Monthly Archives: October 2016

An Interview with Mima Masafumi

mima
The third entry in Akiba Souken’s ‘The People Inside’ series is sound director Mima Masafumi. During his university days, Mima developed an interest in radio drama production when he worked part-time at Bunka Hoso (Nippon Cultural Broadcasting) and he subsequently joined Magic Capsule, a sound production company headed by his relative and mentor, veteran sound director Aketagawa Susumu (father of Aketagawa Jin). Mima worked as a sound assistant on various series before helming his first production the OVA Madonna Honoo no Teacher, in 1988. He has since taken charge of various popular licenses and franchises, including the Pokemon series, Card Captor Sakura, Initial D, several Gundam and Macross series, Fullmetal Alchemist, Shingeki no Kyojin, and so on.

Learning about anime sound from Aketagawa Susumu

Q: Can you tell us the story behind how you got your start in anime sound work?

A: I wanted to work on radio dramas when I was in college – I didn’t think about anime at all. I joined my relative Aketagawa Susumu-san’s company Magic Capsule as they did radio production work without being aware of the fact that the company focused mainly on animation. My first assignment involved working on the sound effects for a Disney opening ceremony, followed by a job as an assistant director on MTV. Subsequently, I started learning about making anime while working as an assistant to Aketagawa-san.

Q: Did you watch much anime back then?

A: With regards to anime*, I did watch Hanna-Barbera productions. At the time, Tokyo 12 Channel (now TV Tokyo) used to air a programming block titled ‘The Country of Manga’, via which I watched a dubbed version of Wacky Races. As for Japanese anime, I watched Space Battleship Yamato.

*Mima specifically uses the word アニメ (anime) as opposed to アニメション (animation) here. Perhaps a relevant thought, now that the interwebs seems to be embroiled in an ‘is Western anime really anime?’ argument after the Porter Robinson fiasco

My roots are in The Drifters

Q: What works influenced you?

A: In terms of actual influence, I’d say that my roots lie in The Drifters. I met Shimura Ken recently; I have so much respect for him but I ended up getting a little too nervous and couldn’t find the words to say to him. The Drifters is certainly the underlying influence of gag-heavy series I’ve worked on such as Pocket Monster and Yokai Watch.

Q: What about anime works?

A: I think Farewell Space Battleship Yamato (1978) was well made. However, I do not necessarily believe in making an anime based on the influence of another anime. It would diminish the core [of the production], and I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s like this – rather than be asked to make something that expresses the joys of baseball to people who already play baseball, I would think it more compelling to make something that evokes the feeling, ‘Wow, I didn’t know baseball could be that fun’ from people who aren’t involved with the sport. Drawing on elements of past anime works will only result in imitations. [We] should instead, try to incorporate those flashes of inspiration based on our own observations in our daily lives; things that have never been seen in anime before.

Debuting as a sound director in Toei, a company that doesn’t utilize sound directors

Q: You made your sound directing debut as early as 1988, with the OVA Madonna Honoo no Teacher.

A: When I worked on the TV anime Galactic Patrol Lensman (1984-85) assisting Aketagawa-san, a producer from Aoni Planning said [about me], “We’ve got a young guy here who’s doing interesting things – I’d like to have him work [with us]”.

Q: You got ahead of the game quickly.

A: I wonder if that’s the case….at the time, there were only around 5 sound production companies. The few colleagues around my age are Wakabayashi Kazuhiro-kun (editor’s note: a sound director who worked on Oshii Mamoru productions as well as did recording work for Ghibli movies) and Watanabe Jun-chan (editor’s note: sound director whose works include Medaka Box & the Bakuman. series) and we’d go drinking together even though we worked for different companies.

Q: What do you believe were [your] characteristics that drew the attention of the above-mentioned producer?

A: Well, probably the fact that I’m industrious (laughs). Or perhaps it was a sort of ‘gamble’ that he took, betting on the likeliness that I ‘might produce something that is unlike that of Aketagawa-san’. Anyhow, I am the type of person who will ‘take full responsibility if things go wrong’, so I was allowed the freedom to work as I wished.

Q: In other words, it was the prospect of discovering new possibilities in youth.

A: Another thing that I’d like to mention – Madonna is a show produced by Toei, with sound production being handled by its in-house company TAVAC. However, in those days the system of hiring independent sound directors had yet to come into existence. It wasn’t a case of me coming in and kicking someone else to the kerb, but more a question of how to make a sound director fit in a world where sound directors didn’t originally exist. I think that was one of the challenges then.

Q: Having to make your debut as a sound director in a place ‘away’ from home – you must have faced many hardships.

A: I was treated like an outsider at first. It was only Ikegami Nobuteru, the mixer, who was more open and had said ‘He’s not an outsider. This might be a sign of things to come’. I’m very grateful to him.

Q: Your first TV anime as a sound director was Dragon Quest Legend of the Hero Abel (1988).

A: This was also made possible by the aforementioned producer from Aoni Planning. I was given a chance to work on it by Director Rintaro. It was because of the support of these two people that I was afforded the opportunity to work on such a big title.

Q: After joining [Magic Capsule], were you able to get involved with radio drama work?

A: After around 10 years had passed, I received an offer regarding a cassette novel version of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure from Shueisha – finally, my dream came true.

An awe-inducing meeting with Shiba-san

Q: During your freelancing period, you visited the studio of fellow sound director Shiba Shigeharu.

A: Shiba-san happens to be one of the leading figures of the industry; I’m not saying that I was homing in on [specific] targets or anything, but at the time I felt like I was a frog in a well and needed to see more of how other people apart from Aketagawa-san worked. I contacted a couple of sound production companies. I called them one after the other and got turned down one after the other. All in all only 3 people said ‘yes’, including Shiba-san. I went to visit Shiba-san’s studio around 3 times in total and observed [his] working methods and I thought, “Wow!”. I was honestly impressed by what I saw. It was completely different to how Aketagawa-san works.

*Shiba’s sound directing credits include Ghibli titles Nausicaa, Laputa and Totoro as well as Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor and Maison Ikkoku

Q: What was different?

A: Shiba-san places the biggest emphasis on performance. At that point I had already spent 15 years in the industry, but meeting Shiba-san left me in awe. I admired his stubbornness, or should I say his power, as a master of his craft.

