I know what you’re thinking. Tezuka who?
Let me assure you that her ‘name’ is quite well-known…amongst bishojo game & nukige players. She is prolific, to say the least, appearing in over 30 games in 2015 alone. ‘Tezuka Ryoko’ as you would expect, is just a stage name – the person inside is one Tateishi Megumi, formerly of Aslead Company and now a freelancer. As she works ‘underground’, Tezuka’s official policy is to refuse publicity shots and photos.
This is the 2nd in an Otapol series of interviews with 18+ industry/bishojo game seiyuu. I am still working on the first one with Hayase Yayoi, will hopefully get that one out sometime.
Hopefully this will provide a little bit of insight to the so-called 裏 (dark/shadow) business that many seiyuu, including those working in mainstream anime and games, are involved with. Don’t feel ashamed about finding out that your favourites have worked on 1 or 2 of these games! In many ways, it’s good ‘experience’.
Q: You were working towards becoming a seiyuu but unexpectedly made the leap into the bishojo game industry. Let’s talk about why you wanted to become a seiyuu as well as the story behind your entry into this industry.
A: I’d always loved anime; when I was in high school I had a taste of performing and got hooked on the idea of ‘being someone else’. At that point I was contemplating joining a theatre group but I instead decided to walk down the path of a seiyuu, which isn’t bound by appearance or gender – thus, I enrolled in vocational school. I entered training school after that and while I was still a trainee, an agency senior said to me, ‘Tezuka-san, isn’t your voice kinda erotic?’ and that spurred me on to try out for bishojo game auditions. I don’t really know if there was any trigger in particular. When I was in vocational school people would keep telling me to ‘make it sound cuter’ or that ‘your voice has no sex appeal’ so for me to be voicing bishojo nowadays…I’m the one who’s most surprised by it all.
Q: You’ve now made many a bishojo game appearance, starting with the VisualArt’s brand Lapis lazuli’s 2009’s Areas~Sora ni Utsusu Kimi to no Sekai~ game where you voiced Kataoka Nobuko. We know that you’d had no connection to bishojo games while you were in vocational school, but instead, it was a certain fateful encounter while working at your part-time job that led you here.
A: Nowadays I truly do love bishojo games but I’d never touched one back when I was in vocational school. I kind of knew of their existence, but I’d say that I was somewhat bad at handling dirty jokes at the time. Honest, I’m not joking (laughs). When I moved to Tokyo, my first part-time job was as a staff member at an electrical goods festival. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about PC games so my job was to hand out bottles of water with a picture of a bishojo stuck on them (laughs). Now that I think about it, that incident was probably foreshadowing my future.
Q: With no prior knowledge, you jumped into this industry and you continue to play a big role in it – there must be a reason behind it. You never had any reservations about appearing in 18+ works in the first place, did you?
A: My viewpoint is that ‘I don’t know anything about it so I’ll just try it out first and see what happens’. I am an anxious person by nature, but I believe that I should go ahead and enjoy whatever it is I choose to do. Thus, I had no real issues with working on 18+ productions. Maybe it’s also because I somehow passed the audition despite not knowing what I was doing. The staff had to explain to me on the spot was a ‘chupa-sound’ [sound of simulating fellatio/blowjob] is, so I was kind of doing it while fumbling around in the dark. In my case, I had made my debut while still being a trainee, but I do believe that it is better to have a single experience in the recording studio than to have received dozens of lessons. For the chupa-sounds I’d wondered whether it would be a good idea to actually try using adult toys to produce realistic sounds…and my good friend Imaya Minami said ‘why not try it out’ and gifted some to me..and the two of us experimented with them (laughs). We came to the conclusion that instead of using such detailed techniques, we should instead prioritize our feelings and thoughts behind the situation and utilize breathing [control] etc. Recently, we’ve been competing with each other by just using our fingers!
Q: Having interviewed a number of seiyuu, I figure that you’ve all shared one thing in common: being active members of the industry, you will find something that interests you, and try your hand at that something new. Tezuka-san, you too have enjoyed venturing into an unknown world, enriching your experiences and knowledge. Nowadays you appear in a lot of games but there was a point in time when you saw a drastic decrease in the amount of work that came in. Tell us what was going through your mind during those times.
