#58 – Uchida Maaya

This particular interview was something I looked up as reference material when I was doing Mayayan’s 50 questions and I found it amusing enough to want to translate in full. It runs in the same series of Animate interviews with Nichinare graduates as the one I did for Saito Chiwa a couple of months back; Maaya’s is from November 2012, around the time Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! aired.

There is a lot of mention of chu2 itself in the text, so let’s get the basic explanations out of the way first so I don’t have to keep translating chuunibyou as “junior high second grade disease”.

Chuunibyou (中二病) chuuni, chuu2

“Middle-school 2nd Year Syndrome” is a colloquial and rather derisive term in Japan which describes a person at the age of fourteen would either act like a know-it-all adult, or thinks they have special powers no one else has. Some would even go as far as being obnoxious, arrogant, and often look down on adults or older people. This way of thinking or acting is mostly seen in teenagers during adolescence, however there are people who still act like this even after reaching adulthood.

Chuunibyou uses the word “病” for “syndrome” or “disease” but it does not actually relate to any medical condition or mental disorder. It can also be written as 厨二病 in Japanese, where “厨” means “-fag” in net slang. In English it is often abbreviated as chuu2. [credit pixiv encyc]

Part 1

Q: Congratulations on your casting as the heroine of the autumn TV anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Please tell us about yourself.

A: Thank you! I’m Uchida Maaya, born 27th of December, a Capricorn with blood type A. I’ve been told I don’t resemble an A-type as I tend to do things at my own pace but I really am a true-blue A-type. My hobbies are playing video games and eating out.

Q: Have you always loved video games?

A: I’ve been playing games fervently since I was in first grade. The reason I entered this industry too, is because I love games. Both of my parents are game lovers as well and as a result, our house was filled with game consoles. My father would be playing games in the middle of the night. Having such parents meant that at Christmastime, they’d play Santa and buy games for us but honestly, I think my father just wanted to play them himself (lol).

Q: Did he buy you games that you wanted to play?

A: Nope, my father bought games of his own choice. Like Gran Turismo…

Q: A driving simulator for an elementary school girl? (lol)

A: I know right?! I have a younger brother so he’d say to me “Play it with your little brother OK?”, but I wasn’t any good at it.

Q: Are there any games you’ve been addicted to lately?

A: Recently, Resident Evil 5. I’m playing it now so that I can get it done before Resident Evil 6 is released.

Q: You love games even now, don’t you! How about anime?

A: I was a video game geek as a kid so I didn’t really watch much TV, but I did watch anime. I think this was about 10 years ago, but I liked Gensomaden Saiyuki.

Q: Did you have any other hobbies apart from games and anime?

A: I love music. J-rock acts like Imawano Kiyoshiro and Sakanaction are my favourites. I like how rock gets you all pumped up~. Also, since I love games I also like to listen to video game soundtracks. The battle BGMs really pump you up! I listen to music both at home and on the go. I like singing as well, so when I have the time I go to the karaoke alone.

Q: You mentioned ‘eating out’ as another one of your hobbies. Have you been doing that lately?

A: Not lately~. Before, I often used to go to Chinatown with my friends or my mom. Also, when I had a bit of time before work, I’d go to the Meguro Sanma Matsuri. I’d line up from around 10am to eat delicious pacific saury!

Q: What are your favourite foods? Is there anything you’d like to eat now?

A: I like natto, I eat it every day without fail. As for what I’d like to eat right now, Hawaiian cuisine is something I’ve become addicted to recently. I wanna eat Loco Moco! Pancakes too.

Q: Let’s talk about your work. What were your thoughts about being cast as the heroine in both Sankarea and Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

A: I was cast in Sankarea in September last year, so it’s been a year since. At the turn of this year I was cast in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, which was a surprise for me personally.

Q: The heroine of Sankarea is a zombie girl – were you able to get a grasp of her character easily?

A: Sanka Rea may be a zombie but when I read the original manga my impression of her was that she was a very cute zombie, so I just thought of her as a normal girl. Though when I first heard that she was a zombie, images of Resident Evil immediately came to mind (lol).

Q: As a zombie lover, was (Sanka Rea) unsatisfactory for you?

