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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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#218 – Ishitobi Erika

Interview with Holy Peak’s rookie seiyuu Ishitobi Erika, a member of the idol unit Purely Monster that’s done songs for the Centaur no Nayami and Imo Imo anime. Here, she discusses her troubled teenage years, which she’s mentioned on radio etc in a more light-hearted manner, but this piece does stray into dangerous territory at times by touching on sensitive topics that Ishitobi is reluctant to get into much detail about.

She does seem a lot happier nowadays, but you never know what’s going on beneath the surface of an idol’s smiling face, as we shall find out.


Voice actress Ishitobi Erika, whose career experience includes a stint as a model for Popteen, is now active as a member of the idol unit Purely Monster. She may look elegant and pretty on the outside, but her true nature is that of a hardcore otaku.

“I love manga, anime and games. I used to go to Animate 5 times a week”

“I turned into a drop-out when I was in junior high and led the life of a shut-in”

“I used to run a dream novels* website and even wrote them myself”

etc etc. As she divulges revelations about her past, increasingly sensitive subjects are brought to the fore.

It’s true that fans might pull back in response to the darkness that she reveals…she had such worries. Perhaps rather unexpectedly, many people have accepted what she’s chosen to talk about.

“They tell me, ‘You gave me courage’, and that makes me so glad. I may sound cheerful nowadays, but I felt frustration throughout the days when I couldn’t go to school. The experience has turned into something positive for me today, so I’d love to be able to go back to those days and tell myself ‘It’ll all be okay’.”

Turn weaknesses into strength. There is no such thing as a ‘dark past’.

*夢小説 (yume shōsetsu), similar to fanfiction but with self-inserts (writing yourself into the storyline)

[Photography: Arai Tetsuya. Interview/Text: Noguchi Rikako]

A shut-in girl who turned into a Popteen amateur model

Q: I checked out Ishitobi-san’s radio show. I enjoyed listening to you speak, so I have high hopes for today! (laughs)

A: Thank you! So you actually listened to the radio show…so I guess this means I won’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not (laughs) Looking forward to today too.

Q: Your entry point into showbiz was through a Popteen audition. How did that come about?

A: There was a point in time, when I was in junior high, that I became unable to go to school and turned into a hikikomori – a shut-in. It was around the high-school entrance exams period and I was determined to undertake distance learning classes, with the thought that ‘I’m just not cut out for normal school’. However, my schoolteachers and parents opposed the idea.

I was wondering, ‘Is there a way for me to get to undergo distance learning?’ and I started thinking that ‘Maybe getting a job would do the trick’. I was fond of fashion and makeup, so I applied for Popteen.

Q: So that was the reason!

A: Yeah. Before I knew it, I’d won the prize and achieved my aim of taking distance learning courses! (laughs)

Q: Hahaha. You mention that you used to be a hikikomori – did you feel okay then, about becoming a public figure?

A: You’d think that to be difficult for hikikomoris, wouldn’t you? But I wanted people to look at me; I craved the limelight. Throughout the days when I stopped going to school, I was still studying fashion and makeup at home and taking photos of myself. I wasn’t even attending school but I thought of myself as a ‘misunderstood girl’ who was the ‘cutest in class’ (laughs)

What an idiot I was…back then, I seemed to possess a strange amount of confidence that prompted me to apply for Popteen – I can’t quite deny the truth of it (laughs)

Q: You started working as an amateur model – what was the experience like for you?

A: Most young models have this kind of…farsightedness, I would say. Junior high school girls tend to be a little…y’know, typical teenagers? …But these kids were nothing like that, they were more open-minded – it was easier being around people like them.

I’d wear a ton of different clothing; get my make-up done. I only have fond memories of my time there, living out the youth that I’d never had, with Popteen.

Q: I’m quite surprised to see the contrast between the gyaru look you had back then, compared to what you look like now (laughs)

A: Ahaha, you’re right. If you only learned of who I am after I became a seiyuu, you’d be surprised. Every so often, I still get sent messages on Twitter saying ‘this photo is Ishitobi-san…right?’ (laughs)

If you like seiyuu so much, why don’t you try becoming one?

Q: You say that modeling work is fun, but you graduated from Popteen when you finished high school. Did you not think about sticking at modeling for a little while longer?

A: Hmm. I’m quite short and my style isn’t particularly great nor am I exceptionally cute, so it was never realistic for me to pursue it long-term. In my mind I’d already come to the decision, that I would give up working with the magazine when I graduated from high school.

Q: What were your thoughts at the time on your post-graduation career path?

A: I was in a dilemma over whether to go to university or to get a job. At that point, my mother gave me the little push in the back that I needed – ‘Since you’re already in this industry and you love seiyuu so much, why not try becoming one?’

Q: You’ve always loved manga, anime and games, and you know a lot about seiyuu too.

A: I’ve always been an otaku. I continued going to Animate throughout my Popteen days (laughs). I’d often chat with my mother about anime and seiyuu that I loved, which is why I think she encouraged me to try out voice work.

Q: When did you start liking anime?

A: My mother loves anime and manga herself, so it’s always been a part of me since my childhood. I’m not from that generation, but I did watch shows such as Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket.

I started watching late-night anime when I was in junior high. Since I was at home most of the time, I started getting stuck into them.

Q: You love and have an interest in anime and seiyuu, but did you ever think about entering the industry?

A: I never imagined that I would. Since I love anime so much, I didn’t think I should try to do it on a whim, plus it wasn’t ever going to be simple…but my mother’s words motivated me to think about taking on the challenge of voice work.

Not turning up for junior high classes. Manga, anime and games were what kept me alive

Q: Rewinding to before you were a hikikomori in junior high – what were you like in primary school?

A: I was always at the centre of attention in class. During breaks, the others would gather around my desk. And then…a lot of stuff happened (laughs)

Q: When you entered junior high, did you find yourself being unable to adjust to the new environment?

A: That period of time after you’ve moved from primary school to junior high – perhaps it’s something that only girls can understand. Those little conflicts between girls that start to materialise. The upshot was that I couldn’t go to school any more.

I went to classes on-and-off during my 1st year but apart from attending counselling sessions in school, I spent most of my 2nd and 3rd years of junior high at home.

Q: Did you talk to your mom about it?

A: No. I was honestly too embarrassed to tell my mother about why I didn’t want to go to school. She didn’t know the reasons, so she’d get angry and tell me off, ‘Go to school!’. Now, I can appreciate how my mother felt but back then, I was only arguing with her, thinking ‘What the heck do you know about me!?’

Q: Were anime, manga and games a source of strength for you during that period?

A: They truly were. I was thinking things like ‘Let me just stay alive until the release date of the next volume of this manga’.

Q: Was there any specific title that you were enamoured with?

A: I used to play otome games like Hakuōki and Amnesia. Manga-wise, I read a wide range of genres but the one I read and reread was Vampire Knight. I loved the art and its slightly unreal story.

Q: Have you met any of your primary school or junior high friends since you became a seiyuu?

A: Actually, there was a reunion the other day…

Q: Did you go!?

A: No, I wasn’t invited. Ahahaha (cries)

I was secretly checking out the Twitter account of a classmate, wondering what they were doing now and if they were living happily (laughs)

And then they tweeted something along the lines of ‘there was a junior high reunion’, so that’s how I found out.

Q: Ah….

A: Ah, but I did see them at our coming-of-age ceremony 2 years ago.

Q: Did you show them how you’re now shining in the showbiz world!? Maybe that would  surprise them?

A: I couldn’t really say much to them…..ahahahahaha (cries)

Q: I’m sorry…..

A: No, I’m sorry….

Q: I do think that you’re truly amazing, Ishitobi-san, for being active as a seiyuu despite what you’ve gone through.

A: Thank you. I’m having lots and lots of fun right now. To me, this is a calling. I don’t believe I’ll be able to work at any other profession.

