Q: By the way, there’s this behind-the-scenes story that Sensei and Editor Kusunoki shared on Twitter… (laughs)

“This is the episode where we got to hear Kotobuki-san’s ‘Wooh~~~!!’ of embarrassment for the first time, after that one scene

“Kotobuki-san: “Wooooooooooooooooooh”
*The mysterious sound that Kotobuki-san made after recording that scene

Kotobuki: It was an episode where I just couldn’t help but make those sounds (laughs) For myself, even after I’m done with my lines I will continue standing at the mic until the scene is finished.

As an example, my lines at the end were ‘it feels good…? Oh, Yū…’ and it segues into Yū’s monologue – it would’ve been fine for me to return to my seat at that point but since time was continuing to flow in the anime, I stood restlessly beside [Takada’s] Yū as she expressed the words that were in her heart.

Which is why, right after the scene wrapped up, whether out of embarrassment or because I was able to overcome the Erotic Pass safely, I made that sound (laughs)

I was aware that everyone else in the studio was concentrating during the recording of the Erotic Pass, not daring to breathe or make any noise so in a way, the sound that I made was like a magic word that released the tension in the atmosphere. All in all, episode 9 was a truly magnificent Erotic Pass (laughs)

A “Tense” Yū and a “Relieved’ Tōko

Q: In episode 10 we see the screenplay for the student council play finally been completed, meaning that preparations can start in earnest.

Kotobuki: More than half of the series centres upon the student council play, from episode 4 until the end. On the one hand we have Yū who is reluctant to get involved with the play while Tōko on the other hand, is proactively moving towards fulfilling her wish. We also get to meet a few more characters over the course of the play and in episode 10, everything finally comes together and starts moving forward.

There’s also a scene where Tōko, who’s using the play as a way to emulate her older sister, gets upset after her father tells her not to push herself too hard…once again, I thought ‘how young Tōko is’.

If that had been Maki-kun, he would be able to smile and say ‘Yes’ – the kind of response that would be deemed ‘mature’. But at the end of the day Tōko behaves the way a younger sister would, bluntly saying things like ‘Why would you say that?’ or ‘Why don’t you understand me?’

That is why, as I mentioned earlier, the Tōko we see from episode 7 onwards is the ‘younger sister’*, and episode 10 was an episode where Tōko channelled her older sister particularly strongly. Yū was there to comfort Tōko in that moment and once again, the kindness of her character shone through.

*as opposed to the ‘dependable Tōko’

Q: The scene where an agitated Tōko returns to her room and calls Yū, right?

Takada: As they’re speaking to each other on the phone, the lines of their monologues contrast each other. Tōko-san’s feeling ‘relieved’, while Yū’s feeling ‘uneasy’. But you could still feel the positive feelings extending from their conversation…that complex sense of disparity between them was painful to see. The phone scene happens to be another one of my favourites as well.

Kotobuki: That phone scene was especially fun to play, wasn’t it?

Q: Care to elaborate?

Kotobuki: I mean, you don’t know what the person on the other end of the line is doing, right? Some people might lie down on the bed while they’re on the phone while many others would be multi-tasking, so you’re making that call wondering what the other person might be doing. I’d like to think that Tōko was making that call, thinking that she wanted to know everything there is to know about Yū. When you’re on the phone, you can only rely on sound intervals and the tone of the other person’s voice. Which is why, when Tōko asks ‘Yū, are you listening to me?’ and Yū’s mood changes, Tōko is able to feel relieved.

The scene clearly illustrates the relationship between the two of them, and is a conversation that is only possible because it is the two of them. Such a phone call would not have been conceivable in episode 1 or 2, and I enjoyed acting out the scene with the knowledge of what it had taken to establish the relationship that they now have. And that’s why my favourite scene from this episode is the latter part, where we see Tōko behave like a younger sister, and how her mind is put at ease while on the phone with Yū.

Takada: From Yū’s point of view, the conversation she had with Natsuki-chan was a highlight as well. It’s been a while since I got to play Yū relaxing with her classmates. The chance to talk to a third party who’s not connected to Tōko-san also gives us a picture of the other emotions in play.

When they’re discussing Tōko-san, Yū says ‘She’s selfish. This person always decides everything by herself, whether it’s the elections or the play’ – and that is indeed unusual. Natsuki-chan’s response of ‘Sorry, but it makes me happy to hear that you’ve got your hands full’ allows us to see that Yū doesn’t normally behave in such a way, from the perspective of someone who’s known her for some time.

I do adore the relationship between Yū and Natsuki-chan that enables them to say things like that to each other. It’s nice to have friends with whom you can meet up to talk about everything even though you go to different schools; the conversation between these two is on my favourite scenes.

Kotobuki: Thank you for always saying what’s on your mind, no matter how old you are!

Q: Episode 11 depicts the training camp for the student council play. What are your favourite scenes?

Kotobuki: For me, it’s the bath scene featuring Tōko, Yū and Sayaka. Seeing the girls trying to check each other out made me go ‘I totally get that!’ (laughs) Yū’s ‘I can’t afford to hesitate here! I’ve got to make the first move before either of them get any ideas!’ is the kind of thing that happens when you’re at public baths – I know how she feels!

In all honesty I still get very conscious myself whenever I go to public baths or ryokan with friends, so I read the scripts with refreshed feelings, thinking ‘Thanks for always saying what’s on your mind, no matter how old you are!’

The same could be said for the scene where we feel nervous in the bath, and I enjoyed acting out Tōko’s inner thoughts: ‘Yū…she’s bigger than I thought’. Tōko’s just a normal human being; she might look perfect but I try not to make her too perfect, and I’m always looking out for parts where I can play around with Tōko’s character.

When I was seeking out such gaps where I could create something I found this particular scene which seemed fun, so I tried it out in the tests. If the staff were to say no then I’d go back to the original line, but I got the OK so we went ahead and recorded it based upon my line of thinking.

Takada: For me, a particularly memorable scene was where Yū’s stares at Tōko-san and Sayaka-san as they talk. I don’t think Yū had ever looked at Tōko-san and Sayaka-san with such eyes before.

I personally think that this ‘view’ caused Yū’s feelings to begin to grow. The sight [of them] provoked mixed feelings within her, and I think you could catch glimpses of the love triangle in this scene.

Q: Furthermore, we are introduced to a new character – Ichigaya Tomoyuki, school alumni and someone who had a connection to Tōko’s sister. Ichigaya tells Tōko that she is nothing like her sister, and those words are like a death sentence for her.

Kotobuki: I too, was shocked when I heard those lines myself. In episode 12 there is a scene where she recalls the words and the impact becomes even stronger. At the same time, the acting required for the role also became more difficult.

What she believes may not be the truth. But she doesn’t even know what else she should believe in. This is the point at which the hollowness within Tōko emerges and it unsettles her right away.

Tōko had had a purpose all her life, so for that purpose to be wide of the mark causes the anxiety and impatience that we see in Episode 11. Those emotions linger on into the fireworks scene and by that point, you can tell that Tōko is just human and still has much room to grow.

Q: During the fireworks, Tōko’s monologue scene, ‘I’m afraid that I’ll use up all of her kindness’ left a big impression.

Kotobuki: In episode 10, she does reflect upon her actions, thinking ‘Maybe I went too far’ and as she considers the possibility that Yū might be avoiding her, episode 11 shows Tōko gauging the distance between herself and Yū.

I’m sorry to say that even if she used up all of Sayaka’s kindness, it would still be possible for their relationship to recover, at least from Tōko’s point of view. But that may not be the case for Yū – things might end there and then. She can see the end coming, which is why she dares not cross the line and wants to take her time.

That’s why I could feel both sadness and joy in her monologue. Not too many of the monologues last longer than 5 cuts, so I wanted to handle the performance of these parts with care.

Takada: I felt a great deal of sorrow listening to this monologue. From Yū’s perspective, I do think Yū would’ve liked it if Tōko-san had talked to her about it. She’d sensed that Tōko-san might be holding something back, and the complicated feelings that enveloped her as she noticed the two, thinking ‘I wonder if she’s confiding in Sayaka-san…’ – that leads into the look you see in Yū’s eyes at the end of the episode.

The ‘idiot’ that was packed full of Yū’s frustrations

Q: The 12th episode continues to follow the characters as they rehearse for the student council play and as Kotobuki-san mentioned earlier, seeing how Tōko’s haunted by what Ichigaya said was one of the highlights.

Kotobuki: It’s one of my favourites too. When Dōjima-kun says ‘That was amazing…’ as the group watches how she gets immersed in her performance, she hears Ichigaya’s voice in her head saying ‘Mio and Nanami-san aren’t very similar’. Acting the part out became tougher and tougher as the intensity of her performance increased, and I had to do several retakes.

Tōko had reached a boiling time several times previously, but this scene was especially difficult to handle in terms of trying to maintain a balance amidst the explosiveness of the emotions.

I believe this is a side of her we only get to see because she’s [Mio’s] sister. Her feelings start to overlap with those of her character’s and I performed the part with the intention of unshackling Tōko and letting her unleash her emotions.

Q: There were parts of the character Tōko played that she could relate to, with some of her truths hidden within her lines.

Kotobuki: That’s right. In that sense, Koyomi’s amazing – each and every one of the character’s lines really pierced Tōko’s heart. And all this ties into the events of episode 13. The [episode 12] title ‘Suddenly Suffocating’ was so apt, I thought.

Q: What are your thoughts on this, Takada-san?

Takada: So much happened in episode 12…I’ll go through them one by one, starting off with the scene where Yū invites Tōko-san to her house. Yū’s intuition leads her to say to Tōko-san ‘I’ve been keeping my promise so please believe in me, senpai’; you can see her kindness shine through in that line and it’s one of my favourites. I also love the scene where the two of them are lying down in bed and Tōko-san’s slowly saying what’s on her mind, with Yū responding in turn.

