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Seiyuu Bible 2018 – Tomatsu Haruka

I mentioned a couple of posts ago my surprise at not having a Tomatsu Haruka tag on the blog despite her being my favourite seiyuu, so here’s +1 towards rectifying that. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Tomatsu-san is quite likely the only seiyuu I can ever proudly say I have followed from day one and will continue to, for the rest of her career. When I started getting into her through her debut series Polyphonica, it was the first time I had ever beeninterested in a seiyuu not only for their work, but for their personality as well – and provided me with my first (and last) foray into seiyuu idol fandom. So I can identify with the stuff Yoppi says about feeling deeply emotional seeing her make it to where she is now – it’s great to see that she’s still smashing it 11 years after she had me at OMAE (yes, I wrote that 11 years ago too – that was the first word she uttered in the Polyphonica anime!).

Seiyuu Bible is an annual publication by Nikkei BP and is on its 5th issue. Each issue features full-length interviews with popular seiyuu by Nippon Hōsō announcer Yoshida Hisanori (aka Yoppi), extracts of which would previously have been published in the Nikkei Entertainment magazine.

Formatting: Nagai Sayako, Hirashima Ayako (Editing Department)
Photography: Nakamura Yoshiaki
Stylist: Kunimoto Sachie
Hairstylist: Kimura Yūko (addmix BG)

Heaven hath bestowed upon you two gifts…

Tomatsu Haruka, a young and talented voice actress who possesses outstanding style and beauty has at the same time, been entrusted with numerous lead and main roles in nationally-renowned works such as Keita in Yōkai Watch and Precure Fortune in Happiness Charge Precure!.

Since her solo artist debut in 2008 and as a member of the seiyuu unit Sphere alongside her agency colleagues Kotobuki Minako, Takagaki Ayahi and Toyosaki Aki, she has gained much popularity both domestically and internationally.

One of her recent signature works would be the Sword Art Online series; originally airing on TV in 2012 and inspiring an original motion picture in February 2017, the latter a big hit that generated 3.3 billion yen at the box office. The gentle and strong heroine Asuna, a much-loved character that represents what THE ‘Heroine’ is all about.

To tell the truth, my first encounter with her was at the Tōhō Cinderella Audition finalist presentation. I was the MC, and the beauty who stood on stage was Tomatsu-san. Consequently, she would choose the path of a seiyuu and artist – and now I’d like to hear from her on the driving force behind her current success.
Yoshida: The first time I met Tomatsu-san was when you were 15 years old. You were a finalist at the Tōhō Cinderella audition.

Tomatsu: That’s right. Yoshida-san knew who I was before I had made my debut. I truly was just a normal junior high school girl at the time.

Elementary school days filled with funny faces

Yoshida: By the way, you do have siblings don’t you?

Tomatsu: I have a sister who’s 2 years older than me and we’ve always gotten along well since we were young. However, when I was a child I really disliked having to wear my sister’s hand-me-downs, or being forced to wear matching outfits. I wasn’t fond of being ‘in sync’ or the need to be ‘matching’ – from that period in time I’d always wanted to be the one and only me (laughs).

Yoshida: So it wasn’t about the fashion; it was about your ego.

Tomatsu: But starting from when I was in junior high, we’d be conspiring whenever mum bought us clothes and we got into the habit of lending and borrowing clothes from each other. It was like, ‘Okay I’ll get this and you get that. And we’ll share after that’ (laughs).

Yoshida: You weren’t going through a period of rebellious adolescence – in fact, [the two of] you seem to have grown closer. Did you do any sports?

Tomatsu: I was in the basketball club for just half a year but I couldn’t stand the hierarchical structure there so I moved to the handbell club.

Yoshida: It seems you’ve always been the self-assertive type, since you were a child.

Tomatsu: That’s right. I do think I’m aggressively self-assertive (laughs). But I was actually shy in my first few years of elementary school and couldn’t really talk to the boys. Though I did wonder whether I should try to stand out by doing something funny.

Yoshida: You had the desire, but did not know how to. Were you the type who wanted to be outdoors instead of staying at home?

Tomatsu: I wasn’t really into drawing or girly games at all; I honestly would rather have been playing tag or dodgeball, but my first few years of elementary school passed by in a dull manner. When I was in my 3rd elementary year, I got along well with the boy sitting next to me and from there I made friends with a lot of boys which meant I finally got to play things like dodgeball. I was quick on my feet so I was part of the relay team every year from elementary to high school. Also, I was good at strength-oriented activities such as pole climbing and so on.

Yoshida: So you can’t do things that require having to come up with a strategy – like in basketball, where you make a pass as you’re spinning away.

Tomatsu: Yes. My brain and my body won’t work in sync. In basketball, I’d dash and run with the ball in my hands… I’d be endlessly traveling.

Yoshida: That’d be rugby, wouldn’t it (laughs). So you spent your elementary school days flying with such momentum…

Tomatsu: Yeah. I think it was around that period when I started doing imitations. My trademark gags would be memorable lines from whatever drama was hot at the time… When I was young I would only show them off to relatives but from around Year 6, I was bent on making funny faces to make my classmates laugh. That’s why my elementary school day photos were mostly of me making weird faces – I’ve sealed them all away now.

Yoshida: During live performances and so on, people will often bring out their childhood photos but they’re offlimits for you.

Tomatsu: That’s right. I did attempt to show some of my old photos during my live shows and it was just those elementary school photos that jumped out immediately (laughs)

Yoshida: People might mistakenly think you’d gone through rough times, or they’d deem the photos useless because of your weird faces.

Tomatsu: You’re right. My parents said to me back then, ‘You’ll regret this later on in life’ and it turns out they were right.

A massive troublemaker during my elementary school days

Tomatsu: I was that kind of elementary school kid, so my parents must’ve thought that things were gonna turn out badly if I kept on going that way. I was enrolled in an esteemed all-girls’ school but I’d grown up to become somebody who was completely incompatible with the environment there…

Yoshida: That seems like the kind of school that’d be filled with graceful girls who don’t make weird faces.

Tomatsu: You would expect so but I can say that an all-girls’ school is crazier than you’d expect. Since there aren’t any guys’ eyes [on us], students would gradually became slovenly. There was this girl who didn’t even bother bringing her gym clothes home for about 3 months…so in a way, such a school unexpectedly suited me.

Yoshida: The school may have suited your personality but when it comes to [building] your acting foundations, it was only to the extent of imitating [other people] for you.

Tomatsu: I’d always been imitating my teachers ever since I entered junior high. Rather than putting a bit of thought into them, my imitations were inspired by whoever happened to be in my line of sight – I’d input [them] into my brain and spit them out. Also, when I was in second year of junior high, I was addicted to playing tag.

Yoshida: In your 2nd year of junior high?

Tomatsu: We’d be playing tag in the auditorium during lunch break and I’d hide in the spaces above the ceilings…

Yoshida: …Tag seems like a dangerous game to play once you’ve acquired a certain amount of adult knowledge, (laughs)

Tomatsu: That’s right. Basically I’d end up in places people wouldn’t normally go to. I really do love breaking new ground.

Yoshida: Playing tag? It seems that you’re more like an explorer!

Tomatsu: I was sure that nobody would ever have climbed up to the ceilings, so I was trying to be a trailblazer by traipsing around up there and before I knew it, the ground beneath my feet had collapsed and the lower half of my body was hanging out [of the ceiling].

Yoshida: ! [The ceiling] gave way under your weight, didn’t it? I’m glad you were alright.

Tomatsu: The auditorium ceiling was pretty high, about 10 metres up. There were these pipes across the open ceiling, and [my foot] slipped through this spot that happened to be thinly veneered.

Yoshida: You should’ve called it off at the 1st step.

Tomatsu: I was doing well until about halfway through though (laughs). It was only at the midpoint that I suddenly slipped. I was on my way back when I pierced through [the spot] (laughs)

Yoshida: That seems like a level where you should’ve been calling to be rescued already. How did you get yourself out of that situation?

Tomatsu: I don’t even know how I managed to get myself back up. Probably used the strength in my arms to lift myself above the pipes then tiptoed my way back out…guess it’s what they call an adrenaline rush; a fight-or-flight situation. When I was back on the ground, I took a look up and there was this massive hole in the ceiling which left me wondering ‘What am I gonna do!!’…

Yoshida: Surely something like that would become a big issue in school.

Tomatsu: It did. ‘More than a 100 years have passed since this school was established and it is unheard of to have a hole in such a place’ – the teachers were really mad at me.

Yoshida: That’s natural. Seems like something that they would inform your family about.

Tomatsu: I hid it from my parents. I was told, ‘We will send a letter at a later date so please inform them [of this incident] yourself today’, but I couldn’t tell them…From the following day, I got up early every morning and ambushed the postman – the letter from my school arrived on the 3rd day and I tore it up and threw it away. So I went on as if nothing had ever happened for about 1 month, but you know – no matter how hard you try to hide something it’ll come out in the end. You’ll get your just deserts when you’ve done something bad.

My 2-years’ older sister attended a different all-girls’ high school – there was a girl from my class who had an older sister who was in the same school as my sister, and it seems she said to her, ‘It must’ve been hard for your younger sister; breaking the ceiling’. And when my parents heard about it, they were like ‘What do you mean, you crashed the ceiling?’… My sister innocently asked, ‘Did you crash [the ceiling] with your indoor slippers?’ and I had to go ‘it’s way beyond that level’…

Yoshida: So you got reprimanded in the end.

Tomatsu: Yeah. I was lectured for everything, from the incident itself to the fact that I tried to hide it. That’s the kind of junior high school student I was. Though it seems funny now, in hindsight (laughs)

The Road to Tōhō Cinderella

Yoshida: It seems like you had a lot of fun, but the path towards becoming a seiyuu remained unclear at that point; not even the slightest glimpse of [your future in] Tōhō Cinderella. Why did you apply?

Tomatsu: My mother handed me an audition leaflet when I was in my 3rd year of junior high. It wasn’t for Tōhō Cinderella but rather, it was for a big-name entertainment agency – if I remember correctly, one of the criteria for applications was that it was limited to those who were 15 years and under. She said, ‘Your sister doesn’t qualify, so why don’t you take it instead for remembrance’s sake. You definitely won’t pass so you might as well go there and learn some social norms’. My sense of curiosity was strong – I applied not because I wanted to get involved in entertainment activities, but because I wanted to find out what the auditions were like.

Yoshida: So you were thinking ‘Let’s go take the audition’ in the same spirit of ‘Let’s go and see what the ceiling space is like’.

Tomatsu: Yeah. And unexpectedly, I advanced to the 2nd phase, then the 3rd phase. I didn’t make the final cut in the audition, but on the way home one of the agency staff stopped my mother and said, ‘The result this time is unfortunate, but please tell your daughter not to give up and continue to aim for this industry’, and that was something that surprised her. We set a deadline – if I couldn’t make it within my 3rd year of junior high that would mean that it was just wasn’t meant to be and I would give up. It was during that period that I applied for the Tōhō competition as well as the Super Seiyū Audition that was being held around the same time.

Yoshida: During the Tōhō Cinderella audition, the final question involved getting the contestants to ‘perform something’; most of the other were doing jazz dance or similar and then we had Tomatsu-san declaring ‘I’m gonna do Spirited Away’. I was wondering what she meant, when she suddenly started acting out an entire scene by herself.

Tomatsu: Spirited Away was the reason I started gaining an interest in this industry. I think I was in the 6th grade or so when it came out, and I thought ‘I want to go to that world’, rather than thinking that I wanted to become a seiyuu.

Yoshida: So were you thinking ‘I want to go to The Bathhouse’ as well?

