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Ask a Sound Director! #1-2: Iida Satoki


Second part of the Iida Satoki Ask a Sound Director! [Seiyuu Road] series. First part here.

Part 2. Audition strategies? There ain’t such a thing!

Seiyuu castings depend on the individual series

When it comes to the casting of voice actors by us sound directors, I think that many people are misunderstood, thinking that we ‘choose the candidate who is the best actor’. Of course, acting skills are important. But to tell the truth, what matters more than acting skills is whether ‘this [choice of] actor can entertain the audience that the anime in question is targeting’. As each series targets a different audience, the skills required for each work too, changes.

For example, if we have a series that revolves around cute bishōjo characters, we’d then focus on males as the target audience. That means a cast of young, cute girls would correspond to the demands of the consumers. If they’re young and cute then [the consumer] would like to meet them at events. It’s becoming more important to be able to sing and dance, as well as having speaking skills to host Nico live streams and radio shows, areas where a lot more work opportunities are popping up. In such cases, no matter how good one’s acting may be, we’d never be able to hire actors if they couldn’t speak well on radio or during events. On the other hand, we may also have productions featuring wide-ranging storylines and highly dramatic values where the request is to ‘immerse [the viewer] in the story – regardless of name value, [we] want actors with great skills’. In such cases we make our selections without considering whether or not seiyuu fans have heard of their names, or we might choose actors from the dubbing field or stage actors. The point here is that it depends on the series at hand, and the viewers involved.

I think there are quite a few people out there who go for many auditions nowadays but there is no need to feel depressed if you fail them. In the case of anime, only 1 person can pass the audition for any one character. You won’t get 2 people tying with the same score for 1 role. If 100 people take the audition 99 people will fail it, so it’s natural for one to fail. Thus, there is no need to dwell upon it. Even if you are not chosen this time around, as long as you can sell yourself during the audition as ‘a person who’s able to do X or Y’, then that’s fine. If you impress yourself upon the audition staff members, they will remember you as ‘that interesting one’ and may choose you for a different role, or call you up to voice a guest character. The chance is always there.

Recent anime have covered a range of themes as well. With [school] club activities you’ve got mahjong and kabuki, with sports you’ve got cycling, figure skating and so on. For example, during auditions for an anime based on plastic models, the staff members put emphasis on [hiring] those whose profiles had ‘[building] plamo’ listed under their hobbies. Profiles are important. An interesting profile = an interesting life, in my opinion. Having an interest in various things, a variety of hobbies and skills – all this will eventually be of great benefit to one as an actor.

[[Notes: mahjong – Saki, kabuki – Kabukibu!, cycling – Yowamushi Pedal etc, figure skating – Yuri!!! on Ice, plamo anime – Frame Arms Girl]]

As you can see, the personnel hired may depend on the series. In a sense, there may not be such a thing as an ‘audition strategy’. Even if you ask the question ‘What makes a voice actor good?’, the answer would be different for each work.

The youngsters these days are good at anime acting but…

In the past there were many stage actors who also did voice acting – even though they could vocalize and articulate well and had good control over their abdominal breathing, you could say that a lot of them produced acting that didn’t ‘sound like anime’. The youngsters of today grew up watching anime since they were born, so their ‘anime acting’ is good. They can do lines like NANI!? [what!?] or YAMETEEE! [stoppp!] perfectly. But there are many who can’t master the basics of abdominal breathing control, vocalization and articulation. It’s the exact opposite of the older days.

The young people of today – they can all act. Even if they don’t have the acting experience, most will have committed plenty of anime to their memory banks so you can just say ‘[do it] like that character from that anime’ and they’ll get it straight away. They know how to distinguish their acting based on the character as well as easily understand the subtleties of animation performance. It’d be amazing if they could articulate, vocalize and accentuate properly on top of that.

Also, the seiyuu profession is one that requires physical strength, where one makes use of their muscles to emit sound from their vocal cords. There are many young people nowadays who lack physical strength – I wish they’d work more on that part. During auditions for battle anime I get them to ‘laugh, cry, scream their special move’ – some of them are already out of breath just by doing that. If that’s the case, they won’t last the pace for recordings of 30-minute programmes. It’s not only acting nowadays, but you’ve got to sing character songs and there’s dancing work as well so physical fitness is a must. Also, I think youngsters these days don’t move their chins much while they’re engaged in daily conversation. I’d like them to work harder to train their chin muscles for the sake of their performances.

I’d like to see the emergence of a young actor who could develop into a top supporting actor

Oftentimes, I hear the young actors saying in the studio that they ‘want to get better at acting, like the veterans’. That’s not a bad thing in itself but honestly, if we needed the acting skills of veteran actors for that work then we’d just hire them in the first place. ‘Why do you think we hired you instead?’ is what I’d like them to consider. It is because we need freshness rather than acting skill. That is why you do not have to go around wanting to act like a veteran right now. If you do this for 2-3 years you’ll get better naturally, so you don’t have to force yourself to over-reach for the moment. I tell young seiyuu that ‘We want to buy into what you have now. That pure performance of yours is one that we’ll only be able to hear right here, right now’. Sometimes, rough edges can be a weapon in itself. It’s cruel, but your youth is something you will lose. Being young is an advantage.

I’d like young seiyuu and those who are aiming to become seiyuu in the future to possess ‘a shining appeal that is unique to them’. Evil friends, horrible brats; the kind of characters that people who only play leading roles are not able to do – I think it’s fascinating to have someone who can do that type of role. Even in samurai cinema [chanbara], you have actors who are good at being the hero going around slashing people, but they’re unable to act out suffering and going ‘Arghh~’ as they’re being slashed. Those who are [good at] being slashed could pull off the voice of the hero if they had to. I’d love to have more good supporting actors to complement the protagonist.

There are plenty of rival [seiyuu with] cool and cute voices out there, so it’s quite tough to win against them. If there was a young seiyuu out there who could play roles like Mahō Tsukai Sally’s Yocchan or Sazae-san’s Hanazawa-san, they could prove to be incredibly useful. A bit of immaturity is fine, since they’re young. But I do want them to possess that special something, ‘a taste that is unique to them’.

Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a workshop organized by a voice actor training school and I saw lots of promising people who could turn out to be interesting supporting actors in the future. Thus, I hope the seiyuu training school staff members don’t get caught up in trying only to produce leading actors and heroines but nurture good voice actors as a whole.

Nowadays, the genres found in animation are vast, which leads to a similar need for diverse acting talent. During the days when the anime industry relied on Bluray and DVD sales, consumers would not be interested unless the cast was filled with popular seiyuu performing [theme] songs. However, since the business transitioned to focusing on streaming distribution, we’ve arrived at an era where an extensive variety of anime works can be produced. That means that there will be opportunities for a wide range of actors as well. With that in mind, I think that there will be an increase in demand for actors who possess unique weapons that nobody else does. I hope that many exceptional actors will emerge in the future.

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2018 Seiyuu Awards

These roll around faster than you expect, don’t they?

Last year’s winners:

Best Actor
Kamiki Ryunosuke (Amuse)

Best Actress
Kamishiraishi Mone (Toho)

Best Supporting Actor
Ohtsuka Hochu (Crazy Box)

Best Supporting Actress
Han Megumi (Atomic Monkey)

Best Male Newcomer
Ito Setsuo (Air Agency), Uchida Yuma (I’m Enterprise), Kobayashi Yusuke (Yu-rin Pro)

Best Female Newcomer
Ozawa Ari (I’m Enterprise), Senbongi Sayaka (I’m Enterprise), Tanaka Minami (81produce)

Best Singer
Aqours

Best Personality
Hanae Natsuki (Across Entertainment)

>> -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…

LOL look at what I said last year…I should’ve had more confidence in myself. The irony is that I didn’t even get my Kamiki publicity shots since he didn’t turn up at the event (his co-star Kamishiraishi did though).

My votes this year:

Best Actor: Suwabe Junichi (Haikyo)

Anyone but Matsuoka this year please?

I thought a bit longer about this one. In the end, Suwabe got my vote simply because I’ve been watching plenty of shows with him over the past 12 months, starting from Yuri on Ice to Demi-chan wa Kataritai to Isekai Shokudo to Fate/Apocrypha, Vatican Kiseki Chosakan and Shōkoku no Altair.
Other possibilities: Kaji Yuki, Yamashita Daiki, Suzumura Kenichi

Best Actress: Yuuki Aoi (Pro-Fit)

Y.Aoi was the obvious standout for me – I wasn’t a fan of her Tanya (Yojo Senki) but there were other splendid performances in the form of ACCA 13’s Lotta, Aho Girl’s Yoshiko and the titular character in the Kino no Tabi remake. She won this award in 2012 so that might count against her.
Other possibilities: Hayami Saori, Tomatsu Haruka, Anzai Chika

Best Supporting Actor: Saito Soma (81produce)

Last year, Ohtsuka Hochu was justly rewarded for his terrific performance in Ajin albeit a year late. Pondered voting Tsuda Kenjiro for a 2nd year running, though he had a less prolific year this time around – but you never know, right? In the end I went for one of my favourite young actors but I’m thinking they’ll probably give it to one of the older guys…anyone from Hiyama Nobuyuki to Sakaguchi Daisuke is a possibility.
Other possibilities: Genda Tessho, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Sugita Tomokazu

Best Supporting Actress: Taichi Yō (Vims)

Too many choices, no idea who to pick. Taichi is someone I’ve been rooting for for a while and I think 2017 has been a great year for her, her sexy Dorothy in Princess Principal being the deciding factor in my vote.
Other possibilities: Hikasa Yoko, Komatsu Mikako, Ichimichi Mao, Sakura Ayane

Best Male Newcomer: Horie Shun (Pro-Fit)

This should’ve been a straight pick between Horie and Chiba Shōya but the latter is from Sigma Seven e and we know how that goes. So it’s Horie for me. I like his voice in that despite sounding like a pre-pubescent teen, he doesn’t make it sissy, whiny or grating (sorry Yonaga Tsubasa & Yamashita Daiki).
I voted Yashiro Taku last year but he didn’t win, so the door is still open. Same story for a host of others. A bit early for Kumagai Kentaro, Ichikawa Taichi, Ichikawa Aoi, Tokutake Tatsuya etc, they’ll have other chances.
Other possibilities: Yashiro Taku, Inoue Yuuki, Sugawara Shinsuke

Best Female Newcomer: Kito Akari (Pro-Fit)

Taking Osawa’s Kohara Konomi out of the equation, Akarin’s the one rookie who easily stands out for having both decent acting chops and the looks/ ability to carry off an idol career of sorts (she’s been cast in one of those Love Live franchises)..
In recent years they’ve been putting at least 1 idol-oriented girl on the list so expect one of those to come in. Maybe even Ozaki Yuka for Kemono Friends?
Other possibilities: Tomita Miyu, Hondo Kaede, Harada Sayaka, Fujita Akane

Best Singer: AOP

I don’t know if this is even allowed..? Most of the past winners have been idol groups of some kind & I voted Walkure last year but they didn’t get it. Can I vote Suzuki Konomi or Kanda Sayaka (those SAO tracks were awesome!!) instead? They’re seiyuu, aren’t they?
Other possibilities: Poppin’Party/Bang Dream!, Kemono Friends

Best Personality: Sakura Ayane

I give up. I’m just randomly voting at this point…

Points to ponder this year:
/So far, Hosoya Yoshimasa’s been the only “young” freelancer seiyuu to get an acting award [for the 2016 Awards].
/Mausu doesn’t seem to be getting anything of late even though they have plenty of strong shouts w/ the likes of Kurosawa Tomoyo & Kakuma Ai…
/Pro-Fit getting stronger and stronger after Kayanon left. With the guys they’ve got Okamoto & Ishikawa Kaito. For the younger kids they have Iwami Manaka coming up as well…and keep an eye out for Shuto Yukina. Not bad for one of the smaller agencies!
/Potential curveballs? There weren’t any BIG mainstream movies a la Kimi no Na wa this year – the closest candidates are the likes of Yuasa’s Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta (Tani Kanon in the titular kid role), Studio Ponoc’s Mary to Majo no Hana (Sugisaki Hana & Kamiki again) and Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome (the inescapable Hoshino Gen). Or who knows, they might reward a dubbed work a la Frozen, like Sakamoto Maaya in Sing! or Kon Natsumi in Beauty and the Beast…w

Place your votes here on the official site, and if you’re hardcore enough you can add another 2 sets of votes via Web Netwype’s site and on the animelo mix mobile site.

