Monthly Archives: June 2016

Otsuka Akio’s Seiyuu Tamashii

Hooray, another entry in the ‘oldfags shitting on modern day seiyuu and the industry’. Maybe I should start a tag for that.

Anyway, I have referred to this book previously. With almost 30 years’ experience, Otsuka is one of the most publicly recognized seiyuu with extensive work in anime, dramas and on the stage. He is also the son of the late, great Otsuka Chikao, one of the members of the pioneering group of actors back in the 1960s who helped shape ‘seiyuu’ into the profession it is today.

Like many of his generation, Otsuka doesn’t mince his words and pretty much rips into everything and everyone; from his contemporaries and juniors to anime fans to the industry itself. Much of the book repeats the same kind of sentiments, trying to drive home the core message that ‘young people today should not aim to become seiyuu’.

As in real life with baby boomers complaining about millennials in the workplace, it’s obvious that there is a sizable divide between the veterans and rookies in the seiyuu industry. Lest we forget though, the veterans themselves also rarely saw eye-to-eye with their seniors (to put it frankly, those who are now either dead or retired). They were however, more subservient back then and dared not rock the boat for fear of losing their jobs but at the same time, they were also more resilient than today’s seiyuu appear to be. Most of them tell similar kind of life stories – just look through the Seiyuu Road tag for some examples.

Obviously the young seiyuu of today face an altogether different set of problems but I doubt the gap between the young and the old will be bridged at any point. But that’s just life – the condescension of seniority, the petulance of youth. A cycle that will no doubt be repeated 10-15 years down the line when all your current favourites are greying or balding or have married into obscurity.

Tl;dr. Translated a couple of chapters of Otsuka Akio’s Seiyuu Tamashii on a private basis, might as well let them see the light of day. Not promising that I’ll do the whole thing though…!

Link to contents page – I’ll be dumping all the chapters under the pages section of the blog so check back every errr…6 months to see if I’ve translated any more.

Ps. Otsuka’s just put out another book called Seiyuu Juku for the people who didn’t heed his advice in the first book and still want to become seiyuu, hah. Got that one on order so let’s see how it turns out…

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Seiyuu Premium: #2 – Shiina Hekiru

#2. Shiina Hekiru – Between a seiyuu and an artist
shiina
Shiina Hekiru is the first seiyuu to hold a concert at the Nippon Budokan. Today, it is considered normal for female seiyuu to have artist activities. One of the primary reasons that this is now possible is because of Shiina’s success that started in the 90s. Despite amassing popularity through energetic live tours and numerous CD releases, she was also exposed to strong headwinds. What does Shiina, who paved a new path for seiyuu to walk, have to say of those days?

Interviewer: Saito Takashi, Photography: Taiko Kuniyoshi, Hairstyling: SHUZO

I’d sing while questioning myself, crying in frustration

Q: Last year, you held a series of monthly acoustic lives that took in songs from your back catalogue.

A: [I] selected songs from my 1st all the way to my 16th and latest album – took a few from each, rearranged them and sang acoustic versions.

Q: You must have performed these songs live for what seems like forever. Did the process revive any memories for you?

A: I’d say that it was more about making discoveries rather than reminiscing. ‘Ah, it was structured this way’. Or ‘So we used that chord progression there’. It might be a bit late in coming, but I’ve arrived at a point where I can say that I’m able to analyse my music.

Q: But you didn’t originally enter this industry with the objective of breaking into music.

A: I became a seiyuu because I genuinely wanted to act. I wanted to be like Tanaka Mayumi-san.

Q: How much interest did you have in music before you became a seiyuu?

A: I loved singing. Karaoke boxes became the trend when I was in high school. When I sang, I’d always choose Princess Princess’s songs first. Then SHOW-YA, followed by Nakamori Akina and songs by idols; those were my staple choices. I guess my tastes leaned towards the pop-rock genre.

Q: Did you not feel uncomfortable about the fact that singing came along with seiyuu work?

A: Character songs would be sung from an acting perspective, with the personality of the role in question. I had no idea what an ‘original me’ should sound like. My first song was for a video game. It was from a period when games were starting to include voice acting and character songs would be recorded alongside the game’s music. I saw increasing opportunities to perform at events such as video game shows at Makuhari.

Q: Did you enjoy such events?

A: I saw it as work rather than something that was to be enjoyed. I was a mere rookie at the time, hell-bent on doing my job properly and not messing up. However, I used to do jazz dance so I did not oppose the notion of having to dance.

Q: Perhaps the OVA Idol Defense Force Hummingbird (1993) was the precursor to, say, the µ’s etc of today.

A: If that’s what people say, then maybe so? That certainly seems like the way things have flowed. In [Hummingbird], the characters with idol roles had to sing too.

Q: From there, you went on to make your CD debut with Shiena (1994), not with character songs but under your own name. Indeed, what were you to do when it came to making original music?

A: I really had no idea of what and how I should sing. I was given a lot of difficult, jazz fusion songs, the total opposite of the type of character songs I’d been singing. I did not know how to express myself singing songs about adult love at all. In the studio, I’d sing while crying tears of frustration, questioning myself, “Is this how I should be singing?”.

‘This is the kind of music I like’ – being able to express my opinions set me free

Q: So it wasn’t like you were just going along for the ride when you started your music career?

