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#185 – Hanebado! interview: Owada Hitomi x Shimabukuro Miyuri x Okamoto Nobuhiko

Interview with the main trio from badminton anime Hanebad(o)! – Owada Hitomi as eccentric lead Hanesaki Ayano, rookie Shimabukuro Miyuri as stoic team captain Aragaki Nagisa and badminton lover Okamoto Nobuhiko as coach Tachibana Kentarō.

Finally, an anime based on a sport that all good citizens of my country would have been forced to play from a young age! The racquet action has been impressive so far and I’m just crossing my fingers hard that the animation team doesn’t collapse from all the effort.

You might also have seen me tweeting bits about Shimabukuro, who’s landed an interesting batch of roles in this current summer season – the airheaded titular lead in Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san, the headstrong rival characters in both Hanebado and Harukana Receive (Shimabukuro’s from Okinawa, where the latter series is set) and one of the many idol girls in Ongaku Shōjo.

She’s definitely one to watch out for, being from Osawa Office, an agency that’s not really invested in the idol game and is more about developing & picking up voice talent. In Hanebado!, Shimabukuro joins agency seniors Kayano Ai and Kohara Konomi (Ayano’s best buddy Elena), the latter of whom tread a similar path to prominence last year. Could write an entire post looking at Osawa’s hiring & nurturing practices but we shall leave that asides for now.

On to the interview!

A series that paints badminton in a viciously zealous light. Ayano, a tough character with a myriad of facial expressions

Q: What are your impressions of Hanebado! having read the manga and now that you’re acting in it?

Owada: I read the manga for the first time prior to my audition. When my casting was confirmed, I reread the series and felt myself gradually getting absorbed in the passionate manner badminton matches were being depicted. And I was looking forward to seeing how they would appear in animated form.

At the same time I had my doubts about playing a role like Ayano. The further I read on, the tougher it became to keep up with her complex feelings and emotions. At times you can’t tell what’s going through her mind and at others, [her behaviour] sends a chill down your spine. That tendency she has to enter this ‘zone’ where she’s oblivious of what’s going around her is actually one of the most fascinating aspects about her – you can’t take your eyes off her at that very moment. I was however, concerned over whether I could adequately convey or express those parts. It’s still a trial-and-error process for me even as I’m going through recording now.

Shimabukuro: My cousin played badminton as part of their club activities so I do feel like it’s one that I’m most familiar with amongst the many sports out there. When I read the manga, I could see how incredibly fiery it was and it surprised me. I thought, ‘Wow, so this is badminton’.

I initially thought that this would be a cute badminton story upon seeing the manga art, but as the matches heated up and intensified, the art too became increasingly well-defined; razor sharp almost. There is a sense of dynamism [to the art] as well as cuteness whenever the story calls for it – the way the art evolves depending on the situation results in double pleasure [for the reader]. And wow, there are heroines like Ayano out there. Ayano’s emotions tend to be all over the place and she’s a bit twisted (laughs). On the other hand Nagisa’s quite straightforward and I do think she’s cool.

Straightforward Nagisa feels more like the main character. Is Ayano the last boss!?

Okamoto: I played badminton in junior high under the guidance of a coach and I was thinking about how I could make use of my playing experience as I was taking the auditions. Sound director Wakabayashi (Kazuhiro)-san had commented to me, ‘You know a lot about badminton don’t you?’, but when I read the manga I discovered that there were quite a lot of badminton-specific terms that I wasn’t familiar with, and I thought ‘I’m done for’.

All: (laughter)

Okamoto: I’d had this image of the series being a bright story about cute girls when I read the first volume of the manga, but then I see Ayano who’s like a last boss that’s been raised by an evil emperor. But we do also have Nagisa, who gives off more of an orthodox protagonist-type of impression.

Owada/Shimabukuro: (laughs)

Okamoto: This series feels different compared to other common manga, it’s got a kind of intensity [not present elsewhere]. I think it’s probably because Ayano was separated from her mom early on during her childhood and went through a lot that she’s developed something like a split personality.

Q: Observing the complex relationships between the various characters, the psychological aspects and the intensity of, as well as the strategizing going on during matches – you wouldn’t think you were watching a show about high school students’ club activities.

Okamoto: Ayano may be blessed with natural talent but in return, lacks physical attributes such as height etc. It’s said that athletes who are tall and have long limbs have the gift and the advantage, but we see someone like Nagisa who’s tall but is the industrious type [as opposed to being naturally gifted] with plenty of potential – that aspect is pretty interesting too.

It’s a high-speed, quick-thinking strategy game, but also a sport that makes you want to improve

Q: Owada-san and Shimabukuro-san are learning to play badminton through Moribad, a special video programme that streams on the official website, while Okamoto-san already has experience with the game. Can you each describe what you find appealing about badminton?