#157 – Neto-juu no Susume: Noto Mamiko, Sakurai Takahiro, Suzuki Ryota, Ueda Reina, Terashima Takuma, Nakamura Yuichi


In a season of shows of middling quality, Neto-juu no Susume is one of the few that is keeping me highly entertained, even if runs more like a Korean/TVB/J-drama rather an anime with its plethora of ‘Ooh! Guuzen!’ kind of moments. After a first interview featuring some of the main cast, this 2nd feature brings in a new face – convenience store employee Fujimoto (Terashima Takuma) and his Fruits de Mer alter ego Kanbe (Nakamura Yūichi), adding to Morioka Moriko (Noto Mamiko) & her avatar Hayashi (Suzuki Ryota), and Sakurai Yūta (Sakurai Takahiro) & his avatar Lily (Ueda Reina).

Neto-juu no Susume is all about online games! Does the cast play ‘games’ or ‘online games’?

Q: First of all, please introduce your own characters.

Noto: I play the role of Morioka Moriko, a 30-year old NEET. She’s a hardworking and upright character who, before becoming a NEET, put her all into her job. However, as a result of working too hard, her job eventually became a chore…There were probably a lot of conflicts and one fine day, she just decided to put the brakes on reality and departed on a journey to her beloved online [gaming] world. She’s such a pure girl at heart.

Sakurai: The blonde, bespectacled Sakurai Yūta is a character that possesses visual impact, and is a refreshingly good young man. Like all the residents of this series, he has an interest in online gaming. The show hasn’t gone on air yet so there are many things I’m not allowed to say, but he’s a character…whose connection to Moriko will be visible, going forward.

Suzuki: Hayashi is a character that Moriko’s created in the game world. She chose the coolest visuals for the character but unfortunately, gave him a common name (laughs). In the game, [Moriko] declares herself as a ‘college student’. In other words, she’s a ‘nenabe’.*

*nenabe – a portmanteau of ‘net’ and ‘onabe’, someone who pretends to be the opposite of their gender. Onabe (lit. ‘pot’) is slang for i) lesbians, ii) females with gender identity disorders, iii) the female counterpart to ‘okama’ aka male transvestite

Ueda: She has a very soft demeanour and an incredibly cute outward appearance. Lily is a character whose role is to lend Hayashi-kun a helping hand whenever he feels troubled. She may look weak, but as the story progresses, you’ll see how she’s always spirited whether the going is good or bad, how she’s diligent, how she messes up…. She shows you various sides of her? How’s that? (laughs) She’s a character who’ll definitely surprise everyone who watches the show.

Terashima: Fujimoto is a college student who works part-time at a convenience store! I can’t say any more ‘cos they’d be spoilers (laughs). If you really had to force it out of me, then I’ll say that he works at a convenience store located in Morioka-san’s neighbourhood, one of the few places that she goes to outside her home.

Nakamura: I can’t say too much about Kanbe until the broadcast begins either. It’s been established that Hayashi is the character Moriko-san chooses in-game, but will that be the case for Kanbe too? When you’re watching the show, you’ll find it a lot more fun if you consider ‘just whose avatar is Kanbe?’. He has quite the sharp tongue, but he’s a character who cares about his allies.

Q: Neto-juu no Susume is a series about online gaming – do any of you normally play games?

Noto: When I was a child I used to play the Super Famicom quite often. The games that came out after seemed to have a bit more depth to them, didn’t they? Like, they looked more solid?

Nakamura: You mean as in the use of polygons, like in 3D?

Noto: Yes! Games became like that, so you couldn’t get the characters to walk straight any more.

Nakamura: You could go sideways, but you couldn’t go backwards (laughs)

Noto: Yes! You couldn’t go backwards (laughs). The games being put out were all like that, so I left the gaming world for a while. But thanks to social games on smartphones, I’ve been getting back into the world of gaming bit by bit.

Sakurai: When I was young, I couldn’t believe in anything at all asides from games (laughs). Until my early 20s, I was ravenously playing a lot of different games.

All: (laughter)

Sakurai: But since my mid-20s I haven’t played as much as I used to. I mostly play games on portable consoles like the PS Vita.

Suzuki: The first game machine I played on was the Nintendo DS, with games like New Super Mario Brothers and More Brain Training – Adults’ DS Training. As for online gaming, I only tried a bit of FPS during the entrance examination period in my third year of junior high.

Terashima: Why were you playing FPSes during your entrance exam period?

All: (laughter)

Suzuki: Erm..well..that is..FPS gaming while studying (laughs). I think I might have put more effort into the FPS though.

Q: We’re going through the evolution of game consoles here (laughs). How about Ueda-san?

Ueda: I enjoyed gaming as well during my elementary school to junior high years with my family at home. I remember plugging in a lot of controllers in to the Nintendo 64 to play a golf game with my mum and younger brother. That’s why I’ve never really done any handheld gaming. But recently, we can play social games on our smartphones, right? There are times though, when I start a game, log in once every 6 months or so and casually play a bit. I’m not a heavy gamer.

Nakamura: If your last login was half a year ago…yeah, you’re really quite the casual gamer.

All: (Laughter)

Q: How about you, Terashima-san?

Terashima: I’m a bit narrower and shallower [when it comes to gaming]; sometimes I do go a bit deeper. Of course, I’m still gaming now. My fans tend to think that ‘Terashima is a gamer’ but I don’t really play enough to be called a ‘gamer’.

Q: But Terashima-san, you’re wearing a Mega Drive cap today.

Terashima: It’s pure coincidence (laughs).

Nakamura: To actually own a Mega Drive cap – you’re surely a gamer (laughs)

Terashima: Back in the days when the Super Famicom was all the rage, my buddy bought a Mega Drive. When I saw it I thought, ‘That’s cool! I wanna play Sonic the Hedgehog!’ and I ended up buying my first game console with my New Year’s pocket money. I’ve loved the Mega Drive ever since. I did buy a couple of consoles after that but I only played them casually. So, there may be popular masterpieces in the world but there exist many who never played them.

Q: Now I’ll ask Nakamura-san. Do you play games?

Nakamura: I do a moderate amount of gaming…

Terashima: His standard of ‘moderate’ is completely different from ours (laughs)

Nakamura: It’s embarrassing for me to say ‘I’m still playing games’ when I’m amongst this group. I’ve been playing games for a long time and never stopped, yeah.

All: (laughter)

Q: How old were you when you touched games for the first time ever?

Nakamura: I think it was around 2nd or 3rd grade. I’ve been playing ever since. I heard the rumour that ‘you’ll stop playing games when you grow up’ but that hasn’t happened. There were some of my agency seniors who played games as well but they all stopped when they turned 30 or so. At the time I thought, ‘I’ve been left behind’. Even when I passed 30 years of age I kept on playing games. I don’t think I’ll ever graduate from it either, while everyone else quits at some point in time…it’s lonely.

All: (laughter)

Asking everyone – so, what are online games?

Q: Alright, let’s get to the main topic! Neto-juu no Susume is about online games – do any of you know anything about online gaming? In other words, what is online gaming?

Noto: Final Fantasy is an online game, right?

Nakamura: You mean Final Fantasy XI? The Dragon Quest series has online games too.

Noto: Eh~, really?

Ueda: I don’t know about them in detail, but I have this image of online games being ‘games that you play and chat at the same time with complete strangers’.

Terashima: I’ve never played them so I don’t know anything either, but my image of them is that they ‘mess up human relationships’.

All: (laughter)

Terashima: I mean, isn’t it scary to play something with someone whose face you can’t see? However, now that I’ve had this chance to be involved with this series that allows me to come into contact with the subject matter of online games, [I learned that] people do have dreams within games, and that dramatic things can happen as well….

Nakamura: ‘cos it only touches on the good points! (laughs)

Terashima: I think I learned about online gaming from a show that Sakurai-san was in – .hack. Because of this series, I got to know about the interactions found within online gaming. There aren’t many people around me who play [online games] though, so I still have this impression that ‘human relationships are difficult [to handle]’ when it comes to online games.

Noto: Those [characters] you play with online aren’t machines, but there are humans behind them – that is what online games are.

Nakamura: An online game you could play at home but without a PC would be something like Phantasy Star Online.

Noto: A world where you can play games with someone even when you’re away from home! I never played them myself, but I did wonder what kind of worlds they were~ – I fantasized a lot.

Terashima: I did have friends who played PSO back in the day…and I used to fantasize as well. Like, maybe celebrities are playing online games as well so ‘maybe I can meet a celebrity in-game?’ but when I think about it rationally, I’ll go ‘what’s the point of meeting them…’

Noto: Yeah yeah (laughs)

Terashima: But there are players who do get married after meeting on online games, right? That kind of thing would make it a dream game.

Q: Suzuki-san – what are online games to you? Do you have any experiences with them?

Suzuki: I played FPSes. I wanted to play games where I faced off against other people. There are [games] geared towards solo players with scenarios you can play from start to finish [alone], but if there’s an online component you can play it forever as long as there are other players. I played AVA (Alliance of Valiant Arms).

Q: Lastly, Nakamura-san. What’s the first online game you played?

Nakamura: Ragnarok Online. I had friends who played every day and I started it after getting an invite to play, but I stopped when my wrist started hurting.

Sakurai: Why was your wrist painful?

Nakamura: It was like an ‘endless clicker’ kind of game; you’d just use your mouse to click on the skill icon endlessly. I ended up with something like tendinitis, so I stopped. After a while, I started playing PSO, around the time I started working in the seiyuu industry. It was quite popular back then, wasn’t it?

Sakurai: Yeah I remember everyone playing it. There were many seiyuu players.

Q: Did you play too, Sakurai-san?

Sakurai: I did it for a bit back then. It was an era when you could play casually as long as you adjusted the settings. My impressions upon playing PSO at the time were that there are two types of players – ‘people who want to play the game’ and ‘people who want to gather as a group’.

Nakamura: It’s true of the Monster Hunter series as well.

Sakurai: Oh yea. That’s why I thought that ‘online games have become that kind of tool’.

Nakamura: That comment’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Sakurai: Online games are a communication tool—

All: Oh~, that’s a great summary!

What is the appeal that keeps you playing on & on? This is what’s fun about online gaming!

Q: Sakurai-san, do tell us about your memories of online gaming.

Sakurai: There was one time I logged into the game and entered the lobby to find that people were playing ‘shiritori’ there. I saw the chat going ‘Gorilla –> rapper’*

* (the original text is Gorira – rappa [trumpet])

All: (laughter)

Sakurai: I was there to play games. Well, I can’t deny that ‘shiritori’ is a game…but that’s not my kind of game. I quickly quit after that.