A: Ahahahaha! I wanted to do zombie sounds like “Vuuu…”~

*here’s a zombie sound pack for you

Q: Would that fit your image? Maybe your fans wouldn’t want to hear that from you.

A: They wouldn’t? (lol). But I do want to appear as a zombie in a game someday. I love dialogue that involves screaming, I’m doing that nowadays too! I’m dreaming of the day I get to be a zombie…

Q: You’d become a real-life Sanka Rea!

A: You’re right! (lol)

Q: Allow me to ask you about Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!. What were your feelings when you took the audition for the role?

A: “Takanashi Rikka’s a tough character to voice~” is what I thought, which is why I was surprised when I found out I had passed the audition. Looking back, I realize now how important it is to persevere and see things through to the end.

Q: Were you nervous during the auditions?

A: There was a lot of dialogue for Chuunibyou and I enjoyed that! I couldn’t even understand some of the lines but I had fun with the katakana words, and I was able to act out the part without having to consciously think about characterization. I wasn’t nervous and didn’t think about characterization yet I still got the role – maybe it’s because I have chuuni disease myself? (lol).

Q: What points did you focus on when voicing Takanashi Rikka?

A: Rikka is quiet and expressionless and it’s hard to read her emotions, but she’s totally a chuuni on the inside. It’s not a character that she created for herself – the chuuniness is totally ingrained in her. That’s why the director told me beforehand “She’s a true chuuni so just keep that in mind when you’re acting and bring out that genuine chuuni disease from within her”.

Q: Genuine chuuni disease? That sounds hard.

A: Yeah it is. “Genuine chuuni diease? What could that be~?” For example, during the delusionary fighting scenes, the way I breathe has to sound like I’m really taking part in a battle. At the same time though, Rikka’s a bit clumsy and has her cute parts. When she gets hit she’ll say “Oww~”, but in a cute way. It’s hard to get the right balance!

Q: You sure are facing difficulties in your own way. Are there ever times that you’ve thought “I might be a chuuni myself”?

A: I’ve been hearing about this “chuuni disease” since I won this role and I’ve come to accept that I myself used to be a “chuuni”. I think that that phase is over now though…maybe…(lol).

Q: So let’s leave present time aside and hear some stories from when you were a chuuni!

A: When I was a junior high student, I had a playlist of “Rainy Day Songs” set aside for days when it rained. I’d leave the house listening to those songs, engrossed in my own world and running around without an umbrella (lol).

Q: Eh? It was raining, right? (lol)

A: Yes it was! But it felt good running around in the rain listening to the songs on that playlist. When I look back now, I think that whenever I got lost in that world of mine – it was probably a sign of chuuni disease.

Q: So you used to do that alone?

A: Of course, I’d do it alone~ I never told anyone else about it either! Ahh…it seems I’ve had many chances recently to expose episode of my dark history; I’m starting to feel embarrassed (lol). Especially since I’m voicing Rikka now, but I’m sure everyone’s doing it! It’s just because we’re all adults now that we insist otherwise, but I believe everyone has had chuuni disease before! (lol)

Q: Thanks for your interesting tale! Let’s get back on topic by talking about the recording sessions for Chuunibyou demo Koi ga shitai!. Have you gotten used to it yet?

A: During recordings, Fukuyama Jun-san, who voices Togashi Yuta, will offer advice to me. Chuuni disease dialogue uses a lot of difficult katakana and Fukuyama-san knows all of them! Apparently he researches even the little things, and he gives us detailed explanations. I’d like to emulate Fukuyama-san and do more research myself in the future. After all, they’re the words used by my own character.

Q: So that means that anyone who watches Chuunibyou demo Koi ga shitai! will become familiar with Chuuni disease terminology.

A: I think they will. Everyone, let’s recall our days of Chuuni disease infection and shout out the names of our Special Moves together!

Q: Apart from Fukuyama-san, how was the atmosphere at recordings with the other cast members like?

A: The 4 main female cast members often attended interviews or went for meals together, so we have become good friends! Just the other day we got all heated up discussing a very Chuuni-like topic “If we were to form a 4-member unit, what should we call ourselves?”. Uesaka Sumire-chan in particular, came up with a lot of Chuuni-like ideas. She also made up Chuuni-names for all of us and I ended up being called Maayan Stein…

Q: Maayan Stein…that sounds painful!