Kotobuki: That was another Erotic Pass! I think this one was even more erotic! (laughs)

Takada: (laughs) I really love the part where they’re lying down and Yū’s playing around with her hair! But for Tōko-san to say ‘Yū, don’t fall in love with me’ at that moment and Yū’s ‘You idiot!’ line when seeing her off – it was like a knife to the heart.

During the scene that follows, where Yū asks Koyomi-chan to change the ending of the play, there’s a line in the monologue where she says ‘Still….I want to change her’ – I love that…I love everything in the second half of the episode (laughs)

Kotobuki: I’m saying this from Tōko’s point of view – ‘You’re so cool, Yū! Thanks for going to such lengths for me!’

Q: It’s an important scene where we get to hear Yū’s words, which are like a monologue, expressed as part of the lines. What kind of approach did you take towards acting out that part?

Takada: I believe that Yū wishes for Tōko-san to be able to love herself. During the bed scene, she was able to reaffirm just how much power her sister’s existence held over her, and how she desired to convey her feelings of ‘frustration’ and ‘love’ to Tōko-san. All of that pent-up frustration went into that one ‘idiot!’.

I did think it’d be okay for me to say it out loud, plus the director said ‘[Tōko’s] already far away so it’s fine, give it all you’ve got’ and that’s why I shouted at the top of my lungs. For someone who’s normally passive to come out with such emotional words means Yū must’ve seriously been rattled.

Q: Which means Takada-san’s favourite scene is the entire second half of the episode?

Takada: That’s right. I love all of the scenes, including the conversation that she had with Koyomi-chan.

The Improv: Yū’s evident feelings and Tōko’s…

Q: And we come to the final episode, which shows Yū and Tōko’s date at the aquarium.

Kotobuki: The best scene for me would be the anime-original dialogue between Yū and Tōko at the end of their date. A lot of things happened over the course of their improv but personally, I think Yū’s ‘Is there a need for you to make a choice?’ really saved her.

I thought Yū’s ‘I only got to know you after you came here, but I know your habits. I know your favourite authors, and I know what colour of flowers you like.’ conveyed her thoughts beautifully.

When Tōko is told ‘I don’t know anything else apart from “You”’, a part of her naturally wishes to respond ‘Even if you say that…’. Even in death, her sister’s existence is a noose around her neck that she cannot easily get rid of.

The Tōko of before would probably have replied ‘That’s what I am. It’s the kind of person I am’. But she averts her eyes and says ‘But I have to choose someone to be like, because I have no memories. Because I have nothing’. It’s an important point to note, that Yū has caused Tōko’s heart to start to move.

On my part I was thinking ‘Please stay by her side just a little more, Yū’ as this scene gave us a glimmer of hope that Tōko would begin to change, little by little.

This final episode came in the midst of an ongoing manga so it’s regrettable that we didn’t get to see the play and other parts animated, but through this particular scene Yū and Tōko both saw happiness and we could sense the possibilities that lie ahead for the two of them.

Takada: That exact same scene is my pick too. It works as an ad-lib (within the show), but also serves as the best possible confession that Yū could give Tōko-san at that moment.

The expression Tōko-san makes upon hearing the ‘I don’t know anything else apart from “You..”’ confession, and Yū, who averts her gaze while saying ‘Is that so?’ in response to Tōko-san insisting that she needs to make a choice. I think those were the most painful parts.

I was really happy to hear Minako-san mention that she saw hope in their exchange. I feel sadness for Yū but when I think about it, I do feel that the Tōko-san of before would have kept her gaze steady while she says ‘I must choose someone’. She must’ve been aware that her swaying feelings were…[[Kotobuki and Takada look at each other in the eyes]] clearly visible.

It’s a crucial point that hints at future developments and the direction we’re headed towards, which is what makes me love this scene the most.

In episode 12, when Yū says to Koyomi-chan ‘It makes the period of time during the play seem meaningless…’, it also reflects Yū’s desire that her meeting Tōko-san and the time they spent together, alone and as part of the student council, should not be meaningless either. I believe that she did not want [everything] to end up as something that was done for the sake of the past.

Thus, this scene was one that I felt particularly strongly about as a performer and one that I hope will remain in everyone’s hearts. It was a final episode that made you curious about where the two of them will go from here; an ending that is full of hope, makes you want to know what happens next…Ah, talking about all this makes me feel like I’m going to cry (laughs)

From Takada-san and Kotobuki-san, to Yū and Tōko

Q: Now that you’ve completed recording for the final episode, tell us what you find appealing about the series.

Kotobuki: During recordings for the finale, the staff team discussed ‘what it means to love’. Throughout the series we got to see the numerous directions that ‘love’ moved towards, the many shapes it took on. The feelings that Tōko had towards her sister could be construed as ‘love’ as well; I don’t think it’s necessarily true that ‘this series was enjoyable because it was about love between two girls’.

It makes you reconsider, empathize and be surprised by the ‘love’ that exists in human relationships. The existence of these emotions within ‘Yagate Kimi ni Naru’ allowed me to perform my parts while treasuring those symbols of ‘love’. I’d be happy if, by watching a show about what it means to love someone, you could come to think about the meaning [of love] as well.

Takada: I think it’s extremely difficult to love someone. When you fall in love with someone, you have to consider not just the good but the bad as well; your feelings will waver and there will be a lot of pain involved.

Having played Yū up until the final episode, I’ve learned once again how wonderful it is to love someone. I felt that all the emotions involved, pain included, makes you who you are, and I realized how attractive people who experience these feelings are.

With the manga still ongoing I’m sure we’re all concerned about the status of their relationship but at the same time, I do hope that all of you will experience that sparkling feeling called ‘love’. ‘Love’ is of course, a wonderful feeling that can also bring pain, but I’d be glad if you came to discover that it’s a feeling that is necessary

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to Yū and Tōko, who have drawn closer to each other by the final episode?

Kotobuki: Facing the prospect of voicing Tōko, I had worried ‘Can I get a hold on her character?’. I very thankfully grew up in a strong family unit with all members present. Still, it was my intention to play the role with feelings as close to Tōko’s as possible, so I would be glad if you were to think that Tōko was, in any way, good.

What happens next is in Nakatani-sensei’s hands – how will Tōko open up to a Yū who has already begun to move her? I think the story’s developments will depend on how much she changes herself.

With the last episode of the anime now over, what I would like to say to her is ‘I’m happy for you, Tōko’ and ‘From now on Tōko, do your best’.

Takada: I believe that meeting Tōko-san has turned out to be an irreplaceable moment in Yū’s life, and she has done so well in working hard to get close to her.

The feelings that have emerged within Yū are emotions that she is finally beginning to grasp. When you consider that she started off being troubled by the definition of ‘love’, seeing Yū pull Tōko-san’s hand along and being able to convey ‘You don’t have to choose, you are attractive in your own right’ to her makes you think that Yū has grown into such an attractive person.

The feelings that Yū has gained will be something that she can be proud of in the future, so I’d be pleased if Yū continues to live her life honestly, true to who she is.

And what I would like to say to Yū, who I’ve learned a lot about emotions from, is ‘Please cherish the many feelings that you have now’.

[Planning, interview, text: Toriyabe Kōhei]

#209 – Sakura to Shitai Onishi: Sakura Ayane & Onishi Saori

A very much belated translation of a piece on one of the more memorable seiyuu radio shows in recent history – Sakura to Shitai Onishi. This was published in Seiyuu Radio no Jikan [Unison], January 2017, when Sakura and Onishi were just 9 months into their partnership. Since then they’ve swept the Seiyuu Awards and Anime Radio Awards and the show has just celebrated its third anniversary. Their partnership is such a force that Onishi, whose name value was significantly lesser than Sakura’s when Toshitai started, has become a star in her own right. It’ll be a sad day if (or when) the radio comes to an end… but for now, let’s go back 2 years and a bit in time and see what they had to say about each other.

Thanks to Pyr1t3_Radio for editing!
[Interview: Saito Takashi, Photography: Arakane Daisuke, Hair & Make-up: Yamaki Akiko, Terada Hidemi (e-mu)]

The 2 who won’t become 1

One of the greatest thrills of seiyuu radio is in seeing how 2 people with different personalities can cause a chemical reaction through a radio show. Sakura Ayane and Onishi Saori may be senior-junior at the same agency, but their respective careers, radio history and characters are unlike the other. Sakura to Shitai Onishi [trans: Onishi, who wants to do it with Sakura], the radio show featuring these 2, began this spring. It is as if they are fending off pursuers; their reflexes are quick but in different ways – the unexpectedly good chemistry between them continues. We hear from them once more about their disposition towards radio work.

“I thought I’d try to approach her but it turned into an ambush instead” (Onishi)

Q: This was mentioned on the 1st episode of Sakura to Shitai Onishi as well, but apparently, this is how the show began its existence – when Onishi-san ambushed Sakura-san after the completion of a certain day’s recording for Denpa Kyoshi.

Onishi: At the time I had not talked to Sakura-san at all, so this being our first regular show together, I thought I’d try approaching her but it turned into an ambush incident instead (laughs).

Sakura: She was waiting silently for me to finish up. While I, on the other hand, was thinking ‘I’ll go home after [she] does’.

Onishi: And I was thinking, ‘I’ll wait ‘til she comes out.’ (laughs)

Q: Did you really want to be friends with Sakura-san that much?

Sakura: You’re the same to everyone, aren’t you?

Onishi: That’s misleading and untrue! Sakura-san may be younger than I am but she is still my senior; I had learned a lot about Sakura-san [from others] and I did want to get to talk to her myself.

Q: Which is why you ambushed her ‘in the hopes of getting to know her better’?

Onishi: I never said that. I didn’t even get to say ‘let’s go home together’ either.

Sakura: Basically, I’m shy and I got anxious because I did not understand her intentions.

Onishi: It wasn’t like it was our first time meeting each other or anything so I didn’t even say ‘Nice to meet you’; I just did the strangest thing – I went up and sat next to her without saying a single word.