Suzuki: In that respect, since I was playing FPSes there wasn’t much in the way of in-game chat with other players. It’d be great if I could beat up lots of people and go I AM STRONKKKK, that’d be fun. The other players are humans so…

Terashima: They’re not programmes so you get a sense of superiority when you beat down a real human?

Suzuki: That’s right. But I’m not that good though (laughs)

Q: Nakamura-san, what do you feel is the attraction of online gaming?

Nakamura: Obviously, the contents of the games themselves are interesting; so is the ability for players to ‘play’ them in whatever style they like. For example, if you’re playing a solo RPG, there is no point in hanging around areas where there is nothing to do. But in online games, you could go to remote areas where there’s nobody around and that could be a form of ‘play’ by itself.

Q: What kind of ‘play’ do you mean by that?

Nakamura: A friend of mine found it strange that there were isolated areas you could wander around in, & he would take screenshots as commemoration. You could also try to battle ridiculously powerful enemies that you didn’t necessarily have to take on (but end up getting annihilated) – there are things you don’t have to, but can do in a game.

Q: You’d deliberately get annihilated? (laughs)

Nakamura: Yes. Even though you know that the system is designed for that opponent to be absolutely unconquerable, you’d still take on the challenge of fighting valiantly ‘til you get annihilated. We’d go ‘ah, there’s really not much you can do after all~’, and just wait to collect the corpses. I wouldn’t bother with that kind of thing if I was playing alone but if I had friends, I would.

Q: It does sound fun when you put it that way!

Nakamura: In Neto-juu no Susume, they use text chatting instead of voice chat to communicate. I think typing the text out is also one of the ways you can enjoy the game. It’s difficult to convey your feelings through on-screen words alone, but that inconvenience can actually turn out to be pretty fun.

When I play online games and I type a question out to someone but they don’t respond right away, I wonder to myself ‘what time is it over there?’. They might’ve intended to reply but fallen asleep instead. It’s interesting that you can read between the lines that way when you’re playing networked games.

The cast explains! An online slang course brings up a succession of unusual answers

Q: In the series, a lot of peculiar language, deemed ‘online slang’ is used. I will ask you a few questions about them, so please answer. If you don’t know the answer, just try and guess.

Nakamura: Oh, this is like ogiri isn’t it? Noto-san and Ueda-san will give you amusing answers (laughs)

Noto/Ueda: We’ll do our best!

Q: First up. What is a ‘saba’ (鯖, mackerel)?

Ueda: Actually…I looked that up before. When I searched ‘saba’, a lot of things came up!

Nakamura: I see… there are a lot of people in this industry who’d be like that (laughs)

Terashima: When you eat mackerel, you’d better make sure you chew it properly! (laughs)

Ueda: That’s why I think ‘saba’ is used to mean ‘danger’.

All: (laughter)

Nakamura: So when a strong enemy appears you’d say ‘It’s a mackerel!’?

Ueda: That’s right.

Nakamura: You’ll be made fun of (laughs)

Ueda: Is that not it? Another possibility I thought of was that the mackerel ‘loses its freshness easily’, so perhaps that meant that they are ‘limited-time [items]’.

Nakamura: It doesn’t have to be a mackerel specifically in such a case…

Sakurai: You could say that it’s true of all fish in general (laughs)

Nakamura: Okay, we’re getting nowhere nearer to the goal so I’ll just put out the answer here (laughs). It’s simple enough – it just means ‘server’ [saba = sa-ba-, the word for server]!

Ueda: Ah! I see! It’s easy to type ‘saba’ as well!

Nakamura: ‘S’ and ‘A’ are right next to each other on the keyboard.

Q: It definitely wasn’t referring to the fish (laughs). Next up, ‘aka’ (垢, filth). Noto-san, please answer.

Noto: I’d never been familiar with online slang before but I’ve been learning them for Neto-juu. But ‘aka’?…. I have no idea (laughs)

Nakamura: How bout Ueda-san, do you know?

Ueda: I didn’t look this one up. Does it mean ‘account’, by any chance….?

Sakurai: Ooh!?

Nakamura: That’s correct. Amazing!

Ueda: Hooray!

Terashima: It’s used for SNS accounts like Twitter and so on as well!

Q: Congratulations Ueda-san, you got it correct the 2nd time around! 3rd question is ‘kakin’ (課金, billing). Sakurai-san?

Sakurai: Surely everyone knows this one? It’s using real money to buy in-game items. I don’t play those kinds of games at all so I’ve never kakin-ed but I do hear many heroic stories from people around me, saying ‘I’ve kakin-ed this much!’. These guys really love their games that much though, plus they’re helping the economy along. I think that’s a very good thing. But the phrase ‘imposing charges’ doesn’t generate a positive image at all (laughs)

Q: That’s the perfect answer, Sakurai-san! Now, the last question! We shall hear the answer to Question #4 from Suzuki-san. What is ‘suka (スカ)’?

Suzuki: It’s only from being involved with Neto-juu that I learned out this online slang called ‘suka’*. It means ‘failure’ doesn’t it? It’s not a phrase you’d use too often in FPSes though.

Nakamura: In FPSes you often hear them using ‘imo’ (芋, potato) though?

Suzuki: Yes they do. That refers to ‘someone who doesn’t come out to the frontlines’.

Nakamura: Someone who waits for a long time. You often hear ‘we lost ‘cos we had too many imo (potatoes)’.

Sakurai: Not ‘we had too many imōto (妹, younger sisters)’?

All: (laughter)

*etymology of suka (スカ) unknown. generally used to signify that one failed at something they tried, ie the lottery

Q: That’s all for the quiz. Are there other online slang words you often use?

Nakamura: From the time online gaming began, there is tern ‘ui (うい)’ that you’d use. It only means ‘yes’ though.

Noto: It makes you look like a Frenchman (laughs)

Sakurai: Why don’t you just use ‘yes’?

Terashima: What’s wrong with ‘yes’?

Nakamura: ‘cos when you use a Roman input keyboard you’d have to press three keys ‘y-e-s’. But with ‘ui’ it’s just 2 keys, ‘u-i’. Plus they’re right next to each other on the keyboard so you could type it with one hand. That’s why online gamers who use keyboards would naturally reply ‘ui’ instead of ‘yes’.

All: Oh~~~~!

Noto: Neto-juu is a place where we can learn♪

Ueda: I feel like I could make my online gaming debut any time now♪

Q: A lot of online slang is used in the anime, so please watch out for them!

We asked everyone for ideas about online games they’d love to play!

Q: Do any of you have ideas about the kind of online game you’d love to play?

Sakurai: I like the Animal Crossing series so a similar kind of online game would be nice. Villagers with weird habits…I like that kind of cute ‘miniature garden’ kind of thing. It’s a girly kind of game though, isn’t it? I think kids playing such games would be able to learn about social rules and mechanisms. Things like paying off debts and unexpected time constraints. I’d probably like an online game that had that kind of atmosphere to it, provided they made it a bit more fantasy-like.

Ueda: I’m not fond of ‘battles’ etc so I’d like an easygoing kind of game world. In the middle of a forest, everyone farming together, planting big trees.

Terashima: Is that even fun?

All: (laughter)

Sakurai: Yeah, I kind of get that~.

Nakamura: Please think about this calmly. Grow trees? You go home, log in to the game, water the trees, then you log out!

All: (laughter)

Ueda: OK maybe a bit more… Starting from the BC period, you’ll grow trees to 200 million years of age. Ah, how about this! Cultivating planets!

Nakamura: That already exists. It’s called Sim Earth.

Ueda: Then I’ll make auroras!

Nakamura: You might as well be God. ‘Universe Creation Online’?

Sakurai: Sorry. This is somewhat different from what I’d imagined (laughs).

Ueda: I want to play a peaceful game, creating nature with everyone else.

Sakurai: Then I’ll create a peaceful village amongst the starts that Ueda made (laughs).

Q: How about you, Noto-san. Do you have any ideas for online games you’d like to play?

Noto: Actually, I played Ghosts ‘n Goblins a long time ago…

All: Eh!?

Noto: I couldn’t clear the game at all though (laughs). It’d be fun if the games I used to play on the Famicom would have online versions.

Terashima: I see. Titles like Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy originated from the Famicom too, if I recall correctly.

Nakamura: That might be interesting. I wonder what kind of game it’d turn out to be?

Noto: The enemies that we couldn’t defeat long ago – we’d all get together to beat them up!

nb: Makaimura (Ghosts ‘n Goblins) Online went into beta testing in South Korea in 2013 for about 2 & ½ years. The service has already been terminated.

Q: Let’s hope that someone high-up at Capcom reads this (laughs). Suzuki-san, would you have any other game plans apart from a FPS?

Suzuki: I’d like to play an online sports game like baseball or football, where each player would take up a position on the team.

Terashima: ‘I’m playing right (fielder) today so the balls surely aren’t gonna fly my way’ but once you look at the TV, they’d be flying your way* (laughs).

*right fielder is supposedly the position where the least fly balls go

The appeal of Neto-juu no Susume lies in the human drama featuring a unique cast of characters

Q: Neto-juu’s appeal lies not only in the world of online gaming, but also in the real world, with its human drama. Tell us about the show’s highlights, without spoiling too much.

Sakurai: It’s pretty rare to see the kind of encounter that Moriko and Sakurai had. In future they might have…a romantic encounter…maybe? I wonder how I should answer that.

Noto: Yes, how should I put it…it was a sensational first encounter..? (laughs) It’d be pretty unusual nowadays… when you watch the anime, you’ll think ‘Eh!?’ when you see how they first meet. In the real world, relationships like the one between Sakurai and Koiwai (CV: Maeno Tomoaki) are more common after all.

Sakurai: I agree. You see more of Sakurai interacting with his senior Koiwai rather than with Moriko. Sakurai has quite the backbone; despite his daily life he’s immersed deeply in his games so he has these 2 distinct personalities, in reality and on the internet. And he meets Moriko there….sort of. The story starts off with them briefly passing by each other…

Noto: It’s really hard to explain.

Sakurai: One of the anime’s charms is in how the story shows human relationships being intertwined in complicated ways. I can’t say too much without spoiling it so please do pay attention to the ‘human drama’.

What is the ‘Recommendation of the Wonderful Net Life’ that the cast can come up with?

Q: Part of the title is ‘Neto-juu’ (net life) – what would be an ideal ‘net life’ for you?

Noto: There are many aspects to the internet world; personally, I’d hope that would it be more of a ‘gentle world’. Rather than a place for one to vent their negativity, I would like it to be a warm place that people can return to, one that is without evil things.

Q: Suzuki-san, what would be your ideal ‘net-life’?

Suzuki: As long as I am strong, it would be an ideal world!

All: (laughter)

Nakamura: That’s why you’re all about FPSes. That’s the kind of answer you’d come up with (laughs)

Q: How about you Nakamura-san, what would be your ideal ‘net life’?

Nakamura: Rather than thinking ‘I have to play [the game]’ every time you get home, you’d go home & naturally log in & play – that would be an ideal ‘net life’. That was what it was like for me when I was playing FFXI. I’d get home, go into my room & while waiting for my PC to turn on, I’d go gargle. After logging into the game I’d eat my meals.

Noto: You’d turn on your PC before you gargled? (laughs)

Nakamura: Yes. You’d think ‘why not do it after you eat?’, wouldn’t’ you?