Q: Earlier, you mentioned that you’d considered finding work – what kind of job do you think you’d be working now if you hadn’t gotten into this industry?

A: Ah, it must’ve sounded cool when I said ‘I was thinking about getting a job…’ but I never really got around to considering anything specific. I’d probably end up a NEET. I’m really sorry….

Q: Hahaha. It’s a joy then, that your mom recommended you the seiyuu path.

A: I’m truly grateful to my mother. And if there are any kids out there who find themselves being unable to go to school like I did, I hope then, that I can support them through my works as well.

I want to become better than everyone else. I’ll take these regrets and turn them into opportunities

Q: You started voice acting work in 2016. Do you remember your very first role?

A: My first job was for a character’s voice in a game. I recall being very nervous. I got there a little early and watched my seniors recording their parts. I’d only viewed things from a gamer’s perspective prior to that so I was really surprised to see how recordings were handled, and impressed by my seniors’ wonderful performances.

I voiced the part of a female bystander who screams ‘Ahh!’ when they got attacked. Even so, I found that ‘Ahh!’ difficult and ended up sounding very wooden. It was as if I had ‘no idea how it felt to be attacked by a monster’. I feel much remorse at having to record the part over and over…

I was incredibly frustrated by my incompetence and vowed to ‘become better than everyone else’ as I continued attending lessons.

Q: When did you begin to feel that you were getting a good grasp of acting?

A: Hmm…to be honest, I’ve got a long way to go. I’m still filled with regrets after every recording. Obviously I do feel like I’ve given 100% every time but when I’m done, I start reflecting on ‘how I could have done certain things better’.

Q: Is there anyone who you can talk things through with?

A: I did say to my manager that ‘I want to take more lessons’. I may be active as a part of the idol unit Purely Monster but voice acting remains my focus.

Q: Your career covers an extensive range of activities, but you consider voice acting to be the focal point.

A: Yes. I enjoy everything I do, but I do feel the biggest sense of accomplishment when I’ve completed recording something. And of course, it’s thanks to voice acting work that I have opportunities to produce photobooks and appear on radio shows.

From a fan’s perspective! Behind-the-scenes stories of my first photobook

Q: Let’s talk a bit about your 1st photobook ‘Cheer’, which will be released on 18th September. What were your thoughts when you first heard about the photobook?

A: It’s really amazing to be able to publish a book, isn’t it? I’d never be so presumptuous as to believe it possible that I could ever put out a book.

That’s why the first thing that came out of my mouth when my manager mentioned it was ‘Will it sell!?’. Not ‘I’m happy! Thank you!’ but ‘Really!? Will it even sell!?’ (laughs)

Q: Hahaha. It’s not a photoshoot collection this time, but a proper photobook.

A: My impression of photobooks was that they covered a model’s fashion style and hair and make-up. However, when I looked at myself objectively I didn’t believe that there would be any demand for such features. I thought that it’d be better to have as many photos as possible, so I relayed my views on that.

I hope that looking through the photobook will compel readers to wish to support me, as well as give them strength – I see this mutually supportive relationship as an ideal, which is why I named the book Cheer.

Q: How was the photoshoot? You wore loose-knit clothing and white one-pieces, which is slightly different from your usual look.

A: I wear a lot of black normally so it was a chance for me to change things up!

I looked through a few idols’ photo collections and photobooks and did my own research. People mostly wear loose-knit clothing and pyjamas at home so it’s not something you normally see, which is what makes it exquisite. I conveyed my thoughts about wanting to try it out.

Q: This means you value your fans’ views. Each and every photo has a wonderfully ‘natural’ feel to it.

A: I had a lot of fun chatting with the photographer as we were going about the shoot, so it’s as ‘natural’ as you can get (laughs)

Perhaps it’s because I originally worked as a model that I have trouble with natural expressions, since I’m very much used to posing for the camera. This time, I managed to produce a lot of natural-looking shots and I remember remarking ‘Wow! I’ve never seen my face look like that before!’.

Q: You’d love for your fans to see this as soon as possible.

A: Yes! I’m just super duper excited for this…!

The ‘strength’ to reveal the darkness of my past and turn it into a weapon

Q: If the pre-showbiz, hikikomori Ishitobi-san of the past were to see the person you’ve turned out to be today, she’d be shocked.

A: Yeah she definitely wouldn’t believe it.

Q: If you could say something to the ‘you’ of the past, what would it be?

A: I can now cheerfully talk about my past of not going to school and how I couldn’t adapt to my surroundings, but I definitely had an inferiority complex and closed myself off from other people at the time. However, I see it all in a positive light now. I want to say to myself that ‘you shouldn’t think so much about it; that it’ll be alright’.

Q: Have you always been this good at speaking?

A: No, not at all. I just talk very fast. When I listen back to my radio shows, I reflect on how ‘I could’ve said things in a slightly better way’. I often listen to other seiyuus’ radio shows and I’m always thinking how they’re all so good and so amazing.

I mean, I used to be a hikikomori so I never had many clear chances to talk to other people and when I look back on it now, I suppose I might’ve been a kid who talked to themself a lot (laughs)

I say whatever is on my mind right away. “I’m gonna play this game!” or when I’m playing it, “Here it comes, here it comes! This is how it all unfolds!?”, and so on. I do my own running commentary when I’m playing games, to the point where my mom will ask ‘Is there someone else in the room?’ (laughs)

Q: I think your speaking ability is your strength – is there anything else that you believe you’re better at than anyone else?

A: I can talk about my dark past more than anyone out there (laughs)

When I mention my dropout days on the radio; this ‘gloomy past’ or.. should I say, ‘shadiness’? (laughs) So yeah, I was honestly worried that I wouldn’t attract any fans if I exposed my dark past. However, I was so glad to have so many people come up to me to say ‘I used to be like that too’, or ‘You give me courage’, or ‘I want to support you now’.

I’ll work hard from now on so that everyone will continue supporting me in the future!!


Ishitobi’s never put a specific name to the reason she ended up dropping out of mainstream schooling, but you can make the obvious inferences from previous comments about ‘spending her lunch breaks in fear’, mostly in the toilet or the nurse’s office, and about how she never took part in school events and had her junior high graduation ceremony alone in the principal’s office.

The fact that she’s actually getting things out in the open is great – mental health is a topic that remains fairly taboo not just in the seiyuu biz, but in Japan in general. We’ve heard it mentioned briefly through Hayashi Saori’s case, Gouri Daisuke’s suicide, Ogata Megumi talking about how she went through a brief period of depression and of course, Tamura Yukari’s well-publicised struggles. It’s an important conversation to have especially with the ridiculously demanding, every-man-for-himself nature of the seiyuu industry of today.

Meanwhile, check out Ishitobi’s website which links to all her other social media profiles.

#217 – Shin Chuuka Ichiban!

Brief Q&As with the main cast of the upcoming Shin Chuuka Ichiban! (Cooking Master Boy) anime. It’s a series I remember fondly from my earlier anime-watching years, so this should hopefully be good fun nostalgia. All-new cast as expected since the original line-up (Tanaka Mayumi, Yukino Satsuki, Sakamoto Chika etc) would bust anyone’s budget if they tried to get them to do it now.

Q1: What’s your favourite Chinese dish?
Q2: Please leave a message for viewers who are looking to the show.

Fujiwara Natsumi (Mao)
A1: Stir-fried pork with peppers & pea shoots*! I wasn’t very fond of peppers and did my best to avoid eating them but at some point, I found that they were tasty when cooked this way. I love the dish since it’s gotten me to eat peppers! Oh, and I love pea shoots ‘cos I can eat them with loads of bowls of rice!

A2: It’s a series about food, so do look forward to the cooking scenes and food reactions! There’ll be plenty of parts that make you crave Chinese food, so all of you! Get your Chinese food ready and wait for the show! Thanks for the support!