Q: We hear that Onishi-san even asked, out of the blue, ‘Is it OK if I call you Neruneru?’

Onishi: Yeah there was that Neruneru incident.

Sakura: Onishi-san was a mysterious existence to me, which is why I decided to keep my distance. When I engage with other people, I tend to wonder, ‘What intentions might this person have for them to exhibit such behaviour?’ What is Onishi-san seeking from me? What kind of reaction is she expecting? I thought a lot but I still could not comprehend it in the end. There aren’t any particularly compelling reasons, so why does she want to get close to me?

Onishi: (laughs)

Sakura: What threw me off was how she responded, saying, ‘Nothing good comes out of getting involved with me anyway’ – an apology that came with a declaration of intent.

Onishi: So that was what had you sitting there in deathly silence.

Sakura: That’s the way I unremorsefully demonstrate my way of negative thinking. Observing how [she] tried to bridge the gap made me think that we live in completely different worlds, and that we’d never be happy being in each other’s presence…

Onishi: Denpa Kyoshi turned out to be pretty long at 2 cours, but we absolutely didn’t get any closer (laughs).

Q: But later on, the two of you went out together with Kakuma Ai-san and Minase Inori-san for a meal, didn’t you?

Sakura: It was after quite some time that Kakuma-san invited me out for a meal, mentioning that ‘Onishi-san will be there too’. I didn’t really think that Onishi-san was a bad person or anything like that so I just joined in and had a chance to talk to her properly for the first time. At that point, one of my radio shows had just come to an end so I was in a situation where I was consulting the agency about finding a partner for my next flagship programme. In a corner of my mind I could hear my manager’s words resound – ‘if possible, we’d like to nurture a junior along’ and just as I was eating my meal, Onishi-san abruptly started to say ‘I want to a radio show with Sakura-san! Just 3 episodes will do!’ (laughs)

Onishi: I didn’t think it would last long at all. Even if we were having a meal together it was only because we shared 2 mutual friends, and it was just 4 people being in the same space at the same time. It was in hopes of getting along better with Sakura-san that I said ‘let’s do a radio that ends in 3 episodes’.

Sakura: That somehow stuck in my mind. Sometime later, when my manager asked ‘Who would you like [as a partner]?’ and I recalled how there was this junior who had no qualms about asking her senior [to do a radio show] (laughs). So I put forward Onishi-san’s name.

Q: That dinner date must’ve had a lot of dirty jokes flying around, right?

Onishi: Well, it was girls’ talk (laughs).

Sakura: What surprised me was that Onishi-san unexpectedly went along with the conversation without any resistance – that left a big impression on me.

Onishi: I wasn’t really trying to though (laughs).

Sakura: I thought you were interesting. You earned a lot of points from me for that.

Onishi: Yess!

Of all things – I got nervous during the first episode (Sakura)

Q: As a listener it was fun to see how the two of you were joking around right from the first episode, but did you yourselves find yourselves feeling a little bewildered at it all?

Sakura: Were you?

Onishi: I was. If you compare the show in the first episode to what it is right now, you can tell that I tried really hard… though in the first place, I wasn’t sure what kind of role I was supposed to fulfil. I thought, ‘Well, let’s just act like an overexcited fool and put Sakura-san in a tough spot, alone’. That sense that we couldn’t gel together at all might’ve seemed pretty funny in itself.

Sakura: The strangest thing happened – I got nervous during the first episode. It’s rare for me to get so tensed up on radio and I was trying carefully not to be so, but I started pondering things like ‘I want this junior of mine to be able to hold her own on any other show’ and ‘I want her to learn things that she will find useful when working on other shows’ and I started getting nervous… I ended up feeling a bit apologetic [about the situation].

Onishi: Eh!? That’s unusual. You did mention that you were nervous but I didn’t know that that was the reason. For me, I felt pressured by the need to ‘say something interesting’ since I’d been given this chance to pair up with Sakura-san. So we both had our own issues going on.

Sakura: I have a lot of memories from working in radio, both good and bad – the one thing that I didn’t want to do was to allow my junior to go through bad experiences. Radio work is a slight deviation from what we do in our day jobs so I actually think it’s kind of futile if we get too stressed out over it. The worst case scenario would be if that stress were to cause her body to break down and negatively impact upon other jobs – I do not want my junior to have to go through that, or be damaged in any way. I want her to gain as much as they possibly can; that there will be more people who get to know of her name through this radio which would in turn lead to more work opportunities in her main career.

Q: Onishi-san was a little too touchy-feely from the start though, wasn’t she?

Onishi: To be fair I treat everyone the same – if it’s a girl I wouldn’t hesitate to touch or smack them.

Q: So you saw new aspects of each other once the radio show had started?

Sakura: I think this might be the radio show that ends up diverging the most at showtime compared to what we’d discussed in meetings. I’ve probably always felt strongly about how the seiyuu profession involves carrying the weight of the 2D characters that we portray, and how we should do our utmost not to harm them in any way. That is why many people try their best to uphold the image of their characters and I myself am clear that there is a line that should not be crossed. So there does tend to be some conflict when I’m doing radio shows with other seiyuu. I’m thinking, ‘this person’s true nature that I see from these meetings – how much of it are they going to allow to show on air?’. And I’ll go ‘that much, huh’ later on.

Onishi: You know I’ve got this switch inside of me.

Sakura: And among all them all we have Onishi-san who I feel could keep running on by herself, to the ends of eternity.

Onishi: Come with me~! Are you going to leave me to my own devices? (laughs)

Sakura: I have every intention of keeping up with you – I guess in that respect you’re a person who’s really easy to work with.

Interviews allow me to realize that Sakura-san really is my senior! (Onishi)

Q: You once mentioned ‘we sometimes get so noisy during meetings that the people in the next room come and admonish us’.

Sakura: Yeah we get scolded quite often, don’t we?

Onishi: Sakura-san always makes so much noise (laughs).

Sakura: My voice just gets louder when I make sudden sounds…..

Onishi: Like AHHHHHH.

Sakura: While Onishi-san’s voice is just naturally loud.

Onishi: I’ve been noticing that lately too.

Sakura: Lately? (laughs)

Onishi: The meetings are fun so it’s natural for it to be noisy. But the people next door are having a serious meeting so it’s obvious that we’d get scolded (laughs).

Q: During the show, the two of you will often go ‘Shall we read some mail? Is there anything you’d like to talk about?’ or ‘Do you wanna chat?’. Are these parts actually designated during the meetings or written down in the scripts as ‘free talk’ segments?

Sakura: Hmmm. During meetings we’ll just talk about whatever’s been going on lately; we never really mention what we’ll be doing [on the show] (laughs).

Onishi: Our meetings aren’t about outlining the flow of the radio so it’s just impromptu conversations most of the time.

Sakura: To be honest, I’m the type of person who prefers to plan and know in advance what I’m doing so I can work on specific things but I’d have to consider whether I should push those ideals onto my junior. By observing Onishi-san I could tell that her spontaneous reactions and comments were what made her interesting, so I thought that we’d be better off without having everything set in stone. There are certain points in time where she’d like to talk about something, and she has no qualms about starting the conversation so yeah, you could say the mood tends to make itself.

Onishi: That’s right. And this interview is making me think how Sakura-san really is behaving like a proper senior….

Sakura: (laughs) I mean, if I were to shout ‘I’m more senior than you!’ or something similar, it’d just put you in a tough spot wouldn’t it?

Onishi: It certainly would. You wouldn’t feel like much of a superior to me and more like someone on my level; I’d probably hate on you a lot as well. I wouldn’t be able to do anything absurd to a respectable senior. But I do revere Sakura-san as my senior.

Sakura: You do?

Onishi: I do!

Sakura: I don’t feel like you do!

Onishi: I’m sorry (laughs).

Q: What begins as a rambling conversation takes a turn for the fascinating – doesn’t that show how compatible the two of you are?

Sakura: Unfortunately, and I’m saying this despite being the senior here – I’ve never ever felt confident about this radio, not once.

Onishi: Oi oi oi!

Sakura: Let me justify that. When I’m doing a radio show I can look at something with a relatively calm point of view, like ‘Oh that topic went down well’. However, the idea for this show is to let Onishi-san do whatever she likes and as long as that remains true, no matter how much I try to put together a rational plan I would always find myself scrambling from the get-go. The times I feel reassured are when carefully-laid plans go off without a hitch and conversations progress smoothly – and that rarely happens on this radio. But somehow along the way, everyone started saying ‘this show’s interesting’. I myself still can’t see what people find interesting about it.

Onishi: (laughs)

Sakura: And that is what makes it all fresh and exciting for me. This show has gotten such a great reception from listeners thanks to Onishi-san’s uninhibited ways and for that, I am extremely thankful.

Onishi: I think Sakura-san and I are completely different types of people. The concept of ‘rationality’ itself is too difficult for me to even think about.

Q: Like how you developed that ‘getting all sweaty’ joke*.

Onishi: Yeah. There was this time when they were saying ‘haven’t you got that joke you wanted to popularize’ and I’m like ‘Eh, what was it again?’, having zero recollection of that ‘all sweaty’ thing from the previous week. And then I suddenly remembered it, which was a ‘phew I’m safe’ kind of relief. Yeah that’s how I work – spitting stuff out without really thinking.

*The original Japanese is 汗ビッチョリ (ase bicchori), ‘bicchori’ being a play on ‘bisshori’
(soaked) & a slang way of saying ‘completely drenched in sweat’. The Ase Bicchori joke came from the end of episode 28 (15 October 2016) when Onishi quipped ‘Wahaha de ase bicchori’ (I laughed and got all sweaty).

Q: Does that apply to your impersonations of Lady Dewi [Sukarno] too?

Sakura: That was a hit-and-miss thing wasn’t it?

Onishi: I just made it up on the spot to be honest.

Sakura: I couldn’t manage to do it myself, so I was feeling sorry for her while she attempted it.

