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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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Seiyuu Bingo – Favourite Female (2018 Edition)

A month and a half ago I did/tweeted one of those seiyuu bingo chart thingies that’s been doing the rounds – it appears that the last time I did anything to do with ‘favourite seiyuu’ was in 2010 and before that, in 2007. I was going to tweet a few comments on the chart but it got too long so you can have a post (or two, if I motivate myself enough for the guys) instead.

So what makes your favourite seiyuu your ‘favourite’? For some, it’ll be because of the characters they’ve played. Others will love their personalities, their singing skills or their looks (let’s not lie). For me, it’s a combination of some of those things but most important to me is their voices and how they use it as an instrument to express themselves – some performances just resonate deep within me and sometimes, I just need to hear a certain seiyuu’s voice and I’m enveloped with a sense of warmth in my heart.

When I was young and silly I used to overwhelmingly favour versatility over idiosyncratic voices. Over time, with a better understanding of the Japanese language (and with it, a better appreciation for what constitutes ‘good acting’) I find myself less concerned with whether a seiyuu sounds different in every role they do, especially in this day and age where there are just way too many seiyuu out there with half of them sounding like clones of each other…

The 2018 iteration of my ‘favourites’ list is a mix of the old and new: 10 debuted from the 80s to 1999, and 14 from 2000 onwards. 1 is virtually retired (Chiba) and some of the older ones who are married with kids are not as active now (Toyoguchi). You can see how my list has evolved over the years:

2007 list (no order)
1. Ito Shizuka
2. Orikasa Fumiko
3. Mitsuishi Kotono
4. Toyoguchi Megumi
5. Iwao Junko
6. Kuwashima Houko
7. Tamura Yukari
8. Kobayashi Sanae
9. Nakahara Mai
10. Hisakawa Aya

2010 list (no particular order)
1. Kuwashima Houko
2. Ito Kanae
3. Saito Chiwa
4. Inoue Marina
5. Kitamura Eri
6. Tomatsu Haruka
7. Kobayashi Sanae
8. Endo Aya
9. Toyoguchi Megumi
10. Ohara Sayaka

For 2018:

Kaida Yuko
It’s fair to say Kaida is more well-known amongst dub followers than anime fans. For me she embodies a ‘strong woman’ voice; not the rough, brutal type but rather someone who’s badass but still refined, nicely illustrated by the fact that she’s the Japanese dub voice for Lara Croft and Wonder Woman. There are a lot of other similar ladies operating within her range but I still find it relatively easy to pick her voice out when she does surprise guest slots, as in DarliFra and SAO:GGO recently.

Voice characteristics: Husky, commanding, mature
Similar seiyuu: Tanaka Atsuko, Yukinari Toa, Mori Nanako
Favourite role: Gintama’s Tsukuyo

Iwao Junko
Oft-told story: when I started watching anime I really didn’t give two hoots about seiyuu until I watched Card Captor Sakura and discovered that helium voices could in fact, sound adorable. Above all was Iwao’s singing voice that I found irresistible – Scarlet (from Ayashi no Ceres) still ranks among my all-time anisong faves.

Voice characteristics: Cute, young, airheaded, naturally high-pitched but can go low
Similar seiyuu: Nanri Yuuka
Favourite role: Card Captor Sakura’s Tomoyo

Saito Chiwa
Alongside Iwao Junko, Chiwa is the outlier on my list and most certainly the one that sounds the youngest. Those were the types of roles she was landing in the first couple of years – Kokoro in Kokoro Toshokan, Anita in R.O.D. The TV, Lavie Head in Last Exile, but in 2005 came the two roles that would make me a fan for life: ARIA’s Aika and Pani Poni Dash’s Becky-sensei. Chiwa’s amazing acting isn’t limited to just her speaking roles though – look at how expressive her ‘singing’ is!

Voice characteristics: Young, bratty, feisty, unpredictable, super versatile
Similar seiyuu: Asumi Kana, Numakura Manami
Favourite role: Of course it has to be ARIA’s Aika. Hazukashii serifu kinshi!

Kobayashi Yu
We all know she’s eccentric and doesn’t quite seem to belong on this planet, but just give her a script or a scenario and free her from her cage – her acting’s spellbinding. Working with her live may be a nightmare due to her unpredictability, but she always goes above and beyond what is required of her. Particularly excels at controlled shouting – she could do a masterclass on that.

Voice characteristics: Husky, rough, lower-pitched, unpredictable, ad-lib queen
Similar seiyuu: Park Romi, Sawashiro Miyuki (if she was on drugs)
Favourite role: So many iconic roles. School Rumble’s Lala Gonzalez is the role of hers that clued me on to the fact that she may not be that sane…

Mitsuishi Kotono
I’m one of those aliens who never was into Sailor Moon so you’ll be pleased to know that the show that got me hooked on her was..Excel Saga. This was back before I started learning Japanese seriously so it was a case of ‘I don’t know what she’s saying but godamnit it sounds so crazy and so cool!’. Obviously Mitsuishi’s record speaks for itself and she remains a firm part of big-name franchises like Evangelion, Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan so the signs are all there that she’ll be extending her residency in the industry beyond her 30 years thus far.

Voice characteristics: Cool, senpai-voice, ad-lib queen, versatile
Similar seiyuu: Neya Michiko, Araki Kae, Hiramatsu Akiko
Favourite role: Excel in Excel Saga

Endo Aya
Voice characteristics: Mature, cool, senpai-voice, shota voice
Similar seiyuu: Mizutani Yuko, Seto Asami etc
Favourite role: Violet Evergarden’s Cattleya Baudelaire

Hikasa Yoko
Voice characteristics: Husky, sexy, ad-lib queen, batshit insane
Similar seiyuu: Endo Aya, Inoue Marina etc
Favourite role: SAO:GGO’s Pitohui just about edges out Nogenora’s Stephanie Dola

Inoue Marina
Voice characteristics: Clear, mid-pitched but goes low to do shota voices
Similar seiyuu: Koshimizu Ami, Hikasa Yoko, Ishigami Shizuka
Favourite role: Kyokai no Rinne’s Mamiya Sakura

Grouping these 3 together is ideal. They’re very similar voice-wise that you could conceivably interchange between them for any role and it wouldn’t sound out of place. Yet their castings don’t overlap much. Hikasa and Endo are somewhat opposites – if Endo is the refined, reliable senpai who loves to help poor souls out in times of trouble, Hikasa is the horrible demon who’ll nudge you off the cliff by whispering sexily in your ear. Marina is somewhere in between but is more of a specialist at shonen voices as evidenced by her recent years’ work on Beyblade and Attack on Titan.

Ito Shizuka
Voice characteristics: Naturally erotic, mature, feisty, drunk
Similar seiyuu: Taneda Risa, Kawasumi Ayako
Favourite role: Alice from Pumpkin Scissors

Ishigami Shizuka
Voice characteristics: Naturally erotic, husky, mid/high-pitched but goes low to play young boys
Similar seiyuu: Fujimura Ayumi, Inoue Marina, Hikasa Yoko (ero tones)
Favourite role: Shimoseka’s Kajo Ayame takes a lot of balls to pull off.

These two are fairly similar to the previous trio but with more emphasis on the ‘sexy’ part, particularly since both still ply a sizable chunk of their trade in the eroge business. And they both happened to be called Shizuka…

Ishigami does have one specific characteristic that I like – the way she enunciates her さ行 (sa-gyō – the sa, shi, su, se, so line of the gojūon). Her ‘sa’ tends to sound like ‘sssha’ and so on as her voice is naturally breathy and slightly husky when she’s acting and apparently men find that sexy as well so I’m not the only one….!

Kobayashi Sanae
Though possessing a natural voice similar to those of the two groups above, Sanae has range, versatility and acting skills far above any of those names. There is not one ‘type’ of role that you could associate with her as her scope is so wide-ranging and she can go from low to high, sometimes in the same role (Lucy in Elfen Lied). I think I’ll forever remember Shimizu Kaori’s remark that ‘you wouldn’t want to go into an audition and see that you’re up against Kobayashi Sanae, you’re almost guaranteed to lose out to her’.

PS You can credit my desire to find out her latest whereabouts as the reason this blog exists, being the subject of my first ever post here!

Voice characteristics: Mature, husky, shota voice, versatile
Similar seiyuu: Komatsu Mikako, Minagawa Junko
Favourite role: Hikaru no Go’s Toya Akira

Tomatsu Haruka
Like the rest of her MuRay 1st gen colleagues, Tomatsu was thrown in at the deep end of the seiyuu pool with next-to-no training & spent her first few years in the industry fumbling around in the dark trying to find a place where her voice belonged. I think it wasn’t really until Cross Game’s Aoba that I thought that she’d truly found her own voice. Nowadays she tends to do lean towards voices that are more natural (Kuzu no Honkai’s Ecchan, ReLIFE’s Kariu) and there is one specific area I find her to be better at than anybody else – characters who are feisty & have trouble being honest with themselves (素直になれない).

Voice characteristics: Girlish-yet-boyish, playful, feisty, bright with hidden darkness
Similar seiyuu: I once mistook M.A.O for Tomatsu (in Gokukoku no Brynhildr) ;;;
Favourite role: Tsukishima Aoba in Cross Game. Tomatsu cried both when she found out she’d won the role and after recording for the last episode was completed…honestly, her performance (and the show itself) was so good it made me cry too, pretty much every Monday of the week for an entire year.

Kanemoto Hisako
It’s hard to succinctly define Kanemoto’s voice – her voice isn’t distinct, but her range and type of roles are far-reaching. This is after all, the person who started out as a Squid Girl and somehow ended up replacing Taneda Risa in Shokugeki no Soma. This is gonna sound dumb, but the one role of Kanemoto’s that really awakened me to her potential was that stupid sister from Bubuki Buranki – I never knew annoying could be this endearing. Then she went and did the unthinkable – replace someone in an already existing role and make it sound better (re: replacing Taneda Risa as Nakiri Erina in the Shokugeki anime).

Voice characteristics: Girlish, energetic, feisty, can go high-and-annoying
Similar seiyuu: Owada Hitomi
Favourite role: Jakusansei Million Arthur’s Uasaha. An iconic voice that will live on for 20 generations and be the standard for fake gaijin accents

Hisakawa Aya
Hisakawa’s a long-time sentimental favourite and was in practically all of my favourite shows from the period I started getting back into anime in earnest during my late teens – CCS, Noir, Ah My Goddess, 12 Kingdoms, X TV, Azumanga Daioh, Abenobashi, RahXephon, Haibane Renmei. She’s not a million miles away from Inoue Kikuko yet somehow altogether different. Kudos for taking on the tricky task of replacing the late Tsuru Hiromi as Bulma in Dragon Ball!

