#18 – Maeda Rena

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Maeda is still considered a newcomer to the seiyuu world despite having been doing voice work dating back to 2008. Formerly a model, Maeda is a graduate of Fukuoka School of Music having studied Voice Acting and Voice, and she also plays the piano. She is currently signed to Fujiwara Keiji’s AIR AGENCY.

Rena’s first major role was as Machi in the Hunter X Hunter remake, and her first lead was as Nike-hime in Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii. The latter was what really made people take notice of her, and she has followed it up with supporting roles in Jinsei and the currently-airing Kiseijuu.

Continuing my series of translations of Da Vinci News’s newcomer seiyuu interviews, this is the latest one featuring Maeda.

Q: When did you first become aware of the voice acting profession?

A: Maybe around the summer of my 2nd year of high school? Just around the time that I had to make a decision on my future career. Up until then I had wanted to be a designer due to the influence of my parents who work in the fashion industry. But then, something happened! I remember it well – halfway down the school stairs, a girl called out to me and said ‘Maeda-san, would you like to go karaoke with me?’. I recognized her face and had spoken to her several times before but we had never had a single class together, so it took me by surprise.

We went off to karaoke together, and she just sang like crazy (lol). She sang denpa songs, moe-type character songs. Plus, she was really good. I’m a little shy so I ended up not singing at all (lol). When I got home, I did a bit of searching and found out that she was singing anime songs. Because of that, I ended up watching anime and found it really entertaining, and from then on I became aware of ‘seiyuu’.

Q: Up until then, what experiences of manga or anime had you had?

A: When I was young I watched Sailor Moon! Also, I really liked Cardcaptor Sakura and I kept up with the show. Daidouji Tomoyo-chan’s ‘It’s definitely gonna be alright’ line was my favourite! Even now, when I feel nervous, I’ll recall the phrase to get myself going (lol).

Around 6th grade, my favourite manga was Dokaben. Originally I had liked Chibi Maruko-chan, so I read the essays of the author Sakura Momoko-sensei. If I remember correctly, she wrote about Satonaka-kun [a character in Dokaben] and that had an influence on me. I carried around copies of the Dokaben tankoubon, telling my friends ‘Isn’t Satonaka-kun really cool?’ (lol). I also loved shoujo manga! My junior/high school was co-ed but…I led a loveless life…(lol), so I absored the exciting nutrients from shoujo manga to to nourish my heart♪

Q: Did you like video games when you were young?

A: Yes! But, I was kinda hopeless at RPGs. I’d just lose my way on the map halfway through (lol). But, I’m like that in real life too… (lol). That’s why I abandoned things like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and got addicted to Mario instead. I cleared everything including the secret stages. Also, I played co-op Sengoku Musou with my dad and we’d totally slay the enemies.. ah, and also, I played galges and tried to win a lot of girls’ hearts (lol).

Q: Dokaben, Galge…it seems you occasionally see the world from a man’s point of view (lol).

A: Well…(lol). Listening to myself talk, I am starting to think so too (lol).

Q: When you started working as a seiyuu, was there anything that left a big impression on you?

A: I remember my first afureko was for Hidan no Aria. I had a single word of dialogue, and it was ‘Filthy!’ (lol). It was just one word but to make sure I didn’t mess up, I marked it on my script with a pen and thought of the many ways I could deliver the line. I managed to learn a lot from that first experience of stepping into a recording studio. Hidan no Aria has a lot of action scenes and watching the main lead Kugimiya Rie-san’s acting in those scenes, it was far and above what I had imagined it to be! Really, I could not have been more impressed!

Q: In Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii, you voice the lead character Nike Remercier!

A: I was really surprised when I was confirmed for the role of Nike! Song plays an important part in the series so I’d be able to do both singing and acting in the role; thus, I went into the audtions thinking ‘I’m definitely going to play Nike!’. As there was a screening (test) for the singing part, I had my audition in a snack bar that had a unique homely atmosphere, a bit like a pub. I was nervous but I just treated it like I was singing karaoke at a wedding dinner (lol). Nike sings so that she can bring about rainfall, and after (my audition) the producer told me ‘When you sang, it was like it rained in the snack bar’…I was really happy!

Q: Talking about Nike. What sort of feelings did you start growing for her?

A: Recording for Episode 1 was really tough. There was a press conference that morning where I had to make my singing debut, then the afureko came after…Even now that I try to recall it, my memories are hazy (lol). On top of that, Episode 1 was an original story separate from the source material. Due to a lack of imagination and my own timidness, I had to do many retakes. This situation continued for the 2nd and 3rd episode to the point where I thought ‘Maybe I’m just not cut out for this”…Still, the staff members were all kind and said to me ‘We’ll be with you all the way, just let it come to you naturally’. They reached out to me (and helped) to draw out the feelings of Nike from within myself.