Onishi: I’m not too familiar with Lady Dewi so I had to make a guess at what she might be like. It’d be boring if I were to say ‘I couldn’t do it’ so I just had a go.

Sakura: It was an attempt of the highest quality though.

Onishi: Really? Then that’s fine. It’s not like we’d discussed ‘let’s impersonate Lady Dewi!’ during the meetings anyway.

Maybe you’d be at 120%? If you were able to understand that you’d be unrivalled (Sakura)

Q: Onishi-san – have you learned anything unexpected about Sakura-san?

Onishi: That she’s a person who won’t feel at ease unless she’s able to act based on her own ideals (laughs).

Sakura: (laughs)

Onishi: I mean that in a positive way. Her train of thought goes ‘if this happens then this is what you do’ – she’d feel uneasy if she didn’t get that all straightened out first. Like in a photoshoot, she has to be informed ‘this is how you’re supposed to feel against this backdrop, so do this pose’ or else she’d get anxious. While I on the other hand, didn’t even consider something like that for even a millisecond (laughs). Once I knew that she is someone who thinks deeply about the things I don’t even spare a thought for, I’ve realized that I’m learning a lot from our conversations together. Though it’s still impossible for me to plan ahead rationally.

Sakura: It’s okay, not everyone has to be that way.

Onishi: I wonder – now that I’ve reaffirmed that yes, such people do exist; whether that would change my awareness levels.

Sakura: Maybe you’d be at 120%? If you were able to understand that you’d be unrivalled.

Onishi: I may study what others do but I doubt I’d change my own style regardless.

Q: Earlier, you mentioned ‘protecting a character’s image’ – Sakura-san, you’ve also talked about how that should remain separate from your own image & appearance.

Sakura: To be honest, I don’t really remember it too clearly myself. Sometimes I’ll receive letters saying ‘I watched XXX anime and I immediately thought of Sakura-san’s face’ – they’re sincere words of support with no malice intended. I’m really happy to receive letters and it doesn’t matter what the content is – I’m prepared to accept them wholeheartedly. Still, if I see an increase in these kinds of messages being sent I’m gonna cancel all my radio shows.

Q: Eh? That bad?

Sakura: It’s because my day job is meant to be about utilizing my voice. In fact, there was a point in time where I started getting more of those types of letters and I ended up putting a stop to most of my radio shows. But when I gave them up I started getting mail saying ‘it’s lonely [without you] and that made me realize it probably wasn’t such a good idea to completely cut out radio work, which is why I started doing them again. It’s helpful to be able to take on board the views of people who’ve shown their support, and I’m able to make the necessary adjustments in my daily work.

Onishi: Since I started out I tend to voice characters that are remarkably different from what I truly am – cool characters, for example, or older sister-types. So the way I approach radio shows hasn’t needed to change. From the beginning people have always told me ‘there’s such a huge gap [between your personality and those of the characters you play on screen]’, which actually seems to be my unique selling point, or at least lets me think ‘radio is where I can have fun’.

Q: Onishi-san’s speaking skills are good enough to be on a variety show.

Onishi: Nah, I’m not that good. I’ve got to have someone like Sakura-san with me or I’d get tongue-tied. Maybe it’ll sound a bit rich coming from me, but I do think that the two of us share a great balance. We have diverging ways of thinking so the things we come up with are always different – but it all comes together nicely. When it comes to this radio, that is.

Q: Onishi-san’s original motivation for this show was to get closer to Sakura-san – has the distance between the two of you narrowed?

Sakura: Being polar opposites personality-wise makes it seem inconceivable that we would ever be compatible, but by looking at things positively we’re both able to remain authentic. It’s not a question of one of us having to give way – it’s about thinking ‘we both have our good points’ and then finding a way to balance each other out. We’re acknowledging each other in our way, I suppose, but let’s be honest – did you actually think that we would ever get along like a house on fire? I’m sure you didn’t.

Onishi: C’mon please stop that~. But you’re right, we still don’t contact each other much privately or go for meals together at all.

Sakura: I do think that doing things like that would have an adverse effect effect on the show.

Onishi: You may be right. There’s this other radio show that I’m doing with another person whom I get along really well with* – there was a period of time where we were constantly working on the same anime series, plus we’d hang out in private as well. When we met up to record for the radio we’d have nothing new to say to each other. Our work schedules don’t overlap at the moment so we rarely meet and I think we’re able to bounce things off each other better that way.

*this would be referring to Kakuma Ai, with whom Onishi hosts a long-running radio show called Kyanchōme Kyanbanchi.

Sakura: Radio work is still work in the end; if you shared too much of your private life [with your partner] then it might have an impact on your ability to switch gears during the show. Particularly with women, strange creatures that we are, who might inadvertently touch on private matters. Factoring that in, I think it’s unnecessary for us to feel a need to get along extremely well.

Q: Over time, we see how the incompatibility between the two of you that was present at the start remains very much apparent. It makes me wonder if that you’re both deliberately putting a distance between each other with the intention of maintaining that kind of mood.

Sakura: I wouldn’t quite say we had the ‘intention’; I feel Onishi-san was naturally able to grasp the situation, which made things comfortable and easy. The majority of listeners appear to prefer it when female seiyuu get along very well with each other so [our show] is probably in the minority – rather than us getting all chummy, they’d rather have us get along well but still butt heads once in a while.

Onishi: Oh yeah.

Sakura: I think it’s a relationship that’s constructed based not only on my own preferences, but also in consideration of the personality of my partner.

Onishi: If we were to meet up frequently in private, a lot of things might end up changing. That little bit of hostility between us might disappear – we might melt together into a mountain of mud and then solidify.

Sakura: Eh, what? (laughs)

Onishi: It’d be a little perplexing if she were to respond mildly to whatever weird things I said or did. I’d feel a lot more secure if Sakura-san were to unleash her usual ‘What the hell are ya sayin’!’ retort. I think our relationship dynamic is the best as it is now.

Q: Is that referring to your dynamic on the radio show, or in real life? If we were to ignore your current [working] situation, do you not think that you might like to get closer to each other?

Onishi: To be fair, I do feel like we’re quite close already.

Sakura: I do too.

Onishi: Rather than thinking about what more we could be, it’s fine for us to enjoy ourselves just as we are right now. But if I were to be selfish, the one thing I’d like for us to do is to have a sleepover.

Sakura: Yeah, we should. She’s come over to my house to hang out before already anyway.

‘It doesn’t matter when the end comes – it’s about not leaving any regrets behind’ (Sakura)

Q: Do you have any favourites among the episodes that have been broadcasted thus far?

Sakura: I’ve enjoyed all of them equally.

Onishi: I enjoy every episode.

Q: How about Onishi-san’s birthday episode? Where Sakura-san dressed up as a 7-11 employee, hard-selling the present that had been planned…

Sakura: Oh I really enjoyed that one! That was the one time where I was allowed to toy around [with her] as I liked.

Onishi: That’s a frightening statement (laughs). At the time, I wasn’t given much of the script. I was going ‘Are we doing this next or what? Er?’ but Sakura-san was ignoring my confused state and steaming right ahead (laughs).

Sakura: It was so amusing to see Onishi-san look bewildered, and that was all the compensation I needed. That was the easiest way to do it, and it brought me relief, personality-wise.

Onishi: She turned me upside-down, so to speak. Sakura-san knows my weakness is when she touches my palms, so it really was one of those rare occasions where I played right into her hands. She was repeatedly blowing into my hands so there was unexpected value in being bullied.

Sakura: Hey!! (laughs)

Onishi: I tend to be the one who makes her jump most of the time, but it was really funny when the tables were turned so I do think we can go both ways.

Q: Also, that episode where you did the ‘Ska Para-ish’* thing.

Sakura: That was without a doubt, completely pointless (laughs). While recording, I was kinda thinking… ‘would anyone even like this?’ but it got a pretty good reception so I was relieved.

*a reference to legendary Japanese ska band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.

Onishi: I did enjoy myself, as I normally do.

Sakura: It’s one of those somewhat fascinating things about the show. How Onishi-san enjoys stuff that I don’t personally feel to be particularly interesting. I recall feeling relieved there – ‘If Onishi-san finds it funny then it must be alright’; there are such times when I get that reassurance from her.

Onishi: To be honest I don’t really feel any kind of inner conflict; for me it’s just a question of whether it’s enjoyable or not, if I’d score it a 0 or a 100.

Sakura: By the way, were there any episodes that you didn’t like? It’d be hilarious if it turned out to be one that I really loved.

Onishi: I don’t think there were too many that I didn’t enjoy. There were a few where I couldn’t keep up with the conversation though. Sakura-san loves Godzilla and Nogizaka46 so there are times when I think ‘Wow, she’s getting so animated…’ but I won’t have a clue what she’s talking about (laughs). And from there we developed jokes regarding Godzilla and Nogizaka allergies.

Sakura: On the other hand, I think it’s extremely funny to see Onishi-san’s reaction when she’s clueless. Sometimes I just mention that I really want to discuss Godzilla and Nogizaka even though I don’t. We’re adults so obviously we can hold back if we wanted to. I just start talking about them because I want to see Onishi-san’s reaction (laughs)

Q: The event at Nakano Sunplaza that you initially described as ‘reckless’ – the rush of people applying for tickets was such that you had to add extra seats.

Sakura: That bit about getting 80,000 applications was a lie (laughs). I’m sorry. It seems a lot of people believed what I said but it was more like 5,000 or something?

Q: That’s still an amazing figure. What was your response knowing how popular it proved the show is?

Sakura: I was thinking, ‘What on earth do they think they’re coming to see?’ (laughs). Though we did put out announcements saying we were doing a Sakura to Shitai Onishi event, we never really discussed what we’d be doing at the event nor did we think about who’d be attending. I’m really grateful though. Such selfless love.

Onishi: Ohh!

Sakura: Maybe it didn’t matter what we were going to do as long as we were there. Or perhaps there were expectations that we’d come up with something interesting – I think I did get a little nervous thinking about that.

