It’s hard to believe that Mai turned 33 this year, until you look at her CV and realize she’s being pushed into doing onee-san and okaa-san roles already. She remains one of my eternal favourites because of her natural voice acting and her ability to adapt to whatever character is thrown at her, as well as for the sharp one-liners (whether intended or not..) she delivers on radio shows. You can tell Mai’s a people person and she has a lot of good friends in the seiyuu biz, including lots of guys.
The interview I translated below was done in September 2014 for the Girlfriend (Kari) series, in which she voices Arisugawa Saeko.
Q1. How did you become a seiyuu?
There were very few anime airing in my local region, but when I was in elementary school I always used to watch the World Masterpiece Theater series. I especially loved Nanatsu no Umi no Tico. I liked to swim and more than anything, I longed to live like Tico ‘cos ‘it seems fun to ride on a killer whale’ (lol). When I grew up I realized such a lifestyle was impossible so I decided to shift my admiration to seiyuu instead. In the World Masterpiece Theater you see children going on journeys by themselves, there are smart raccoons like Rascal; you see things happening that aren’t possible in real life. Hence, I wanted to become a seiyuu so I could go through those kinds of ‘virtual experiences’. Then I went on to training school, where everyone aspired to become actors. There I was able to talk about things that I normally wouldn’t with my own school-friends, and the dream to become a seiyuu grew stronger. Everyone in my class got along well and we had a lot of fun. I enjoyed their company, more so than the lessons (lol).
Q2. What are the things you try to keep in mind when voicing all your various characters?
For this profession that involves the ‘application’ of a voice, you have a character and moving animation that goes with it. I try focus on that. I look up the character’s illustration and settings, and try to imagine ‘how would he/she speak?’, ‘what sort of voice would he/she have?’. For Girlfriend (Kari) where I voice Arisugawa Saeko-chan, just by looking at her art you get a fluffy kind of feeling. In truth though, she’s a girl who’s a busybody and likes to be in the know about relationships. ‘Who do you like? Tell me, tell me!’ – that kind of attitude (of Saeko’s), surprised me. There are a lot of characters in this series so I had a chat with the sound director to decide on how to best bring out (Saeko’s) character. She’s one of the characters I’ve taken the most time & care with in acting. Saeko-chan is a member of the choral club and her singing is good. But if you think about it properly, isn’t it rather weird that being a member of the choral club, she wears headphones? Maybe she just listens to a lot of music? She looks good in girlish dresses so when I appear in related events, I too try to keep up with that. She’s an important character that I voice, plus I want to go on dates with Sayoko-chan, so I have to carefully nurture her.
Q3. If you weren’t a seiyuu what would you be doing?
I’d open a bakery. I’m not that good at baking, but I could make various things if I opened a home bakery. It’s been amazing recently. I can make French bread and Danish (pastries) too. Dry yeast is good too, but (the bread) that’s made using natural yeast is more chewy and delicious. It’s not just baking I’m into though, I can recommend you a lot of nice bakeries too. When I make recommendations to others, I will introduce stores that give me the feeling that ‘I love their bread’. For example, there is a snack shop in an alley in Kagurazaka called Kameido that has amazing cream buns. It’s one of my favourite shops that’s in the city center, and when I go for recording I often hatch plans where ‘if I go to this studio I’ll buy some and bring them along’ (lol). If I think that way, I can put in more effort at work (lol). As for types, I prefer simple breads where you can taste the wheat such as walnut bread, as opposed to bread with fillings*. Recently, I’ve take an interest in 7-11’s collaboration line with Takaki Bakery featuring stone oven walnut bread; when I see it in stores I feel like buying them all up, but then I start to think that perhaps there are other fans out there. So if there are 3 left I’ll buy 2, and if there are 6 I’ll leave 3 behind (lol).
*惣菜パン refers to bread with substantial meat or vegetable-based fillings such as egg sandwiches, curry buns, yakisoba buns etc
Q4. Talk about something embarrassing.
Previously, I used to count sheep on nights I couldn’t sleep, but that had zero effect. So I tweeted ‘If you count sheep, you’ll stay wide awake’. Some of my fans then tweeted back ‘You’re counting in Japanese, that’s why you can’t sleep’. It seems it’s because the word ‘sheep’ sounds similar to ‘sleep’ that there is supposed to be a positive effect in the first place. Sometime after, I related this story to Kawasumi Ayako-chan, Miyano Mamoru-kun and Suzuki Tatsuhisa-kun when we were in the recording studio. When all of them told me that it was just common sense, I felt so embarrassed (lol). Also, I only recently found out that the English language originates from the UK. I had always had this image that “English = American language”. And so, when I was working in a stage show alongside (a colleague) that had previously lived in England, I asked “What’s the official language of the UK, is it French?” and he/she looked stupefied (lol). And answered “English”, in a shocked manner. I can only speak Japanese so I’d love to learn English etc, but it’s difficult.
Q5. A message for the fans
There are a lot of charming characters in Girlfriend (Kari) so it’ll be hard to get the girl of your dreams but please do your best. Saeko-chan will appear in events as well, so when the time comes I too will do my best. I haven’t been able to evolve her to her final form, but I’m grateful to anyone who has carefully nurtured her all the way to the end. I think there will be many more events to come with plenty of fun in store, so I’m sure you will continue to enjoy playing the game.