That is why despite the many difficulties, at unexpected moments, I could think ‘This isn’t a battle I’m fighting by myself’. My other acting colleagues too, would suggest ‘try to speak each word with care’; and (I knew) we were all working together to make a good show. Having that in mind made it a lot easier. Though it seemed like I had a lot of worries because of Nike, there were just as many times where (I was) saved by Nike’s words, and I feel like I matured along with Nike.

Q: Which of Nike’s scenes left the biggest impression in your heart?

A: There are a lot, but I think the biggest would be the 2nd episode when Nike sang the song of rain for the first time. I felt really anxious about how the fans who had read the manga and then watched the anime would feel about my singing…But, I gave my all and sang to the best of my abilities, so I’d be really glad if those feelings came across.

Q: Tell us more about Nikaido Ayaka, your character from the anime Jinsei.

A: She’s the cousin of the main character and the President of the Second Division of the Newspaper Society. Her job seems to be to bring up problems and then disappear into thin air; she’s like a storm or like a festival queen* (lol). She may seem like a selfish character but in truth, as the President she looks out for everyone and is a kind-hearted girl with a strong sense of justice. Rather than an older sister, she feels more like everyone’s mom (lol).

* specifically, Maeda says お祭り女のような子. I’m not sure how to interpret this, but I think it’s something like being ‘the center of attention’

Q: How about Megumi in Rokujoma no Shinryakusha!?

A: I’ve never voiced a type of character like her so she left a really strong impression! She’s a do-M (masochist) character (lol). She’d be going ‘HATE ON ME’ all over the place, I had a lot of fun voicing her (lol). If I had to choose, I’d say I’m more of the do-M type myself (lol). Or should I say, as an actor I think it’d be a bit pointless if we didn’t all have a bit of do-M streak about our personalities (lol).

Q: Let’s talk about your private life! What do you do on your days off?

A: I go to the pool, do some running or hot yoga; I think I’m the type of person who wants to do something work-related even on my days off. I also go to watch movies.

Q: Is there anything recently that’s got you all fired up?

A: Last week, I went to Kyoto for an event. I was given a day off afterwards, so I toured Kyoto! It was my first time in Kyoto so I visted Kiyomizu Temple and the Fushimi-Inari Shrine, ate green tea parfaits…I was running all over the place! Also, I spent some time sitting along the Kamo River with the locals…it was very calming.

Q: We hear you’re a fan of Matsuda Seiko.

A: That’s right! We’re both from Fukuoka, I have lots of respect for her! I especially love her songs from before 1985. I love the lyricist-Matsumoto Takashi, composer-Matsutoya Yumi combo. Actually, I fulfilled a dream by going to one of Seiko-san’s concerts 2 months ago! My first time seeing Seiko-san in the flesh! My tears flowed naturally, cleansing my heart…This is what it feels like when you get to meet the person you look up to. A person who has given dreams to everyone, (she’s) someone I admire.

Q: From now on, what kind of seiyuu do you want to be?

A: The seiyuu image that I strive for, to take an example, would be like that of Aso Miyoko, the voice of Fune in Sazae-san, who has a “voice” that is familiar and (someone) you feel is right next to you. What’s more, Aso-san has been acting for such a long time and I think that’s so wonderful and admirable. I too, hope to become a national “voice” that everyone will be familiar with. For my singing, all I can do is to give my absolute best and I’ll be working hard this way.

Q: Are there any particular types of roles you’d like to do?

A: I’d love to appear in an anime that can be enjoyed regardless of whether you’re an adult or a child, and I also want to do my best in animal-related or cutesy series (lol). I’ve done it once briefly, but I’d love to take on a baby’s voice again. Also, I’d love to play the ultimate villain! You don’t usually get many chances to be the bad guy after all. There is probably no bigger thrill in acting than getting to play such extraordinary roles.

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for the readers!

A: For those who were not aware of who I was before, I’m glad for this opportunity for you to get to know me better! From now on, one step at a time, earnestly and without letting success go to my head, (I will do my best) so that my voice will reach your ears. In my opinion, all my seiyuu seniors are amazing personalities and I too, wish to become a person who is loved by many. Thank you all for your support!
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My first impression of Maeda Rena was that she sounded like Hirano Aya Mk.II, to the point where I started confusing the two of them when they appeared in the same show (that would be the Hunter X Hunter movie).

Having come to the seiyuu game relatively late (she turns 25 this year), Maeda still has a long way to go in her acting and singing, which are both very raw around the edges. Though she did well in Soreseka I don’t necessarily see her as regular leading lady material but her singing skills should gain her an advantage in winning certain types of roles. Of course it’s too early to form an informed opinion so for now, it’s all about watching warmly over her future endeavours.

Read Rena’s blog here.

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