Voice characteristics: Kansai-ben, airy, high-pitched, crystal clear
Similar seiyuu: Hiramatsu Akiko, Ito Miki
Favourite role: Not Kero, but Fruits Basket’s Sohma Yuki. It was the first time I really thought about seiyuu using androgynous, gender-neutral voices

Orikasa Fumiko
For someone possessing such a naturally sweet voice (re: her debut role in GTO), I found it fascinating that Orikasa tended to be cast against that type early on in her career – it was characters like Vandread’s stoic Meia Gisborn, Hellsing’s Seras Victoria, Tsukihime’s Ciel and of course, Bleach’s Kuchiki Rukia that drew me in, before I started realizing that wasn’t all that there was to her after watching Ichigo Mashimaro (Matsuoka Miu) and Pani Poni Dash (Katagiri Himeko) – she had the ability to be so damned annoying as well. Really just one of those voices that I’ll love no matter what role she does.

Voice characteristics: Sweet, girlish, crystal clear, naturally high-pitched, super versatile
Similar seiyuu: M.A.O, Ueda Reina
Favourite role: So tough to pick one. Tie between Kyubei & Miu?

Kuwashima Houko
Kuwashima is another one who the ‘versatile’ tag can be pinned onto, yet it’s quite hard to pinpoint just what is her forte. I tend to group her together with Orikasa as they’re such similar types of seiyuu in terms of the type of characters they could conceivably cover even if their voices are dissimilar; Kuwashima having a much lower natural tone. I actually like them as a pair as well, Chobits and Dennō Coil being 2 examples. Like many of the seiyuu in & around the age of 40 on this list, Hou-chan’s voice was such an integral part of the late 90s/early 00s shows that influenced me most – from Blue Gender (Marlene) to X TV (Satsuki) to Noir (Kirika) and 12 Kokki (Shokei).

Voice characteristics: Cool, clear, naturally mid/high-pitch but plays young boys, versatile
Similar seiyuu: Kawakami Tomoko, Sawashiro Miyuki
Favourite role: I couldn’t pick one 8 years ago & ended up going for Azumanga’s Kagura, but I’ll say Noir’s Kirika this time – a role that said so little but conveyed so much.

Toyoguchi Megumi
Another one in the ‘so versatile that you can’t find the right words to describe them’ series. Where Megu excels most for me is in her playful, teasing voices: Marimite’s Sei, .hack//SIGN’s Mimiru and Ichigo 100%’s Tsukasa prime examples. She’d be sweet-talking you, then turn around and kick your ass as Revy (Black Lagoon). I remember being so angry that they’d recast her role as Winry in the Fullmetal Alchemist remake that I refused to watch it ;;;; (still haven’t w)

Voice characteristics: Naturally high-pitched, girlish, airy, versatile
Similar seiyuu: Kakazu Yumi
Favourite role: Was tempted to say Yabasawa from Sket Dance for a sec, but I guess Marimite’s Sei will always have a special place in my heart

Ohara Sayaka
My personal go-to voice for oneesan or motherly-type characters. I think initially, people used to compare Sayaka rather unfavourably to Inoue Kikuko as they had a similar ‘arara, ufufu’ kind of aura and it took a while for her to come into her own with signature roles in the xxHOLiC/Tsubasa Chronicle and ARIA franchises. For me, Sayaka has a bit more of an edge, a sharper tone to her voice that makes her more of a natural for tough, unyielding types (Fairy Tail’s Erza etc) or broken, imperfect characters (Hachikuro’s Harada Rika) – she’s the ‘cold’ to Kikuko’s ‘warm’.

Voice characteristics: Airy, crystal clear, mature lady
Similar seiyuu: Inoue Kikuko
Favourite role: Hard to pick since Ohara characters take up 3 spots on my Female Character bingo, but I’ll say Layla Hamilton from Kaleido Star as that was the role that drew me to her.

Sakamoto Maaya
Maaya is one of those commonly accused as being wooden & having no range; that she always sounds like Maaya. What she does possess though, is a voice and diction that is crystal clear, both when she’s speaking and singing – every syllable is enunciated with clarity & eloquence, which is why directors tend to typecast and specifically hire her (she doesn’t need to audition yo) for certain roles – regal, virtuous types (Ruler) and characters that are stoic/emotionless (new Kusanagi Motoko, Falangies). It’s a bit of a disservice to say that Maaya is a one-trick pony though – she’s thoroughly capable of going batshit insane as required, as shown by her OTT performance as Sukaaha in the Jakusansei Million Arthur web anime.

Voice characteristics: Crystal clear, cool, healing
Similar seiyuu: Shimizu Risa, Kanda Sayaka
Favourite role: As mentioned, Jakusansei’s Sukaaha has Maaya out of her comfort zone and turning into something really quite unrecognizable

Chiba Saeko
Of all the seiyuu who have more or less retired since getting married & starting families, Sae-chan’s the one I regret not having heard enough of. At the time I wasn’t as appreciative of her talents as I should’ve been – her voice lacked the distinct nuances of people like Nakahara Mai or Noto Mamiko, but she slotted in anywhere and everywhere because she sounded ‘natural’ and normal. Nowadays, there are few voices out there that cover the ground Sae used to.

Voice characteristics: Cool, clear, mature, senpai-voice, naturally mid-pitch but can go high & annoying
Similar seiyuu: Kotobuki Minako, Tanaka Rie
Favourite role: Gotta be Mai-HiME’s Kuga Natsuki. Classic Chiba Saeko-type of heroine.

PS I hated Dokuro-chan ;;;

Ozawa Ari
How many seiyuu can claim their career-defining role to be their debut? For Ozawa, it was the case of the perfect fit – she was cast as Sakura Chiyo because she is Sakura Chiyo personified. Subsequent roles have yet to live up to that standard but she has a whole career ahead of her yet (where’s that Season 2 of Nozaki-kun?)

Voice characteristics: Husky, girlishly cute but not moe, airheaded
Similar seiyuu: Hondo Kaede
Favourite role: Sakura Chiyo in Nozaki-kun

Kayano Ai
The funny thing about Kayano is that I hated her first major and probably defining role to date – Anohana’s Menma, the classic little girl voice that made me want to wring her neck (if she wasn’t already dead anyway). Suffice to say that since then, she’s shown that she can do so much more. I’m not really one for moe voices but Kayano’s is an example of the type that makes my heart melt into a puddle of goo.

Voice characteristics: Healing, cool, girlish, airy, clear
Similar seiyuu: Onishi Saori (mid-tones), Ohara Sayaka (high-tones), Hanazawa Kana
Favourite role: 3gatsu no Lion’s Kawamoto Akari

Onishi Saori
First things first, her Eriri Spencer Sawamura is the worst, most forced-sounding and most unrepresentative kind of character amongst Onishi’s back catalogue. Her wheelhouse kind of overlaps with Kayano Ai’s even if their voices are not quite on the same plane – the prim and proper, cool types are what Onishi excels at (even if her personality is nothing like that), but her best is yet to come.

Voice characteristics: Cool, crystal clear, mature, naturally erotic
Similar seiyuu: Taneda Risa, Kayano Ai
Favourite role: Shokugeki’s Arata Hisako aka Hishoko

Nakahara Mai
One of the most popular picks for high-school age leading girls back in the early 2000s, what Nakahara lacks in range she makes up for with her expressiveness – she’s a great actress, given the right type of role.

This is going to be another one of those ridiculous things but I can pinpoint the exact moment I thought, ‘Hey, I really like this girl!’: a random episode of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue where she screams EHHH!!! BAKUDAN!! YADAYADA etc in a incredulous voice (episode 8, towards the 20th minute. Somehow, that one phrase has stuck with me for 14.5 years..

Voice characteristics: Girlish, sweet, high-pitched, nasal, feisty
Similar seiyuu: Murakawa Rie
Favourite role: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita’s main character (Watashi), though Nozaki-kun’s Kashima-kun runs a close second

Of course, these are all personal views & preferences. You will note that I am not particularly fond of high-pitched voices – I respect the Kugimiya Ries and Kaneda Tomokos of the world, but I find that prolonged listening to these types actually gives me earache (sorry, I am a long-standing tinnitus sufferer..)

For reference:

Common ways of describing voice types in Japanese, where the meaning may not always translate well to English:

透き通った, 透明感がある – crystal clear, transparent, ethereal
凛とした – dignified, regal
爽やか – refreshing
幼い– young
鼻声– nasal
色気 – sexy
可憐 – sweet, lovely

and so on and so forth.

#188 – Kuwashima Houko Pt.3

I think I set a personal record for the longest gestation period between parts of a post – 3.5 years baby! Honest to God, I completely forgot about this. Read up on parts 1 and 2. This covers the rest of the interview.

Kuwashima-san does not do too much anime work these days but she is still very much involved in her beloved recitals (rōdoku, 朗読), running regular Miyazawa Kenji-related performances under the Recital Night (Rōdokuya, 朗読夜) title. Her Twitter handle, first started to promote her 20th anniversary projects, is now used for the express purpose of promoting her productions.

Besides that, Kuwashima is a cultural ambassador for her home prefecture of Iwate and recently travelled to Paris recently to give a talk at a Fukushima Pride Fair event as part of a group from Fukushima Gainax, the studio that animated a series of shorts called You Can Enjoy! (Tabechatte Ii no ni na) to promote Fukushima produce.

The bulk of this interview covers Miyazawa Kenji who I’m sure some will be familiar with thanks to his works that were adapted into film or animation such as Gauche the Cellist and Night on the Galactic Railroad. My own point of reference to Miyazawa is having to memorize and recite his Ame ni mo Makezu poem in one of my Japanese classes. Proud to say that I still remember it by heart…!

The other topic covered in this interview is recitals, that very niche part of the seiyuu industry that few of us international fans have experience of – it is growing alongside things like improvisational theatre (sokkyōgeki) though, and many seiyuu, especially the older ones, assemble their own teams to put on performances. It’s something worth exploring to see your favourite seiyuu expressing themselves in a different, more sophisticated format…though I suppose your mastery of the Japanese language will need to have reached a certain stage.


Miyazawa Kenji will always be in my heart…

Q: Kuwashima-san, you perform recitals based on Miyazawa Kenji’s works – what inspired your interest in Miyazawa Kenji’s poetry?

