Monthly Archives: August 2016

#129 – Kyokai no RINNE: Ishigami Shizuka

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Damashigami employee Shima Renge tops the dumbass rankings in RINNE with her rotten personality and lack of common sense; you can’t help but cheer every time she messes shit up. I did however, think that it was a strange casting for the character itself – putting Zucchi into a show that already has Inoue Marina is odd when they’re really so, so similar in terms of range and performance…I swore I was hearing double whenever Mamiya Sakura and Renge were in the same scene. But I’m getting used to it and loved Renge vs Murakawa Rie’s Ageha – battle of the dimwit bitches! Too bad we’re moving towards the end of the series already, really wouldn’t mind a second sequel to this in the future since we have enough material to go on…

Pt.1

A ______ girl with so many gaps!
Q: Tell us more about Damashigami Renge, whom you voice – what sort of character is she?

A: To put it simply, Renge-chan is extremely diligent but well..I guess you could describe her true nature as being ‘twisted’ (laughs). She has a neat appearance but on the inside, she’s just wicked.

I might be wicked too? (laughs)
Q: Do you think the two of you share any similarities?

A: It’s a bit odd for it to come from my own mouth, but I think we’re both diligent (laughs). Now that I’m voicing her, I do think that I wouldn’t be able to express those parts unless I was similar to her in a way. As for her wicked side…hmm, maybe [I share those traits]? (laughs)

I thought ‘MAYBE!’ (laughs)
Q: It’s been 3 months since the 2nd season started and you’ve finally made your long-awaited appearance. How are you feeling about that?

A: To tell the truth, since there wasn’t an [official] announcement for the longest while, I kind of thought, ‘Perhaps the cast has been changed without me knowing!?’ but thankfully, I have made it into the show (laughs).

I honestly think she’s a good girl at heart
Q: What do you think are Damashigami Renge’s charms?

A: H~~~mmm~~♪ The reason I was attracted to Renge-chan was because of the gap between her looks and what she’s like inside! Her looks are immaculate, like a gentle Yamato Nadeshiko..but contrary to expectations, Renge-chan is more rotten to the core than anyone else (laughs). But I do honestly think that she’s a good girl at heart. It’s my own selfish belief that she’s the way she is because she’s accepted her fate of being forced to work for the Damashigami Company.

Friends huh…!
Q: Do you think you could be friends with someone like Damashigami Renge?

A: Friends huh….! It’d be fun to just observe her but being friends might prove to be too hard. But on the other hand, I feel like I might want to attract her attention. It’d probably a bit of a pain if you’re around her age but as Renge-chan is younger than I am, I think I could be friends with her.

A wicked lady who learns through trial and error
Q: What, to you, is the most important aspect of acting as Damashigami Renge?

A: I do try to deliver verbal abuse in a not-so-harsh way that won’t make you hate her. It’s hard to put it in words, but it’s kind of like I’m trying to soften the edges of her harshness…Rather than letting rip, I try to be careful to hurl out torrents of abuse in a tasteful manner. It’s all trial and error but I’m enjoying myself; I hope I’m able to portray Takahashi Rumiko-sensei’s type of female antagonist well.

It was fun to act without inhibitions (laughs)
Q: Now that you’ve made your appearance, which of the show’s characters have left an impression on you?

A: For now, I’d say Ageha-chan. Well, not Ageha-chan herself, but rather, the Ageha-chan who gets entangled with Renge-chan (laughs). During recordings, the [sound] director said to me, ‘Go ahead at full force whenever you’re with Ageha’ (laughs). I had fun expressing Renge’s feelings without inhibitions!

I want to show you the cute side of Renge
Q: Are there any characters that you’d love to be involved with in the future?

A: Of course, it has to be Kain-sempai ♡ I’ve mostly been using an evil-yet-sickly sweet tone up ‘til now but [with Kain] there would a different type of voice required and I’m feeling both anxious and excited about that. I’d like to show [everyone] the genuinely cute side of Renge, all meek and shy.

I’d say everything, but if I were forced to choose, it’d be…
Q: What do you find attractive about Kyokai no RINNE?

A: Everything about it— ♪It’s hard to express with just one word! Each character has their own unique worldview and there are plenty of places where you see the humorous atmosphere featuring nice jokes and comebacks but personally, I’d like people to pay attention to the lovelines! What are Rinne’s feelings for Sakura truly like? Stuff like that.

Pt.2

I want to be someone who works behind the scenes, therefore…
Q: As a seiyuu, what do you consider your creed?

A: To ensure that “I” am never visible [in my characters] – that’s important to me. Ideally, I would like for people to be unaware that I am the one who is voicing a certain character, until they see the end credits roll. This is merely my own opinion, but I believe that ‘knowing’ what someone is like could affect part of the perspective of the individual watching the anime. This is why I’d rather be someone who just works behind the scenes.

Persistence will pay off (laughs)
Q: What was your turning point as a seiyuu?

A: This is a story from when I first started getting jobs regularly. One day, in a certain studio, I was asked out of blue, ‘Could you do the voice for a fat boy?’. I was supposed to voice a thin boy that day and that request sort of threw me off a bit but I quickly thought, ‘Let me just try to do this to the best of my ability!’ and the moment I said my lines earnestly, the recording booth erupted in laughter.

At first I thought I’d performed badly but Sugita Tomokazu-san who was there, said to me “That was interesting” and only then did I realize that people had enjoyed what I’d done. I believe it was because of that led a staff member to comment that ‘Surprisingly, Ishigami can pull off quite a variety of characters can’t she?’. And after that, I gradually started seeing an increase in the number of jobs I received. At the time I realized that I am not the type who is blessed with natural talent nor can I pull off characters that are intentionally outstanding. Even if I’m not able to throw a breaking ball, as long as I tackle everything diligently, when the time comes – I will get picked.

Checking my dictionary on the streets
Q: Over the course of your daily life, has there been anything that makes you think – Ah, this could be an occupational disease?

A: When I’m out in public and I hear certain words being spoken with a dubious accent, I’ll pull out my dictionary on the spot. Though I don’t do that in front of my friends. Nor do I deliberately correct them (laughs). They’d probably think I’m an annoying person so I’ll just quietly think to myself ‘I think that guy just said that word with the wrong accent’ (laughs)

I was seriously working towards becoming a magic user!
Q: Are there any NHK anime that you remember fondly?

A: Card Captor Sakura. Watching Sakura made me think that I’d be able to use magic someday – I was seriously working towards becoming a magic user. Actually, Sakura was also the show that made me aware of the existence of the seiyuu profession. So perhaps, if I became a seiyuu and was able to use magic in an anime…that would be another story about how I started off on this path towards becoming a seiyuu.

It is my dream to appear in a kids’ anime
Q: If you could appear in any NHK programme, what would it be?

A: I’d say Nintama Rantaro. Appearing on a kids’ anime is one of my dreams. I’d like to play a kunoichi. Obviously anything besides a kunoichi would be fine too, be it an animal or so on. I’ll probably cry if I ever make it onto the show (laughs).

If only to catch a glimpse – the future, but to stay – the past!
Q: If you could get in a time machine, would you prefer to go to the past or the future?

A: If only to catch a glimpse, I’d go to the future. I want to take a look at myself 10 years from now; check out what kind of person I’ve become in the future. If things don’t look good then I would just have to work extra hard starting from present time! If I had to go to either [past or present] and stay, then I’d choose the past. Back to when I was an 18-year old high school graduate. I would still choose to become a seiyuu, but I do wonder how my life would turn out if the me of ‘now’ went back [and relived those days] (laughs)

A job where you breathe life
Q: To you, what is a ‘seiyuu’?
A: Hmm. I’m probably not qualified to say this myself, but [a seiyuu]’s job is to breathe life [into a character]. To bring a character to the fore, to make him or her as attractive as possible…it is that kind of work.

I want her to be happy
Q: What sort of future developments are you looking forward to for Renge?

A: I would like for her to be hooked up with Kaito-sempai, for them to get married. It’s a fact that Renge-chan has ‘til now, only gone through pitiful experiences. That is why I wish for Renge-chan to be truly happy.

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Seiyuu Premium: #3 – Kouda Mariko

#3. Kouda Mariko – The moment you fall in love with seiyuu and radio
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Today, there are countless numbers of radio programmes helmed by seiyuu personalities. It is now a commonly held view that “seiyuu = radio”. The swift expansion of ani-radio culture began in the 90s. Without a doubt, Kouda Mariko was one of the icons that drove this development. Not only was she in charge of widely popular programmes such as Twin Bee PARADISE and Kouda Mariko’s GM, she also hosted a late-night live broadcast radio show [competing with shows by Ijuin Hikaru & Fukuyama Masaharu] as well as worked with tarento from other genres of entertainment. Going back to the days when seiyuu and radio were starting to gain a strong affinity with each other, what was going through her mind as she faced the microphone?

Interviewer: Saito Takashi, Photography: Taiko Kuniyoshi, Hairstyling: Minamida Hideaki (addmix BG), Additional photos provided by: Kouda Mariko

Back then, I was very reluctant to do business that was financially-motivated

Q: Your fanclub Happy! Happy! Happy! has celebrated its 20th anniversary.

A: Yes! Thank you. I didn’t even realize it myself so when club members sent in their words of congratulations, I was in shock, going “Huh!? Oh noes!” (laughs).

Q: There are people in your fanclub who have been members for 20 years too.