Terashima: If you want to start playing, why not after you’ve settled down completely?

Nakamura: You’re right. Even after you’d logged in, it’d take a while before your character starts to move and sometimes I’d be watching TV for a while even after I’d finished eating. For me, it only feels like ‘home’ when I’ve logged my character in online. On the other hand, I sometimes fall asleep without even playing a single minute. I logged in, didn’t move an inch and next thing I knew, it was morning.

Sakurai: If you weren’t moving at all, wouldn’t the other players get worried?

Nakamura: Hardcore players would all be like that though so we’d be more worried about people who didn’t log in. Like ‘is that guy okay today?’. So even if I wasn’t going to play at all I’d just login.

Q: Ueda-san – what kind of situation would be an ideal ‘net’ life for you?

Ueda: I’d be glad if, during work etc, you could come to think ‘I’ll do my best today, for the sake of my online games!’. Is a ‘net life’ that kind of life?

Q: Lastly, Sakurai-san – what’s your ideal ‘net life’?

Sakurai: I do believe that each individual has his or her own ‘reason’ for playing online games. There are people who love games and people who love communication – if one could come to love the human behaviour that is born [from games], would that not be ‘fulfilment’?

You could also build relationships that are more beautiful than in the real world. That could be a type of playing style by itself, and it might even change one’s impressions of other players. Amidst that, you could find another ‘you’, one that you were not previously aware of. In some ways, it’s still you but as long as you love that alternate life that you’re living in the online game – wouldn’t it be safe to say that that is the ideal ‘net life’?

Q: Thanks to all the cast members!

————————
PS. Do check out the Tokyo Encounter show that Nakamura Yuichi does with Sugita Tomokazu, all about playing games!

#156 – Taichi Yo


Animate Times’ Nichinare series continues with Taichi Yō, someone who I only started paying attention to after Prison School [Anzu], of all things. 2017 has been a pretty good year for Taichi with a clutch of major roles which may just lead to that major breakthrough I’ve been expecting to happen for these last 2-3 years.

Not only is Taichi a versatile actor, she’s also possesses one of the most powerful singing voices amongst seiyuu, something that became apparent through her performance of Gekitei. But it’s only been this year that she’s really been able to make good use of it through character songs and such. More to come in the future, fingers crossed.

Stage Name: Taichi Yō (大地 葉), real name unknown
DoB: 6 August 19xx
Hometown: Saitama
Agency: VIMS

Part 1

Q: Please tell us about yourself.

A: My surname is read ‘Taichi’. Taichi Yō, the stage name I use, is derived from my nickname ‘Taichō’ [trans: Captain] so everybody – do please remember that I’m called ‘Taichō’. I have a positive personality and even if bad things happen and I feel down, I’d have forgotten about it by the next day – optimism is my virtue. People often tell me that ‘you’re so calm, aren’t you?’ but the truth is that I’m panicking inside and am inclined towards acting before I think, which means I end up repeating the same mistakes. My hobby is going to karaoke. I love singing anisong and Showa standards. Stuff like my personal 10 best songs and so on (laughs). I’m addicted to painting my own nails as well. I love Indian movies. They have this overriding image of being packed with singing and dancing but because of their lengthy running time, the makers can put more effort into portraying the characters’ emotions. The music is also distinctive and has interesting elements you don’t see in films from other countries – if you watch one, you’ll definitely get hooked. Give it a shot! My special skill is piano, which I learned from when I was 4 years old through to my first year of junior high. That musical experience has proved to be useful for my work now.

Q: How is it useful?

A: When you’re recording a song you’d usually listen to the melody before singing it, but since I read musical scores I can omit that part, shortening the process (laughs). I also write songs for fun so when I was working on an anime called Fune o Amu last year, I helped compose the insert song. Sound Director Nagasaki [Yukio]-san found out that my co-star Shibuya Azuki-chan and I could compose [music] and he requested that we help write the insert song and we came up with ‘Dictionary-making Song ~We are Jisho-tans~’. It was used for 4 episodes in total – it was a great honour, and an incredibly valuable experience.

Q: How do you spend your days off?

A: I like anime and games which is why I ended up in this industry – I’d been watching anime and playing games with like-minded friends, going to karaoke since my school days. When I’m not outdoors, I’ll be catching up on the anime that I’ve recorded.

Q: In Idol Time Pripara, which begain airing in April, you voice Nijiiro Nino. What was going through your mind when you found out you’d gotten the role?

A: Idol Time Pripara has always been a work that holds great meaning to me. My younger sister’s hooked on it and plays the games; now we watch the anime together, which helps to deepen my interest in and knowledge of [the series]. When I was informed about the auditions, I said to myself, ‘I must, absolutely nail this!’, feeling strongly that it was my duty. However, I felt nervous because I didn’t have any experience of the role of an idol singing and dancing on stage. The role I was cast in this time is a character that’s sporty, has a big voice and greets people in a unique way, saying ‘Chassu!’ or ‘Sharassu!’, someone who prefers to act rather than think – this is the kind of character I excel at, so it was easy for me to voice her. I was informed by phone that I had passed the audition and when the call ended, I cried floods of tears (laughs). To be honest, it was still hard for me to process the fact even as I sat in the recording studio. I think the first time it truly hit me was during the live performance in August, when I was standing up on stage looking at the audience.

Q: What would you say is the appeal of the series?

A: It’s loved by a wide range of people, from small children to students like my younger sister, as well as parents – I think it’s because the series and its characters are so radiant. The characters are cute and the screen is bursting with colourful hues. The songs too, are catchy and perfect for live performances; they do help to establish the unique worldview of Pripara. It’s something that anyone can admire – wouldn’t you wish to enter the world [of Pripara]? The live performance that the cast members take part in is a true entertainment show – we’ll do our best to create a great stage that lives up to the Pripara tradition, which a succession of our idol seniors has built up. Please cheer for Yui-chan and her friends, who are energetically & cheerfully working hard at Papara Inn to spread the word about Pripara.

Q: What are your impressions of your currently airing anime Zero kara Hajimeru Mahō no Shō?

A: It’s a classic fantasy story, I would say. The female characters, starting from the witch Zero, are cute. Then you have a half-beast, half-mercenary hero who’s striving to succeed in the story – it’s a work that’s both robust and dense. The differences between sorcery and magic are defined in detail; with such a solid base in place, it makes it easy [for me] to slip into its world when I’m working on my role. Mercenary may look like a beast but he gives off the vibe of a human being, while there’s Zero who may look cute and a little airheaded but is actually the most powerful witch around – those kinds of gaps make it interesting.

Q: What kind of character is Albus, whom you play?

A: She is an immature, youthful witch who desires the Mercenary’s head in order to strengthen her magical powers and is always on the lookout for a chance to strike him down. She’s just a child, yet she’s pretty obscene (laughs). But she seems to have a lot of secrets. I can’t say much right now, but she’s definitely one of the important characters (laughs). It’ll all be made clear in due time, so don’t miss finding out!

Q: Tell us about the highlights of this series.

A: I guess the gap between the aspects of each character’s personality? (laughs). The concept of the ‘Beastfallen’ is unusual too. The emotions such as the sorrow of Mercenary the Beastfallen, as well as the interactions between him and Zero are fascinating to see as well. Thirteen is another important character who shakes up the story. And this is my personal opinion, but I think Holdem will gain a lot of female fans. Since this is a fantasy story, it is only right to have magic and battles! Please look forward to spectacular scenes as the story progresses.

Q: And in Tsugumomo, you voice the role of Sumeragi Sunao – please tell us your impressions of the series, its highlights and more about Sunao.

A: This is a series where Kazuya the Exorcist and Kiriha the tsukumogami join forces to exorcise the evil spirits and yōkai that roam the world. It’s quite a serious story when you consider things like Kazuya’s past and his burdensome role, as well as Kiriha’s emotions; yet there are plenty of nice service scenes for the guys (laughs). We just recorded the drama CD that will come with the Blurays & DVDs – it’s quite something (laughs).

Q: Sunao is quite imposing, isn’t she?

A: Like Kazuya, she’s an Exorcist and is also the heir of the Sumeragi Swordfighting style. Using a form true to her swordsmanship skills, she attains the ability to fight against yōkai. She has an athletic personality, and her first encounter with Kazuya was quite spectacular. Oh yeah she’s another girl whose body moves faster than her brain does (laughs). She flares up pretty easily and screams a lot. Though she is more of a typical girl than you’d expect her to be. This is just my own interpretation, but I think Sunao is weaker against women than against men. She just finds it hard to be honest to herself. Even though her name Sunao means ‘obedience’ (laughs). The way her personality swings from one trait to another is pretty intense, and that makes her fun to play.

Q: What are the highlights of this series?

A: The yōkai that appear in front of Kazuya + co. are quite unique, so do pay attention to them. There are also other Exorcists and Tsukumogami besides Kazuya and Kiriha and each one of them has their own thoughts, backgrounds, relationships and connections. You can enjoy the show in many ways – imagine yourself in the shoes of Kazuya, watching the cuteness of the characters; or you could enjoy the depth of the plot as well. Also, I’d be grateful if you could pay attention to Sunao’s various expressions and the cuteness that she tries to hide, only occasionally allowing to show through.

Q: Let’s talk about your summer shows. First of all, Mahoujin Guruguru.

A: I’d read the original manga and loved it. When I was in elementary school, I’d borrowed it from a friend to read but got so hooked that I bought my own copies. To appear in a series that I’d loved reading, which also happens to be a popular title that has been adapted into anime a few times, brings me both pleasure and pressure. Creating my own version of Juju, passing the auditions and standing in front of the mic now, made it clear to me that I’d ‘found the right answer’ and I remind myself of that fact as I go into recording. It’s a series packed with adventure, magic, battles and comical scenes – the gags are sharp and the studio is a fun place to work. Before the actual recording we do a round of tests first but we just can’t stop laughing – you can hear people sniggering behind you (laughs). I do think the impression that the manga gives off is the same as what goes on in the studio, which is what makes it possible for us to work on the show in a good environment.

Q: What kind of character is Juju ku Shunamuru?

A: Normally, she’s a silent girl who observes proceedings dispassionately and calmly, but when she enters a battle trance her behaviour will get a little extreme. Amongst all the characters that I’ve voiced thus far, she might just be the one who swings the most between two extremes. Recoding is tough for me since I have to go from -100 to +100 on the voltmeter.

Q: What are the highlights and things to keep an eye out for in this series?

A: This is a title that has been loved for so long because it can be enjoyed regardless of age or sex. Those who are encountering the series for the first time through this anime will find it refreshing to watch, while fans of the original manga, like me, will feel a sense of nostalgia. The series does give off the impression that you should cherish the work as a whole; we cast members too, through our performances, try to uphold the image of the anime’s art and as well as the original work. At the same time, [this remake] has been updated to reflect modern-day tastes and I hope that you will be able to enjoy those changes as well.

Q: Please acquaint us with Princess Principal, which also starts this summer.

A: Those who have seen the PV on the official site would know that is a spy story, with a 19th century London feel to it. You’d also be aware about the worldview of the series, as well as the amazing visuals and music, all of which are raising expectations for the series. Though it is a show with many female characters, I do feel that it will be very popular with the girls too since it is incredibly cool. The country is split into East and West, and the setting is that we have these girls who are normally high-school students but are actually involved in spy activities, though I can’t elaborate on that too much right now…Do check out the information on the official website as often as possible, before the show goes on air.