A: Ahahahaha! Though she took the effort to come up with all these names nobody actually uses them! Maybe during future events I’ll introduce myself saying “This is Maayan Stein, the voice of Takanashi Rikka”? By the way, Akasaki Chinatsu-san is “Crimson Black Hole” and Asakura Azumi-san is “Apricot Beauty”! Isn’t Maayan Stein rather cute by comparison? (lol).

Q: We’re looking forward to the fans’ reaction when you introduce yourself that way! Thank you.

Part 2

Q: We talked about how your love for video games from a young age was the catalyst for your becoming a seiyuu. Just how much time did you spend gaming?

A: My whole family loved games so naturally, so did I. Back when I was addicted to web games, I’d spend every minute of my spare time playing them.

Q: Did it ever get to the point where your parents scolded you and told you to “Please eat your meals”?

A: Yeah they did~. I mean, it’s not like you can go missing when you’ve formed a party with other people! I couldn’t bail out since I was the designated healer. I’d either miss my meals to play, or bring food to eat in my room while playing.

Q: Hearing that makes us think you were a shut-in.

A: Ahahaha! Of course, this wasn’t something that happened every single day. Normally I’d make sure I’d eaten and taken a shower before I started playing.

Q: If you liked gaming that much, why did you want to become a seiyuu?

A: I just loved games and wanted to work at a job that could show future generations just how wonderful video games are. At first, I was thinking about working for a game company. However, when I was in junior high I joined the drama club and it occurred to me that “Being a seiyuu might be good too”. Since seiyuu did also get to work in the gaming industry. So I went to visit seiyuu training schools. I found it very interesting and thus, decided to switch to pursue an acting career instead of producing games.

Q: Did you look up a lot of training schools?

A: I decided on Nichinare after visiting around 3 different schools. I visited Nichinare in January of my third year of high school and took its exams in February. I made up my mind fairly quickly so I think my parents were probably a bit surprised. On my part, I had originally intended to go on to college.

Q: What made you choose Nichinare?

A: Because it seemed like the most fun. We were allowed to observe 3 hours of lessons and I was impressed by how all the students worked together well to produce a piece of work. Honestly, the atmosphere there conveyed how everyone was having a lot of fun. Also, it may seem trivial, but despite being quite late with my application, Nichinare were very accommodating throughout our correspondence. It made me think “I’d have peace of mind if I came here”. I mean, you’d normally get all nervous having to make phone calls to training schools by yourself, right? But Nichinare were so kind to me all through our communications and I felt at ease taking part in their school tours.

Q: How did you feel after you joined the agency? Did it meet your expectations?

A: It has been a lot more enjoyable than I thought! I spent most of my high school days doing part-time jobs and didn’t really get to enjoy the joys of youth through things like club activities. I may have been a bit late to the game, but I only started to enjoy my youth once I joined Nichinare (lol). I was enrolled for 3 years and I got along well with everyone no matter what class I took. I still hang out with my ex-classmates nowadays.

Q: You chose to take the weekly course?

A: Yes. I enrolled in the course consisting of 3 hours of lessons per week. Classes were once a week but I would spend the additional time with my classmates. On days without lessons, we’d get together to practise. We’d shout out at the top of our voices at the park, or we’d make time to study acting together. My group of friends at Nichinare; we shared the same goals and interests so it was always great fun whenever we got together.

Q: What were your favourite lessons?

A: I loved it when we were asked to create plays from prepared scripts. Prior to my admission I had my own collection of commercially available scripts and dialogue books, and I’d read them and record my own acting using a voice recorder. With the lessons in Nichinare, we could share out all the roles instead of me taking all of them on myself! It was great fun working together with everyone else to produce a piece of work.

Q: Do you consider yourself better at voicing a role that comes with character designs, or without?

A: Recently, I saw a character illustration and I thought to myself how fun it would be if I were to match my voice to the image~, but I also did use to love doing etudes*. At Nichinare, we had lessons where we’d have to create plays from scratch without any basic character settings provided. I loved those classes. I’d be the type of person who’d raise their hand high and shout “Me! Me!” whenever the lecturers asked for volunteers. As an example, if we were given the setting “You stir from your sleep. Do something”, I’d quickly decide on “shouting” and raise my hand right away. And then I’d do some ad-libs.