Tomatsu: (laughs) I loved the movie so much and kept watching it over and over, wondering just how I could enter that world and before I knew it, I realized I’d memorized pretty much all the dialogue (laughs). No matter which agency you audition for, they’ll have a section for you to do self-promotion – I couldn’t dance or sing, and I had gotten frustrated with attempts to learn anything from piano playing to English lessons to swimming, which meant I had nothing to appeal to audition judges with. The only thing I had was a one-man performance of Spirited Away. So I was thinking, ‘Why not just do that?’.

Yoshida: It’s like the M-1 Grand Prix. You’d have this trick up your sleeve right then to perform live…something along those lines.

Tomatsu: I was like, ‘Well, this is pretty well known anyway’ and went ahead and did it, and I remember buzzing noises coming from the judges; they were going ‘Huh?’ (laughs)

Yoshida: We remember it well, that you’re ‘the girl who did that’. But in the end, you did not win the competition.

Tomatsu: Yeah. A week after Tōhō Cinderella was the Music Ray’n final audition. By that point I’d already burned myself out so I was wondering how I should face this [audition], but I knew that I didn’t want to have come so far and still not make it. So 1 week later, I performed the Spirited Away routine again during the self-promotion section.

Yoshida: Oh, so you did do it again.

Tomatsu: I knew that there was nothing else I could do. But Music Ray’n was a seiyuu audition so it wasn’t just buzzing sounds this time, but also laughs and appreciation that I could hear.

Yoshida: And you safely passed.

Tomatsu: My lessons started immediately after I signed up with the agency, but I kept my entertainment activities a secret from my schoolmates. Until I graduated high school, I was a self-styled: mute (laughs)

Yoshida: I don’t get that ‘self-styled: mute’ bit.

Tomatsu: The kids who watched anime found out. I won my first auditioned role when I was in my 2nd year of high school. It was a series called Shinkyoku Sōkai Polyphonica. I was carrying out activities under my real name and thanks to Polyphonica, I started working on other things and bit by bit, my schoolmates started to realize that I was working as a seiyuu. But I never talked about it myself. That’s what I mean by ‘self-styled [mute]’.

My Rookie Days: When Everything Felt Fresh

Yoshida: You did Spirited Away at Tōhō Cinderella so naturally, you must have liked anime?

Tomatsu: I did. But if you asked me whether I loved watching anime before I was a seiyuu, then I can only say that I only watched the kind of shows the average person did, or those that I liked. It was only after I became a seiyuu that I first came across late-night anime. I learned for the first time, that ‘there’s so much anime airing late at night!’ – it was a world that had been unknown to me up until then, and the anime industry-specific lingo, which was kind of similar to internet slang, was refreshing.

Yoshida: Oh yeah we did say that kind of thing. There were words where you’d think, ‘You definitely can’t say that behind-the-scenes’.

Tomatsu: (laughs) There was a point in time when I really wanted to use web slang. You know, something like ‘w’*.

Yoshida: www

Tomatsu: I wanted to use ‘w’ on my blog but one of my agency staff told me ‘Please don’t use that word’. It was all new to me. ‘Oh, so that’s what that kind of thing is called on the internet…I wanna find a way to use that word!’ – that kind of thing.

[*w = warau, 笑, laugh, the equivalent of lol]

It was around the Polyphonica period that I started getting all sorts of regular work and I was the type of person who would learn on the job. Phrases like ‘mic work’, ‘take’ and ‘separate recording’ are all industry-specific words I heard and learned in the [recording] booth. When I think of it now, I must have behaved really rudely or unintentionally done [offensive] things in the past.

Yoshida: I think that lack of intention would have been clear.

Tomatsu: Even now, seniors who knew me from my debut days will say to me, ‘When it comes to Tomacchan, the one lasting impression I have of you is how you did a ‘one-man Tuesday Suspense Theatre’.

Yoshida: Eh? What’s that ‘one-man Tuesday Suspense Theatre’? Must be something like your one-man Spirited Away.

Tomatsu: Yeah. I only recalled it when other people told me about it – I once re-enacted the opening scene of an episode of Tuesday Suspense Theatre by myself, in a recording studio somewhere. I did everything, from playing all the roles including the person who discovered the body to the corpse to doing the sound effects and the background music – I was really busy. The climax would be where the corpse is discovered, which meant I’d have to lie down…so I’d do various poses and lie down on the studio floor and it’s the end. And oh, I’d also pretend to be the one who discovers the body, screaming ‘Kyaaaa!’ and that, would be the finale. Something like that.

Yoshida: By the way, who reminded you about this incident?

Tomatsu: Okamoto Nobuhiko-kun, Kawasumi Ayako-san, and Hirohashi Ryō-san too. Basically, loads of different people would tell me ‘My impression of you is One-man Tuesday Suspense’. Though the one who actually did it doesn’t seem to recall much of it beyond ‘Oh, I did do that before’. Recently, I have been thinking that ‘it was a crazy thing to do, rolling around the studio floor’ (laughs). But it’s fine as long as everyone around me found it enjoyable.

Yoshida: I think the people around you must’ve had quite a bit of fun.

Coming up Against the Brick Wall as a Seiyuu

Yoshida: During the days when ‘One-man Tuesday Suspense’ was your party trick, Sphere had yet to come into existence. You were still performing under the group’s preceding ‘Music Ray’n girls’ moniker, right?

Tomatsu: Yeah. We were still doing individual activities when I was in high school, so the other Sphere members were just regular agency colleagues to me. Apparently, our management had already been thinking about grouping us together as a unit from the time we joined the agency. But there were uncertainties over how each of us would develop and progress so they decided to keep an eye on things first, and at the right timing, the plan would go ahead. That was 3 years on…when I was 19 years old.

Coincidentally, my first public appearance was actually on a radio show named Yurakuchō Anime Town, hosted by Yoshida-san. It’s commonly written that I made my debut in 2007 but officially, my debut was in 2006 on said radio drama.

Yoshida: Yes it was…It’s truly emotional to see that Tomatsu-san has come this far. You had club activities and other lessons going on, plus there was plenty to learn as a seiyuu – what a typically vertical society [we live in].

Tomatsu: You’re right. But when I entered this industry, there were really so many things that my seniors taught me and I’m always filled with gratitude. When you join an agency, your senior colleagues would normally be the ones to pass on their knowledge but we didn’t have seniors in Music Ray’n so everything I learned in the studio was new. My managers would tell me about unspoken rules in the studio, detailed advice like ‘rookies should sit in the front, and the person near the door will have to open and close the door as needed but since Tomatsu-san isn’t familiar with how to do that yet, you should just sit near the door and properly study the way people move about’. Everything seemed fun after that. ‘Ooh, wow, I wonder if I can do that too, opening and closing the door…’

Yoshida: Following that, did you ever feel like you were running into any walls as a seiyuu?

Tomatsu: When I was in my teens I was made to stay behind a lot. The retakes would pile up and the remorse I felt at having to make my seniors wait, caused my performance to worsen. I was then told, ‘Let’s re-record this after we’re done [with recording]’. There were times when the rest [of the cast] would stay on with me until I got the OK [from the staff].

Yoshida: Which show was that?

Tomatsu: It was Basquash!. There was this one word I just couldn’t get out of my mouth properly, and I had to stay back. But the time had come for me to make a move to my next schedule. [The staff said] ‘Let’s record this next week’ and postponed it, but I felt very apologetic to everyone else and also incredibly disappointed in myself, and I cried on the way home. I swore to myself that I would definitely deal with the problem myself within that 1 week, and I managed to get it down pat the following week. I was 18 years old when I worked on Mōryō no Hako and it was a really tough role – normally it would take 5 hours to record, but I had to stay behind and it took me 9 hours to complete [my lines].

Yoshida: That’s what happens when your acting gets probed thoroughly.

Tomatsu: That’s right. I’m not the one who calls the shots – it’s only an OK if the director says it’s OK, so it was really frustrating whenever I couldn’t produce what was required of me.

What I hate most is to give up. There’s nothing sadder than being told ‘well that will do’ when you know it’s totally not OK. I was really grateful to be told by the staff that ‘we’ll stay with you right ‘til the end so let’s do this until you get the OK’. But I’m in a position in my career where I can’t say I’m a newcomer anymore so it’s a no-go for me to have to stay behind [now] (laughs).

Back then, I used to think that it was unacceptable to be told to stay back and I’d get depressed, but my seniors told me ‘It’s a great thing to have staff members who would stay back with you for recording and it’s something that you can only do while you’re young. You’re still young now so you should stay back, do dozens or hundreds of retakes until you’re battered and your heart is broken – that’s an experience you should go through’. And I thought to myself, ‘Ah, so there are many things I should try to experience’, and I was able to face it positively.

Yoshida: Your mood sure turns around quickly (laughs)

Tomatsu: I want to [do things] positively, thoroughly, meticulously.

Yoshida: It’s because you’ve amassed that kind of experience that there’s so much versatility to your acting. For example, we don’t see many too female seiyuu taking on male roles any more, but we have Tomatsu-san here who has that as her forte.

Whoosh Bang Pow! Boom!!

Tomatsu: Thank you. But it’s really only recently that I’ve been able to do male roles. I’d always thought I wasn’t suited towards male characters. When I started working on the Inazuma Eleven series, I was doing a female character* but I randomly got a chance to do one of the boy characters at one point and they told me ‘You can do it after all!’. In the next series, I was given a regular role as a male character** for the first time ever.

[*note: Inazuma Eleven: Kudō Fuyuka
**Inazuma Eleven GO: Nishizono Shinsuke]

Yoshida: On top of doing late-night anime, you were appearing as young male characters in kids’ anime like Inazuma Eleven and Yōkai Watch. There are many other roles where you’d think ‘There can’t be anyone else for this but Tomatsu-san’, but you’re not the type to adopt a calculated way of thinking [about your performances], are you?

Tomatsu: I try not to take it in a direction that would seem weirdly premeditated. There’s no way that you wouldn’t think about things at all, but I’m a human who goes by feeling, not by thinking with logic. Rather than coming up with something based on a concrete plan, my acting is mostly a Whoosh Bang Pow!! Woah I’m inspired! And Boom!! kind of thing.

Yoshida: Whoosh Bang Pow! Boom!!

Tomatsu: Oh yeah! With feels.

Yoshida: That kind of method might suit trickster-type characters, but someone like Asuna from Sword Art Online (SAO) isn’t anything close to that.

Tomatsu: She isn’t. In a way, Asuna was new territory for me. If anything, cheerful types and aggressive characters are what I tend to do a lot of, so Asuna with her maternal nature is a bit…I had no experience playing a character with a delicate, gentle aura. So when I passed the audition for the role, I wondered to myself ‘Am I the right person for this?’

Anyhow, I was overjoyed above all to have been selected and I did want to challenge myself through different types of roles, so I took it as an opportunity for me to grow. Asuna’s personality is the polar opposite of mine, so I did some research into how a girl like her would speak.

Yoshida: How would you research that? Even if you entered the the world of SAO, you were never a heavy gamer, were you?

Tomatsu: Nope, I’m terrible at games. Whenever I receive a role in a series genre that I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll look for hints from various sources. Obviously I learnt video game jargon and the rules from the light novels. When trying to formulate the nature of the character, rather than learning, I would observe – anyone from acquaintances to apparel store employees to refined and feminine ladies. How do they speak, what kind of gentleness will they display?

Yoshida: I think that’s somewhat similar to what you were doing in your school days: [observing and] imitating other people.