A: I’m the type of person who’s able to enjoy anything I do, with the exception of singing in front of a crowd – it was distressing and made me feel like I wanted to die (laughs). I was afraid of performing live. It was so bad that I felt like throwing up at times; before my 1st live tour I was told, “If you really can’t take it then we’ll just stop with the 1st tour. We won’t do a 2nd one” so I decided that ‘I would give my best and do this one tour properly’. For each of the challenges I’ve faced, be it singing or dancing – when you’re standing there on stage, the fans will be the ones who evaluate you. When I heard their reactions: “It was good”, a sense of accomplishment was born. Of course, there were people writing opinions along the lines of “Your songs? They ain’t songs”, but all I thought in response was: “Well, maybe if I change the way I present [my music], then perhaps that guy might enjoy it”.

Q: Musically you started to become more hard rock-oriented. Was it a sign that you were beginning to assert yourself as an artist?

A: At one point, my music producer asked me, “Hekiru, what do you want to express?”. Until then, I’d never dared to speak up. I was told, “It’s alright to bring out more of your own personality. It’s not a character song after all” and for the first time I was able to express myself, saying “this is the kind of music that I like”, and it set me free.

Q: At what point did you start liking hard rock?

A: I already liked it from the time I was singing Princess Princess and SHOW-YA songs at the karaoke. I did love singing ‘BACK TO THE FIRE!’* (laughs). I was heavily into Hamada Mari-chan too. I’d pick those days as the original starting point.

*lyric from SHOW-YA’s Genkai Lovers

Q: You’ve previously mentioned Deep Purple, BOWWOW and LOUDNESS, bands that aren’t from your era.

A: The artist that opened my eyes to Western music was B’z. At first I didn’t even know how many members B’z had, nor did I know the name of the band’s vocalist (laughs). I stumbled across them when I heard their songs playing on the radio in my manager’s car. I said to him “These guys, their music is amazing!’ and I proceeded to collect all of their CDs to listen to, which were wonderful. Following that I started to dig deeper into B’z’s roots and that led me to Deep Purple and Rainbow. The record that reflected those changing tastes was my 3rd album No Make Girl (1995). That was around the time (the arranger) Goto Tsugutoshi-san came in.

Q: During the period where you released your 3rd and 4th albums you frequently commented that ‘[having] direction does not give shape or form’.

A: It was a trial and error process and went on for over 10 years. My vocal range isn’t like that of a guy’s; it just doesn’t work when I try to produce ‘thick’ vocals, plus my voice falls within the same band of sound as a Strat(ocaster) and they end up clashing. I’d ask the guitarist [to make adjustments] and he’d try switching to a Les Paul instead, stuff like that. We tested out various combinations, changing things up in order to achieve a good balance with the vocals.

Q: Without changing your intended route you managed to establish a guitar-rock style.

A: I put in a few requests like, “I’d like the drums to sound like Cozy Powell” or “The snare drums have to be like this”. The producers would have to carefully think about how to balance things, taking my voice into consideration. All I do is talk, and it costs nothing (laughs). For example, if I liked Dream Theater [my producer] would ask “What exactly do you like about them?” and I’d say things like “This bit of guitar by John Petrucci is awesome” and he’d nod his head, “Ah, that part”. “So let’s do it this and build it up from there” etc. In some ways, the process became a lot simpler from my 7th album when Akashi Masao-san came in as producer.

Q: And [Akashi] was a big name, having worked on B’z music.

A: He’s someone who understood what I wanted and would pull out music from the 70s, 80s or 90s and show me, “This is what you want it to sound like, right?”. I’m very thankful to him.

Q: You went down the rock route starting with your 5th album Baby blue eyes (1998), which more or less achieved the image you were aiming for.

A: The 5th album was just the beginning. One of my producers back then [note: Take Shingo] had helped make Matsutoya Yumi’s albums in the past; he was knowledgeable about Western music and he oversaw the aggressive addition of Western music elements to my 5th and 6th albums. Even the guitarist(s) looked like the kind of people who leaned towards such influences. Tight, black leather pants with unkempt hair (laughs). They’d make you think ‘they’re exactly like the rockers from the 70s and 80s!’ – having them hanging around the studio made it a really rewarding place for me.

I sensed that the more recognition I gained, the more number of unburiable gaps emerged

Q: But at the time, you didn’t rate your own albums highly.

A: I was never satisfied with any of them.

Q: Perhaps you were aiming very high, but during interviews for CD promotions you’d say things like “I give my performance 50 marks”. I thought it was unusual for an artist to say that.

A: It’s because I’m honest. It’s true though, isn’t it? Up ‘til that point I had never thought about being a vocalist and it was unrealistic to think that I could suddenly be able to deliver on the high quality songs that were given to me. It’s obvious whether or not a person can sing, isn’t it? “I can’t keep up with the music at all!” – this was the huge dilemma I was facing, yet I didn’t even have the time to think about how I should deal with it as I hurtled from a tour to preparing for the next single release. Somehow, whatever I did would pass by without me ever feeling truly satisfied with what I’d done.

Q: Didn’t you consider that it was a good effort ‘for a seiyuu’, or that it’s alright ‘as long as the fans are happy’ with it?

A: Well, people pay good money to buy my CDs, don’t they? They’d get mad if I’d ended up putting rubbish on them. Nowadays we have things like Pro Tools that can make anyone sound like a competent singer but back then there wasn’t anything like that and failures weren’t allowed. I always used to have to record through the night and into the morning. Now, you record a bit and you can stop to fix stuff, but we used to go on recording things as they were. When I put out CDs I’d have to go on TV and perform live and that heaped quite a bit of pressure on someone like me, who doesn’t possess much singing ability.

