Kaori came into the Marimite family relatively late as the voice of Nijou Noriko, arriving at the same time as fellow freshies Koshimizu Ami (Kanako) and Kugimiya Rie (Touko) when Yumi, Shimako and Yoshino were in their second year. All three seiyuu in that group were already well established in the business, and the most senior of them career-wise was Shimizu Kaori.
Kaori got an early start in showbiz as a child actress and model, appearing in CMs and dramas from the age of 6. Her seiyuu debut came in 1998 as the lead character Iwakura Lain in serial experiments lain and from then on she focused on voice acting.
Both of the interviews below were posted in 2009, some parts are similar so at least you can tell she’s consistent with her stories (lol). The first is a short article from Seigura’s Ouen Message series.
Q: Please tell us how you became a seiyuu.
A: I actually started out as a child actress, and my main motivation then was to ‘make memories’. I thought it’d be great to be immortalized on a poster or something; that was the intention, but once I got into it I thought “this is really fun” and now, more than a decade has passed.
Q: Have you experienced any struggles in the studio?
A: When I made my anime début it was a case of suddenly being thrown into a recording studio and having no clue how to match the voicing of lines to the pictures on screen. I started out by trying to memorize the whole script and to remember the movements of the pictures, and spit out the lines at the exact moment the character that I was voicing opened her mouth – that pattern continued on for some time. After the cour was over, I finally learned about the significance of the time codes contained in the film. “Oh, so that’s how they measure timing” – it did impress me.
Q: What do you find attractive about seiyuu work?
A: Actually, it took about 3 years after I had made my début until I started to find the work enjoyable. Up until then it was trouble all the way – I was clueless in the studio, unable to convey my acting the way I wanted to and when I watched myself on TV my voice seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Once I got used to the afureko process and was able to get a good grasp of the characters at hand, I made new discoveries – stuff like “Ah, you can express it this way too” or “Hmm, this scene can be interpreted in this way as well”, and the work became a lot more interesting to me after that. Though once I came to appreciate these aspects, I started to lose sight of my goals (lol)…but on the other hand there are new things waiting to be discovered once you reach the top. Maybe you can look at that as the most attractive aspects of this business – the fact that there are no real ‘correct answers’ or (ultimate) goals.
Q: Please leave a message to people who are aiming to become seiyuu.
A: This is something I myself have been told before – “Be it in love or anything else, without experience you will not be able to produce a substantive, realistic acting performance so whatever you do, just try to gain life experiences”. Even if you go through failures, use what you’ve learned towards your next performance; in all things, be positive and give your best.
The second is from Famitsu Online’s now defunct Angel Voice Again series.
The days of depression – attending auditions and recording
Q: You started your career as a child actress?
A: Yeah. It seems I once told my parents ‘I’d love to (have my face) appear on a poster at least once in my life’ (lol) so from when I was 6 years old, I started acting. You could describe my mother as the exact opposite of the ‘stage mom’ types; basically she gave me a free hand when it came to my entertainment activities. For example, in auditions – the mother of the child sitting next to me would give very specific advice to their offspring “You must answer that in this way!”, while my mom on the other hand would be silent from start to finish (lol). Her stance was that “you should do it however you wish to”.
Q: That’s a really hands-off policy (lol).
A: Still, I’d often been told since I was young “It’s not like you’re not doing anything that special, look at some of your friends in the biz who are doing piano and ballet at the same time. So don’t be mistaken!”. Sometimes they’d say things like “I’ll become a tengu and put a stop to your entertainment activities”.
Q: So they were still strict on a basic level?
A: Yeah. For example, even if my previous day’s work schedule only ended at 5am I’d still have to go to school the next day as normal. So when I was a child actress it became a norm to me – “I have to do things properly”. I’ve gotta say though, I really enjoyed being on film sets! They have a really unique atmosphere and I always felt thrilled just reading the scripts. The adults would play with me as well (lol).
Q: So how did you get around to becoming a seiyuu?
A: When I was in my third year of junior high I received an audition offer for the heroine of the anime serial experiments lain (1998), Iwakura Lain. That was my first seiyuu job. I was the same age as Lain, coincidentally.
Q: So you just went into afureko without prior study of voice acting?
A: That’s it! As a result, I was at the end of my tether and I have no recollection of the recording of episode 1 (lol). After all, I had no idea how I should even read the script or what a time code was, so for episode 1’s recording I basically memorized the entire script and after repeatedly watching the videos, managed to remember the timing for when I was supposed to say my lines. Everyone at the studio was really kind to me and I’m very grateful for their gentle advice. Even so, once recording had ended I would feel really down. When I watched the show, I could hear how my voice was so out of place – everyone around me was actually acting, “but I (alone) am messing things up!” is how I felt. Fortunately I still received audition offers after that but my days then were filled with going to auditions and failing them, going to recording studios and messing up, and even while watching the shows on air I would feel depressed.
Q: What did you feel depressed about?
A: My own helplessness, basically. I’d get depressed whenever I saw broadcasts of anime for which I had failed auditions; I’d listen to the character and think how I wouldn’t be able to produce such a performance. At one point I’d even watch my own shows on TV and reflect and wonder why my performances were so terrible. I felt that my shortcomings would only end up burdening others; the situation was pretty desperate. When you’re a child you honestly don’t think about these kinds of things; when I started seiyuu work I’d just changed agencies and had to go to recording studios by myself and it was at that point that it hit me – “I’ve really got to look out for myself now”.
