#109 – Naganawa Maria

Pt.2 of her Nichinare interview. Read Pt.1 here.

Q: Please tell us why you wanted to become a seiyuu.

A: First of all – back when I was in junior high, I took part in a campaign to promote non-smoking and my group did shout-outs on the street. We’d each say a word, one by one, and as I said my part there was a bit of commotion amongst the crowd. Someone said to me, “Your voice is amazing”. My classmates always imitated the way I spoke when I answered teachers’ questions and that made me wonder if my voice was something that was unusual.

Secondly, I loved listening to radio shows that seiyuu appeared on – the ‘gap’ between their normal and acting voices surprised me. They could be so articulate on the radio yet play gentle, cute characters on screen. I was impressed, thinking “Seiyuu are amazing! So cool!” and though I was unsure whether I could be a seiyuu myself, I thought that I would just try my best and aim towards becoming one.

Q: Did you often watch anime?

A: In those days, I used to watch the shows that were being broadcast in the evening or at night such as ONE PIECE, Naruto and Detective Conan together with my family. I gradually became more interested in anime from then onwards.

Q: When did you actually start taking action in your bid to become a seiyuu?

A: When I was in my 2nd year of high school I enrolled in the Nagoya branch of Nichinare. I’d already looked up voice training schools in my 1st year and had my heart set on Nichinare. I was thinking that I would enrol when I was less busy with club activities. However, due to my horrible tendency to be overly laidback, I missed the deadline for signing up for trial lessons (laughs). Thus in the following year, I signed up right at the start of the application period.

Q: It’s still remarkable that you had already planned to enter Nichinare by your first year of high school. Why did you choose Nichinare?

A: Because classes were only held once a week, so I could attend it while still schooling.

Q: Did you take up the free trial lesson prior to enrolling?

A: Yes! I had absolutely no acting experience in plays or anything; I’d never even raised my voice before so it was an eye-opener for me. My fellow participants were already familiar with voice projection and had acted before. I got worried, wondering “can I really do this?”

Q: How did your family react to your desire to enrol in Nichinare?

A: I hadn’t even taken a single (acting) lesson up ‘til then, so I never actually talked to them about wanting to enrol. When I eventually discussed it with them, they were OK with it and said “Go ahead and try it out”.

Q: What were your thoughts and impressions of Nichinare once you were actually enrolled?

A: I got a bit of a culture shock, just like when I went for the free trial lesson – each of my classmates seemed to have a really huge presence (laughs). It was all I could do to keep up with the lecturers, as well as the rest of my class.

Q: What sort of classes did you take in Nichinare?

A: For the first year it was all basics – the foundations of vocalization, abdominal breathing, etudes. I had to learn first of all, to express myself in a commanding voice without getting embarrassed. Since classes were only once a week I’d practice what I’d learnt at home, as well as do the Nichinare-style of stretching..in my room and in the bath. It’d be embarrassing doing that in front of my parents (laughs).

Q: What exactly is Nichinare-style stretching?

A: They’re actually yoga-style stretches and it’s painful to do them properly. You’ll break into a sweat even doing it briefly. I think it’s beneficial to do not just as a seiyuu, but for health maintenance as well. I feel like it’s helped made my body more flexible…though I haven’t been doing it recently, so I’m probably back to being stiff (laughs).

Q: Did you advance steadily through the regular course in your second year?

A: To tell the truth, I thought it would be impossible for me to progress on to the regular course so I had told my mom, “Just let me do this, even if it’s for 1 year”. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to become a seiyuu and on top of that I was a very shy person, so I took the lessons with the hope of curing my shyness. I was surprised that someone like me could advance to the regular course…though of course, I did feel strongly about wanting to become a seiyuu.

Q: What did you learn on the regular course?

A: There were formal lessons on acting and voice acting, recitals using scripts and dialogue recitations. As an example, there was a lesson where we had to, create and act out a story within 1 minute & 30 seconds, based on the lyrics of your favourite song. There were many new experiences for me and I had great fun thinking about them. “Just what kind of lessons will I have next week?” or “I wonder what we’ll do next time?” – I was really looking forward to it. I recall that it was during my time in the regular courses that I stopped being nervous about speaking in public. I was able to talk to people while looking them in the eye; I think I grew up a bit from my time in the basic course.

Q: What were the circumstances that led to you joining your (current) agency?