Owada: I’d only played it during PE classes before so this was my first time taking on the sport seriously. I was able to hit the shuttle thanks to what I’d been taught in my youth but learning about high-level strategies through playing actual matches allowed me to appreciate the depth of the sport. You engage in both offensive and defensive play at breakneck speeds while constantly planning your next move – it’s amazing to be capable of doing such difficult things.

I can’t pull off overly complicated moves but just hitting the shuttle around and playing a couple of rallies is fun. It feels good to hear the sound of a clean hit. We had the opportunity to learn from pro players as well as to watch a live match, and it left a big impression on me – I thought, ‘I never knew such a world existed! What a cool sport this is!’. We’re only at the level of exchanging rallies, but we hope to get even better at playing the game.

Shimabukuro: I never knew it would be quite so hard to hit the shuttle at a targeted spot, or to even make a return of serve. The ‘ball’ isn’t round – it’s a light shuttle with feathers so a lot more control is required. Plus, the court is wider than I thought it’d be. When I was playing a match with Owada-san, she was good at hitting drop shots that land right at the net and I ended up rushing in haphazardly from the back of the court (laughs)

Owada: Miyuri-chan is good at covering the court, right?

Okamoto: It’s amazing to be able to do that when you’re just a beginner.

Owada: Even when she’s at the net, she’s able to sprint to the back of the court quickly so that gets me panicky as well (laughs)

Q: The two of you could form a doubles partnership.

Owada: Shall we pair up?

Shimabukuro: That’d be great. Pro players can retrieve a shuttle at the net and then quickly chase down a shot that’s been dropped at the back of the court – their footwork and reading of play is just amazing. There’s nothing I can do but be astounded by the brain power required as well as the agility and physical strength they possess.

What’s interesting – psychological battles against opponents who have overcome physical barriers

Okamoto: It was mentioned earlier that height is seen as an indication of potential, but the fact that [being tall] is not an absolute advantage is what makes badminton intriguing. Evaluating the condition and weaknesses of your opponent and then proceeding to drop the shuttle into an area that they hate – that kind of analysis is fun, isn’t it?

As an example, we might have Owada-chan who’s good at playing drop shots – to counter them, you could either choose to play a hairpin net shot or a cross-court net shot, or you could hit a clear shot. It’s fun to choose what shots to play while anticipating your opponent’s next move.

I do think that a match might actually go on forever unless someone hits a deciding smash or makes a mistake. When I was playing badminton as a school activity I was told to study the weaknesses of my opponents.

Q: There was a scene in the manga where a character attacked their opponent’s weak backhand, wasn’t there?

Okamoto: They’re junior high school students so it’s natural to be weak at playing backhands from the back of the court. So what you do is just to return it using whatever method possible; clearing it may be your only option and a safe choice, so just take aim and hit it cleanly.

Shimabukuro: Amazing! What a lot of [badminton] jargon.

Owada: That’s the part you’re impressed by?

All: (laughter)

Ayano may be childish, but she’s a character from whom you can sense an obsession with winning

Q: Let’s talk about how you each measure up to your respective characters – tell us too, about anything special that you’re doing for your roles.

Owada: It is difficult to describe Ayano in just a few words (laughs). I had only read up to the 3rd volume by the time I attended the audition and initially, I thought that she was a cowardly, timid and shy girl but I was informed that she’s ‘a character who undergoes changes, wears different masks’. Playing the role, I was able to reaffirm that despite being awkward at handling personal relationships, [Ayano’s] a girl who possesses great determination, like most sportspersons who refuse to admit defeat. The reason she loses sight of her surroundings at times is probably down to her single-minded focus on badminton, the one thing that once connected Ayano to her mother.

Q: Her childishness remains unchanged; as if there’s a monster slumbering within her innocent nature.

Owada: Wakabayashi-san often emphasized her ‘childishness’. For example, ‘in this scene, she’s like a brat who doesn’t want to go to the dentist’ (laughs). I try my best not to allow it to appear that Ayano’s way of thinking has ever matured.

The strong Nagisa who faces badminton stoically, is the complete opposite of who I am

Shimabukuro: Though Nagisa has faced setbacks in the past and had her heart ripped to shreds, I do feel that she’s a girl who tackles badminton in a stoic manner – I had that sentiment before I started working on the show and those feelings haven’t changed. On the other hand, I would personally choose to run away if I ever got frustrated with something I love. I’d end up thinking ‘Why bother working hard if it’s gonna be pointless in the end?’.

Q: At first, Nagisa pushes Coach Tachibana away and displays a range of complicated emotions towards Ayano.

Shimabukuro: Whenever Nagisa gets frustrated she tries to overcome it alone without ever running away, which I think is cool and I respect her for that. As a final-year senior, Nagisa reaches a point where she can just watch over her juniors and the club as a whole so similarly, I can observe how [everyone] is developing over the course of recordings. Also, I’m a rather passive person myself so I try not to let that trait of mine seep through.