A: I’m so grateful for that. But ah, there are people who have been in and out of the club over the 20 years too. A lot of things happened and we had to change the methods of handling the fanclub and some people would send us letters saying “If that is the way that things will be run then I will quit the fanclub” and I’d think “Stop telling us!” ‘cos it’s sad to hear these kinds of things (laughs). In the end, they would still return to the fanclub.

Q: It’s amazing that they would quit and yet, eventually return. When the fanclub was first set up 20 years ago, Kouda Mariko was already hugely popular and I was thinking, “When will she set one up?”

A: That’s too kind of you. At that point I was hosting numerous radio shows and the majority of my listeners were students. A group of these listeners once expressed this opinion to me: “Would you discriminate between [your] paying and non-paying fans?” – that question resonated deeply within me and as a result, I strongly resisted the idea of setting up a fanclub. However, a staff member from the company that produced my tours said to the troubled me: “It’s important to have the existence of a fanclub where people know they can definitely get hold of tickets. Let’s not talk about the money etc – why not just set up [a fanclub] for the sake of the people who want to attend your tour?”. I was still a little opposed to the word ‘fanclub’ itself, so we decided to give it a nickname: “Happy! Happy! Happy!”. Nowadays staff members would probably say things like “All you fanclub members!” but in my staff members and my own case, we’d affectionately call them the “Happy3 Family”.

Q: Part of your resistance was due to the fact that you were being considerate of the feelings of your ‘fans’ who were not [able to be] members of the ‘club’.

A: It wasn’t about the money etc, it was always about wanting to ‘share the same feelings’.

Q: In any case, being able to establish your own fanclub must’ve been a happy event for you?

A: I was very happy. If anything, I was filled with lots of desire to cheer on each and every one [of my fans] (laughs). My staff would keep telling me, “No, that’s not it. This is supposed to be a gathering of the fans who are cheering on Mari-chan!”. And I would reply, “Okay, so it’s my job to make all of those people happy”. I do wonder though… After graduating high school I loafed around before joining voice training school and subsequently, a production company –without ever having been a ‘proper employee’. I’ve probably worked every type of part-time job under the sun but they’re just not ‘real jobs’ so I feel that perhaps, there are things that I’m lacking when it comes to areas concerning social mechanisms etc. That is why I was initially very reluctant to get involved with any business that was motivated by money. I wasn’t even aware of how much I was being paid for each piece of work, and I never asked. As I loved the arena of radio work, I was allowed to express myself in that way. It was like playing catchball on the airwaves. I love anime and with my voice, I would breathe life into characters. I love music and I love singing with everyone, whether it be in live concerts or in recordings or even on the grassy meadows – I’d sing with my whole body and soul. I have always acted based on my ‘feelings’ and I’m probably seen as a deviant by society, which thinks of work purely as business. I wonder if I’ll survive? (laughs)

Q: Harbouring such feelings, you ran a campaign to commemorate your 20th anniversary where you’d call [people] up and ask “What’s the password?”, where the answer would be “Bee!”.

A: Yes. In the past, I’d always somehow managed to create opportunities to meet my fans at least once a month. Be it at the Odaiba Satellite [note: Kouda Mariko’s Rainbow Beam, a streamed live show] or through public broadcasts at Tokyo Tower. But I’m no longer doing that. My body is broken, so I had to give up singing for a while and can’t really take part in events. Thus, with the intention of showing my appreciation for the 20th anniversary of Happy!3, my staff and I discussed and decided upon organizing a Twitcast 3some event. I don’t have a personal Twitter account so we did it through the staff account. If we kept doing the same thing it’d turn stale so we came up with the idea of doing live calls and shouting “The password is Bee!”.

Q: Didn’t it feel emotional to use the same keyword from your old radio show Twin Bee PARADISE (Bunka Housou)?

A: The Beemates haven’t died out; they continue to be active so I don’t see it as something particularly special. Nowadays, I still receive word about how they hold gatherings on the designated Beemates day – Sunday the 13th .

We wanted to create a catalyst for my radio shows’ listeners to meet each other – that is why we came up with a password

Q: Where did the original idea to spread this password for your radio show come from?

A: It just happened one day, out of the blue (laughs). I don’t know where it came from myself, but I remember laughing about it with my radio director [Otakkii] Sasaki-san when we were in the studio. “Why is the password ‘Bee’?”. “Hmm. I have no idea.” But we thought that if one could find friendship through discussing things like ‘I like pastel, or light colours’….then we wanted to ‘create a catalyst for my radio shows’ listeners to meet each other’ – and that was why we came up with a password.

Q: It became legendary, how the phrase “The password is Bee!” would be posted up on bulletin boards at train stations.

A: That’s right. The station message boards would be overflowing with the password back then, and I got scolded for it. I’m so sorry to have caused much inconvenience at the time.

Q: Train station bulletin boards are now a thing of the past, but did you get to see [those messages] for yourself?

A: To tell the truth, I still see them around these days. It makes me so happy I almost want to write some messages down myself (laughs). I’m the type of person who likes to participate in things. When I see places called Café Bee or Bee Co Ltd nowadays, I feel like stopping my car right next to them so that I can roll down my window and shout “What’s the password?” (laughs).

Q: With Twitter, it’s easy to circulate things like that nowadays but back then, you could only say it once a week on your radio, yet it is amazing how widespread it became.

A: I personally love doing radio and believe in its ‘power’ so I didn’t see it as being that strange of a phenomenon. Of course, I still believe in the ‘power’ of radio now. Though the format has changed over time. From analog to digital and from letters to emails, plus you can now interact [with the programme staff] via social networks through tweeting. For letters you’d have to think carefully about what to write and elaborate on many things, but for mails and on Twitter you’d just type it up and send it off with a click. Due to all of those changes, the content of radio programmes has had to adjust accordingly. I like how convenient email and Twitter is but I do still want to utilize radio, where I can be ‘right by your side when you need me’, for the sake of posterity. I think it’d be a shame if this part of culture ever was to disappear.

Q: You even talked about how you liked ‘noise’.

A: Yes. Noise is good! I even made a song about it [Hoshikuzu Sunaarashi~Seishun no Zatsuon Listener].

Q: Just how much post[cards] did you get back then?

A: A ridiculous amount, which I’m grateful for. At its peak, the Twin Bee! series would get postcards piled up high across 8 or so long tables. I’d come in 4 hours before live broadcasts or recording sessions just to read them. Not too sure about the exact number of postcards we’d get though.

Q: You took 4 hours to read through the post?

A: Obviously there was a lot of mail to get through, but I also wanted to read them carefully before I sat down in front of the mic. I’d be poring through them so much that sometimes, by the time I read the actual postcard on air I’d be like, “Eh…hmm, haven’t I read this one already?” (laughs).

Q: Were you actually able to look through all the postcards in the first place?

A: Yes I did. Each and every one of them conveyed [its writer’s] feelings, and I wanted to return the thoughts. If I didn’t so, I’d be unable to reply [the fans] if I met them at events and things like that – and I’d really hate that. I’d often get fans coming up to me and saying, “I sent you a letter the other day, did you read it?”. At that point, I’d reply, “Ah, you’re X who lives in X”. Since I read all the letters I receive, I’d mostly be able to recall specific details while chatting [with my fans].

Q: You wished to commit each and every letter to memory!?

A: Their ‘feelings’ are something that will always have a place in [my] heart. And! For some reason, my memory only works well when it comes to this! I wonder why wasn’t it this good when I was still a student? (laughs). I believe that it was the power of handwritten postcards. For emails it takes quite a few times before I can remember, but handwritten postcards easily convey the writer’s personality.

Q: The individual’s personality does shine through on handwritten letters.

A: You can almost imagine the face of the person who wrote it – it’s so strange. It was a time when ‘handwritten mails’ were the norm which why such a ‘technique’ exploded back then.

Q: You would appeal for information on flying squirrels on your radio show back then.

A: Ahhh~ I really really really love flying squirrels (musasabi), they’re so cute! I still have loads of Musa-chan merchandise at home. I even invited an expert on flying squirrels as a guest on ‘(Come on FUNKY) Lips!’ [Bunka Housou] and had the chance to ask him questions. But I did get the feeling that the listeners were only enjoying seeing how much I loved flying squirrels, rather than actually liking flying squirrels themselves (laughs).

Q: You even played agony aunt for your listeners’ romance problems. There was the story of a high-schooler who didn’t get to confess to the person they liked and after listening to Twin Bee Paradise, decided to call them up despite many years having passed since they graduated – and they ended up hearing back from the other person.

A: I’d do anything to make others “Happy”. Quite a few of my listeners have even gotten married to each other and it’s sweet to be able to meet their children. It seems they’d been playing my voice and my songs to baby before they were born; when they come as a family to my events their child would even sing and dance for me – it’s so irresistibly cute!

Today it’s this radio show…tomorrow it’s that radio show…I just kept talking on radio everyday

Q: When you first received an offer to become a radio personality, how did you react to it?

A: I was still a rookie at that point so I’d do my best at whatever work came my way. But I especially loved radio, so I was happy to have received the offer.

Q: Your mom used to put the radio on all day long.

A: She’d always have it on. When she fell asleep at night, I’d listen to it in my room instead. When I’m in the car I’ll turn the radio on like I usually do. There aren’t any particular [shows/stations] that I listen to, but I’ll tune into a station that features a pleasant voice or plays music that tugs at my emotions. I listen to the radio a lot.

Q: Are you fond of the strange kind of atmosphere that comes across naturally on the radio?