Q: What anime was being recorded at Shiba-san’s studio?

A: I don’t recall at all (laughs). Because I was concentrating on observing ‘the production that is Shiba-san’. But I do remember that Shiba-san treated me to incredibly delicious ramen after recordings so the studio’s name Avaco sticks firmly in my mind (laughs).

Using the ‘language of experience’ as motivation during afureko

Q: Allow me to enquire about your dialogue recording methodology.

A: If you use the same kind of language to speak to different actors who come from different backgrounds, they won’t necessarily comprehend what you’re saying. People possess what I call a ‘language of experience’, if you don’t engage them through the usage [of such words], you’ll find that they won’t be able to understand you. This is something I came to realize once I hit my 40s.

Q: Besides the director, there’s also a possibility that the original author and episode directors will be present in the studio for recordings. What kind of adjustments do you make for such cases?

A: I wouldn’t make any. A sound director is someone who’s tasked with ‘articulating the abstract thoughts within the director’s head’, so the main point is to concentrate on whatever the director is thinking of. Thus, I feel happy whenever the original author speaks to me or gives me their comments. I was touched when I received a shikishi of thanks from Fujimaki Tadatoshi-sensei, the author of Kuroko’s Basketball (2012-15). Fujimaki-sensei is someone who is very passionate and he was present not only for the dialogue recordings, but also for the [sound] dubbing sessions.

Q: Let’s talk about casting.

A: This really depends on how you define casting, but if you are referring to ‘the selection of actors’, then I do not participate in casting. That is what the director does. No matter how good one’s acting is, you will not get called to auditions unless you fit the image of what the director has in mind. As for auditions, I don’t see them as an avenue to judge and find fault [with actors]; instead, I see them as a consultation. For example, I’ll say something like, “For that scene where you were laughing, try to do it again while crying this time”, and then the director and I will see whether [the actor] understood what we required of them. They may put on a performance that was neither laughing nor crying, but I would not reject them. Even if the actor does not possess a lot of experience or has very little in their repertoire, I will still go with the intentions of the director.

Q: You do not select the actors but you act as support for the director instead.

A: It has been said to me before: ‘Why do you keep using Kaji [Yuki]-kun?’. The reason for that is because the director likes his acting. I believe there are few people with as high a level of professionalism as him around. He takes responsibility as someone involved [with the series] and you can see through his attitude, a desire to create a work.

Q: What are your thoughts on the use of mainstream actors and entertainers as seiyuu?

A: It’s interesting to see the chemical reactions amongst the seiyuu when you throw people whose jobs involve ‘appearing in public’* into the mix. As seiyuu are on good terms with each other, the atmosphere tends to be like a group of BFFs. So if you toss in someone like say, Oguri Shun-san or Nakagawa Shoko-san, the seiyuu’s reactions do change. That’s why I’d like to use more and more stage actors or people who appear in public in the future.

*顔出し (kaodashi) – literally ‘showing your face’. Refers to actors, who show their faces when plying their trade, as opposed to seiyuu with only their voices being heard

The difficult thing with original properties is that you can’t see what happens next

Q: What would you consider the difficulties of working on original anime where there is no media property as a base?

A: Let me speak not from the perspective of a sound director but from the viewpoint of a business; it bothers me when you get series where, as the plot advances, more and more people have to be hired and the budget blows up as a result. For example, we’ll receive the scripts for the first 5 episodes where only 5 characters appear. At this point you can still make estimates for the entire series as a whole. But when you lift the lid, you discover things like some heavyweights [characters/actors] starting to appear only after episode 5, and that by the time the finale rolls around you’ve got 50 characters… that makes me go “Oi oi, nobody told me this would be happening!” (laughs). The same thing applies to the music – when the outcome is not perceivable, it becomes an impossible task to create the music menus for all the episodes.

Q: For the Macross series, you have served as sound director starting from Macross Plus (1994). Are there any changes that you have observed through successive titles?

A: When it comes to music selection, Chief Director Kawamori Shoji now gives me a lot more leeway than he used to do in the past. Also, the proposals have broadened [in scope] since the migration to stem recording.

Q: Could you name anything (from the series) that left a deep impression on you?

A: When we recorded a scene in Macross Plus where Isamu Dyson is fighting against the G [force], a certain actor remarked, “I do not understand what it feels like to sustain G”, so Chief Director Kawamori and I went to Korakuen* with him and we practised the dialogue on the roller coasters (laughs).

*now known as Tokyo Dome City

Q: I heard around 8,000 people applied for the Diva Audition for Macross Delta (2016).

A: As we were looking for a ‘Diva’ (utahime), we had Chief Director Kawamori, music producers and other members of the production team passing judgment at the application stage. By the time it got to the sound team they had already narrowed it down to around 20 people, so that wasn’t too different from what it’s like normally [during seiyuu auditions].

Q: You also served as sound director for Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (2016).

A: Director Araki Tetsuro initially said to me that he wanted to make the series without a sound director. So I only came in on the basis of being an observer. I went about doing my thing, while taking a step back from actual proceedings. I do think that it’s interesting to have more diverse ways of handling sound work. However, as stem recording results in a broad scope of proposals with regards to the music, the Director left that up to me.

Q: So we do see these kinds of cases.

A: It’s only because there are different methods that we can see light shining in different ways. I once received a work proposal from a certain director but I declined it, saying “I want to see how this work turns out without me working on it”. I think I wanted to see the show and have it make me go “Damn!’; kind of a way of lighting a fire under myself (laughs)

Q: What is like working on sound effects for original series?

A: For anime based on games, [the parts of] the work flow requires approval not just from the director, but from the game company as well. For original titles, it’s okay to just dig into the director’s brain for what’s needed – that reduces the amount of hassle involved.

Pikachu’s ‘words have meaning’

Q: Speaking of titles based on games, we have Pocket Monster. The first anime series started in 1997 and you have continued to be sound director on it for a lengthy period of time.

A: Ishihara Tsunekazu-san (current President of The Pokemon Company) is a very passionate person; when we first began production, he would attend dialogue recordings every week for about a year. Nowadays he’s busy and we don’t even have time to go out for drinks (laughs).

Q: Apart from the anime, you’ve also been involved with Pocket Monster-related games and radio work. Did this result from the acclaim you received for working on the anime?

