Name: Goto Saori (後藤 沙緒里)
Nicknames: Saorin, Shaorin, 後藤 (弱), Sacchan [only for use by Shintani Ryoko & Tamura Yukari]
DoB: 8 January 1987
Hometown: Yokohama, Kanagawa
Agency: Freelance (formerly Broccoli, g-stella & 81produce)
In the Beginning…
It is easy to forget Saori is still just 28 years of age despite her 13 years of experience in the seiyuu industry. In 2002, she passed the 2nd set of auditions for Broccoli’s G.G.F (Gamers Guardian Fairies) project and subsequently made her début through the Galaxy Angel franchise.
Her first few years in the industry were eventful, for both good and bad reasons. On the one hand Broccoli was giving her quite the push with Galaxy Angel, G.G.F. and as part of airyth, an idol unit with fellow young newbie Iguchi Yuka. Saori however, didn’t appear to be able to cope with the pressures of work and school at the same time and her radio show Poro Poro Nikki often turned into a mess with Saori rambling and getting tearful over things like her pet dying. There was one slightly alarming episode in the show’s finale in September 2003 where she broke down when talking about her lack of confidence:
“I guess I’m just meticulous, or maybe it’s because I’m still a novice. Whenever I get worried about something, I always, really…really, I get so worried, there’s nothing I can do about it…I’m sorry. I’m always lacking confidence. Even other people’s eyes…I always feel conscious about them looking at me. But people tell me things like “Goto-san, you’re a bit airheaded aren’t you”. I want to say to them, “I’m not airheaded”. “I don’t actually think I’m airheaded at all” is what I’d like to tell them, but I get scared of how they’ll react. What if they think that I’m just a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I just can’t seem to say what I really feel. And I hate myself when I’m like that. That’s why there are so many things about myself I want to change.”
In 2005, Saori took a short hiatus from work commitments due to ‘health issues’ and returned later that year under a new agency g-stella, set up by Maezawa Hidenori and and former Broccoli employee 菅野貴史 (Kanno Takafumi?). In 2007 she once again shifted agencies to 81produce before eventually going freelance in October 2014, to most people’s surprise.
Work: Voice, Roles & Singing
Once upon a time, I described Saori as sounding “like a helium balloon”. She has a distinctly airy, erotic edge to her voice that is difficult to replicate, and possesses in her arsenal a variety of squeals and screams that have the ability to send both her colleagues and fans into a meltdown (more on that later).
For such a recognizably moe voice, her body of work is diverse. This video details some of her older roles – highlights include Galaxy Angel’s Chitose, Koi Koi 7’s Asuka Yayoi, Rozen Maiden’s Barasuishou, Rakugo Tennyo Oyui’s Tsukishima Yui and Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei’s Kaga Ai.
Saori is a Kumeta Koji favourite; she appeared in both the Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei and Joshiraku anime series and was also frequently featured in the Zetsubo-sensei manga ie. in chapter 166 there was a panel with a cake with the words “Happy Birthday Saorin” on it, there were parodies of her Goto (weak) nickname in chapter 216, and so on. Fans joke that Kaga Ai [description: A shy, insecure girl who constantly apologizes for trivial matters and things she didn’t even do] is Saori personified.
Additionally, Saori has accumulated a collection of odd roles, beginning with Toradora’s weirdo parakeet Inko-chan to the wordless Rise in Yuru Yuri to the freaky Kukuri in Joshiraku and Steins; Gate’s FB-obsessed Kiryuu Moeka. This season, she’s been cast as the procreation-obsessed Fuwa Hyouka in Shimoneta and creepy stalker Sadatsuka Nao in Shokugeki no Soma. Maybe it’s her personality that’s been influencing casting decisions…?
This Rozen Maiden drama CD segment The Barasuishou Makeover Project is one of my favourite pieces of voice acting featuring Saori, together with Sakurai Takahiro as Shirosaki & Ono Daisuke as Enju. Deadpan moe ftw.