Onishi: I can’t say I was too conscious of what was going on; it was more a case of ‘Oh, the tickets sold well. That’s a relief.’ (laughs)

Sakura: In truth, we should be prioritizing what the listeners would like to see but to be fair, the show itself isn’t even a year old yet so we have very little material to draw on. We have no special concepts and no flashy corners, so it was really quite difficult.

Q: It’s true – the anticipation is that the mere presence of Sakura-san and Onishi-san will guarantee something interesting, and that is something that originated from your radio show. At the start, you said ‘this will end in 3 episodes’ but now that we’ve gotten to this point, surely there is that desire to stay on long-term now?

Sakura: It doesn’t matter when the end comes – I just think about doing what we do without leaving any regrets behind.

Onishi: You sound like you’re dying of old age (laughs).

Sakura: I’d like to keep going if possible but if my expectations are too high, then the bar would be set too high not only for myself but for the show, and the listeners’ expectations would be the same.

Onishi: I guess I wouldn’t even think about things like that (laughs). That’s something new I’ve learned through this interview. I’ve never even thought about how long I’d like this show to continue either. It’s a bit of a shock for me. I should put more thought into this.

Q: But you’ve both enjoyed yourselves all this while, haven’t you?

Onishi: I sure have, but I can’t speak for the people around me.

Sakura: (laughs)

Onishi: I may be having fun talking but sometimes it’s hard to get things across to the listeners and other times, the situation might not progress smoothly but still, there will be episodes that people will describe as ‘enjoyable’. I never know how things will turn out so all I can do is to give my absolute best.

[Seiyuu Radio no Jikan Unison, pg 66-79]

#208 – Liz to Aoi Tori: Tanezaki Atsumi x Toyama Nao

I watched Liz to Aoi Tori recently…yes, I know – belated! I just needed to get through the 2 seasons of Euphonium and that took…forever. I hadn’t felt particularly strongly about any of the main characters in the series but NozoMizo is such a precious, realistic pairing and I am absolutely in love with them and the movie. Needs about 10 rewatches! (I am still 1000% bummed it did not get a theatrical screening in Malaysia)

There’s already one pretty in-depth interview with Tanezaki and Toyama by Manga Tokyo that you should read (please excuse the Engrish); this one covers similar ground with some fluff tacked on at the end. I guess it’s finally time to move this post out of my drafts!


Q: Now that recordings over and the film is done, tell us how you feel!

Toyama: The distinguishing feature of the Hibike! Euphonium TV series is how the visuals and themusic match each other and that rings true for the film as well – the pieces written especially for it are very much highlights by themselves. It’s the first time I’ve felt this way about a film; where ‘footsteps’ coalesce into ‘music’ and how amazing it sounds. Mizore’s and Nozomi’s footsteps are both distinct and out of sync, but at times they overlap and end up on the same wavelength with the music. It moves, and truly excites me!

Tanezaki: The music comes first for me too. The animation was only halfway-done when we were recording, with ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’ and ‘Mizore and Nozomi’ progressing in parallel; even so, the world of the picture book already seemed wonderful at the time. The book’s style may be completely different from that of Mizore and Nozomi’s world, but the two stories move alongside each other.

Now that the visuals are complete we have a clear picture of both worldviews; the stories still progress along parallel paths but seem to be more vivid than before. I also really love the usage of watercolour at certain points, where the colours gradually spread across the screen.

Q: As the leading characters in the film, what were your thoughts when you first heard about the production, as well as your impression of the scripts?

Toyama: My first thought upon seeing the script was ‘This day has finally arrived!’. Mizore and Nozomi started appearing from the 2nd season of the TV anime. The close friendship between them had broken down once before being restored – it was a case of adversity building character, and I thought that maybe that was all that we would be shown of their story.

But this time over an entire movie, (to borrow the director’s words), the focus would be on the two of them, fleshing out their emotions in more detail. From Nozomi’s perspective, I was very surprised when I first read the script. The TV series had given me the impression that she was an unreservedly cheerful and unaffected girl, much admired by others.

That’s why I was very surprised by the fallibility Nozomi showed – how she worried over her talent for music and in the diverging ways in which she and Mizore cherished each other. It took some time for me to get my head around it. I feel the viewers will come to like Nozomi even more once they have the opportunity to feel such raw emotion.

Tanezaki: When I heard that they were making a story about Mizore and Nozomi, I was just incredibly happy that I’d have the opportunity to voice Mizore again! I was excited to find out whether it’d be a story about their past that preceded the TV series or whether it’d be a sequel of some kind. When I saw the title and looked through the script, I could tell how lovingly it portrayed the moments between them, the conversations they share and their time spent together; things that we had not seen in the anime.

The script notes were so finely detailed and they proved to be a life-saver. In Euphonium we got to hear quite a lot of monologues and narration by Kumiko, but this film did not have a single monologue. Their words are few, and what they say conflicts with what they are thinking. Even though there are no monologues, everything you see will tell you the story – not just the acting and the visuals, but every element in the film captures and portrays it all.

Q: The film digs much deeper into the two characters and their empathy when compared to the TV series – were there any aspects that you were particularly careful about this time around?

Toyama: The two of them are best friends, but the ‘love’ they feel for each other is not the same. In the TV anime, Mizore seemed like one of the many friends that Nozomi has and it never occurred to her that Mizore thought of her as someone special. So Nozomi quit the club on a whim and that ended up hurting Mizore. In this film however, Nozomi appears to possess similarly special feelings towards Mizore.

The vector of her feelings is somewhat different from Mizore’s feelings of reverence and love towards Nozomi – envy of Mizore’s musical talent and a certain amount of possessiveness towards a girl who does not belong to her but whom she believes will never leave her side. Nozomi is used to Mizore always giving her the time of the day so she is stunned when Mizore gives her an unexpected reply at one point – the bruising that Nozomi’s ego receives is an example of the subtlety of their emotions that we didn’t get to see in the TV anime.

Tanezaki: Unlike Nozomi, Mizore remains largely as we saw her in the anime; cherishing Nozomi and always wanting to stay close by her side. I had a lengthy discussion with the Director prior to recording and one of the things she said was that ‘every moment and conversation she shares with Nozomi feels as if it might be their last time together – like a climax, or a final episode’.

Her feelings are unchanged from what they were in the anime and when I was able to reaffirm that, I understood what kind of film we were making. In the words of the Director: ‘All the things of this world are bystanders – the wind, the trees and the sky; they’re watching over the two of them’. Mizore may remain the same but viewers are watching her from the sidelines – I may not be on this side either but I tried to keep in mind what the film was trying to do.

Mizore’s place in the TV series was as part of club activities but in this film, the story revolves around these 2 girls. Naturally, there is elegance in the way they are drawn and an intricacy in their endlessly shifting emotions – that’s the kind of film we were making, but I tried not to be too preoccupied with being too much of a stickler for details and just stayed mindful of the perspective of the work as a whole.

Q: I get the impression that the workings of their minds shift as we moved from the first half to the second half of the film. Did the Director give you any advice on how to approach the two halves of the movie?

Toyama: There were no signification instructions; I think the process went smoothly and our performances were based on our own interpretations. Liz to Aoi Tori is a very quiet work and is in that sense, very much suited for a theatrical screening where you can hear each and every breath being breathed.

The film is such that I would encourage people to rewatch it on Bluray/DVD after watching it on the big screen, but do first of all go watch it at a cinema near you. It’s not a film with speedy developments that turn into something big; rather, the emotions are like snow falling in complete silence, with a finale that makes you think ‘Ah, we’ve come so far’.

In terms of recording sessions – for the 30-minute [TV] anime, they were split into two – before and after the commercial. For the film, we went scene-by-scene so the process would go something like ‘So for this scene, this is how I feel and for the next scene, this is what will happen’ – breaking them down and treating each part with care made it very easy for me to handle.

Tanezaki: Nothing dramatic happens in the movie – it’s just our individual hearts moving steadily, more and more. From the outside it doesn’t look like anything has changed, but the film really excels at expressing what’s inside the heart. I had never thought of the possibility of doing things this way. As long as I give a performance that replicates the human state of mind, the film would be made with utmost care, to reflect it. ‘I’m glad to be with Nozomi, I’m happy to have this conversation with you’ – I was able to play those parts naturally, without having to think about needing to make it that way.

It’s an anime but it feels almost like a photo shoot. Even if she feels the desire to shout out loud the feelings within her heart – she’s an anime character of course, but when you think of Mizore as a person, she wouldn’t actually do that – the desire might be there but she wouldn’t go through with it. I’m not saying that I try to avoid putting too much [emotion] into it since in anime, verbalizing [emotions] is what makes the characters human. I do feel like I was playing [Mizore] from the heart.

But, (turning to Toyama-san) there was this scene where we had to do our parts one-by-one, wasn’t it? There were no specific instructions apart from that so we did our scenes the way we wanted to until we got a good take out of it.

Q: There’s one scene in the film that mentions breakfast – what kind of a breakfast person are you?

Toyama: I’m a coffee person! And an assortment of fruits (bananas, tomatoes, kiwis). I just choose whatever I can eat quickly. I’d love to say that I’m a French toast person!

Tanezaki: Apples are something I absolutely must eat. Can’t leave ‘em apples out! Bananas are technically the easiest to consume but I still like my apples best, I suppose.

Q: Any experience with wind instruments?

Toyama: I played the flute!! In junior high/high school you’d normally play the recorder and harmonica and melodica but for some reason, we had to choose a specific instrument to focus on. I ended up with the flute because it looked elegant but I was awful at it ‘cos I didn’t have enough breath in me.

Tanezaki: I’ve only ever played the recorder (laughs)

[in the background, Toyama: but you play the oboe with the same pose as when you play the recorder!]

I tried the guitar as well but I couldn’t even play the F chord properly so it was goodbye to that. I’m not playing anything now but if I had the chance I’d love to have a go at banging the drums!!