Tomatsu: Maybe so, in some ways. If you rush into observing in an attempt to learn something, you’ll get deflated pretty quickly. You’ll soon think – ‘This is it!’ if you keep an eye on things without overstraining yourself. Also, I’ll look at the character designs in the audition material and there are times when I listen to the staff explanations and might think ‘Oh this character really resembles my college senior’, and end up using them as a model.

Yoshida: You never know where a weapon may be hidden within your arsenal.

Tomatsu: You never know, do you? Even I don’t. But there’ll definitely be a point where it’ll come to you in a flash.

Yoshida: So I get what you mean by this when referring to Asuna, but how about Keita? Do you observe elementary school students?

Tomatsu: Nah, Keita is just like me. I was quite boyish after all.

Yoshida: Ah yes, I can tell from hearing your stories so far. You do have the heart of an elementary school boy, having climbed up to the ceiling spaces. If I had to sum up today’s interview in one phrase I think it’d be ‘Whoosh Bang Pow!’.

Tomatsu: Yeah, you got it!

Seiyuu Bible 2018 pg 88-95 (Excerpt originally published in March 2017 issue of Nikkei Entertainment!)

You can purchase the issue on Amazon JP.


#170 – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho: Iguchi Yuka x Hayami Saori

Interview with the other pair from our leading quartet, Iguchi Yuka’s dropout/freeter Miyake Hinata and Hayami Saori’s teen idol Shiraishi Yuzuki.

The excitement of seeing how this group of high school girls square off against Antarctica!

Q: The theme of this anime is ‘going to Antarctica’ – before you got involved with this series, what image did you have of Antarctica and how did those impressions change once you started working on the show?

Iguchi: To be honest, I didn’t even know how [Antarctica] was different from the Arctic. Not knowing anything, I thought ‘Wow, it’s nice that these girls have a dream of going to Antarctica, but it seems tough’. I was handed the [series] material during auditions but what I took away from it was more about the slapstick [comedy] and the growth of the girls rather than anything Antarctica.

Hayami: Polar bears are all I know.

Iguchi: Aren’t those in the North Pole?

Hayami: Oh right. That’s why they’re called Arctic bears [ホッキョクグマ, hokkyoku-guma, North Pole bear].

Iguchi: Also, the Arctic has more ice than the Antarctic, correct? Antarctica is a continent, but the Arctic is just ice.

Q: Well, they do call it the Antarctic Continent after all. Polar bears live in the North Pole (Arctic) and penguins in the South Pole (Antarctica).

Hayami: The only knowledge I have was gleaned from that Sakai Masato-starring drama The Chef of South Polar (2009) though (laughs). I guess my impression of it is that it’s extremely cold.

Q: If you were in high school, would you like to go to Antarctica?

Iguchi: Nah, I don’t think I could take it on (laughs). Other productions that tackled the same subject matter have always shown the more extreme side of things, so I’m excited to find out just how they’ll face up to the challenge.

Q: Seems that Kimari (Tamaki Mari, CV: Minase Inori) says ‘I want to go’ in a manner more casual than you’d expect.

Hayami: She doesn’t possess much knowledge [about Antarctica], so she feels like she can take on the challenge.

Iguchi: In the series, Shirase (Kobuchizawa Shirase, CV: Hanazawa Kana) knows how severe Antarctica is in detail and explains a bunch of things to them – you see Hinata and Kimari are listening, but it all goes in one ear and comes out the other…you can’t really say that they aren’t aware [about the toughness of the challenge] though (laughs)

Q: You do get the impression that [Antarctica] is harsh and scary though?

Iguchi: Shirase’s mother did go missing there, so even if these high school girls are trying to take it on with a light-hearted attitude, the truth is that it really is a heavy thing to undertake.

Hayami: There are a number of scenes that are quite serious after all.

Q: By the 2nd episode you can already see a lot of interesting exchanges going on.

Hayami: I do think the root of the story lies in comedy. Though the theme of the story itself is serious.

Iguchi: The girls live a carefree life, and you see them thinking about things as they go along.

Q: This is an original series – what were your impressions upon reading the scripts?

Iguchi: The characters are cute and the story progresses at a good tempo…

Hayami: The tempo is really good!

Iguchi: Also, the animation was complete by the time we recorded episode 1 so we were able to work on it in very favourable conditions. From the viewpoint of someone who knows nothing about Antarctica, when I see Shirase-chan talking about her Antarctican dream I tend to go a little ‘Er?’, but the visuals that are so vivid in their depictions help me to easily get to grips with [the story]. The changes in the characters’ expressions are very detailed as well. Thinking of how much passion the staff has put into this project made us [cast members] very enthusiastic right from the get-go and we too, gave it our all.

Hayami: They really put a lot of passion into this! I noticed hoe quite a lot of subtle, everyday life things were included. Plenty of locations that I could recognize as well. Also, you can see the personalities of each individual character through the state of their bedroom.
kimari's funky bedroom
Iguchi: Kimari’s bedroom is so Kimari-like, isn’t it?

Hayami: That’s right. Other smaller details include Hinata’s famous quotes section etc. You see lots of stuff like that in the scripts and in the visuals.

Q: The dialogue’s always interesting as well.

Iguchi: That bit in episode 1 about the ‘mwillion’ yen was hilarious (laughs)

Hayami: High school’s more like a series of small waves rather than one big one and I could feel how realistic the parts depicting high school life were.
tears :<
Iguchi: While we’re on the subject of the visuals – the tears look impressive, beginning from episode 1. Those tears that spill over look so pretty; it’s because they’re born of pure emotion that they sparkle.

The cheerful and innocent Hinata + the charm of Yuzuki, whose childishness occasionally slips through her maturity

Q: Tell us what kind of characters the two of you play.

Iguchi: As you can see from her art, Hinata’s a cheerful, innocent and friendly girl who always seems to be smiling, yet she doesn’t attend high school. It hasn’t been elaborated upon as yet, but she’s not fond of group activities and had few good memories of her school days. However, she has not given up on pursuing tertiary education – she doesn’t actually dislike studying, so she’s working hard now to earn money as she works towards college entrance exams. She may seem rather naïve, but there are times when she has a pretty profound view of things.

Hayami: She’s the most mature one amongst them.

Q: She can be quite persuasive when it comes to her so-called ‘famous quotes’.

Iguchi: There’s 1 of those in each episode and it always goes, ‘So who said that?’. ‘Me~’.

Hayami: That’s really cute!

Q: You can tell she’s smart.

Iguchi: I guess you can tell that she’s always turning things over in her head if she’s able to produce such quotes. But she’s not [naturally] cheerful– rather, it’s a part of her that’s trying to be cheerful. I’m being careful to avoid making it seem as if she’s deliberately pushing herself to be cheerful.

Hayami: She’s cheerful at heart! She’s the kind of girl who [decides to] lives cheerfully despite having gone through a lot of things in life.

Q: You can see how delicate that balance is through a particular line in episode 2: ‘They exist from time to time. 16-year olds who do not go to high school’.

Iguchi: Thank you. I had to redo that line over and over again (laughs). At first, I was trying to make her seem like she’s pushing herself to be cheerful. But I was instructed to make it ‘a bit more relaxed’. No matter how I tried, the way I said it had a ‘But I’m okay’ kind of nuance to it. The line was supposed to allow her underlying feelings to be slightly exposed.

Q: She’s basically cheerful, but you want that line to make people think ‘I wonder if there’s something more to her?’.

Iguchi: Each of the characters has a hidden side to them that you can discern from the words they say. Those parts might bring a bit of excitement to the viewers. I think you could say the same of both Shirase and Yuzuki.

Hayami: For me, Hinata’s characterization is very clear all thanks to Yuka-san’s voice. It’s bright like the sun. I think the positive quality of her voice integrates into [the character of] Hinata amazingly well.

Q: What about Yuzuki-chan?

Hayami: Yuzuki pretends to be mature. The part of her that tries to act like an adult makes her seem all the more childish though, and to be honest, she is just an immature girl. It seems like she’s trying and trying to find the perfect balance.

Q: Yuzuki has a lot going on in her life as well, and you’ll get to see that in future episodes.

Hayami: Episode 3 tells her story pretty succinctly. It was quite hard to express the distance between her the other 3 girls at first. She tries to act all grown-up in front of the 3, but you can see her childishness through it all. I had to think about how to steadily unravel those feelings within that 1 episode so I did struggle a bit to my surprise. I wondered how I should handle those parts, and I was then told that ‘she’s a little bit mature’.

Q: In episode 2, you can feel that mix of maturity and immaturity through her one ‘Who is that?’ line.

Hayami: I was really conscious about bringing out her childishness in that scene.

Iguchi: This is the only place where you can get to hear that part of Hayamin’s voice!

Hayami: I haven’t done anything like that lately. I don’t actually do too many younger sister type of roles so when I found that I had been cast in the auditions, my manager and I discussed that as well – that I’d rarely taken on younger sister characters and that it was a fresh, trial-and-error kind of role for me.

Q: The problem of never having made any friends as she had been working ever since she was a child is childish in a way, but it seems tough to express that immaturity.

Iguchi: You can sense that she’s a kid who grew up being surrounded by adults.

Hayami: You’re quite right. That’s why I found it easier to play the role after she started getting along with the other girls.

Hinata and Yuzuki’s ___ cuteness!

Q: What are your thoughts after watching the first 2 episodes?

Iguchi: Each character has a strong personality. The interactions between Kimari and Shirase are the highlight of episode 1; when you’re wondering how the relationship between this counterbalanced duo will progress, Hinata makes her appearance in episode 2 and Yuzuki likewise in episode 3. The more you see, the deeper your impressions of the characters will be. Shirase’s increasingly pitiful [nature] makes her all the more adorable.

Hayami: I only said a single word across the 2 episodes and didn’t even appear in episode 1, so when I went to recordings for episode 2 I was actually able to take in things with a broad perspective. Yuzuki believed that the other 3 had been friends since a long time ago, so those 2 episodes allowed me to comprehend how she had misconstrued [their relationship]. We’re only 2 episodes in but bonds are being built, the tempo of their conversations is really great and they look like best buddies already. Obviously the deeper understanding [of each other] only comes after, so they’re probably just hitting it off well based on ‘feelings’. It’s something quite common for high-schoolers though, to become best friends when you’ve only just met – that was the kind of thing I was thinking as I was watching the first 2 episodes.

Iguchi: You have them suddenly jumping from Gunma to Shinjuku as well.

Hayami: This is especially true of Hinata-chan and Kimari-chan, but you do feel like high school students like them really could exist out there. You definitely feel that about Hinata-chan, she brings out a realistic high-school girl feel. She’s [outwardly] happy whenever she’s [feeling] happy but you can also tell she’s thinking about things deeply – ‘that’s just what a high school girl is like!, I thought. I think Hinata-chan’s the one I can identify the most with, surprisingly.

Q: She overhears the conversation between Kimari and Shirase at the convenience store and thinks that they get along well. On top of that, she remarks ‘Is she the troublesome type?’ to Shirase out of the blue, which jives with the ‘feelings’ that you mentioned earlier.

Hayami: It was a pleasure to watch the 3 girls being so comfortable with each other.

Q: Oh, and Hinata has strange T-shirts.

Iguchi: That’s right. Her T-shirts will change up over the episodes so please keep an eye out for them (laughs). I hope they get made into goods; I’d love to wear them if they did.

Q: In episode 2, Kimari shoots up from her seat during classes screaming ‘Wharrgh’ – that was very fun.

Iguchi: Ah~! It was cute! Also, the part in episode 1 where she says ‘Respect~!’ to Megu-chan (Takahashi Megumi, CV: Kanemoto Hisako) was also very cute!

Q: It’s incredible how nuanced those one-liners are.

Hayami: The choice of words is really cute! It’s down to Director [Ishizuka] and screenwriter Hanada (Jukki)-san’s word-sense.