*stir-fried pork = Chin-jao rosu (qingjiao ruosi), apparently based vaguely on a Fujian dish of yore, and also known as pepper steak when cooked with beef. Pea shoots = better known as dou miao

Kayano Ai (Mei Li)
A1: Hot and sour soup! I get addicted to that spicy sourness!

A2: Travelling with Mao is an endless series of surprises! Please pay attention to the depiction of the food and the unique recipes!

Fujii Yukiyo (Shiro)
A1: Dumplings. I like to eat them with sauce and a spoonful of rice; shove it all in my mouth in one go.

A2: It’s an anime that makes you hungry as you watch. We heard a lot of rumbling stomachs in the recording studio (laughs) I’m sure you’ll be impressed by how ‘food can be illustrated so vividly…!’ Please enjoy it to the fullest!

Nakamura Yuuichi (Xi Er)
A1: Dumplings. I’ve heard talk of them being healthy but I’m also interested in how people’s preferences can diverge so much, depending on the cooking method and ingredients used.

A2: Cooking Master Boy has returned in the Reiwa era! It’ll thrill you every week and make you wanna eat something after you watch it! Please look forward to it!

Sugita Tomokazu (Li Wen)
A1: In my younger days I used to frequent this Chinese restaurant in Kami-Ikebukuro with a comrade of mine, a manga artist who secretly stole out of his house through the windows whenever his manuscripts were due. Mapo tofu and stir-fried pork with peppers – stuff that you’d find everywhere; but it was the joy of sharing food that made it exceptional. Chinese food is something that you’ll want to eat together with lots of people.

A2: It’s delicious!

Enoki Junya (Fei)
A1: Chinese-styled fried chicken with special sauce*. It’s kinda like normal fried chicken but what tips the balance is the unexpectedly refreshing sauce!

A2: This new iteration of the ‘Cooking Master Boy!’ series is finally starting. It’ll be a show that even old-time fans will enjoy so please look forward to it!

*You lin ji, another dish with mysterious origins – the chicken is deep fried and drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce made from vinegar/lemon and soy sauce, topped with chopped onions
Random notes:
-I used to eat a fair amount of Japanese Chu-ka food when I was living in Tokyo but the menus tended to baffle me, an ethnic Chinese, so I stuck to the obvious things like Su-buta (sweet and sour pork), Chashu, chahan and nasu-itame (stir fried aubergine) w

#216 – Kitta Izumi

Interview with Kitta Izumi, whose fame stems from 3 things – being a member of Milky Holmes, her fanatical love for gyoza and her pride in yuri (she co-authors the yuri manga Liberty with Momono Moto, running in Galette). She can potentially add English to the feathers in her cap as she embarks on a year’s hiatus to study English in the UK starting June 2019, and this interview touches on all of these topics.

Q: When did you make the decision to study in the UK?

A: About a year and a half ago. At the end of 2017, when I heard that the Milky Holmes unit’s activities would be coming to an end. I’d spent 10 years as a member of Milky Holmes and I had to think carefully about what I’d be doing over the next 10 years. I’m the kind of person who can’t bear a monotonous, unchanging life! It’s like how I can’t live in the same house for more than a year. I can’t live a life that’s static and unexciting.

Q: Seeking change, you settled on studying abroad.

A: I went to Hawaii around that period of time to attend my sister’s wedding; my brother-in-law is a foreigner so the ceremony was basically entirely in English! I can communicate in English to a certain extent but can’t speak the language properly so I couldn’t even talk to the cute kids over there. It was there that I learned of the end of Milky Holmes. I was abroad, leisurely thinking about my future and contemplating which skills of mine I could polish, and English was foremost on my mind.

Q: You’ve mentioned before that you regretted how ‘Thank You’ is the only phrase that you can use to show your gratitude during events overseas.

A: Yeah, I feel like that’s all I can say every time I’m abroad. The overseas fans express a lot of their thoughts; things like ‘I love you’ and all I can say in return is ‘Thank you’ – I just didn’t have the courage to reply them in English. I hated the fact that I was like that; it was so uncool.

Q: There were a lot of videos on HiBiKi StYle where you took on the task of holding conversations in English. Did they come about as a result of your desire to study abroad?

A: No, it was actually an idea that preceded my decision. Maybe it’s just a coincidence? I thought the other members would be doing them too but then they told me ‘It’s only you, Kitta-san’. I’d repeatedly been talking about how I wanted to be able to speak English so perhaps they were making assumptions (laughs)

Q: Was English one of your best subjects in school?

A: I did go for classes when I was in primary school and my English was quite good up until junior high, but when I went to high school I switched to the science stream. There were virtually no classes in English and most were science and math-based instead. After that, I studied French so I think my English ability was just average at best. I wanted to be able to speak English at a typical standard (for a Japanese person).

Q: Did you pick up English again after your decision to study abroad?

A: Yes I did! I went to English conversation classes for about a year.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve made any progress?

A: Definitely! When I was packing in preparation for the UK, I stumbled across my notes from a year and a half ago when I had attended an intensive English course. I was so stupid then (laughs). I had no idea what ‘present perfect’ meant and my vocabulary was awful. I think I’ve improved enough to understand them now.

Q: Yuri, otaku, gyoza – these are three of Kitta-san’s specialist subjects, and none of them are part of any syllabus.

A: I talk about those topics a lot during lessons! My teacher was someone who understood my line of work when we were introduced so they knew all about what I wanted to discuss, what I wanted to learn.

Q: It feels very personal. So how do you say ‘gyoza’ in English?

A: “Gyoza”.

Q: It’s a universal word!

A: But when I went to Chicago 4 years ago they didn’t understand what ‘gyoza’ was; it seemed ‘pierogi’ (Polish) worked better. I finally got through when I described them as being ‘like Chinese dumplings’. I wonder whether they’d understand now… LA (Los Angeles) knew what ‘gyoza’ was!

Q: Of all the places you can learn English, why England?

A: Various reasons, but mainly because this is where Sherlock Holmes was born! (laughs) I visited the UK when I was starting out in Milky Holmes and after 10 years, I do feel a sense of connection to the place. My older sister lives in the US and speaks a very frank brand of English but I want to become the kind of person who speaks (proper, courteous, refined) snobbish, high-and-mighty English (laughs).

Q: If you were to voice a character in English – a role with that way of speaking might be tailor-made for you.

A: You could be right! Thank you (laughs) I do admire that type of accent. On a more realistic level, there were places in a few countries that I was looking at but the rent for a room near a school in the US was way too high, which ruled it out completely.

Fond memories of Milky’s Final Live

Q: Going back to what you said – Milky Holmes coming to an end must’ve played a huge part in your decision to study abroad.

A: Up ‘til that point, I’d thought it impossible to be away from Japan for a year. People might forget who I am, and I’d cause trouble in terms of my work commitments.

Q: Did you come to a swift decision once certain conditions had been met?

A: It was very much a snap decision and everything happened quickly. I happened to be travelling to Singapore for work when I knew I wanted to go; I met HiBiKi’s president and [Bushiroad founder] Kidani-san there and related to them my intention to study abroad.

Q: How did Kidani-san and the others react?

A: It seems that the company and my agency were of the view that it would be helpful to have people who spoke English around. They told me ‘now’s the time for you to go’ but I was like, ‘I can’t go straight away, I’ve still got Milky!’ (laughs)

Q: You wished to see Milky Holmes all the way through to the end. How did you find the Milky Holmes Final Live Q.E.D at Nippon Budokan, which was a major milestone for you?

A: The finale live was the best. As all the members have mentioned, the concert was one where we gave all we had without leaving even a single millimetre of regret behind. I was able to express my thoughts in the form of a letter as well.

Q: Not only the members, but the audience went home smiling as well – I thought to myself ‘There is this kind of final concert after all’.

A: That’s right, I’m glad that people were able to say that. Everyone looked sad at the event where we first announced the final concert, so it was tough initially…Whenever we had events in the year running up to the finale, I had no idea how to greet the fans and could barely bring myself to say ‘see you again’ or ‘please support us forever’. So yeah we kind of exploded in our final concert.