Q: It seems voice acting was a series of trials and errors for you.
A: I had originally thought that there would be minimal difference in how you’d express yourself in voice acting when compared to acting in live-action shows, but the reality was very different. For example, when the script says ‘run’ – in front of a camera, you’d run for real. That’s obviously not possible when you’re only able to utilize your voice. “How do I run in front of a mic?”. I tried simulating the sound of walking when I was in front of the mic but got told that ‘your clothes are creating a rustling sound so try as much as possible not to move’. When you’re acting, breathing naturally won’t be able to convey the feeling that you are running, so what you do is to consciously exhale to create a sound like “huff, huff, huff”; as if you’re out of breath. It’s something I learned from actors around me as well from watching other anime series. Also, (you can also pick up tips) from human observation and so on.
Q: You learn something new every day.
A: When I was studying acting a long time ago, I had been told to treat incidents and accidents as opportunities to learn. Obviously accidents etc aren’t things to be happy about, but they provide rare opportunities for you to observe realistic human reactions. I was taught to remember these reactions and reproduce them when needed. To tell the truth, back during the times when I was still attending lessons there were instances where I had absolutely no clue what the teachers were going on about but when I actually started voice acting, I could finally understand their point of view. It’s gonna be tough if you’re given a role that is very different from your own personality and you end up not being able to cope with it, so observing the actions of other people becomes a necessity… Now that I have that in mind, I actually find it fun watching how people behave (lol).
Delusional habits help my acting
Q: Which one of your roles left the biggest impression on you?
A: Something that I voiced within the first few years after my début – Nerloid Girl in Sumeba Miyako no Cosmos Sou Suttoko Taisen Dokkoida (2003). Up until then I’d mostly voiced age-appropriate characters and Nerloid Girl was the first time I got to voice a sexy, strong-willed role. It was also the first time I got to play a role that I wasn’t used to at all (lol) so recordings were a weekly learning experience for me. Obviously I was just a high school student at the time so I’d never experienced being drunk nor had I ever smoked. There’s a scene where in the protagonist’s dreams, Nerloid Girl comes on to him sexily and I got a bit flustered over how I should do it – “How do I come on to him…!?”. I somehow managed to get through that scene after some of my seniors gave me tips (lol).
Q: What parts of voice acting do you find enjoyable?
A: The fact that I can become someone who’s the total opposite of who I am, and that (as the character) I can experience things I normally wouldn’t. I can also tell lies. Actually, I’ve got a habit of being delusional. Like, while I’m riding on the train I might think ‘What would I do if someone suddenly confessed their love to me right now in front of everyone?’ (lol). Or flipping through travel brochures and then find myself mentally planning for the trip (lol). With voice acting, I can openly be delusional! For example, if I won 300 million yen in the lottery I’d buy a house first. And if I married someone who had similarly won a 300 million yen lottery we’d be 600 million rich~ (lol).
Q: Your delusions are boundless. You could write a novel (lol).
A: That’s no good. Delusions consist only of climax scenes. If this were a 2-hour drama, it’d be one that’s full of endless cliffhangers (lol). That’s why manga is my saving grace. I’ve loved manga since I was young and I’d put myself in the hero’s shoes. So yeah, I just keep imagining all this stuff…like if a wonderful man would confess his love to me with a bouquet of flowers in his hand, or if I were to get caught in the carnage of a love triangle…(lol).
Q: So does that mean you’ve also dreamed about voicing a particular character from a particular manga?
A: Yes! I do think “I want to play this role!!’ when I read my favourite manga. An instance this wish came true was in Bokura ga Ita (2006). When I found out from a magazine that they would be making an anime adaptation I prayed hard “I want to do this! I want to do this!”, and I ended up actually being called in for auditions. I had actually been fine with any role…but I was happy when I was put in charge of the main character’s best friend Mizu-chin. I got to meet the author Obata Yuki during recording sessions as well, which made me feel “Wow!”
Q: So the happiest moment for you was to get to meet the authors of the original works?
A: lol… For the drama CD adaptation of the manga Sonnan janee yo, I voiced the character Mamiya Shizuka and I got the chance to exchange greetings with the author Izumi Kaneyoshi-sensei who was at the recording. I had been a fan of hers since I was in junior high so I was thrilled to bits (lol). Having been a reader of Sonnan janee yo from the beginning of its serialization, I did worry about whether I was cut out for the role.” What if I tried too hard and messed up the whole thing!?…” was the thought that lingered in my mind (lol). From now onwards I’ll continue to dream up big delusions and hopefully, take on the challenge of a variety of roles.
Kaori is someone whose voice I am very, very familiar with – in my first few years of bright, starry-eyed anime discovery, she was in a lot of shows I watched and loved – Lain in serial experiments lain, Miyashito Touka in Boogiepop Phantom, Ekuryua in the Crest/Banner of the Stars series, Kumi in Alien 9. She doesn’t do much nowadays but when she popped up in the currently-airing Danna ga Nani o Itteiruka Wakaranai Ken (as Miki-san) I could pick her out easily. Of course, she’s also Signum.