A: What are you referring to? (laughs) Twin Bee? Or maybe Kouda Mariko no GM (Radio Osaka)? Or is it Lips? I tend to be misunderstood – on Twin Bee I’m in crazy mode and talk really fast, but that’s only because we had strict time constraints!

Q: Because half of it consisted of radio dramas?

A: Yeah. We’d get so excited with the radio dramas to the point where we couldn’t even get the opening and ending in (laughs). I want to read the listener mails! But I’m looking forward to the radio drama! What should I do…and somehow, I’ll start talking faster. People start to suspect that ‘Kouda Mariko doesn’t breathe, does she?’ but that’s because the director Sasaki-san uses magic hands (ie. editing) to make it sound like I’m not taking any breaths. Everyone, please be assured. I do breathe (laughs).

Q: You were working on a couple of radio shows simultaneously as well.

A: I was talking every day. Today it’s this programme and tomorrow it’s that show. People often said to me ‘You sure have a lot to talk about’ – I’d never run out of things to say.

Q: Oretachi Yattema~su (MBS Radio) was a show on which you worked alongside the manzai comedy duo Gokuraku Tonbo.

A: Yes it was. I was stupid… I should never interrupt when comedians start talking. That’s because their conversation has already been scripted. I didn’t know that.

Q: One plays the fool, the other makes the comebacks.

A: Yeah yeah. But I didn’t know that back then and often took things seriously and got mad (laughs). After the show was over the producer Kamitsu-san would always reprimand me, saying: ‘You can’t do that, Kunippu. You shouldn’t get mad there’ during our evaluation meetings. What I did was to tape and record a bunch of shows featuring comedians on the TV and radio and learned about how they talked, how they behaved during interviews, and how the guests on their shows conducted themselves. I had been causing a lot of trouble for Gokuraku Tonbo up until that point. The long-standing leader of the programme (TOKIO’s Joshima Shigeru) wouldn’t say anything but just kept laughing while looking on. I only realize now that Itao (Itsuji)-san who came in as a guest, had been relentlessly teasing me. And I would get mad at that too. When I see Itao-san on TV nowadays I’ll think ‘I’m sorry’ (laughs). I am filled with nothing but gratitude to everyone for warmly nurturing me [on that programme].

Q: Did you make good use of what you learnt from working with comedians on your own programmes?

A: I definitely did. How to use intervals, how to ‘ride’ and ‘pull back’ the tide, breathing techniques. I’d even throw in comebacks like ‘do you think you’re a comedian?’ during some of my talks (laughs). Or say things like ‘That would be disastrous for a comedian’ or ‘that wouldn’t be what a comedian would do’. I became fearless, or should I say, I was awe-inspired. I really learned a lot.

My staff said to me – let’s have you sing as Kouda Mariko

Q: Your first single consisted of double A-side songs – Bokura no Suteki/Harmony (1994), which served as Twinpara’s opening theme and image song respectively. Your artist debut resulted from your radio work, correct?

A: My first recorded song was probably a character song for the drama CD Sill no Sasayaki. It was a song for a graceful girl and I was repeatedly told to make it ‘gentle. Yes, gentle’, so I performed the song as gently as I could. I’d always said that I loved music and I was forever singing. During recordings I’d always say ‘please let me sing more’. I think the staff members’ standards of what they deemed as acceptable differed from mine. Amidst all that, there were staff who were receptive to my aspirations and said to me, ‘Well, let’s have you sing as Kouda Mariko. Not as a character’. That was how it started.

Q: You probably hadn’t accumulated as much training for music as you had for acting then – did you feel it at all daunting to embark on a career as a professional singer?

A: I didn’t find it intimidating at all. What I felt was happiness. ‘I’m gonna sing. I’m gonna sing!’. I’d been playing piano and doing music since I was a child, plus my parents both loved music and were always singing and dancing – I was already in a musical environment before I was even born. My father used to sing and dance down the school corridors (laughs).

Q: Your dad, who used to be a headmaster did that? (laughs)

A: Yeap. He’d sing when he was outdoors, or even at the train station platform. Thanks to him, his daughter turned out to be the same (laughs). When I absent-mindedly start singing at the train platform in my hometown, the other people there will just watch over me warmly. It’s a bit embarrassing (laughs).

Q: Were there teething problems involved with the making of Bokura no Suteki?

A: (The lyricist) Tozawa Masami-san is quite similar to my older sister in demeanour. I cheer up whenever Masami-san is around. My schedules would always be packed to the point where I had no time to sleep and ended up half-dead by the time I arrived at the studio to sing. Masamin was so busy herself but she’d say to me ‘I’ll come [to the studio] every time if it’s okay with you’, and she really did come to the studio every time. She’d scold and comfort me over a lot of things while we were making the Pure album (1994) and especially during Vivid (1995). Once, she remarked ‘That kind of singing style – I hate it’ which had me going ‘Eh?!?!’ – it was a big shock to me (laughs). I was totally unaware of it myself but apparently I had this habit of inserting ‘shakuri’* (shifting pitch) in my vocals. After that I managed to sing it in a straightforward manner. Being careful with my singing helped to build up many experiences for me.

*shakuri literally means ‘to jerk’; in vocal terms it refers to a technique that bends notes higher in pitch. Refer to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8xItIknXLY for an example. Often used in enka.

Note: Tozawa Masami passed away from cancer in 2012.

Q: You began writing your own lyrics quite early on as well.

A: The lyrics I wrote would be revised by Masamin, and she’d always to say to me ‘I’m supervising this so if it’s not up to my standards then I’ll bin it!’. It made me go ‘Whaaaat, that’s so unreasonable!’, but I’d write and rewrite the lyrics, creating a world of song.

Q: Tozawa-san also wrote famous songs for the likes of SMAP and Minamino Yoko.

A: What I learnt from her was to ‘never let inspiration slip away’. Whenever I was sent songs, whether it be in the studio or anywhere else, I would listen to them on repeat and when as soon as the thought that ‘this worldview would be perfect [for the song]’ popped into my mind, I’d start writing the lyrics down. At that point we didn’t walk around with things like laptops or iPhones, so I’d have to carefully write them by hand. Back then songs were lengthier so the lyrics would take up something like 3 sheets of paper. I wanted Tozawa-san to see them as soon as possible so I’d fax them over to her. And she called me back on my phone and scolded me. ‘If it doesn’t fit on a single lyric sheet then it’s pointless! I can’t even see what’s written!’. She’d tackle me head-on without shirking. I was truly happy, and I truly enjoyed it. I once asked her, ‘What should I do when I just can’t come up with any ideas?’ and she replied passionately, ‘Write, write and write more!’.

Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall that you’d write your lyrics on sheets of graph paper?

A: That’s right. I tried to make them fit within a single sheet. There was one instance in my early days where I was invited to guest on Yoshida Terumi-san and Omata Masako-san’s live broadcast programme; as I was awaiting my turn in the waiting room, I started scribbling lyrics freely on a brand-new sheet of fax paper…and I got scolded by Masamin.

Q: Did your writing style change when word processing became the norm?

A: It became strangely easier to write. Things that were hard to fathom when handwritten now turned out to be easily understood. Song structures became simpler to grasp and I could instantly register the amount of lines to be sung just by looking [at the worksheet]. Having said that I still write down my vision for the song by hand first, summarizing it as best possible before typing it up and making any corrections. Nowadays we’ve progressed on to using PCs, but I still write the initial draft on paper. For some reason I find that sitting in front of a keyboard makes the worldview that I’m depicting through my lyrics a bit shallow, as if I’m rejecting my own [work] within myself.

Q: When you were working on Pure and Vivid, it got to the point where you were living in the studio.

A: I did do that (laughs). I’d often sleep on the sofas in the studio. Some of the studios even had bathroom shower facilities. At times, I would hit a wall with my singing and I’d say, ‘Yeah, something feels off…can I go take a shower?’. When I think about it, I probably racked up higher studio rental fees thanks to my shower-taking and I do feel sorry now, but I knew nothing about it at the time. I’d be in there right from the recording of the backing track and in most cases, I had to record my own demo vocal as well so it really seemed like I was living in the studio.

Q: The longest stretch would be for about 1 week?

A: For Pure I’d go straight to work from the [music] studio, then back again after work was done (laughs). During Vivid, I enjoyed hanging around to watch the musicians record the backing track and from I’d then go on happily to record the guide vocal. I simply didn’t have a chance to go home.

Q: You didn’t think about wanting to go home?

A: Well, I love being at home so there were times when I wished I could go back but at the same time, I really like my fellow musicians and enjoy creating [music] with them, plus it’s my own album that we’re working on.

I’m allowed to do what I love to do. Given something so wonderful, it’d be boring if I didn’t lay it all on the line

Q: I suppose you would only have gotten busier – did you ever experience not having enough time to sleep?

A: I wonder if I should talk about it. On a certain day, I had to take part in a late-night live radio show, with a concert the following day followed by yet another late-night live programme and then, I’d have to travel to Hokkaido the day after that for another concert. When that was all done I appeared as an invited guest on a local programme and a certain staff member invited me to go for drinks afterwards. Obviously my tank was already empty by that point so I had no choice but to decline, saying ‘I’m sorry but please just let me sleep tonight’.

Q: You’re on the slender side, and your body doesn’t seem to be the robust type..