Q: A concert with laughter and tears. I think that’s the only time that a Milky Holmes event felt so ‘wet’.

A: We were like B-byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I mean, I didn’t even wanna do rehearsals for the concert’s ending segment. I could only go through it once ‘cos my heart was being ripped to shreds. It’s lonely having to do MCs by myself too.

Q: Was it always on your mind; the fact that you knew you were heading towards fresh challenges including overseas studies, once the concert was over?

A: I knew that I’d be facing a lot of changes in environment so there was a kind of special feeling about it. The final ‘Bye Bye Yell!’ really touched me and I felt that I was ready to say ‘farewell’. My feelings probably differed from those of the other members.

Q: Your final message was written on a scroll, which had quite the impact.

A: There’s a good reason for it. We’d talked about storing away and preserving our letters in time capsules after the concert was over. I was thinking that normal stationery might disintegrate and that scrolls were more durable and would last longer, so I got it through mail order.

Q: I heard this through the grapevine: Sasaki [Mikoi]-san has said that she declares ‘Gonna shout out loud!’ just before the chant in the group huddle because you asked her to, after being surprised by hearing hear do it in one of the concerts in the region.

A: Did I say that? I don’t remember! I was thinking ‘Wow she’s starting to say she’s gonna scream!’ just as we’re getting into the middle of the ‘Final Road’ chant (laughs) But yeah I was honestly surprised at first; I didn’t expect her voice to be that wild and it had me going Woah. Sasaki’s our chief party organiser so she’s the one who always gives the speeches at our drinking parties.

Q: Was it the usual beef tongue at the yakiniku restaurant after the final concert?

A: Yes it was! We ate at least one plate of beef tongue per person!

Q: When did the tradition of ‘everyone has to order the best beef tongue in the house’ begin?

A: Right from the start. We’ve been doing this since we formed.

Q: I have to say, that you girls incurred high costs right off the bat despite being a new unit (laughs)

A: We did, we did! We were just really particular about our food. I asked Poppin’Party about it and they said they didn’t have anything like that so yes, Milky was a costly unit. The company (Bushiroad) was still small at that point, so the parties were paid for out of the President’s pocket. For that reason, Milky Holmes after-parties tended to have very few guests.

Living and working in the UK

Q: Thanks for these precious stories. Back to your overseas studies now – can you tell us a little about how you plan to spend your time abroad?

A: Each week is packed with classes and lessons in my language school. I do have a choice of elective classes in between so I suppose, it’s most of the days spent at school?

Q: Feels like the last summer before university entrance exams.

A: It does really seem like that, which makes me a little nervous. The registration process was in English as well, so I’m thinking that I might just jump into things like orientation right away so I can learn about the finer details of my classes.

Q: Kitta-san, you’re quite particular about your food and as we know, the reputation of English cuisine isn’t the best. What were your meals like when you first visited the UK with Milky Holmes?

A: It was bad. It was so awful! I recall something like a soupy pie but it was just so terrible that all I can remember of it is its bad taste.

Q: How will you survive living there?

A: I’ve rented a place with a proper kitchen so I’m basically hoping to do my own cooking!

Q: I’ve heard that pan fried gyoza are all the rage over in the UK recently.

A: It’s not just in the UK; they’re pretty popular over in Europe as well. When I’ve settled down in the UK, I’d love to invite people over to have a gyoza party. Since there’s a gyoza boom, I’ve got a few ideas about approaching local eateries and proposing some kind of collaboration.

Q: When I first heard that you were studying abroad, I was wondering if you were prepping to open a gyoza restaurant overseas.

A: I want to. I was on NHK radio the other day and mentioned that I’d love to be running a chain of 100 gyoza shops in Europe within 10 years. I have a strong desire to spread Japanese culture overseas. I want to popularise gyoza and yuri.

Q: You’re a seiyuu, a gyoza critic, and a yuri expert. Please tell us how you visualise utilising the English that you’re going to master during your studies abroad.

A: I’d like to open a gyoza shop as well as publish a book about gyoza in English. Paradise Yamamoto-san’s written an English-language cookbook about gyoza. Plus, my brother-in-law’s a pretty good-looking guy so I’m hoping we can become gyoza Youtubers together someday.

Q: What kind of person is your brother-in-law?

A: He’s American but he loves cooking. I gave him a Japanese cookbook and he’d send me photos of his attempts at cooking the dishes. We’ve joked about working together to promote Japanese food and I’d love to do it for real someday. I want to discuss not only gyoza, but Japanese food culture in general.

Q: Let’s talk about English and yuri.

A: Whenever I attend events overseas, the fans will talk to me about yuri. They’d somehow get hold of the magazines that my series is serialised in. I do believe that there are many yuri lovers in every country, but it’s tough to get hold of yuri publications locally. I’d love to be able to set up booths exhibiting yuri at overseas events such as Pride parades.

Q: Have you got any stories about interacting with yuri fans overseas?

A: I’d heard about the presence of a ‘Yuri Aunt’* in the US so I did a quick search and found out that she follows my Twitter account. She’d even posted some impressions of Liberty (the manga that I write). It seems she participates in yuri events and exhibits all over the US so I’m thinking that there will be chances for me to get in touch with such people. By speaking English, I hope that I can widen my field of contacts. At the same time, I’d love for Japan to know more about what it’s like for otaku overseas.

*referring to Okazu

Q: New worlds will definitely open up for you as a seiyuu and an MC if you can speak English.

A: I want to be able to provide narration in English. I think it’d be great if we didn’t have to change voice actors if English dubs of my work were to be produced. Nowadays, you see Japanese people acting in English on NHK programmes. When I announced that I was going to study abroad, recording studio staff would tell me that there’s been a huge increase in the amount of acting and narrating work that requires English, so I’m hoping that I can become someone who can do that too.

Q: At the same time, it’d be useful [to know English] when dubbing English-language works in Japanese.

A: I do think it’s important to understand the nuances of the original language. It’s true for seiyuu work, but also in the case of hosting events overseas, which I’d like to do. I don’t think that there are too many English-speaking MCs who understand the Japanese anime industry.

Q: You’ll have to work hard in this 1 year for the sake of all these dreams.

A: That’s right. I want to be able to speak confidently, coolly and articulately.

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for your fans. If possible, could you say something in English as well?

A: I’m not certain how much progress I can make in the 1 year I’ll be away – I have people telling me that I’ll surely pick it up right away and that does put a bit of pressure on me. As the day of my departure approaches, I’ve started to believe that this pressure can also turn into a source of power for me. So I’d like to do something that only I can do, make this period of study different from the norm and bring some fascinating stories back with me to Japan. I hope to gain lots of life experiences and embrace the values of people from around the world. I want to be a voice actress, gyoza exponent and yuri critic who can trade information about Japan with other people! I think I’ll give an update on my situation when I’m back in Japan in 6 months’ time, and I’d be glad if you would watch over my progress without forgetting who Kitta Izumi is after this 1 year. I’ll be going now! “I can do it!!”*

*”I can do it!!’ is written in English

*She’s already had a gyoza party (documented on her Instagram) in the UK
*She attended Brighton Pride too
*She’s working on translating Liberty into English herself, please support it if it gets published
*She actually went back to Japan for a couple of days in July for work…that pesky thing we all can’t avoid

#215 – Sakamoto Maaya

“Sakamoto Maaya discusses the virtue of new beginnings and perseverance”

A short piece on Sakamoto Maaya by her alma mater Toyo University, which she graduated from in 2002 with a degree in sociology. There is a slightly different version of this article in English in Toyo’s June 2019 newsletter.

Maaya always comes across as dedicated and single-minded when it comes to her work, especially when it comes to music – she’s notorious for having no hobbies and her few points of indulgence include alcohol and solo trips around the world.