Q: If the intention was to tackle music head-on; I’m using a bit of a crass example here, you were like a pitcher who suddenly went from playing on grass fields to standing on the mound in a pro match – it wasn’t as if you had made your debut after doing music your entire life. Would you agree?

A: Yeah. However, even if everything [the venue, the team] had been handed to me on a plate, I could never accept being part of the 2nd stringers. Even if it was the last shirt number I had to be in the first team – I’d always that kind of strong sense of responsibility.

Q: The stronger the sense of responsibility, the higher that the mountains you have to climb seem to be.

A: I sensed that the more recognition I gained, the more number of unburiable gaps emerged.

Q: Did you feel like you had to put in back-breaking effort in order to fill those gaps?

A: Before I made my debut I was already taking singing and dancing lessons. I’d still feel totally fine even after 6-7 hours of practice. I used to do ballet, jazz dance and piano on a one-on-one basis with teachers from when I was young, so I had surprisingly high concentration levels. And for better or for worse, I had absolutely no other hobbies (laughs). But I signed up for these lessons because I didn’t have confidence and wanted to get over my anxieties. I had to make sure that my body was instilled [with the knowledge], or else I would never be able to give 100% when it came to the crunch. If things don’t go well during lessons there’s no way they would go well during the real thing. I’d sing and dance a couple of hundred times until I could do it flawlessly. The reason I took on the challenge of perfecting my act before the performance was because I thought that it would set me on my way towards being the ‘best’.

Q: By 1997, the year you became the first seiyuu to perform at the Nippon Budokan, did you still feel like you weren’t able to ‘keep up’?

A: But I mean, wasn’t it strange? No matter how you look at it. My first live was at Shibuya Eggman and within 2 years I was playing Nippon Budokan. A lot of things seemed to happen in quick succession, didn’t they? Both in the seiyuu industry and immediately around me. I wouldn’t say that going to Budokan was a happy thing for me – I went there despite not having put in the requisite effort nor did I overcome the necessary ordeals; all I could think was “what the heck should I do?”.

Q: You even made this comment during your MC – “thanks to all of you for bringing me to the Budokan today. Next time, I’ll be the one to bring all of you here”.

A: With that, Budokan was sealed off for me. For many years I’d said “I won’t do a concert there”. I may have great memories [of Budokan], but to me it was a place that I shouldn’t have been allowed to play considering the situation I was in. I feel frustrated about it – “I didn’t get to Budokan by my own powers”. I know it sounds like an exaggerated story, but the 23-year old me did think, “Did I really put enough effort into being the kind of human being who’s worthy of standing on the Budokan stage?”

Q: You wanted to first of all, find a good balance between your artist and seiyuu activities, correct?

A: That’s what I truly intended to do. If only I had 2 bodies… back then, I only slept for 3 hours every day. I had recordings and jacket shoots and gravure features, plus other work assignments…it seemed I was always on shift. I had live concerts to do as well. There were times where I couldn’t figure out how to press that ‘reset’ button on myself. Whenever I needed some ‘me time’ I’d leave the house at 1am and visit the Monsoon Café in Daikanyama, reading all the way until 4-5am. If I didn’t do that I might never have had time to myself.

Q: What sort of books did you read?

A: Kyogoku Natsuhiko’s Moryo no Hako or Ubume no Natsu etc. It’s a bit eerie to be reading books like that in the middle of the night (laughs). Might make other people think ‘Is this person okay?’

Q: Given such situations, did you feel that it was physically difficult to handle both artist and seiyuu activities at the same time?

A: What has changed in the industry today is the fact that it’s become normal for people to record separately from the rest of the cast, hasn’t it? That’s why it’s now acceptable for seiyuu to engage in various other activities, with things like singing and holding concerts being tolerated. In my time, it was considered outrageous if rookies dropped out of or recorded separately on shows where they were part of the regular cast. You’d be causing huge inconveniences to [everyone connected to] the entire recording so you’d have no choice but to turn up. I think the kids of today are really blessed. They can do that because of the forgiving environment these days. We weren’t so spoilt back then.

I was asked “Isn’t being a seiyuu your day job? Singing’s just something you do in relation to that?”

Q: Your music career in itself was not something you were meant to be doing indefinitely.

A: I was told, first of all, that “Being a seiyuu is your day job, isn’t it?”. That “singing’s just something you do in relation to that”. What I was doing at the time wasn’t universally accepted.

Q: If you weren’t able to do both at the same time, then you’d choose to focus on music – that was what you declared at the time.

A: I’m the type of person who’d rather focus on doing one thing well rather than not being able to do two things simultaneously. I couldn’t bring myself to do either of them half-heartedly. If I had to do either then I’d really prefer to devote myself to just one of the two. The reason I made my choice was because from amongst the thousands of letters I received, there were some from people who spent their lives in hospital or were unable to move freely. They would write many letters, telling me about how they weren’t able to go outside or hang out with friends, and that ‘what I enjoy is listening to Hekiru-san’s songs, and watching your concert videos’. That my songs were their ‘emotional support. I’d thought that I was putting up with a lot in my job as a seiyuu, but seeing how I was now in a position where I could bring even a single moment of joy to a person’s life – that really put things into perspective for me. Music can save a person’s life. It can make them smile. Knowing that such a responsibility had been thrust upon me, I decided that “this is what I want to do, now”.

Q: You still desired to work on anime at the same time?

A: In principle. I got into this industry because I wanted to be a seiyuu. Although I myself hadn’t originally intended to go down the music-making road, I thought I had to keep doing it as long as long as there were people who wanted me to. Even if the industry became strongly critical [of my choice].