Q: You play Dorothy – we are curious as to what kind of character she is.

A: She’s one of the partners of Ange, the main character, where [her role] is to draw up strategies and give instructions to other characters – I guess that makes her slightly higher in rank than some of the others? She’s a level-headed, sexy older-sister kind of character…or so she pretends to be. In truth, she’s pure at heart. Definitely the type of girl that guys would like. It’s my first time playing such a sexy role and I went all out during the auditions, but it was a huge task for me to pull something different like that out of my arsenal (laughs). It’s new ground for me so I’m enjoying the recording sessions, with various plans of ‘how to approach the role’ running through my head. I’d be glad if, when you watch the show on air, you’ll see Dorothy and think ‘Wow, [Taichi Yō] can do such a character too!’. Over the course of this interview I’ve started to notice that I’ve been voicing these characters that have ‘gaps’ between two aspects of their personalities – I hope everyone gets turned on by these gaps (laughs).

Q: It’s pretty amazing to feature as a regular cast member in 5 shows over the spring and summer.

A: I’m honestly puzzled as it’s never happened to me before. One of my agency staff members commented that it was just a ‘lucky run’* (laughs). I’m happy that amongst all these roles, none of them are similar to each other in type. I’d always thought that my voice didn’t have any defining features to it so it was my hope that [my versatility] could be used as a weapon – it’s an ideal situation for me that I’ve reached this stage, getting to play various kinds of roles in various kinds of anime. I do think that it’s important to keep this [run] going, and I’ll do my best so that people won’t say that I ‘got lucky’.

*phrase used here is kakuhen (確変, short for 確率変動 kakuhen hendō) is a random number-generated pachinko system where a certain % of possible jackpots on a digital slot machine results in the multiplication of the odds of hitting the next jackpot, followed by an additional spin. This makes it possible for a player to achieve a string of consecutive jackpots after the first and is commonly referred to as ‘fever mode’

Part 2:

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

A: I fell in love with anime when I was in fifth grade, but it wasn’t until I was in my 1st or 2nd year of junior high that I came to recognize the seiyuu profession – I learned about it because of seiyuu who performed character songs. However, I was only watching anime for fun and I’d never thought about becoming a seiyuu. I was in my third year of high school and everyone around me was deciding whether to go on to college or to get a job, while I was stuck there without any objective. The only thing I liked was singing, so for a period of time I hoped to make a living from singing – I did some research and went for auditions but nothing came out of them. I never gave up despite my future remaining uncertain, but once we moved into graduation season I started panicking, thinking ‘This is bad’. It suddenly occurred to me that I liked anime; therefore I should aim to be a seiyuu. I looked it up, decided to apply to enrol into Nichinare and found out that the deadline was just around the corner – I remember making the cut right at the death after I sent off my application by express courier.

Q: Yours is an unusual case, compared to those who’ve been interviewed for this feature up ‘til now (laughs). How did your parents react to that?

A: My parents knew I wanted to sing so they’d more or less supported me up ‘til then and I’d promised them that if I couldn’t produce any results, I’d study properly, go to college and get a job…but I couldn’t keep up with my end of the bargain. I was told to leave home if I still hadn’t done anything by April. When I informed them that I wished to go to training school, they had ‘You’re joking!’ written all over their faces but in the end, they were able to accept it and said, ‘Try it out and see…but only for 2 years’. If I didn’t produce any results within 2 years, I would give up on the seiyuu path and take my studies seriously. Having the pressure of that 2-year limit meant I worked diligently, which I think was a good thing.

Q: Why did you choose Nichinare?

A: This is going to sound like a cheap reason but basically I just searched ‘become seiyuu’ on the web and that’s what came out on top (laughs). Obviously I did look into other training and vocational schools but when I saw the Nichinare alumni list, there were amazing people like Hayashibara Megumi on it. Such a track record gave me a sense of security; that [Nichinare] would be alright. Also, the low tuition fees were a decisive factor. I knew I had to enrol as soon as possible, plus I needed to earn money to pay the fees off myself. I also had no prior acting experience, which meant I couldn’t go to certain training schools that required at least a year of experience performing – in that way, Nichinare was a lifesaver for me since it has no such conditions or constraints.

Q: How many days of Nichinare’s basic course did you attend per week?

A: I took the 3-a week course. My dancing is really hideous – I’m bad at sports. Ironic that I’m voicing characters that are sporty or good at dancing (laughs). In addition to acting classes, there were vocal and dance lessons during the 3-a week course so I thought I’d be able to tackle my inability to dance. Still, it was tough.

Q: That’s unexpected since you should, in theory, have a good sense of rhythm.

A: It doesn’t extend to my body. But if it wasn’t for those dance lessons, I might’ve been crushed by the pressure of doing Idol Time Pripara (laughs)

Q: You probably had classmates who felt strong desire to become a seiyuu, or some who had acting experience. Did you not feel daunted by that?

A: I was the heretic amongst a large group of people who had wanted to become seiyuu for many years (laughs). The sparkle in their eyes and their industry was extraordinary – the moment I entered, I knew I had to take this seriously and braced myself. As I studied, I started to fall in love with acting. I learned the depth that a seiyuu possesses, and my desire to become one grew stronger and stronger. Those around me helped me out, and I received motivation.

Q: What kind of things did you learn on the basic course?

A: On the basic course, the emphasis is not on standing in front of the microphone, but on performing while utilizing your entire body. I did feel doubtful at first, wondering ‘do we really need to use our bodies to act?’. Once I actually experienced moving my body around, learning about ‘the perception of distance’ that is hard to imagine when you’re standing at the mic and how to vocalize when making certain movements – all this helped me to easily visualize [situations] as I was acting, something that I came to realize as I took part in recordings. If you’re performing without a partner, in a world without movement, your acting could only turn out to be thin and flat. To produce something that’s three-dimensional you need a partner, and you need to move your body – that is what I’ve learned. I understand the desire to stand before the microphone as quickly as possible but I also learned things that are even more important, basics that I had to equip myself with.

Q: You were aiming to be a singer before you enrolled – were [your skills] useful for aspects like vocalization?

A: Before I enrolled I was [learning singing] by self-study so I was concerned. ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ At Nichinare, I was taught the fundamentals, starting from how to produce long tones – by doing this, I was able to re-examine the way I expressed my voice. I also believe that [Nichinare] is an absolute plus for anyone who fears doing anything in public. I wasn’t good at it before but I have managed to overcome it.

Q: How did you spend your time outside of lessons?

A: I had to pay my own tuition fees so I worked part-time. Of course, I also did self-training, especially in dance. If I didn’t do it continuously I’d soon forget & wouldn’t be able to get it down pat. I’d also practise acting with my body at home. During the basic course, my lecturer taught me this: start a live commentary about whatever you see the moment you enter a room – I was told that ‘it will help polish your ad-libs and ripostes’, so I did it every day. I’m the type of person who finds it hard to promote myself or to do a free-talk, so the basic course lessons equipped me with quick reflexes and the ability to ad-lib.

Q: You stepped up to the regular course after 1 year on the basic course – what did you learn there?

A: What I learned on the regular course was the importance of being natural. There were lessons where we’d have to memorize scripts that were similar to live-action dramas and perform plays based on them – at first I did not understand why this was required. Once I had joined my agency and was being sent out for auditions, I often received instructions to ‘make it sound as natural as possible’. ‘Loosen up your body and don’t think about having to open your mouth – let me hear how you speak in a natural manner’. It’s easier when you’re told to sound ‘like someone’; instead, it’s difficult when you’re not asked to sound like anything in particular. I was able to deal with it because I was taught how to, but I suppose there will be a lot of people out of there who’ll be left confused. The regular course was what made me realize the different between acting and speaking. Indeed, I get better results and tend to pass auditions where the order is to ‘sound natural’ – I learnt so much from [the regular course] and for that I am grateful.

Q: By the way – when did you join VIMS?

A: Within the 1 year after I completed the basic course. I had that 2-year time limit at the back of my mind so my heart was completely unprepared even as I was signed up by the agency. However, as I didn’t take any mic lessons until I was in [VIMS’] training department following the completion of the regular course, my first experience in front of a mic was sudden – in a studio recording. I was quite resourceful and somehow managed to produce what was required (laughs)

Q: What was your debut anime work?

A: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Following that, my first regular role was on Love Lab. When I went to the studio for the first time, I saw the cast list filled with many great seniors and I was filled with great nerves, thinking ‘I can’t afford to mess up’, but when I was there, they were all very kind to me. For example, there was a senior* who was also a Nichinare grad, and she turned to me & another rookie seiyuu and said, ‘[We’re] going to the radio show’s recording now so do come over to observe & learn’.

*looking at the cast, this is quite likely referring to Sakura Ayane…?

Q: It’s amazing, that your 2nd role was as a regular cast member.

A: The pressure was big. My co-stars were already familiar and friendly with each other, and I was worried about how I’d fit in. However, I was close to many of the main cast members in age and we got along quite well in that sense. I was treated like family both in and out of the studio and they even held a birthday party for me. They bridged the distance between us very well and though I was a bit awkward at first, I warmed up naturally and we were able to work together to make a good show – I was blessed that my first regular role had such a [great] environment.

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

A: To have the courage to perform in public. In Nichinare, they have something called ‘promotion examinations’ once a year which is taken by both those who already have agencies and those who don’t. You’ll be given tasks during the examination, which you have to show off in front of an audience. Up ‘til then, I’d always hated doing things in public and found it hard to conquer my embarrassment, but thanks to this experience I managed to develop nerves of steel. Even if I have the chance to speak in public now, I am no longer scared.

Q: Tell us once again, about the appeal of Nichinare.

A: I’d say ‘taking lessons with your classmates’. There are some people who prefer to concentrate on learning through individual lessons but I feel that this narrows their perspective and their world. One thing I learned from the 4 years I spent at Nichinare, is that I receive a lot of inspiration from people around me. There would always be someone in my class who has the ability to do things that I can’t – it does get frustrating seeing that sometimes, filling me with regret. But it’s also likely that I wouldn’t even have noticed [my shortfalls] if I had never met said person. The more people there are, the more different personalities there will be – it’s a good opportunity for me to acquire more ‘abilities’. I tend to lock myself up at home (laughs), so it’s an asset for me to be able to grow alongside others who are working hard, aiming for the same goal. Our bond deepens when we learn together – it’s also a nice thing when we meet each other in the studio now & encourage each other to do our best.

Q: Please tell us about your future goals, and what kind of seiyuu you’d like to become.

A: I mentioned this in the earlier part (of the interview) – I’m someone who doesn’t have any discerning features in their voice, so for a period of time I was worried, thinking ‘What kind of weapons do I possess?’. However, I gradually came to the conclusion that ‘it could be a strength of mine to become a seiyuu who isn’t stained by any particular colour’. I believe that my career will persist longer if I can become a seiyuu who can ‘win’ by sound, key and colour. I want to become a ‘multi-purpose’ seiyuu, and I mean that in a good way.

Q: Please give some advice, and leave a message for those who are aiming to become seiyuu.

A: To become a seiyuu, ability is obviously essential but luck is just as important. You’ll never know if a chance encounter or trivial plans could lead to something greater so do remember to cherish every encounter, thinking of each as your one chance in a lifetime. Also, know that everything you do in your daily life is never a waste. Prick up your ears and listen and absorb everything you hear, from day-to-day conversations to the sound of the TV. Regardless of the reasons I wanted to become a seiyuu, the effort I put in once I made that decision was not a lie – I can proudly say that I gave my best. If you have a goal then you should tackle it head on, but you must also set limits. If I didn’t give myself that deadline then I’d probably be lazing about or dragging my feet around, so if you set a target and get to a point where you can say assertively that ‘I worked hard from here to there’, it will give you great confidence in the future whether or not you manage to become a seiyuu. Do your best!