Parts of this interview will obviously seem familiar if you’ve followed her over the years, but they do offer a basic insight into Maaya’s thoughts and life philosophy. She’s about to hit the big 4-0 next year and has already spent more than 30 years in showbiz, yet her enthusiasm continues to burn strong.


“I want to achieve whatever is possible for me to achieve.”

Singer, voice actress, actress, radio host, essayist and so on – Sakamoto Maaya is constantly trying out new things and broadening her range of accomplishments.

“Acting, singing and writing – they’re all connected to each other in some way, which is why I think of everything as being part of a ‘whole’.

Starting something new; or persevering with something else. Both of these are enjoyable processes and can make one’s heart swell with anticipation but they may also bring pain and suffering. How did she overcome the prospect of facing such barriers? Here, Sakamoto Maaya, who continues to run through life, discusses the importance of new beginnings and perseverance.”

“It was just ‘me, the university student’ or ‘me, the working adult’”

Q: University students often have a lot of free time available for themselves. Back in the day, Sakamoto-san was attending Toyo University while working on the side – university is a place that brings her back to “when she was twenty years old”

The first theme of this discussion is “My Twenties”.

A: I think I was a painfully ordinary university student. I’d hang out with friends after lectures, we’d enjoy meals at the cafeteria and I’d panic when I didn’t have enough credits in my 4th year… (laughs). I did work throughout my uni days but that period of time also allowed me to make lifelong friends, who continue to be a blessing to me today.

On the other hand, the workplace gave me opportunities to come into contact with people of all age groups and that made me feel like I had to mature, the reason being that ‘I don’t want people to treat me like a child so I’ll have to grow up quickly’. The days of being a regular uni student made me feel like I could go back to being just a normal 20-year old. University was an important place to me; a place where I could revert to who I truly was.

I got to try out a lot of different things through my work. Voice acting and singing, which I’ve continued to pursue up ‘til today, and radio hosting…and my first experience of the stage was for the musical Les Miserables, which I got involved in shortly after I graduated from university.

Anyhow, I was always desperately trying to keep my head above water, giving my all to whatever work was put in front of me. At the time, I had little clue as to what choice I should make out of the infinite possibilities open to me, that would bring me the most happiness in the future. It was a nice feeling to get to open up all these strange new doors that were being offered to me but at the same time, there was so much required and so little scope for me to move that all I could do was try to keep afloat.

There were tough times but I found that when I treated each group of tasks as ‘short-distance runs’, I was able to increase the number of things that I could take on as the cycle repeated and over time, discovered that there were more things that I could do, as well as things that I wanted to do. That was what my 20s, including my days in university, was all about.

“I love what I do, so I endure the storm of suffering ‘til it blows over and calm returns”

Q: She continues sprinting towards new challenges every day. Under such circumstances, it’s not unreasonable to think that she faces a number of dilemmas that might make her think ‘I wanna quit’ or ‘this is too much’. She’s been able to move past the suffering because of her strong desire to be a better person.

The second theme of this discussion is “Sakamoto Maaya’s method of overcoming pain”

A: It’s quite tough to do something you love for a living. People often say that it’s better to let what you love to do remain a hobby.

Still, even if the best part of a year consists of periods of ‘suffering’, what helps is when you experience a number of events that give rise to a sense of accomplishment; whether it’s the completion of an album, the end of a stage run or the successful conclusion to a tour – these moments are enough to erase the pain that came before. I’d definitely feel glad to have gone through all of it.

If you quit while you’re suffering, it would only serve to become a repulsive memory that you never want to be reminded about. What I choose to do instead, since I never want the things I love to turn out that way, is to try to endure the suffering and find a way to move forward. Once the storm of suffering has passed and the calm has returned, I will consider once again whether I truly wish to quit.

And that is how I have continued traversing this path for decades without giving up.

I suppose this won’t be viewed as being ‘happy’, but I’m always inclined to think that ‘something is missing’. Others often say, ‘If you are satisfied with what you have, then you should be happy’.

The things that I lack – they take on no physical shape, nor can they be gifted to me by someone else. Skills, or ‘something’ that I have yet to achieve. I want to clear the hurdles on my own, to become a better version of me.

If I was ever to be satisfied, I probably wouldn’t have to make any added effort and perhaps, I might feel more at ease. Yet, there is this nagging feeling that I could still improve so that I can someday get to see even more spectacular views than what I’m seeing now. That is why I’m thankful that I can stay as who I am – a person who is compelled to think ‘something is missing’, and is never fully satisfied.

“Not everything can be attained. There is just too much to do”

Q: Singer, actress, author, radio host – Sakamoto Maaya’s career has branched out in all sorts of directions from its original path, and continues to evolve.

The past, the present and the future me.

The third theme of this discussion is, ‘what is the driving force behind starting something new?’

A: As I reached adulthood I started to fear venturing into anything new, worried that I’d make a hash of whatever I chose to do. I could still afford to think that way when I was young but it became less of an option as I got older. ‘What can I do within the limited amount of time available to me?’ – such thoughts were constantly on my mind. If only I had realized this fact when I was younger, I could have taken on a lot more challenges.

Our lives are limited, and we don’t get a 2nd chance. Keep this in mind and you will never use ‘I have no time’ as an excuse.

There is just so much that I want to do and I’ll never get through all of them if I don’t do everything in haste. Even so, I doubt I’ll ever be able to fit it all in (laughs)

There are so many countries that I want to visit, but how many more chances will I have to go abroad? I’d love to have different breeds of dogs as pets, but I’ll probably only get to keep one or two more dogs in the future. When I think about things this way, I know that not all of my dreams will come true.

This is why I think it’s a good idea to just try to achieve whatever appears to be within my grasp. Right now, I am the youngest ‘me’ that exists. There’s nothing I can do about the past, but I can still change today. Age is not a barrier so I will do the things that I want to do and the things that I need to do, one after the other, like I’m steadily plotting the points on a blank map.

To me, the university student who wrote ‘I want to be acknowledged’ on tanzaku paper

Q: In her book I.D. (Seikaisha Bunko), she relates a story of how she wrote ‘I want to be acknowledged’ on a strip of tanzaku paper and hung it up on the bamboo trees at the university gates during Tanabata. We ask Maaya for her thoughts on those days.

A: When I reflect on it now, I do think I was truly….pitiful at the time. I was trying to behave like a grown up, but everyone else around me obviously still saw me for what I was – a child. My inward perspective, the anxiety I felt about a myriad of issues, the frustration of not being able to properly express myself as I wished to – all these emotions led to a strong desire of wanting to be ‘acknowledged’, wanting to become ‘someone’.

However, I do believe that my unhappiness was not completely in vain – it’s the cumulative effect of all these experiences that makes what I do so much more enjoyable now. There are things that I’ve only come to savour now that I’m older, so I’d like to pat myself on the back for not ditching them earlier on. I do tend to feel overly anxious about things, which is why I say I ‘pity’ myself (laughs)

I think it’s great that I persevered despite the suffering; without ever tossing everything by the wayside. If there’s one thing I can pick out of my own experiences to pass on to the youth of today, it’ll be to start something: a diary, or pick up a skill– anything will do; and persist with it for 10-20 years. I believe that it will definitely lead you to where your future lies. Just try something; anything, and stick at it for as long as possible. I want you to cherish the virtue of perseverance.

#214 – Dumbbell Nankilo Moteru? Newtype Interview #1: Fairouz Ai

While I’m still hot on muscles, here’s the first in a series of Web Newtype features with the Dumbbell cast. Rookie Fairouz Ai plays MC Sakura Hibiki and I’m finding her a breath of fresh air in this industry. She’s one of a handful of ‘half’s that have emerged in the seiyuu biz in recent years, with a bit more of a unique flavour to her given her Egyptian heritage where most others are half-Caucasian (Arthur Lounsbery, Lynn) or half-Filipino (Mark Ishii, Nakajima Megumi).