A: I’m sorry for always making you worry. During genuine emergencies I’d be admitted to ER and after receiving treatment from the doctors, return to work. There was one point in time where I could barely even speak and had trouble breathing but since I couldn’t afford to take time off work, I had to pay a visit to my family’s ENT doctor. And he got angry with my manager, screaming ‘Stop being unreasonable and let her rest – if not, she’ll die!’ (laughs)

Q: Things like ‘having trouble breathing’ seem like particularly weighty topics when you put them in words but you speak of them in such an easy-going manner and you always maintain a kind of cheerfulness in the studio, even back then. It may have seemed to be something natural to you. Looking back, would you give yourself a pat on the back thinking ‘I did well’?

A: I’m filled with gratitude. We were united, all working in the same direction towards turning our dreams into reality. I had been given a chance to do what I love to do – blessed with such a wonderful opportunity, wouldn’t it be boring if I did not lay my life on the line [for my goals]? I still feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or a minor job – they’re all important. Part of me feels that that is what I’m living for. Rather than getting worried over whether my body will hold up, I fear a decline in the quality of my work more; more than I fear death itself. I am always aiming higher; not merely to maintain my position, but with the goal of constantly advancing. Keeping that in mind, I thought to myself ‘I need to work to become stronger!’ which meant improving my physical condition and working on my strength and stamina, and I feel considerably tougher now.

Q: Over the course of your artiste activities, you also had a deep working connection with Kameda Seiji-san, one of the most illustrious names in the industry today.

A: Yes I did. We go back quite a long way. Our initial connection was through (engineer) Inoue Uni-san and [Kameda] ended up arranging a lot of my songs and playing bass on them. When [I] couldn’t make it to the studio we’d work together in Kameda-san’s own home studio – it was great fun. Kameda-san was always the mischievous mood-maker kind of guy. When we run into each other at things like the Ap Bank Fes these days, we’ll get all hyper, going ‘Ah, long time no see!’.

*Kameda extensively works as a writer/producer (see wiki for his credits list) most prominently with long-time collaborator Shiina Ringo, where he played bass for the now-defunct Tokyo Jihen. The AP Bank Fes is an annual event organized by AP Bank, a Japanese non-profit organization dedicated to renewable energy and environmental projects. The project was founded by music producer Kobayashi Takeshi, Mr.Children frontman Sakurai Kazutoshi and composer Sakamoto Ryuichi.

Q: During a period where you were active on various fronts, the seiyuu boom happened – were you aware of what was going on?

A: Well, I wasn’t aware of it at all. There might have been one, there might not have been – I had no idea.

Q: Maybe that’s what it seemed like to the parties who were actually involved.

A: I wonder…when my work was done, whether or not I saw shining smiles on the faces of the staff members was the appraisal of the day’s work for me. If I messed up I wouldn’t get to see the staff’s sparkling faces. And for people who listen to my radio shows or for those who come to my concerts, I’d absolutely have to bring them cheer and excitement or move their hearts. That was the minimum line that I had to cross, and only from there would I think about how to express myself or convey my thoughts – that was all that ever was on my mind.

Q: In other words, you strived to connect only with the people you should, while remaining unaffected by the happenings of the outside world.

A: I think that kind of environment was exceptionally good. Since it eliminates the need for us to think about unnecessary things.

Q: Regardless of whether you were aware of the boom or not, you did grace the cover of the launch issue (and subsequent issues) of Seiyuu Grandprix, one of the symbols of the seiyuu boom – that made you an icon.

A: One fine day, a certain chief editor walked into Aoni [note: Kouda’s agency] with his eyes all sparkling, saying to me animatedly – ‘I want to make a seiyuu magazine. Kouda-san, let’s make one together!’. And we brought the idea to my agency’s senior MD at the time. Rather than thinking about it as a job offer that I accepted, I went into it with the perception that I was working together with a friend to help give shape to [a] dream.

Q: You did not hesitate over the idea of doing gravure work?

A: Not at all. I was excited. I’d be informed, ‘You have a photoshoot tomorrow’ and I’d reply ‘Understood!’. The only other thought I might have had was ‘My eyes are red, I wonder if that’s okay?’. Though to tell the truth, I hate having my photo taken (laughs).

Q: With the emergence of such a magazine, was there the feeling that the industry was getting more exciting?

A: I started getting letters from overseas. From people of various countries. There were people who tried their best to write in English and there were others who wrote in their native language, which I didn’t understand a word of (laughs). Even when I took part in stage performances by Aoni Juku graduates, there were [fans] who came all the way from Korea to watch. I was touched.

Q: I wonder how people from abroad knew of you back then? Nowadays we have internet and stuff.

A: I went to Spain to shoot my photobook once, and when I turned on the TV – Japanese anime was being broadcast. Also, it seems that analog radio waves were transmitted throughout the peninsula.

Q: Still, the anime’s voices would have been dubbed in Spanish, wouldn’t they?

A: The songs stayed in Japanese. The voices would be dubbed by local voice actors and it felt somewhat surreal (laughs).

Q: Shooting your photobook in Spain was a big opportunity for you as well.

A: I was really happy about it. I was also a little worried about the amount of sun though. My skin allergies would break out and cause a bit of fever, making it hard for me to breathe. It caused inconvenience for the cameraman Takuma [Hiroyuki]-san and I’m very sorry for that. Still, I enjoyed myself. When I was out taking a walk, someone called out to me, “Would you like to buy a castle?” (laughs). It seems it’s normal for castles to be put up for sale on the streets. What’s more, they were cheap. When I asked, “Can a Japanese person like me buy one?”, the seller replied “Of course”. I told him “I’ll think about it first and drop by later,” and I went home. It was a lovely castle. I want to buy one (laughs).

All the staff would glower and bite on their lips. It was that kind of era

Q: Weren’t there any other good things that happened as a result of the boom?

A: Yes there were. In the past, when I was asked “What do you work as?” and I answered “I am a seiyuu”, like that long-running joke that is actually a true story, people would think “Ah so you man the cash register at the Seiyu supermarket” (laughs). But [because of the boom], people started to gain awareness and would say, “Ah. So you do voice work”. I think that is a situation that my seiyuu colleagues of that generation will all have experienced.

Q: I remember that you once remarked on radio that “I do voice work, but I am also an actor”.

A: That was one of the fundamental principles of Aoni Juku, the acting academy that I graduated from. We had this drilled into us – ‘First, study to be an actor and only after that should you learn how to express yourself using only your voice’. I think all of us would introduce ourselves by saying ‘I am an actor’.

Q: In that sense, the expansion of the breadth of your activities to cover film and drama seemed like a natural move.

A: It was supposed to be that way but I have to say I was a bit shocked to see the movie posters with ‘a seiyuu takes on the challenge of movies’ written on them. To be honest, when people would tell me ‘so you’re a seiyuu?’ in those days, I didn’t really feel like it came with positive connotations. When I working in the music studios [the musicians] would say to me, ‘You may be a seiyuu but here, we’ll be treating you as an artiste where we make music together’ – they basically saw me as a ‘vocalist’. Obviously I was there as a ‘vocalist’, working with musicians to create music, to make [an album]. Still, as soon as I took one step out of the studio I’d have comments like ‘Recently, seiyuu have been messing about singing and even holding concerts, isn’t that great?’ directed at me on live radio shows.

Q: The host said that?

A: Yeah. What’s more, they didn’t say it in a way that seemed like it was meant to be offensive. It was just an offhand remark that came out in the middle of a normal conversation. Something similar happened when I was being interviewed by a newspaper company or something, promoting my new record together with a staff member from my label and my manager. It was clear that the interviewer had not listened to the record. What came from his mouth was obnoxious words – ‘Why do you present yourself as an artist? Is it because the seiyuu [profession] is too lowly?’. Of course, there were lots of people who welcomed me warmly and I’m greatly appreciative of that. Unfortunately, there were just too many times when all my staff had to bite their lips, holding back [their feelings]. That was the kind of era it was so I can safely say I did not feel any of the so-called fuss over the boom at all. Just recalling [those days] brings back the frustrations and the tears…

Still, perhaps it was just a normal way for the other party to behave. Maybe I’d been too picky about something which caused that tense situation – I’m now reflecting on my actions. If they believed it was so, I should have clarified ‘This is what I want to be, [an artiste]’. I should have gotten him to listen to my music and if he still thought that ‘seiyuu are only treating singing as a side-job’, then I would have used that frustration as a springboard to succeed in the future. But back then, we didn’t have the leeway to do such things. It was merely ‘What? Why are they saying stuff like that again?’. Those were days where all we could do was cry tears of regret.

Q: Did you feel determined to fight against that prejudice?

A: I wasn’t ever really thinking about social betterment or anything. What I hated above all was seeing the sad looks on the faces of my staff members. To have the songs carefully crafted with my fellow musicians seen through these [anti] ‘seiyuu’-tinted glasses, to be scorned – it was disappointing. When all of this was going on, Kameda-san said something to me. “Mari-chan, for as long as you want to sing, I will do it with you. I would sacrifice my life to make music – never forget that”. There is no meaning in persevering with making music if it is in a world where the musicians whom I put my full trust in are subjected to painful experiences. However, it is precisely because we have so painstakingly worked together to create [something], that today, there are songs that I still want to sing, [anime] productions that I want people to know more about, radio shows that I hope to work on again – it makes me feel certain that I have left my mark [on this world]. Ah, that sounded like self-praise (laughs).

It’s a life’s work for me so a life without radio would be unthinkable

Q: Nope, I think it’s exactly as you say. Going back a little bit here – the scope of your work had expanded, but you still found radio to be the pillar of your career?