Q: On the internet, it was written that [people wrote] “Hekiru Shiina proclaims herself as an artist” but there was no mention of when and where that declaration was made. Do you remember ever making such a statement?

A: This is merely speculation on my part – I’d agreed to many magazine interviews, and I believe that [the writers] would throw in certain ‘titles’ to make it easier for the general public to comprehend. That’s where someone from my record label decided that they wanted the title ‘artist’ to go along with my name – I wonder if that was how it started? If it was a music magazine I would obviously be talking about my music, and there were instances when I was told “any talk related to seiyuu is NG (off-limits)”.

Q: Such NGs would come up?

A: It wasn’t my opinions that mattered but rather, in order to market myself as an artist, there were cases where I dared not talk about my seiyuu career. Though nowadays, it’s considered a bigger selling point if one can do both activities at the same time. So if ‘seiyuu’ wasn’t listed amongst my titles then they perhaps took it to mean that ‘this person is declaring herself to be an artist’. I think my record label rep’s intention was to enable me to better penetrate mainstream markets.

Q: At the time, the word ‘seiyuu’ was [negatively] associated with otaku and was likely to ‘shut out’ music magazine readers. Do you agree?

A: It seems that it held a negative image; some people would say things like ‘isn’t it a bit disgusting’ and so on. It was actually something that I really would’ve loved to discuss, but my own tour staff had experienced being belittled by other artists’ staff members – “You’re working with a…what? Seiyuu??”. After I played the Budokan, these people’s attitudes did a 180-degree turn and there was even an increase in people wanting to get into [voice acting] themselves.

Q: Those sorts of about-turns are so common in this industry, aren’t they?

A: People did look down on me just because I was a seiyuu. When I heard about these stories, I’d retort: “I’ll definitely stare right back at them!”. Or “Stop looking down on seiyuu!”. All of the staff across all the departments I worked with would always give their best, saying “What kind of tricks should we throw in next time?”, or “What kind of performance can we come up with?” – they really did work very hard. I couldn’t forgive the fact that they were being belittled. I thought to myself, “They should just come and see one of my lives for themselves”. They should see it with their own eyes before coming to a judgment, before mocking [us]. We make CDs that are no different in quality to those of ‘artists’ and we can do proper lives – I kept thinking about wanting to show how we could do all of that.

Q: You may have received a lot of fan support for your stance, but the irony remains that despite devoting your heart and soul to music to prevent voice actors from being the subject of scorn, the seiyuu industry’s reaction [to your artist activities] was ‘you’re neglecting your day job’.

A: To me it seemed like common sense to focus on music when you’re being interviewed by music magazines. If doing that results in people thinking that ‘oh she’s proclaiming herself as an artist’ then so be it – everyone is free to interpret things however they wish. All I want to say it, ‘just please come and see for yourself what I do’. After all, seeing is believing. That is all. I don’t care about labels, whether it’s seiyuu or artist. The hope is that people pass their opinions only after seeing with their own eyes what I can do.

I wouldn’t know whether or not there was a seiyuu boom. I was just caught in a vortex

Q: Did you feel like you were in a completely different place from the seiyuu boom that was going on?

A: I wouldn’t know whether or not there was a seiyuu boom. I felt like I was slowly being swallowed up by this huge vortex. Was that what you call a boom?

Q: Even though the boom was down to you.

A: Nah, it was because of Hayashibara [Megumi]-san, wasn’t it? She was the first seiyuu idol to film a PV and she got to write monthly columns for magazines. It all started from Hayashibara-san.

Q: It’s true that Hayashibara-san was a pioneer who started her career before the boom came into effect, but I believe it was the emergence of young, visually appealing seiyuu such as Shiina-san in the mid-90s that led to the ‘movement’.

A: Nah, I think there were a lot of girls out there who were cuter than me. It’s just due to circumstance that I ended up having lots of things going for me…that is my opinion, anyhow.

Q: You released a photobook in 1995.

A: I was asked “Do you want to try releasing [a photobook]?” and I said that it was okay if my agency was alright with it. I did think, “Why me?” but back then I was just a complete newbie and I wasn’t really aware of too many things and all I thought was “Oh, so you can do this kind of work too”.

Q: Did you really speak “Hekiru-nese”?

A: I did say something like that, didn’t I? I don’t remember anything about it though. Maybe I just made it up on the spot.

Q: It wasn’t a different personality you created for yourself?

A: No, it wasn’t like that at all. I just made stuff up and I think it was other people who named it ‘Hekiru-nese’.

Q: As you pursued your career as an artist, did you ever feel like you wanted to erase the things that happened early on in your career?

A: Not really. I am who I am.

Q: Since you were doing rock, did you not think “it’d be depressing if people saw me as being cute”?

A: One of my record label reps once said that ‘I looked cute no matter what I did’ so at first, I kept on dressing up in black jackets and black leather pants for photoshoots. Hoping that I’d look a bit more ‘artistic’. Even though I didn’t own a single pair of pants myself (laughs). There were only skirts in my closet. I guess in that way, I failed to hide my childishness. I wanted my make-up and hairstyles to look a bit more mature and the staff members would work hard to do that.

Q: Did you prefer to be ‘cool’ rather than ‘cute’?

A: I think I tried to maintain as strong of a glare as I could in my photos; I rarely cracked a smile. I wasn’t that good at smiling during photoshoots. I was scared of having cameras pointed at my face and somehow, I couldn’t force myself to smile for them. The end result was that I had a lot of smart-looking, ‘artist-like’ photos.

Q: So it was your intention to reinforce that kind of image for Shiina Hekiru?