If you’ve heard her on radio she seems like a pretty fun character – very open-minded with no filter and not afraid of joking around with her seniors. It’s early days for Fairouz yet, but her performance in Dumbbell is polished to the point where you wouldn’t believe that it’s her first major role of any kind. She trained at the Pro-Fit academy and is still a junior (azukari) there but the agency has good form, having produced the likes of Okamoto Nobuhiko, Ishikawa Kaito, Kayano Ai, Ishigami Shizuka, Kito Akari, Iwami Manaka and Horie Shun despite taking on very few talents (generally 2-3 per year). Keep an eye on this one!
The high school girls’ comedy manga ‘Dumbbell Nankilo Moteru?’ has been adapted to anime! The main character in this series is high school girl Sakura Hibiki, who starts going to the gym as part of an attempt to diet, and she’s voiced by up-and-coming seiyuu Fairouz Ai. Web Newtype will deliver a series of interview with the main cast and staff.

We kick off the project with Fairouz-san. The child of an Egyptian father and Japanese mother, Fairouz talks about the many detours she took until she arrived at her debut in Dumbbell, all in a bid to become a seiyuu.

Q: First of all, let’s talk about your background.

A: I was born in Tokyo and mostly lived in Japan. I did spend some time in Cairo in Egypt, from my 5th year of primary school ‘til I graduated. I don’t know if that period of time had that big of an influence on me but I’m often told that my personality is ‘very Egyptian’. Apparently Egyptians say that they’d rather die than shut up and not talk (laughs)

Q: Do you still speak Arabic?

A: It’s sort of faded away over time but I can still manage normal daily conversations. It seems my parents wanted to raise me as bilingual so we’d speak Arabic whenever my dad was at home. Once I got to junior high, everyone around me started saying ‘it’s fine now’ so I’d just speak Japanese normally.

Q: It seems like you’ll be the leading Arabic seiyuu in future. How did you end up in Egypt?

A: When I was in primary school I was the kind of kid whose head was always in the clouds. I was looking at a website for a Japanese school in Cairo and they had fun school events like pyramid endurance running and parent-and-child mango picking and I thought, ‘That looks fun! Maybe something in my life will change if I spend time in my other home’. So I talked about it with my parents and they agreed, thinking ‘it’s a shame that she only knows about the Japanese side of her heritage’. So they sent me to live with my paternal grandmother and I attended Japanese school there.

Q: Before we move on, allow me to mention something that’s piqued my interest…a pyramid endurance run, what’s that?

A: Yes, that’s a marathon event where everyone runs around the pyramids in the desert. We had 50 primary and junior high school students from Japanese schools all running together and it was fun. The celebrations after Ramadhan fasting were enjoyable too!

Q: Your Egypt stories are very intriguing but let’s get back on track. When did you decide that you wanted to become a seiyuu?

A: I returned to Tokyo to enter junior high, but I found that I didn’t really fit in. That’s when I first came across JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I was reading it and thinking ‘Everyone is fighting for what they believe in or fighting to protect something. But I am only thinking about myself and that’s no good’ – I realised that my troubles seemed so trivial by comparison…

Q: Which arc were you reading?

A: The 6th part, Stone Ocean. I was greatly encouraged by reading it, thinking ‘I’ve gotta be strong like Jolyne!’. I started meeting fellow JoJo lovers online and it was common for fans to post videos of themselves reading the lines from the manga. I’d take part in JoJo-related Skype reading sessions and got a lot of good feedback. I was really happy, and these recitals made me feel like I was a resident of the JoJo world…the sessions were only held sporadically but I was impatient and I ended up reciting the entirety of Volume 1 of JoJo by myself – not only the dialogue but the sound effects too. While I was doing all this I started thinking ‘I should become a seiyuu for real and appear in JoJo when it gets animated!’, and that’s how I got started on this path.

Q: So if they do animate the 6th part I suppose you would definitely be going all out to voice Jolyne.

A: I want to be Foo Fighters!

Q: Not Jolyne?

A: Jolyne is the one I adore. So I want to be Foo Fighters, the one who lends her a hand.

Q: Your love for JoJo is pretty full on. Could it be that the Horse Riding Skill Certification Level 4 that I see from the qualifications column of your profile is related…?

A: Of course I read Steel Ball Run (JoJo Arc 7) and thought ‘I wanna ride a horse!’. I can now ride across the Americas!

Q: I see. Did you not read shojo manga etc?

A: Almost not at all. I prefer masculine works like Prison School, Sakigake!! Otokojuku and Fist of the North Star, as well as Fukumoto Nobuyuki-sensei’s works such as Akagi and Kaiji.

Q: I see you love hot-blooded series. Back to the topic, did you start on the voice acting path while doing all those recitals and after graduating from high school?

A: Nope, my parents were against it so I gave up on it for a while and went to graphic design school to study illustration. By my 3rd year I still hadn’t lost that desire to become a seiyuu so I told my mother, ‘I’d like to attend a seiyuu training school after I graduate’. Her reply was ‘you’re only saying that ‘cos you don’t wanna go job-hunting. I’ll only agree if you get a proper job, work for a year and pay your way through school with your own savings’. So after I graduated from graphic design school, I worked as a dental assistant for 1 year while attending seiyuu training school on the side.

Q: And then you graduated from training school and became a seiyuu. Are you friendly with any other seiyuu, including those from your training days?

A: I hit it off with Uchida Shu-san who’s in Kantai Collection etc, ‘cos we both spent time overseas as kids – we do go out for meals. I’ve also become friends with Amamiya Sora-chan (who plays Sōryuin Akemi) after working together on Dumbbell. Just recently, the two of us went for a date where we had a meal and went shopping for clothes. I find that our personalities are compatible so we get along very well…ah don’t worry I’m not doing yuri business, it’s 100% true (laughs). We started talking about how I’d like to draw a caricature of Sora-chan and [showing picture] this is what I sent her.

Q: Let me see….isn’t this way too good though?

A: Nah, it’s not that great really. I’m just good friends with Sora-chan so we send each other stuff like this.

Q: You do list ‘illustrating’ under your hobbies and skills so I am quite convinced of it. Have you been drawing for a long time?

A: When I was in junior high it only went as far as trying to copy my favourite manga, but once I got to high school I bought my own graphics tablet and started drawing in earnest.

Q: Had you not considered going down the art route instead of voice acting?

A: I did, but it’s just a hobby for me to draw the things that I love.

Q: Let’s talk about Dumbbell. How did you prepare for recordings?

A: Everyday I’d read aloud all the lines for every character in the manga. I’d record myself, play it back, do some corrections, memorise the lines. It was first time taking part in afureko sessions so I was just trying my best not to be a burden on my cast-mates.

Q: How did you feel about the actual recording process?

A: When recording started I was thinking ‘there’re still 12 more episodes to go’ but they were soon over in the blink of an eye. It goes without saying that my cast-mates were way better than the performances I’d recorded at home and I learned a lot every week. Many people have been saying to me ‘I’m looking forward to Dumbbell’  when I attend recording sessions for other shows so I’m truly glad that Dumbbell was my first series.

Q: It appears that you go to the gym on a regular basis. As someone who works out, how do you view the series?

A: For me, strength training used to be a silent, inner battle with myself. Once I read Dumbbell, I realised that working out with friends could be enjoyable. Strength training is pretty tough, especially for women, but I’m sure that once you look at the fun aspects of the process through Dumbbell, you’ll definitely be intrigued.

Q: For this series of interviews we’re interviewing the 4 main cast members. Do you have any thoughts on them?

A: Time is always of essence during recording sessions and I don’t really get much chance to chat when I’m away from my seat. So it’s great that we’ve got a chance to talk through this feature and now I can understand things better, like ‘Oh, so he or she is actually like this’ – I appreciate being able to get closer to the rest of the cast.

Q: It seems everyone enjoys chatting with someone as cheerful as you, Fairouz-san.

A: Do they really?