A: That’s right. I was also once appointed to serve as an interpreter for Ohtani Ikue-san, who provides the voice for Pikachu. Pikachu is not just saying ‘Pikachu’, [its] ‘words actually have meaning’. For example, if you’d like to have something said in a cheerful Pikachu voice, what you have to ask for is not for Pikachu to ‘make noise cheerfully but to say, ‘Say ‘Hello!’ cheerfully to the people watching the show on the other side of the screen.

Regarding Director Mizushima Seiji’s works

Q: You have worked with Director Mizushima Seiji on many shows, including the likes of Generator Gawl (1998), Dai-Guard (1999-2000), Shaman King (2001-02), Fullmetal Alchemist (2003-04), Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007), UN-GO (2011), Concrete Revolutio (2015-16) and so on. This must be an indicator of the level of trust the Director has in you?

A: I think that Director Mizushima probably chooses which of his productions should land in our hands before giving us the call. If the Director thinks he can handle the work himself, then it’s not likely to come to us. I feel somehow, that it’s the difficult ones that get sent our way (laughs). Perhaps it’s because I’m 5 years older [than Mizushima], that he requires the value of that 5 years’ extra experience.

Q: For Fullmetal Alchemist, you worked as sound director under Director Mizushima on the 2003-04 adaptation and under Director Irie Yasuhiro on the 2009-10 adaptation. Was there a big difference in the way they both worked?

A: Sound-wise, I did not intend for there to be big changes, but there were differences due to the individual personalities of the directors. For Mizushima-san, I’d say he’s someone who is ‘human, people-oriented’, while Irie-san is ‘art-oriented’. For example, Mizushima-san would say something like ‘I want to turn up the heat here, get people’s hearts throbbing’ while Irie-san would be more like ‘Please try to get it to match up to the character’s art a bit more’.

Q: Surprisingly, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 was your first Gundam production.

A: Director Mizushima said to me, ‘I want to make a whole new Gundam’ and ‘I want, in a sense, to make this a standard for Gundam’. Those words resonated deeply within me and I was totally on board with what he was saying. That did in fact, make the sound effects very much different [from normal].

Ushio to Tora’s casting started from a blank slate

Q: You worked on both the 1992 OVA version as well as the 2015-16 TV anime version of Ushio to Tora. Is there any story behind how that happened?

A: I have absolutely no idea…I think it was just fate. I got the call from MAPPA’s Maruyama Masao-san; maybe he appointed me to the role because I had worked on the OVA version, I don’t know.

Q: For the TV anime, the surprising utilization of big-name seiyuu became something that was widely talked about.

A: For Hakumen no Mono, Director Nishimura Satoshi said to me, ‘[this character is] one who never wavers, who calmly accepts and gives back – there can be no one else for this except Hayashibara Megumi’. At first, Fujita Kazuhiro-sensei was a little worried, commenting ‘Isn’t she a little too cute [for the role]?’. So we called Hayashibara-san in for an audition and asked her to do 2 types of voices: ‘spiritual words (inner voice)’ and ‘verbalization (vocal cords)’; we mixed them together and had [Fujita] Sensei listen to them. He was surprised, saying ‘Eh!? Is this Hayashibara-san?’, followed by ‘I’m OK with this!’, and that is how we cast Hayashibara-san as Hakumen.

Q: People were also taken aback by Koyama Rikiya-san’s Tora.

A: Koyama-san is a good and dependable person, but Tora is the opposite – a ‘whatever’, big-attitude kind of guy. In order for [Koyama] to be able to ignore his surroundings and to get him as relaxed as possible for his performance, we made him a ‘Tora room’. We’d tell Koyama-san, ‘Nobody’s gonna see you here so you can do it lying down if you wish’.

Q: Wakamoto Norio-san voiced Hyo in the OVA and Guren in the TV anime – were there any reasons behind these castings?

A: The Director decided everything starting from a blank slate. There weren’t any reasons like wanting to get someone who’d already taken on Hyo before or because so-and-so had already appeared in the OVA or anything. For Guren, the strongest of the strong , there was nobody else to handle a guy who beats Koyama-san’s Tora other than Wakamoto-san. I thought it would be interesting to create an atmosphere where ‘if Wakamoto-san’s Guren comes along, we might actually see Tora losing’.

I want to start a sound effects school before I turn 70

Q: What sort of challenges would you like to take on in the future? You’ve previously mentioned that you wished to create 3 groups of sound effects units in your company.

A: I haven’t even made a single unit yet (laughs). But I do want to start a sound effects school before I’m around 70; I want to increase the number of people working in sound effects. The number of sound directors in Japan is on the rise but the number of sound effects personnel isn’t. Unless we get to a point where we have 20+ groups of sound effects units working on a single production like Lucas Films’ Skywalker Sound (Editor’s note: the arm of an American visual production company, set up by George Lucas) does, Japan’s sound effects will never progress. Japan’s animation may be the best in the world, but our sound work has not kept up.

Q: Is there anything you would like to do anything outside of anime?

A: I’m also interested in stage sound. After we’re done here today, I am going to see a stage performance (laughs).

Q: Please leave a message for all the anime fans!

A: My purpose in life is to make everyone happy through the anime that I create together with the directors. From now on I will continue to be involved with various works, working my hardest with my life on the line – please look forward to them!

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Comments: I find it…interesting that Mima brings up the topic of Kaji Yuki again (and unprompted). This stems back to 2012, when Mima got all defensive on Twitter in response to tweets from fans about how he always hires the same cast members, ie Kaji-kun was lead in 3 consecutive shows (I assume it’s No.6, Guilty Crown & Aquarion EVOL). His assertion that ‘it’s not me, it’s the director that likes Kaji-kun’s acting’ does feel odd when those 3 shows had different directors (Araki, Nagasaki Kenji, Yamamoto Yusuke). Mima shows have continued to feature Kaji regardless of who’s directing – Pokemon, Yokai Watch, Danball Senki, Kyojin, Inazuma Eleven, Valvrave etc etc. Not sure why the whole issue seems to really get his goat; he’s already explained why he likes Kaji so I thought he’d just leave it at that, but he’s appears to still be hung up on it half a decade later, hmm. Regardless, Mima’s one of the most sought-after sound directors around and ranks near the top in terms of number of anime projects handled at any one time. No.1 far and away is the Aketagawa Jin, the son of his mentor, followed by Iwanami Yoshikazu and then Mima, Iida Satoki, Tsuruoka Yota, Motoyama Satoshi and lately, Nagasaki Yukio.

