Name: Hioka Natsumi (日岡 なつみ)
DoB: 15 July
Agency: Production Baobab
Hioka Natsumi is a newcomer seiyuu whose first leading role is in the spring anime adaptation of manga Kumamiko. Da Vinci interviewed her.
Q: What kind of girl is Fuyuki Yuka, your character in the smartphone game School Star Dream! that was released in December last year?
A: She’s a girl with twintails, as well as the only character who wears glasses. The game tells the story of a group of fledgling idols as they develop into stars. Yuka, originally a net idol, is incredibly curious as well as passionate about idols in general. She’s a tsundere by nature, or should I say, a tsuntsuntsundere by nature, but when she’s in idol mode she becomes ‘Yuka-tan’ and says things like ‘I’ll make your heart go boom’ – she’s a true idol (laughs). That gap is so cute; I think you couldn’t possibly hate a girl like her.
Q: It’s an idol rhythm game that takes you through their elementary, junior and high school years – that means you get to hear their character songs over those three periods of time as well.
A: That meant that I not only did I have to make each of those parts sound distinct, but I also had to sing them differently as well; I had great fun doing that. All of the characters’ faces, uniforms and hairstyles change over time. I did my best to make sure my voice adapted as Yuka grew up so I hope that people will like what they hear, and enjoy the game as well.
Q: We can’t wait ‘til Kumamiko, in which you voice the role of Amayadori Machi, goes on air in April! Recording sessions have already begun, what have they been like so far?
A: Machi is a girl who has this complex about the fact that she grew up deep in the mountains of the countryside; she admires city life, but has certain frailties about her. Like how she tends to burst into tears when she doesn’t get what she wants or ends up collapsing from a high fever (laughs). I’d like for you to look forward to how her expressions keep changing like the seasons. It’s a fun show that throws up surreal gags amidst the heart-warming moments (laughs).
Q: Tell us why you wanted to become a seiyuu!
A: When I was in high school, I watched late-night anime that a friend had recommended to me and that was how I learned about the world of voice acting. I’m actually from Sapporo in Hokkaido. Initially, I had a vague desire to go to Tokyo to study voice acting and over time, those feelings grew – I managed to persuade my parents, who were against the idea, to allow me to enter training school in Tokyo. “If you don’t produce the results you must come home,” was what they said to me, but I have a headstrong personality when it comes to things that I truly want…and that has gotten me to where I am today.
Q: What anime did you watch in high school that influenced you in such a way?
A: The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Macross F and so on. I also really loved Eden of the East; it was the show that got me addicted to anime in the first place. I had picked it up because I liked manga and was curious about Umino Chica-san’s character designs.
Q: Eden of the East was noitaminA’s first original production. What drew you in when you started watching the show?
A: The protagonist Takizawa-kun had this cool aura that was only made possible because it was an anime. I first gained an interest in seiyuu work because I was pulled in by the performances of Kimura Ryohei-san and Hayami Saori-san. The film was also a big influence on me. The way that their voices resonated in the cinema left a strong impression and I started to wonder whether my voice would sound the same if I were ever to appear in a movie. I hope I have the chance to be part of an anime film someday.
Q: You were already reading manga before you started watching anime. Any works in particular?
A: I’ve been reading Space Brothers over these few years. I can really relate to its story about people chasing after their dreams. Reading it gets my tear ducts going and I always end up crying (laughs). I do think it’s important for one to chase after their dreams; hopefully someday I can be involved with a show that makes people feel the same way, like a manga that inspires people to want to do their best.
Q: So manga can be a source of inspiration for aspiring voice actors.
A: That’s right. There was actually a period of time where I strongly desired to enter the world of manga by getting a job related to the industry. If my art was any good I’d have wanted to become a mangaka (laughs). If I became a seiyuu, I thought I’d be able to make those characters become even more alive inside myself. That was also something I admired about voice acting.
Q: I see. Is there any particular work, if it were to be adapted to anime, that you’d like to appear in?
A: Machi de Uwasa no Tengu no Ko (author: Iwamoto Nao). It’s a shojo manga with heart-warming fantasy elements and the final arc’s development was awesome! The art is really amazing as well and I think it’d be fantastic if it were to be made into an anime.
Q: You must’ve lived your life surrounded by manga (laughs).