Saori also had a singing career, though her last release was back in 2008. She released 1 single, 2 albums & 4 mini-albums in total on the Konami label, with her later works featuring self-written lyrics as well as contributions from Tange Sakura.
Just what kind of person is Saori?
She has always been a strange person to grasp, has Saori. Leaving aside that ancient dark history of her crying episodes, I can understand why people say she’s ‘airheaded’; the things she says and does some times are just so hard to fathom that all I can do is go ????. The general perception of Saori is that she is ‘fragile’ and other seiyuu (Hi, Inoue Marina) talk about wanting to protect her. She can also be rather gloomy and also quite scary thanks to her (un)intentionally cutting remarks. She appears to function better in one-on-one situations (radio, interviews) – in larger groups, she’s always the one spacing out.
The weak Goto-san
One of Saori’s nicknames is 後藤 (弱) or Goto (weak). The name first appeared in a mail on Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei’s radio show Zetsubo Hoso, where a listener apologized to Saori for describing her to a friend who was not familiar with seiyuu as ‘the weak Goto-san’. Kamiya Hiroshi and Shintani Ryoko both agreed that this might not necessarily mean that Saori was weak, but was more likely due to the fact that the other Goto-san in the cast (Goto Yuko) was simply too strong. Both nicknames ended up sticking and even now, people still refer to them as 後藤 (弱) and 後藤 (強) [even on news channels]…though some do joke that those nicknames should be reversed now that Goto (strong) is still on semi-hiatus due to illness.
The urban legend of Sawashiro Miyuki & Goto Saori
These two have known each other for ages, right from when Saori debuted and throughout the years where they’ve worked together in series like Galaxy Angel, Zetsubo-sensei and Rozen Maiden. Fans jokingly call them ‘natural enemies’ as they are the antithesis of each other, personality-wise. Where one is serious, the other one is always smiling. One is intense, one is forever “my pace”. One is focused, one seems to always be one step behind. It’s said that Miyuki the perfectionist has always been hard on Saori in the studio and got so exasperated with her that at some point she remarked “Goto-san, why on earth did you become a seiyuu?”.
The following story has no source and is more likely than not a fan-written joke but illustrates their love-hate relationship well.
“One day, Sawashiro was faring quite badly in the studio, repeatedly messing up her lines. She was also feeling a little depressed over a personal matter. Wishing to pour out her frustrations, Sawashiro typed up a mail saying “I hate myself” and instead of sending it to her mom as she intended, she missent it to Goto instead. Forever-slow-Goto took 5 minutes to respond and her mail read ‘Please don’t say that you hate the person that I love’”.
Scary to juniors
A listener mail on Joshiraku radio #09 asks Sakura Ayane if she’s scared of her seiyuu seniors. Goto-san then goes on to ask Ayane if she’s scared of her – Ayaneru’s answer: “I wouldn’t say I’m scared of Goto-san. It’s more like a feeling of…unfathomable despair. The feeling you get when you encounter an UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animal)”.
Scary to guys
Sugita Tomokazu’s initial impression of Saori: “Someone I should never touch. The girls around her are always saying that they want to protect her. Once at an after-party for a Zetsubo-sensei event, I accidentally brushed my right arm against her and she screamed out loud. I thought to myself ‘This person is someone whom I shouldn’t talk to’. But Kamiya (Hiroshi) told me ‘She’s alright. She just freaked out a little. Why are you worrying about silly little things like that as if you’re a virgin?’”. Sugita also mentions that Saori is a great listener, giving an example of how he once mailed Saori at 2.30am in the morning after watched Steins;Gate complimenting her on her performance as Moeka, his favourite character in the show. She sent him an essay-length reply at 3.30am. After that their relationship improved where they could chat about things like Pretty Rhythm (which Saori is part of) and Sugita now treats her the same way he treats his male juniors.
The (weird) things Saori says and does
Saori tends to say the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times. She’s a bit like Kobayashi Yu in that she’s a walking time bomb who catches people off guard – you never know what she’s going to say or do, and whether her words and actions are deliberate or not. As a result of her weirdness she’s become the subject of various memes, most notably ‘boiled hair’ and ‘sadface Saori’.