A: It’s a life’s work for me, so a life without radio would be unthinkable. Though ‘ani-radio’ has emerged as a sub-genre, to me, radio is radio. Sato-D [Sato Takuya, director of Kouda Mariko no GM] would proudly say ‘I don’t think of you as a seiyuu. I’m nurturing you as a [radio] host’. He’s the type of person who would hurl ashtrays around so I was raised very well. Things like ‘what one should never do on radio’, things I should always be careful about, even the basic concepts of ‘Teniwoha’; he taught me all of this, made sure I handled them appropriately. I feel truly grateful to him.

Q: FUNKY Lips!, the late-night radio show you did on Bunka Housou, was targeted at the general public rather than anime fans.

A: That is the basis of all my radio shows. I want listeners who may not even know who I am, to enjoy the programme.

Q: Even today, you’re still hosting a show with Minami Kaori called Bun Bun no GM (distributed by Radio Osaka’s official Nico Nico channel).

A: Rather than being a proper radio show, Bun Bun no GM’s concept is more about Kaori and I enjoying ourselves at a leisurely pace. What we’re doing isn’t particularly incisive or clever; it’s more like we’re having fun at a reunion together with our listeners.

*Minami Kaori is an Osaka-based MC and tarento.

Q: The ‘Sound Conscious’ corner where you read listener poems is something imported from your GM [radio show] days.

A: In the past, most of them would be about club activities or education, friendship and relationship problems. Nowadays they’re mostly about love for their children and family, about their work. All of them are so dear, so cute (laughs). And aren’t Niconamas so interesting? I enjoy seeing the comments fly by.

Q: It’s like a barrage [of comments], isn’t it?

A: They’ve recently implemented that survey function as well. I wonder what would happen if we could do that for radio shows. Seems like fun.

Q: On the other hand, what do you think were the good points of radio shows of the past?

A: This is just a personal feeling, but I think that the radio shows of those times were less about business and more about ‘heart’. Or at least, the radio guys I’m familiar with were the type of people who had ‘infinitely passionate hearts’. Obviously there are still people like that now but sometimes, it seems there is a [underlying] claustrophobic feeling. I know, because I still love and listen to radio shows nowadays.

Q: Perhaps this is because they harbour a different type of passion?

A: I’m not sure if I can adequately express it in words, but back in those days, we all felt like we had a ‘sense of purpose’. I’m not saying that the hosts and radio staff of today don’t, but I feel like those from my era truly thought of it as ‘I’ve found my calling’. We had a deeper bond with our listeners and the local populace back then.

Q: Nowadays, the [life] cycle for shows is pretty short.

A: It’s sad when shows end after just 1 cour, or disappear without warning.

Q: When you mentioned a ‘sense of purpose’ earlier, are you referring to things like the responsibility to bring cheer to your listeners?

A: To me, it’s to ‘live our lives, together’. Not just the listeners but also the staff and all who are involved. Though you can’t really do that on radio nowadays. When I watch the news and see stories about young lives that have been snuffed out by their own hand, I think to myself, ‘Why did my radio not have the chance to come across this soul? Why did they not get a chance to listen to us? Why did we not have an opportunity to go out and embrace them? When we are always here?’. It’s a bit impertinent of me to think so, but I truly believe this – that radio does indeed hold such power.

Q: You’ve seen success on many fronts. Is there anything else you’re looking to achieve in the future?

A: There’s so much I want to do! I want to expand the areas of narration that I’m working on, and above all, I want to continue to deliver ‘radio that is above all, radio’. I’m taking a break from singing at the moment but I definitely want to revive that. With all of [my companions]. I’d also like to work on a kids’ anime. The type of show that allows kids to harbour dreams. A moe-oriented one would be fine. Serious stories are good as well. But I’d like to do something that has a worldview similar to those shows I used to watch when I was a child. Shows like Astro Boy, Mrs Pepper Pot, The White Whale of Mu, Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato… when I start giving examples, I’ll just go on and on. I’d like to work on something that would be enjoyed not only by adults, but by children too. I want to reach out to them. When I voiced Miyuki’s mother and Queen Mirage on Precure, I was deeply impressed by the staff. “For this show, we’re trying to send out this particular type of message to children, so please do it this way instead” was one of the comments I received after I made an NG. They weren’t concerned with viewer ratings or anything like that – they merely wanted to deliver a specific message to the children watching. I was touched!

Q: The message wasn’t something that was straightforward?

A: It wasn’t. For example, there was a Mother’s Day episode that, in modern times where family bonds are starting to wane, [we] wanted to ‘deliver a message to the children’. That was truly wonderful. Ah, I forgot about the question about what I want to achieve! I’m Kouda Mariko, and I want to achieve Happy Space Domination!!

[Seiyuu Premium, pg 42-59]

#128 – Kyokai no RINNE: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu

128_rinne_matsuoka
Second in the NHK RINNE AniToku interview series is Matsuoka Yoshitsugu’s long-suffering catservant Oboro, who’s forced to work under Murakawa Rie’s rich bitch Shinigami Ageha by contract. They apparently hate each other’s guts (Ageha even left Oboro under a rock for a year) but she just keeps him as her underling out of spite. See how hateful all the people in this show are?

Pt.1

The one phrase said to me when I was feeling under pressure – ‘I love you!’
Q: Describe your feelings when you found out that you’d be joining Kyokai no RINNE.

A: That meant I’d be appearing in one of Takahashi Rumiko-sensei’s works, someone whom I’ve known for a while, and that made me feel a bit of pressure. Working on a series by someone you know means that you can’t afford to be clumsy with your portrayal and there is that bit of fear over the possibility of being told that ‘your voice is different from the character’s image’ or being unable to draw out a performance that satisfies the director’s requests.

When I turned up at RINNE’s recordings however, the studio was filled with people whom I was familiar with and that cultivated an environment that allowed me to perform at ease. During my first recording session, (Kimura) Ryohei suddenly said to me ‘Yoshi, I love your Oboro’ – he mentioned a lot of stuff to me but I couldn’t fully grasp it all at the time and it was only later that I realized what he’d said, and that made me happy.

He’s the complete opposite of me! However…
Q: What kind of character is Oboro, who you voice?

A: The first thing that comes to mind is that Oboro is a tsundere.. that is how he treats Ageha; it’s like he’s an elementary school kid playing tricks on the girl he likes. On the other hand, I’m the sort of person who likes to live life without getting into all sorts of trouble so we’re not alike at all (laughs). I do actually find it incredibly easy to play characters that aren’t similar to me.

How to act when you have a tail
Q: You play a black cat this time – is there any difference in the way you approach voicing an animal versus voicing a human?

A: There definitely is a difference (laughs). I’ve voiced an armadillo before and I wasn’t allowed to use human speech then so all I did was go ‘kyuu kyuu’. So in a sense, this show was a lot easier to do. However, Oboro has a tail so I tried to take its movements into account. Tails are a very important part of cats so I was about 10% conscious of my butt while I was acting. These are fine nuances, and I try to be aware of that in my performances. I do prioritize [a character’s] ‘appearance’ as part of my acting. His personal background too. I expand [the role] based on those two aspects.

He’s a tsundere, therefore…
Q: Was there anything in particular that you focused on while voicing Oboro?

A: To not make his speech too filthy. If I were to play it straight, Oboro would likely turn out to be the sort of character that goes off on violent rants. If I overcooked [my acting], people might end up getting the wrong impression, thinking that I sound like I want to hurt Ageha for real. In Oboro’s case he really is just a tsundere. I’m careful in trying to bring out that nuance, that he doesn’t truly mean all that abuse that he’s spouting out.

I want to do it! So I will!
Q: Do you have any memorable stories from the recording studio?

A: [The sound director] said to me, ‘what should we do with the child version of Oboro?’. I was wondering if he meant that there was a chance of me not doing his child voice so I interrupted ‘No no I want to do it, let me do it!’. They did end up using my voice, which I’m grateful for (laughs)

I’d be happy even if I had no money
Q: Which of the other Shinigami-Black Cat combinations are you fond of?

A: I’d say Rinne and Rokumon, even though they’re so pitiful (laughs). When I look at the two of them I think about how one can be happy even without any money, and how they make a great pairing. I also wonder whether it would be better for Rokumon-chan to face reality a little bit more.

I’ll be a good girl (laughs)
Q: Apart from your own character, do you like any of the others?

A: I’d say Suzu. She’s basically the mischievous type of kid, but one who’ll grow up to be a fine woman (bursts out in laughter)

Pt.2

It’s important to discuss as we go along…
Q: What is important to you as a seiyuu?

A: To listen to the words of your [dialogue] partner carefully. I craft my own (acting plan), but even if I know the other person well I will make sure I listen to their dialogue during the tests and then formulate how I intend to respond – I think it’s really important to discuss the acting as we go along. If [we] lose our focus, the conversation would in turn end up going astray.

In my first starring role, I cried at the words of my senior!
Q: What was your turning point as a seiyuu?

A: This happened when I was voicing the lead role for the first time – during an after-party following recordings for the 5th episode or so of the show, a certain senior said to me ‘Your role – anyone could do that couldn’t they?’ and I burst into tears, saying ‘So who do you think should have filled the role!’ (embarrassed) I think I was a bit drunk at the time too.

When that happened, that senior replied ‘if you feel so strongly about what I said then next week, go on and show me a performance that only you can do’. A week passed. I put my all into the tests, expressing the character’s thoughts in my own voice. And my senior tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘See, you can do it if you try’.

From there, I went on to receive feedback about how my performances were good and decisive – I could incorporate my own ideas and give them a go during tests, as well as being able to discuss and build on ideas along with the director and staff members.