A: That was just the way things flowed. After all, I wanted to do rock music. We had meetings to decide on what photos to use for my CDs and all of the ones I said ‘looked good’ ended up being omitted. Because I’d pick photos where my face wasn’t really visible or photos from which you couldn’t even tell that it was me (laughs).

Q: Come to think of it, only your eyes were visible on the jacket photo for ‘Sora o Akiramenai’ (1996). This might be a strange way of putting it, but did you ‘dislike the cute side of yourself’?

A: On the contrary, I don’t think of myself as being cute. Perhaps I had a bit of a complex about it. I thought my face was ordinary, my body was small; perhaps, in that sense, I thought it would be better to get a bit creative with my photos.

Q: Even if there’s nothing wrong for a woman to be seen as ‘cute’?

A: There were a lot of fans who wanted to see that as well but I couldn’t tell right from wrong. I’d always loved wearing cute clothing. My closet was filled only with those types of clothes. But did that fit the image of my music? It’s tough to say. Honestly, I have the kind of face that you could find anywhere, and I had no sense when it came to choosing costumes – that was why I left it to other people around me.

Q: Back then, it was rare for people to be allowed to check and give the OK for their own photos during gravure shoots for magazines – honestly, what a troubling thing it was.

A: I do think that there was a desire on my part to ‘properly project the image of an artist’.

Q: On the other hand, you’d make comments that would be seen as off-limits for seiyuu idols nowadays. Things like ‘the lyrics of Anata no Namae reflect my real-life experiences’, or ‘I’ve never cheated but I’ve experienced painful relationships before’.

A: People don’t talk about those kinds of things these days? Does [the public] perhaps, believe that “seiyuu don’t experience love?”.

Q: Statements like ‘I used to like my junior high school teacher” would get cut.

A: I write my own lyrics so I think it’d be even more dangerous if [I was writing] all my delusions (laughs). Some things just can’t be expressed unless I put my many thoughts and my own emotions into words. If I were to come up with a ‘heroine’ [for my songs] and write words and sing from her perspective, it would be the same as singing a character song. I thought it wouldn’t be convincing if I didn’t go beyond merely being Shiina Hekiru and sing from a real-life perspective, with real-life feelings and words. That’s why I would always talk about these things like they were the norm, even if I was appearing on a TV show.

Q: Much time has gone by, and in 2015 you held a Niconama programme to celebrate your 20th anniversary as a singer, titled ‘The Seiyuu Idol Shiina Hekiru Descends!!’. It occurred to me that the usage of the tile ‘seiyuu idol’ is OK to use, even now…or perhaps it’s a title that can be used precisely because of the kind of times we live in.

A: I think pretty much any title goes these days. That’s just how the world is, and I’ve grown to understand that more and more as I mature.

I was just desperately doing things, I wasn’t aware that I was opening up doors

Q: You obviously paved the way for the emergence of seiyuu artists, but I also see you as the predecessor of the seiyuu idols of today. Perhaps you may not have intended for it to be that way.

A: I wouldn’t say that I know too much about that; it’s not something I said somewhere but rather, it’s what other people say of me – and that’s fine. If that’s what others say, then that is what it is. Nobody would pay attention if it was something that came from my mouth anyway. In a way I feel honoured to be thought of in such a manner, so all I can say is ‘thank you’.

Q: Do you take pride in being a pioneer for seiyuu artists?

A: To be honest I’m not sure if ‘seiyuu artist’ is the most fitting phrase here, but the fact is that even as a seiyuu, I have managed to seriously pursue a music career and from there many more opportunities, including TV work, have opened up. As a seiyuu, if you box yourself in thinking that you shouldn’t be allowed to do this or that, you only end up crushing the possibilities for seiyuu [as a whole]. I think it’s important to have strong support from as many people as possible as you face your many challenges. Obviously you’ll have the seiyuu [industry] as a foundation, but I think it’d be even more beneficial if you had a lot of different people opening up a lot of different avenues for you.

Q: Like how Shiina-san opened up this avenue for others to follow.

A: I was just desperately doing whatever I had to do. I wasn’t aware that I was opening up doors. 20 years have passed and I now get juniors coming up to me and saying “Thanks to all that you have done, Shiina-san, the environment in the industry now is a forgiving one”, and I will reply, “Ah, is it so?”. It’s something I’ve learned by other people telling me. However, I was aware of the fact that I had to pave a new road from scratch through much trial and error. I didn’t do it alone though, I had [the help of] other people around me. There weren’t any models for me to follow. That’s why I was always working frantically, throwing myself into whatever I had to do.

Q: You remained unwavering in attitude despite the raging waves that would surge upon you from time to time.

A: Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of person who can tell no lie. I find it impossible to go along with something that’s completely made up. The longer I’ve been in this [business], the more I’m able to understand my fans’ feelings as well as what other people demand of me. I’m also gradually discovering things that I want to do. That’s why the ‘me that was created’ ceased to exist. I’m often told, “The Shiina Hekiru of today is the same as the Shiina Hekiru of long ago”. But of course I am. I cannot lie therefore I can only remain the same Shiina Hekiru of yesteryear. In the end, the way I think is governed by the thought of ‘how I can make my fans as well as people who aren’t my fans, happy’. Those basics have never changed for me.

Q: Let’s go back to something you mentioned earlier, about how seiyuu should take on a variety of challenges. Are there any further challenges that you’re looking to take on in the future?

A: In my 20s, I did have the opportunity to pursue a lot of things that I really wanted to music-wise, but there were also things I wasn’t able to do – about 50% of what I wanted to do, in fact. I am however, now able to do those things.

