Name: Kanemoto Hisako (金元 寿子)
DoB: 16 December 1987
Hometown: Kurashiki, Okayama
Agency: Production Baobab
Kanemoto, nicknamed Hii-chan, originally joined an affiliate company of Production Baobab in 2008 before winning a public audition for the Sword World 2.0 Tanodan table-top RPG. From 2009, she joined the Baobab main agency and made her debut in Sora no Manimani using the stage name Aikawa Juri, before switching back to her real name later that year. By the following year she was landing lead roles in So.Ra.No.Wo.To and Shinryaku! Ika-musume and she also won a Best Female Newcomer award at the 5th Seiyuu Awards.
In 2012 however, Kanemoto was implicated by netizens for her role in the Kokoro Connect bullying incident and her public image took a bit of a beating. After issuing a public apology, she kept her head down and continued to work hard and the upshot is that her career has survived pretty much unscathed. Some of her recent high-profile works includes Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, the Durarara!! Series, Assassination Classroom and the Sailor Moon reboot.
Hii-chan is the 100th seiyuu to feature in Da Vinci’s 声優図鑑 feature.
Q: You’ve been cast in a lot of works but first of all, allow us to ask us about your currently airing anime. What kind of girl is Atra, the character you voice in Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, which has been airing since last October?
A: There are a lot of scenes in the show featuring conversations about life in general; in the midst of that is (Atra), a warm, gentle child who never lets the heavy atmosphere burden her. She may be young but she tries extremely hard to be a pillar of support for everyone – she’s a girl who is very strong at heart. I get a bit nervous during recording since she’s operating at a different pace compared to those around her (laughs) but that in itself, may be (one of) her strengths.
Q: In Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri, you voice a character named Tuka. The 2nd cour is finally going on air – is there anything in particular people should look out for?
A: Actually, there’s a really important scene that will show how Tuka overcomes a certain incident. It’s a powerful scene so please look forward to it.
Q: You have voiced a variety of roles up until this point – which one of your works did you see as being a turning point?
A: I’d say So.Ra.No.Wo.To (2010), the show in which I voiced my first ever leading part. The role of Kanata was the start of my life as a seiyuu. I think it’s fair to say that without So.Ra.No.Wo.To, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. There was work in front of the camera, there were interviews. It also gave me my first opportunity to sing a chara song – really, it was this show that brought me to the realization that seiyuu work is in reality, different to what I had imagined it to be – it wasn’t enough to be merely good at acting, you had to be able to do a lot of other things as well (laughs). Thanks to So.Ra.No.Wo.To, I started getting more chances to work on anime and a lot of aspects [of my life] changed.
Q: What was your original reason for wanting to become a seiyuu?
A: I only decided upon it during my third year of high school, when it was time for us to choose our career paths. I was relatively late in making my decision, compared to other people. I loved anime and foreign dramas so I had a bit of interest in the seiyuu profession but I was aware that I was really bad at speaking.
Q: That doesn’t seem so apparent now.
A: I was a lot worse at it back then (laughs). What’s more, I was a shy person and had a tendency to hesitate in everything. But my desire to take up voice acting studies grew stronger, and I enrolled in a vocational school in Kobe. That means that I only started acting once I was in training school.
Q: Were there any shows that influenced you in the times before you became a seiyuu? I hear that you liked Hikaru no Go?
A: I think that I was mostly influenced by the kind of shows aimed at kids that aired in the evening slots. Anime that I really love include Turn A Gundam and Sherlock Hound. I really love the music in Turn A Gundam composed by Kanno Yoko-san, that was the first time I felt compelled to chase after anime music (laughs). I used to record music on Mini Discs to listen to in those days.
Q: So you became interested in anisong from that time as well?
A: That’s right. It made me start to think “Wow, anisong is cool~”. I really loved those theme songs from battle girls’ anime like Magic Knight Rayearth as well. I think it was my love for such things that over time, gradually developed into an interest in seiyuu work.
Q: Having gone through such experiences, what were your impressions of actually singing a character song for So.Ra.No.Wo.To?
A: For So.Ra.No.Wo.To, I just sang normally in my natural voice. It was to be my first time singing on record, so before I received any information about the recording, I went along to karaoke with some of the staff members and performed a couple of tunes in front of them. I was insanely nervous (laughs). So yeah there was that, and the finished chara song ended up sounding quite natural. One song that I was really conscious of singing in character for was for Shinryaku! Ika-musume (2010), The lyrics featured all her speech nuances, plus it was my first time performing a musical interlude.
Q: Your character’s voice in Shinryaku! Ika-musume left quite the impression!
A: As it was a role that involved quickly switching between her ‘laughing’ and ‘angry’ modes, I found it a bit of a challenge back then. Also, after you’ve spent some time away from the role it can be slightly difficult to click into gear once again. But I remember watching my seniors and being amazed at how they weren’t fazed by that. Ika-musume was a pretty powerful work and the characters had great impact as well and to me, it’s an established title. If the opportunity ever arises, I’d like to reprise the role (laughs).
Q: I’ll definitely have to check that out when it happens! (laughs) You’ve appeared in numerous other interesting shows apart from that so I’m thinking that you do find acting fun after all, don’t you?
A: To tell the truth, I’m always thinking that acting is a tough job (laughs). Of course acting has its fun aspects but there is no ‘right answer’ so trying to tackle the question seriously would be hard. What I find the most fun is when I’m engaging in dialogue with other people. However, there are always challenges in front of me – just when I think I’ve cleared one hurdle, there’s always another one waiting ahead. I don’t think I’ll ever successfully eliminate all these obstacles (laughs).
