Aipon’s Oshaberi Hotline! Man, it’s been 12 years since she crash-landed onto our screens with Stellvia…
Q: What sort of childhood did you have?
A: I heard from my mother that I was like a boy, running around all over the place. My hair was short and I apparently didn’t like wearing skirts; when I look at photos from those days I was always holding a football at my side (laughs). It seems I was a real rascal. I mostly watched shonen-oriented anime as well – I loved Yu Yu Hakusho and that show was the reason why I became interested in the seiyuu profession.
Q: I can’t imagine Nonaka-san ever being like that, based on what I know of you now.
A: I suppose it’s because I’ve mostly been voicing cute characters that you’d end up feeling that way. I had always wanted to be a seiyuu ever since I was in elementary school so I started to study acting more and more and eventually fell in love with Shiki Theatre Company and the Takarazuka troupe, which led to a period where I was considering joining the Takarazuka* as a ‘male’ performer. Unfortunately I didn’t grow any taller so I had to give up on that dream. However, I believe that it is because of such experiences that the seiyuu Nonaka Ai is who she is today.
Note: Takarazuka is an all-female musical theatre troupe where its cast members are separated into those who specialize in male roles and those in female roles
Q: Aiming to become a seiyuu, you entered Aoni Juku and then went on to gain admission to (Aoni) Production. Do you remember your first job?
A: My first work was for a radio drama. Watching the speaking and breathing techniques used by my seniors during their monologues, I was startled by how different it was when compared to those utilized on the stage and when in the recording studio. I also had the chance to participate in a drama CD where most of the cast was female and was surprised by how cute every single person’s voice was. It seems like I spent most of my time in shock.
Q: Nonaka-san’s voice is cute too.
A: Thank you. Yet I was often teased about my voice when I was in school, having things like “Stop trying to be a burikko” said to me. If you get to know me well, you’d find that I’m more of the sporty type but back then, I had a real complex about my voice. Still, as I continue working in this field I have received many messages saying things like “I love Nonaka Ai’s voice” and “Your voice is so cute” and I have gradually come to love my voice for what it is. Right now, I am so grateful that I am a seiyuu.
Q: If you hadn’t become a seiyuu, what do you think you would be doing now?
A: I love kids, so I’d probably be a nursery teacher. I’m currently voicing Koko in Chuggington, a cartoon about trains and there are a lot of events for the show during summer vacation so the cast and staff often go to attend them together. Seeing how the kids are filled with joy upon meeting the characters we play really lifts my spirits up.
Q: You have worked across a variety of genres thus far – is there anything you take special care with when it comes to work?
A: For child-friendly shows like Chuggington, I will slow down the pace at which I say my lines so that the dialogue can be properly heard. When it comes to shows like Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei where there are a great number of cuts as well as a unique tempo, I will base my performance upon what I perceive to be the staff’s intentions and aims. I can’t say whether this is the right method or not but I personally place great importance upon it. I do become rather pleased to see staff members during recordings, where they have worked on processing our lines from the preceding episode – it does make me feel like we’re working hand in hand.
Q: Are there any particularly memorable episodes from your rookie days?
A: This is a story from the time when I first voiced the heroine in an anime. My character had a long string of lines at the beginning (of the episode), so I stayed behind after recordings to do those parts alone. It was my first time doing something like that and it seemed like a never-ending process. When I was finally done I left the studio only to find out that my seniors were waiting for me in the lobby, and they said “Let’s go for lunch together!”. I was so touched by this gesture and resolved that someday, when I was a senior, I would do the same for my juniors. Going for meals with my seniors gave me the chance to hear many interesting stories, which I learned a lot from. It’d be great if I could do something like that too. Not sure if I’m actually capable of it though (bitter laugh).
Q: What does the future hold for you?
A: In the future, I’m going to work hard to become a wonderful senior to the younger generation of seiyuu. I’ve been given the chance to get involved with the Sakura Wars stage show where I am now surrounded by such amazing seniors who are a great source of inspiration. More than ever, I feel that I want to give these feelings back to my juniors in time.