Q: The Hinata when making all her famous quotes – it’s great as well.

Hayami: She says them with a smirk on her face! I really like Hinata-chan amongst all the characters, she’s cute!

Q: And the story develops really well.

Hayami: Shirase-chan and Kimari-chan both possess a cuteness that is easy to understand. Shirase-chan’s got a pitiful nature but she’s also strongly stubborn which I think is cute, while Kimari-chan’s speech and reactions are truly super adorable. I guess you could say that it’s like a different type of sunflowery feeling? Hinata has a larger-than-life attitude about her that’s really cute.

Iguchi: Glad to hear that~

Hayami: It’s also [Iguchi’s] voice that brings out that authenticity.

Q: If you were to call these 2 (____) cute, what would it be?

Iguchi: Sunflowery cute?

Hayami: That’s hard. ‘Sunflowery cute’ might suit Hinata but… Yuzuki has a little bit of meanness in her after all. How about ‘spitefully cute’? . Her choice of words can be a little harsh sometimes.

Iguchi: Yeah, I want her to say more of those to me (laughs). She does say things like ‘I could just die right now’, doesn’t she.

Hayami: The way she says harsh words but with polite language shows her conflicting nature. But Hinata-chan does have that sunflower feeling. Like she’s screaming ‘I’m gonna get in the sun & bloom for sure!’ – that’s so Hinata-like. She knows she will wilt in the dark so she does her best to get out into the sun – you get that feeling about her.

Iguchi: If Hinata’s like the sun, then there are parts of Yuzuki that are like the moon – it’s hard to describe her with just one word though. (____) cute? Let’s ask the Director instead (laughs)

Q: You also notice the little details the production team have put in, like the surprisingly sizable balance left on Hinata’s card compared to Kimari’s almost-zero balance that you can see from when they’re taking the train – I thought that brought out the personalities [of the characters] well, as well as showing their spending power.

Hayami: You see their human nature coming to the fore. Hinata-chan is well-grounded, as you’d expect.

Iguchi: True. Kimari seems like the sort of person who’d scream ‘Oh dang, I gotta top up my card!’ every 1 out of 3 times [she takes the train].

Hayami: She’d only top up a 1000 yen at a time (laughs)

Iguchi: But it’s true, the show really does go into all those little details without needing to rely too much on the acting performances. The character visuals etc will tell the story, and the Sound Director does say stuff like ‘try not to shout out during that scene’ to us.

Q: They have expressions on their faces, thus you can better match your voices to the visuals. I think it’s a show you could enjoy watching over and over again.

Hayami: You’ll discover small little details with every rewatch.

Plenty of significant points, not just in the anime but also in the next episode previews, the ending theme and so on!

Q: The next episode previews are a highlight as well.

Iguchi: The previews are pretty impactful – they’re great! Hayamin’s was fun. I’ve no clue what dialect that was in though.

Hayami: I recorded that having only said a single word in episode 2, not having had a chance to get hold of my character at all.

Iguchi: And in that ep 1 preview, some completely different character appeared (laughs)

Hayami: I became some mysterious character (laughs). It was a surreal feeling.

Iguchi: I was desperately trying to hold in my laughter.

Hayami: I too was wondering ‘Who the heck is that?’ as I was reciting my line.

Iguchi: Hayamin’s lack of hesitation when she stood in front of the mic is evident in Yuzuki. It’s like Yuzuki’s up on stage, having put on an assured performance.

Hayami: Yuzuki’s really good at switching between personas – the script is fun as well.

Q: The four of you perform the ending theme.

Hayami: The song’s really nice!

Iguchi: It’s wonderful, and the song is filled with youthfulness and sparkles.

Q: What we can look forward to in the future?

Hayami: For Yuzuki, you’ll be seeing more and more of her from episode 3 onwards as the distance between her and the other girls lessens. I hope you will able to feel Yuzuki’s happiness and the closing of that distance between her heart and everyone else’s. As for the storyline, watch out for how exactly they will make it to Antarctica.

What kind of story could be born from the convergence of high school girls and Antarctica – 2 points that you’d not normally see coming together? I think it’s a pretty unprecedented work so I do hope that you will enjoy it.

Iguchi: With the announcement of such a fantastic cast, I’m sure Hayamin fans will be watching episode 1 thinking ‘Hmm?’ and then ‘Eh?’ after episode 2 (laughs), but please look forward to episode 3 onwards where the 4 of them are all in the mix together. But it’s not just the 4 of them; there are various other characters – especially Kimari’s best friend Megucchan!

Hayami: Megucchan! Plenty of stuff goes on, and there’s even a Megucchan episode!

Q: Watching episodes 1-2 – it seems tough to be Megucchan. You get a knot in your chest.

Iguchi: To see her beloved Kimari-chan who’s always been by her side, find a new dream – that’s a kind of dilemma unique to high school girls. Those aspects are handled well too. It’s not just about heading to Antarctica; we see the girls moving step by step towards their dreams, see their hearts growing through [resolving] their misunderstandings – I hope you see all of this without missing a single episode. Megucchan’s episode is the best! I got goosebumps during the recordings.

[Interview & words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#169 – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho: Minase Inori x Hanazawa Kana

Interview with Minase Inori (Tamaki Mari) and Hanazawa Kana (Kobuchizawa Shirase), the leading duo of the cute girls go Antarctica anime Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho [A Place Further than the Universe, or A Story That Leads to the Antarctica]

Our image of Antarctica

Q: In this anime, ‘Going to Antarctica’ happens to be one of the objectives – honestly, what were your thoughts about Antarctica before this?

Minase: “Antarctica…where’s that?”. I’d heard of it before but as to its exact location and the size of the place, I had only vague ideas. ‘Perhaps it’s cold?’. The only thing I could do was to speculate. The non-presence of Antarctica in my own life meant that I had no clear vision of what it might be like.

Hanazawa: What came to mind was “So erm, what’s the difference between the Arctic and Antarctica again?”. I know about polar bears, so is the Antarctic all about penguins? That was the kind of fuzzy knowledge I possessed. It was only later on when I was doing the anime that I realized that you can’t even go to Antarctica unless you’re part of an expedition team.

Q: For the two of you, it may indeed be a place further than the universe. Or for the public in general.

Hanazawa: That’s right.

Q: As this is an original series, what were your impressions upon reading the script?

Minase: I thought the normal conversational drama* parts were interesting. The characters have unique personalities and by themselves, elevate daily life above the mundane. I wouldn’t describe it as fantasy or such; it’s a story that is fairly rooted in reality but it also allows you to dream; seeing the girls doing their best, step by step, makes you want to give your best as well. A realistic ensemble drama like this holds much appeal.

*conversational play: 会話劇 (kaiwa-geki); a type of play that is dialogue-heavy

Hanazawa: As I was reading the script, I burst out giggling the moment I reached the dialogue parts – I thought that all the girls were crazy cute (laughs). They each have their own flaws as well as possessing a kind of cuteness that is appropriate for their age. The more you dig in [to their characters], the more you’ll discover.

On a personal level, there was a certain incident from my high school days that changed my life, so I was thrilled to see that this show is packed with [events] that will kick-start their lives!

Q: When you’re in high school, you dream about achieving something – to do that, you’d work part-time and so on. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Minase: It is.

Hanazawa: If today’s students were to watch this they’d be motivated. We ourselves are able to identify with [the characters].

Q: When you were their age, both of you were already working.

Minase: Still, it seems like I lived freely during my high school days. I didn’t have the initiative that Shirase-chan possesses.

The appeal of the characters, rich in emotions

Q: Please tell more about Kimari and Shirase.

Minase: Let’s start with Kimari. This is my first time working with the Director [Ishizuka Atsuko] and during recordings for the first PV I had the chance to talk to her about the series. At that time, she gave me a brief explanation about each of the girls and how they were each ‘___’ cute… In Kimari’s case, she’s ‘crazy cute’. She’s cute, but something about her seems off. But that too, is part of what makes her charming…

I was given a hint that ‘her image is not calculated – her silliness is born from innocence; everyone gets caught up in it and she brings sunshine to everything around her’. So when I’m voicing Kimari I try to emphasize that innocence through her inability to lie; such as making a face that totally says ‘I’m lying!’ whenever she’s telling fibs. I’m very conscious when it comes to her cuteness and naivety. When you watch the 1st episode, you’ll see within the crazy cuteness, the troubles that Kimari faces and her fragility when she’s unable to take that first step. You’ll see that despite normally being so cheerful, she also has the maturity to understand [her own flaws].

Hanazawa: Her reactions are cute.

Minase: Her face changes in the blink of an eye.

Hanazawa: She produces amazing faces out of the blue, doesn’t she?

Minase: She does!

Hanazawa: That’s what makes her so silly, I think (laughs)

Minase: How the corners of her mouth turn upwards, or when her eyes sparkle – she has a rich variety of expressions.

Hanazawa: I feel like I heard voices from Inori-chan that I’d never heard before.

Minase: The same could be said of Shirase-chan!

Q: I think Minase-san’s voice conveyed that innocence very well. What about Hanazawa-san’s character Shirase – what kind of girl is she?

Hanazawa: Shirase’s very pretty so she gets a lot of attention. She’s also in the position where she’s got plenty of discriminating eyes upon her for harbouring what seems like an impossible dream of going to Antarctica, and that does make her kind of prickly. I think it’s hardened her attitude of ‘I’ll show you guys!’ as she progresses through her school years.

She’s quite set in her way of thinking and she’ll do anything to achieve her goal of going to Antarctica to look for her mom who went there and never came back. I think it’s wonderful how she’s so inwardly strong.

Q: Meeting Kimari was a catalyst for change in her, wasn’t it?

Hanazawa: Up ‘til now, Shirase’s been the type to dislike making friends, communication and things like that. Which is why you start seeing more and more of her ‘tragic’ traits. But throughout all that, you get to see her grow as well – I think impressions of her between the start and the end [of the series] will change a great deal.

Q: Her sorry characteristics – they’re the most evident amongst all the characters, aren’t they? (laughs)

Hanazawa: Yeah I do think so… We mentioned Kimari-chan’s reactions earlier, and Shirase does produce reactions where the cuteness cuts through her pitiful aspects – I think that’s another thing about her that really captures your heart (laughs)

Shirase: Pathetic cuteness that makes Kimari want to watch over her forever

Q: What are your impressions of each other’s characters?

Minase: At the beginning of the PV, where Kimari asks ‘How do you plan to get there?’ and [Shirase] answers ‘Would you like to find out?’ – that left a very big impression on me! That happened before we recorded the first episode and I was thinking how charming the dialogue & their expressions were. It was the first time I’d heard Kana-san’s voice as Shirase accompanying the visuals and I was amazed!

And from there, we had this toilet crying scene in episode 1 that I really like. The episode’s titled ‘One Mwillion Yen for Youth’ where instead of saying ‘one million yen’, [Shirase’s] crying in the toilet saying ‘one mwillion yen’. Seeing how she cries and hearing the sounds she’s making as she punches the door made me think that Shirase-chan’s definitely a weirdo as well (laughs). But that weirdness is extremely fascinating and is in a way, a pathetic kind of cuteness. In the 2nd episode they go to downtown Shinjuku and I really like that scene as well.

Hanazawa: She blurts out a lot of ridiculous things, doesn’t she? (laughs)

Minase: Her selfishness may be a negative point, but that’s kind of what you want to see in her character. You want her to always put herself first. When [the characters] worry about other people, they’ll often take action based upon their own judgments and I suppose that’s part of what makes her charming.