Q: Last year, you released a private album titled Fantastic Voyage. What did you learn from the process of making the record?
A: As it was a memorial album, I was happy to be able to sing songs that I liked and to decide on what kind of mood I wanted for it. I’m originally from Okayama Prefecture so there’s a song included that introduces Okayama. Thanks to this album, I was able to hold an independent event in my hometown in Okayama. I felt that there was a ‘connection’ there, so to speak.
Q: This is the independent event that was held on 6th December 2015 in Okayama, right?
A: I serve as the ‘Ambassador of the Sunny Nation of Okayama’ so I had been thinking about doing something in Okayama.I had a desire to try organizing an event so alongside my older sister who works as a manicurist in our hometown, I made the decision to hold an event.
Q: Did you get any feedback on your first independent event?
A: The intention was to showcase songs from my private album and I had always wanted to give something back to my fans, so I had thought that it’d be great if such an event could bring cheer to others. I came up with everything from the planning to the actual execution and in the process, I got to learn how each step was difficult in its own way (laughs).
Q: You have a good relationship with your older sister. What do you like about her?
A: The fact that she can really knuckle down and work. She has big aspirations and moved to Tokyo to acquire her manicurist qualifications as well as personally go around various stores to receive training – it’s something to admire. She’s also the kind of person who states her opinions clearly so we do end up fighting sometimes (laughs). I like that about her too. When we went to Taiwan for a New Year’s holiday together 2 years ago, we got into a fight as well (laughs).
Q: Any reason for the fight!? (laughs)
A: One of the stores that my sister trained at before has a branch in Taiwan so she asked me to accompany her for a visit. Yet, on the day that we went to the store, we found out that it was shut. “Why didn’t you do your homework first, have we come all the way to Taiwan for this!?” (laughs). But we did make up on our way home and it was on that trip that we first talked about holding an event in Okayama.
Q: I see, so that was how it flowed. Did you always use to hang out with your sister?
A: I’ve always followed my sister around – I used to hang out and have fun with her and her friends. Whenever she took something up, I’d want to do it too, so I ended up going for abacus, swimming lessons and conversational English classes. But all I was doing was just imitating her so I didn’t last long at any of them (laughs).
Q: I have this image of you having many friends in the seiyuu world – who have you been hanging out with lately?
A: We hadn’t seen each other in a while but recently, 4 of us – me, Kayano Ai-san, Akasaki Chinatsu-san and Tamura Mutsumi-san managed to get together for a yakiniku meal. Before that, the same 4 people went to visit a beer garden in the summer – we arrange regular meet-ups to chat about all kinds of things.
Q: Who’s the mood-maker in the group?
A: Akasaki-san and Tamura-san are the lively ones. They’re the proactive type, initiating plans and deciding where we should go. Kayano-san would be the one who expertly keeps track of all those plans.
Q: You celebrated your birthday last December 16 – were there any happy celebrations?
A: I celebrated the milestone with friends but also, there was a surprise cake prepared for me during my personal event. I was supposed to have arranged the entire proceedings by myself but my sister made her own adjustments (laughs). I was really happy to hear everyone at the venue singing Happy Birthday to me.
Q: What an amazing sister (laughs). Do you have any recent horror stories to tell!?
A: Loads, but most of my horror stories occur when I’m in the kitchen. I don’t do much housework but when I do, I always mess up. Boiling stuff ‘til it spills over, foodstill raw when it’s served up, stuff like that (laughs). It’d all go well if only I looked at the recipe, but I like to cook by relying on my senses. Eating my own cooking gives me stomach woes so I recently resolved never to cook again (laughs).
Q: Thank you for that valuable information (laughs). Your range of work has become broader – is there anything in particular that you’d like to take on the challenge of in the future?
A: I haven’t done too much film dubbing work so I’d like to try out more of that. I’ve always loved foreign dramas. I’d also like to act on stage. I’ve only ever done that once and I found it very interesting to be able to perform on stage in such close proximity to your acting partner as well as the audience. As it was my first experience of the stage there were lots of things that I wasn’t yet able to do, so I’d like another chance to spear on stage in the future.
Q: Have there been any issues that have come up for you with regards to acting?
A: Up ‘til this point I’d mostly been playing innocent, straightforward young characters but lately I’ve had more chances to voice adults. It’s a new task for me; to solidify my acting foundations so that I can firmly capture the complex emotions (behind these characters). It’s interesting to be able to learn more about the human senses. For example, mothers who are walking on the streets will treat their children in totally different ways. I’d like to explore these differences and the psychology behind their words.
Q: What advice do you have for people hoping to become seiyuu?
A: I only realized the depth of this job once I had started working as a seiyuu but I think that nowadays, people can learn more about the profession through the net and media. If you’re aiming to become a seiyuu, I believe you should consider carefully whether you want to focus on acting or dubbing – having a clear idea of the direction you wish to take will help to lead you to the right path.
Q: Finally, please leave a message for the readers.
A: The reason I can continue working as a seiyuu is because of the existence of the (anime) works and the characters and for that, I am very grateful. From now on, I will give my best so that I can enjoy my work the same way all of you do – thank you for your support.
It’s been interesting to watch Hii-chan throughout the years – she was a fairly awkward-looking kid when she first started out with So.Ra.No.Wo.To but has really blossomed into a lovely young lady of late! I enjoyed her work on Junketsu no Maria (Maria) and SHIROBAKO (Suzuki Kyoko/Aria) as well, hopefully she continues to get a good balance of cute and serious roles in the future.