At one point, I had a chance to chat with the animation director and when I asked him ‘how do you feel when the emotions [in our voices] exceed the impression that the visuals are giving off?’ and he replied, ‘If that is kind of performance that you come up with after exploring various options, then I would go back and fix the visuals instead’. That made me determined to go ahead and act, with confidence in the [many] staff members.

I lower my voice at the convenience store (laughs)
Q: Over the course of your daily life, has there been anything that makes you think – Ah, this could be an occupational disease?

A: I don’t really see this as being an occupational disease or anything but when I go to buy stuff at convenience stores, my identity is exposed the minute I open my mouth. People go, ‘Aren’t you Matsuoka-san?’. It happens even when I’m answering my mobile phone on the street. That’s why I’ve been using a super low tone of voice whenever I go shopping lately (laughs). [In a low bass voice] ‘Nope I don’t need a bag’. Though they don’t know who I am just by seeing my face (laughs).

If there were no ad-libs…
Q: If you could pick any NHK programme you liked to appear on…?

A: Well! I wonder what… (thinks for a long time). Maybe Let’s Tensai TV-kun, many characters appears in that, don’t they? I’d like to provide a voice for one of those. But it might be a bit hard if I were asked to do ad-libs (laughs)

I wonder if cars will ever be able to fly
Q: If you could get in a time machine, would you prefer to go to the past or the future?

A: Definitely the future. What’s more, I want to go about a 1000 years in[to the future]. I want to see how much progress has been made. Maybe there’ll be flying cars? When you think about it, it’s amazing how much progress we’ve seen in the last 20 years; things like game consoles are just becoming ridiculous, it’s a 1000 years later (laughs)

Vocal cords on loan
Q: What, to you, is a ‘seiyuu’?

A: I often say that [seiyuu are people who] ‘lend their vocal cords to a character’; what I mean by that is that the character is free to utilize my voice to speak.

Playing various types of roles is like the sensations you get from diving; giving a sense of pleasure to people who are watching us, giving people dreams – that is what I think a seiyuu is. Obviously it’s not all fun and games. I don’t that think the idea of ‘breathing life into [a character]’ should be regarded lightly. Acting with body and soul is what a seiyuu is all about. Though at first, it was just a profession that I started out of admiration.

Please have a look at Matsuoka’s new image!
Q: Lastly, please leave a message for the readers.

A: I voice Oboro in Kyokai no RINNE; it is a type of role I’ve never done before so please look out for an all-new Matsuoka. My co-stars are all wonderful people, so thanks to all who have watched the show up ‘til now and please continue to support us!
——————————————
Next in the series will be Ishigami Shizuka’s Shima Renge, which I will post after NHK gets part 2 up at the end of the month!

#127 – Kyokai no RINNE: Ishikawa Kaito

127_rinne_ishikawa
Kyokai no RINNE is somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me and I’m loving it now that we see a little bit less of deadbeat dad Sabato (Yamaguchi Kappei) and more of all the other side characters. I’ve never seen as dysfunctional and hateful, yet hilarious-as-hell supporting cast in a show aimed at kids – from Ishida Akira’s cat butler Kurosu who works for Sanpei Yuko’s bratty young apprentice Shinigami Shoma to Saito Soma’s righteous-yet-savage Shirushigami Kain and the sneaky scythe-fixing siblings Raito and Refuto voiced by Konishi Katsuyuki and Ito Shizuka.

But heading the colourful cast of characters is the one good man out of the 2 dozen assholes – professional hobo, part-time Shinigami Rokudo Rinne, voiced by Ishikawa Kaito. NHK, on which the anime airs, interviewed Ishikawa as part of its AniToku series of features. Each interview is split into 2 parts.

Pt.1

Feel-at-home atmosphere with a gliding start (laughs)
Q: Kyokai no RINNE Season 2 is finally starting – what’s recording been like after the break in between?

A: We do feel as if we’re at home, really. It’s been a while yet it doesn’t quite feel that way. Rather than getting all fired up for our return, it’s kind of like we’re slipping back into the studio and gliding along into recording (laughs). That’s honestly how I feel. And it’s so RINNE.

The _____ are gone!
Q: With there being such a cozy atmosphere in the studio, were there any memorable happenings or episodes?

A: This happened just recently after Season 2 started, but during recordings some staple items disappeared and the blame was laid at my feet.

Q: Staple items?

A: I’m referring to salted rice crackers; I brought them along to the studio during recordings for Season 1. I had thought people would be glad, but nobody seemed to want to eat them and I pretty much polished them off all by myself. That’s why I thought to myself that it was fine not to bring anything anymore. But a senior then accused me ‘Oi, why are the salt crackers gone!’ (laughs). I believe they deliberately said that out of kindness. That was memorable for me. ‘I wouldn’t eat them even if they were put in front of me, but to not have them around is a problem! Y’know?’ ..something along those lines (laughs). Good seniors do proper jokes like that – it’s great fun!

As the chair, I was being supported
Q: As the ‘chair’*, how does it feel to be the leader who’s the ‘face’ of the series?

A: I did feel [very enthusiastic] at first, but (as a Takahashi Rumiko work) this is a series with history and many prominent seniors have worked on [past] productions, so I hoped to do it all fired up and with energetic intensity. But you know, this isn’t really that kind of show is it? As I was working on it I started to feel that if I displayed too much intensity it would make the funny parts of the show unfunny… I thought that rather than getting overly eager, it would be better if I acted as composed as I could possibly be…that atmosphere was brought about by our seniors and I’m just riding on their coat-tails! I feel the many seniors in the studio are the ones who are upholding and supporting me.

*The ‘chair’ (座長, zacho) acts as the facilitator/leader of a troupe/cast where they are in charge of leading the interviews, public events, cast greetings etc. In most cases the seiyuu of the main character serves in this role.

The only cliché lies in the ‘voice!’ (laughs)
Q: This is a bit of a clichéd question, but what similarities do you and Rinne share?

A: (cuts in) NOTHING AT ALL! I mean, I talk non-stop and I don’t eat grass or anything, so I’m gonna give you a clichéd answer – we share the same voice (laughs).

‘It’s not Gabyon..’ (laughs) – Inherited Rumi-isms
Q: We overheard that you have inherited a certain something from Takahashi Rumiko series’ regular Yamaguchi Kappei…

A: That’s probably ‘Gapyon’, a word uttered when someone’s sent flying (laughs). It’s a Takahashi [Rumiko] trademark. What I’ve got to be careful with is the fact that it’s ‘Gapyon’ and not ‘Gabyon’. I accidentally said ‘Gabyon’ once and Kappei-san pointed it out – ‘It’s Gapyon’ (laughs). But I do struggle a little bit having to say that part of the script while still maintaining Rinne’s character.

Adults, what are they!? (laughs)
Q: We have a question here from Kyokai no RINNE director Sugawara. ‘What kind of adult do you want to grow up to be?’

A: Wow that’s so hard to answer~ so hard~, first of all, what is an adult anyway (laughs) Yeap (ponders) Isn’t it tough to define just what an ‘adult’ is?

Q: Yes it’s quite tough. So do you think of yourself as an adult?

A: Right now I’m a child, just a child (laughs). But I’m also an actor so I think it’s fine for me to not have to grow up. There are emotions that are unique to children; for the resentment and fiery feelings they have, they also show unbridled joy in return. It’s something that’s really important for an actor so although I want to become an adult, I also don’t want to grow up – those are my true feelings (laughs).

Pt2

‘Creating an outline through logic’…but that’s my own impudent acting theory
Q: What did you do in terms of role creation?

A: It seems I used a lot more logic than expected. Since I said this particular line here and considering how to connect [things] emotionally, this line should come next – that is how I construct my acting, by thinking ‘I have to say this phrase here and this is what comes next so now, what do I want to do with that?’. Having said all that, I can’t be too rigid either.

Talking about stuff like ‘acting theory’ kind of makes me sound impudent but when I say that I’m creating an [acting] outline through logic, it’s only the emotional side that I’m referring to – when it comes to things like methods of expression and nuances, I try my best to absorb and digest what I hear when I’m in the studio before coming up with [my] lines. Rather than being unyielding in my delivery, you could say that I’m unyielding in developing a framework [for my acting].

‘An anime-specific performance…’ an even more in-depth view on acting theory
Q: What is important to you when creating a role?

A: To comprehend what the character is saying, as well as having to contemplate just what is required for an anime-specific performance.

Q: An anime-specific performance?

A: For anime characters, you have to treat them as real people in order to bring them to life. Regardless, it still isn’t reality so performance-wise I purposely eliminate elements like speaking in a way that normal people wouldn’t, or emotions that wouldn’t get to through to normal people. It has an effect on bringing about laughter and moving [others]. Obviously the manner of performance differs depending on the production in question, so I strive to be able to respond to whatever is being asked of me.

I’d be happy if the gentleness is apparent
Q: Was there anything in particular that you focused on while voicing Rokudo Rinne?

A: I…try to put some tenderness into [Rinne]. There aren’t any unkind people in this series but I hope that amongst all these characters, I am able to show that Rinne is a gentle person at heart through my acting – I’d be glad if that part is apparent.

A work that I consider an integral part of me…
Q: Let’s talk about something different. What NHK anime sticks in your mind?