Q: That ‘one mwillion yen’ bit was funny. Seeing the way she cries after she gets her money back makes you fall in love with her! (laughs). Hanazawa-san, what do you think of Kimari?

Hanazawa: When you watch Kimari from the sidelines you see her as cute and cheerful, the kind of girl you’d want to stare at forever. Speaking from the viewpoint of Shirase-chan, she probably thinks you could hear just about anything and everything come from [Kimari’s] mouth. That’s why she’s a girl who has the power to open up another person’s heart; she’ someone who is incredibly easy to talk to. I think you’d want a friend like her, wouldn’t you? But she’s just made that decision that ‘I want to go to Antarctica!’ so I look forward to finding out how Kimari changes in the future.

Minase: When you see the two of them interacting, you might sometimes go ‘Er? Why does Kimari seem the more dominant of the two?’

Q: By the 2nd episode, you do start to wonder if their roles have reversed.

Hanazawa: From the point Hinata makes her entrance…

Q: Shirase has two sides to her, doesn’t she? A cool side and a pathetic side.

Hanazawa: That’s right. But you’ll find out the reasons behind that. Whether she’s just putting on a brave front, or whether she’s not being honest to herself. At first she snubs other people, but over the course of communicating with Kimari and the rest of the girls, she comes to realise things about herself. She can reflect properly [on her behaviour], so rest assured as you watch her (laughs)

Meeting each other brings out & increases new charms in the two

Q: Episode 1 has already aired – it’s very high quality and thrilling.

Minase: The visuals were virtually finished by the time we recorded episode 1. Which made me wonder what I should do… (laughs). We don’t normally see them at this degree of completion, so I did kinda struggle to try to keep up with all the mouth flaps! (laughs) Plus, there were so many lines in episode 1. We may have wished to enjoy the visuals in silence, but each and every one of the characters shone equally.

Hanazawa: Director Ishizuka said that the 1st episode had been completed unexpectedly and I was checking out the visuals as we went along, and became transfixed as you’d expect. That was just how well they had been done and I’m really glad to be able to work on a series that has had so much love put into it.

And that’s why I feel a huge responsibility, contemplating the way I should express [lines] with my voice as I go in to recordings. I’ve discovered though, that the characters become even more alive when we’re interacting with each other in the studio, as opposed to when I’m practising alone at home. That makes me think, ‘Ah, so this is the kind of show that we’re making’.

I love the crumpled expression on Shirase’s tearful face when she gets back the 1 million yen she dropped and I thought it was cute to see how her tears were like dewdrops.

Minase: It was cute!

Hanazawa: Also, the way she declares to herself that she wants to go to Antarctica made her seem different from other high school students – it was a cool scene and left quite the impression.

Minase: I do love the scene where [Kimari] meets and talks to Shirase-chan for the first time, but I also like the scenes where she’s talking to Megu-chan [Takahashi Megumi, CV: Kanemoto Hisako] in the classroom – they’re so normal and so good. Megu-chan is her childhood friend and though they’re the same age, Megu-chan seems like more of an older sister [to Kimari].

She’s different from the characters that we’re going to be introduced to in the future – the fact that they’ve known each other for a long time makes the phone conversations between the 2 of them heart-warming. This kind of relationship is nice so I really do like the scenes where they’re having conversations at school.

Q: She seems more like her guardian, doesn’t she?

Minase: There’s this scene when they’re on their way home from school and [Kimari] screams ‘Respect!’ at her, and I think it’s really fun that their relationship is one where they can say basically anything to each other. Kimari has great friends.

Q: Did it make it easier acting-wise, to have the completed visuals on hand?

Hanazawa: I was happy.

Minase: Knowing how the show looked like in its finished state gave us the confidence to voice the characters.

Hanazawa: Morale definitely rose. We knew where we were heading towards.

Q: In the anime we see Kimari writing a note upon entering high school that states ‘I want to keep a diary. I want to play truant from school at least once. I want to go on a journey that has no destination’. Do either of you recall doing anything naughty like skipping school?

Hanazawa: I was in the student council so I might have [skipped classes] by escaping to the student council room (laughs). It was nice to have such a place to relax. I might’ve gone ‘my stomach’s acting up a bit, I’m heading to the student council room’.

Minase: Whenever it came time to clean the classrooms I would volunteer to take out the trash so I could avoid cleaning duties.

Hanazawa: Ahahaha (laughs). That’s not fair!

Minase: I gathered up all the garbage and casually went ‘I’m going to take this out~’, left the classroom and took an eternity to dispose of the rubbish and return to class – yeah I did that occasionally (laughs)

Q: It’s quite a realistic goal to have. Something you might actually want to try for in real life.

Hanazawa: Talking about realistic – Shirase-chan’s called ‘Antarctica’ [by her schoolmates] behind her back and that made me think ‘Ah, things like that really do happen~’

Minase: While we’re on the topic of names, for some reason, I kept thinking my character was called Tamaki Kimari (laughs). I was so convinced that it was Tamaki Kimari that even when I was looking at the cast list, it took me some time to realise it was actually Tamaki Mari. Another thing I’m curious about is this: if Tamaki Mari’s nickname is Kimari, does that mean her younger sister Tamaki Rin’s nickname is Kirin?

Q: The part where Shirase says to Kimari ‘So, will you go with me?’ makes your heart skip a beat. She might’ve meant it as a joke yet, a part of her was probably hoping [that Kimari would say yes] – the way those delicately-balanced feelings are handled is great.

Hanazawa: That’s right. There were a few girls who had expressed interest previously, and I think she was sad beyond words when all of them ended up quitting. If she gets her expectations up too high she’ll end up being hurt, which is why she tests the water in such a way. I do think she afforded herself that little bit of hope after witnessing Kimari’s genial nature, honesty and proactiveness.

Q: It’s also nice to see how Kimari’s life starts to change as she’s moved by the sight of Shirase smiling.

Minase: Kimari’s never been able to take that next step – she takes in [Shirase’s] words and becomes aware of the fact that there are dreams out there you can realistically aim for. She may be a little cowardly in nature but a part of her starts to feel, ‘I can do this!’. Apart from that, I do think Kimari felt that she wants to accomplish something together with this particular person.

I mean, it isn’t every day you meet a girl of your age who’s saved millions of yen and sobbed her heart out all for the sake of her dream. That’s why she respects or rather, feels like she must go along for the ride, especially when she’s confronted by a person who holds such different, big dreams. That smile of hers is burned in Kimari’s mind – something that she could never forget even if she wanted to.

Steadily increasing the depth of your love for the characters, episode by episode

Q: The moment when Kimari makes the decision to take one step forward segues into the ED sequence – that was great direction.

Minase: The part where she finally jumps on the train at the end was really cute! There are still many questions going forward but things do look like they’re moving along now!

Q: You girls perform the ED the ‘Koko kara, Koko kara’ [From Here, From Here] together.

Minase: This might be the first time that I’m singing the same song together with others…

Hanazawa: You don’t normally see characters interacting with each other quite so much either, do you?

Minase: Yeah. I’m happy ‘cos I’ve never [seen my characters] cuddled up to each other so snugly before.

Hanazawa: Makes me happy too.

Q: Finally, tell us what we can look forward to in the future.

Minase: At the moment we’ve only covered the relationship between Kimari and Shirase, and there is still drama to come from the remaining 2 members. All of them will come to be leading characters before you realise it, and each episode only serves to magnify the depth of your love for the characters.

Even the changes in facial expressions where there is lack of dialogue manages to bring each girl’s virtues to the fore – I hope that you’ll take in the individuality of the characters and at the same time, be healed by their crazy cuteness.

Hanazawa: These 4 girls gather with the aim of going to Antarctica, becoming friends as they go along. The more Shirase-chan explains, the harder the process to go to Antarctica seems – you too come to realize just how high the hurdles are for the girls to get there. Where is Antarctica, and how do they get there?

I want you to look forward to seeing that. The story may be about Antarctica, but you will also get to see how the relationships between then change over time, as well as getting a glimpse into some of the characters’ backgrounds – do look forward to that as well.

[Interview & words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#168 – DARLING in the FRANXX eps 1-3 Cast Interview: Uemura Yuto x Tomatsu Haruka

Last up, our main pairing – hero Zero Two (Tomatsu Haruka) & heroine Hiro (Uemura Yūto)…just kidding…well not really. All the other partnerships’ interviews are formatted Heroine x Hero (ie Ichinose Kana/Ichigo x Umehara Yūichirō/Gorō) except for Uemura Yūto x Tomatsu Haruka…so make of that what you will!

Impression of each other’s voice as heard through the characters

Q: The series has finally started airing – what are your impressions of each other’s voices?

Uemura: I did not know what kind of aura Zero Two would have until episode 1 began. Once we started exchanging words, I could hear that even though Zero Two is meant to be the heroine who’s cool, there’s an side of her that’s like an animal and yet, she’s also innocent. Position-wise, I did think that you might see her as the older sister type.

But in all honesty, Zero Two’s a tough one to handle and during recording, [everyone] with Director Nishigori included as well, we were thinking a lot about the various ways her lines could possibly be read. That is why she’s such a mysterious character, and I believe Tomatsu-can expressed that air of mystery and incomprehensible nature of hers very well; all I could do was follow after her, filled with the same feelings of confusion as Hiro.

Q: So you’ll confidently become the heroine? (laughs)

Uemura: I entrusted myself to her (laughs). Acting-wise, she was pulling me along as well – I relied on her a lot.

Zero Two: Thank you! (blushes)

Q: I hear Tomatsu-san’s acting comes with a side of extreme body movements?

Uemura: Yes it does! Tomatsu-san, you move about a lot, don’t you?

Tomatsu: Director Nishigori mentioned that to me as well (gesticulates, reproducing what happened in the studio)

Uemura: From the time of that hotpot party, Tomatsu-san’s movements have become a key talking point (laughs). When I don’t have any lines, I’ll just sit back and watch Tomatsu-san move about and it’s all I can do to stop myself from laughing.

Tomatsu: It’s interesting to observe all that in a calm manner, isn’t it?

Q: You just recreated a scene from the studio – where you face the monitor and pretend to punch it.

Tomatsu: I actually do it for real. It’s just another Tomatsu kinda thing (laughs). Of course, it depends on the role at hand but I tend to do the same thing my character is doing, unconsciously. When she runs, I run; if she gets pumped up during battle & it’s like she’s tearing out her limbs, I’m probably doing the same – it’s not like I’m purposely setting out to do that though. I’m not really aware of what I’m doing so I get told ‘You were amazing today’ quite a bit. But it seems I just about manage to prevent myself from making any sound as I’m moving about.

Q: I’m worried about whether you might end up straying too far from the mic.

Tomatsu: I’ll leave my face there while the rest of my body moves around. My face is the fulcrum on which [my body] turns (laughs)

Q: On the other hand, how do you, as Zero Two, see Hiro?

Tomatsu: The series starts off with our respective monologues , and when I heard Hiro’s voice I thought, ‘Oh, that’s Hiro!’ – it fitted in right away. When I heard Hiro’s kindness and innocence in Uemura-kun’s voice, it sent a shiver down my spine.

Zero Two had her eye on Hiro from the moment they met, and you could say that I related to her feelings. With just one word she ends up declaring “I like you!” and I was able to grasp those emotions, which meant I had no problem in engaging Hiro. So I think that I was being supported [by Uemura] as well. Her character runs wild all the time and sometimes, she barely even listens to what other people say; I do believe that the gentleness of Hiro’s voice enveloped her and saved her.

Uemura: I’m happy to hear that. Happy, but embarrassed (blushes)

Talking about Hiro’s lack of response to Ichigo’s kiss!

Q: Looking back on episodes 1-3, what were the memorable scenes for you?