Q: Are you referring to your acting career?

A: I’ve always wanted to appear on stage. After all, I was a member of the drama club back when I was in junior high and high school. If we’re going back to the underlying roots, the reason I wanted to act, then the answer would be ‘the stage’. I’ve found myself standing on the start-line countless numbers of times. In February, I was given a chance to stand on the stage and I hope I receive similar opportunities in the future. Also, in the last couple of years I’ve had increasing contact with ‘tsundere’ (?) type of roles. I’d mostly voiced stereotypical heroine roles up until now, so I hope to get to encounter new types of roles that I’ve never done before.

Q: With the career that you’ve had, there could be nothing happier than being able to further experience roles that you have never been able to challenge in the past.

A: I don’t think I’ve ever taken on a wide range of roles. As an actress, I hope that I get to broaden my variety of roles in the future.

[Seiyuu Premium, pg 24-39]

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Footnotes:

-Princess Princess was a popular 5-member pop/rock girl band active in the 80s & 90s. The band reunited in 2012 to play a series of concerts in aid of the Tohoku disaster victims, including dates at Nippon Budokan and Tokyo Dome, as well their maiden performance at the NHK Kohaku Utagassen.

-SHOW-YA is an all-female glam metal band formed in 1983 who achieved wide success, playing gigs in London and the Roxy Theatre. For a period of time they were managed by the infamous Akimoto Yasushi, before lead singer Terada Keiko left in 1991. Despite hiring a new vocalist in Stefanie Borges, the band’s fortunes petered out before officially disbanding in 1998, only to reunite with Terada in 2005. Anime fans may also recognize Terada’s name as the performer of the You’re Under Arrest ending theme Thank you, love

-Nakamori Akina was one of the biggest idol singers of the 80s, seen by media as the rival and antithesis of Matsuda Seiko. Matsuda was the sweet girl-next-door, Nakamori the rebel. In 1989, Nakamori attempted suicide at her then-boyfriend, Johnny’s idol Kondo ‘Matchy’ Masahiko’s apartment. Read more about her colourful past here

-Hamada Mari is a hard rock singer-songwriter who has released more than 20 albums since the early 80s, the latest of these coming in January 2016. She also gained an audience further abroad, touring Asia and releasing a compilation record in Europe.

-Goto Tsugutoshi started off playing support bass for various acts before he started arranging and composing for artists and idols including Sawada Kenji and Nakajima Miyuki. He was formerly married to the idol Kinouchi Midori, and his current wife is Onyanko Club’s Kawai Sonoko.

-Bow Wow (later renamed to Vow Wow) was a Japanese hard-rock band formed in the 70s. They opened concerts for the likes of Aerosmith & Kiss & later relocated to the UK with a new line-up featuring Whitesnake’s Neil Murray and producer Kit Woolven (Thin Lizzy, David Bowie). The band split in 1990 but reformed in 1995 with a different line-up.

-Loudness was a Japanese heavy-metal band founded in the 80s and the first to be signed to a major label (Atco) in the US, charting on the Billboard top 100 with several albums. They continue to be active.

-B’z is the biggest-selling act in Japan of all-time, with approx. 100 million records sold globally.

-Colin Trevor ‘Cozy’ Powell played drums for the likes of Rainbow, Whitesnake, The Jeff Beck Group, Emerson, Lake & Powell and Black Sabbath. He died in a car accident in 1998.

-Akashi Masao produced and arranged for B’z in their early days, including the RUN and IN THE LIFE albums that both sold in excess of 2 million copies each.

-Shibuya Eggman: The place is a dump & I can personally confirm that. It’s a smoke-filled basement livehouse with poor ventilation and a horrible wide layout + ill-placed pillars that block your view half the time.

Anata no Namae is a song about heartbreak, sample lyric: “and you thrust a knife into my already breaking heart”

-Shiina’s February 2016 stage refers to the Gekidan Hero Hero Q Company produced adaptation of Blade of the Immortal that featured a sizable number of seiyuu amongst its cast including Seki Tomokazu in the lead role, as well as Fukuen Misato, Namikawa Daisuke, Nagasawa Miki, Okiayu Ryotaro, Shiraishi Ryoko and Kimura Subaru.

#121 – Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge: Ono Kensho & Hosoya Yoshimasa

121_tanaka
One of my favourite shows of the season – I’m generally not that fond of 4-koma styled comedy anime but somehow, Tanaka-kun is hitting all the right spots for me. Absolutely loving the bromance between Tanaka and Ota, plus those Twitter short animations are really fun! If there was anything I wanted to complain about in the show, it’d be that there are too many girls ww

Bandai Visual interviewed the lead pairing of Ono Kensho & Hosoya Yoshimasa. Great performances from both of them too, especially Hosoyan who often has to express a huge range of emotions with just one word: “Tanaka…”

In a quandary over how best to express the ‘listlessness’ found in the anime’s title

Q: First of all, tell us about your respective characters’ charms.

Ono Kensho (Tanaka): I think Tanaka’s charm lies in how he makes sure not to waste too much energy or effort to do things.

Hosoya Yoshimasa (Ota): Ota basically plays the role of protector, but I think his charm lies in how he’s able to respect the individuality of the person he’s dealing with.

Q: Tell us how you’re similar, as well as different to your own characters.

