Ani-ko ran an interview with Ishigami Shizuka regarding her role in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry. I believe this is the first time the web mag has featured a voice actor.
The pressures of voicing the main heroine
Q: Tell us about the circumstances behind your casting as Stella. Did you audition for the role?
A: Based on a pre-recorded audition tape from my agency, I was asked to try out solely for the role of Stella!! When I received the audition materials I thought to myself “I’m probably going to fail this one”.
Q: Why did you think so?
A: I have voiced a tsundere character before, but not a tsundere character that’s as cute as Stella. I had this thought where “such a role should definitely go to a younger, cuter girl”…Obviously, it’s a hard-won opportunity so I went into it intending to give my best.
Q: How did you find out about the audition results?
A: It was when I was on my way home from work. My manager said to me, “By the way, remember that audition you took for Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry?” and when I replied “Yes”, he/she said “You got it”. I was in the middle of a street but shouted “Are you for real!” out loud on the spot, and my manager and I were both filled with joy.
Q: That’s a lovely story. We got to know of Ishigami-san through Shimoseka…
A: (laughs) Thank you.
Q: The role of Stella, and the role of Kajo Ayame. It’s a little surprising to find out that it is the same person voicing both characters.
A: That may be so. Looking back at the characters I have voiced thus far, the majority were characters with low voices. It’s pretty much the first time I’ve had the chance to voice a main heroine-type character with such a high-pitched voice.
Q: What were your impressions after reading the original light novel?
A: When I learned that I had gotten the role, I headed to the bookstore to buy the novels and was surprised to see that the covers of most of the volumes had Stella-chan on them. This might be my own selfish view but most school-based light novels have many girls appearing in the story and normally, each volume would have a different girl on the cover, wouldn’t it? I was also shocked to find out that Ikki, the hero of the story, had gotten together with the heroine Stella in the first volume. Throughout the series, I got the impression that the pinpoint (of the story) is the heroine, and that is Stella-chan. If this was a harem story, there would be many female characters that would divide readers and viewers based on ‘which girl they liked’ but (Rakudai) is almost entirely about Stella-chan, so I did feel a bit of pressure from that. I was conscious about having to play her in a cute way and even now, I have some lingering doubts over whether I was able to make her cute.
From 40% tsun, 60% dere to 10% tsun, 90% dere
Q: Did you have any sort of plan for how you wanted to play (Stella) during recording for the first episode?
A: I have voiced tsundere girls quite a few times already and the first thing I pondered was the ratio between tsun and dere that Stella should have. At first, I put it at 40% tsun and 60% dere when I tested out for the role but I changed it after hearing advice from the sound director and director. “Her words may be tsun tsun, but she is totally dere dere inside, right from the 1st episode” was what I was told. Hence, I changed it up to 10% tsun, 90% dere for the recordings.
Q: So she already had feelings (for Ikki) right from the start when she was behaving in a tsun tsun manner.
A: The first half of the episode featured the scene of their meeting so the tsun feeling was a little stronger, but in the final part where they spend time together in their room, her feelings had already turned mostly dere (laughs).
Q: A large part of the show consists of action scenes – did you have any special kind of tactic to deal with your battle-scene lines?
A: For the scene in Episode 1 featuring Ikki and Stella’s fight, I had to voice my lines while precisely matching the movements of the visuals. I don’t have much experience acting out battle scenes so I decided I would just insert sounds wherever I felt they were necessary, without thinking too much about whether they’d be rejected. As Stella absolutely believed that she would defeat Ikki, I voiced those parts with a relative feeling of ease or should I say, composure.
Q: From episode 2 onwards we get to see Stella showing off different sides to her – how she gets dere in everyday life, how she gets caught up in various incidents. How do you grasp a character like Stella?
A: First of all, I pored over the light novels and the script to try and get as close as possible to the character, in order to ‘create’ the role. As we moved into the second half of recording, I gradually started to feel like the character was being drawn towards me and I was able to voice Stella by striking a good 50-50 balance between acting (and being myself).
Q: So that’s putting more of yourself into the character, bit by bit.