A: All in all, there are probably around 1000 volumes of manga in our family home! We did get them all in order once before, but the pile just kept on growing after that. I like to keep them on hand since I see them as an extension of myself. I’ve been reading manga since I was in elementary school and my roots are in the shojo genre. Recently, I looked through my collection and read Doubutsu no Oisha-san, which was serialized in Hana to Yume and that I just completed buying all volumes of. The story is set in Sapporo. It’s fun to recognize places I actually know as well as being interesting to see how the animals converse in their own language. I also recently re-read Marmalade Boy, which ran in Ribbon magazine.
Q: Your hobby is ‘eating delicious things’. What’s your favourite food?
A: Things like liver or milt; basically I like offal (laughs). I like delicacies like salted squid too. Maybe it’s because I’m from Hokkaido that I like the taste of the salty tang of the sea. One of the foods I recently ate as a reward – Haagen-Dazs. Also, I sometimes buy good cuts of meat and grill them to eat! Coat ‘em in some cooking wine, then grill on both sides.
Q: We hear you like music as well. What kind of songs do you listen to?
A: I often listen to Sakanaction’s music. I like techno and electro-ish songs, modern pop music. Lots of (Sakanaction’s) songs have ‘night’ as a theme and I can feel the loneliness, the sorrow, the sadness. But it’s not like they’re all pitch black; rather, they have this image of the hope you feel when a new day dawns. It might just be my imagination or something, but as the band’s members are from Otaru and Sapporo, their music feels like Hokkaido to me (laughs). There’s a sense of nostalgia about their music and I have a lot of favourite songs by them.
Q: What’s the first ever CD you bought?
A: aiko’s CD. When I go to karaoke I mostly sing aiko’s songs as well. Songs like Hanabi or Kabutomushi. I mostly sing major, popular songs when I go to karaoke with other people but she has lots of B-side tracks that I love as well. I like to sing her song Dryer as I’m drying my hair (laughs). “Ahh, let’s sing Dryer!!” (laughs).
Q: You favour both ‘Hokkaido-made’ manga and artists, don’t you? (laugh) You must really love your hometown.
A: Yes I do~. I love the streets of Sapporo but above all, I love my family. I mail and call them every day; I’ve been homesick all the time since I came to Tokyo (laughs). I LOVE my hometown so much I wonder if I’ll be homesick for life (laughs).
Q: Do you normally hang out with other seiyuu?
A: I have regular girls’ gatherings with my agency colleagues Tanaka Manami-chan and Fukuda Ai-chan, from the time we were appearing on the Dokidoki Uma-girl programme together. Just the other day we had a takoyaki party at Ai-chan’s house! They turned out pretty well. Ai-chan baked mini cakes too. The 3 of us had a fun girls’ chat (laughs).
Q: You’ve started Twitter recently. What has the reaction been like?
A: The other day I uploaded a photo of a mysterious character called ‘Kurimikan-chan’ and people replied that it looked ‘weird’ (laughs). What I did was hold two oranges, stuff a chestnut in my mouth and had a photo taken. It seems I have the tendency to shock people at times (laughs)
Q: Indeed, it might’ve been shocking (laugh). Do you have any other outrageous stories to share from your daily life?
A: When I’m alone at home, I turn on Michael Jackson’s songs and dance along to the music (laughs). And maybe this is not quite as outrageous, but I occasionally write poems. I used to like writing stories and poems so I have these embarrassing notebooks that I never want anyone to see. I’m the creative type and also used to draw my own illustrations, kind of like picture books. As I gaze at my PC I’d start drawing up my own “Tales of PC-chan” (laughs).
Q: As a seiyuu, what are you most conscious about when it comes to acting?
A: During recordings for Kumamiko, I’m constantly trying to figure out why such words would come from my character. Rather than just looking at it superficially, I try to look at things in an in-depth manner so that I can polish my acting at the same time.
Q: What challenges would you like to take on in the future?
A: With regards to acting – there are characters that aren’t just cute but are also interesting, they may be mild on the outside but robust at their core; it’s going to be very difficult but I hope I can become an actress who can take on the challenge of such roles that have great depth.
Q: Please leave a message for the readers!
A: I’d be glad if by reading this article, you’d gain even the slightest bit of interest in who Hioka Natsumi is, and I hope you can continue to check out (my work) in the future. I’ll work hard to make my Twitter interesting (laughs) so I’d be grateful if you could keep an eye out for that too!