Ono: For similarities – the fact that we can both fall fast asleep no matter where we are. I personally thought it was amazing how he’d just nod off even when he’s only in the background (laughs). He’ll doze off in the blink of an eye, suddenly shoot awake and then come back on-screen, as if nothing had ever happened (laughs). I might also resemble him in that we both put in effort so that we can have a bit more rest time; working hard so that we can slack off. As for how we’re different – I’m not that much of a nuisance to others. ‘Nuisance’ might not be the right word to use here but yeah, I wouldn’t get other people to do things just because I’m lazy to do it myself. Tanaka must have that special something to make Ota go to such lengths to look after him (laughs).

Hosoya: To be honest we don’t have much in common, probably only how we both like sweet things and that we share the same voice (laughs). [We] see a lot of letters from fans saying how “Ota is a motherly figure” – he tries not to impress his own opinions upon other people and goes out of his way to accommodate the other party’s personality; we might be slightly similar in that way. Still, I’m not fond of meddling in other people’s affairs so I guess we’re really not that similar.

Q: Was there anything that you were particularly conscious about when voicing your character?

Ono: I was in a quandary over how best to express the ‘listlessness’ in the anime’s title, right from the point when I received the call for auditions. At first, I vaguely imagined him doing things slowly, speaking at a very leisurely pace. However, I thought I’d wear myself out that way and it might even be painful for the viewers to watch. So I was conscious about trying to speak at a normal tempo but in a way that would make him sound listless. At the same time, Tanaka’s (acting) parts have a tendency to swing in severity so during tests I’d go ahead and improvise as I saw fit, before making the necessary adjustments for the actual recording.

Hosoya: Ota has Tanaka as a sparring partner so there isn’t really anything that I’m particularly conscious about when it comes to acting out the role. What I’ll normally do is take in all the other actors’ performances and to make sure my own acting goes with the flow. If you plan too much you might end up having weird expectations or overthinking things. Obviously I do take the time to understand the meaning of the dialogue but if one reflects on it too much it might result in you reading your script as if you’re reciting the definition of the words; for me, I try instead to keep things spontaneous and not think about it too much until I have to say my lines for real. Having said that, a lot of my lines [in Tanaka-kun] are quite long and it is a bit difficult as Ota is the passive type as opposed to being the sort of guy who would initiate the conversation. Thus, I try to focus on thinking about how Tanaka would say a given line, or how Miyano or Shiraishi would say it. I wouldn’t be as greedy as to think about how “I” would say the line. However, as recording progresses I have been considering that it might be interesting if I tried speaking in a more ‘elderly’ manner (laughs). Not like a grandfather or anything, but an Ota who speaks about things philosophically – that would be interesting.

During recordings, the tests are filled with aggressively attacking ad-libs

Q: Tell us about any characters apart from your own that you’re interested in.

Hosoya: I’ll say Ota’s sister Saya. She’s the one that stands out in this anime’s world. Why does Ota have such a cute, normal sister? She’s the opposite [of everyone else], that’s why I’m curious about her (laughs). She has this kind of refreshing feeling about her that makes you think, ‘did she come here from a different anime?’

Ono: I’ll say Saionji-san, the WcDonald’s employee who’s in episode 9. Hopefully she’ll appear often in the future; I’d like to see how she reacts to and comments on the antics of Tanaka and Ota since she’s a member of the general public who’s not involved with Tanaka’s group of friends in any way.

Q: Were there any interesting episodes from recording sessions?

Ono: I wouldn’t call it an episode, but most of the dialogue in the show is like what you’d hear in natural conversations proceeding in a straightforward manner so it’s hard to create something like a climax point. What we do to compensate is to go all-out attacking with the ad-libs in tests during recordings.

Hosoya: When we’re doing ad-libs you can tell right away whether you’ve ‘won’ or ‘lost’. For example, you would definitely know it if you made a slip at some point (laughs). I recall in the 1st episode during the scene where Ota’s trying to help Tanaka get out of his gym clothes and he says ‘Good luck’ – that’s actually an ad-lib. It got a good reception from the staff and my colleagues, so I kept it in there…but from then on we ended up overusing the phrase ‘good luck’ [in the dialogue] (laughs)

Ono: One of the recent ad-libs that I think was a winner was in episode 9 where I was simulating the sound of Tanaka vigorously sucking on a straw.

Hosoya: Yeah that was a winner (laughs). The staff even said ‘please do that during the recording’…

Ono: The sound director Kameyama (Toshiki)-san gave me a compliment, saying “That was good, it was memorable’ which makes me think it was a winner. But if I watch the broadcast of episode 9 and find out that the scene has been cut, I’ll be really disappointed (laughs)

Hosoya: That’d make you think ‘Grown-ups are all liars!’ (laughs)

Ono: To be honest, I’d been secretly practising that scene since the day before recording. I put quite a bit of effort into it so I hope it makes it to broadcast (laughs)

Q: Did your interactions with director Kawatsura Shinya leave any deep impressions?

Hosoya: When we were celebrating the birthdays of the cast members born in February, Director Kawatsura was the one who brought the cake into the studio. I know this is my own one-sided impression, but the Director kind of exudes the same slacker atmosphere that Tanaka does (laughs). With him being like that, the studio has a similarly strange environment and everyone gets sucked up in it and they don’t move from the spot that they’re occupying. When the people who were in the toilet during the break finally returned to the room, we got around to the birthday celebration and the Director blew out the candles by himself. Amidst all that, the sound director Kameyama-san said ‘Okay, let’s start recording~’ and we had to get back to work without even having had a proper break – it was very surreal and amusing (laughs). Left an impression on me.

Ono: I can’t remember which one exactly, but I bumped into Director Kawatsura at a station and when I greeted him first he replied with a shocking scream, the loudest I’ve ever heard in my life. His expression and reaction at the time was so funny, I still remember it now (laughs).