Q: It seems that Amamiya-san’s started working out thanks to your influence.

A: That’s right. She’s got a personal (one-on-one) trainer so we can’t work out together, but we’ve started talking about things like ‘what (muscles) are you working on today?’, like training buddies would. I’m happy that we’ve managed to paint Sora-chan in the same colours as people like myself and Ishikawa Kaito-san.

Q: We look forward to future interviews with the other cast members. Lastly, please tell us about your future aspirations as a seiyuu.

A: Yes. I’m gonna use these abs that I’ve trained to produce better acting with an improved voice – do my best, I mus(t)-cular!* [note: while doing macho body building pose]

*she says Ganbari-muscular

Q: …is that how you want to end this first interview?

A: I actually thought about it & came up with this as the closing line (laughs) I’m gonna do my best!

[Interview & text: Haruno Oto]

#213 – Dumbbell Nankilo Moteru?: Fairouz Ai & Amamiya Sora

Interview with the main pairing from muscle porn anime Dumbbell Nankilo Moteru? – half-Egyptian rookie Fairouz Ai (Sakura Hibiki) and Amamiya Sora (Soryuin Akemi). One of the shows that I’d been looking forward to most this summer, though I daresay it still won’t make me get my ass off my chair (unless 10ch ‘persuadesme…)


The anime captures the global bodybuilding boom!

Q: NHK’s ‘Bodybuilding For Everyone’ (Minna no Kinniku Taisō) became such a big hit that its stars were invited to the 2018 NHK Kohaku Utagassen – the bodybuilding boom really seems to be making waves!

Fairouz: Yeah (laughs)!

Q: Have you seen ‘Bodybuilding For Everyone’?

Fairouz: I did! I really love Murasame (Tatsumasa)-san!

Amamiya: Eh?

Fairouz: He’s a Swedish guy who became a naturalised Japanese citizen. He’s so cool!

Amamiya: Is he a bulging (muscles) guy?

Fairouz: He’s muscly! Plus, he’s a gardener. He’s totally cool.

Amamiya: Oh~~! I didn’t know that. Are the bodybuilding workouts similar to radio calisthenics?

Fairouz: Erm, it’s got poker-faced macho guys doing strength training exercises.

Amamiya: …Is it supposed to be a surreal kind of thing?

Q: The show is pretty surreal. When it first started, people were wondering ‘What the heck is this?’

Fairouz: I was thinking ‘Is this really showing on NHK?’ (laughs) Let’s do some strength training exercises!

Amamiya: I-I’ll make up my mind after I see it first…

Fairouz-san’s unstoppable muscle love

Q: Fairouz Ai-san, you love strength training and muscles, don’t you?

Fairouz: I love them! I love them as much as I love eating three meals a day.

Q: So you must’ve been fated to meet Hibiki.

Fairouz: That’s right. When I heard about this title I thought to myself, ‘I wanna be in this show!’. I wondered if the reason I’d been training all this while was because I was destined to encounter this series. I’ve been training for a year and 9 months now.

Q: Amamiya-san, do you like muscles?

Amamiya: Nope, I don’t like them at all (laughs) I think a lot of women have muscle fetishes. Like, ‘Oh my god those arm muscles are insane!’. Not me though – in fact, I can’t stand them. But now that I’ve tried working out myself, I can imagine how tough it is to actually get to that point so I do have a lot of respect for them!

Q: So you do work out, correct?

Amamiya: I go to the gym twice a week.

Q: Great! I was just about to ask about your gym experience.

Fairouz: I was working at a gym around 2 years ago, but that’s not why I started strength training, it’s the opposite – I got a part-time job there because I was interested in strength training. I can get specialist tips on the job and use the gym for free – it was totally worth it! Obviously I’ve already quit the job but the knowledge I gained from my time there has proved to be useful for this part.

Q: What sort of strength training do you do?

Fairouz: I get asked that question a lot! (laughs) Right now, I go to the gym around 3 times a week and I split them up into leg, chest and back days. For wide stance squats, I do them while lifting around 50kg of weights…

Amamiya: T-that’s amazing.

Fairouz: For leg days I do Bulgarian squats and leg curls to strengthen my hamstrings and I also use abdominal machines to work on my abs. I do dead-lifts and one-hand rowing for back days, as well as arm curls and dumbbell kickbacks as well as ab machines for my abs. For chest days I do bench presses, dumbbell bench presses, dumbbell flyes, shoulder presses, side raises and ab crunches.

Amamiya: Amazing…

Q: I understand your reaction (laughs). What’s the aim with all this training?

Fairouz: I kinda think I wanna be like a gorilla.

Amamiya: That’s unusual (laughs)

Fairouz: People like (muscle idol) Saiki Reika and the trainer AYA are super cool. I wanna be a strong, cool woman who can knock people out with one punch. But yeah, I think I need to narrow it down a bit. After a workout I’ll go ‘Yay I did my best!’ and then go home while eating fried chicken and ice cream.

Q: The more I hear the more I’m convinced you’re really just Hibiki in disguise…it’d be great if a balloon showing the amount of calories popped up next to your ice cream, wouldn’t it?

Fairouz: Nooooo! I wouldn’t be able to eat it (laughs). Don’t wanna see those calories~

Q: Amamiya-san, you perform in concerts so you’d have to train for them, correct?

Amamiya: I got frustrated trying to work out at the gym and things like that, so there was a period of time where I’d given up but I’ve started going again thanks to this series. My goal is purely to work on target areas – I’m not looking to bulk up but to slim down certain chubby bits. So yeah, I work with a personal trainer on my upper arms, buttocks, thighs and back.

Q: It’s nice to have a dedicated trainer.

Amamiya: To be honest, working out is really not my thing and I’m not fond of anything that requires hard work or is painful, so I think it’s kinda impossible for someone like me to persist unless I have a personal trainer.

Q: You’d get frustrated.

Amamiya: If you work alone there are days where you’ll think ‘I can’t be bothered today, let’s just not do it’, plus I don’t have the interest nor the knowledge so I can’t figure out how to do things properly unless someone demonstrates it for me. So yeah I’d recommend a personal trainer. There’s also the fact that I’m also working on this series so I don’t want to feel embarrassed about it – I have a friend like Fai-chan after all. Many of the cast members do strength training too and having them around inspires me to work hard.

Also, I made a promise with Fai-chan where we’d both work towards our goals; Fai-chan to bulk up and me to slim down to my ideal figure, so that we can show each other the results of our efforts at the (anime’s) event – and that’s why I’m doing my best.

She’ll get switched out if she slims down!? Maintaining the status quo in hopes of a 2nd season!?

Q: By the way, can you tell me what I should do to get a six-pack? I’m doing planking, which the manga is covering now, but can you really get abs without using any training equipment?

Fairouz: Yes you can! The latest publication (vol 7 released on June 19) has a story about ‘how to get abs within 2 weeks’ so do check it out!

Amamiya: Ahahaha.

Q: Oh, you’re shilling the series (laughs)

Fairouz: But they do show you how to train without any weights. I have to warn you though – it’s super-duper tough! Though I’ve got to say that everyone has abs – it’s just a matter of whether it’s visible through all that subcutaneous fat. If your body fat ratio goes down, those abs will definitely shine through!

Amamiya: You’re right. When I was thin, I could form a 4-pack if I strained hard enough. I wish I could go back to that level. I’m not saying that I want to get ripped though…

Fairouz: Let’s both do our best~

Q: Speaking of the series – the manga is really interesting; how did you find it?

Fairouz: It was like strength training had finally obtained its citizenship! I was super happy. There hasn’t been a series that focuses mainly on diet and working out and now that we’re seeing a fitness boom, I think it’s very timely for the manga to ride the wave of popularity.

Also, there are so many misleading diet plans out there. They promise stuff like ‘you definitely won’t relapse!’. If young people fall for those tricks they might eventually end up with eating disorders etc, so this manga aims to put an end to such problems by introducing proper dieting methods and setting good examples. ‘If you read this manga, you’ll learn the right way!’

