Cute, lovely Maria is currently being featured in Animate’s Nichinare interview series. Ahhh I just want to pinch her cheeks and smother her like Ari-chan does all the time…
Q: Please introduce yourself.
A: Pleased to meet you. I’m Naganawa Maria. People call me ‘Mariannu’. It was a nickname given to me by my junior high school friends after they decided that ‘Maria is so boring’ (laughs). It’s the only nickname I’d had throughout my school years so when I moved to Tokyo and my new acquaintances asked “How do you people normally address you?”, ‘Mariannu’ was the one answer I had. I’ve also been called ‘Nu’ or ‘Nu-chan’, names derived from Mariannu – even though ‘Nu’ is nowhere to be found in my own name (laughs).
Q: So that’s why your solo radio show is called ‘Naganawa Maria HAPPY Nu~Life’. How would you describe your own personality?
A: I’m told that I’m easygoing and do things at my own pace. My good friend Ari, who I work with on the radio show Ozawa Ari & Naganawa Maria’s Ozanari, is the restless type. She’s restless but also does things at her own pace, so together we make up the ‘my pace’ combo (laughs). My strengths are how I’m not easily swayed or hurried. Unless there’s something that’s really compelling (laughs). My weakness is that I find it hard to pretend I’m interested in something that I have absolutely no interest in. When people around me are talking about the latest popular dorama and so on, they’ll be all excited like ‘Did you watch the dorama from last night?’ and most of the time, I can’t follow the conversation at all. I think I have to start to show more interest in what’s hot and what’s the ‘in’ thing.
Q: Putting a positive spin on that, you could say that you’re not easily influenced. Do you have any hobbies or special skills?
A: My hobby is sleeping. If the following day is a holiday, I can sleep up to 12 hours. I’d wrap myself up in a futon – the moment before you fall asleep is bliss and when I have the time I just want to be buried inside a futon (laughs). My special skill is being able to move my irises (eyes) in different directions. But when I do it for real, it makes people scream (laughs). Also, I love snack foods. If you put a cake and a bag of crisps in front of me, I’d take the crisps without hesitating.
Q: Let’s talk about your current anime work. First of all, tell us a bit more about Komori-san wa Kotowarenai!.
A: The anime is a heartwarming tale that depicts the school lives of Komori Shuri-chan, a third-year junior high student who is unable to say ‘no’ whenever anyone asks anything of her, and her close friends Megumi-chan and Masako-chan. Within a short time frame, the show packs in fun stories at a good tempo and I like how it’s warm and fluffy yet can make you laugh at the same time. Scenes such as the one where the 3 of them walk home together give off a nice, soothing atmosphere as well.
Q: Shuri’s stature let’s her see the scenery of the classroom well.
A: She’s tall, isn’t she? When the 3 of them are lined up together, Megumi-chan and Masako-chan end up looking like kids. That’s cute too. It’s her physique that makes her look reliable and it results in various people asking for favours from her – it’s amazing how she manages to fulfil all of them perfectly. You can see that she is loved by all her classmates; I’m sure it would’ve been fun if I could’ve spent my school days with such a person. But I’d probably worry whether they’d ever be able to spend time with me.
Q: In the show you voice Masako, Shuri’s close friend.
A: Of the trio, Megumi-chan is the talkative one while Masako-chan’s role is mostly to sum up what Megumi said with remarks like “’that’s right!’. She’s the class president so she has this cool, level-headed image but she’s actually quite bad with mornings so that’s a little chink in her armour. I liked reading the manga and seeing the first time she met Shuri-chan and how they started getting closer to each other.
Q: Did working on the show remind you of your junior high days?
A: There’s a scene in an episode where a student who hates drinking milk hands theirs over to Shuri-chan – that’s actually something that’s quite common in real life. I’m not fond of milk myself and though I did somehow force myself to drink it, I remember one of my friends giving hers to the boys to drink. Also, there’s another scene where Masako-chan takes shade in Shuri-chan’s shadow at the poolside – I’ve done that too. When recording that scene, I thought to myself, ‘That’s how to keep really cool – I can understand why she’d want to do that, I would too!’ (laughs).
Q: The seiyuu behind Megumi is Ozawa Ari-san, who joined your agency the same time you did – what was it like working with her?
A: When we were both confirmed for the show, I was really happy. But because we’re good friends and hang out a lot, it’s a bit embarrassing to have her see me when I’m in serious mode (laughs). Of course, we have a lot of fun every time during recording!
Q: Tell us straight up – what are the charms of this show?
A: I love how the series depicts the 3 of them getting along so well, and also how the show makes me feel warm. Halfway through the show, a boy named Otani-kun turns up and he brings heart-warming, lively laughs as well as heart-fluttering moments with Shuri-chan, which adds a new charm to the show. Do pay attention to Masako-chan’s response and feelings towards Otani-kun. It’s a show that’s packed to the brim with warmth and laughter and heart-tingling moments, which will remind you of your school days like it does for me; I think people from all age groups will enjoy watching it.
Q: Next up let’s talk about Fushigi na Somera-chan, which is a powerful, rapid-fire gag anime.