This is my own impression, but Ota’s ‘role’ changes by the episode

Q: Which of the episodes that have been broadcast thus far left the biggest impression on you?

Hosoya: Episode 7. That’s the one where Tanaka’s sister Rino appears for the first time. This is my own impression, but Ota’s role changes depending on the episode and in the 7th, it felt like he was stuck in a romantic comedy. It’s just my personal feelings but in my head, it felt like [Ota and] Rino were a couple in a romantic comedy (laughs). At one point Ota says, “the coffee’s tasty!” to Rino, and I tried to act that scene out with the emotions of a hero in a romantic comedy.

Ono: I see, that’s deep (laughs)

Hosoya: I acted out that part with Ota as the hero in my mind, so it was particularly memorable for me.

Ono: Those scenes where Rino first appears left a big impression on me as well. I’m very grateful towards Yuki (Aoi)-san, the voice of Rino, for informing my performance but I found myself getting caught up in it and that threw me off my rhythm, making me forget what pace I was supposed to operate at. At that point, I realized for the first time how difficult it was to have two similar characters that speak in the same way appear together and it sent me into a slight panic mode (laughs). Anyway, I think this kind of anime is more strongly geared towards the thinking where ‘this line here was fantastic’ rather than remembering specific episodes. In episode 2, there’s a scene where Tanaka visits Izumo Taisha and Ota asks him “Do you know where this is?”. Tanaka says “Probably Tottori” and Ota replies “It’s Shimane” in return – that scene was truly fantastic. Also, I like the scene where Tanaka loses his cool in episode 1.

Q: How about you, Hosoya-san – were there any lines that left a deep impression on you?

Hosoya: There’s a scene in episode 1 where Tanaka and Kato are at the drinking fountain. Kato tries to say something while he’s drinking the water and Ota jokingly chides him “Drink or talk, pick one!”. Meanwhile, Tanaka is looking at them, letting the fountain shoot water at his cheek and Ota says to him “Tanaka, that’s not your mouth!” – that particular scene somehow managed to leave a big impression on me.

Q: Tell us more about the charms that are unique to the Tanaka-kun anime.

Ono: That would definitely be the ‘intermissions’. I myself am a comics reader and there’s no way you could insert intermissions in there. In that sense, ‘intermissions’ are a bit of magic made possible only through animation. Things like what kind of music would fit a particular scene – you might be able to sort of imagine it in your head but you can’t really feel it when you’re reading a comic. The intermissions in Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge are quite significant; seeing them makes you realize just how extra important they can be.

Hosoya: This is related to intermissions – the various sounds that flow from the screen are charming too. I think you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the opening scene in the first episode, where the intermission isn’t buried by the music. You can hear the birds twitter, the faint sound of the wind. You’re not seeing any character speaking on-screen, yet the atmosphere of the anime is wonderfully represented. Also, the grass in the field that Tanaka is lazing upon in the ending sequence is so realistic; I personally found it very interesting and addicting to watch (laughs).

I think I’ll aim for Paris instead of Hollywood in the future (laugh)

Q: Tanaka’s sister Rino first appears in episode 7 and Ota’s sister Saya in episode 9 – Ono-san, please leave a message for Rino and Hosoya-san, for Saya.

Ono: ‘As always, thank you’. I think my message will get across with that one phrase (laughs).

Hosoya: ‘When I heard Saya’s voice for the first time, I thought I had accidentally changed the channel’. I’ll go with that. Saya really is a nice girl and it was lovely seeing the two of them on the way home. They’re siblings but it felt like I had changed the channel and was watching a romantic comedy instead. I don’t really comprehend it myself, but I feel like Ota enters a sort of ‘romantic comedy’ mode whenever a younger sister type of character appears (laughs).

Q: Tanaka is aiming to lead a listless life. In your own daily lives, when are the times that you feel ‘listless’?

Ono: 2-4pm in the afternoon. After lunch, you’ll definitely start to feel a bit listless (laughs).

Hosoya: I’m the type of person who wouldn’t get listless unless I have other people doing stuff on my behalf. After my job is done I’ll go home and if I don’t have to get up early the following morning, I’ll have a drink after taking my bath – that is when I start to get listless (laughs). I’ll get drunk, pull out my guitar and start playing it..the sounds that emanate tend to be extremely listless too (laughs).

Q: Finally, please tell us about the show’s future highlights, and leave a message for the fans.

Ono: For other shows, we’d usually say something along the lines of ‘please watch the characters’ growth as we approach the climax of the storyline’ but for [Tanaka-kun], it’s tough to answer the question ‘what are the highlights?’. I am however, curious about how the anime will conclude. Having said that, it’ll probably just progress as normal and just come to an end..(laughs). Personally, I hope it finishes in a way that might lead to something else. For example, due to a certain incident, Tanaka ends up getting kidnapped (laughs).

Hosoya: Up to this point, [we’ve] been saying “we want to take this to Hollywood” at events and such, but in my opinion this anime is a grand production with high artistic quality and is more befitting of a French arthouse movie screening so in the future, we’d like to take it to Paris in France instead of Hollywood (laughs). To do so, I’d like to suggest this ending – without explanation, a second Tanaka appears onscreen and the two then proceed to engage in a nonsensical conversation. Ota emerges and upon seeing the two Tanakas, ends the show with just one word – ‘Tanaka…’. That would make it an artistic show and hey, wouldn’t you like to see the continuation? With that, I’d like to take this series to Paris so please support the anime in the future.