Because I am so hopelessly out of touch with the new generation of seiyuu, I shall attempt to seek information about anyone who catches my eyes/ears.
By and large, I only notice a seiyuu nowadays if they did really well in a role I liked. Ozawa Ari’s one of those people – she voiced Sakura Chiyo in the recently concluded Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and she was fabulous.
I translated an interview with her [source].
Q: This is your first interview. How did the shoot go?
A: It was embarassing since the shoot took place outdoors but once they showed me the photos I was surprised by how mature I looked in them (lol)! It’s also due to my height that I tend to appear young. But these photos are more ‘age-appropriate’ in my opinion (lol).
Q: Your name is written 亜李 (note: normally read as Aki) but read as Ari, that’s unusual isn’t it?
A: I think so too (lol). Still, it’s my real name. I’m going to do my best so that soon, people will remember this name as one that belongs to a seiyuu.
Q: Do you have any nicknames?
A: Not even once have I been called by a nickname, it’s usually ‘Ari-chan’ or ‘Ari’.
Q: How about if you were to make up your own nickname?
A: Frankly this is a better way so…I welcome suggestions for a nickname that is not too cute, but one that fits my character (lol).
Q: Moving on. What made you want to be a seiyuu?
A: In my first year of junior high, I got to know a series named Mahou Sensei Negima!. I’ve always been fond of anime where a lot of girls appear, but Negima was similar to my own female junior high school (class) where we had 31 students. I myself am a little shy and fearful of strangers so I admired when I saw (in the manga) how a whole group of girls could be buoyant and lively*, and wished that I too could be a girl who lived (her life) full of smiles like that. Sometime after, I was watching a video of an event where seiyuu appeared, and I saw how much fun they were having singing and acting on stage. That is how I came to like female seiyuu. I spent my junior high years watching a lot of anime.
Q: Which seiyuu were you interested in?
A: I loved Kashimashi~Girl Meets Girl~ and Fruits Basket, so I’d say Tamura Yukari-san and Horie Yui-san. Watching the serious scenes that could touch you deep inside, it was really moving… Not just sparkling and exciting but also with the ability to move you, not just cute but also cool, that’s what an actor does (was what I thought). When I was in my third year of junior high, I resolved to become a seiyuu.
Q: What was the next step you took?
A: After I did some research, I found that the popular seiyuu all went to training schools. What’s more, I found out that most of the people that I admired went to Nichinare. Thinking that ‘I want to experience many things from the same lessons they took!’, I decided on Nichinare. Saving up the money I earned from my part-time cooking job during my first year of senior high, I enrolled (in Nichinare) when I was a sophomore. I said to my parents, “Dreams are something that you fulfill yourself”.
Q: What wonderful parents they are. Tell us more about your part-time job.
A: I was given the opportunity to work part-time as a catering assistant at the nursery school of (my) childcare worker’s parents. It was really fun making nursery school lunches.
Q: So you hold a chef’s license?
A: Following my high school graduation, I hadn’t managed to get attached to an agency. Regardless, I was determined not to give up on the path of becoming a seiyuu, so as I continued to worry about what I would do after I graduated…so I decided to try going into full-time employment. While I was searching for a qualification that would put a job in my hand, I found out that chefs only needed one year to qualify for a license. I was set on working in a nursery school if I was going to enter full-time employment, but after I got my license my agency attachment was decided.
Q: What was your first job after you became a seiyuu?
A: I had one line on ‘Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga nai.’!
Q: Do you remeber that line?
A: It was ‘Christmas Holy Night!’ I was really nervous (lol). I’d been going to training school for so long but despite having learnt (what to expect), the moment I was in the studio I realized there was so much I was yet to know.
Q: Any examples?
A: Up til now I had just earnestly thought of (this job) as a dream that seemed ‘fun’, but when I saw pro seiyuu at work right in front of eyes, I got to know the reality. They were truly focused on creating the work at hand. I knew then, that this job had its own severities and difficulties.
Q: Did you consult any other seiyuu about this?
A: (My) senior colleagues get along very well amongst themselves and I was nervous about entering this circle upon our first meeting, so what I would do was to consult the person who was sitting next to me first. The closer their age, the more I’m able to speak (to them) positively.
Q: For the currently-airing Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun, it’s your first role as the main character! What is the heroine Sakura Chiyo like?