A: It was my father’s influence. To tell the truth, it was a tradition in my household for Miyazawa Kenji’s poem Haratai Kenbairen (Sword Dancers of the Haratai Village) to be recited on occasions such as New Year and Obon. My father would often receive requests to perform recitals during wedding ceremonies and family banquets, so I had many opportunities to hear his growling*. When I was young, I used to think that my father was someone who did weird things (laughs) and it was only after I started becoming interested in acting that I gained an appreciation for what he had been doing. I even recorded his recitals and secretly tried to memorize them…what a thing to do (laughs)

*Popular renditions of Haratai Kenbairen often incorporate singing & chanting. See this for an example.

I had the opportunity to meet the representative of a local theatre company that performs only Miyazawa Kenji works when my piano teacher introduced us, and I was subsequently invited to see one of their plays. He’s still performing in Hanamaki City these days. Whenever he’s interviewed in newspapers etc, the topic will always be Miyazawa Kenji. When you think of Iwate prefecture, you think of Miyazawa Kenji,

I was a member of my junior high school’s broadcasting committee and during lunch breaks; I would go ahead and play Miyazawa Kenji’s fairy tales. I don’t think anyone was listening though (laughs). Even when I was doing vocal warm-ups in drama club, I would pick out a Miyazawa Kenji passage to use as part of my exercises.

After some time, I moved to Tokyo and at one point I thought to myself – “I need to find something that belongs to me, and me alone”. The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I am from Iwate. And within my Iwate-born self, lies Miyazawa Kenji.

There are of course, many people in Tokyo who love Miyazawa Kenji and continue to perform his works. These include respected veteran actors who treat [Miyazawa] as their life’s work. However, there are few like-minded people amongst the younger generation. I believed that I could find meaning in pursuing [Miyazawa].

The chance to perform recitals, born from a series of coincidences

Q: So how did you come around to performing recitals of Miyazawa Kenji’s works?

A: At Aoni, I have a senior named Hirano Masato-san who is also from Iwate – since his days in Bungakuza, Hirano-san has been performing recitals of Tōno Monogatari and Miyazawa Kenji poetry in local [Iwate] dialect. He really did look after me very well thanks to our mutual interest in Miyazawa Kenji and our shared Iwate heritage.

Coincidentally, the year after I joined Aoni Production happened to be Miyazawa Kenji’s 100th birthday year. A friend of Hirano-san’s who worked for JR (Japan Railway) requested for recitals of poems by Kenji and Ishikawa Takuboku in Tokyo Station to commemorate the milestone.

In another series of coincidences, there was a single day within that time frame where Hirano was tied up with other work commitments, so he gave me a call and asked if I’d be interested in reciting poetry. I did feel doubtful as to whether I’d be up for the job since it was only the 2nd year since I’d joined Aoni Production but at the same time, I was really happy to be granted such an opportunity.

Q: Which poems did you recite?

A: I had previously mentioned the story of my father’s Haratai Kenbairen recitals to Hirano-san, and he advised me to follow in my father’s footsteps – ‘Why not do a reading of Haratai Kenbairen?’…So I settled on this particular poem. I was just 20 years old at the time. Actually, my father first came across this poem when he was around 20 years old as well and since then, I’d been hearing many stories about his recitals throughout the years so that particular twist of fate now feels extremely surreal to me.

Q: Are there any aspects that you’re extra careful with when it comes to preparing for recitals, or do you see any advice from your father?

A: Apparently the reason why my father started performing recitals was because of a cassette tape that he’d received from a friend. It was a recording of a limited-edition flexi disc released by Miyazawa Seiroku, where he recited poetry based on his recollections of how his older brother Kenji would read his poems aloud. At the time of the recording Seiroku was already past 60 years and his reading wasn’t particularly lively or energetic. It’s an acquired taste, but my father seemed to find that it sounded somewhat like a sutra; full of vibrancy and youthfulness.

My Haratai Kenbairen was based upon my father’s version. However, it is still different from that of my father’s – I had one of my relatives listen to my rendition of Haratai Kenbairen the other day, and they remarked that they thought that my father’s version was better. It was an expected outcome – the thought has actually crossed my mind; that I would prefer to have been born male solely for the sake of reading Haratai Kenbairen, as the poem resonates better when it’s performed by a powerful male voice. Nevertheless, I hope that I will be able to perform recitations of Kenji’s poems at a level that transcends gender.

Reciting poetry, something that I wish to continue to do even when I grow old

Q: What are your views on poetry recitals as an aspect of your profession?

A: My agency and manager are both supportive of that desire of mine and thus, I have seen an increase in the number of Kenji-related job offers. When I was working with Bunka Hōsō for 2 weeks, the radio programme’s producers allowed me to do as I wished… halfway through, I brought up the possibility of reciting Ginga Tetsudō no Yoru (Night on the Galactic Railroad) and they gave the OK right away, so I read parts from it each episode. The listeners’ response to that segment was more favourable than I’d expected.

It’s just occurred to me that I first received an offer of a Miyazawa Kenji recitation at the tail-end of 2001, and we started to recital concerts in March 2001. I was only 20 years old, and a part of me did think that it was way too early for me to be reciting Miyazawa Kenji poems. In a way, I felt hesitant as the recital was green-lit on the premise that it was commercially viable since I was riding on the so-called seiyuu boom of that moment and [they thought] people would come to watch.

I had always believed that recitals hold more meaning when they’re performed by people with the necessary experience, and I myself knew of many seniors who I couldn’t hold a candle to.

However, I also thought that it would be amazing if I could start doing something from that [early age] and continue on until I was old and grey. I had no idea how things would go but all I knew was that I wanted to perform recitals now – even if following my gut instinct was akin to putting the cart before the horse, I wanted to give it a try. The offer that I received was an opportunity to take on the challenge right here, right now – who knows if I would ever be afforded a second chance to do so after I had grown older?

I was caught in a dilemma but I decided to take a step forward and go for it. Oftentimes, I would feel lost and at one point, I even deeply questioned whether I truly loved Miyazawa Kenji.

Q: What is the actual structure of the recitals like?

A: My recitations are titled Rōdokuya and last for around 90 minutes. They consist of a 60-minute fairy tale with talk intervals as well as 8-10 verses’ worth of poetry recitals. I don’t just read my favourite works – the audience would get bored if you dont’ change the programme for every show. My audience isn’t limited to Miyazawa Kenji fans, plus my own fans may not even be that interested in Miyazawa Kenji himself…

At one point, I did not like to do talks. Due to my hesitant nature, I would inadvertently end up making negative remarks during talk segments. You know, there are these questionnaire forms where you can write your comments directly and once in a while I’d request for them to be filled in and people would write their honest opinions for my reference. It may not have been my intention to express things in a negative manner; sometimes I am just being frank and telling it as it is, but people do get hurt and upset by my words. I’ve even read harsh comments questioning whether I actually dislike Miyazawa Kenji in reality, or saying that they don’t want a person who dislikes Kenji to recite his poems – whatever their views, I am thankful and I will take them on board and learn from them.

I honestly love Miyazawa Kenji’s poetry. However, I am not necessarily a Miyazawa Kenji fanatic. Regardless, I do believe that if I could give meaning to why I was born in Iwate and became a seiyuu, then what I should do is start performing Miyazawa Kenji recitals at this age.

Poetry recitals are extremely difficult for me. There are many words I do not comprehend, and there are many works that are too profound for me. As I do not limit myself to reciting only my favourite poems, it is a personal battle for me to wrestle with these esoteric works. As I’m pondering the magnitude of the task that I chose to take on (laughs), 5 years have already passed.

I want to treasure nobody else’s voice but my own

Q: How different do you feel Rōdokuya is compared to your other works?

A: I think it’s completely different. Rōdokuya is like running a long distance marathon. I do it alone for a long time, without anyone else’s help until I reach the finishing line.

Q: What do you believe is the ‘originality’ of Kuwashima Houko?

A: I think everyone thinks this way, but I am using my own voice to perform – so maybe I’d say ‘my voice’, which is unlike anyone else’s. It’d be nice to hear people say ‘this is what this would sound like if it was Kuwashima Houko playing the role’. I can’t say that I’ve done anything in any wildly popular show that you could call my signature role as yet; but I have to a certain extent, been transforming into and getting up and close with a variety of roles (laughs). There have been a few more eccentric roles coming in lately (laughs), and others that staff members and scriptwriters have been writing with me in mind. That really amazes me and I’m grateful. To be able to imagine a part of my voice and then illustrate it [in a character]; it makes me wonder how the role would change if someone else were to put their voice to it instead of me. It’s really nice to hear things like that.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to do in the future?

A: I’ll just go with the flow, as much as I possibly can (laughs). Slowly, along the stream, but if I have to fight against the current then so be it. I hope to live my life the way I want to (laughs)

Q: Do you have any advice for people who are hoping to become seiyuu?

A: If you’ve taken steps in moving towards your goal, that means you’re already running the race. People who can do that will definitely be able to take hold of an opportunity when it comes along. Having said that, I think it’s important to be humble. If you are merely satisfied to grab onto one chance. do be warned that there may not be anything else waiting for you down the road. For example, it is fine to celebrate landing a single leading role in an anime but if you have no idea of what you want to do after that, it will be tough to keep going on as a seiyuu.

What is important is to know what you want to do once you’ve become a seiyuu. There are many different types of seiyuu out there, and I’m using myself as an example here, but I went from thinking ‘I just want to perform’, to adjusting my trajectory as I progressed onwards, orbiting to where I am presently situated. Now, I can confidently say that I was not mistaken. It is imperative to always visualize what lies ahead. When you are a seiyuu, what do want to achieve? Do you truly want to be a seiyuu? I recommend that you look inside yourself once again, to find the answer.


#187 – Kikkake Manga #1: Ono Kensho

Always meant to cover this series by Animedia x BookLive where they interview seiyuu and discuss their favourite manga. This is the first one from last year featuring Ono Kensho.

I can’t afford to lose the tablet that stores all my e-books – it’s my precious archive

Q: For this series of features, we’ll discuss publications that you’re fond of, or were influenced by. Is there any particular title that you were hooked on?

A: That’d be Slam Dunk (Inoue Takehiko/Shueisha). My parents liked it and had a collection of all the volumes at home so I went crazy reading it. I was most into the series around 6th grade and it influenced me into joining the basketball club.

Q: So did your parents often read manga?

A: I wasn’t specifically banned from reading manga, but there weren’t that many volumes of manga in my house. Apart from Slam Dunk, I think there was only Please Save My Earth (Hiwatari Saki/Hakusensha). My older brother did love manga though, so he was the one who gave me many recommendations.

Q: Were you influenced a lot by what you’ve read?