Uemura: Obviously, the parts where I get toyed around with by Zero Two are memorable, but I do like how you can see the relationships between the Children becoming clearer from episode 2 onward. I interact with Ichigo quite a lot, so I guess the 2nd episode with Ichigo? That ‘I don’t feel anything…’ when she kisses him though!

Tomatsu: He was such a jerk (laughs)

Uemura: He was horrible! Definitely horrible! Hiro can be like that sometimes. He charges ahead without thinking about anybody else’s feelings – I guess he’s a bit insensitive. Ichigo’s a childhood friend, an irreplaceable presence since they became close to each other; while Gorō’s also a close friend who understands him, and that becomes a key point in the future…but that part in the 2nd episode where we see them trying to figure out what a kiss means – I do think it’s important.

Q: You’ve got to feel sorry for Gorō though.

Uemura: Of course. Gorō’s really…

Tomatsu: He’s the one you feel the most sorry for.

Uemura: [We] say that all the time don’t we? That it must be tiring to be Gorō.

Q: What about you, Tomatsu-san?

Tomatsu: I think episode 3 is where you get to see the horror of Zero Two. From Hiro’s perspective she doesn’t seem like such a bad person; though the people around him warn him, Hiro still finds himself drawn to her. But when Mitsuru rode Zero Two and ended up coming out [of battle] on his deathbed, the episode ends with a ‘Oh crap, the rumours are true!’ kind of mood, with [Zero Two] emerging in a state that invokes fear and madness. I was instructed to do that a lot, actually.

Depending on your viewpoint, she’s not actually a bad person per se – though to be fair it wouldn’t be wrong to describe her as a bad kid either. I was asked to play her with the intention of making it seem like she’s trying to break free [of something]. So I do think episode 3 ended on a chilling note.

Q: Still, it’s that kind of Zero Two that Hiro’s obsessed with, isn’t he?

Uemura: Hiro’s attraction towards her is growing, though he’s not aware of it.The feeling that he can’t survive without Zero Two around too, is getting stronger.

Q: What are the rest of the highlights?

Uemura: In episode 4, there is a scene where Hiro and Zero Two shout together – I thought it was good at showing the sense of partnership between them, so I hope you’ll see that.

Tomatsu: The highlights will keep on coming. The spotlight’s on Hiro and Zero Two’s relationship at first, but the relationships between the other Children also undergo big changes. The awakening of various emotions within the Children as they go through the process of growing up forms the main theme of the series. By placing Zero Two in the midst of these Children who grew up together, the relationships within the group may change – I hope you will watch the show whilst thinking about the world that they live in.

The more of this series you see, the more you will understand it. Hence it is important that you not miss a single episode. Everything is essential, each character gets his or her own turn in the spotlight, so don’t miss them out. It is a series that will get you thinking.

Q: I am looking forward to the relationship between Ichigo and Zero Two.

Tomatsu: Oh hmm~. They don’t get along~ (laughs). Ichigo does clash with her quite often. She snaps at her, so that explosiveness is something to look forward to. I’m thinking the viewers will be seeing it from the perspective of Ichigo and perhaps, believe that they actually get along well despite fighting. It gets really heated (laughs) There’s a scene where Ichigo lets her emotions out and that’s a highlight as well.

Q: So Tomatsu-san, you’re battling rookie Ichinose Kana-san while thinking ‘she’s cute’ at the same time.

Tomatsu: She really is cute! But when Kana-chan stands in front of the mic she switches on instantly. When she’s in her seat during break times she’ll be going ‘I’m nervous, but I want to get along well with all of you!’, but she completely turns into Ichigo the moment she performs – it makes me think, ‘Ah she’s so amazing, this is what an actress is, she can act without reservation’… (laughs)

Q: She gets used to Zero Two. She wants Hiro to clarify the situation.

Uemura: Hiro’s being Hiro, he’s trying hard in his own way but still, he has the tendency to get twisted around [Zero Two’s] little finger…

Q: You mentioned the hotpot party earlier – everyone else has brought it up as well.

Uemura: It was in Shibuya during the Halloween period so we got to see all these amazing cosplays. Tomatsu-san would be imitating [the cosplayers], and the more alcohol entered her system the more pumped up she became, and her movements followed suit. That was a talking point…I was sitting right across her and I’d never laughed so hard in my life before that.

Q: It’s probably par for the course for you isn’t it, Tomatsu-san?

Tomatsu: Yeah it’s totally normal for me! I’m usually hyper anyway, so the more excited I get the wilder my movements become and before I know it, the people around me will have started to avoid me. But it’s because Kana-chan said ‘I want to get along well with everyone!’ that those who were available decided to get together for that hotpot party, and I had a lot of fun.

I said to Kana-chan, ‘Since we have this opportunity, let’s get you to sit in the middle’ and we had the conversation revolve around Kana-chan as much as possible. It’d be great if my gesticulations help to put others at ease but if it ends up making people think ‘she’s annoying’, then I’m sorry (laughs)

Uemura: You did bring relief to my heart (laughs)

[Interview & Words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#167 – DARLING in the FRANXX eps 1-3 Cast Interview: Ishigami Shizuka x Ichikawa Aoi

Next up, the pairing that isn’t much of a pairing at all – Ishigami Shizuka’s Ikuno and Ichikawa Aoi’s asshole Mitsuru.

It’s amazing coming face to face with Tomatsu Haruka-san’s acting

Q: Three episodes have been broadcast so far; can you tell us what aspects you prioritized when playing your role?

Ichikawa: If we’re talking about up ‘til episode 3, I kept my [character’s] hatred of Hiro in mind.

Ishigami: That’s good. It’s a great characteristic.

Ichikawa: He’s always had this fixation on Hiro; in episode 3, he clashes head-on with Hiro and I tried to play my role with a constant ‘Screw you, Hiro!’ attitude going on inside my head. I was still doing that in episode 4 even though I was all battered.

Ishigami: Mitsuru’s character really stood out there.

Ichikawa: I didn’t have much to say in episodes 1-2 so for this particular one I inserted as much hatred as I could.

Ishigami: As for Ikuno, I played her with the intention of having the viewer not know what exactly is going through her mind.

Q: Like, a mysterious feeling?

Ishigami: I’ve never really played a character that has so little to say before so it was really tough for me to know how much I should tweak the role. If I said too little then I might end up sounding flat; if I said too much, I would be instructed to hold it back a bit. So I thought it would be better to give her a mysterious air; an ambiguous performance where the answer could go both ways – from the viewer’s perspective.

Q: What were your impressions of each other’s voices?

Ishigami: Honestly, I thought you were perfect!

Ichikawa: I also thought you were perfect. Ikuno was my partner, so when I was reading the script, I was wondering what kind of approach you would take towards the role. What you came up with certainly fits Ikuno’s aura, which made it easy for me to [do my part].

Ishigami: I’m glad!

Ichikawa: It really makes it easy for me to do. When rehearsing for recordings, I have to anticipate the energy levels at which my partner comes in with, and you brought exactly what I hoped you would. That meant I was able put into practice what I had prepared beforehand. I was grateful for that. I’m still at a stage where I’m not used to dealing with the possibility of changing something up completely at the last minute, so that helped a lot.

Ishigami: I thought you were perfect as well – not only that, you were Mitsuru; much more than I’d imagined you would be. That darkness you hide inside, maybe? When I hear your voice, I go ‘Wow~’. Hey, I am praising you here! I’m praising you, but that hostility really shows through in your voice!

Ichikawa: Praise? I’m being praised….okay.

Ishigami: You created a Mitsuru that was much more than I imagined it to be and while it did make me a bit more excited, I also felt at ease as I was performing. I’d heard that you hadn’t had much prior experience of recording and that this was the first series that you’d actually passed an audition for. I thought [Ikuno] would interact with [Mitsuru] the most, so I was hoping to get along well with you. Plus, you’re so young and already amazing.

Ichikawa: No way, I was shivering in fear during the recording for episode 1. There’re so many amazing people here, what should I do? On the other hand, having Ishigami-san as my partner was really great.

Ishigami: You look at Mitsuru [and he’s like that], and then you look at the person voicing him~(laughs)

Q: You wish Mitsuru could be that meek (laughs). Is there any other character amongst the other pairings that you like?

Ichikawa: I like Zorome and Miku.

Ishigami: Me too.

Ichikawa: Those 2 are great.

Ishigami: I’m jealous of them.

Ichikawa: We don’t have something like that between us after all.

Ishigami: We don’t. It’s like we’ve already passed the middle-aged couple phase. Like we’re withering away.

Ichikawa: It seems like the two don’t have any interest in each other. On the other hand, we have Zorome and Miku who seem to be repulsed by each other, yet…

Ishigami: They say whatever they want to say, plus they acknowledge each other – it’s a relationship that I’m very envious of.

Ichikawa: Another thing I wanna say: I can’t take part in the ad-libbed parts.

Ishigami: Ahahaha.

Ichikawa: Ikuno just about scrapes in, but Mitsuru gets excluded most of the time. For scenes where the kids are messing around, [the cast] gets to add their own ad-libs, so when I asked ‘can Mitsuru join in?’, the reply I got was ‘he’s not needed here’ (laughs). That happens a lot!

Ishigami: Only Mitsuru gets left out.

Ichikawa: He’s a cynic so he doesn’t get to join in anything…

Ikuno: But hey, Ikuno doesn’t say much so when they want [an ad-lib] from me, I’m left scratching my head wondering ‘What would Ikuno even say here?’

Ichikawa: You’re right. When you take something like that into account, [you can see why] Zorome and Miku are easy to handle, and why they can easily join in anything. Even as I watch from the sidelines I can tell that they’re such lovable characters and I think that’s real nice.

Ishigami: You can definitely relate to them. On the other hand, nobody knows what [Mitsuru and Ikuno] are thinking about.

Ichikawa: Kokoro and Futoshi are lovely too.

Ishigami: They seem compatible.

Ichikawa: It feels like they’re immersed in each other.

Ishigami: While Ichigo and Gorō get along well too. I guess it’s only us…

Ichikawa: Yeah, we’re the only ones who have a bad relationship.

Ishigami: It’s not terrible! It’s just bland and dry (laughs)

Q: What do you think of Zero Two?

Ishigami: Love her!

Ichikawa: We’re only up to episode 3 so I can’t say too much yet, but at some point in the future there’s an episode that made me think ‘Tomatsu-san is super amazing!’. When we’d wrapped up [recording] I voiced out ‘Your acting today was the best!’ to Tomatsu-san without realizing it. I want you to keep an eye out for that. It’ll take some time ‘til we get there, but I’m sure you’ll understand how impressive it is when you see it!

He looks like he’d love collecting milk bottle caps: A studio that gets hyped up telling “What if Mitsuru…” stories

Q: It appears that the Director wishes for the kids to become more of a ‘team’ as each episode passes – have your impressions of the [cast members] changed from what you initially thought?

Ishigami: Robot shows have this rugged image so all of us were pretty serious at first, diligently working, quietly. But now we’re just laughing all the way through the breaks, aren’t we?

Ichikawa: That’s right. It’s very friendly.

Ishigami: It’s really lively – you’d think we’re in school.

Q: You aren’t sitting next to each other, are you?

Ishigami: Yeah we’re split up, the male and female characters.

Ichikawa: Futoshi [CV: Gotō Hiroki], Zorome [CV: Tamura Mutsumi] and me – we’re always chatting.

Ishigami: Yeah, the mood in the studio is brightened by, and revolves around the 3 of you.

Ichikawa: Tamura (Mutsumi)-san is amazing after all. She’s a genius at energizing the place. She’s exactly like Zorome in the studio.