A: She’s an honest, bright and I would say, a fairly normal girl. She’s in love with a guy in her year named Nozaki-kun, and it’s because she’s in love that she is always positive. It’s a gag story so there are a lot of weird things going on but basically, she’s always smiling because she likes Nozaki-kun. Also, the comebacks** are intense!
Q: How are the afureko?
A: It’s full of popular seiyuu apart from me, so of course everyone’s acting is really good…It seems the reason a newcomer like me got the role was because I am similar to Chiyo-chan. Even when it came to creating the role I was told ‘There’s no need to create a character. Just stay as yourself’. Chiyo-chan’s a ‘sorry’ type of heroine (lol); the harder she tries at something the worse the outcome, and at times she’s just got to screaaamm. When things aren’t going well, I too get a little intense and have to get it out of my system so maybe I do resemble her a bit (lol). It’d be nice if Chiyo-chan becomes a character that people love.
Q: Chiyo-chan’s in the Art Club. Are you good at illustrations?
A: Chiyo-chan is good at drawing from an artistic point of view. What I draw is illustrative so there’s a bit of difference there, but I do like drawing. I was most into it around my junior high days; using Copic pens and digital pen tablets to draw every time I came home from school.
Q: Have you drawn recently?
A: Lately, I’ve been focusing on my acting. I do doodle on the parts of the scripts where I have lines! ‘I bet she looks like this..’, things like that.
Q: How do you spend your days off?
A: If I have free time, I’ll watch anime. Apart from that, I’ll go hang out with friends. I’ve made more friends in the seiyuu business, so it’s fun to meet up and talk. About the difficult parts of afureko etc, things that are common with us rookie seiyuu (lol).
Q: Since you have a chef’s license, do you cook?
A: Actually, I really prefer eating (lol). Since I want to eat lots of delicious food, when I do cook I end up making lots! I like vegetables more than meat and also prefer Japanese cuisine, and what I like most is chewy, delicious udon. As long as I can eat udon I am happy!
Q: From now on, what would you like to do as a seiyuu?
A: One of the series I admire most is ‘Harvest Moon’, and I’d like to be a character that enters such a heartwarming world. I’d like to expand my range as a seiyuu and be involved in a variety of works.
This world that I’d longed for like a dream; how it excited and thrilled me when I was a child, how it moved me; as a seiyuu, I want to let people know about it. It’s a really huge aim but..
Q: So tell us about your USPs***.
A: My motto is ‘As I am, Always, Be Myself’! I’m the type who cares too much about things. I don’t have any confidence in myself… Still, I surely have my own merits so I’ll try not to think difficult thoughts and just express myself, the way I am.
Q: Lastly, please leave a message for the readers!
A: This is my first interview so it’s probably a bit stiff and so on but… I’m just starting out so please watch over me warmly! If you like the characters I voice even a little bit, do please let me know. I’ll do my best from now on! Ah, lastly, Ozawa ‘Ari’ is an unusual name but I’d be happy if you could remember it. Thank you!
*the exact term used here is ワイワイキャッキャ
***I translated アピール as ‘unique selling point’.
About the nicknames thing…she did say on Nozaki-kun radio that kids in school used to tease her by calling her Arinko (ant) lol.
And for the record, her drawing of Chiyo taken from her blog.
I have been listening to Ari on Nozaki-kun radio and yes, she is shy and awkward but she does try to keep up with her crazy senior seiyuu colleagues…her type of shyness is not like Kuno Misaki’s chronic fear of speaking (who makes me feel stressed just by listening to her) but it’s more just a lack of confidence and experience. It certainly doesn’t help when your first job requires being surrounded by some of the top actors in the business.
I am also quite concerned that Ari was hired as Chiyo purely because of her resemblance to the character; yes, she is perfect in the role, but when it comes to creating characters for other shows will she be able to cope? Her voice sample suggests she could well take on roles of young boys as she has that nice husky tone, but I can’t make any other judgement until she does something else apart from Nozaki-kun.
Since this is her breakout role which was lined up a while ago (she’s still very much a junior in I’m Enterprise) we probably won’t get to hear much of her ’til about 2-3 cours down the line. I don’t see Ari ever getting into the idol game so I can only wonder how far a young female seiyuu can get these days based purely on their acting ability. I’m thinking of a Hayamin route….
Hopefully Ari won’t end up too much of a one-hit/one-character wonder though if she does…what an amazing one role that was.
PS Anyone who says they’re inspired by Kashimashi is an ace in my book 😀