Ask a Sound Director! #1-1: Iida Satoki

Seigura has been running their Seiyuu Road series for almost 10 years and now, they’ve turned their attention to sound directors – first up is the freelancer Iida Satoki.

Profile
Iida Satoki, born 18 February 1974
Debut: Cho-Tokkyu Hikarian [1999, as sound producer]
Other representative works: Seto no Hanayome, the Persona animation series, Yuuki Yuuna

During the late 90s and early 200s, Iida worked as sound director on numerous adult games for Triangle and WillPlus before gradually shifting his focus onto anime , first working on sound production teams before moving up to sound director. Due to his extensive work in sound production, Iida has a strong commitment to sound effects working alongside Okuda Ijo.

Iida is also director Kishi Seiji’s current sound director of choice; at one point he even sat in during script meetings for Angel Beats!.

Part 1. Seiyuu castings depend on the individual series

Sound directors are responsible for directing the sound-related parts of visual works, games, drama CDs and so on. For anime, sound work is divided into 3 sections – dialogue, music and sound effects; for dialogue we have voice actors, for the music we have composers and for sound effects we have mixers, all of whom are experts in their respective fields. It is the sound director’s job to instruct these individuals about the ‘objectives of the work, in order to produce the sound that is required’.

When working on a series, I will first of all, meet with the director and producers to enquire about ‘the show’s target audience, what direction the show is aiming for’. Next, we will exchange ideas regarding the music and voice casting and following that, instructions will be relayed to the relevant staff.

Seiyuu casting can differ depending on ‘who the series is being made for’. For example, if the shows is targeting a male audience and there are plans to hold events featuring female idol seiyuu, [we would] get people who look cute and can shine on stage; obviously they’d be good at singing and talking even if their acting is a little raw; the aim would be to secure those who can fit all the events into their schedule – that’s the priority from a business point-of-view. If it’s a show targeting females we’ll try to assemble a cast of popular male seiyuu while for kids’ shows, seiyuu branding is unnecessary so we’ll seek cheery character actors to match the series… those are some of the ways we select seiyuu based on the individual title.

In the past we used to get a 100 or more people into the studio and run auditions for a week but we’re doing a lot less of that nowadays. ‘cos if you had to get the director to sit in for 1 week of auditions, the animation process would screech to a halt in the meantime (laughs). Recently, it’s become the norm for tape auditions to form the first round of screening procedures. The seiyuu record their voiced lines digitally and send it over; we’ll listen to them and narrow down the list of candidates. Then we’ll get the remaining people to come to the studio to perform before we decide on the cast – that’s how the flow goes.

If I receive the request for a series’ cast to virtually consist of newcomers, I may invite the seiyuu agencies to send rookies who we don’t know much about. On the contrary, we may already have a list of candidates in mind and would then ask the agencies to get the seiyuu in question to tape their auditions. Lately, the trend has been to make specific selections. When I say ‘select’, I don’t mean picking just 1 person but around 10 names will be nominated initially. If you draw up too short a list you might end up with a situation where someone who’s passed the audition is forced to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Hence it is common to get a few candidates per character and have the potential casts for each character all gather in a studio on the same day. It’s not just ability that counts – good relations and luck play their parts as well.

A TV anime sound director at 25

Originally, I was an aspiring film director. I was part of my high school’s movie research society, where we used 8mm film to shoot films and create cell animation. Back then, I wanted to be a film director so I chose to enrol in a vocational school. That happened smack in the middle of Hollywood’s glory days however, when the Japanese film industry was in a moribund state – instead of getting into movies, I joined the TV production company Dax International (now Dax Production) as an assistant director.

Dax was a company that created both live-action and animated works, as illustrated by its signature production ‘Manga’s First Story’ (a live-action/animation hybrid). In live-action productions, the director is also in charge of the sound. The sound work would be handled by the production company in charge – as Dax was involved in both live-action and animation, the company possessed expertise on both sides of sound production as well. The seiyuu boom was happening around that period of time, and I got a call from a business partner asking me, ‘Shall we work on a drama CD?’ – that was how I got my start in drama CD production work. That particular drama CD got turned into an anime series and I was then asked ‘won’t you do some anime sound production as well?’ and I replied ‘Well, let’s do it then’ (laughs). From there I started to work more and more on anime-related sound production.

Since Dax was mostly a live-action production company, we had no in-house sound director which meant we’d have to ask the director of each live-action or animated feature to handle sound production duties as well; in time we saw an increase in smaller jobs that didn’t have the budget for that kind of thing so I thought ‘well, I might as well do it myself’. It was just internal circumstances that led to that (laughs).

I was initially interested in directing anyway so I did enjoy being a director, even if only for sound work. When I first joined the company I wasn’t actually aware that there was a job called ‘sound directing’. I came in at the age of 20 and started sound directing games at 23; by 25 I was working on TV anime sound direction. My first was a 7-minute corner called Super Express Hikarian. At the time, I was considered pretty young for a sound director.

As a newcomer I was often bullied by seiyuu and I thought to myself, ‘Just wait, I’ll get my revenge someday’ (laughs). But that was a natural thing. I was just a young lad and I couldn’t really do my job properly. Most of the directors were older and it was pretty hard for me to get my opinions in.

I think there are a couple of routes one can take in order to become a sound director. In my previous company I had a junior who’d taken a sound directing course in vocational school – there’s the basic pattern of joining a sound production company, getting involved in sound production work and eventually rising to become a sound director. There’s also the route where you work as a mixer in anime recording studios and ultimately become a sound director: these two are the usual patterns we see.

In the past, there have been cases where stage directors etc would become sound directors after being asked to ‘scrutinize anime actors’ performances’ – that may perhaps, have been the origins of a ‘sound director’. The generation preceding mine mostly consists of those who were mixers and engineers before becoming sound directors, as well as those who used to be actors themselves – you rarely hear of people saying ‘I entered this industry because I wished to be a sound director’. I hear that there is an increase in the number of young people wanting to become sound directors; it’s thanks to our great seniors that this profession has received such recognition.

Casting does not necessarily mean hiring seiyuu!?

I have experienced a number of different working environments thus far but the way I deal with them really does depend on the series involved. For example, Astro Fighter Sunred is a gag series where the dialogue’s [comic] timing is of utmost importance, so we invited comedians and stage actors to record their lines first, before the animation was created to match the dialogue – a method we call pre-scoring. Amongst the cast were the Hige Danshaku duo [Louis Yamada LIII & Higuchi-kun] and AKB48 member Kasai Tomomi. During the auditions, I had 8 people come in to the recording booth to voice the 8 characters where there was a poster stuck up, saying, ‘Keep changing roles until you’ve gone through all of them. The girls will play the monsters as well. Make it as funny as possible. Whoever makes the staff members laugh, wins’ (laughs). It was like an audition for a comedy show and it was fun.

For series such as Angel Beats! and Sakura Quest, we hired foreign talent amongst the regular cast members to play characters speaking native English, while for the high-school romance story Tsuki ga Kirei we needed realistic-sounding junior high conversations so we looked for high-school students and other actors who were not experienced with anime recordings, and did the dialogue pre-score style.

Accordingly, I do personally think that there are options to cast those who aren’t seiyuu, depending on the work at hand. Obviously it is crucial to determine first of all, what the intended audience of the series is seeking, and what methods you could use to increase the level of enjoyment. The most important point, above all, is to please the viewers. That is something I take note of when I’m directing.

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Possibly 2 more parts of this interview to come which I’ll translate and post as soon as they turn up.

I’ve personally found Iida’s casting choices interesting in that he doesn’t revolve around the same group of seiyuu the way Aketagawa or Motoyama do, plus he always manages to throw in a curveball or two ie a gaijin, as he mentions.

#155 – Isekai Shokudo Guest Note 13P: Suwabe Junichi x Uesaka Sumire x Onishi Saori


The final part of the Isekai Shokudo Guest Note series features the 3 Nekoya staff members: Master (Suwabe Junichi), Aletta (Uesaka Sumire) and Kuro (Onishi Saori).

Frankly speaking, I wish I got to speak more (lol)

Q: Tell us your thoughts now that recording for the entire series has been completed.

Suwabe: The 12 episodes are up but…frankly, I wish I had gotten to speak more as the Master.

Uesaka/Onishi: (laughter)

Suwabe: Honestly speaking, what I feel now can be compared to incomplete combustion (laughs). The desire I have for Isekai Shokudo to keep going on and on is swelling up within me.

Uesaka: As for whether Aletta has said anywhere near enough…

All: (laughter)

Uesaka: There were quite a few episodes where her lines consisted solely of ‘Welcome!’, ‘Here’s the menu’ and ‘Thank you’ (laughs). The series’ characters may have gathered together for episode 12 but it doesn’t really feel like an ending; you think it’s going to keep going on. It’s a season finale that makes you expect that someday, you will get to meet Aletta once again.

Onishi: Kuro too, to her heart’s content…

All: (laughter)

Suwabe: None of us 3 seemed to say that much despite our top billing (laughs)

Onishi: In my case, my character isn’t the type that speaks much anyway (laughs). Unlike the guests who voice their thoughts on the food and its taste at a frenetic pace, all Kuro says when she eats chicken curry is that one word – ‘Delicious’. In future, I want to voice a Kuro who gets all animated, jabbering on about the new chicken curry that Master’s invented.

For Suwabe-san and Uesaka-san, the omurice episode left the biggest impression

Q: Tell us which story amongst all the episodes left an impression on you?

Suwabe: Each episode has its own distinct flavour so it’s hard to pick just one, but I do think the ‘Omurice’ story was a little different. The main guest Gaganpo hardly spoke and instead, the segment was done documentary-style with a narrated voice-over – I thought that was a bold directing choice.

Uesaka: That was the episode I discovered I have a Lizardman fetish. I found the Gaganpo bathing scene so sexy that I had to avert my eyes; my heart was pounding then (laughs)

Onishi: Eh, really!?

Suwabe: Because he’s so muscular?

Uesaka: I liked the ‘Steamed Potato with Butter’ (Jaga Butter) episode. With a wave of his magic wand, the Master turns the Baron’s Fruit that Aletta disliked, into one of her favourite foods – it felt like we were tracing the trajectory of Aletta’s happiness. I’ve never really eaten steamed potato with butter myself, but I do know that they have stalls selling something similar in Russia.

Suwabe/Onishi: Woah.

Uesaka: You get a buttered potato the size of your fist, topped with slabs of salmon and cream cheese or any of your favourite trimmings – it’s something like fast food over there.

Onishi: Sounds tasty.

Uesaka: Recalling that makes me want to return to Russia someday.

All: (laughter)

Onishi-san chooses Hamburg steaks, the story of romantic relationships

Q: How about Onishi-san?

Onishi: I’ll go for episode 8’s Hamburg Steak story. It was totally a story about romantic relationships. Roukei was saved by Arte-chan and wishes to offer a token of his appreciation, but was taken aback by her instant response of ’10 silver coins please’ (laughs). From there, they went on to visit Nekoya to savour some Hamburg steaks together – what a nice atmosphere it was. By sharing a meal, the gap between the 2 of them was narrowed; that was both heart-warming and cute to see – it was memorable for me.

