You may or may not be familiar with the name Kimura Juri, but I would hope you are at least acquainted with her voice and character in SHIROBAKO as she plays our lovely, dependable Production Assistant Miyamori Aoi.
It has taken Juri quite some time to make this breakthrough; she entered the Tokyo branch of Haikyo’s Voice Actors Studio in 2010 before gaining admission as a full member of the agency the following year. Miyamori is her first major role, and she’ll be following it up with another lead in the spring anime Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku.
This is a translation of an Animate interview with Kimura from December last year about SHIROBAKO. It will probably only make sense if you’re watching the show!
I’m attracted to donuts lately
Q: Let’s start with some intros – please tell us about yourself and about your character.
A: My name is Kimura Juri and I am in charge of a character named Miyamori Aoi. Miyamori-san is a very hardworking girl who has a wide range of facial expressions; “always doing her best“ is the perfect phrase to describe her. Also, she loves donuts (lol). She works as a production assistant because of her love for anime but it’s not just that, she also loves working with people and loves the actual production work; that purity about her makes her a character that you can respect.
Q: Do you personally like donuts?
A: I haven’t actually eaten much sweet stuff of late but since I started voicing the role of Miyamori-san, I do find myself increasingly attracted to donuts! We tend to eat a lot during the course of recording so it’s easy for me to get carried away (lol).
Q: It seems possible that SHIROBAKO recordings would end up with a lot of donuts during snack times.
A: Ah, we’ve already seen quite a lot of donuts coming in (lol). Some of the senior seiyuu bring back donuts as souvenirs when they travel elsewhere to attend events.
Q: What sort of donuts do you like?
A: I like plain donuts. Actually, before SHIROBAKO started airing the 5 main cast members visited a donut shop in Kichijoji together. Just like in episode 4 of the anime where all 5 girls gathered in Kichijoji, we did the “Don-don-donuts, let’s go nuts!” chant together.
The anime’s charm-point is that it reflects ‘reality’
Q: Allow me to ask you about the anime. Where do you think SHIROBAKO’s appeal lies?
A: There are many things worth highlighting, one of them being that it shows the reality of the anime production workplace. There are a lot of people involved in the making of an anime. The main cast may consist of us 5 girls, but it’s wonderful how the show painstakingly shows that the creation of an anime comes as the result of the efforts of a large number of people. After all, anime isn’t meant to be something that relies on the efforts of a single individual.
Also, it’s interesting to observe how the 5 main girls get involved with anime in various ways. They’re all working in different areas so they each have their own set of worries and conflicts; even the satisfaction they get from their jobs differs. The more you watch, the more your knowledge of the varying sections of anime production expands. If you’re at all interested in the anime production process, this is a work that you should seek out.
Q: How realistically does SHIROBAKO depict the animation production process?
A: I am told that it’s very realistic. For example, there is a scene in episode 3 where the data was unable to be uploaded to the server; apparently this was based on something that actually happened in real life. You will have seen how it unfolded in the anime, but in real life it seems that things could get a whole lot worse than that.
Obviously, there are plenty of staff members present during our recordings so sometimes, we do receive instructions that use words and phrases commonly used during the anime production process. There were instances too, when changes were made to the dialogue during recording sessions. We have also received more realistic instructions from others, and not just from Sound Director Mizushima (Tsutomu).
Q: SHIROBAKO is an original story. Compared to other works, are there any difficulties you face that are unique to this show?
A: One of the things that makes me happy to be involved with this show is how it allows me to better visualize the people who are making the anime. Production staff are likely to go through the same struggles no matter what they are working on; SHIROBAKO illustrating these struggles in detail helps me to tackle this role with added respect (for the creators).
SHIROBAKO is the first ever show where I get to voice the main character. The fact that my first main role happens to be in such a wonderful production that has given so much to me; it’s an experience that will stay with me for the length of my seiyuu career.
Q: You’re a seiyuu, but have you ever considered getting involved with anime production?
A: We’re hosting a radio show on Onsen right now, and the 5 of us are actually planning to produce an anime (lol). At the moment, we’re in the process of drawing up character designs and going location hunting.
Q: Are you planning to enlist professionals to help make the anime?
A: “Please don’t get your hopes up” is what they told me. Hence, I am trying to learn as much as possible while watching SHIROBAKO. The way I watch anime has changed (lol).
Q: That’s a high bar you’ve set for yourself; if you make something that can satisfy SHIROBAKO fans, it might convince them that “This is a real anime”.
A: I know right! We’ll do our best to make them feel that way. But our schedules are a bit tight…
Q: What are you in charge of?
A: Since Miyamori-san is a production assistant, I too am a production assistant. They’re letting me be the “Real-Life Aoi”.
Q: Please don’t drive as aggressively as you do in the show!
A: Oh it’ll be fine since I don’t have a driving license (lol)
Q: Have you always wanted to be an actor?
A: Actually, that’s not the case. When I was in college I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future but one thing I did love was watching documentaries, and that was how I got interested in voice performance. From there I went on to study acting at training school and somewhere along the way I started finding it fun and thought about trying my hand at voice acting. I acted upon that one thought, and here I am today, a seiyuu.
Not just a place to have fun, recordings are also a place to learn
Q: What’s the atmosphere during recordings like?