Q: “If you could be a guy for one day what would you do?”
A: “Hit on girls”
“I don’t own a PC”
“I love money”
“I want to be reincarnated as a big tree in a safe place where I can watch over the world”
Shimoneta, Ero Shaori
From Digimaji event:
Kitaeri: Thanks for the food!
(Saori feeds her cake)
[crowd = Does it taste good?]
Kitaeri: It tastes of Saori~ So Saori, which part would you like?
Saori: Eh~~ Eri-chan, you can have your way with me.
(Kitaeri tries to feed her cake)
Saori: No way, you’re too big!
(in Shimoseka studio, to Ishigami Shizuka): Kobayashi [Yusuke]-san appears to be bending over, doesn’t he?
Saori: At the studio the other day, we were talking about this. And I concluded that I like it from the back.
Kitaeri: …can you say that one more time?
Saori: I like it from the back.
Kitaeri: Thanks, we got that down clearly.
Saori: I’m talking about kabedon, you know?
Kitaeri: How do you do a kabedon from the back?
Saori: Like this (demonstrates).
Kitaeri: So Saori-san, you’re fine with the idea of kabedon itself?
Saori: It’s good.
Kitaeri: Oh I see. So we can look forward to Saori-san in kabedon situations.
Kitaeri: Is it limited to guys? How about with girls?
Saori: Girls are fine. I’d do it with a girl.
Don’t confess to Goto-san
Ayaneru: I think it’d be hard to confess directly to Goto-san.
Saori: Eh, why would you say that?
Ayaneru: ‘cos it seems like you’d cut me down swiftly.
Saori: I don’t think I would..
Ayaneru: I mean if I said it right now, like…”Goto-san, will you go out with me?”
Ayaneru: See?? My heart just broke.
Saori: No no, it’s not like that..
Ayaneru: Then why??
Saori: It’s different…I mean, how about feelings?
Ayaneru: OK then. I like Goto-san.
Saori: What do you like about me?
Ayaneru: Your mysterious aura. Your silky hair.
Saori: Would you like to boil my hair?
Ayaneru: B-O-I-L? Yes I want to boil your hair. So will you go out with me?
Saori: Hmmm…I wonder…
Ayaneru: That’s something else I like about you.
Saori: Eh? Which part?
Ayaneru: How you can be a little bit suggestive…I find that irresistible.
Saori: Please stop that, you’re being frivolous.
Ayaneru: FRIVOLOUS??? I’M BEING FRIVOLOUS??????
Tanaka Rie: What was your first impression of me?
Saori: To tell the truth, you are totally my type.
Rie: Eh? What? What?
Saori: You’re really my type.
Rie: What do you mean?
Saori: Everything about you.
Saori: You’re irresistible.
Rie: What? I don’t understand.
Saori guested on Anime TV in 2008, which was being hosted by Fujita Saki, and totally killed the show within the first minute – after Sakki introduced Saori and noted that she was “the most ‘my pace’ guest we’ve ever had”, Saori suddenly clapped her hands and said “I just remembered that I owe you money”. (story – one day, Saori had forgotten to bring her purse and didn’t have enough money left on her Suica to take the train, so Sakki lent her some money).
Later on in the same show Sakki asks her if she’s been into anything lately and Saori answers ‘flower arrangement’. Sakki asks how she got into it and Saori answers “I woke up one day and felt like doing it”.
Yes she apparently spends 4+ hours in the bath, but she doesn’t really remember what she does there. She does say that she brings her mobile in some times and that she wrecked the last when she dropped it in the bath, so she now owns a waterproof mobile phone.
What fans do to Saori
Yes everyone thinks she’s weak.
Someone made figures with that face.
That scary video
A purported anti-abuse Advertising Council video for the Hokuriku region featuring Goto’s narration was uploaded onto Youtube. The content was fairly scary & disturbing, talking about airguns and domestic abuse and a lot of people believed it was real despite some fairly obvious signs of fakery ie. choppy dialogue & a Kajiura Yuki soundtrack.
