While Mike’s voice is not quite in my wheelhouse, she is quite endearing when you hear her on the radio…well, in a blonde kind of way. She’s currently voicing the virginal lead Tokonome Mamori in boobs anime VALKYRIE DRIVE –MERMAID and was in Re-Kan! and Wakaba Girl. Part of SMA alongside the likes of Inase Minori, you can expect to see a lot more of her in the future.
This interview was published in May, before Wakaba*Girl went on air.
Q: How was today’s photoshoot?
A: The weather was fine and I think the photos will come out light & breezy like the wind. It was my first time taking part in this kind of shoot; I didn’t know what I should do so I brought an apple along with me.
Q: An apple?
A: It seems like something I can easily hold while I’m moving. I often bring similar small props along to recording. I’ve brought a tambourine to a radio show before as well. Maybe it’s because I used to perform etudes (improvisation plays) using props back in the days when I was performing on stage.
Q: Your clothes have a very summery feel to them.
A: Thank you! I really like this outfit. I love it so much that I have it in different colours, though it is my first time wearing it in light-blue. I love one pieces and I have a lot of them. However, I am attending many events this year so I would like to try out different clothing styles.
Q: The TV anime VALKYRIE DRIVE –MERMAID- is becoming a hot topic. What kind of girl is Tokonome Mamori?
A: For the auditions, her character setting was “easy-going, a very ordinary girl”, so I tried to voice her with a ‘fluffy’ kind of image in mind. However, my impression of her changed once I received the actual script for the anime. While she does have a fluffy side to her, she’s also a girl filled with resolve.
Q: When Shikishima Mirei, voiced by Iguchi Yuka-san, lays her lips upon Mamori’s, she transforms into a sword…
A: That’s right. Mamori’s just a normal girl but one day, all of a sudden, she finds herself turning into a weapon. Various events throw up confusion as well as conflict, but please watch out for how these two face these situations!
Also, Mamori-chan is a bit of a klutz at times and I think that’s cute (laughs).
Q: Visually, she’s cute too – from head to toe.
A: But she’s got a tiny frame! It seems she has a complex about her height and says things like “I’m not small!”. That too, is cute (laughs).
Q: Speaking of preferences, there is something about this show we’ve got to mention…
A: …yes, there are a lot of them (laughs). I’m trying to tread a safe path here (laughs).
Q: Okay (laughs). We hear that the girls are drawn really sexily, based on Director-cum-Character Designer Kaneko Hiraku-san’s preferences. Particularly the chest area.
A: My partner Mirei-chan is, shall I say, rather glamorous, but there are other characters that far surpass your imagination…. The character designs are filled with plenty of Director Kaneko’s love, they’ll go far above and beyond what you expect. You can definitely feel the depth of the Director’s love. As to what kind of love it is…I won’t say (laughs).
Q: You have appeared at an event together with Director Kaneko. Did the two of you ever talk about the show’s direction?
A: He has often spoken of how he “wants to portray the bond between Mirei and Mamori”. He may have said “this is a sexy anime” at events and on Twitter, but it’s not that kind of story to me (laughs).
Q: I see! So the show will focus on the bond between Mirei and Mamori.
A: I have seen some of the storyboards and I was really moved. It’s passionate, as well as touching. The characters’ feelings are depicted very well and you can empathize with any of them. It might be a bit difficult, but I hope that this show will be seen by not just men, but women too.
Q: What is the atmosphere like during recording?
A: Personally, I am really happy to be working alongside Iguchi (Yuka)-san, someone who I’d been listening to on her Cho-Raji! radio show since my junior high days. I even sent in mails to her programme. When I first met her, I got goosebumps and I’m still finding it hard to believe. She taught me a lot of things as recording went along.
Q: Is it tough handling all those audacious scenes with an all-female cast…?
A: I attended an all-girls high school so the atmosphere was quite similar. It’s a bit like a situation where, if a male teacher showed up, he’d scold us by saying “Don’t talk about such things!” (laughs). There was this kind of openness to proceedings.
Q: From July, you will appear as Tokita Moeko in Wakaba*Girl. There are 4 main girls – what’s Moeko’s position amongst them?
A: Since everyone around her is airy, Moeko-chan has no choice but to play the straight man (laughs). Wakaba-chan (CV: Ozawa Ari) is a little…offbeat, or maybe I should say a quirky, kind of girl, and there’s Mao-chan (CV: M.A.O) who operates at her own pace and is a little weird, plus Nao-chan (CV: Murakawa Rie) is a fujoshi. To be honest, Moeko-chan is actually quite airy herself (laughs).
Q: The role of Moeko was one that was determined by audition, wasn’t it?
A: Moeko-chan is the very girlish type that’s good at baking sweets and I really wanted to play her ever since I auditioned for the show. When I got the role I was thinking “No way!”. To tell the truth, I got her name wrong during auditions and called her “Moe” instead. I tried to cover up my mistake right away but I felt depressed all the way home after… That is why I was so happy when I got the role! It’s a work by Kiniro Mosaic creator Hara Yui-sensei, and the anime has interesting gags and a great tempo so please look forward to it.
Q: On the other hand, the broadcast of Re-Kan!, where you played Hanako, has just ended…
A: I really enjoyed going to recordings for Re-Kan! and it does feel a little sad that it’s over now. The cast members were close in age and we got along famously well, plus we had a Sound Director (Kawazoe Kengo’s) whose style was passionate and he’d guide us patiently until we could produce the kind of acting that he wanted us to. I learned a lot just by listening to him. It was an anime where everyone was united towards the goal of making a good show, and I’m glad to have been involved in it.