Q: But who’s the target of all the teasing?

Ishigami: That would be Mitsuru.

Ichikawa: It just turned out to be that away~ (smiles)

Ishigami: [Ichikawa] is just so different from his character. We started to tease him from the moment Mitsuru started behaving so cynically (laughs)

Q: Is there anything special about working on this series?

Ishigami: That there is plenty of time to have discussions with Director Nishigori, to the point where we start talking about useless things. Like making up Mitsuru spin-off stories on a whim.

Ichikawa: That would be the ‘Mitsuru collecting milk bottle caps’ story. It started off from when we were pondering whether Mitsuru has a hoarding habit – if he did, what might he hoard? And the talk turned to milk bottle caps (laughs)

Ishigami: It got really animated, didn’t it? Almost hope they’d make web anime shorts for it.

Ichikawa: We don’t say much in the anime itself, so it’d be great if we could move around a lot more.

Q: Were there any memorable scenes for you in episodes 1-3?

Ishigami: It’s gotta be episode 3 if we’re talking about Mitsuru, right?

Ichikawa: He totally blew his top in episode 3, didn’t he?

Ishigami: That was memorable.

Ichikawa: I’d say the same. Also, the scene of Hiro and Zero Two’s first encounter was great.

Ishigami: I agree!

Q: Zero Two was naked there.,,

Ichikawa: Zero Two isn’t much like a heroine, is she? And so, Hiro meets Zero Two, but Hiro seems like more of a heroine between the 2 of them. It was memorable.

Ishigami: As for memorable lines, there’s Zero Two’s ‘Let me taste you’. It’s like a catchphrase that will definitely catch your ear and when you do hear it, it sticks in your mind. That’s where you’ll get pulled into the world of DarliFra, I think.

Q: Zero Two has a kind of appeal that gets you hooked on her, more and more so.

Ichikawa: The way she calls people ‘darling’ as well. Also, Tomatsu-san’s voice, rather than being cute, has more of a boyish feel to it that pops up from time to time – it’s cool. You can see why Hiro becomes infatuated with her.

Q: How about the action scenes?

Ishigami: Hand-drawn robot action scenes – I’ve heard it’s tough to do them. Strelitzia has quite a unique design though, so mecha fans will find [the action] easy to like; as will those who haven’t really seen much of robot shows before.

Ichikawa: The Franxxes have female concept designs so I do think that viewers would have their own preferences. Which one’s your favourite?

Ishigami: It’s got to be Chlorophytum, right? Wait? It’s not [for you]?

Ichikawa: I’d say Genista (stiffly).

Ishigami: Ehhhhhh!

Ichikawa: Isn’t Genista super cute though?

Ishigami: It is. Cute, but I’d hoped you’d say Chlorophytum.

Ichikawa: Okay, let’s wind back the clock a bit. “Chlorophytum” (stiffly)

Ishigami: Too late! (laughs) But Genista’s definitely cute when you see how it stands out from the rest. I’d like to have them [models] all in a row to display! I love Chlorophytum’s winged bits as well.

Ichikawa: But when you look at this photo where they’re all lined up, it’s gotta be Genista…

Q: The way their emotions are depicted is wonderful as well.

Ishigami: I think it’s very unique.

Ichikawa: The 3rd episode’s kinda well…the scene with Mitsuru on the verge of dying – the art was amazing.

Ishigami: In terms of what to look out for, it’s got to be Zero Two! Her eccentricity amongst the group is depicted well and your eyes are just go to her. You just have to look at her and you’ll know she’s different from the rest. Watching the show, I was wondering how they’d get that difference across. Having horns alone won’t make you an alien.

Q: Lastly, please tell us what we should look forward to in the future.

Ichikawa: After the 4th episode, Mitsuru won’t get to say much. Recently, there have been episodes where I only have 2 lines throughout – just when I think he’s got something to say, it only turns out to be him taking a breath. ‘So today, I’ve finally been reduced to only breathing…’ (laughs). So beyond episode 4 where you get to see the other Children having fun with each other, I hope that the viewers will feel comforted. There’s an episode where you can look forward to that.

Ishigami: I wish I could loop that time line and rewatch it forever! The ensemble drama aspects are fairly visible right from the start so I think you’ll be able to watch them with a sense of calmness. As for future developments for Ikuno, please look forward to finding out what she’s thinking about and what she cherishes the most, as well as seeing hints of something important to her that spurs her into action.

[Interview & Words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#166 – DARLING in the FRANXX eps 1-3 Cast Interview: Hayami Saori x Goto Hiroki

Third up is the pairing we’ve seen the least of in the series so far, Hayami Saori’s Kokoro and Gotō Hiroki’s Futoshi.

A DarliFra spinoff story doing the rounds in the recording studio!?

Q: I hear the seating arrangements during recording splits up the male and female characters.

Goto: That’s true. Apart from Tomatsu (Haruka)-san and Uemura (Yūto)-kun, none of the rest of us are sitting next [to our partners].

Hayami: I’m really loving the exchanges between Ichikawa (Aoi)-san, Gotō-san and Mucchan (Tamura Mutsumi) that are happening in front of me – I secretly look forward to them every time. You guys are quite far from where I am so I can’t really join in, but I enjoy listening in.

Goto: Because we take the characters and mess about with them.

Hayami: And at one point you were talking spin-off stories and everyone started coming up with their own. Mitsuru-kun is particularly easy to play around with isn’t he?

Goto: Ikuno toys with him a lot as well, though we haven’t reached the part of the series that shows it just quite yet. We also believe Mitsuru might have a hoarding habit…

Hayami: We got all excited making up character settings for him, for example, that he loves collecting milk bottle caps.

Goto: And if you were to handle 1 of those caps carelessly Ichikawa-kun would get awfully mad at you. Oh, I meant Mitsuru (laughs). We were talking about doing that kind of scenario on a drama CD! Let’s have Futoshi be a Lonely Gourmet! Though all he’d do is just eat.

Hayami: That would suit him perfectly!

Goto: Over the course of such conversations, I got to learn about the good qualities of Uemura-kun and Tomatsu-san. That’s the kind of thing you discover.

Hayami: What was it with Uemura-kun again? That game.

Goto: Kero Kero King. It’s some ancient Playstation game.

Hayami: He loves it so much that you have to wonder why. If you were to insult the game he’d probably snap like Mitsuru (laughs)

Goto: I bought the game. And I was thinking, ‘Uemura-kun, you’ve been playing this for 10 years?’. I discovered a virtue of his that hadn’t previously been apparent.

Hayami: He must surely have specific preferences.

Goto: It’s through talking about things like that, that you learn about the good points of a person – when you push a button you find interesting things popping out of their drawer, something like that.

Hayami: And Gotō-san is the one who tends who draw those things out from people’s drawers. We also have (a) revered veteran(s) with us this time so [Gotō-san] ensures good communication with our seniors.

Got0: We get very friendly big names coming in all the time. Like Horiuchi Kenyū-san [Dr Franxx] and so on.

Q: Tamura-san is the mood maker, isn’t she?

Goto: She’s the conversation accelerator.

Hayami: She’ll talk about anything and everything.

Goto: That’s great though. But I’m always curious about seeing Konishi Katsuyuki-san’s reactions whenever [I] slip up a bit.

Q: Oh yes, Konishi-san is there as well.

Goto: As is Inoue Marina-san.

Hayami: We talk about Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann a lot.

Goto: I want to join in, but my seat is so far away…

Hayami: We should hold social gatherings, those of us who sit far apart from each other.

Goto: Let’s do that! We had a hotpot party too.

Hayami: Ah, I couldn’t make that one.

Goto: I learned who the real Tomatsu-san was then. She’s a really interesting person, isn’t she?

Hayami: Very interesting. She’s like a gag character (laughs)

Goto: I was thinking to myself, ‘Was she this fascinating?’. A very fun person.

Hayami: I feel we have quite a lot of comical people around this time.

Goto: They may be comical, but when they’re standing in front of the mic they switch their personalities around 180 degrees. Ah, I love all these professionals!

Episode 3: The impact on Mitsuru!

Q: Episode 3 has just been broadcast and neither of your characters has had the spotlight turned upon them as of yet, but can you tell us the aspects you are careful about when voicing them?

Goto: After talking with Director Nishigori, we decided to pursue realism by making it sound like the characters are ‘speaking’, as opposed to creating ‘voices’ for them. The most important thing for Futoshi is for him to sound natural. Not to make him sound too forced.

Hayami: Futoshi-kun is the kind of character that you could imagine existing for real, somewhere out there.

Goto: Up until now I’d always been a relief-pitcher kind of guy, never in the leading role but entrusted with secondary characters that support the protagonist, so I am very much used to that. I try not to be too noticeable I guess? That’s on my mind all the time so I’m playing my part in making everyone else feel at ease, though I do think I should stand out every once in a while (laughs).

Hayami: No way. Futoshi does get his chance to shine. Everyone’s a main character.

Goto: I was grateful for that, it felt refreshing. But at that time, I came to understand the hardships of those who are performing the leading roles. So let me tell those of you who don’t know yet. These guys, they’re doing amazing things!

Q: Obviously, there are reasons, like the pressure they go through. What do you think, Hayami-san?

Hayami: Personally, hmm…a lot of things do go through my mind – there’s not a ‘method’ to playing the role as Kokoro-chan’s quite the multifaceted character. All of the others are like that as well, but she’s one who makes it fairly visible. When I saw a first glimpse of that (in an episode that’s yet to come), I came to see parts of her that were not in the original character setting – ‘contradiction’ is what came to mind.

It is obvious that there are conflicts within her heart; what she says is not the same as what she thinks, and that very human nature of hers makes her do things that will make viewers question ‘why does she do that?’. Just as I was contemplating how to handle those aspects, Director Nishigori came to speak to me.

Each partnership has an episode dedicated to them – while there are pairings that move slowly, there are others that speed ahead and yet others that may veer off to the right. With the diversity in timing, I was told what Kokoro’s position would be throughout and that allowed me to see the direction she’d be moving in. And it made me wonder if it’s a good thing for Kokoro to be going down the path that she’s taking.

Even if there seem to be contradictions within her at first glance, she still holds strong principles at her core. What I thought there, was that it’s a perfect fit especially when you consider her age. I do think that you go through such phases during puberty.

Goto: Yeah you do.

Hayami: I may be an adult now, but I don’t seem like one – that kind of thing.

Goto: You could say the same for someone like Zorome.

Hayami: Someone like Zorome can unexpectedly mature as they grow up. Kokoro seems like the older sister of the group but she has a reckless side to her, and is the one to display the most childish ignorance. She admires the adults, thinks she’s acting like one, then goes out and does something completely out of the norm. I think that’s ‘puberty’ for you.

Goto: Oh yes. All of them are like that.

Hayami: When I was able to grasp that part of her, the rest of it came easily.

Goto: When Director Nishigori mentioned the word ‘puberty’ I went ‘Ahh!’. It clicked for me as well.

Hayami: Yeap. I’m trying to keep that in mind. That she’s not that mature yet.

Q: Are there any scenes from the first 3 episodes that left an impression on you?

Hayami: Though there were actually quite a few scenes that revealed the show’s setting, I’d say that scene in episode 3 where Mitsuru turns into a wreck had the biggest impact.

Goto: You’re thinking – so you’ve come all this way to turn into that?

Hayami: The madness of Zero Two is apparent there, isn’t it? There are parts where you can see how our actions bring to the fore the relationship between the focal pairing Zero Two and Hiro.

Goto: When any one of us acts or does something, you look at how those 2 react.

Hayami: Yeah. You’ll get to see the integrity of the 2 of them during a scene where Kokoro gets a little bit too presumptuous – I hope you’ll be able to see that as well.