*etude = creating ad-libs based purely on written character settings

Q: Good at ad-libs? That’s something veterans do!

A: I think it’s still difficult to make ad-libs as seiyuu but at Nichinare we were given a free hand to do them however we saw fit so it was like a “first come first serve” situation for me (lol). For anime we have to match our ad-libs to the character settings, while for etudes we are creating our very own ad-libs – it’s a lot of fun to do and I love it! When I look back at those times, I do think I was a really proactive student. My mindset was always “Keep on moving forward”.

Q: What sort of people were there in your classes?

A: As I’m a very active person, most of my friends tended to have similar personality traits. Having such members of a class meant that after our 3-hour lessons, we’d have gatherings in a family restaurant where we’d seriously discuss our lessons and our future goals.

Q: How has the reaction been like from that group of friends?

A: I’ve taken part in various different activities thus far; some of those friends have gotten in touch to say “I watched you in [insert anime title]”. It’s embarrassing when friends from those days watch my shows, but I do feel happy at the same time. I do actually get to meet some of them from time to time during reunioin gatherings they’ll say things like “I feel frustrated at myself (seeing you) but I’m going to do my best too!”, and I too will get motivated to do my best as well.

Q: What was the age composition of your classes like?

A: I started at 18 so I was at the lower end age-wise. There were people in their 30s as well; at Nichinare, age is something irrelevant. No matter the age, as long as we entered at the same time we’d be classmates, and we still got along well.

Q: What was your lifestyle like during your training school days?

A: At the time, my whole life centered around Nichinare. To prepare for the days that I had lessons, I’d do my best to complete all my tasks at hand as well as practise. There was just so much I had to do that a week would quickly fly past.

Q: Apart from training school lessons, what sort of voluntary training did you do?

A: I’d do a lot of recital training* everyday. I’d also do script-reading, recording my own voice so I could listen back to it. These are all very simple things but I still feel that they’re very important.

*specifically, 滑舌 (katsuzetsu) = how to smoothly and fluently recite lines

Q: Are you referring to recording your own voice?

A: Yes. It’s a kind of training to get one to like their voice. It’s normal for people to hate listening to their own voice but once you get used to it the feelings of discomfort fade away. Still, it’s useful to hear how your voice actually sounds like to other people and helps to make acting an easier task. At the same time I get to find out about my own habits.

Q: Did any of the Nichinare lectures leave a big impression on yo? What sort of lessons were they?

A: This topic often came up during chats with my classmates, but I personally love Sakamoto Chika-san! Chika-san’s lessons were about forming groups to create plays. Very few details would be written on the small sheets of paper we were provided – instead, she’d tell us “you’re free to make up your own characters”. They were unlike etudes and were lessons that provided a lot of freedom to improvise.

Q: Lastly, as a pro seiyuuu please give advice to everyone who is aiming to become a seiyuu!

A: Nowadays it may seem like the race to become a seiyuu is highly competitive but if you truly wish from the bottom of your heart to become one, I believe you can achieve anything! One of the ways you could become one is to take a major step by going to visit training schools like I did. Another way you could get your start is by buying a voice recorder and train yourself to get used to listening to your own voice. Even if you don’t have a voice recorder, you could use a PC or a smartphone to do the recording. Just take things one step at a time. In any case, it is important to always be proactive in taking on everything.

Q: It’s important to be proactive, isn’t it!

A: Up until now I’ve always maintained the mindset of “Keep on moving forward” and never regretted anything (lol). Thus I feel it’s not wrong to keep rushing forward. This is my personality – I’m the type of person who will take the plunge without looking, trusting that I’ll land on my two feet and I’ll only think about the consequences of falling when I actually do fall. As long as you diligently advance towards your goal of doing what you love to do, you will be able to see what lies ahead. To those of you reading this now, I hope there comes a day when it is possible for us to work together.

Q: Thank you for your advice. If there is anyone out there who decides to join Nichinare after reading this article, please be kind to them!

A: Of course! At Nichinare, we are taught “Give back to your juniors what you have received from your seniors”. I have learned so much about acting and seiyuu from my Nichinare senior-by-a-year Matsuoka Yoshitsugu-san. In the future, I will share what I know with my juniors. After all, it is a Nichinare tradition to pass on our knowledge to our juniors!


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