Utsu Utsu Mode
Another lol MAD picking up some of Saori’s depressing dialogue (I have my limits/I died/it’s tough, isn’t it/don’t come near me/sorry/what the hell did you do/so scary).
On a more serious note, here’s an interview with Saori from 2010.
Q: Please tell us why you aimed to become a seiyuu.
A: I joined the drama club when I was in junior high, and I found acting to be fun. We were just a minor club from a minor school, but we had a tremendous teacher who spurred us on until we made our way all through to the regionals, and the prefectural tournament. I think I really did enjoy the whole process. Then, when I was in high school I applied for an open audition, making light of it and wondering “How do these things work?”. And then I found out that I had passed.
Q: The road to becoming a seiyuu opened up from there?
A: After some time, I received opportunities to do voice work but back then, I had little knowledge of the seiyuu world and I had the impression that it was such a unique world. Obviously I had no experience so I had to learn on the job; the sound directors and actors would teach me a lot of things during recordings. At times, I would be scolded severely by sound directors in the studio, and I would think about it in my own childish way – “I want to stay in this world, I’m being paid for this, I’ve got to try harder…”.
Q: That isn’t the type of resolve that people easily possess. That shows professionalism, doesn’t it?
A: All of that came because I wanted to survive. People around me would say that I had a type of personality that was rarely seen – somehow or rather I had my own kind of ‘individuality’ that was cultivated based on the atmosphere of the studio I was in. Depending on the type of role I had, it appears that there were times others would look at me and think – “Goto-san, no matter what it is you’re doing, you always seem to be enjoying yourself” (lol). Still, when I feel that there is much expected of me, I cannot help but go all out. I want to live up to expectations.
Q: Haha. Is there anything you’re especially careful about when it comes to acting?
A: To be sincere towards any one role. I consider carefully – “what would this character be thinking of, why would (she) say such words?”
Q: Do you that even if you have read the script and found no common ground with the character? Would you still keep thinking about it?
A: I would keep thinking about it. I have received these words of advice before – “It’s good that you’re so diligent, but at some point you’re just going to end up hitting a wall”. I do try to take care but…it’s just my nature.
Q: Does this mean you would dislike playing characters you don’t identify with at all?
A: Human beings are made up of many different elements, one can be both “bright” and “dark”; no one word is sufficient to describe a person. Even if a role appears to be far removed from who I am, there are certainly elements that said character shares with myself. It depends on what I do to draw out those elements, or what I do to bring out the best in the role…”I wonder if humans all possess the ability to grasp any role well…?” or so I start to think. Of course, I do believe that experience and skills are a prerequisite.
Q: As a seiyuu, is there anything you would like to try out in the future?
A: A seiyuu’s job scope is very wide so in the future, I would like to take on anything, no matter what it may be.
Q: You’re full of curiosity, aren’t you?
A: That’s right. I want to test myself – what it is I am capable of doing, I want to try things out. However, I never want to lose sight of “myself”. Whatever work I do, I want to make sure that I leave “my” mark on it; it would be wonderful I could take on various genres to see how “I” am needed for them. To me, what’s most important is to see my fans happy, so I will work hard to meet everyone’s expectations.
I can honestly say I didn’t always like her. In fact, I felt a certain bit of animosity towards Saori when Broccoli cast her in their Galaxy Angel franchise as Karasuma Chitose and by default, became a member of the Galaxy Angel Tai unit. What’s this 17-year old kid doing alongside Sawashiro Miyuki, Tamura Yukari, Shintani Ryoko, Yamaguchi Mayumi and Kanai Mika? This was gori-oshi to me, before the term even existed.
Over the years I’ve been thoroughly won over by Saori. Really, really love her now. Seeing her grow from a cute-but-awkward teenager to a ero-voice oneesan with a penchant for dirty jokes has been strangely surreal, but her journey has been tough and I’m happy to see that she’s come out of difficult circumstances stronger. PS please remain ero-ero forever, Saorin~~