A: As the title suggests, it is a strange show that just blows through everything to the point that even I don’t know what to make of it (laughs). Before the anime’s Nico Nama, the cast watched episode 3 together and all we could say was ‘What the heck was that about?’. Somera-chan is a master of magical kenpo but you have to wonder ‘What on earth is magical kenpo anyway?’, plus she only has a few grains of rice left so to satisfy her hunger, she whips out some mayonnaise (laughs). It’s an irrational, confused story, but it will make you laugh.
Q: The scene where Ai makes her first appearance is pretty memorable.
A: Yeah, that’s ‘cos she’s got French bread on her wrists instead of scrunchies. She’s looking for her older sister whom she got separated from and right then, out comes another girl wearing French bread – they get all excited thinking that it’s the moment of sisterly reunion…but she turns out to be a complete stranger (laughs).
Q: Somera-chan is willing to do whatever it takes to feed herself – that hungry enthusiasm makes you feel good, doesn’t it?
A: Actually, I feel worried. She lives together with Kukuru-chan yet there are only 3 grains of rice in their house, and she still end up wasting the oden that she had conjured up using magical kenpo. I feel sorry for her younger sister Kukuru-chan. She’s a normal, nice girl but ends up being driven around the bend by Somera-chan. I guess Shizuku-chan and Ai-chan’s role is to watch over the two sister’s interactions.
Q: What is that strange living thing called ‘menous’ that appears in the show?
A: I have no idea (laughs). Its face looks cute but it has a vicious streak. I appeared in episode 1 as well and there were a couple of menouses in it. It does come with explanations so I think we’ll find out exactly what it is.
Q: The comedian Tenshin Mukai brings a good flavour to the show as well.
A: That’s right. I believe that only someone like Mukai-san could bring out such a unique tempo of narration, and it fits the show to a tee.
Q: The 4 main characters sing the opening theme ‘Prism MAX~Heisei Ishin HD Remastered-ban~’ and it’s quite the destructive force.
A: Yeah, and it has to start with “Uhh~!”, “Haah~!” right from the top as well (laughs). From a singing perspective, it was a really tough song and I struggled during recording but when you put the 4 of us together it turns out to be a fun, Somera-chan-like song. I still don’t get the ‘HD-Remastered Version’ part of the title though (laughs). This show has a high tempo and the verbal exchange between the boke and tsukkomi has amazing momentum. It’s a show that’s hard to grasp and feels overwhelming – you’re at the mercy of its weirdness every week. That’s why I think you should just laugh and have fun watching it without thinking about the meaning.
Q: Finally, let’s talk about Anitore! EX.
A: It’s an innovative anime that has a virtual-reality kind of feel to it where you, as the viewer, get into the mood to train together with a group of cute girls. In episode 1 you get to meet Asami-chan who faces the screen and squishes the cheek of her partner – you’ll feel like your own cheek is being pinched for real. It’s an exciting new sensation.
Q: What kind of character is Tachibana Shion, whom you voice?
A: Shion-chan is an openly chuuni, strange girl and amongst the show’s 5 characters, is the one who is most far removed from reality and the one most likely to be made fun of. Even when she’s explaining the exercises, she goes “This dance will revive the false god of the depths of darkness” and that makes you think, ‘What the heck is she talking about?’ (laughs). The other girls can make your heart flutter but Shion-chan will make you think that she’s an interesting person.
Q: The training parts are supervised by Sports Club Renaissance – that makes the content authentic.
A: That’s right! When I tried doing the exercises for real, I found that they were tough. They’re hard even for guys to do so it’s surprising that these cute girls are able to pull them off. Also, episode 1 talks about how Asami-chan is working hard to exercise so that she can eat her beloved soft ice-cream, and there’s a scene at a convenience store selling the ice-cream where Shion-chan is working part-time – that was done in collaboration with Ministop.
Q: The 5 main characters sing the theme song as well.
A: It’s a song called Vital Exercise; it’s fun to both sing and listen to and will make you want to move your body. It firsts plays during the ending credits where Asami-chan dances to the tune; in future, please do sing along and remember the steps as well so you can dance together with us. Incidentally, the ending credits also includes the staff’s BMI (body mass index) figures – that’s something revolutionary (laughs). The c/w track is interesting as well. Like something you’ve heard somewhere before (laughs).
Q: Please tell us what the charms and highlights of the show are.
A: It’s nice to be able to exercise together with cute girls in their rooms. You can see the hobbies and characteristics of each of the girls through their rooms, you’ll almost feel like you’re friends with them. Counting along so that you can get in sync with the anime characters, as well as get closer to them – I think those are wonderful parts. Feel the burning appeal of these cute girls and exercise together with them so that you can burn your body fat too (laughs).
Q: It’s an amazing feat to have 3 main roles within 1 cour, but do you get confused when all 3 are so different in terms of direction?
A: All three are their own force of nature and I’m having fun with the acting, as well as learning more about different types of works and characters. I’d be happy if you could watch all 3 shows and think, “Naganawa sure is working hard” (laughs).