A: There’s a really great atmosphere! It was Hiyama Nobuyuki-san (Exodus! director Kinoshita Seiichi)’s birthday recently and Yoshimura Haruka (newbie animator Yasuhara Ema) organized a surprise celebration party. I wasn’t aware of her plans myself so I said to Yoshimura-san “Thanks for coming up with that” when we were travelling home that day. Apparently, someone had done something similar for Yoshimura-san during recordings for a different anime, and at the time one of her seniors had said to her “I’ve always wanted to do something like this because of what someone else said to me: ‘It would be great if you could do this for others when it’s your turn to be cast as one of the main characters’”. Upon hearing that, Yoshimura-san promised herself that she too, would become someone who always looked out for the people around her.
Q: So it’s not just a place that is fun, but it’s also a place where you can learn. Apart from that, were there any other events that you did as a group?
A: For the broadcast of the first episode, the staff and cast all gathered for a special viewing. Just like how it was in the first episode of the anime (lol), though we were much more serious in devouring everything that was onscreen. Everyone from the seniors to us 5 young seiyuu, is making this anime with the production process in mind. I am really grateful to be involved.
Q: There are so many characters that appear in SHIROBAKO. Do you have any favourites?
A: For the girls, I love Production Assistant Yano Erika (CV: Yamaoka Yuri). She’s really cute, and Director Mizushima has said that he would always want to do his best for somebody like her. For the guys, I like Episode Director Yamada Masashi (CV: Hamada Kenji). The production assistants and directing team work closely together and for the episodes Miyamori-san was in charge of, Yamada-san served as the episode director. He may be a fairly blunt and sullen person, but like in episode 2 where he goes “Aya-chin..” etc, he sometimes lets slip his hidden love for his characters (lol). It’s also nice to see how he shows his human compassion in episode 3. I love that contradiction between his character traits.
Q: There really are so many characters in SHIROBAKO. How many are there in total?
A: At the moment, it’s about 20-30 people but there are more set to come in. Apparently double the number we have now.
Q: How many people take part in SHIROBAKO recordings?
A: Not all characters appear in every episode so there hasn’t been any one time where everyone has turned up. Usually it’s about 15-20? At the very least, we’ve never had a recording with less than 10 people.
Q: Please tell us about any fun things or failures that happened during recordings.
A: Hmmm, let me see. This isn’t a fun thing at all but…you know, the SHIROBAKO cast during recordings is huge, so there is a lot of switching in and out* going on. And then, I did something I really shouldn’t have done…
* there’re a limited number of mics for a huge number of people, so the seiyuu have to watch their timing when going up to say their lines so that they don’t impede on others.
Q: Is it OK to have this down on record?
A: Ah, maybe I’ll stop then (lol).
Q: So please keep it to a level with the minimum of details (lol).
A: So yeah. Takagi Wataru-san voices President Marukawa Masato, and there was once where he improvised his ad-libs so greatly when compared to the rehearsals that I burst out laughing, to the point where I couldn’t even say my lines (lol). Luckily it was just a test recording so it won’t make it to broadcast, but it was really awesome! The mood in the studio lightened up straight away.
Q: Are there any future events for SHIROBAKO that you’d like to do?
A: I did participate in one of the screening events. I really enjoyed being able to see the reactions of the audience directly. Therefore, I’d like to do another screening event with the rest of the cast and staff. I think the fans would have a lot of questions as well, so having the staff on hand to provide answers would allow everyone to appreciate the series even more.
Watch out for the CD of the theme song, a different version from what is played on TV!
Q: The SHIROBAKO CD will be released on 26th November.
A: Yes! The theme song CD will be released. It includes Ishida Yoko-san’s opening theme COLORFUL BOX, and the ending theme Animetic Love Letter performed by me, Yoshimura Haruka-san and Chisuga Haruka-san. Animetic Love Letter is written and composed by Momoi Halko-san and is a song that sounds sparkly and cute upon first listen, but when you hear it for the second time you might think – “Hmm?”, when you notice the unusual lyrics. It tells the story about being in love with anime. “Through the glass~”, or “In a 16:9 frame~” etc, these are lyrics that will put a smile on your face. Also, the arrangement isn’t the same as the TV size version’s, which brings a different feeling to the song. It’s a lot more sparkling and cheery than what you hear on the TV, so please listen to it.
Q: Lastly, please leave a message to all the fans.
A: From now on, SHIROBAKO will move into portraying the growth of the 5 main girls. I would be happy if you would continue to watch over Miyamori-san, who having taken The Oath of Donuts, strives to make her dream of “creating an anime with all 5 of her friends” come true. And to the fans, I look forward to the day when we can say “Don-don-donuts! Let’s go Nuts!” together.
I’ve no idea how old Kimura is but it’s likely that she’s older than most of her rookie peers, having gone to college and then spent time in both the Osaka and Tokyo branches of Haikyo’s voice acting school. Being attached to the grand old Haikyo also means that she’s likely to go down the serious business 実力派(jitsuryoku-ha) route like her agency seniors Ohara Sayaka, Minagawa Junko and Satou Rina, with many opportunities not just in anime, but in narration work (Haikyo specializes in this) and drama dubbing. I greatly look forward to hearing what she has to offer!
Follow Juri on twitter.