A: I don’t think so, not that much – but I do love Morimi Tomohiko’s novels and I’ve read all the works that he’s published thus far. Amongst them, ‘Night is Short, Walk on Girl’ (Morimi Tomohiko/Kadokawa/Kadokawa Shoten) is the one I really like – I read the novel, went to Kyoto and as a result, came to love Kyoto as well.

Q: Apart from recommendations from other people, how else do you make your reading selections?

A: Whether it’s for manga or novels, I tend to choose works based on the cover illustrations and design. So if I read it and enjoy it, I might end up becoming a ‘follower of the writer’. For my favourite authors, I’d buy their new works as soon as they are released without hesitating.

Q: For this interview you have chosen 3 of your favourite comics to share with us – are there any other works that you like?

A: There’s Slam Dunk that I love, of course. Besides that, I’ve grown fond of Tokyo Ghoul (Ishida Sui/Shueisha) recently. I actually started reading it before it got an anime adaptation; as a result of being attacked by a human-eating ‘ghoul’, the protagonist ends up a half-human, half-ghoul hybrid – it’s a story that has a lot of impact. I like it as a battle-oriented work, and the art is really stylish and well-done. At the same time, the character deaths are depicted appropriately, so there’s a human drama aspect to it. The ghouls are not viciously ‘evil’ – they do have very complex relationships with humans and the way this is portrayed really draws me in.

Q: There has been an increase in the number of e-book sites such as BookLive! – are you familiar with the format?

A: Yes. I initially considered purchasing e-books because I thought they’d be easy to bring around with you. It’s hard to carry 10 volumes of manga around but with e-books you’d only need a tablet; it’s that easy. I’ve got more than 200 volumes of manga and light novels on the tablet I’m using now. Sometimes there are gaps between the release dates of a book’s print and digital versions and when I can’t wait, I’ll get a hard copy of the book itself to read but also buy the e-book later on for my archives.

Also, e-books are convenient for re-reading purposes. When I was cast in the role of Nara Shikadai in the Boruto –Naruto Next Generations- TV anime that’s airing right now, I thought that I’d like to go back and read the Naruto (Kishimoto Masahi/Shueisha) series so I bought all the volumes in e-book format. When I read it during my school days all I thought was that the ninjutsu and battles were cool but as I’m reading it now, I’ll often be moved by [the concepts] of familial love and teacher-student bonds – and it made me realize how much older I’ve become.

Apart from that, I’ve reread Kaiji (Fukumoto Nobuyuki/Fukumoto Production) a couple of times and I do often read the Chūkan Kanriroku Tonegawa (Fukumoto Nobuyuki, Hagiwara Tensei, Hashimoto Tomohiro/Kodansha) spin-off as well.

I’m glad that I can buy e-books at any time of the day that I want to. Right now, it’s a precious archive to me that I absolutely cannot afford to lose.

My favourite comics

Kuroko no Basuke (Fujimaki Tadatoshi, Shueisha)
I was a Jump kid who loved Shonen Jump so I’d pay attention to new Jump series. I knew that a new basketball manga would be starting and I read it from the beginning of its serialization. I heard it would be adapted to a TV anime so I was hoping to be involved in some way. When I received the audition offer I remember feeling that this must be some twist of fate. Regardless of my connection to the role, I’d always read the manga placing myself in Kuroko’s shoes so when I found out that I’d been cast as Kuroko, I was really happy.

There are some lines in Kuroko no Basuke that I think would be rather unpleasant if they were to be said in real life but for me, they added to the series’ appeal. Personally, I would say that this is the series that has influenced me the most.

Kingdom (Hara Yasuhisa, Shueisha)
My interest in Kingdom was first piqued when I saw a tarento discussing the series passionately on a TV show. At that point around 38 volumes had been released and after a bit of a nudge from a friend, I decided to marathon the series and got hooked on it. By the time I caught up with the latest volume I started feeling depressed as I knew I’d have to wait to read the next one (laughs). 38 volumes seemed like such a huge number at first, but the story had so much power packed within that I never once felt like it was too long or too difficult to read. It’s amazing just how high one’s concentration levels can be once you think about, and decide to read something – I finished the whole series in no time at all. There’s just something about it that gets me, be it as a record of an epic war, as a historical story or as a slice of human drama.

BLUE GIANT (Ishizuka Shinichi, Shogakukan)
This was a manga recommended by a friend as well. It depicts the endeavours of protagonist Miyamoto Dai in becoming an established saxophone player, as well as [the story of] his family who supports him from the shadows and it’s touching. There is a sense of dynamism in this, as you’d expect from a music-centric work and it’s refreshing to see how sound can be expressed through words. It hasn’t been adapted into an anime etc yet, but if anyone out there’s interested, please do give it a read.

The one character I’d like to mention here is the hero’s older brother. I’ve always been weak to stories about family; in this case, instead of letting the MC put his first salary towards a down payment, the brother takes out a loan to buy a saxophone for him. It’s so amazing to see this older brother staking his dreams on his younger brother – his coolness had me crying over and over again.

#186 – Maeno Tomoaki

Here’s an interview with Maeno Tomoaki from Livedoor, where he talks at length about the show he’s headlining this season, Hataraku Saibō [Cells at Work], Hanazawa Kana, his weird food habits, and his lowest lows as a seiyuu.

“I didn’t want to be anything else but a seiyuu”. Seiyuu work = Life. The reason why Maeno Tomoaki is much loved

Fellow seiyuu often describe Maeno Tomoaki as ‘an interesting guy with a unique aura’. Indeed, you do feel such an atmosphere surrounding him. He answers questions in a matter-of-fact manner with that sonorous voice of his – you may grin whenever he suddenly slips quotes like ‘I really love looking up the nutritional content of vegetables as I’m eating them’ into the conversation, but you then realize that he’s actually 100% serious as he’s saying it. You can see that ‘do as I please’ attitude coming from Maeno but that’s not all there is – he’s also brimming with passion.

Photography: Saiki Yoshimichi
Interview, text: Tomita Mai
Production: enfant
Styling: Kuba Toshio (BEAMS)
Hair: Yokote Juri
An unprecedented type of anthropomorphization is here!

Q: Hataraku Saibō (which started its broadcast on July 7) where you play White Blood Cell (neutrophils) is an anthropomorphic fantasy based on Shimizu Akane’s manga work, depicting what goes on in the human body by personifying human cells such as red blood cells, macrophages and platelets.

A: It’s unprecedented, even in the world of anthropomorphized works – it made me think, ‘Wow, we’ve got crazy personifications going on here!’ (laughs). White blood cells and red blood cells are components of our blood and I kind of knew about the roles they each played, but there are also a lot of other cells playing their own parts. You can easily learn through this work just what’s going on in your body.

Q: Through Hataraku Saibō you can easily learn about your body’s complex internal mechanisms, bringing you one step closer to the cells.

A: That’s right. It’s a story about how cells work, and you get to see a web of emotions amongst them. For every tragic story there will be a funny one – it’s definitely a very interesting series.

Q: You mentioned that you were very fired up for this series right from the beginning, during the audition period.

A: After passing the tape audition and being asked to go along to the studio audition, I was informed that the final review would include a dialogue with an actress for Red Blood Cell. When I got to the studio I saw that Hanazawa Kana-san was there for Red Blood Cell and I wondered, ‘So is the casting going to be just as I pictured it, with Hanazawa-san in this role?’…

Q: So in your head, you imagined Hanazawa-san as the one voicing Red Blood Cell?

A: From the moment I read the manga I was reading the character’s parts with the voice of Hanazawa-san playing in my head.

Q: Without even knowing that Hanazawa-san would be cast in the role?

A: Yes. I’ve worked with Hanazawa-san on various series over the course of 10 years and we’ve previously had the chance to play the main leading roles together as well; so it was like ‘meeting an old friend’. I was thinking, ‘If Hanazawa-chan is doing Red Blood Cell, then I wanna be the one who does White Blood Cell’, which is why I got all fired up for it. I only heard later on though, that Hanazawa-san had yet to be confirmed for the role at that point.

It was fortunate that I was able to pair up with Hanazawa-san during the final audition and thanks to our dialogue exchange, I was cast as White Blood Cell – I thought that was a great slice of luck.

Q: How did you go about formulating the character of White Blood Cell?

A: First of all, I read the manga and saw that White Blood Cell appears to be calm, yet there is a part of him that can turn quite hot-blooded. I also thought it’d be great if I could show that contrast between his cool demeanour and his more aggressive aspects when he’s battling against bacteria. I went to the auditions with a firm picture in my mind, and I was told, ‘You really match the character’, which makes me believe that my initial thoughts are fairly close to the truth.

Q: Once you entered actual recordings, were you required to make any modifications to your acting?

A: For episode 1, Director Suzuki (Kenichi) said to me that I should ‘be slightly more conscious of the cool side of White Blood Cell’. It was probably because I’d read ahead in the source material and was aware of future developments, that I started off sounding a little too friendly with Red Blood Cell; I was directed, ‘For your relationship with Red Blood Cell, we want you act a bit more distant at first’.

Q: You’re dressed in an all-white outfit today – you look like a real-life version of White Blood Cell (laughs)

A: Hahaha! But it seems manga author Shimizu Akane-sensei drew White Blood Cell with Shiranui Mamoru from Dokaben! in mind, so it’s kinda hard for me to live up to those visuals (laughs)

A supporting cast that complements the voice of Hanazawa Kana

Q: There are probably a lot of familiar faces during recordings, starting from Hanazawa-san to Ono Daisuke-san (Killer T Cell) and Inoue Kikuko-san (Macrophage) – what’s the atmosphere in the studio like?

A: Very good. There’s a nice balance to the cast, and Inoue-san and Ono-san are…how should I put it…people who create the kind of mood that makes it easy [for me] to perform.

Q: Was it ‘easy to perform’?

A: Without question, I have to put in the hard work but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I had too much of a burden upon my shoulders – in a sense, it was a place where I could take on the challenge of the role in a relaxed manner. Of course, the staff members also work hard to create such an atmosphere. Every week we see a lot of refreshments being provided in the Hataraku Saibō studio. It’s a series that takes quite a long time to record, so the staff make sure that our stomachs are in tip-top condition (laughs) – it helps us out a lot.

Q: I see. I actually think that each individual cast member of Hataraku Saibō fits their characters perfectly.

A: You’re absolutely right. Kikuko-san, who plays Macrophage, is the kind of person who loves to throw in a bunch of ad-libs.. she came up with some really funny ones this time too and that helped to enhance the overall mood. Even when we’re just getting into the cast greetings in the morning, we’ll almost always be laughing already (laughs)

Q: Earlier you mentioned that you were already imagining her voice in your head as you were reading the manga. How do you find Hanazawa-san’s acting?