Suwabe: Love? Wasn’t it just for the money though? (laughs)

Onishi: The director kept saying ‘(He’s her) sponsor’ as well.

Suwabe: It’s like he’s a guy she only goes out with during an economic downturn, when she needs to eat*

*the phrase used here is メッシー君 (meshi-kun, food guy), one of the slang words used to refer to different types of friend-zoned ‘boyfriends’ ie アッシーくん(ashi-kun, leg guy), someone who’s got wheels & can give you free rides or ミツグくん (mitsugu-kun, financier), someone who gives you money and gifts.

Uesaka: After she orders seconds he even says ‘I only brought 1 silver coin’.

Suwabe: That was definitely a premeditated move from her (laughs). A completely contrasting story would be the Fried Seafood episode. The guests were just those two bearded old geezers.

Uesaka: The art was pretty graphic (laughs)

Suwabe: You had to wonder ‘who’s this going to appeal to?’ but I gotta admit, that fry-up and beer looked really tasty.

Memorable characters and the characters compatible with the people voicing them!?

Q: Which characters were your favourites, or left an impression on you?

Suwabe: I do think that the characters who produce big reactions when they’re eating are the ones who leave strong impressions. The pork cutlet bowl-loving Lionel and the curry-rice loving Alphonse possess the same attributes of passion and the gravity that their voice actors have, and both left their fingerprints embedded deep within [the show].

Q: The previous Master was cool as well.

Suwabe: That’s right. Whenever the previous Master appears, my current Master would diminish in presence, which is troubling for me (laughs). I worked hard, ensuring I inherited the good voice that runs in the bloodline.

Uesaka: For the girls, I like Victoria. She’s half-elf, half-human; as an elf she’d probably have to live her life in different ways and I’d love to be like that.

Victoria is researching magic but she also does mercenary work and it seems fun for her, to be walking a life path different from that of most humans. When she eats pudding she’ll return to showing the cute expressions of a normal girl – pudding a la mode suits nobody better than it suits her. Every time she appears I think to myself, ‘She’s wonderful’.

Onishi: I personally like Adelheid. There may be lots of people like the bearded old geezers and the lion gathering, and there you’ll see [Adelheid] sitting gracefully in their midst, gaining attention merely for her shining presence.

Shareef likes her but just can’t seem to make a play for her. It’s wonderful that she can attract people around her just by being there. [Adelheid] gives off this strong, ephemeral ‘I must protect her’ kind of feeling – I love that.

What is the food that the 3 picked as the most delicious?

Q: Amongst all the dishes featured throughout the series, which do you think is the most delicious?

Suwabe: It’s hard to pick a #1. Though I can say that the one dish I have zero interest in is natto spaghetti.

Uesaka: That’s not something you could eat, right?

Suwabe: I can’t stand natto. Everything else, I’d love to try. I was happy that the food being featured in that week’s episode would be served as refreshments during recording. The cast’s morale went up because of that.

Uesaka: My favourite food is omurice but the meat sauce spaghetti looked so good in the show. I’m the type who loves to pour Tabasco all over my meat sauce spaghetti…

Suwabe/Onishi: Ehhh~!?

Uesaka: Sirius put Tabasco on his as well and I thought, ‘that’s great’. After that episode’s recording I went to eat meat sauce spaghetti and doused it in Tabasco. Nekoya doesn’t have many spicy items on its menu so I do wish that just once, Nekoya would put on a ‘Super Spicy Festival’. Like, this Saturday, we’ll only be serving spicy dishes! That kinda thing.

Onishi: For me it’s the Morning breakfast set. I’m the type of person who doesn’t eat breakfast since I’m thinking, ‘If I had the time to eat breakfast I might as well use it to sleep instead’, but if this Morning set was served I’d be able to have a good meal and go to work with plenty of energy. I think the sound of toast being chewed on is so amazing, I’d love to be able to eat toast in such a way too*

*note: there is a mistake in the original article (the sentence is left hanging)

The feeling that you’re sharing a meal with different people from all over the world

Q: The Blurays and DVDs went on sale on 22nd September. Tell us once again, what the highlights are and please do leave a message for everyone who watched the anime ‘til the end.

Uesaka: I hope you will consider Isekai Shokudo to accompany your meal. When I watched the show as it was airing, I too would prepare a meal so I could enjoy the feeling of eating alongside Nekoya’s regulars and otherworldly patrons (laughs). Everyone is so good at making food reports and they eat their food so deliciously that it makes me even hungrier and increases my enjoyment of the meals.

Since different guests and different foods appear each week, you would be able to enjoy each episode in a uniquely different way as well. Even if you watch the episodes over and over, you will be sure to be filled with happiness each time so I’d be grateful if you could get hold of the DVDs and Blurays. With your backing, Nekoya might have the opportunity to reopen in the future, so please continue to support us in the future.

Onishi: For this roundtable interview we were provided with scene cuts from each episode of the series as reference material – when I looked at them, I was reminded of just how realistic and delicious the depiction of the dishes are. As an example, I’m looking at the omurice illustration and it looks so real, as if it might melt and overflow.

Because of our irregular working hours our eating patterns are similar – I don’t often eat breakfast, but through watching this series you can tell how the characters are so happy when they look at food, and the way they eat it makes it seem so tasty. I’d like to go back to earlier times so that I can regain an appreciation and affection for food. I hope that you will strive not to neglect your meals, paying tribute to the deliciousness of your food. Even if you’re eating alone, you could pretend to be like a patron of Nekoya, going ‘this sticky egg is sooo good!’ or ‘wow! This bacon is so crispy!’ – your meals might be more fun that way (laughs)

To all of you who’ve watched show to the end, thank you very much. I hope that someday, we’ll be able to see the dramas revolving around the wonderful food of Nekoya once again –we look forward to your continued support in the future.

Suwabe: To all who watched the series on TV or through streaming, thank you very much! The Master is someone who lets his food speak for him so there was honestly not much for me to say, but I was able to approach recording with joy every week. For each episode, a smorgasbord of amazing guests would be in the studio. It truly is a wonderful series that maintained a high level of freshness throughout.

Personally, I like to have a bite myself while I’m watching and listening to all this foodporn. I think there are perhaps, many people like that out there too? The Blurays and DVDs will prove to be a good lunch partner for you. I’d be pleased if you could grab a copy. Also, there is plenty of material left in the novels. I pray from my heart that a 2nd series of the anime will be produced. Please do continue to support the series.

Lastly…I thank you for your patronage of the Western-style restaurant Nekoya over these past 3 months – we gladly await your return!

#154 – Isekai Shokudo Guest Note 12P: Toyama Nao x Asai Ayaka


Part 12 of the Isekai Shokudo Guest Note series features the two young sirens Arius (Asai Ayaka) and Iris (Toyama Nao).

The differences in personality between these 2 intriguing people; their recklessness

Q: Reflecting on episode 11 – what are your thoughts?

Toyama: The story begins with childhood friends Arius and Iris taking off from their nest – in all honestly, I thought they’d be a bit older since they’re leaving the nest but they turned out to be a boy and girl around the age of 10; that surprised me. I voiced [Iris] thinking of the story as being like a fairy tale. I was already hungry before recording began and my stomach couldn’t hold on ‘til the end & kept rumbling (laughs), but I had fun.

Asai: Isekai Shokudo tells the tale of customers hailing from different alternate worlds and every episode different guests come to the studio for recording – we are greeted by a warm atmosphere & an environment that makes it easy to work, which made me happy. The ‘Carpaccio’ story in which we appeared features our two characters’ recklessness and differing personalities – we’re both sirens yet we’re so different, and I enjoyed myself during recording.

Q: Seeing the mischievous and energetic pair of Arius and Iris makes you think, perhaps it’s fine to have sirens like this.

Asai: The two of us are innocent and pure.

Toyama: Sirens tend to be depicted negatively but looking at the 2 of them I can’t help but think that they don’t possess any bad intentions. They love music, though when they start singing happily you’ll suddenly see the ships sinking! It’s all unintentional though, that’s the most important thing (laughs)

Q: By the way, have either of you eaten Carpaccio before?

Both: Yes!

Toyama: During the tests, the director said to us ‘It’s most important that [you bring across] the feeling of deliciousness. Do you like carpaccio?’ and I answered ‘Yes’. He probed further ‘What food had a great impact upon you when you tasted it for the first time?’ and my reply was ‘foie gras’–.

Asai: Mine was ‘sea urchin’!

Q: Both of you have expensive tastes.

Both: True (laughs)

The impressive duet scene, and the story behind it!

Q: What were your favourite scenes or highlights from episode 11?

Asai: We’re sirens so it’s got to be the singing scene, right?

Toyama: Yeah!

Asai: Most of the time, when there are singing scenes [in anime], the rehearsal videos will include the melody lines. This time however, the video came with no sound nor was there any music score provided – absolutely no clues were provided.

Toyama: I too, was watching the rehearsal video and thinking, ‘Hmm? This is strange. There’s no sound?’. The length of that part was pretty extensive too.

Asai: On the day of recording itself, we came to the studio and were taught what to do – that was exciting.

Q: Reading the script, it must’ve been fun to imagine whether the song of the sirens would be a mysterious one.

Toyama: That’s right!

Asai: We were told, ‘these 2 have unique personalities so it is best to sing it innocently, adoringly’.

Toyama: I thought it’d be difficult for such a cheerful song to cause the Master and Aletta’s eyes to glaze over, but it seems there was a mysterious power at work there (laughs). Also, there’s a bit where I go ‘Ohh!’ when we plonk away on the piano, but in the script it was written that the 2 of us would play a duet piece. ‘Ehhh!? We’re supposed to be able to play the piano right away?’ was what I thought, but we were then told to ‘play the piano chaotically’.

Asai: Like kids thumping away on the keys.

Toyama: So the 2 of us discussed it and decided ‘we’ll do it noisily’. We were told that we could come up with an original melody ourselves, but there was a request for us to incorporate a bit of the OP theme into it as well.

Asai: Toyama-san came up with the music.

Toyama: But you memorized it right away.

Asai: I thought that point represented their relationship accurately. Iris pulls them along, and Arius follows.

A calm Arius eating carpaccio and…

Q: In other words, Iris throws things into chaos and Arius just shakes his head at it all?

Asai: Their personalities are direct opposites so it might just be that they balance each other out pretty well.

Toyama: Since they’re sirens they’ve got to keep a bit of distance from human beings, which means Iris doesn’t know a lot about people, nor can she read the alphabet. Nevertheless, we’ve got Arius with his knowledge and intelligence!

Asai: He was exploding with knowledge, wasn’t he (laughs). He could even read the letters on the menu. Iris may look older but in truth, she is childish and endearing, while Arius is more wary and cautious.

Toyama: When the calm and collected Arius takes a bite of carpaccio, she hurriedly tells him ‘Don’t eat my portion too!’ and that was cute. For shota-loving people it’d be irresistible (laughs). And that scene where the 2 of them show up at Nekoya where Alphonse, the man who’s responsible for creating that opportunity to find Nekoya, is already seated – that wasn’t in the novels. It’s a nice piece of fanservice, isn’t it?

Q: You interacted with Kuro as well.

Asai: Does that count as interaction? Kuro-san didn’t use her mouth to speak after all (laughs)

Toyama: The scene where Kuro admonishes them when they sing while playing the piano – though Kuro displays a bit of menace, they did not feel it was so as they are merely children.

Asai: All they did was go ‘Sorreeeee~!’ without any sense of the threat imposed (laughs).