Q: It does cover how you can continue eating normally but still gain muscles by working out. I guess Hibiki eats way more than she’s supposed to, which is why she can’t shift the weight.

Fairouz: The day Hibiki slims down is the day the manga serialisation will end (laughs)

Amamiya: What shall we do if the 2nd season of the anime has a different main character?

Fairouz: Noooooo!

Q: Let’s not allow Hibiki to lose weight (laughs)

Fairouz: To be honest, if you tried to read training guides and looked up websites on muscles you’d stop right away after seeing all the baffling katakana. With this series you get cute girls teaching you how to do everything in lively ways, so you can easily slip into the manga and soak up the information with an open heart. That’s what’s attractive about the series to me.

Amamiya: A newbie like me who knows little about working out could read this manga and learn about how you can train without having to use special equipment. People have this impression of strength training being painful and severe but the characters are always enjoying working out, plus you’ll discover that it’s surprisingly fine to eat normally, and that makes you want to give it a try.

Fairouz: It’s the kind of manga that motivates you more and more as you read it.

Amamiya: It does make you want to give it a shot.

The passion for muscles and gags is amazing!

Q: What do you think of your respective roles?

Fairouz: I actually auditioned for Gina, not Hibiki. When I read my lines I was told ‘let’s get you to read for Hibiki instead’. Gina’s a lot of fun obviously, but when I read the manga I thought to myself ‘I’m actually Hibiki though’ (laughs)

Amamiya: Ahahahaha.

Fairouz: Since I was thinking ‘Ah I’m definitely Hibiki’, I was really happy when I was selected. She’s a character I can really identify with. As for my approach towards the role, I tried to recall what kind of person I was in my high school days and ended up going to read my diary from that period of time.

And what I saw written was ‘I ate and drank too much today. Let’s start again from tomorrow’ and for the next entry ‘I’m pressing the reset button right now. I won’t do it again’, which means that I’d overeaten two days in a row (laughs). That’s how similar I am to Hibiki.

Hibiki’s the optimistic type who thinks ‘Well, I’ll just work it off in the gym’ and I’m like that too. We’re positive fools…also, Director Yamazaki instructed me, ‘Don’t forget she’s a Shibuya JK*!’ but I was like ‘I’m not a gyaru so how am I supposed to talk again?’. I ended up learning by watching a gyaru Youtuber’s videos and incorporating it into my acting.

*JK – jōshikōsei, high school girl

Amamiya: But it’s still difficult. Since she’s definitely not like the high school girls of today.

Fairouz: It’s tough ‘cos she’s not very girlish but she wants to be popular with the boys so she is cute in a way that fits her age. I express my character in an honest way and all my seniors…Sora-san included, along with Horie (Yui)-san and Ishigami (Shizuka)-san, adapt their acting to complement what I do, which makes it easy for me.

Q: Amamiya-san, having read the manga I thought you were perfect for the role. Do you share that view?

Amamiya: For some reason, going all out when I’m doing comedies really makes me feel like I’m alive….Akemi’s audition script included parts where she has heart-shaped irises in her eyes, the perfect example of a gag scene.

When I saw that and had read the manga, I understood that yes, she’s a pretty girl but she’s also a crazy kind of comic relief character so I really wanted to voice her! I did go all out for my audition and I was very happy when I got cast in the role. She does seem pretty refined at times but her unusual love and passion for her beloved muscles is amazing, and I have a lot of fun playing her.

Q: You really like comedic acting, don’t you?

Amamiya: I do love it. It feels like I’ve been set free (laughs). I’ve always loved gags and making people laugh so I had fun with this. I was wondering maybe I could go an extra mile, so I tried out stuff in the studio that I’d been doing at home. It was fun to bring out voices that go beyond what I normally do, and the Director was quite receptive to them as well. I found that a lot of what I wanted to do or had come up with got a good reception.

Fairouz: She’d also actively ask the Director questions and discuss her character – I was just watching from the side but I thought the enthusiasm you had for your role was amazing.

Amamiya: You’re embarrassing me! But if you say that, then Fai-chan’s always making notes in the empty pages of the script comparing parts from the manga and the anime, about which turns of phrase are better and writing down any questions you have. You’ll bring that and carefully ask your questions one by one. You love the original manga so much and read it from cover to cover, making use of that knowledge for recordings – I’ve got much to learn from you.

Q: The 2 of you do have so much passion for muscles and gags (laughs)

Fairouz: There’s another aspect I think Sora-san has in common with Akemi – the fact that they both look cool at first but once she opens up and starts talking about something she’s passionate about, she just doesn’t stop.

Amamiya: Ahahahahaha.

Fairouz: When she talks at such great speed I’m like ‘Ohhhhhh~Sora-san what’s happened to you~~~~?’

Q: That totally sounds like an otaku thing.

Fairouz: I can tell that she’s talking at a speed that only otaku could. On the other hand, I’m the same when it comes to muscles and I yap non-stop about ‘how this is effective and that is the best!!’ and it makes Sora-san flinch. We are similar in some ways.

We want women who are interested in fitness to watch this show!

Q: A gag anime from Director Yamazaki is an interesting proposition. You mentioned that she was receptive to improvisation, didn’t you?

Fairouz: She’s receptive and her instructions are precise and easy to understand. Last week, the Director mentioned how I was similar to Hibiki in a certain way so I took what she said and interpreted it in my own way and she was fine with what I did. There are times when I can get quite close to what the Director is looking for. And most importantly, she’s a kind person.

Amamiya: You can definitely tell that she’s taking great care with all the characters, giving each and every one of them the utmost attention.

Fairouz: She’s so thorough with all of the roles, giving equal treatment to every character whether they’re mobs or main roles.

Amamiya: Though we say that the Director is receptive to our ideas, it’s not a case of her saying ‘that’s great’ or ‘that’s no good’ – she’ll say ‘Hmm, so what shall we do about it?’ and we’ll brainstorm together. It gets me thinking about whether there’s a different way to approach something and to consider everything objectively – it inspires me to work harder!

Fairouz: Since this is a comedy it’s important to have good tempo but I’ll be honest – this is my first ever TV anime never mind my first time doing a comedy, so I didn’t have a good grasp of the gags or the timing at all. The Director would say things like ‘this is a part where she’s deliberately acting cute and fluffy and then there’ll be a huge shift in mood in the next scene’ – her instructions are all very precise and gives me a good idea of what comedy is about. It was a very valuable experience for me.

Q: Feels like the response to this series will be positive when it comes to its quality.

Fairouz: Yes yes yes. I want to see the anime as soon as possible!

Amamiya: There’s obviously a lot of passion going into this and I absolutely believe it’ll be an awesome show.

Fairouz: No compromises!

Amamiya: Yeah! There’s so much care going into every aspect – for the segment after the ending sequence where we teach strength training, one of the actors mentioned that the pace the characters were doing them at was too fast, so the Director took that on board and made the necessary corrections. We do want to make sure that people can actually pick up strength training from watching this show in addition to bringing out the comedy aspects well during the gag scenes – this series really is a labour of love.

Fairouz: I think the fact that the Director has started going to the gym herself also plays a big part (laughs). It’s kind of hard to give advice to actors when you don’t have the knowledge yourself so it’s great for us in this case.

Q: What it is like working with a female director?

Amamiya: The source material has quite a few risqué scenes but those change up a bit for the anime. In the manga there are parts where the characters get shy and cover up their bits but in the anime they’ll show off their bodies with confidence!

I think that’s the significance of having a female director. We want to spread the message that it’s okay to go and do strength training and that you’re amazing for doing it! It’s not vulgar at all and made in a way that’s easy for girls to watch it, which I think is something unique to a female director.

Q: After all, there are many women getting into fitness now.

Fairouz: So yeah, we want girls to watch this show too!

[Interview & Text: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#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.