A: She always works hard no matter what she’s doing, which is exactly like Red Blood Cell. And of course, when you have Hanazawa-san around it kinda helps to make everyone else ‘stand out more’?. I think she has a voice that allows people who play the characters around her to shine. Her presence helps my White Blood Cell and Ono-san’s Killer T Cell stand out even more.

Q: I thought Ono-san as Killer T Cell was the perfect casting as well (laughs)

A: Definitely yeah (laughs). Ono-san himself has quite an interesting personality (laughs), so he did manage to draw out the uniqueness of Killer T Cell pretty well. Actually, I auditioned for both White Blood Cell and Killer T Cell. But I couldn’t see Killer T Cell within myself, to be honest. When I heard later on that Ono-san would be playing the role, I thought ‘Ah, I see! He’d be a great fit’ – very much a perfect role for him, one that you could easily get hooked on.

Q: A lot of other cells appear in the series – which ones are you fond of?

A: The Pneumonia Coccus that appears in episode 1 was very prickly and aggressive and what’s more, he’s voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki – I was thinking, ‘It’s just episode 1 and we’ve already got this strong enemy appearing’. There’s this part where he jumps out from inside a cardboard box and that was really freaky (laughs)

Q: In future episodes we’ll get to see various cells and body conditions depicted – are there any other cells, bacteria or illnesses that have captured your attention?

A: There’s a cell that fights parasites called Eosinophil that I remember finding myself empathizing with. In the manga there’s this one story about [Eosinophil] fighting Anisakis (a type of parasite found in fish and shellfish) – I’d previously suffered from a Anisakis-related issue myself so I was thinking, ‘Ah, so it was Eosinophil who was fighting hard in my body back then’.

Q: Hataraku Saibō has just started airing – tell us what we should be looking forward to.

A: Basically, the anime will progress the same way as the manga but there are certain aspects that we can ‘play’ around with when you throw voices into the mix so you can definitely enjoy both the manga and the anime in their own different ways. Rather unexpectedly, I’ve been asked to perform the opening theme ‘Mission! Ken.Kō.Dai.Ichi’ [Mission! Health First] as well, so please do watch out for that too.

I like to look up nutritional content while I’m eating vegetables

Q: So Maeno-san, you’ve said that you’re ‘a bit of a health nerd’ – can you elaborate?

A: Hmm, as an example…I really like checking out the nutritional content of vegetables as I’m eating them. I’ll be eating broccoli and thinking ‘Ah, so broccoli has this and that nutrient. I’ve been lacking in X nutrient lately so I should eat consume more of it’ – I like ingesting and digesting that kind of information.

Q: Is that something you’ve always been doing?

A: Probably only after I turned 30. I like to look up the nutrients found in various ingredients and come up with menu items to load up on whichever ones that I lack. I’m quite careful about the composition of my daily meals.

Q: Why did your dietary habits change?

A: I’m growing older now but thankfully continue to receive work opportunities that require appearing in public…I guess I gradually came around to the idea that I have to take care of my body; not just my appearance but also what’s inside.

Q: Is there anything that you’re particularly careful about?

A: My protein intake.

Q: I do notice recently that there are quite a few seiyuu who do muscle training and dieting – do you do anything similar, Maeno-san?

A: I go to the gym regularly and try to exercise. Having said that, it’s only twice a week at most. I do try to do a bit of muscle training, but it’s mostly aerobic exercises for me. I love drinking alcohol, so I try to exercise with the reasoning that ‘if I work hard and make exercising a regular habit, then I can have more freedom in what I eat and drink’ (laughs). Of course, I do feel good and refreshed after exercising so it’s kind of like a stress reliever, a hobby for me.

In the early days, my annual income sometimes amounted to just 30,000 yen!

Q: Now, let’s ask Maeno-san, who is much sought after for any type of role, about voice acting as a profession.

A: No, no way. I’m nothing like that at all (laughs)

Q: Where do you think then, lies the place where ‘Maeno Tomoaki is needed’?

A: Er, I do wonder about that too? (laughs) No idea but…I do personally like collecting the goods from shows I’ve worked on and using them myself. I do regularly use whatever goods I’m given during events and it seems that fans like that; it helps them relate to me. Indeed, at times I do think of myself as ‘representing the fans’ when I’m involved with a series – maybe that is what draws people’s attentions.

Q: Maeno-san – you’ve played a range of different characters thus far, but is there any type of role that makes you think ‘I’d like to try that out’?

A: Ah~ there’s loads I’d like to do (laughs). An antagonist, but a really cool one…someone like Char from Gundam, for example. Or someone who’s the ‘personification of trash’ (laughs); I’d like to play a character that everyone hates. It’d be like a game, trying to make a character as unlikable as possible – ‘the more he’s hated then the better the job I’ve done’. I wanna do that kind of role (laughs)

Q: It’s true that we rarely see such characters around.

A: ‘There are deep-rooted reasons why this guy has turned into a piece of trash’ – I’ve done such characters a couple of times, where you find that you can’t hate them after you’ve seen the whole picture. I do want to try voicing a character that’d make you think, ‘I know his story already but he’s just scum that’s beyond saving’ (laughs)

Q: What other types of challenges would you like to take on work-wise?

A: There are so many roles, so many performances I’d like to take on…I also have very little stage experience so that’s something I’d like to explore. Us seiyuu normally perform with the script in our hands so I do think I’d like to try my hand at plays, where you have to nail the dialogue down internally and then express it on the stage. There’s so much that’s unknown to me regarding that aspect of performing, so I hope that I get a chance to try it out.

Q: As a seiyuu, are there any aspects to the job that are always on your mind?

A: Perhaps ‘the joy of working’?. Plus, you may often see seiyuu featured in articles promoting a certain show, exactly like what I’m doing in this interview now. But whenever I attend production parties I’m reminded of just how many people are needed [behind the scenes] to make a series happen – I am always telling myself that I must never forget how important that is.

Q: I see.

A: People often say ‘this is Maeno-san who voices so-and-so character’, but for any given role there are so many people who are committed towards creating that specific show. And I must never forget that I stand amongst them all as a voice actor. When things go well and we’re constantly busy with our jobs, it’s easy to forget that fact but I will always remember to appreciate what it is I’m doing. To be honest, I spent a long period of time at the bottom of the scrap heap and there were days when I could only make 30,000yen in a year…those experiences are what made me who I am today.

Q: An annual income of 30,000yen!?

A: That sounds crazy, right? ‘My yearly earnings were 30,000yen’ (laughs). I only worked like, 3 times in a year or something.

Q: How did you survive without rotting away?

A: To be honest, I think I was probably decomposing (laughs). Even so, I struggled on desperately, searching for, and finding that opening – but I never once thought that I was wasting my time. Though obviously I’d probably prefer not to have gone through such times and rather have had a swimmingly nice career…

Q: Facing such hardships, how could you find reasoning in your determination to be a seiyuu forever?

A: I’d always wanted to become a seiyuu. I think the biggest factor was likely that I had no interest in becoming anything else apart from that. Honestly, I was just a 2nd-grader or so when I vaguely dreamed about ‘wanting to do seiyuu work’. I guess the reason that I never pictured myself doing anything else was because [that wish] had been simmering inside my heart for the longest time, which filled me with this strange sense of confidence. Perhaps it was those thoughts that gave me the power [to persevere].

Q: You really wanted to become a seiyuu from a young age.

A: That’s right. At the time, my life plan looked like this:

24 years old: play the lead in a Gundam show
27 years old: fill the Nippon Budokan
30 years old: build my dream home

Well, none of those have come true as yet (laughs)

Q: Recent years have seen ‘seiyuu’ become a popular profession. How would Maeno-san describe to others who, like you, say ‘I want to become a seiyuu’, just what the job entails?

A: All of your life experiences will serve as the foundation for whatever you’re trying to express as a seiyuu, thus nothing [in life] is ever pointless. In my case, the video games I’ve played and the anime I’ve watched as well as all of my other hobbies, have aided me in drawing out my expressive ability. I played around a lot when I was growing up and I’m actually putting a lot of those experiences to good use now in the way I express myself, which makes me very glad that I played a lot when I was young. Of course, you do know that studying is important too, right? (laughs)

Q: Studying and playing, and everything in between, can contribute to your job as a seiyuu.

A: That’s absolutely right. In a way, you could say that it’s rare to find a profession where all life experiences are useful in aiding the way you express yourself – it’s a bit like ‘Work = Life’ in this instance. I do believe that there is no other job out there that’s quite as fun as this.


Maeno has spoken at length before about his struggles to make it in the business – he was classmates with Kakihara Tetsuya in the AMG training institution but could only sit and watch with envy when Kakihara went straight on to success after graduating, whilst he had to go for a 2nd training stint at Nichinare (classmates included Ueda Kana and Suzuki Tatsuhisa) after joining Artsvision, spending a total 6 years in rookie status before finally attaining full affiliation [正所属] in 2008/9 after landing lead roles in Toshokan Sensō and the Mahō Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto sequel.

Animedia Seiyuu Data Files 2011 & 2018

Anime magazine Animedia has published handwritten Seiyuu Data File booklets over the years – they used to be more frequent in the 90s and 00s, but the last one was in 2011….before they decided to do another set this year! (the guys’ one hasn’t been released yet as I type this).

Back in 2011, I translated a good chunk of the profiles on Wikispaces with help from Kylaran of The Nihon Review but Wikispaces went down, so I finally procured a backup copy of the profiles and revised & reuploaded them on WordPress. I’m also working on translating the remaining profiles – got the likes of Sakura Ayane, Tamura Yukari, Sato Rina etc up now.

Link: Seiyuu Data File 2011 Translation

For the 2018 iterations, I am working on translations (still very much WIP) with the admin of seiyuu translation site Koe Monogatari – do pay him a visit for some great pieces on Yasuno Kiyono, Kohara Konomi, Kayano Ai etc!

Link: Seiyuu Data File 2018 Translation

Comment: In all honesty, the 2018 Data File looks a bit lacking for me – there’s only 78 profiles compared to the 100 in 2011’s edition, and we’re missing quite a few of the agencies this time. No Office Osawa (which means no Koko-chan), no Mausu Promotion (no Kakuma, Kurosawa or TT etc), no SMA (Minase Inori, Kusunoki Tomori), no Hirata Office (Shiraishi Haruka) etc etc. Also missing a few VIMS (Taichi Yo etc) & I’m Ent (Tamura Mutsumi etc) and Hanamori Yumiri etc etc. Oh well, guess I should be happy that we’re getting one at all? Hopefully it doesn’t take another 7 years for the next edition!