A: Around the time when I made my debut, I appeared as a mob character in the Phi Brain series and I had only one word of dialogue: ‘Oops’, but I remember it as clear as day. My character had been beaten by the protagonist voiced by Asanuma Shintaro-san, and he actually remembered who I was – we met again while working on another show in which I voiced a major character. He went ‘Ah!’, and had a chat with me, so I think in a sense [Phi Brain] was a show that helped me to form bonds. So when I think of NHK anime, this is the one show that’s an integral part of me.

That’s the question that troubles me the most! (laughs)
Q: If you could appear in any NHK programme, what would it be?

A: That question troubles me the most. It’s hard to answer (ponders). After all, I’m not yet on a level where I can even appear on something like Historical Unknowns: Historia. Ah, maybe I can appear on that calligraphy show (NHK High School Course – Calligraphy I) that Hikasa Yoko-san is in! My calligraphy would improve, plus the show seems fun. I simply want to get better at calligraphy.

An answer to end all uncertainties…
Q: What, to you, is a ‘seiyuu’?

A: This is my own subjective view, right?… (ponders) Ah! I would say that a person who is an actor, is a seiyuu. If it was only words that were involved, then we should have been able to get robots to perform our jobs by now (laughs). I think that I want to be an actor.
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Coming up next in Part 2 of the RINNE series is Matsuoka Yoshitsugu!

#126 – Battery: Uchiyama Koki x Hatanaka Tasuku

battery
The Battery light novel series about baseball by Asano Atsuko has received live-action film (2007) and dorama (2008) adaptations in the past, now it’s got an anime to go with it. Airing in the noitaminA block, the series is directed by Mochizuki Tomomi and stars Uchiyama Koki as pitcher Harada Takumi and Hatanaka Tasuku as catcher Nagakura Go. KoePota interviewed the duo in July.

Q: What were your thoughts upon reading the series?

Uchiyama: We used to have hardcover copies of the books at home and I remember reading them when I was a child. When my casting in the anime was confirmed, I went back to re-read the series and developed a fresh perspective on the story. I used to think that it was purely baseball fiction but upon re-reading it, I was both surprised and deeply intrigued by the story’s vivid depiction of the naïve passions of boys in their adolescence.

Hatanaka: For me, this [anime] provided me the first opportunity to get to know about Battery. Before I picked it up, I’d pictured it as just being novels about baseball but as I read further along I realized that rather than focusing on baseball matches, the writing instead painstakingly details things like the bodily sensations of the youth during those times, how they’re driven by strong impulses and how it’s difficult for them to restrain their compulsiveness. Reading the vividness of the descriptions did however, make me think long and hard about how I could possibly capture [those emotions].

Q: What sort of person is the character you play?

Uchiyama: He’s aloof yet as a genius baseball player, has this knack of drawing people towards himself. As he’s extremely prideful, he has a tendency to rebel against his coach and his seniors, calling them out on unwritten rules that he deems pointless. It was easy for me to empathize with him since I share his feelings.

Hatanaka: Go had known about Takumi since he was in elementary school; forming a battery together in junior high, he’s [constantly] fascinated by the pitches Takumi throws, as well as ending up being twisted around [Takumi’s] little finger all the time. Go knows that it’s a period of time where he needs to think about his future and focus on his studies, yet he is determined to learn more about Takumi and [decides to] take him straight on. As someone who has been a leader in youth baseball Go is fairly flexible, but I feel that dealing with Takumi puts him under a lot of strain and pressure.

Q: Do tell us if you think that either one of you resembles your own character.

Uchiyama: When Hatanaka-kun feels strongly enthusiastic about something, he’ll go ahead and pursue it in a forthright manner, which I think is pretty similar to what Go is like.

Hatanaka: I think Uchiyama-san is Takumi personified (laughs).

Uchiyama: Somehow, that doesn’t sound like a compliment to me (laughs). The director too, noted in his initial explanation that ‘Takumi has an awful personality’.

Hatanaka: He’s not awful! I think he’s a easily misunderstood kind of person unless you take the time to understand the principles and motives behind his actions.

Uchiyama: You mean he’s not pretentious?

Hatanaka: Yeah, and I think Uchiyama-san too, is a person who isn’t pretentious when it comes to acting. I find that very appealing and I myself am fascinated [by your acting]. I feel that’s quite similar to Takumi as well.

Q: Tell us about any points you were particularly careful about or anything you struggled with, when you were creating your role.

Uchiyama: I received instructions from the director to make him understated and natural sounding, so that’s what I kept in mind when acting out the role.

Hatanaka: For me it would be the dialect. On top of having to keep it sounding tidy, I had to consider what Go was thinking of and what he was aiming to achieve through his actions. I think it was important that I wasn’t merely manufacturing a voice, but that I was able to bring out a natural sincerity in his interactions with Takumi.

Q: What were your impressions upon watching the anime?

Uchiyama: I was impressed by how beautifully Takumi’s pitching form was depicted. Again, I believe this is a very important point for Battery as an anime; that it displays very fluid motion.

Hatanaka: The changes in facial expressions were drawn with finesse. I was surprised to see that instead of [the characters] having their eyes conspicuously wide open, the expressions on their face would subtly and carefully change – that was impressive.

Q: Could you tell us the highlights of this work as well as any particular scenes that left an impression on you?

Uchiyama: I believe that this is an anime that will not leave anyone, even those who have read the original work, with a sense of incongruity. You may not yet be able to imagine how it will turn out once complete with the music and sound effects added, but I do think that it is a work that will not betray your expectations.

Hatanaka: The scene in the first episode that left a deep impression on me would be the first time they play catch-ball. Go and Takumi end up clashing but that scene left a deep impression, both as I was acting it out and when I was watching the playback. I really felt how upset Takumi got there. You can see how piercing he is in the drama and movie, but I think that he’s portrayed even more vividly in the anime – and that’s one of the highlights of the series, I feel.

Q: Lastly, please leave a message.

Uchiyama: The novels richly portray the lush, beautiful scenery and it also takes great care in depicting the baseball scenes. We are all doing our best on this show so I hope that you will enjoy the results.

Hatanaka: I believe we’re all fully immersed in the characters we’re portraying. In the recording studio, we feel the passion of ‘Battery’ so I will continue to give my best as I work on the show. I hope you will show your support.

#125 – Fujiwara Keiji x Nazuka Kaori x Wakabayashi Kazuhiro

Asahi published an excerpt of an event featuring actors Fujiwara Keiji and Nazuka Kaori and sound director Wakabayashi Kazuhiro. Wakabayashi mainly works for Bones and both Fujiwara and Nazuka are actors he regularly casts – all three worked on Eureka Seven, for example.

Interviewer: Ohara Atsushi

Nazuka Kaori remarks: “I heard a rumour that for [certain] games, they won’t hire seiyuu who have less than 100,000 Twitter followers”. Wakabayashi Kazuhiro agrees – “It’s the truth!”. Fujiwara Keiji in turn relates, “When I was working on a certain game I asked, ‘What’s the reasoning behind the castings?’. The reply came: ‘We cast in order, beginning from the top of the popularity rankings’, and that made me go…Ah.”

Wow, so we see such things going on in the game industry too. As for where this sort of frank conversation about the industry took place, it was in fact during a special summer vacation course organized by the Kyoto Seika University’s animation department aimed at high school students titled ‘Seiyuu, Thinking About Animation Production and Sound Direction” , held on the 23rd of July. To chase your dreams, you need to possess knowledge of the actual circumstances you face – that was the gist of it.

Before we get into those fun stories aimed at a teenage audience with their sparkling eyes, let this 50-ish old interviewer guy introduce our trio. Wakabayashi, who teaches acoustics and directing in the [Seika] department, is a sound director whose credits include Ghibli and Oshii Mamoru productions and is most recently working on the summer anime Mob Psycho 100. A sound director’s job is to hire and guide voice actors, to write the music order* and to determine the placement of the background music and sound effects.

Fujiwara is a seiyuu/actor who boasts a strong list of acting credits, beginning from Crayon Shin-chan’s father Hiroshi to Holland in the Wakabayashi-directed TV series Eureka Seven as well as a recent personal favourite of mine – the music teacher in Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda. He also serves as the representative of the seiyuu production company Air Agency. Nazuka started acting in musicals when she was in elementary school third grade and made her seiyuu debut in her first year of junior high, playing the titular heroine of Eureka Seven and Nunally in Code Geass, amongst other roles. In other words, this is a gathering of the Eureka sound director, Holland, the leader of the outlaw group Gekkostate as well as one of its members, Eureka.

Now, let us hear the frank exchange between the trio.

*a ‘menu’ list of style/type of musical pieces required for the anime, that is sent to the composer

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event
Fuijwara: Holland is a character I really love, to the point that I’d name him if the question ‘Who’s your favourite character?’ were put to me.

Wakabayashi: You were getting all fired up at the auditions, saying ‘I’m gonna snag (the role)!’, weren’t you?

Fujiwara: Wakabayashi-san explained [the character] in great detail to me during the auditions; hearing all that made me really want to take it on. When I got the role I did a little dance in my room.

Nazuka: Apart from that, Wakabayashi-san gives advice and guidance tailored to the individual actor, even if they’re trying out for the same role.

Wakabayashi: Because each actor is different.

Fujiwara: So is there anything that you feel you’d like to say to me specifically?

Wakabayashi: Haha. Fujiwara-san, you have this tendency to get overly fired up and step on the accelerator too hard, don’t you?

Fujiwara: But isn’t it kinda cool though? It’s like I’m full of youthful energy. A bit like Mob Psycho. Isn’t Mob Psycho interesting? One of our kids (Ito Setsuo) is voicing the main role so please look out for it.