A: That’s right. At first I felt that I was entirely being pulled away by the character but I think I managed to draw her back to my side bit by bit. In the 2nd episode we had (Stella) suddenly getting into the shower and washing Ikki’s back, and even I thought that Stella-chan was a lot more aggressive than she should be (laughs). Still, I try to keep the flow as natural as possible during such scenes.
Q: In the 4th episode, the scene where Stella goes against the baying crowd to shout out her encouragement for Ikki left a deep impression. Was it a struggle to raise your voice in such a way?
A: Thank you. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m that bad at screaming; in fact, I actually find it quite easy to do. Personally, I think it’s easier to pull off screaming or lines that are said in a hostile manner. I feel that I can bring out my acting better in scenes like the one you just mentioned. Earlier, we talked about how the character was drawn towards me and I sense that episode 4 was the point at which that started to happen.
Q: I see.
A: On the other hand, I’m not very good at handling cute or girlish lines such as “I like you”, things like that (bitter laugh). For the bath scene in episode 2, I was told to “keep breathing out” even though it wasn’t written in the script. She may be washing (his back) in a dignified manner but in truth, she’s dying inside from embarrassment – the takes started to pile up before I got it right.
Q: What did you think once you saw the finished product?
A: Amazing is the only word for it. The visuals are beautiful and more than anything, so much effort went into making the action scenes in this show. I noticed that there was the role of ‘action animation director’ listed in the script’s credits section; it was surely because of their presence that the movements look so crisp and cool. I think the opening sequence which was done in white-black-red tricolours looks really good as well. This is my own interpretation, but I like to think of that as a visual representation of Ittoshura.
A place that allows actors to incorporate their own style
Q: The actors who voice the antagonists in each episode such as Matsuoka Yoshitsugu as Kirihara Shizuya and Kobayashi Yu as Ayatsuji Ayase also gave impressive performances. What did you think of them?
A: All of them are veterans and I learnt a lot just by watching their performances from behind them. Their acting had great impact, it was as if they had been appearing in the show right from the 1st episode. I wish that I too, could someday become an actor that can leave such an impression.
Q: Most series in general, feature acting that makes you wonder whether there was ad-libbing involved. Did this show similarly allow for such improvisation?
A: Yes it did. When it comes to ad-libs, actors would normally try them out during the test portions first. The directors would then come in and offer some pointers; unless they directly say that “ad-libs aren’t needed in this part”, the improvisations would usually be used as is. I think the (Rakudai) studio was a place that allowed the actors to incorporate their own individual style.
Q: The interactions between Stella and Shizuku, voiced by Toyama Nao-san, are fun to watch.
A: Thank you. My interactions with Toyama Nao-chan feature a lot of ad-libs. The quarrel we had during our initial meeting in episode 2 was scripted but a couple of scenes following that just had “and the rest is ad-libs” written in the script. For such scenes, we would discuss with each other, ie. “What should we do here? How about an argument,” and so on. Shizuku is better with words than Stella is, so we came up with dialogue that would have Stella losing the verbal battle at the end. It was fun having the freedom to come up with that.
Q: Were there any memorable episodes from the recording sessions?
A: For some reason, a lot of cast members had their birthdays* during the recording period so it seemed like we were having a celebration every week. I’ve never been involved with any show where we’d be eating birthday cake almost every week (laughs). The staff members were careful not to have the type of cakes overlap and got a different one each time; I ate them with great appreciation.
*with recording for the series having finished roughly around November and given that sessions for a 1-cour show generally take up around 3 months, this would put Rakudai’s recording period roughly from mid-August to mid-November. Cast birthdays would include Aisaka Yuuka (5 Sep), Ishigami (14 Sep), Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (17 Sep) and Takeuchi Ryota (22 Sep).
Q: Last of all, please tell us about the highlights as we approach the finale, and do leave a message for the viewers as well.
A: Everything from episode 10 onwards is a highlight and it’s hard for me to single out one or two. Kanemoto (Hisako)-san’s character Tohdo Toka will be making her appearance and that brings all the main players in the story together. You should also check out whether the relationship between Stella and Ikki progresses any further. I believe those who have already read the original novels will enjoy the series so please do keep on watching until the end!