#207 – Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?: Uesaka Sumire, Goto Yuko, Ishigami Shizuka & Yamamoto Nozomi

Newtype interview with the 4 teachers from spring anime Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? (Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!?) – Uesaka Sumire (Kojima Kana), Gotō Yūko (Matsukaze Mayu), Ishigami Shizuka (Hazakura Hikari) and Yamamoto Nozomi (Tachibana Chizuru).

It’s an adaptation of a very titillating manga by Soboro-sensei that has boob master Kaneko Hiraku (Seikon no Qwaser, Valkyrie Drive) overseeing things as chief director so if even if there’s little of substance, we can always look forward to jiggly [censored?] breast physics!

Q: Tell us what your impressions were upon reading the Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? manga.

Uesaka: I was surprised, thinking ‘Does this really run in Young Magazine!?’ It’s a mainstream weekly comic that’s sold at convenience stores so I didn’t think they’d have such an ‘extreme’ manga within its pages (laughs) The content may seem over the top but once I read it, I could see how pure the teachers were. I’m also thinking how you could enjoy this as a pure love story as I’m reading.

Goto: The series is constructed very cleverly. “So if you have a certain situation and you’re given a specific prop, this is what will happen!’ is what I’m thinking as I’m reading, but the series always seems to go above and beyond my expectations (laughs)

Ishigami: Before the auditions my manager checked with me: ‘it’s a lewd anime, is that fine with you?’ but I was totally alright with that (laughs). What I mean is that the lewd stuff only happens as a consequence of certain ‘incidents’ and that means they don’t feel lewd at all to me. Still, it’s not something you should read on the train (laughs). Every volume features a different teacher-student pairing so I’m always excited to see what comes next.

Yamamoto: My first impression was ‘boobs!’ (laughs). Each and every pair of boobs seem soft and the way they move is amazing. While being overwhelmed by boobs, the scenes still contain plenty of laughs and charm as well – definitely lots of appeal in this series.

Q: Describe the appeal of each of the teachers whom you voice.

Uesaka: She’s nicknamed ‘Demon Kojima’ and seems to have a Spartan approach towards education. But in truth she’s quite shy and retiring. She tries her best to overcome her introverted nature, working hard at playing the part of a tough teacher. The anime does kick off with an extraordinary scene featuring Kojima-sensei, but I feel that she’s the most naïve and purest of the 4 teachers.

Q: Were there any aspects that you were careful about when it came to voicing Kojima-sensei?

Uesaka: Her gentle nature that she lets slip from time to time. In front of her students she may act sophisticated but only her partner Satō-kun is aware of the truth. I’m doing my best to show the contrast between the expressions she shows when she’s working and those when she’s in front of the one she loves.

Q: What about Matsukaze-sensei?

Goto: Matsukaze-sensei looks cute on the outside but as her nickname ‘Saint Matsukaze’ suggests, she’s someone who’s overflowing with motherly love. Only for Suzuki-kun does she seize the initiative in love and yet, ends up being super klutzy – which is really quite charming! Matsukaze-sensei and Suzuki-kun’s story is indisputably one of pure romance so I’ve got rom-coms on my mind as I play the role. Please continue to watch over how their love grows even as your heart beats faster!

Ishigami: Hazakura-sensei is probably the most childish of them all, and she’s also the one who gets closest to her students without showing any bias. I’d originally thought that she lacked self-awareness as a teacher but considering the fact that she’s also the student council’s adviser, I guess she’s actually the type who knows how to do her job properly (laughs) As for her relationship with her partner Taka-kun – they were childhood friends so I’m trying to play her as the ‘friendly neighbourhood onee-san’.

Yamamoto: Tachibana-sensei’s nickname is ‘Absolute Zero Tachibana’ in reference to her cold image but she’s not really the type to snub people – it’s just an inability to express herself properly that makes her misunderstood. She’s worried sick about that and wants to get along well with everyone. I do think that those inconsistencies are endearing. Her facial expressions don’t change much so although the range of her emotions is quite limited, the sweetness she shows only to Tanaka-kun is adorable. Her spaciness punctuated by random moments featuring an outpouring of emotions is similar to my own personality, so it felt relatively easy for me to slip into the role.

Q: Tell us what you think of your male partners. Do you see them as viable choices in real life? 

Uesaka: Sato-kun is your stereotypical lewd manga hero. He doesn’t fight his desires, and despite all the events in the manga that seem to happen like a Rube Goldberg machine* he manages to impose himself in a pretty masculine way. I’d go for him in real life (laughs)

Goto: Suzuki-kun’s a boy who looks scary on the outside but is actually sensitive, gentle and overly serious on the inside. I personally adore him very much, his incredible obliviousness included.

Ishigami: Taka-kun is really cute both inside and outside and the word ‘boy’ suits him perfectly. I think the phrase ‘Onee-shota’ [older sister-young boy] was made for the two of them (laughs). I do love boys who react to being teased so Taka-kun’s a good fit for me.

Yamamoto: Tanaka-kun is an honours student, as you can tell from his student representative’s speech during the graduation ceremony. But there’s that unusual side of him that you see from when he works part-time at a mysterious restaurant full of macho men. It looks like it’d be fun to spend time with him, and I definitely see him as marriage material (laughs)

Goto: Oh wow we’re all into our boys!

*Uesaka uses the term ‘Pythagorean device’ here which is a reference to a segment on the NHK show PythagoraSwitch

Q: What should we be looking out for in the series?

Uesaka: What could possibly happen when you get 15 minutes of extreme nipple works? Our chief director is the anime world’s boob master Kaneko Hiraku-san, so it’s definitely gonna be a flawless treatment (laughs). I will never forget the impact that (the Kaneko-directed) Seikon no Qwaser had!

Goto: We only get the rough line art during recording sessions but the strokes already tell me that those boobs are gonna be soft! I’m looking forward to how much more wonderful they’ll be when they’re coloured. And please do pay attention to the cast performances as well. We take it too seriously sometimes and attack our lines with such fervour until we have to do retakes ‘cos we sound ‘too explicit’ (laughs)

Ishigami: What I loved reading in the manga was how the teacher and student pairings would grow closer at a steady pace. I’m happy that the way the relationships develop in the anime is just as superb. Do look forward to watching how they play out.

Yamamoto: I’ve actually got the series notes in hand now and… ‘although there is normal content contained within, there are extreme phrases that cannot be read aloud in public’ (laughs). I am curious to see the results of what they’ve been working on with such seriousness ….do please watch the series.

Q: What kind of emotions do you feel coming from the staff working on the series?

Uesaka: ‘Purity’ that seeps through to the bones. The visuals we’d seen prior to recording had seemed outrageous but the director instructed us to remain pure in mind as we voiced our roles.

Ishigami: But I’ve got to say that the passion directed at the depiction of lewd stuff really is amazing. I personally want you to observe how the nipples become erect (laughs). In every episode, the process is laid bare, giving it plenty of air time. But it seems that it might be too difficult to show on normal TV so you might just have to wait to enjoy it on DVD/Bluray. I too, am looking forward to it!

Q: Apart from the teachers whom you play, name your favourite character.

Uesaka: I like Tachibana-sensei’s partner Tanaka-kun. He has the knowledge but lacks the ability to take action – I do find the sight of a guy crying when he can’t achieve the results he desires, to be adorable (laughs)

Goto: I like Tanaka-kun too. What the other students can handle smartly, clumsy Tanaka-kun fails miserably at. But he can offer you comfort when you’re feeling down. I tend to self-insert into his cycle [of endless misery]. I think most guys watching would be the same (laughs)

Ishigami: I like Tachibana-sensei’s outward appearance and personality. Hazakura-sensei and Tachibana-sensei seem to be good friends and I do wonder how they got close to each other.

Yamamoto: I like Matsukaze-sensei. She’s cute and does have the look of a teacher but at the same time, possesses a wealth of adult knowledge. She’s so assertive in pursuing Suzuki-kun and the way that contrasts with her cuteness really gets me. If her partner was anyone other than Suzuki-kun then they’d be together already and the story would be over in a flash, so I do think that this couple is perfect (laughs)

Q: By the way – when you were in school, did you admire any of your teachers?

Uesaka: I was in an all-girls’ high school and there were teachers who were popular but I wasn’t really interested in any of them. I may be the delusional type but my teachers didn’t appear in my fantasies.

Goto: Who’s your dream partner?

Uesaka: I started to get into Russia when I was in high school, so probably the Russian Emperor or the General Secretary. I guess my high school days were more ‘Why the Hell are You Here, Emperor!?’ or ‘Why the Hell are You Here, General Secretary!?’.

All: (laughter)

Goto: It’s a no for me as well. My parents and grandfather were all teachers so they definitely weren’t gonna be the kind of people I’d target. For me it was already ‘Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!?’ all day every day at home (laughs)

Ishigami: I’ve never had feelings of love towards a teacher, but I did have a lot of respect for them. That’s because one of my junior high teachers happened to be the one who influenced my decision to become a seiyuu by telling me ‘you have a good voice so you should find a career that utilizes it’. So for me it’s ‘I’m Here Because of You, Teacher!’.

Yamamoto: Nothing at all for me either. In terms of memories, I did have this otaku friend who was always fantasizing about teachers coupling up with each other, so I guess it was just a befuddled ‘Why The Hell Is It Teacher x Teacher!?’ for me (laughs)

Q: Thanks for the wonderful memories (laughs). Lastly, please leave a message.

Uesaka: April is the month for new encounters but some of you will still find yourselves alone. If you’re feeling sad and lonely, come and see your teacher. I will gladly & kindly ‘show’ you the way!

Goto: As Uesaka-san mentioned – watch the series and let the teachers heal your broken hearts! For those who feel they’re alright, do not allow yourself to be satisfied with what you already have. Watch ‘Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?’ and let it open new doors for you!! (laughs)

Ishigami: Fans of the manga might have their doubts over how this outrageous manga could possibly be adapted into anime but have no fears – you expectations will be met. It might seem like a story for the guys but at its core lies purity. I’d love it if girls would watch the show too, as long as you’re not allergic to [an excess o] skin.