Q: You recorded a character song as well.
A: It was my first ever character song and I was quite nervous about it; the lyrics were heart-rending and befitting of Hanako-chan. Trying to get in Hanako-chan’s character as much as possible, I ‘acted’ rather than ‘sang’ the song – it was a lot of fun!
Q: You started doing voice and radio work when you were in high school.
A: I wanted to become a seiyuu but I was not attached to any agency but I had no idea where to begin, so I ended up submitting an application for public casting for Bunka Housou’s Honki! Anilove radio programme. After all, I did start off loving radio shows. For the programme I’d grill rice cakes wearing my school uniform etc. – they just let me do whatever I liked (laughs).
Q: When did you start becoming interested in the seiyuu profession?
A: I began getting addicted to anime back when I was a junior high school student. The show that started it all for me was S.A~Special Agent.
Q: Moving on to your private life – is there anything you’re obsessed with?
A: I took up bouldering and recently, I’ve rapidly awakened to the joys of cooking! I make a bento to take to recordings – I enjoy planning meals that’ll taste good and retain their texture even when cold. Hamburg steaks with tofu filling for example, remain tender even after they’ve gone cold. For my 20th birthday, I told my family “I’m going to be the chef for today” and whipped up a super luxurious meal. Hamburg steaks in tomato stew and salmon with French bread and wine. I also like making sweets to give to my manager and friends as gifts.
Q: Anything else you’re obsessed with?
A: I’m want to try my best to polish my driving skills. I haven’t driven since I got my license a year ago, I think I’ve better buck up (laughs).
Q: If you were to go for a drive what would be your destination?
A: I want to go to Iwate! I originally started to practice driving as I wanted to explore hikyo stations. With a sketchbook in hand, I’d travel leisurely and carefree. I was a member of the art club back in junior high, I love drawing.
Q: By the way, how did your nickname Mike come about?
A: I joined the drama club when I was in elementary school and in a play my character Ayako-chan’s nickname was “Mike-chan”. The character itself had a complex about it, and I remember her “I hate the name Mike-chan. I want a cuter nickname” line of dialogue particularly well (laughs). I personally liked the nickname though, and people have been calling me that since I was 12!
Q: Mike-chan sounds like something you’d call a cat. You also upload a lot of cat photos on Twitter. Do you love cats?
A: Yes I do! Even my signature has a cat in it. We keep a fluffy tabby cat as a pet in the family home. It loves getting into the futon – it looks so cute when it’s warm~ (laughs). It’s just so cute, when it wakes up in the morning it just looks so reluctant to do so and goes right back to sleep (laughs). I have tote bags with cat patterns on them and I also save and often look up cat pictures.
Q: You’ve imitated cats on Twitter as well (laughs)
A: I have a few different versions of imitations (laugh). Like when a cat has its eyes wide open and I’m staring right back at it. When my family members see me doing that they’ll ask “What on earth are you doing?” (laughs).
Q: Are there any other seiyuu you get along well with?
A: Shinoda Minami-chan, who I worked with together on Anirabu. We’re the same age and we confide in each other. Also, we have this rule where we must “report to the other if there is good news!”. We’re like high-schoolers who are great friends; though we do go through tough times, we are both growing together, gradually getting more roles in anime.
Someone like Inami Anju-chan too. We’re in the same agency SMA and we get along well! We went along for yakiniku in a group recently and got high on grilled squid. We were all “It’s butterflied! It’s butterflied!” (laughs).
Q: What goals do you have as a seiyuu in the future?
A: This year’s goal was to feature on (Da Vinci’s) Seiyuu Interview so it already came true…
I’d like to set a goal for the second half of the year. I’ve gotten a lot more anime work recently, but I’m still not able to achieve the kind of acting I wish to, so I’d like to level-up on my expression and comprehension skills in order to deliver good work to as many people as possible.
Q: Lastly, please leave a message for the readers.
A: Thank you for reading this article! I’ve only just made my voice acting début so in order for people to get to know me a little bit better, I want to try out various different voices as well as continuing to be myself on radio shows. If you ever see me somewhere out there, I’d be glad if you could cheer me on!
Ah, VALKYRIE DRIVE –MERMAID-. What can I say? It’s so trashy but it so appeals to the horny yuri fangirl in me; as stupidly tropey as the characters are, I just can’t help but squee over…uh…Rain! Yeah, Rain is really cool. Onishi Saori is cool…Onishi Sexy…ah, who am I kidding #freethenipple
Incidentally, Izawa originally wanted to voice Mei Fong (CV: Kubo Yurika) because she sees similarities between the character’s personality and her own. She auditioned for Mei Fong but was also asked to try out for Mamori, and she got that role instead – producer Takagi Kenichiro says it was a unanimous decision in choosing Mike as Mamori.
If you can spare the time, do give the VALKYRIE DRIVE radio show a listen – it’s hosted by Mike and Yukachi (+ Kubo Yurika aka Shikaco starting next week). There is a very obvious generation gap between the main two and Yukachi is definitely not afraid to have a dig at Mike, her star-crossed fangirl. Lots of otaku talk too, as well as the recurring question of ‘has Izawa Mikako told her mother that she’s in VALKYRIE DRIVE yet’ (as of now, she still hasn’t).