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2017 Seiyuu Awards

It’s actually that time of year again…! As usual, you can vote here, deadline is the end of November. You can also add another 2 votes via the Newtype website or on the Animelo site (mobile only).

For the record, last year’s winners for categories that had voting:

Best Actor
Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (I’m Enterprise)

Best Actress
Minase Inori (Sony Music Artists)

Best Supporting Actor
Suzumura Kenichi (Intention) and Hosoya Yoshimasa (freelance)

Best Supporting Actress
Ito Shizuka (Ken Production) and Hayami Saori (I’m Enterprise)

Best Male Newcomer
Umehara Yuichiro (ArtsVision), Takeuchi Shunsuke (81 Produce), Murase Ayumu (VIMS)

Best Female Newcomer
Uesaka Sumire (Space Craft Entertainment), Takahashi Rie (81 Produce), and Tanaka Aimi (81 Produce)

Best Singer
i☆Ris

Best Personality
Suzumura Kenichi (Intention)

Most Votes (Hall of Fame)
Kamiya Hiroshi (Aoni Production)

Anyways, you know & I know that these awards are rigged and mean nothing to anybody so just vote for your faves and have a laugh when the results roll around.

My votes this year:

Best Actor: Ishida Akira

It was either him or Yamadera Koichi but I suppose Ishida’s ero-ness shaded it for me. I don’t think anybody else this year came remotely close to matching these two’s performances in Rakugo Shinju to be honest.

I suppose the popular audience choice would be Kobayashi Yusuke for Re:Zero – my honest opinion is that I can think of 2 or 3 others who might’ve done as well or better in the role. He’s much more memorable as the refined, poised King (in-waiting) Arslan – there must be a reason why Kobayashi is synonymous with 殿下 (denka, His Royal Highness) over in Japan, right?

Best Actress: Hayami Saori

I keep thinking about voting for Kayano Ai, but I wonder if there’s any point knowing that Osawa is unlikely to accept an award. So my next choice by default, is Hayami Saori.

Best Supporting Actor: Tsuda Kenjiro

It has been a great year for Tsuda, probably his best ever year as a seiyuu in anime over his 20-year career. He’s rarely the lead and almost always a supporting antagonist of some kind, but he really stood out in series like 91 Days (Fango), Bubuki Buranki (Shusaku), Taboo Tattoo (R.R) and Joker Game (Gamo). You can’t miss his very distinctive growl and you’ve probably seen him in at least one show you watched this year, be it Euphonium S2, Tales of Zestiria, Flip Flappers or even his return to his signature role of Seto Kaiba in the Yu-Gi-Oh! movie.

Best Supporting Actress: Hikasa Yoko

I was considering M.A.O for a while before realizing I don’t really recall anything she did in 2016 (apart from Keijo) when compared to last year. Hikasa meanwhile, has been busy as usual and seems to pop up everywhere. (Favourite role this year: Yagami Ko; New Game!)

Best Male Newcomer: Yashiro Taku

I don’t have much to go off here. Yashiro is the one I like most of the newer batch, voice-wise. I suppose the only other plausible choices are Uchida Yuma (bland), Hatanaka Tasuku (wooden), Nishiyama Kotaro (just past the 5-year mark) and Uemura Yuto (too unknown). Maybe Masuda Toshiki still has a chance as his 5 years aren’t up yet…? Might Horie Shun or Yonai Yuki have a late shout at it?

Best Female Newcomer: Senbongi Sayaka

On the other hand there are way too many possibilities with this category. You look at last year’s list and laugh at the fact that Sumipe is on it. So anyone is a possibility right? Ozawa Ari hasn’t won anything yet either and she’s not reached the 5-year career mark. There’s Lynn, Suzuki, Naganawa, Akaneya, Hondo etc. But I’m going for Senbongi ahead of Hondo because of Mumei, one of the most memorable characters of 2016. And for Aigasaki in Magikyun. And Chitose in Girlish Number.

Best singer: Walkure

This is their best (only) chance, right?

Best personality: Onishi Saori

Oh dear. I am clueless as usual with this category since I have no time for radio nowadays..which means I’m picking the person whose shows I happen to be listening to most. Like, 4 at the moment…

Note:
-As usual, you can expect to discount Sigma Seven and Osawa peeps since they don’t accept awards (bar Hanazawa that one year & Mizuki Nana for singing ones).
-Kimi no Na wa was big this year, they’ll want to acknowledge that. But surely not by doing a Kanda Sayaka and rewarding mainstream actors with voice acting awards? I wouldn’t mind me some Kamiki publicity shots but….

#133 – ClassicaLoid: Shimazaki Nobunaga x Komatsu Mikako (Part. 2)

133_classicaloid
Part two of NHK’s Anitoku interview with ClassicaLoid seiyuu Shimazaki Nobunaga (Sosuke) and Komatsu Mikako (Kanae). Read part one here.

Doing all you can to make something good

Q: As seiyuu, what do you consider your creed?

Shimazaki: To make good things. By concentrating on that one point I’m able to trim off the excess parts; or I should say that it allows me to effectively judge exactly what is needed in order to make something that is ‘good’. To be able to make something ‘good’ in the studio, I’m always thinking, always taking action; doing whatever I can.

Komatsu: ‘Just do it’. As seiyuu are only involved in a small part of an anime’s production process, it’d be great if I could find that something little extra that I can do to that end. So for starters, I’d just go ahead and ‘do it’.

The things created and accumulated with each passing work

Q: What do you consider your turning point as a seiyuu?

Komatsu: Turning points…there have been lots of those… (laughs)

Shimazaki: I’d say all of them – each and every one of my shows has been a turning point in some way. My life is what it is because of the experiences and the things I have learned from every single one of my works.

Komatsu: That’s true, that each [show] is a new turning point. When you work on a series that happens to be your first step in the industry you call it your debut; from that point onwards you start building up your experiences, little by little…

Shimazaki: You’re right. You wouldn’t call it a turning point if you’d already made it big, right?

Endlessly, seeking answers

Q: Is there an endpoint, in a sense, to all that stacking [those experiences] up?

Komatsu: It doesn’t end.