A: At (my agency at) the time, I didn’t have a manager put in charge of me. Hence, if I hadn’t passed the game audition I wouldn’t have gotten any work at all. If that was to be the case then I thought it would be better for me try my luck at various things, and that’s why I decided to leave the agency. I can’t say that I wasn’t feeling insecure about the situation but for the time being I would just freelance, see how it goes and if it wasn’t working out then I’d quit. Up ‘til then the Visual Art’s production was the only job on my CV and some people even thought I was an Osaka-based seiyuu*. It was then that [staff members from] a certain studio said to me, ‘Tezuka-san, I think there are many people who aren’t aware of the fact that your activities are based in Tokyo’ as well as ‘You’ve got to get your name out there!’. I’d mostly been voicing older female roles such as teachers and sisters, but I was advised, ‘if there are any roles you want to try out, just go ahead and take on the challenge’.
My voice samples at that point had shown that I specialized in mature characters but around 2012, I started including the more typical cute-type of voices. My activities started to progress when I voiced Horikawa Shiori from Yome juu! [maker: Nounai Shoujo], a cute pink-haired, silly younger sister kind of character. At first I thought to myself, ‘Eh? I have to voice a pink-haired girl? Could I even do that?’ (laughs)
I had never imagined myself capable of voicing the main heroine or cute girls. But I’m really grateful to that particular studio for allowing me to believe that even I could embark on such [new] adventures.
*Visual Art’s is based in Osaka and recording for a number of their games is carried out in Osaka, thus some seiyuu are based in the Kansai region specifically for this purpose
Q: Following that, you gradually started appearing in more and more works and in 2015, you ranked 2nd in terms of numbers of games worked on (note: based on an unofficial fan-counted ranking). What do you think is the reason behind your prolificness?
A: I believe the major factor would be the increasing number of 18+ games aimed at women that are being produced. I voice the lead female role [Naala] in Koezaru wa Akai Hana (maker: Operetta Due) and it was my first time voicing a heroine who isn’t set up as a route to be ‘conquered’ but instead, is the lead character that the user plays as. I received pretty detailed guidance during the recording of the role; things like ‘let’s not use that tone of voice ‘cos it sounds like you’re flirting with the character’ or ‘it’s better not to come on too strong or it’ll make the player think that you shouldn’t be saying such forceful things’. Up to that point I had only ever been thinking about my own performance; it was the first time I was strongly conscious of the user’s point of view. I had to be more involved, more particular about aspects like setting the mood as well as every single breath I’d take. It was around 2012 that I started to receive many job offers for productions other than bishojo games.
Q: You operate on a freelance basis. This means that even though you’re one of the top actors in the industry, you still have to handle everything from marketing to accounting on your own.
A: I’ve always handled everything from billing and schedule management by myself. It’s tough, but doing things this way means I can directly get feedback on whether I’m doing well or not and for that, I’m grateful. My stance is to try as much as possible to not refuse any job offers. As for marketing, I don’t do too much of that. It’s partly because I’m shy, but also because I believe that when I’m hired for a job and I produce good results, it will then lead to future opportunities. I make sure I cherish each and every one of the productions I work on.
Q: The bishojo game industry often chooses to hire freelance actors ahead of seiyuu who work on TV anime and so forth. Looking at the scale of the industry, the minimal amount of marketing done might not be totally unrelated to the fact that many of the seiyuu have to maket themselves. In Tezuka-san’s case, you appear to have managed to build up your career by being able to ‘visualize’. As one of the frontrunners in the industry, I’d like to seek your rational opinion about the trends and changes regarding acting performances in the bishojo game scene.