#185 – Hanebado! interview: Owada Hitomi x Shimabukuro Miyuri x Okamoto Nobuhiko

Interview with the main trio from badminton anime Hanebad(o)! – Owada Hitomi as eccentric lead Hanesaki Ayano, rookie Shimabukuro Miyuri as stoic team captain Aragaki Nagisa and badminton lover Okamoto Nobuhiko as coach Tachibana Kentarō.

Finally, an anime based on a sport that all good citizens of my country would have been forced to play from a young age! The racquet action has been impressive so far and I’m just crossing my fingers hard that the animation team doesn’t collapse from all the effort.

You might also have seen me tweeting bits about Shimabukuro, who’s landed an interesting batch of roles in this current summer season – the airheaded titular lead in Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san, the headstrong rival characters in both Hanebado and Harukana Receive (Shimabukuro’s from Okinawa, where the latter series is set) and one of the many idol girls in Ongaku Shōjo.

She’s definitely one to watch out for, being from Osawa Office, an agency that’s not really invested in the idol game and is more about developing & picking up voice talent. In Hanebado!, Shimabukuro joins agency seniors Kayano Ai and Kohara Konomi (Ayano’s best buddy Elena), the latter of whom tread a similar path to prominence last year. Could write an entire post looking at Osawa’s hiring & nurturing practices but we shall leave that asides for now.

On to the interview!

A series that paints badminton in a viciously zealous light. Ayano, a tough character with a myriad of facial expressions

Q: What are your impressions of Hanebado! having read the manga and now that you’re acting in it?

Owada: I read the manga for the first time prior to my audition. When my casting was confirmed, I reread the series and felt myself gradually getting absorbed in the passionate manner badminton matches were being depicted. And I was looking forward to seeing how they would appear in animated form.

At the same time I had my doubts about playing a role like Ayano. The further I read on, the tougher it became to keep up with her complex feelings and emotions. At times you can’t tell what’s going through her mind and at others, [her behaviour] sends a chill down your spine. That tendency she has to enter this ‘zone’ where she’s oblivious of what’s going around her is actually one of the most fascinating aspects about her – you can’t take your eyes off her at that very moment. I was however, concerned over whether I could adequately convey or express those parts. It’s still a trial-and-error process for me even as I’m going through recording now.

Shimabukuro: My cousin played badminton as part of their club activities so I do feel like it’s one that I’m most familiar with amongst the many sports out there. When I read the manga, I could see how incredibly fiery it was and it surprised me. I thought, ‘Wow, so this is badminton’.

I initially thought that this would be a cute badminton story upon seeing the manga art, but as the matches heated up and intensified, the art too became increasingly well-defined; razor sharp almost. There is a sense of dynamism [to the art] as well as cuteness whenever the story calls for it – the way the art evolves depending on the situation results in double pleasure [for the reader]. And wow, there are heroines like Ayano out there. Ayano’s emotions tend to be all over the place and she’s a bit twisted (laughs). On the other hand Nagisa’s quite straightforward and I do think she’s cool.

Straightforward Nagisa feels more like the main character. Is Ayano the last boss!?

Okamoto: I played badminton in junior high under the guidance of a coach and I was thinking about how I could make use of my playing experience as I was taking the auditions. Sound director Wakabayashi (Kazuhiro)-san had commented to me, ‘You know a lot about badminton don’t you?’, but when I read the manga I discovered that there were quite a lot of badminton-specific terms that I wasn’t familiar with, and I thought ‘I’m done for’.

All: (laughter)

Okamoto: I’d had this image of the series being a bright story about cute girls when I read the first volume of the manga, but then I see Ayano who’s like a last boss that’s been raised by an evil emperor. But we do also have Nagisa, who gives off more of an orthodox protagonist-type of impression.

Owada/Shimabukuro: (laughs)

Okamoto: This series feels different compared to other common manga, it’s got a kind of intensity [not present elsewhere]. I think it’s probably because Ayano was separated from her mom early on during her childhood and went through a lot that she’s developed something like a split personality.

Q: Observing the complex relationships between the various characters, the psychological aspects and the intensity of, as well as the strategizing going on during matches – you wouldn’t think you were watching a show about high school students’ club activities.

Okamoto: Ayano may be blessed with natural talent but in return, lacks physical attributes such as height etc. It’s said that athletes who are tall and have long limbs have the gift and the advantage, but we see someone like Nagisa who’s tall but is the industrious type [as opposed to being naturally gifted] with plenty of potential – that aspect is pretty interesting too.

It’s a high-speed, quick-thinking strategy game, but also a sport that makes you want to improve

Q: Owada-san and Shimabukuro-san are learning to play badminton through Moribad, a special video programme that streams on the official website, while Okamoto-san already has experience with the game. Can you each describe what you find appealing about badminton?

Owada: I’d only played it during PE classes before so this was my first time taking on the sport seriously. I was able to hit the shuttle thanks to what I’d been taught in my youth but learning about high-level strategies through playing actual matches allowed me to appreciate the depth of the sport. You engage in both offensive and defensive play at breakneck speeds while constantly planning your next move – it’s amazing to be capable of doing such difficult things.

I can’t pull off overly complicated moves but just hitting the shuttle around and playing a couple of rallies is fun. It feels good to hear the sound of a clean hit. We had the opportunity to learn from pro players as well as to watch a live match, and it left a big impression on me – I thought, ‘I never knew such a world existed! What a cool sport this is!’. We’re only at the level of exchanging rallies, but we hope to get even better at playing the game.

Shimabukuro: I never knew it would be quite so hard to hit the shuttle at a targeted spot, or to even make a return of serve. The ‘ball’ isn’t round – it’s a light shuttle with feathers so a lot more control is required. Plus, the court is wider than I thought it’d be. When I was playing a match with Owada-san, she was good at hitting drop shots that land right at the net and I ended up rushing in haphazardly from the back of the court (laughs)

Owada: Miyuri-chan is good at covering the court, right?

Okamoto: It’s amazing to be able to do that when you’re just a beginner.

Owada: Even when she’s at the net, she’s able to sprint to the back of the court quickly so that gets me panicky as well (laughs)

Q: The two of you could form a doubles partnership.

Owada: Shall we pair up?

Shimabukuro: That’d be great. Pro players can retrieve a shuttle at the net and then quickly chase down a shot that’s been dropped at the back of the court – their footwork and reading of play is just amazing. There’s nothing I can do but be astounded by the brain power required as well as the agility and physical strength they possess.

What’s interesting – psychological battles against opponents who have overcome physical barriers

Okamoto: It was mentioned earlier that height is seen as an indication of potential, but the fact that [being tall] is not an absolute advantage is what makes badminton intriguing. Evaluating the condition and weaknesses of your opponent and then proceeding to drop the shuttle into an area that they hate – that kind of analysis is fun, isn’t it?

As an example, we might have Owada-chan who’s good at playing drop shots – to counter them, you could either choose to play a hairpin net shot or a cross-court net shot, or you could hit a clear shot. It’s fun to choose what shots to play while anticipating your opponent’s next move.

I do think that a match might actually go on forever unless someone hits a deciding smash or makes a mistake. When I was playing badminton as a school activity I was told to study the weaknesses of my opponents.

Q: There was a scene in the manga where a character attacked their opponent’s weak backhand, wasn’t there?

Okamoto: They’re junior high school students so it’s natural to be weak at playing backhands from the back of the court. So what you do is just to return it using whatever method possible; clearing it may be your only option and a safe choice, so just take aim and hit it cleanly.

Shimabukuro: Amazing! What a lot of [badminton] jargon.

Owada: That’s the part you’re impressed by?

All: (laughter)

Ayano may be childish, but she’s a character from whom you can sense an obsession with winning

Q: Let’s talk about how you each measure up to your respective characters – tell us too, about anything special that you’re doing for your roles.

Owada: It is difficult to describe Ayano in just a few words (laughs). I had only read up to the 3rd volume by the time I attended the audition and initially, I thought that she was a cowardly, timid and shy girl but I was informed that she’s ‘a character who undergoes changes, wears different masks’. Playing the role, I was able to reaffirm that despite being awkward at handling personal relationships, [Ayano’s] a girl who possesses great determination, like most sportspersons who refuse to admit defeat. The reason she loses sight of her surroundings at times is probably down to her single-minded focus on badminton, the one thing that once connected Ayano to her mother.

Q: Her childishness remains unchanged; as if there’s a monster slumbering within her innocent nature.

Owada: Wakabayashi-san often emphasized her ‘childishness’. For example, ‘in this scene, she’s like a brat who doesn’t want to go to the dentist’ (laughs). I try my best not to allow it to appear that Ayano’s way of thinking has ever matured.

The strong Nagisa who faces badminton stoically, is the complete opposite of who I am

Shimabukuro: Though Nagisa has faced setbacks in the past and had her heart ripped to shreds, I do feel that she’s a girl who tackles badminton in a stoic manner – I had that sentiment before I started working on the show and those feelings haven’t changed. On the other hand, I would personally choose to run away if I ever got frustrated with something I love. I’d end up thinking ‘Why bother working hard if it’s gonna be pointless in the end?’.

Q: At first, Nagisa pushes Coach Tachibana away and displays a range of complicated emotions towards Ayano.

Shimabukuro: Whenever Nagisa gets frustrated she tries to overcome it alone without ever running away, which I think is cool and I respect her for that. As a final-year senior, Nagisa reaches a point where she can just watch over her juniors and the club as a whole so similarly, I can observe how [everyone] is developing over the course of recordings. Also, I’m a rather passive person myself so I try not to let that trait of mine seep through.

Owada/Okamoto: (laughter)

Okamoto: You were even bowing your head down all the way while moving about during recording.

Shimabukuro: ‘cos I think I’d be doing a disservice to Nagisa if I were to allow my meekness to show, going ‘Apologies, but I’m going to stand in front of the mic now’ (laughs). Her character is the complete opposite of my own, so I can gain courage from her.

Coach Tachibana: youthful-looking but mature & considerate of his team members

Okamoto: Tachibana is a coach who supports his students, and I was visualizing a passionate character like Matsuoka Shūzō [for my portrayal]. I was told, ‘He may be a hot-blooded guy but do please emphasize his gentle side when he’s advising the students’. I think that it’s the kindness of Tachibana that allows him to not put undue pressure on his students, but I have noticed recently that he’s a bit strict with the male team members.

All: (laughter)

Okamoto: He’s probably wary of being hated by the girls, or afraid of getting accused of sexual harassment (laughs)

Q: He’s a college student so he’s not that much older than the club members.