Shimazaki: It’s an endless challenge, to a certain extent. One of my goals is to become the kind of actor whom co-stars think of someone they would love to work with again in the future – for that to happen, I’d have to continue putting in an endless amount of effort. There are probably an infinite number of things I could do in striving for that; I do feel like this is a job in which there are no definite answers. I have to say though, that I think I answered this type of question way too casually back when I was just starting out in my career.

Komatsu: The more stories you hear from other people, the more detailed your own answers will become.

Tend to go all out with ‘that’

Q: Tell us something interesting* that’s a common happening for seiyuu.

Shimazaki: When you’re out on the streets, you react reflexively to anybody who has a ‘good’ voice.

Komatsu: Ah! That’s true; those voices just kind of ‘resonate’.

Shimazaki: Don’t you feel like trying to imitate the voice of a person you heard on the street that you’re feeling curious about?

Komatsu: I’d go home and try it out.

Shimazaki: Sometimes I do it on the spot and other people think I’m a weirdo (laughs)

Komatsu: Also, when I was attending driving school we had to take emergency first-aid classes and when it came to the part where you have to help someone who’s collapsed, I realized I was putting too much emotion into saying “Are you okay?” or “Somebody, please call an ambulance!” (bursts out in laughter). People started edging away from me but when you’re a seiyuu you’d want to put some effort into that, wouldn’t you? (laughs)

Shimazaki: Well, we might. It’s occupational disease… (laughs)

*phrase used is 声優あるある derived from あるあるネタ which refers to characteristics, things, experiences regarding a certain subject that people can relate to.

Somehow, during my childhood…

Q: Are there any NHK anime that you remember with fondness?

Shimazaki: Card Captor Sakura. I watched it around the time when I was in elementary school; it seemed that everyone in my class enjoyed it, whether it was the boys or the girls . When you think about it now, you realise what a profound work it was. The anime one enjoys when they’re young stay strong [in the memory], don’t they?

Komatsu: It’s not an anime, but I love Hotch Potch Station!

Shimazaki: I can sing that, ♪ Hotch potch station♪ (continues singing as Komatsu speaks)

Komatsu: I especially loved Gutch Yuzo’s parody song corner – if it was still on now, I’d love to be a guest on it!

A new character! Nobu-oniisan!?

Q: If you could appear on any NHK programme, what would it be?

Komatsu: I want to appear on the new season of Do-Re-Mi-Fa Donuts when it’s made.

Shimazaki: As the singing lady?

Komatsu: I’d like to voice a new character.

Shimazaki: I think I want to appear on a programme that kids will remember forever.

Komatsu: I think you’ll have to become Nobu-oniisan, won’t you?

Shimazaki: Maybe I’ll make toys or something? But I don’t want to appear on the show for real, I just want to put my voice on record.

A traveller walking down the seiyuu road?!

Q: To you, what is a ‘seiyuu’?

Shimazaki: I am still trying to find that one out for myself. It’s endless, this ‘what is a seiyuu?’ road that I am presently walking. I am a traveller (laughs) How does that sound? (laughs)

Komatsu: A road, eh? (laughs). I feel like I do not want to answer this yet. There are many things that will change from now on and I will be here, watching to see what happens.

Nobody knows what will happen, therefore…

Q: Please leave a message to those who are looking forward to ClassicaLoid.

Komatsu: The actors are truly looking forward to the anime’s broadcast; never have we worked on a show where we know so little about what’s going to happen – we’re going to enjoy watching this show along with everyone each week.

Shimazaki: I think this show will thrill and excite children. So I hope that kids will watch it too.

#132 – 3gatsu no Lion: Kawanishi Kengo & Okamoto Nobuhiko

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Interview with Kawanishi Kengo (Kiriyama) and Okamoto Nobuhiko (Nikaido). two of the main male seiyuu from the currently airing anime adaptation of Umino Chika’s popular March Comes in Like a Lion (3gatsu no Lion) manga. Some had actually speculated (or hoped) that Okamoto might be cast as Rei-kun because of his outspoken love for the manga but alas, he’s fatty Nikaido instead!

As for the anime, I will say I was apprehensive about Shaft working on it but thankfully, no head-tilts or weird angles or all those other Shaftisms…as yet. Only one episode so far so we’ll see how it goes…

Completely contrasting characters; like the moon to the sun

Q: Tell us about the characters that you play.

Kawanishi: I play Kiriyama Rei, a person who’s not good at socializing with others and instead, uses shogi as a way to deepen his bonds with others. He’s a character that you’d describe as being hard-to-approach.

Okamoto: Nikaido’s a chubby guy, but he’s also rather charming. What’s bubbling under the surface, at his core, is hot-blooded passion. He’s also got the strength to pull [others] along, and the power to break down doors. If you were to compare [the characters] to the moon or the sun, then Nikaido is a guy who’s like the sun.

Rei and Nikaido, more alike than you would imagine

Q: How do the two of you feel about each other’s performances?

Okamoto: I love reading the manga so I’d always wondered who might play Rei-kun. I’m able to feel the dark nature of Kawanishi-kun’s voice so I think he’s perfect for the role (laughs).

Kawanishi: Dark nature (laughs). Perhaps that is so. I am not the type of person who can easily socialize with the other actors during recordings; I tend to spend a lot of time alone. When found out that Okamoto-kun would be playing Nikaido, I was actually quite surprised as my image of Okamoto-kun is quite different to the impression I have of Nikaido. But when we started working together in the studio it hit me immediately – ah! That’s totally Nikaido!

Fundamentally identical

Q: Do you think you share any similarities with your character?

Kawanishi: We’re similar in the way we both lack social skills (bitter laugh)

Okamoto: The part where Nikaido-kun says ‘Let’s think of tactics that will leave a legacy for generations to come’ is exactly the same as when I was a child. I’ve been playing shogi since I was young and used to try out tactics that others wouldn’t – I wanted to be ‘one of a kind’. However, I’ve never thought about being a ‘one of a kind’ seiyuu since all the people currently at the forefront of the industry are the ones who are considered ‘one of a kind’. I do believe that if I aim high and work hard, I will naturally become someone who’s ‘one of a kind’.

The ambiance of March Comes in Like a Lion

Q: Recording has already begun by this point. Which of the story’s charms do you feel are apparent when you’re working in the studio?