A: Actually, as the affiliation auditions were carried out at the same time as the promotion examinations, I did not only advance to the regular course but also passed the I’m Enterprise admission tests. It was just an unbelievable thing to happen – while wondering, “What the heck should I do now!?”, my parents gave me the push on the back I needed, saying “Since you’ve already gotten the chance to join the agency, you might as well just give it your best shot and see what happens”.

Q: It’s amazing that you got signed up by an agency so quickly!

A: After my attachment to the agency was confirmed, one of the staff members said to me “You’re still in high school so you should prioritize your education for now” and I was very grateful for those warm words. If I had not been admitted into the agency, I was thinking of going on to a local college so I was happy to have my career path decided early on. My parents did say to me that they hoped that I could get something to fall back on as well, so for the 1 year after I graduated high school I went to a vocational school to acquire a professional qualification. I was staying in a dorm during that period and it was tough to have curfews. Whenever I had jobs come up, I was always afraid that I wouldn’t make it back in time before the doors closed.

Q: You’re still attending training programmes right now even as you’re working in the field. What sort of lessons are you taking?

A: In the week leading up to this feature, I was mostly doing dialogue work similar to what you hear on drama CDs while this week, I’ll be working on afureko lessons. The content of the lessons represents a step up for me – some of my classmates who I’m studying with have already started working in the field and there are some others who are really talented as well, so it’s a great opportunity for me to learn. In the studio, you’d always feel a bit tense for fear of messing up but in lessons there are no such worries and I have fun going all out and challenging myself.

Q: Incidentally, your début anime was as one of the main characters, Theiamillis Gre Fortorthe in Rokujoma no Shinryakusha!?.

A: It was the 2nd ever audition that I had taken, during the gap between my advancement from the basic to the regular course – it was actually my first time auditioning in a studio. What’s more, it was the first time in my life standing in front of a mic; I was so nervous!

Q: Who would’ve expected a home run right off the bat! What was your reaction when you found out that you would be making your debut?

A: I was shocked, thinking “It’s a miracle!”. When I relayed the news to my parents they were both surprised and very happy. The studio recording represented one of many firsts for me as well, so I was nothing but a bundle of nerves. Every week (in the studio) was an opportunity to learn for me and taking on the advice I got from everyone there, I gave my absolute best in voicing Tia.

Q: What did you learn in your time at Nichinare that was helpful, and that you still utilize in your work now?

A: Everything I learned has been of use! What left the biggest impression though, was what I was taught by Sakamoto Chika-san, to be conscious about wanting to try out various things. Don’t just try to keep things normal and stay in your safety zone; when the chance to do something interesting comes up, do it – I always have these thoughts in mind when it comes to decision-making when I’m on the job.

Q: What do you think are the merits and the attractions of a place like Nichinare?

A: First of all, the variety of courses available allows people to learn at their own pace based on their own situations, whether you are a student or are working. Also, there are 10 schools located throughout the country so it’s great to be able to easily attend one that is near where you live. You get to learn together with people who are highly knowledgeable and share advice, helping each other to grow while strengthening your bonds. The friends I made from my time spent in the lessons remain treasures to me. I believe that you too, will surely meet such great companions.

Q: What are your future goals as a seiyuu?

A: I want to voice mascot characters. Being a mascot character means you can cheer along (for whatever it is that you’re a mascot for) as well as be much loved by many people regardless of age, for a long time. Also, I’d like to try out the type of characters that are on charge of giving the explanations in shows. I’m not 100% confident in my ability to recite (lengthy) lines smoothly yet, but such roles require the actor to speak clearly in a voice that can easily be transmitted to listeners; if I could have such a role it’d help me to improve my line recitations. Right now, I’m having a lot of fun meeting the new characters I voice with each new show I work on, so I’ll focus on giving my best for each and every job I get.

Q: Lastly, please give some advice and a message to those who are aiming to become seiyuu.

A: Nichinare is a place where many seniors have gone on to achieve great success and that is the proof of the effectiveness of its lessons and its achievements. Also, it is a place that allows those who are like me and do not live in Tokyo, yet desire to become seiyuu, to easily learn. I was able to début while still studying (at Nichinare) so do not give up and take on the challenge. For those who are interested in Nichinare, just request for information and sign up for that free trial lesson. Take action as soon as you think of doing something! That’s advice from me, based on my own experiences (laughs). I myself am just a fresh, new rookie so for all my future roles and works, I will use what I have learned in Nichinare in order to further grow. Let’s do our best together!


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