Wakabayashi: There was this slightly weird character appearing in episode 1 and I had Fujiwara-san voice him. He does nonsensical stuff in a serious manner so I wanted to get as interesting an actor as I possibly could for the role.

Fujiwara: Hey, I know we’ve already started talking but isn’t it bad if we don’t mention stuff that’s gonna benefit these young people with sparkling eyes in front of us?

Wakabayashi: Why don’t we just talk about the reality of our industry; not just from my own point of view but from a seiyuu’s perspective?

Fujiwara: About that – Nazuka-san has plenty of great stories to tell.

Nazuka: No no no I don’t!

Wakabayashi: You guys were like the Gekkostate right there (laughs). This is obvious, but different productions have different objectives – you may work on teams where the aim is to fulfil the director’s wishes as best possible, while there are other teams that are driven by money where you’re told that X amount has been put into making the show so you’ll have to get Y amount in return. If it’s a show where the goal is to satisfy the toy-selling businesses, we’ll get samples of the new toys that make certain kinds of sounds and give it to the sound effects guys telling them, “I’m sorry but we’ve got to use this [sound]”.

Nazuka: So we’re talking about the sale of products right now but even the seiyuu business has its own elements of selling based on popularity—

Fujiwara: Very much so!

Nazuka: I heard a rumour that for [certain] games, they won’t make offers to seiyuu who have less than 100,000 Twitter followers.

Wakabayashi: It’s the truth!

Nazuka: So I’m wondering if it’s become an era where you’ve got no choice but to use these tools in order to sell yourself. Rather than taking into account the voice and the performance, I feel like the seiyuu industry has become one that treats [an actor’s] presence as a ‘brand’.

Fujiwara: Compared to when I started working in this field 20 years ago, for a seiyuu, the [brand] value of his or her name by itself has increased – I see both pluses and minuses in that. You notice now that there are castings that prioritize popularity over talent. There’s this view that you might not necessarily have to get carried away by that line of thinking, but you’ll still have to go along with it regardless. When I was working on a certain game I asked, ‘What’s the reasoning behind these castings?’. The reply came: ‘We cast in order, beginning from the top of the popularity rankings’, and that made me go…Ah. Well it wasn’t entirely wrong…(I think). The game ended up selling pretty well, I’m told.

Wakabayashi: If we do that, we’ll sell well…that’s the reasoning.

Fujiwara: However, I think it’s fascinating and delightful to see, market-wise, how people expect things to all go well if everyone believes [in selling popularity], but it doesn’t always happen.

Wakabayashi: People seem to think that by following a template, they can definitely create a hit production but it doesn’t happen all the time. Obviously, some do sell but you can’t read into the data too much. The only difference these days is that the tactics they’re utilising are a lot more blatant and that leads to fairly visible results when you look at the data indices. You see the rankings and surveys and think, ‘This is what sells’ and the companies end up making the same kinds of things at the same time. This applies to character designs and actors and marketing as well. Consumers don’t have the means to spend on similar shows so only or 1-2 titles sell well and the others are left wondering, ‘we just followed the template so why aren’t we selling?!’. It all comes down to trivial differences. Even for auditions, you may be thinking about gathering a certain group of actors together with something specific in mind for them but the clients might request something else and you’ll end up having to try out other things. I can say that [the clients] weren’t 100% happy with the decision to cast a rookie in Mob Psycho.

Fujiwara: Of course they wouldn’t be.

Wakabayashi: But the director was on my side so we managed to persuade them. We also had [Ito’s] President Fujiwara-san appear in person to provide additional support.

Fujiwara: Thank you! For us actors, we only normally get to connect with the director and sound director when we’re working on anime, with few chances to meet people like the animation directors or the art director. I have worked as a sound director on productions myself, but I think it’s something I absolutely do not want to be. I have no idea about where or how I should place music within a scene – that is what I dislike most [about the job]. From directing the acting performances to determining the music placement, devising the music order – you’ve got to think of how to get all that together in your head. You’re basically working on several different genres.

Wakabayashi: You can’t be considered a ‘sound director’ unless you can work on all the aspects related to ‘sound’.

Fujiwara: Ah! I also want to say that there are plenty of unqualified people working as sound directors though!

Wakabayashi: The placement of the music may depend on whether you wish to evoke empathy for the protagonist or perhaps, to reflect the setting of the anime. You might want it to indicate whether a certain character is ‘good’ or ‘evil’. To get a feel for what the director intends to express, you’ll have to look at what the storyboards are inferring. My mentor taught me that if a director had unlimited time, he would have no need for someone to fill an occupation such as ‘sound director’. That is why, if one is to earn a living as a sound director, you should at least be able to leave intervening proof. But he also once said to me that humans who have ‘no time’ are useless humans.

Fujiwara: Humans who have no time are useless humans…..

Wakabayashi: What he meant was that being tardy is unforgivable.

Fujiwara: Being tardy is not forgivable…

Wakabayashi: Well, I might give you the benefit of the doubt if it’s just once or twice but if it exceeds 3 times I’ll say ‘I’m gonna kill ya, ya bastard!’

Nazuka: I’ve actually seen that happen with my own eyes!

Fujiwara: He looks gentle but when he’s mad, he’s scary isn’t he.

Wakabayashi: By the way, we’re the same age (points at Fujiwara).

Fujiwara: Well he treats people of different age groups differently. Working as a seiyuu, I’m aware of how amazing Japanese animated works are but at the same time we know so little about the circumstances behind the people who work on the animation. When I hear of how harsh the working conditions and treatment of animators are, I have to think to myself ‘what can we do about that?’

Wakabayashi: It has its good and bad points so it’s kind of hard to say. When people first work as animators they may begin to feel ‘fulfilled’ within the first 6-12 months, and get stuck in that [zone]. They don’t find any extra motivators, be it wanting to earn more money or work on more interesting projects. Regardless of the quantity or content of the work involved, I believe that we should pay proper dues to those who’ve pushed their limits to produce results, those who’ve equipped themselves well. However, I think it’s fair to treat cheaply the people who don’t deal with their own load within the stipulated time and process their work at a minimum level, instead allowing it to flow onwards, reasoning that ‘Oh the animation director will take care of it’.

Fujiwara: Are there people around to specifically assess and evaluate such things though?

Wakabayashi: It’s normally the producer’s job but a lot of them who don’t ‘see’ what’s going on. They’re only concerned about the financials. And that’s a problem.

Nazuka: I feel that it’s the people viewing the work rather than the people actually working on the show itself, who are the ones giving proper evaluations. When the work is completed and sent out, when it’s pressed on a DVD, when events are held – this is when we get to see the assessments [of the work]. As actors we don’t normally commend colleagues on their work so for the individual actor there can be anxiety over the measure of his or her abilities; hearing the voices of motivation from [the fans] around has become something that’s very important to me.

Wakabayashi: I feel it’s better for people who are working together to be frank when speaking, be it good or bad. That’s why for example, I always try to set up an opportunity for staff members to watch the first episode of a TV series together. It’s a chance to view things objectively, to understand people’s reactions.

Audience Q&A time. A questioned is posed to Nazuka regarding how she’s freelanced her entire life and has never been under a production company

Nazuka: My mother originally handled the management side [of my career] so I’ve never been in a theatre group or agency myself. When I was in high school I started to learn how to manage everything including schedule adjustment and so on, on my own. I like handling my own affairs myself, even things like managing my long-term schedules, so I can quickly settle issues. When I see gaps in my calendar I think to myself, ‘I can travel then’, things like that.

Fujiwara: When I started managing my own schedules (after setting up my agency), I could see a huge difference in the number of job offers I received. Bwahahahaha!

Wakabayashi: Why the heck are you laughing so weirdly, like Echigoya?

Nazuka: Could he be thinking, ‘maybe it’s not too late for me to get into some other agency…’

Wakabayashi: Nah, he’s heading an agency of his own y’know.

To the question: ‘Did you think of pursuing your current path when you were in high school’?

Nazuka: Well, someone here is the ‘boss’… (laughs).

Fujiwara: But I just thought normally, about going to university and becoming a doctor or a lawyer if possible.

Wakabayashi/Nazuka: Oh really?

Fujiwara: I have no proof to offer, but I’m sure I’d make a great surgeon if I had qualified as a doctor! So yeah, surgery.

Wakabayashi: You mean you just want to cut people up.

Fujiwara: No, I’d stitch them up properly after that. If I only cut, they’ll die.

Wakabayashi: I’m so glad you’re an actor!

To a question posed to Fujiwara: ‘The Romeo or the joke character – which is more enjoyable?’

Fujiwara: I enjoy both. But odious roles, heinous characters; they make the hero shine all the more brighter, so I find those fun too.

Wakabayashi: I like Holland.

Nazuka: Me too!

Fujiwari: I like him too. But there’s Hiroshi too so isn’t it a little unfair to keep saying Holland, Holland?

Wakabayashi: It’s bad for Hiroshi.

There has been some serious discussion regarding career choices but it’s almost time to bring proceedings to an end.

Wakabayashi: Fujiwara-san – some closing words please.

Fujiwara: I’ve been greatly overwhelmed by emotion today [fake cries]; ah, my breasts feel tight**

Wakabayashi: Oi, there are high school kids here!

**Fujiwara says 胸がおっぱい (mune ga oppai, chests are breasts), a pun on胸がいっぱい (mune ga ippai, to be overwhelmed by emotion)

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Note: Get well soon, Keiji-san! He is currently taking a break from voicing Hiroshi on Shin-chan due to illness.