Okamoto: I think the appeal of this series is increasing ever more with this animated adaptation. The silent sequences – you can enjoy them.

Kawanishi: Yeah yeah, that’s probably something unique to March Comes in Like a Lion; it’s more apparent in the silent scenes than in the acting parts. I hope that people will look forward to this series where you can ‘feel’ the mood of the storyline.

The darkness and the serenity; the brightness that does not cut through it

Q: What was the most important thing that you focused on while voicing your character?

Kawanishi: I want to see how much of Rei-kun’s inherent nature I can pull to the surface while making sure that his dark disposition remains. Through my acting, I want that cloudy feeling within [him] to get across to the people with who are watching the show.

Okamoto: The charms of both Rei-kun and the series itself is in their ‘tranquility’; and in amongst that I try to be careful with how I bring out Nikaido’s bright nature and energy, to ensure that I don’t upset the [series’] atmosphere.

Because we are all aiming for the same things

Q: Any memorable stories from the recording studio?

Kawanishi: The recordings ended real quickly.

Okamoto: Yeah that’s impressive, that is!

Kawanishi: I think it’s probably because the actors and the staff are all aiming for the same things; that’s why they go by so fast.

To protect? Or be protected?

Q: Which of the other characters apart from your own, are you most interested in?

Okamoto: Which of the girls do you like? Amongst the 3 sisters.

Kawanishi: Hmmmmmm (ponders)

Okamoto: We’re probably gonna have diverging opinions on this. But I’ve already made up my mind. It’s Akari-san for me. She makes delicious food, she saves money, she’s got maternal instincts.

Kawanishi: Akari-saaaan! I do get what you mean, but yeah, hmmmm (ponders some more). If I say Momo-chan it’ll be a bit… (laughs) so yeah maybe I’ll say Hina-chan. It’s like, I can’t leave her alone. I want to do all kinds of things for her – I’m the kind of person who wants to do something for someone.

Okamoto: If I was in my teens I’d say Hina-chan without hesitation but nowadays, I want to be protected (laughs).

People who are tired of human relations, please watch! It’s OK even if you don’t know shogi

Q: How about a bit of push towards people who are still in a dilemma over whether or not to watch March Comes in Like a Lion?

Okamoto: You don’t have to know shogi to enjoy it! People tend to shun shogi because it has a stiff image but I’d say that this series place more emphasis on human drama, so I hope that you can enjoy the drama side of the show.

Kawanishi: Personally, I hope that people who are tired of human relations in particular, will watch this series. Maybe there are some of you who think that you don’t have anyone on your side. I hope that by watching this anime, you too might come to the realization that there are people in your life who want to lend you a hand.
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Part.2 will come whenever NHK posts it!

#131 – Ozawa Ari

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Like many of I’m Enterprise’s talents, Ozawa attended the Nichinare academy. Unlike most who spend a year or two there before getting snapped up by a production company, Ari-chan spent a total of 6 years in Nichinare starting from her 2nd year of high school when she was 17. Perseverance paid off in her case; most others would’ve given up long before.

She’s the latest feature in Animate Times’ Nichinare interview series – read about how she got to where she is today.

Pt.1:

Q: Please introduce yourself.

A: Nice to meet you, I am I’m Enterprise’s Ozawa Ari. People usually refer to me as Ari-chan or Ari. People around my age will sometimes call me ‘Aririn’, but I think ‘Ari-chan’ rolls off the tongue easier so I personally wouldn’t recommend that you use the former (laughs).

Personality-wise, I’d say I’m impatient and negative. No matter how much I try I just can’t be optimistic in my words; I’m really not a ‘bright’ type of person. When I’m complimented by other people, half of me thinks they’re being sincere while the other half tends to be rather suspicious (laughs).

My bad points are that I have no self-confidence and that I’m inclined towards intense self-denial. As for my good points – I don’t spend too much time thinking about whatever and consequently, things always seem to go well for me. It also appears that my brain is wired a little differently compared to others’; I get told ‘You’ve got a good imagination’ quite often.

Q: It’s rare to have people start off with their weaknesses when talking about themselves (laughs). Do you have any hobbies or special skills?

A: I like watching anime. I also like exercising and working up a sweat. Things like yoga or mountain climbing. But I basically prefer being at home so I don’t stay out for too long (laughs).

Q: We’ve seen your illustrations on your blog etc – they’re quite good. You’ve got that down as a special skill on your profile too.

A: I personally think they’re really ordinary but yeah, I can draw, sort of. That’s why I’ve put that down in the box.

Q: They are wonderful. Your illustrations are fairly elaborate – how long do they take to draw?

A: About 1 hour or so. Probably because I colour it in as well. Also, if I haven’t drawn anything for a while it takes me some time to get into the groove.

Q: Is there anything that you’ve been into lately?

A: During wintertime I have an obsession with things like bath salts and candles; stuff that gives off a good smell and aids with healing. Once the weather gets warmer….my brain just stops working. I’ve got to find something good to fix this, haven’t I (laughs).

Q: Let’s talk about the anime you’ve appeared in. This July, Konobi! went on air. Tell us your impressions of the series.

A: It’s not a show where people invoke special powers or fight in battles – it’s just peaceful (laughs). It’s a series about daily school life; love, friendship and youth against the backdrop of a club. Seeing how everyone gets along so well and shares great times together will make you want to join the art club. It’s also cute to see Mizuki’s one-sided love – it does make my heart skip a beat.

Q: What kind of character is Usami Mizuki?

A: She’s a nosey person with a sense of justice, an ordinary type of girl you could find anywhere. As the series’ title suggests, the members of the art club apart from Mizuki are all ‘troublesome’ types – she’s the only one who has any common sense. You’ve got all these individualistic characters like Subaru, the President and so on; [Mizuki] is often the one who has to make all the ripostes.

Q: Describe Subaru, who Mizuki’s in unrequited love with.

A: He has talent for art but has no interest in drawing anything apart from 2D characters. He even tells Mizuki to her face that ‘I have zero interest in 3D’. But you know, when you’re in junior high you tend to get obsessed with whatever you’re into at that point; I myself was absorbed in 2D when I was the same age so I do understand [Subaru]. I may play Mizuki but my way of thinking is similar to Subaru’s (laughs). We’re alike in how we’re not particular good at fine art but just love to draw illustrations. I’ve recently come to realize that you don’t really have any interest in love when you’re going through elementary school and junior high.