Yamamoto: In many ways, this is the kind of series that’s perfect to watch just before going to bed. Please do watch the show as a pleasant way to bring your day or your week to a satisfying finish!

[Interview & Text: Hoshi Masaaki]

#206 – Mitsuya Yuji

Translation of a very honest interview with veteran seiyuu Mitsuya Yūji, one of the biggest male actors of his era and one of the most popular seiyuu heart-throbs of the time – just think of a Kaji Yuki or a Miyano Mamoru of the 80s and that’d be Mitsuya.

He’s always been active and prolific and as this piece points out – he’s spent 50 years in the business, starting out as a child actor before moving into voice acting in the ‘70s. Mitsuya may not be too well-known amongst the generation of today but he ranks pretty highly amongst his peers, coming in at No.24 in the 2017 Seiyuu Ranking run by TV Asahi (a poll asking 200 seiyuu who they most respected). The role of Uesugi Tatsuya in Touch is his magnum opus and Mitsuya remains close to his leading lady Hidaka Noriko, with whom he later started a seiyuu agency (Combination). Their partnership even extended to the phenomenon that is Pop Team Epic, being the only male-female Popuko-Pipimi combo (in episode 1, part B) throughout the series’ run.

Mitsuya also hit the headlines in early 2017 when he finally acknowledged his sexuality on a TV show – ‘If you ask me whether I’m straight or gay then well, the answer is gay’, in the process becoming the first and only active seiyuu to have come out publicly.


50 years in entertainment – seiyuu legend Mitsuya Yūji preparing for the end of his days*: ‘I’ve had an amazing life’

Mitsuya Yūji, who has voiced so many characters including Touch’s Uesugi Tatsuya to Sasuga no Sarutobi’s Sarutobi Nikumaru. As one of the leading figures who brought the existence of ‘seiyuu’ to public attention , there is no word more fitting to describe him than ‘legend’.

At the same time he has taken on sound directing duties for the Rurōni Kenshi series and Shinkai Makoto works such as 5 Centimeters per Second. He has also written scripts and lyrics for The Prince of Tennis musical, proving his mettle as a multi-talented creator and transcending the label of ‘actor’.

Going into 2019, Mitsuya has been busying himself with what he deems ‘decluttering’ activities, including the sale of his much beloved training studio. Keeping the theme of ‘decluttering’ in mind, we conduct this interview with Mitsuya to look back on his half-century long career and to learn more about his current state of mind.

Listening to Mitsuya Yūji discuss his career in that high-pitched voice that we’ve become so accustomed to, a startling topic emerges at the end of the interview – belying a casual tone, he declares that he is preparing for the ‘end of his days’.

*the phrase here is 終活 (shūkatsu), which is a homonym for the 就活 phrase (an abbreviation of 就職活動 shūshoku katsudō, which means job-hunting). It was first coined in 2009 in a series of editorials in the Asahi newspaper, and refers to the preparations one makes to ensure that their life is in order at the time of their death, taking the burden off loved ones. These activities often include preparing one’s one grave and planning a funeral.

[Photoshoot: Takuma Kunihiro, Interview & Text: Okamoto Daisuke, Photography Cooperation: Christie, Toshimaen branch]


I’ve never not had a regular role throughout my 50 years

Q: Mitsuya-san – you started out as a child actor. Were you interested in acting since you were young?

A: Not really. I’d always loved singing and was in the school choir during my primary school days. I got my start when the teaching adviser invited me to join an amateur singing contest.

Q: The one that’s aimed at children?

A: That’s right. I was born in Nagoya and my local TV station Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting ran a amateur singing programme called ‘Acorn Musical Concert’ – I appeared on that.

And one of the judges said to me ‘you have a voice that would be good for opera’. I had no idea what opera was so when I went home and did some research, I found out that it was something that combined the elements of singing and acting together. Then it occurred to me that I must be able to act as well as sing, so I joined a child theatre group after graduating from primary school.

Q: That was your first encounter with ‘performing’.

A: Yeah my roots were in child theatre, where I was taught the very basics of acting. After 1 year as a member of the group, I was chosen for the lead role in NHK serialized drama ‘Heita from the Sea’ (Umi kara Kita Heita, 1968-69) – the relationships that I established there led to voice work further down the line.

Q: Your first voice acting job was in NHK Education’s Pururu-kun (1973-76) puppet show, wasn’t it?

A: Yeah. The person who had given me that opportunity was Nagai Ichirō-san, and he then recommended that I take an audition for a TV anime which turned out to be Super Electromagnetic Robo Combattler V (1976-77).

Q: It was your first TV anime and you were suddenly selected to be the lead.

A: My choir teacher, my child theatre instructor, NHK producers and Nagai Ichirō-san – it seems that other people were telling me what to do with my life and I’d just go with the flow (laughs). They all led me in the right direction though, and that’s brought me to where I am now. And throughout these 50 years, I’ve never not had a regular role – not even once.

Q: That’s honestly amazing, isn’t it?

A: I’m grateful. It’s been 50 years where I’ve been supported by everyone around me; countless people who I could only describe as my ‘saviours’.

Acting theory I learned from Nozawa Masako, my voice acting mentor

Q: Would your Robo Combattler co-star Nozawa Masako, whom many consider to be their voice acting ‘mentor’, be among those [saviours]?

A: When I was struggling with my first ever TV anime recording session, Nozawa Masako-san was the one who so kindly took me through aspects such as script-checking and mic work.

I wasn’t able to grasp the nuances of lines like ‘Combattler V’ or ‘Let’s Combine!’ from the entrance and combination scenes, as well as the ‘Super Electromagnetic Spin!!’ special move, and racked up plenty of NGs. That was when [Nozawa-san] intervened and suggested to me: ‘Try doing the line while visualizing yourself doing a Mie (in kabuki)]….

Still, it took me a few hundred retakes before I got the hang of it (laughs)

Reminiscing about that makes me realize just how much patience Nozawa-san and the other staff and cast members had, in putting up with me.

Q: Your acting in Robo Combattler V received many plaudits and at once, you became one of the most popular seiyuu.

A: Nah, I think it was largely down to the fact that there were an overwhelmingly minuscule number of freshly-debuting seiyuu at the time.

As far as I know, the only seiyuu colleagues from my year are Inoue Kazuhiko and Mizushima Yū – just the 3 of us. We’d run here and there working on various different projects and before I knew it, I was in a situation where I had 11 or so regular shows per week. It was natural then to spend each day recording for 3 different productions – 1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and another at night.

Q: That’s a lot of work. How do you make each of those characters distinct from the others?

A: I hope this won’t get misinterpreted, but I can honestly say that I don’t put any thought into ‘role creation’. All I do is look at a character’s visuals, read the lines and allow the voice and performance to flow into my head without forcing it.

Let’s be honest – when you have to record 3 times a day, it’s physically impossible to put the amount of effort in to give maximum depth to each and every character. And that is why I mostly get into the studio and relish the inspiration that I get from being there.

Q: It’s surprising to learn that your ability to play dashing heroes or comedy relief roles was born from your time spent in studios.

A: There is the one exception though – Kiteretsu Encyclopedia’s Tongari. Tongari’s pretty similar to Suneo in Doraemon so prior to recording I did worry a bit about how to best express the character.

Q: So that was the first time you felt troubled by the role creating process.

A: I consulted Nozawa Masako-san, and her advice was to ‘go observe primary school students’.

I found myself hanging around the gates of a primary school in my neighbourhood, looking for a child whose appearance and aura was similar to that of Tongari’s and I observed and learned about the type of voice he had and the way he spoke.

Q: I see.

A: It’d be dreadful if I were to be mistaken for a suspicious old dude on the prowl so I had to try and pose as a wandering passerby (laughs). In the end I went around to a couple of primary schools and took what I’d learned from the children’s demeanour into the studio – and that resulted in Tongari’s voice.

Q: So I suppose recording went smoothly?

A: The sound director Komatsu Nobuhiro said to me ‘Mitsuya-kun, you don’t have to push yourself too hard’ but I was going ‘No no it’s fine, I’m not forcing it!’ (laughs)

Komatsu-san was worried about the condition of my throat since Tongari requires a fairly unique type of enunciation, but I was really determined to pull it off. Initially I did feel that the voice was perhaps a little too tough for me but once recording kicked off I found that I had sharpened my technique enough for the voice to be able to come out naturally; it wasn’t a burden at all.

Q: Tongari’s high-pitched voice was definitely memorable.

A: Tongari’s only a supporting character and he doesn’t appear that often in the manga so I really wanted to make him stand out.

Eventually he started to appear in every episode and became a regular character – I was so happy I let out a whoop of joy…Yeah!. I was delighted to know that I could create interesting characters that made a big impact, even if they weren’t the main role.

During the golden era of Touch, I was making around ¥100 million. I led quite the luxurious life

Q: Another character that the name Mitsuya Yūji is synonymous with has to be Uesugi Tatsuya from Touch. Touch was a national hit so you must’ve been really busy at the time.

A: I was already aware of the buzz surrounding it thanks to the enthusiasm of the director and producers before recording even began, and I thought to myself ‘A lot of [passion] will be going into this series’.

I remember, clear as day, the moment I got home after recording for episode 1 – the series’ 5 producers called me up, one after the other. And they all said the same thing ‘Wouldn’t it be better if you did it this way?’

Q: That proved just how much was riding on Touch, from the TV stations’ point of view.

A: That’s right, but it wasn’t too helpful when the 5 producers were giving me 5 different opinions….I was prepared for the worst since we couldn’t seem to reach any kind of consensus but once the show had gone on air and the audience ratings were out, no one said a single word to me.

Q: The results were there for all to see.

A: I remember thinking back then, how good it felt to have believed in myself. So much was going into Touch – not just an anime, but events and commercials were being developed in conjuction with the show.