The 2 who created their roles within a short time frame, and the response to the created performances

Q: Was there anything you took particular care about when it came to acting out your characters?

Toyama: I was actually conscious about making her sound older since I’d taken their flying the nest as a sign of their rite of passage into adulthood, but I was told to sound ‘ much younger’ during tests. During the recording itself I tried to sound younger and that made me realize that sirens leave home at such a young age. Though I don’t actually know how old they are (laughs).

Also, Iris is an innocent child – doing things like talking loudly to Arius even while he’s asleep. Watching her, I thought that the way she’s noisily cute and a bit airheaded makes her endearing.

Asai: Nothing was written about Arius’s age…though they’re sirens so it probably wouldn’t mean much anyway (laughs). When I was trying to gauge his personality based on the character art and the script, I came to the conclusion that although Iris had him twisted around her finger, he doesn’t particularly mind it, and that shows how broad-minded and kind he is. Hence I took great care with the voice I used and the emotions I displayed as I was pulled along by Toyama-san’s performance.

Toyama: I enjoyed being able to face off against Ashai-chan today.

Asai: It’s our first time conversing in such a manner, isn’t it?

Toyama: Ashai-chan is someone who listens carefully to my acting and builds upon it – not just during the actual recording but during tests as well.

Asai: I’m happy to hear that! I was able to add onto Toyama-san’s performance and the 2 of us had a [nice] time giggling during the tests but as I was told that Arius ‘is being twisted around Iris’s little finger, which makes him a little warier of his surroundings’, I tried to differentiate his [character from Iris’s].

Toyama: Within a short period of time, both of us managed to add more and more depth to our characters.

Asai: It was a lot of fun!

Toyama: What I found interesting was when Iris asked ‘What is this place?’ and Aletta replied, ‘This is the so-called Restaurant from Another World’; Arius then went ‘Another World?’ and Iris added ‘Restaurant!’. It’s splitting their lines, making it sound like Ashai-chan is passing the baton on to me. But I’ve got to say that the way I said ‘Restaurant!!’ so forcefully made it seem like I was brushing the baton aside – sorry (laughs).

From my perspective, I noticed how the two of them had their attention hooked by different parts of the same phrase – Arius by ‘Another World’ and Iris by ‘Restaurant’ – I think that establishes their individual personalities quite well. When we first interacted during the tests, I think both of us wondered inwardly – how will we able to make our respective acting plans gel together!? (laughs)

Asai: Toyama-san’s performance was the right way to go.

Toyama: I valued that experience of communicating with a fellow actor [to get something done] within a short amount of time, and enjoyed it.

A series that stimulates, strikes at the heart of one’s appetite

Q: What are your impressions of the series after reading the original novels, and now that you’re actually acting in the anime?

Both: We get hungry!

Asai: I was checking my scripts at night and I thought, ‘This shouldn’t be watched at night’ (laughs)

Toyama: It airs late-night as well, so that midnight foodporn assault is really something.

Asai: There’ll be people suffering through this, won’t there?

Toyama: I watched the show live on air and it’s not just the episode itself, but the opening animation also features lots of dishes – they’re animated so beautifully and look so yummy. People will be stimulated by different kind of foods at different times depending on their mood. For example, there might be times when you see a steak scene and think ‘Ahh!’ and there might be other times when seeing a dish in the opening sequence strikes at the core of your appetite. It’s a series that continuously arouses different people at different times.

Asai: I think it’s the [series’] charm to tell stories about people from different worlds through the central point of food. That’s why I think it’s wonderful that you can still find the show interesting even if you start watching it halfway, and that you’d be able to enjoy it even if you missed an episode.

Q: What do you think of the Master of Nekoya?

Asai: We didn’t really share any scenes with him in the show…he doesn’t explain the dishes, and the Master’s job is done when he brings out the food. But I was sorry that he got drowsy listening to our singing. If he’d fallen asleep, he wouldn’t have been able to serve his delicious carpaccio.

Q: It was refreshing to have that scene with Master seeming so relaxed – we’d never seen that before.

Toyama: We pulled it out of him (laughs)

Asai: Aletta too, got a little dazed, and we got to see a slightly scary side of Kuro as well.

Curious about the cooking skills of these 2?

Q: Do you cook? Please tell us what your signature dishes are.

Asai: After I started living on my own I’ve been cooking whenever I have the time. My signature dishes are omurice and miso soup.

Toyama: That’s really great!

Q: How about you, Toyama-san?

Toyama: Err~….I live with my parents so~I don’t do any cooking so….

Q: Can you cook any dishes at all?

Toyama: Err~~….recently, I learned how to break eggs.

Asai: So you can make egg on rice [tamago kake gohan], right?

Toyama: I’d never eaten that until recently. At a yakiniku restaurant, I had tamago kake gohan with added sesame oil and that was delicious. Prior to this, I’d only ever cracked eggs as part of a mission during a challenge corner on my radio show, but I’ve been learning to break them of late. I cooked on Father’s Day as well. Something ‘like’ mapo eggplant…

Asai: So it wasn’t actually mapo eggplant then (laughs)

Toyama: It wasn’t. I made something “like” [mapo eggplant] and uploaded it to Twitter. People who know me well sent replies such as ‘Wow, Nao-chan is cooking!?’ or ‘You worked hard’ but others who weren’t aware of the fact that I can’t cook commented ‘What is that brown thing!?’. The reaction was divided (laughs)

As sirens, what music do they usually listen to?

Q: Arius and Iris use their singing voices to deceive people – what songs have the two of you listened to recently?

Asai: I recently bought pretty good, big speakers and have been listening to a lot of songs that don’t have vocals on them. I watch movies and if I like the music, I’ll buy the soundtracks.

Toyama: Like La La Land?

Asai: I bought that! I’m listening to it! When I listen to vocal tracks I go for songs that aren’t in English or Japanese as well – I enjoy classical music and jazz.

Toyama: Wow! That’s amazing!

Asai: Though I don’t understand the meaning of the English or other language in the songs (laughs)

Toyama: I started my solo singing activities this year and some of my material consists of acoustic songs – I discovered that I like that kind of music. Most of the character songs I’ve performed up until now have been cheerful songs or songs with spoken lines, so it’s fun to have a song that’s just backed by a guitar, with understated vocals – it’s like your heart is being cleansed out.

I love nostalgic melodies. Like songs from the 80’s idols. I love Minamino Yoko’s Toiki de Net etc.

From talking about what lies behind Nekoya’s door to penguins!?

Q: In alternate worlds, there is a strange door that leads to Nekoya – if you were to open a door to arrive at some other place, where would you like it to lead to?

Toyama: I want to go to the Antarctica and see the penguins. The penguins I love most are actually African penguins – I do think I can go to Africa someday but Antarctica seems like a place I wouldn’t ever make it to even if I tried.

Asai: It wouldn’t be easy to get there.

Toyama: So I’ll go to Antarctica and see the Emperor penguins and Adélie penguins etc.

Asai: You don’t find them at the zoo?

Toyama: You do. But I want to go somewhere where I can see loads of them together!

Q: Each species has its own unique characteristics as well.

Toyama: I’m a one-man woman [hako-oshi] though.

Asai: That makes them sound like AKB or idols (laughs)

Toyama: There are about 18 or 19 different types of penguins. It depends on the theory. I’ll explain it to you later, okay?

Asai: Okay! For me, there’s this restaurant serving set meals that I used to frequent up to 2-3 times a week before I moved to my present house – I haven’t been there since I moved.

Toyama: What kind of set meals do they serve?

Asai: Japanese-style. The tastes are delicate, and both the Master and the waitresses wear traditional clothing. The prices are reasonable – the lunch sets come with 2 side dishes as well as miso soup that is really tasty. I’m addicted to their miso soup. I tried to replicate it at home but couldn’t… What’s more, the restaurant was just 2 minutes’ walk from my old place so if I felt hungry I could easily pop over. That’s why I want a door leading there!

The dish names they want to be called – a contrast of East vs West

Q: Like in the series, what dish, if any, would you like to adopt as your nickname?

Toyama: I like the way ‘tagliatalle’ sounds. It’s a wide type of Italian pasta and its name has a nice ring to it. (sings) Taglia~ta~ta~re~ ♪It’s like something I’d pull out of my pocket (laughs). If we were going for Japanese-style names then maybe ‘Anko-chan’ or ‘Kinako-chan’ would be nice. I think words with the ‘ko’ syllable in them sound more like names.

Asai: They seem like names girls out there would have. As for myself, hmm…my stomach feels like some ‘Udon’ now. I like grated yam or grated radish-topped udon. I like Marugame brand noodles so maybe ‘Marugame’ would be fine. It sounds a bit like somebody’s names though (laughs)

Q: What’s the atmosphere like during recording?

Toyama: I think the seating group changes by the episode but we are always warmly welcomed. The cast members are few so it’s fun to be able to discuss the same topic with everyone else – though we only spent a short time together, I was happy to be made to feel like a member of the Isekai Shokudo family.

I’d heard (from Uesaka who voices Aletta) that there would be luxurious food spreads available every week so I came to recording full of anticipation (laughs). It’s summer so it was hard to prepare carpaccio so instead, we got lots of curry buns that were featured in Part B of the episode. We were able to choose from about 5 kinds. I also had a chance to try lassi for the first time ever – it was a valuable experience.

Asai: The recording studio itself had the feel of a ‘restaurant from another world’. Guests will enter, some for the first time, and everyone starting from Suwabe (Junichi)-san, will speak with you – it warms you and makes you feel happy. The curry buns were delicious – this is my 3rd one (laughs). I’m gobbling them up faster than everyone else.

Q: Aren’t you concerned about the calorie count? (laughs)

Asai: I’m actively moving and using my voice so there’s no problem at all there! (laughs)

It’ll be a great success if we can stimulate every viewer’s appetite!

Q: Please tell us about the charms of this series once again.

Toyama: The food and the people eating them are depicted deliciously and sound tasty as well – a lot of effort has gone into the art, while the dialogue sounds like a food report, doesn’t it?

The exhilaration of tasting something for the first time and the euphoria of eating delicious food – those elements are conveyed well. Not just that, but the process before the food reaches the mouth – how people come to find Nekoya; those whose lives are hanging by a thread and those who are adventuring…it’s a story about encounters as well. [This series] is packed full of charms.

Asai: Of course the food is a highlight but at the same time, the ‘Another World’ part of the title suggests, you get to see the stories and origins of the people from different worlds. In this particular episode, you get to learn more about sirens and that helps to make this series one that is doubly or even triply delicious.

Q: Please leave a message for the fans as well as for those who have yet to come across the series.

Toyama: Cross-cultural communication, where warm conversation from the heart is shared through food. I’m a bit apologetic that this airs late at night but the spread of tasty dishes really is splendid and it would make us glad if on the following day, you would feel like serving the same dish on your dinner table too!

This is a series that can be enjoyed from any angle…by the time this interview is published there will only be the final episode left but please watch the other stories on the BDs and DVDs (laughs) – make sure you don’t miss out on the show right ‘til the end!

Asai: This is a series that strives to expound on the deliciousness of the food featured and endeavours to rouse the viewers’ appetites, so I would consider it a great success if we could stir up your hunger as you’re watching the show.

I hope you would enjoy watching the anime while eating, though you should take care not to eat too much at night. Having said that, the next episode is the last one already so it probably doesn’t matter if you eat even in the middle of the night? Ah, I feel like going to an afterparty (laughs)