Q: What are the highlights, the charms of this series?

A: I like both slice-of-life and romance stories so I’m having fun acting in this. It’s also interesting to see how the mood of the conversations in the art club room changes depending on the combination of characters involved. If it’s Mizuki and Subaru then it will be about love; if you add Collette into the mix it will then turn into a slapstick comedy.

The girls are also really cute. Mizuki, Collette-san, Maria and even Tachibana-sensei, the art club advisor – all the characters who appear in the show are cute. Not just from a guy’s point of view, but from a girl’s too! I think the boys will see Mizuki’s unrequited love as endearing, while the girls will be able to relate to her; this makes it a show that you can enjoy no matter whether you’re male or female.

Q: Next, let’s talk about Active Raid: Mobile Assault Division Unit 8. The 2nd season started airing in July. You voice the role of Kazari Asami – what were your impressions of the first season?

A: The series is an easy watch from episode 1 all the way to the end; it’s got a lot of energy and is always fun. The fights with the criminals seemed quite realistic to me, given the rules and limitations when working within law enforcement. The setting is in the near future so you can see that the causes and reasons why the criminals run riot are drawn from the themes of society today. It’s easy to imagine, and it’ll make you think. Asami also changes and grows significantly over the course of the 12 episodes and the whole season will be over in the blink of an eye as you’re watching and enjoying it.

Q: What kind of character is Asami?

A: She’s got a lot of pride and is highly confident, with the tendency to think of herself as the numero uno. She’s full of enthusiasm despite being assigned to Daihachi, the so-called ‘division of eccentrics’, thinking that “I can change [them]!, only to discover that the members are actually competent and help make up for Asami’s deficiencies…as well as highlighting what a wreck she actually is. She works so terribly hard yet the results are always shocking (laughs).

Asami has a bit of smugness to her but she too, starts to rely on her team-mates and learns the value of teamwork. Moving into the second half of the [1st] season she starts to be more honest with herself, which is cute, and does turn into a decent person.

Q: As we move into Season 2, how does the story and Asami herself change?

A: It all becomesoutrageous (laughs). After getting a promotion, she becomes top dog for whatever reason and immediately she gets a little carried away and breaks down even further. It’s like, ‘where on earth has the cute Asami gone off to?’. I do enjoy portraying the role with all that enthusiasm but my co-stars would say ‘Today, Asami-san was crazy’. I’m curious about how the others view Asami.

Q: It’s a hard sci-fi story set in the near future, but the tempo of the jokes and the gap between Asami’s sense of humour and the rest of the members’ makes this a fun series.

A: It’s very busy on the acting side but as a viewer the show flows very nicely – I look forward to watching it every time it goes on air.

Q: You also served as the chief at Musashino Police Station for a day.

A: For the first time ever in my life. I was allowed to wear a real uniform and take part in a crime-prevention event. I hope I was of some use. It was an honour; something that would not have been possible if not for my involvement with this series, and I am grateful for all the voices of encouragement I received. I also hope that people will show interest in Active Raid. It would give much energy to [us] as we go through recordings.

Q: These 2 series are perfect for the summer.

A: I agree. Konobi! is a healing series that is fun and full of the freshness of youth, while Active Raid retains the energy from the 1st season, all powered-up to continue its sprint. Cheer yourself up while watching these 2 shows – please survive the hot summer!

Pt. 2.

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

A: I love anime that had a lot of female characters; I watched a lot of them. When I saw how these girls enjoyed their happy school lives I would think to myself, ‘I wish I could be like this, having fun every day with a smile on my face’, and I started to admire these anime characters. If I liked a certain character I’d develop an interest in their seiyuu as well and end up listening to female seiyuu’s radio shows and watching their DVDs. When I was reading seiyuu magazines, I’d see how these people who seem to enjoy playing cute characters, would be really serious when talking about their roles in interviews. That made me think ‘they’re so cool’, and it inspired me to want to become an actress. However, I hated appearing in front of a crowd and disliked talking so I never acted on my desires.

Q: When did you actually start taking steps towards becoming a seiyuu?

A: When I had to decide on a career course during my 3rd year of junior high, I thought, ‘what would I want to do for a living?’. ‘How can I lead a life that I’m satisfied with?’. At the time there was this ‘prophet’ boom and I actually believed that the world would end within 3 years (laughs). I thought to myself ‘Well, I may as well do something that I want to’ and I decided to take on the challenge of voice acting, enrolling into voice training school just as I entered high school.

When I talked my decision over with my parents, they told me ‘dreams are something you grab hold of on your own so don’t seek others’ help; rely on yourself instead’. Thus, after I entered high school I got a part-time job to cover my training school fees and in my sophomore year, I started attending Nichinare.

Q: Why did you choose Nichinare?

A: All my favourite seiyuu went to Nichinare so I was curious about what they learned there – I wanted to learn the same things; that was the reason. Another big factor was that I could attend lessons while I was still in high school. That’s why I went for the basic ‘once-a-week’ classes.

Q: What were your impressions of Nichinare?

A: It really, really changed me as a person. For the first 6 months I was there, I’d always go home alone but once we started doing lessons that involved acting as a group I started opening up more and realized that I had to speak more as I’d entered [Nichinare] for the sake of my dreams.

Q: It’s important to let your emotions out as well.

A: It’s not something I’m good at so I wasn’t able to handle it well. But I tried to do it wholeheartedly, filled with the desire to be able to do so as well as the frustration of not being able to.

Q: What kind of lessons did you attend in the basic course?

A: For my class, we had many in-class recitals where we’d team up with someone else and perform together about 3-4 times. We were required to come up with material ourselves. At the end, we’d also have to write scripts as well as learn about roles and the creative process.

Q: You didn’t have prior acting experience so it was truly the case of starting from scratch for you.

A: It was hard. I barely talked to other people so I wasn’t good at enunciating words plus I had a habit of murmuring, had weak abdominal muscles, rarely ever smiled – basically I lacked a lot of things (laughs). But I did practise at home every day so I think I really put in a lot of effort there (laughs).

My desire to become a seiyuu was just too strong; I would become anxious after lessons, thinking ‘I have got to do this’ and my thoughts kept wandering to Nichinare even when I was in school. That’s why I have few memories of my high school days (laughs). I think that in return, I enjoyed my days of youth in Nichinare instead.