Okamoto: He may look like a boy but he’s quite mature. At first the club members were thinking, ‘What’s up with this perverted geezer?’ (laughs) but it turns out that he’s unexpectedly considerate when it comes to the team members. I guess things are constantly on his mind as he’s dealing with frustrations from his past and thinking about how he can live out his dream through the club members. It does seem though, that there are a lot of female players but too few male members in the club – I wonder why he chose to come to this particular school?

Owada: They can’t even join team events with only 2 male members.

Shimabukuro: They’ve got to recruit more members.

Okamoto: Ayano and Nagisa are well ahead of the pack in terms of strength, but what about the other members? I’d like to ask him what vision he has for the team, how he sees them progressing going forward.

The trio’s favourite characters are all from rival schools!?

Q: Who’s your favourite character in the series?

Owada: For me it’s Shiwahime Yuika, captain of rival school Frederisia Women’s Junior College’s high school branch. She’s imposing and cool but always watches out for her friends; I think she’s the type of woman other girls admire. If you were in the same club you’d probably go ‘I’ll follow you forever!’; she’s the sort of person you’d want to keep watching.

Shimabukuro: Same for me, I’d say Shiwahime-san as well.

Okamoto: Wow she’s popular. And she hasn’t started taking things seriously yet.

Shimabukuro: Her potential appears to be unlimited, plus she’s mysterious. You could feel the composure when she spoke to Nagisa using honorifics as they were shaking hands. I was also quite taken by the part in the manga where she zooms off to bring back Conny, who’s run away, on a scooter. I really like that kind of inconsistency in her character.

Okamoto: Ah, Fre-jo’s Conny. She has the height and long limbs that make her suitable for badminton, plus she hits amazing smashes at acute angles. I’m interested in her as she seems to be a strong character with even more potential than Nagisa. Should the 3 of us all be picking Fre-jo characters though?

Owada: Of course they’re all nice people, the Kitakomachi team members plus Elena, Ayano’s best friend. Right?

Shimabukuro: Yes! (laughs)

Watch out for Ayano’s mother Uchika, who holds the key to the story!

Q: What do you think of Ayano’s mother Uchika?

Owada: Complicated feelings, when I consider it from Ayano’s point of view. [Ayano] enjoyed playing badminton with her mom and it was the reason why she loved the game; now all of a sudden, the only person she has ever trusted is gone from her life. As a result, Ayano’s heart is a complete mess.

Okamoto: She even abandoned her parental responsibilities. You have to wonder why she bothered to get married. Ayano’s success in badminton stems from the time that she spent playing with her mom. On the other hand, it does make me shudder to think that [badminton] was all they had (to keep them connected).

Shimabukuro: It also affected other kids apart from Ayano herself..

Owada: I’m not sure what frame of mind I should approach this in, but I do know that I am looking forward to seeing how the anime handles [their story]. It’s complicated (laughs).

Hanebado! recordings are like club meetings, with the studio a club room. The fatigue from recording matches shows through too!?

Q: What’s the atmosphere during recording like?

Owada: I talk to Miyuri-chan a lot, it’s like we’re in the same club. The studio and the booths are kinda like clubrooms to us.

Okamoto: I feel like I’m an intruder in their clubroom (laughs)

Owada: Break times are relaxing but once we move into recording, it gets a little edgy. We have to keep going ‘til Wakabayashi-san is satisfied so we do need to make sure we can properly switch gears.

Shimabukuro: Everyone’s munching stuff during intervals as well; it really does feel like a club.

Owada: There was a bit of a controversial battle recently over which tastes better – ‘Kinoko no Yama’ or ‘Takenoko no Sato’ (laughs). We also bring in each other’s favourite treats as well.

Shimabukuro: The girls get excited over all the sweets, don’t we?

Q: Those extra supplies seem like a necessity since the large number of hot-blooded developments in the series would require intense physical exertion.

Shimabukuro: Indeed.

Owada: You’re right, the matches make up the bulk of the show and there are quite a few tense scenes that make us huff and puff. Once recording is over we just wilt, feeling like we had a real good workout.

Okamoto: Recording for this series does feel like it goes on longer than for other anime. The animation is pretty detailed so decisions over whether or not to include breathing for a certain part have to be take carefully.

Q: Watching the rally shown in the PV, you can clearly hear the sounds of a shuttle being hit and of it flying through the air, as well as the screech of shoes moving across the surface every time someone moves – any badminton player would be surprised by how realistic the show is.

Okamoto: It made me shiver too.

Owada: A lot of work has gone into crafting the sound so I think experienced players will surely be satisfied with what they hear.

You’ll feel the passion that’s been put into the high-quality depiction of badminton, and the level of technical competence makes you feel like you’re out there on the court!

Q: Tell us what you’re looking forward to in the anime, or what scenes you’d like to see.

Owada: First of all, I believe that fans will be concerned over how convincingly the anime depicts the matches and action as drawn in the manga, so I’d like everyone to pay attention to those parts. The battles with players from other high schools will shake Ayano’s heart to its core; I’m looking forward to the chance to portray Ayano’s varying facial expressions and emotions – how she matures, or even how she turns to the dark side.

Shimabukuro: The animation incorporates movements based on camera footage captured during real badminton matches. The scene where Riko adjusts her centre of gravity – it’s amazing that you can tell where weight is being applied solely from the visuals.

I’m looking forward to seeing not just Nagisa’s, but all of the other characters’ matches as well – how they’re animated and with sound added, how realistic they’ll turn out. I’m sure that we’ll get to taste the feeling of standing out there on the gym court, and that excites me. From Nagisa’s point of view, the matchups with Ayano are always thrilling and I’m keen to experience up-close one of Ayano’s lines [to Nagisa] from the manga: ‘That’s a surprise – it seems that you can play some nasty badminton’. There are plenty of epic matches in the manga that all seem like highlights and I’m looking forward to getting to act them out in the anime.

Okamoto: If those 2 were to duke it out in a crucial match, how would I approach it as a coach? They’re players on the same team, and I know a great deal about both. Though in the manga, I feel like [Tachibana] actually leaves Ayano to her own devices and spends more time advising Nagisa (laughs).

From a badminton player’s point of view, I’m kind of worried – the singles matches should be fine, but what about the doubles? Badminton is a quick-paced sport with a lot of movement and with 4 people involved, I think the animators are going to cry.

Owada: I’m like, ‘Wow, you can hit [the shuttle] from that position in that kind of pose!?’

Okamoto: Especially true for someone like Ayano. She’s like an acrobat.

Q: It’s a challenge to capture the realism and that sense of speed in a TV series.

Okamoto: It’s uncharted territory not just for a sports series but for anime in general. Expectations have gone up and the bar’s been set high thanks to the PV that they made. Liden Films, please do your best!

Owada/Shimabukuro: Please do your best!!

A series that club members can relate to. Please spend a hot summer with these girls!

Q: Tell us about the appeal and highlights of Hanebado!

Owada: I think anyone who’s been involved with club activities, not just specifically badminton players, will be able to relate to the show. Against a backdrop of passionate sports battles, the series develops, through the joy and the pain. I hope that you can watch it while recalling your days as part of a club, working diligently and fervently.

The show starts at the dawn of summer; feel the heat of the girls and spend your hot summer with them! Ayano is a character who’s difficult to pin down with just one phrase but as the episodes pass by you’ll get to see increasingly different sides to her that will pique your interest more and more, deepening her attractiveness [as a character]. Please keep both eyes on, and keep watching over her as she matures through her interactions with her club members and other characters.

Feel the splendour of club activities and youth through Hanebado!, the staff & cast’s crystal of badminton love

Shimabukuro: I’ve never been part of a sports club before, having preferred more casual activities. Everybody’s gathered together at the same time for this series, watching Nagisa and the rest of the characters working hard towards achieving that one goal, and it makes me think, ‘This is what a club is. This is what youth is.’ – through this [series], I have learned what joy and pleasure truly means. I’ll be glad if everyone, both badminton players and newcomers to the sport, would come to think ‘youth is a great thing’, or gain an interest in the excitement and fun of badminton [from watching the show].

There are many characters in the series, from unique personalities like Ayano to direct girls like Ayano, as well as others who watch over the problem kids, like Riko and Elena (laughs). You’ll definitely find 1 character with whom you can identify and relate to; it’ll be fun to see the similarities you might share with any of them. Please give the series a try and accept the love that the staff and us cast members have for badminton.

A show that is easy to understand for beginners but also benefits skilled players – pay attention to the Japanese badminton scene that is active on the global badminton stage!

Okamoto: Hanebado!, depicting fiery battles between girls, even manages to get the palms of a guy like me all sweaty; I am very much impressed by a show where the magnificence of sporting relationships can be felt throughout. People who’ve tried badminton or players who are experienced should surely find that the play in the series is well-executed, while newcomers will also be able to see the action clearly.

From the Takamatsu [Takahashi Ayaka & Matsutomo Misaki] pair’s Rio Olympics (gold-medal) triumph to our World No.1 ranked female player Yamaguchi Akane, to male Asian Championships winner Momota Kento – Japan’s badminton players are now performing well on the global stage, and I hope people pay attention to just how exciting [the scene] is. It might also be interesting to imagine what it’d be like if Ayano and the rest of the girls were to take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Riding this wave, I do hope that Hanebado! can get even more exciting in the future!

#184 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.9&10 – Nakajima Yoshiki, Kawanishi Kengo & Koyama Tsuyoshi

Finally we get an all-guys interview, featuring the yakuza trio of Nitta (Nakajima), useless Sabu (Kawanishi) and Baba Kiyoshi, the new young leader of Nitta’s yakuza group (Koyama).


Q: Tell us your impressions of Hinamatsuri?

Kawanishi: I’ve appeared on an NHK programme* where we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘yakuza’ and had to settle on ‘ninkyō mono’ [lit: chivalrous men] as a substitute. But here, I’m allowed to say ‘yakuza’ freely.

*that would be 3gatsu no Lion, where Kawanishi plays the lead role Kiriyama Rei

Nakajima: You do have to be careful. When I appeared on a show to promote Hinamatsuri, I was told ‘It’s risky to use [the word] yakuza’ so I ended up saying ‘that self-employed profession that starts with Ya’ (laughs). Well, from society’s point of view the 3 of us are outlaws.

Koyama: Er wait…Sabu is…an outlaw?

Nakajima: He’s an idiot.

All: (laughter)

Kawanishi: He’s a fine member!

Koyama: No no no, he’s not a fine member.

Q: What were your impressions, Koyama-san?