A: Ah, I’m not sure I’m qualified to talk about this….? Wouldn’t people get mad if I did? This is just my personal opinion, but I believe that the majority of actors nowadays veer towards natural-sounding performances. Previously, actors had to compensate for the lack of animation by using their voice to express not only emotions but movements as well; however, the games being produced today come with an abundance of [animated] facial expressions and movements. I feel that there is an increase in the number of works that place importance on the tempo of the in-game dialogue as well as ‘how appealing the heroines are’. Players basically want to see more flirting, more ‘cuteness is justice!’ – stuff like that. I do get that. In the current environment where the number of games such as smartphone apps etc, are ever-increasing, it is these elements that will help to pull in the younger users.
Q: With the advent of smartphones and tablets, the bishojo-game playing environment too has had to evolve…it is no longer an era where people sit in front of the PC playing games all through the night. The industry has also begun to adjust its distribution methods to keep up with the times.
A: I think there’s also the fact that there is an influx of games that come as part of low-priced packages, which you can start playing right away. Additionally we’re seeing more games coming up that have one eye on international markets, such as Nekopara* – to me it is a dream to have people from all over the world playing the games that I appear in.
*a game released by NEKO WORKs, where Tezuka voices Coconut
Q: Nekopara is being distributed on Steam (the world’s largest game sales platform operated by America’s Valve Corporation), so the game’s distribution channels reach far and wide. Depending on how the industry’s approaches its user base, it seems likely that there is much room [for the bishojo game scene] to grow yet. At the same time, the increase in content creation has brought about an expansion of idol-type activities for the seiyuu involved which in turn has led to a surge in their popularity, resulting in increasing numbers of aspiring seiyuu who want to work on bishojo games – you could say that the industry has once again evolved from what it was a couple of years ago. What is your take on this new type of aspiring seiyuu?
A: Really, I don’t think I’m in a position to comment on that… However, when I visited my alma mater I did have a few girls coming up to me asking for advice, saying ‘I want to become a bishojo game seiyuu’. I was happy to hear that, but my reply to them was ‘the work that is requested of you may differ from the kind of work that you desire to do, so don’t deliberately narrow down your options’. I myself had never previously imagined that I would become a bishojo game seiyuu after all.
I got lucky and happened to pass an audition; from there, as I started getting more work I resolved that as long as I was needed, I’d always give my best. Even if I didn’t know for what or where my services would be required. I don’t think it’s a good idea to cut down your choices, to decide early on that you only want to work on bishojo games or TV anime etc. I hope that one would just put max effort into their performances without being too fixated on genres…ah, I’m saying all these arrogant things again when I didn’t even have any specific ambitions during my school days myself! I think kids these days are much more level-headed (laughs)
Q: Tezuka-san – as someone who continues to play an active role in the bishojo game world, please let us know what your future goals and aims are.
A: For bishojo games, I’d like to play the sort of outlandish, wacky roles that you would only ever see in a game. I love those kinds of characters! When I work on such hard-to-portray roles they tend to leave quite an impact and it can drag on for a couple of days. When I’m taking baths etc, I often have flashbacks of particular scenes and it leaves me dejected…but I do really love all that…wow, I sound like a pervert (laughs). I’d like to have an opportunity to sink my teeth into a role that would make me feel thrilled just by looking at the scripts.
Also, I’d like to get involved with all sorts of other content and not just limit myself to games. I think that it’d be interesting to see if [items] originating from within a certain game could possibility be reflected in other types of related content. And in turn, when you obtain [items] from that related content, you could transfer them back to the original game – wouldn’t that be great? My home remains in games, however. That is because it’s a marvelous avenue where I can act to my heart’s content, all on my own.
Q: Tezuka-san, whose working stance involves utilizing the expertise you’ve gained to step into uncharted waters and to acquire new experiences…without narrowing your options, you are determined to try your hand at everything – that is important not just for seiyuu, but for whatever job you choose to do. I hope the readers will heed Tezuka-san’s spirit of ‘looking for joy in every experience’ and take on new challenges themselves.
Yes I know what you want to hear – chupa-sounds (ちゅぱ音) right??? Here’s a link to Tezuka doing フェラ…please don’t play it out loud on your speakers if you’re at work =_=
PS. don’t forget to support the Nekopara anime KS when it happens w