Q: What sort of lessons did you attend in your 2nd year of the regular course?

A: Stage plays, all the time. Stage performances are fun but tough. I didn’t have a clue how I was supposed to move. I was at Nichinare for 6 years and that was what troubled me most.

If the subject matter was related to everyday life then I could draw upon my own experiences to bring up a suitable image but when it came to fantasy, I’d get stuck up the creek without a paddle… I’d go watch actual stage plays and put in my own efforts. Inserting myself into a role, using body language to act – I enjoyed it. For the training programme I did do a bit of stage work as well and though it was difficult again, I had fun.

Q: For recitals, you can still practise on your own but when it comes to stage plays, you need a partner.

A: You need to respond to your partner’s acting and be responded to – that’s what makes it a stage performance. I also had trouble acting out older roles. I was just a high school student so I didn’t understand adult stuff. When I think about it now, I always seemed to run into brick walls back then; I was always in despair.

Q: Did you not rethink your career path when you graduated from high school – was it acting all the way for you?

A: I’d always wanted to become a seiyuu but by the time I graduated from high school I still hadn’t managed to get signed up by any agency. I wasn’t willing to give up but at the same time, I knew I had to make a living. I was aware that gaining a qualification would open up doors to [future] employment, so I enrolled in vocational school. Following that, I got a job at a nursery school but around the same time, I was accepted into I’m Enterprise. Initially, I didn’t think I’d get many audition chances in my 1st year and planned to work first, taking the view that ‘work experiences would help to nurture one as an actor’. However, I knew that I’d already put in so much effort to become a seiyuu and that I should grab any chance that comes my way, which is why I finally decided to concentrate solely on voice acting.

Q: After joining I’m Enterprise you continued studying on the training programme. Was it motivating to see people who you’d studied alongside making their debuts and becoming prominent [in the industry]?

A: I was aware of what was going on around me but I personally thought that I had a long way to go yet, that there was still so much for me to learn – all I did was to just give my best tackling whatever was ahead of me.

Q: By the way, who else joined the agency the same time you did?

A: Naganawa Maria-chan, Uchida Yuma-san and Amasaki Kohei-san. I’m really glad when I have the chance to work together with my contemporaries. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t see them as rivals, but it does inspire me to work harder. More than anything, I’m happy when we get to work on the same show.

Q: What did you learn during your lessons that you still find useful even now?

A: All my lessons were helpful. Maybe I couldn’t understand what they meant when I was actually being taught, but I did find out later on. I think acting is something you get better at the more you do it so it’s important to just go ahead and try your hand it it. You’ll also learn from watching other people’s performances.

Standing in front of a mic during training programme classes made me realize how hard it was, but I’m grateful for the lessons that taught me what my good points were, as well as how my lecturers and everyone around me would always point out things that I was good at.

Additionally, when I was in my 1st year of the training programme, my then-lecturer would explain to us how it was better to put on a performance that was clumsy-yet-memorable, rather than one that was competent-but-forgettable. Even now, I’m always striving to infuse my own personality into the characters I create rather than producing something that’s merely‘passable’.

Q: Please tell us about your debut work.

A: It was for the web anime version of Oreimo., where I provided the voice for an in-game character. As for my first regular anime role, it was in the following year, as Sakura Chiyo-chan in the TV anime Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun. I think that I’m very privileged to have voiced Chiyo-chan. People said, ‘It’s great that you’re working hard’ but I do wonder if it was my innocence and lack of experience that had been the deciding factor – perhaps, if I’d tried out for [the role] 2-3 years later, I might not even be chosen. I am grateful to my manager who sent me to try out for the auditions, Director Yamazaki who nurtured me, as well as all of the fans who cheered warmly during events and so on.

Q: The anime was quite well received.

A: So it seems. When I watched the show on air, I’d go “Aahh!” or put my head in my hands (laughs). I had my doubts about whether I was ‘the right one’, worried about whether I was able to show what I was capable of – it’s something that I still think about, even now. Lots of people watched and loved the show. Personally, I feel like I was able to ‘become one’ with Chiyo-chan and that makes me happy. It’s a series that has greatly influenced my views on acting, and it’s also the first one where I feel like I’m being acknowledged. It’s a work that I truly treasure.

Q: Based what you learnt and felt at Nichinare, what do you think are the school’s good points?

A: I think it was nice to have a wide range of ages there. Young kids have their good points and the older students have theirs too. It was good to be able to interact with people from other age groups that I normally wouldn’t have had the chance to during the course of my school life.

Besides, the things I was expected to become aware of; to discover within myself, changed depending on the lecturer. There were lessons to be learned from these contrasting approaches and I felt that it was rewarding to challenge something new every time.

I gained new knowledge every year throughout the 6 years I attended [Nichinare]; the environment would change as well depending on the people involved. When my classmates changed and there would be another girl there who’s cheerful like me, I would think to myself ‘what other advantage do I have?’. Having different types of people from different age groups was a stimulating experience; interacting with them allowed me to learn many new things about myself as well. Many times, I was also spurred on to want to ‘create’ something new.

Q: Please tell us about your future goals and what kind of seiyuu you want to be.

A: For now, I want to play many different types of roles. I’ll need lots of tricks and techniques in order to pull them off. I’ve already had the chance to act as various types of characters up ‘til now so I hope that in the future, I’ll be able to voice other characters that display expressions that I’ve not had to before. There are certain kinds of roles that I consider easy to voice but if I could expand on the type of roles I can do then I’d also broaden my goals in the process. I do think that it’s one of the pleasures of life to be able to devote yourself fully to something, so I hope that I will find that ‘one thing’ that I can dedicate myself to.

Q: Please give some advice and messages to people who are aiming to become seiyuu.

A: I have travelled the same path that you are now on. I too, felt inspired to work harder after reading an interview with someone who also joined the [same] agency, so I definitely do understand the feelings of those of you reading this article who are also hoping to become seiyuu. The method and how you go about achieving your dreams is up to the individual so I think it’s important for each of you to re-examine things on your own. As you’re considering the things that you need [to improve yourself], I think it is worth putting in the effort to find out what it is that makes you unique. Your luck and chances will consequently increase. Even if you do not see any results within 1-2 years, I hope that you will not give up and continue to work hard.