There were events being held in local areas practically every weekend as well, which mean I got to tour the country alongside Hidaka Noriko.

Q: Having recordings on weekdays and promotion on weekends means barely any time off.

A: It was hectic. I’d have at most, a couple of days off per year.

Q: Just between you and me – the pay must’ve been good, right?

A: I think I was earning about 100 million yen a year at the time. But I was spending just as much. Splurging on clothes, eating fancy meals, flying first class overseas. I’m the type that works hard and plays hard.

Q: Guess you’re helping the economy along!

A: Even if you save up a ton of money you still can’t bring it with you to the other world when you die. If that’s the case it’d be far better to contribute to society by returning the money to the market and help stimulate the Japanese economy.

Q: Are you still spending lavishly these days?

A: Well yeah. Though I’m not wallowing in as much luxury as I was during the Touch era.

Ideally, I’d like to ‘spend the last 10 yen in my wallet before I die’. Wouldn’t that feel incredibly satisfying?

Q: I kinda get what you mean, but at the same time..not really (laughs)

A: If I had to deposit all my earnings in a bank I think my passion for work would be diminished. I’m only speaking for myself, but I feel that the act of spending hard-earned money is what gives me the motivation for my work.

The seiyuu of yesterday scored either 0 or 100%. Nowadays, they tend to score 75% on average

Q: With over 50 years’ experience in hand, what differences do you see when comparing your younger days with the ever-changing seiyuu industry of today?

A: I can’t really comment since I’m not too involved with the younger seiyuu of today but I suppose if I had to give my opinion, then it’d be that I feel like [seiyuu today] tend to produce error-free performances.

When I was young it seemed most actors would either score 100% or a big fat zero – if you were giving a zero performance then the sound director would give you a big earful. Still, you could feel the personality of the actor shining through his performance and it’d always be interesting to hear.

Q: It’s true that the old-school anime seemed to feature voices and ways of speaking that were unique.

A: Most of the time you’d only need to hear a single word to know ‘Oh that’s xxx-san’. On the other hand the kids of today are all pretty good and would probably score about 75% on average [for their performances] but in return, there are fewer outstanding personalities.

Q: Does that mean that they lack that special something?

A: No. It’s just that the working environment and qualities sought in a seiyuu nowadays are completely different – I have no intention of denying facts and I don’t feel like I am in a position to criticize.

After all, there were so few rookies in my generation which meant most of us had the chance to learn on the job. There may be an increase in the number of shows being made these days but the number of new seiyuu outstrips that by far – it’s really tough for everybody, I think.

Q: Allow me to probe a bit more into ‘performing’ aspects – Mitsuya-san, your acting has been honed through the years using your days as a child actor in live-action films as your foundation. How different is it compared to acting in front of a microphone, like a seiyuu does?

A: It’s exactly the same in my opinion. As an example – when you make a grunting sound ‘uhh’ as you’re jumping, or an ‘ugghh’ of pain when you’ve been attacked, you can only generate the required sound if you move your body into a position, or a way that simulates the act involved.

Q: That’s true.

A: Obviously if you can’t reproduce the muscle and vocal cord movements that you’d be using in real life, then it won’t sound realistic.

I was watching an anime recently and there was a scene where someone [got hit and] cried ‘Ouch!’ and I was thinking to myself , ‘well, he doesn’t sound like he’s in a lot of pain’. They must be sitting comfortably while they’re reading their lines. I used to emphasize those points back when I was still sound directing and [lecturing] in training school – it’s always been an aspect that I’d been especially careful with myself.

Q: Whether you’re an actor or a seiyuu, you need to learn to use your body in your acting.

A: I think it’s an important point. Nowadays seiyuu have to learn to sing, dance and MC – pretty much the same skillset as that of a tarento. It’s the kind of environment that makes it tough for you to focus solely on acting but still, I do believe that acting should be the defining part of a seiyuu’s career.

Q: This seems to be particularly true of the veteran seiyuu – the more experienced they become, the more they orient themselves towards theatre.

A: I agree. I got into the acting industry because of my love for singing but when I used to go out drinking back in the day, the talk would always turn to the stage, film and books. ‘Did you watch that movie?’ or ‘that actor’s performance was amazing!’, stuff like that.

These days when I talk to younger seiyuu I am surprised to discover that so many of them say that they became seiyuu because they love anime or video games.

I don’t necessarily mean that it was better during my time; not at all, but I still hold the belief that ‘voice actor=actor’ and that’s something that will never change, so it’d be nice if the younger ones would look to study other forms [of entertainment].

I’m already losing interest in my zest for the seiyuu industry

Q: You touched a bit on how seiyuu are increasingly becoming like tarento. What do you think about the future of the seiyuu industry?

A: That is…to be frank, ‘I don’t know!! I haven’t a clue!! Sorry!!’ is all I can say (laughs)

During my time, I gave my best in the environment that I was working in and was able to produce fairly good results, but I have absolutely no idea about what’s going to happen in the future.

Q: You have 50 years’ experience and yet, are unable to make any predictions.

A: It’s impossible. I’ve already passed my 60th birthday and to be honest, I’ve already lost the interest and passion in the future of the seiyuu industry.

Q: Really?

A: Personally, I feel like I’ve already achieved everything that I wanted to achieve as a seiyuu by the time I turned 60. When I think about the future beyond [this] and what I can do as a seiyuu in the industry of today, there really isn’t much left for me.

Q: That can’t be true.

A: The biggest thing for me is that it’s hard to find the motivation that I used to have in the past. In the old days when I was doing script-checking and I saw that I had a lot of lines I’d go ‘Hell yeah!’ with joy. Nowadays it’s the opposite – the fewer lines I have the more likely I am to go ‘Banzai!’ (wry smile). Plus it’s starting to feel taxing on my body.

Q: So it’s age-related?

A: I’ve been doing this for so long that I can still kind of cover for my shortcomings using certain techniques, but I can see the differences very clearly.

And most of all, it used to be rare for me to screw up or fluff my lines but it’s happening more and more often – even for short lines. Plus it’s getting harder to read the words in scripts thanks to presbyopia

Q: Based on what you’ve said, does it mean that you’re gradually withdrawing from the frontlines of the seiyuu industry?

A: It’s about time for me to go into semi-retirement. Mostly, I just want to rest. I’m very grateful and blessed to have been a regular [in anime] for 50 years but it also means that I’ve been spending every week in a recording studio for half a century now.

Q: You haven’t had the chance to go on a long vacation since you made your debut.

A: I go to New York every year to see shows on Broadway but I can only stay for a few days at most, so what I get to see is pretty limited. I’d love to see some minor off-Broadway works too.

Turning 60, I began to prepare for ‘the end of my days’, starting with ‘minimalist living’

Q: Recently you tweeted that you were putting up your training studio for sale as part of an effort to ‘declutter’ your life. You also mentioned that you have semi-retirement on your mind – does this signify a change in your outlook on life?

A: Well this particular tweet was merely an attempt to sort my stuff out while I’m moving. I’ve never really had to think about throwing things away before so I used the the relocation as an chance for me to reorganize [my life], the training studio included.

Q: Why the decision to move?

A: I’ve been living alone in a huge apartment all this while and I realized that most of the rooms were used for storing things.

I’d always liked it there but once I passed 60 I lost the lust for things like that. It’s as if I’ve decided to become a monk (laughs)

Q: Maybe it’s a natural reaction to hoarding things.

A: That is a possibility but to be honest, I just wanted to keep everything to a minimum. And I gradually came to think that ‘I’d like to live a simple, minimalistic life’ and realized that my ideal was to live in a hotel.

Q: Hotel living?

A: I don’t have the kind of money that would allow me to keep staying in a hotel for decades on end, so it’s merely an ideal. So yeah, I bought an apartment suitable for living alone and equipped it with the bare necessities.

Q: In other words, downsizing to fit the space available.

A: In my old place there were dozens upon dozens of unopened cardboard boxes filled with clothes that I never wore, DVDs that I never watched etc. Basically loads of stuff flooding the place that I decided to get rid of in one fell swoop. I’m not quite done yet, but significant progress has been made.

I just want to devote the rest of my life to doing the things I like

Q: Still, hearing Mitsuya-san talk about ‘semi-retirement’ and ‘decluttering’ will surely leave your fans with a sense of loneliness.

A: These acts are in a sense, me preparing for ‘the end of my days’; it’s not like I’ve started hating the seiyuu profession nor will I quit the industry permanently.

Now that I’ve passed the 50-year mark and started to divest of the unnecessary things in life, I feel refreshed. I feel like I’m finally starting to take control of my own time, and that excites me.

Q: Anything specific that you’d like to do in the future?

A: I’d like to study my favoured field of singing more seriously and of course, stay in New York for an extended period of time to take in as many shows as possible. If there were to be a production that I particularly took a liking to then I’d love to bring it to Japan as well. I’d also like to remain involved with the stage for as long as possible, whether it’s directing, acting or script-writing.

At the moment I’m working on a stage play depicting a same-sex male couple. Details about it should be out in April or thereabouts, and we plan to perform it at Ikebukuro Sunshine Theatre in July this year. I’m going to take a bit of a break in the autumn and then in December, I’ll be performing in an original play by the Alter Ego Theatre Group.

Q: You’ve been involved in LGBT-related works as well recently. Providing narration for the documentary film ‘Over the Rainbow’ and so on.

A: I took part in a LGBT parade the other day as well. I never intended to hide my sexuality but I just happened to mention it on TV and it became a [huge] ‘coming out’ kind of thing (laughs)

Q: And you started appearing in even more variety shows after that.

A: The people around me had known [about my sexuality] for decades so they just shook their heads thinking ‘why the hell are you getting even busier off the back of this?

Q: You’re thinking of semi-retirement yet you’re still so busy.

A: Life is a lot more relaxed compared to before. Having said that, I’d still give up my life for the stage. I might not be able to sprint any more but I can still run pretty quickly (laughs)