Koyama: The gags really hit the spot for me. They’re not clichéd jokes; I like the way they riff on things. Of course there’s stuff that’s already been written into the dialogue, but there are moments in the show where the nuances change slightly. There are parts that ask questions of the performers’ [comic] senses as well. What I see is that the Hinamatsuri studio is the a gathering of a group of interesting individuals.

Nakajima: Thanks a lot.

Koyama: I thought (Nakajima-san) would be fine after we did tests for the A part of episode 1, and he got to grips with the role right away. I recall saying something like ‘that was super!’ to him. Did you feel nervous at the beginning?

Nakajima: I was feeling my way around. It was my first time hearing Hina’s voice and the A part was more or less just Hina and Nitta, plus it was my first time working with (sound director) Motoyama (Satoshi)-san. At times it felt like I was just trying to make sure the ball was within the strike zone. I was quite cautious for episode 1 but starting from episode 2 where we had Murakawa Rie-san and Hikasa Yoko-san joining in, I just went ‘Ah, whatever~’ and I started becoming a bit bolder (laughs)

Koyama: I was able to listen [to your performance] in a relaxed mood after that. I know what it feels to find your groove.

Q: Nakajima-san, what sort of person did Koyama-san seem like to you?

Nakajima: I have worked with Tsuyoshi-san at events etc before and he’s always had my back, but this is the first time we’re working in the studio together as regular cast members. His very presence brightens up the studio, lightens up the mood…cos he does fool around a bit.

Koyama: Oi oi (laughs)

Nakajima: We tend to mention the shiritori incident wherever we go.

Koyama: Really? We play shiritori during sections where we have no lines. The shiritori always turns a bit…erotic. It’s interesting to see the kind of fetishes people have.

Nakajima: We can’t be doing that in the studio so we’d be playing around in the waiting area. Someone will kick things off with some random word and he’ll say (imitating Koyama’s voice) ‘Oh, that’s good’ or ‘so you could go with that’. ‘Ah, so you have such tastes’. Tsuyoshi-san has a very wide range of knowledge, don’t you?

Koyama: It’s OK as long as you can ‘catch my drift’.

Q: It’s said that your casting for this role was based on your looks. What was it like when you received the offer?

Koyama: I tend to get a lot of antagonist boss characters, bad guys, that kind of thing. But it might be my first true ‘yakuza’. I mean, it’s kinda rare for shows to openly mention ‘yakuza’. It’s a bit weird for me to say that this kind of role is in my wheelhouse, but I do like ninkyō works like The Yakuza Papers so I had fun with this.

Q: There are yakuza, but the series itself tends to have a lot of comical scenes. Acting-wise, how do you approach the comedy?

Koyama: That would entail interpreting the meaning (of the script), remaining faithful to the [overall] flow. It wouldn’t be interesting at all if you made up the jokes yourself, would it? There are places where you can fool around, but don’t go overboard and express the best parts as precisely as possible.

Q: Kawanishi-san, how’s playing Sabu going for you?

Kawanishi: It was hard for me to get to grips with the role at first. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing during the first episode and it took a bit of exploring before I eased into it.

Nakajima: I think everyone was just feeling their way around for episode 1. It may have been harder for Sabu since he had like, one line?

Q: How long did it take for you to get to grips with Sabu?

Kawanishi: I think probably the episode after that. In episode 1 all I said was ‘That’s a 100-yen shop’ so I think it was from episode 2 onwards.

Q: Do the first episodes of all shows feel like that; like you’re groping around in the dark?

Nakajima: Hinamatsuri was like that for us, but I think the director and staff members were fumbling around as well. They were all very familiar with the source material, but there was a sense that they were trying to explore the visions they each had for the show while at the same time, determining how much they should delegate to us [actors].

Q: Are there any points that you’re careful about when it comes to acting for this series?

Kawanishi: It depends on the series at hand – for some, you’d have to read into the true intentions where (a character who says) ‘yes’ may actually mean ‘no’, but for Hinamatsuri it’s much easier – a yes means yes, so I was able to handle the role without too much difficulty.

Q: So there weren’t too many specific instructions?

Kawanishi: Past episode 1 I was more or less allowed to do whatever I wanted.

Nakajima: Sometimes the stuff that people came up with during tests would be from the left-field – it was fun.

Koyama: There are many ways in which you can choose to handle a comedic work like this, and I’m always looking for the most interesting approach. There were instances when my own choice wasn’t the best one. I had this one line that went something like ‘you’re cut!*’, didn’t I?

Nakajima: ‘What you are now, is cut’’.

Koyama: During tests I tried out a couple of different patterns, ‘What you are now, is cut!’ or just ‘you’re cut!’. We went with ‘What you are now, is cut!’ in the end, done in a cheery tone.

*phrase used here is ズルムケ (zurumuke), slang for a circumcised penis. note: this phrase is used in relation to an earlier joke where Baba says to Nitta that he wants him to ‘grow up’, using the phrase 一皮剝け (hitokawa o muke, lit: peeling off a layer of skin. ‘kawa’ is also used as slang referring to foreskin), and he follows up by saying ‘you’re now zurumuke!’ (your skin’s now completely peeled off!). Incidentally, Crunchyroll’s choice of translation for this pair of lines was 1. ‘I want you to grow a pair’, 2. ‘now you’ve got a throbbing one!’


Q: Do you have any favourite characters in Hinamatsuri?

Kawanishi: Utako for me.

Nakajima: Oh, that’s unusual.

Kawanishi: Really? (laughs) She’s a mature lady, isn’t she? Nitta tried to hit on her as well. I did wonder how things would develop between them – when the charms of Hikasa (Yoko)-san are added to the mix, she becomes a character whose appeal is completely incomprehensible. Hikasa-san plays the role with so much power every time, to the point where she has to be told to ‘please tone it down’.

Nakajima: ‘Do it in a normal way!’

Kawanishi: They said that. And all for a character who has so little charm (laughs). She even disappears from the opening and ending sequences.

Nakajima: It’s ‘cos she messes around too much.

Koyama: If you look at things in a certain way, you can see that the sub characters have a lot of depth to them.

Nakajima: And the people voicing them are ‘deep’ as well.

Koyama: I thought Hondo (Kaede)-chan was interesting too. It’s my first time working with her in the studio, and I heard weird sounds coming from her – like that part where the classmates come in and she goes ‘kka—-’. I thought, ‘this girl does make good sounds’.

Q: The characters in the show frequent the Little Song bar – did you guys go to bars together?

Nakajima: I wanted to go drinking with everyone.

Q: But the show records during the daytime, doesn’t it?

Nakajima: After the Nico stream on the 3rd of March, I did go to a bar with Tanaka (Takako)-san and Hondo san. Hondo-san had a daiquiri.

Q: It seems Hondo-san is quite capable of holding her drink.

Nakajima: Yeah she seems strong. On the other hand we have Tanaka-san who’s totally unable to drink. The 3rd of March is Hinamatsuri, so she told the bartender ‘I want a Hinamatsuri-like cocktail’ and the bartender made a face like ??. People normally ask for a certain colour or taste; this must’ve been the first time anyone made a request based on a special event. You’d probably be able to imagine what a summery drink might be, or what something that reminds you of spring could resemble, but to be asked point-blank for [something that tastes like] ‘Hinamatsuri’… I had to hurriedly cut in and ask for ‘something pink and sweet! And non-alcoholic!’.

Q: Girls with psychic powers appear in Hinamatsuri. If you had superpowers what would you use them for?

Nakajima: Other than lewd stuff.

All: (laughter)

Koyama: I thought about it, but came up empty. I don’t think it’s such a good idea to be able to see certain things or to know what people are thinking. Ignorance is bliss. So I don’t need that.

Nakajima: How about teleportation?

Koyama: But hmm, I like being on the move. In a car or on a bike. If I had to pick something, I’d probably be a time-traveller. Since I really do like history.

Nakajima: To the past?

Koyama: Yeah, to the past. The future’s good, but I’d rather go to the past. I’d like to see what certain people were doing at certain times in that era.

Kawanishi: If a person who had the intention of harming me suddenly appeared in front of me, I’d like to have the ability to send them flying off to some remote island somewhere.

Koyama: That’s scary! You seem like you’d be good at the cursing game!

Nakajima: You normally wouldn’t [think of] doing things like that since you don’t have the power to, but if you did you’d definitely make use of it.

Koyama: That’s right, you’d probably do it.

Kawanishi: And you’d leave no evidence behind (laughs)

Koyama: Wooh, scary.

Q: Please tell us what we should look forward to in future episodes.

Kawanishi: Hinamatsuri may be the title of the series, but Hina’s not the only one it focuses on – there are plenty of other charming characters that appear. Enough to make you think, ‘Hmm? Where’s Hina?’, as there are episodes where she doesn’t even feature. Hina will probably appear in the last episode though, so please look forward to that.

Koyama: Whether it’s Utako, the Rock-sion members or even the homeless Yassan and the Hayashi couple from the Chinese restaurant – there are plenty of characters who are living such fulfilling lives, who I feel are more than just mere sub-characters. And smack in the middle of this rich cast of characters we have our leading duo Hina and Nitta. I think it’s great how this series weaves together the story of these 2 with tales featuring the other characters, even stuff about their private lives. It’s the first time for these 2 [seiyuu] to lead a production and they’re livening up the studio – that mood gets across to us over-50s as well. I hope that we have the opportunity to explore future developments with the same cast lineup. Our ‘chairman’ Yoshiki’s doing his best at a lot of things. It was like stepping onto a battlefield at first – was that the idea, Yoshiki?

Nakajima: That’s right.

Koyama: If you don’t have someone to take the lead then you normally wouldn’t bother. But he managed to bridge that gap between the director/staff [and the cast] right away. When you have a leader who’s proactive, it all becomes a lot easier to organize. From my point of view, it all came about since Yoshiki probably feels very strongly about Hinamatsuri.

Nakajima: Yes, it’s my first time leading [the cast of] a production.

Koyama: As expected. I could feel that spirit coming across and I knew from the start that ‘this will be a great cast to work with’.

Nakajima: Recording takes place from morning ‘til noontime, so it was quite hard to get everyone together. We started work on this in December last year which was great timing, with myself, Producer Yoshitake-san and Hikasa-san taking charge of the New Year’s party. We invited all the staff members to come as well, and the turnout was great. I was very happy to see the Director and other members of the anime production team turn up – that encouraged me to give my best. This is a recording studio where you do indeed, feel a lot of love.

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

…I guess I should apologize for my inability to adequately translate penis jokes. サーセン。
PS. only around 1% of adult males in Japan are circumcised.