Goto: Episode 3 is the point where Mitsuru starts to get more emotional and I thought it’d be tough to handle the changes within his heart. Ichikawa-kun mentioned that he’d not worked on a lot of anime prior to this but you wouldn’t be able to tell. I’d also heard that Ichinose (Kana)-chan was a rookie and I’m not trying to flatter her or anything, but I really thought ‘Wow, we’ve got a monster on our hands here’. So yeah, you could say that that’s something to look forward to as well.

Hayami: Also, I think the stories about their childhood will be coming up soon – they’ll be of great importance in the future so do keep that in mind.

Goto: Yes, their respective childhoods will be significant.

Hayami: What happened to Mitsuru back then plays a part in forming the personality he has today.

Q: You’ve touched a little on what happens in the future. Is there anything else?

Hayami: Being Kokoro, I am curious about how the world turned out like this in the first place. It’ll be interesting if you speculate as you go along. Also, I want you to pay attention to the interactions between Kokoro and Futoshi. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff that happens in the future (laughs)

Goto: I couldn’t keep calm [about that] either.

Hayami: Also, pay attention to Kokoro and Mitsuru. Gorō and Ichigo are great as well.

Goto: I want you to look out for the improvised ad-libs by Mucchan and me in a future episode. We’ll be saying the same phrase at the same time.

Q: Based on a certain episode in the series – which of the characters would you say is your type?

Goto: (immediately) Kokoro. 100% Kokoro. You’ll know why when you see her!

Hayami: Gorō’s nice there as well. I thought, ‘Ah, so he’d be like that’.

Goto: Gorō’s caring nature came across strongly there.

Hayami: I think that for this series, the growth of its characters is the nucleus of the story. The period of time between them maturing from a Child to an Adult. There is a point where they start fighting after they’re split into groups based on their gender and while I thought it was once again a symbol of their youth, I did enjoy seeing it. Do keep all of this in mind as you continue watching the series down the line.

[Interview & Words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]

#165 – DARLING in the FRANXX eps 1-3 Cast Interview: Yamashita Nanami x Tamura Mutsumi

Looks like Animate’s doing another set of interviews with the entire cast after all. Next up is the goofiest pairing in the cast, Yamashita Nanami (Miku) and Tamura Mutsumi (Zorome). I like how the interviews reflect the seiyuu’s personalities – this particular one is mostly fun and lolz as opposed to the very stiff Umehara/Ichinose pairing.

As the relationships between the characters deepen, so does the bond between the seiyuu cast members

Q: Some time has passed since recording started – what’s the atmosphere like in the recording studio?

Tamura: Gorō (CV: Umehara Yūichirō) dissing Hiro (CV: Uemura Yūto), for example, going ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ in the lobby, is a common sight for us (laughs)

Q: You’d understand Umehara-kun’s feelings if you’d watched episode 2. Tamura-san, your name comes up in all the other cast members’ interviews. They say you’re the mood maker.

Tamura: ‘cos I never stop talking from the minute I enter the recording booth.

Yamashita: She goes on non-stop, starting from the moment she shouts ‘Good morning!’ as she enters the room (laughs)

Tamura: The 3 of us – Gotō-san, Ichikawa-kun and I. Don’t you think we’re annoying?

Yamashita: Of course not!

Tamura: It does occur to me sometimes that we shouldn’t be wrecking the mood of such a serious show. But I can’t help myself… (laughs)

Yamashita: On the other hand, I think it’s good to let loose sometimes!

Tamura: It’s tiring, to be stuck in a serious mood. But everyone’s keeping quiet, trying to get into a certain frame of mind ..and I start losing it halfway through and would’ve started yapping away by the time the B part [second half of recording] rolls around (laughs)

Q: It’s amusing that we have Tamura-san on the male characters’ side.

Tamura: That’s right. But at first I was sitting with the girls. That meant that my seat was smack in the middle however, & I was wondering if that was okay…and then I went ‘Welppp!’ and hopped on over to the guys’ team (laughs)

Yamashita: I’m always chatting with my neighbour Ichigo (CV: Ichinose Kana).

Tamura: She talks!?

Yamashita: Of course she does! We talk about clothes and travelling and normal stuff like that, the two of us.

Tamura: Does Ichinose-chan like to travel?

Yamashita: Seems she likes going on solo trips. And she also likes getting off at train station stops that she’s never been to before. She’s quite active, which was surprising to me.

Tamura: Once, out of the blue, I invited [everyone] to go the amusement park and Ichinose-san and Ichikawa-kun were the ones who said ‘We’ll go!’. For Ichinose-chan, such a quiet and pretty girl, to be so receptive & say ‘I wanna go!’ right away, made me happy.

Yamashita: Ah, I’m jealous! C’mon, make some new plans right away!

Q: I hear that there was a hotpot party as well?

Yamashita: Yeah, in Shibuya during the Halloween season (laughs). We really wanted to avoid the area at the time but in the end, that was the only place we could go to.

Tamura: But that was fun. Tomatsu-san was going ‘Yo Yo!’ with Uemura-kun sat in front of her and he went ‘Man, I’ll just burst out in laughter whenever I see Zero Two now’.

Yamashita: He just couldn’t stop laughing, could he?

Tamura: But surprisingly, he managed to stop himself from laughing at the recording after that.

Q: Seems like there’s such a great atmosphere during recording.

Tamura: We’re getting along better and better, just like the characters are.

Yamashita: Also, isn’t Ichikawa-san’s personality rather unique? He seemed quiet but it turns out he’s just living in his own Ichikawa World.

Tamura: He’s the type that’s easy to toy around with. On the other hand Mitsuru (CV: Ichikawa Aoi) is an eternal cynic so that makes you wanna tease him even more (laughs). He hasn’t had the chance to try recording background voices* so he’s been constantly saying ‘I want to be in the background too’.

*ガヤ (gaya) – a term referring to the recording of voices and noise that feature in the background of a scene ie, in a crowd, classroom, café etc

Q: After all, there are times when you barely have any lines.

Tamura: When I ask him ‘Mitsuru! Did you say anything today?’ and he’ll reply, ‘Breathing! I breathed! I don’t know if I said anything though. But I do want to talk!’ (laughs)

Yamashita: He does give such answers quite often though, doesn’t he? (laughs)

Q: Yamashita-san, would you like to join their side?

Yamashita: Me? I’d like to cheerfully…watch them (laughs)

Tamura: I do think you can come over any time though, but you’re just going to look at us with a smile on your face (laughs)

Yamashita: ‘cos I haven’t learned how I should respond when I’m being teased (laughs)

Tamura: But you don’t have that ‘easy-to-bully’ characteristic. You’re not the type who’d get teased all the time. Also, we have fun coming up with stuff revolving around Mitsuru. The girls’ team gets to sing the ending theme, and we on the guys’ team want to sing a song as well – can’t we do one for the drama CD? We’d talk about stuff like that.

And then we’d go. So, does Mitsuru sing? Ichikawa-kun would be like, ‘I think Mitsuru is secretly practicing but when it’s showtime he doesn’t get a chance to sing. So he’ll be like ‘I practised so hard!’ and run out to the courtyard, alone, singing. He’ll make up stories like that.

Q: Brings a smile to my face just imagining that (laughs)

Yamashita: It’s pretty amusing that Ichikawa-kun comes up with a lot of these scenarios himself.

Mitsuru’s ‘Are you watching this?’ That (episode 3) scene will make him a much-loved chara?

Q: Let’s talk about something different – which Franxx is your favourite?

Tamura: Argentea!

Yamashita: Genista for me! It seems cumbersome for someone like Kokoro-chan, but I thought it looked strong! Argentea has twintails like Miku. But I was surprised that it’s pink. Pink! But it has a youthful exuberance that suits Miku.

Tamura: When I think of the fact that we’re the ones riding [Argentea], it seems so cute.

Yamashita: When we ride Argentea, we’ll have shouting scenes. Zorome and Miku will shout together, but we record those lines separately.

Tamura: Yes we do! That was impressive.

Yamashita: Tamura-san records her lines first and I’ll then say the same words with the same timing. I’d pay attention to Tamura-san while shouting, and my lines would match up with hers perfectly – that left quite the impact on me.

Tamura: When I scream my voice tends to go a little wild. Despite that, her lines matched up perfectly with mine which made me think she must have been watching me pretty closely.

Yamashita: I was thinking that it must be so because we’re riding the same Franxx.

Tamura: That was a moment where I felt the bond between us.

Q: Were there any scenes from episodes 1-3 that were memorable for you?

Tamura: Obviously, it’s gotta be Mitsuru’s ‘Are you watching this?’ from episode 3 (laughs)

Yamashita: Yeah yeah! It was from that point onwards that we started making fun of Mitsuru.

Tamura: From being so cocky to coming out of the battle like a mummy. You kinda feel sorry for him but at the same time, you’re chuckling.

Q: On the other hand, Ichikawa-san’s performance was amazing, wasn’t it?

Tamura: It was perfect! I’d thought Mitsuru seemed like a difficult role to handle but watching him, I was like ‘That’s totally Mitsuru!’

Yamashita: That twistedness of his is something you can totally get into.

Tamura: He was acting so high-and-mighty so I’m sure the rest of them would be going ‘Got just what he deserved’. But there always seems to be a lot of drama about Mitsuru. Though he says nothing and still doesn’t get to record any of the background voices (laughs)

Yamashita: He’s got this unrelenting presence.

Tamura: To be imposing even when he’s not saying anything means the character really stands out, doesn’t it?

Q: What are your thoughts about your respective characters?

Tamura: At first, Zorome is the one who likes taking digs at Hiro. He says some pretty terrible things but to me, they felt good (laughs)

Having said that, the Hiro we see at the start of the series is so gloomy. There’s nothing you can do if you’re not able to do what you’re supposed to, but you still can’t help but get annoyed about it. So I was glad that I got to say those lines as Zorome (laughs). For the first 2 episodes he was going ‘Hiro, you bastard~!’

Yamashita: She’s not part of our team, but I felt sorry for Naomi.

Q: That would be Hiro’s ex-partner.

Yamashita: That scene was sad and I had many things running through my mind. Facing an indecisive Hiro, [I’d] say something useful like ‘You’re just running away!’

Tamura: That’s a refreshing point from the perspective of the viewer. Also, I feel sorry for Gorō in episode 2, it was shocking. I’d like for Gorō to get his dues. He’s just a really nice guy. Also, I love Tomatsu-san’s ‘I’ve found you…my darling’ line (from the end of ep 1).

Yamashita: That line was so amazing, it made me tremble!

Tamura: Eloquent and unyielding. It felt like the moment when Hiro’s world opened up, and it felt good to see.

Q: What will be the highlights of episode 4?

Tamura: It’s a fun episode that shows what the kids get up to during their free time. It feels like they’re playing around but at the same time, it has an effect on the future – there are hints of what’s to come and I liked that. There are quite a lot of serious scenes in the show so it makes me happy to see the kids forget about all these things and just enjoy themselves.

Yamashita: That’s right!

Q: Yamashita-san, you may not share hairstyles with Miku but is it possible – for you to have twintails?

Yamashita: Maybe, for an event or something, to match the character? But I haven’t really done it before.

Tamura: I want to see that!

Yamashita: Really? I’ll do it if there’s a demand there.

Tamura: (staring at Miku’s picture, stealing glances at Yamashita-san & imagining things) You’d definitely look great! No question about it!

Yamashita: The kids’ uniforms are really cute as well, I’d like to try it on.

Tamura: Oh yes it’ll definitely look great on you!

[Interview & Words: Tsukagoshi Junichi]