Owada/Okamoto: (laughter)

Okamoto: You were even bowing your head down all the way while moving about during recording.

Shimabukuro: ‘cos I think I’d be doing a disservice to Nagisa if I were to allow my meekness to show, going ‘Apologies, but I’m going to stand in front of the mic now’ (laughs). Her character is the complete opposite of my own, so I can gain courage from her.

Coach Tachibana: youthful-looking but mature & considerate of his team members

Okamoto: Tachibana is a coach who supports his students, and I was visualizing a passionate character like Matsuoka Shūzō [for my portrayal]. I was told, ‘He may be a hot-blooded guy but do please emphasize his gentle side when he’s advising the students’. I think that it’s the kindness of Tachibana that allows him to not put undue pressure on his students, but I have noticed recently that he’s a bit strict with the male team members.

All: (laughter)

Okamoto: He’s probably wary of being hated by the girls, or afraid of getting accused of sexual harassment (laughs)

Q: He’s a college student so he’s not that much older than the club members.

Okamoto: He may look like a boy but he’s quite mature. At first the club members were thinking, ‘What’s up with this perverted geezer?’ (laughs) but it turns out that he’s unexpectedly considerate when it comes to the team members. I guess things are constantly on his mind as he’s dealing with frustrations from his past and thinking about how he can live out his dream through the club members. It does seem though, that there are a lot of female players but too few male members in the club – I wonder why he chose to come to this particular school?

Owada: They can’t even join team events with only 2 male members.

Shimabukuro: They’ve got to recruit more members.

Okamoto: Ayano and Nagisa are well ahead of the pack in terms of strength, but what about the other members? I’d like to ask him what vision he has for the team, how he sees them progressing going forward.

The trio’s favourite characters are all from rival schools!?

Q: Who’s your favourite character in the series?

Owada: For me it’s Shiwahime Yuika, captain of rival school Frederisia Women’s Junior College’s high school branch. She’s imposing and cool but always watches out for her friends; I think she’s the type of woman other girls admire. If you were in the same club you’d probably go ‘I’ll follow you forever!’; she’s the sort of person you’d want to keep watching.

Shimabukuro: Same for me, I’d say Shiwahime-san as well.

Okamoto: Wow she’s popular. And she hasn’t started taking things seriously yet.

Shimabukuro: Her potential appears to be unlimited, plus she’s mysterious. You could feel the composure when she spoke to Nagisa using honorifics as they were shaking hands. I was also quite taken by the part in the manga where she zooms off to bring back Conny, who’s run away, on a scooter. I really like that kind of inconsistency in her character.

Okamoto: Ah, Fre-jo’s Conny. She has the height and long limbs that make her suitable for badminton, plus she hits amazing smashes at acute angles. I’m interested in her as she seems to be a strong character with even more potential than Nagisa. Should the 3 of us all be picking Fre-jo characters though?

Owada: Of course they’re all nice people, the Kitakomachi team members plus Elena, Ayano’s best friend. Right?

Shimabukuro: Yes! (laughs)

Watch out for Ayano’s mother Uchika, who holds the key to the story!

Q: What do you think of Ayano’s mother Uchika?

Owada: Complicated feelings, when I consider it from Ayano’s point of view. [Ayano] enjoyed playing badminton with her mom and it was the reason why she loved the game; now all of a sudden, the only person she has ever trusted is gone from her life. As a result, Ayano’s heart is a complete mess.

Okamoto: She even abandoned her parental responsibilities. You have to wonder why she bothered to get married. Ayano’s success in badminton stems from the time that she spent playing with her mom. On the other hand, it does make me shudder to think that [badminton] was all they had (to keep them connected).

Shimabukuro: It also affected other kids apart from Ayano herself..

Owada: I’m not sure what frame of mind I should approach this in, but I do know that I am looking forward to seeing how the anime handles [their story]. It’s complicated (laughs).

Hanebado! recordings are like club meetings, with the studio a club room. The fatigue from recording matches shows through too!?

Q: What’s the atmosphere during recording like?

Owada: I talk to Miyuri-chan a lot, it’s like we’re in the same club. The studio and the booths are kinda like clubrooms to us.

Okamoto: I feel like I’m an intruder in their clubroom (laughs)

Owada: Break times are relaxing but once we move into recording, it gets a little edgy. We have to keep going ‘til Wakabayashi-san is satisfied so we do need to make sure we can properly switch gears.

Shimabukuro: Everyone’s munching stuff during intervals as well; it really does feel like a club.

Owada: There was a bit of a controversial battle recently over which tastes better – ‘Kinoko no Yama’ or ‘Takenoko no Sato’ (laughs). We also bring in each other’s favourite treats as well.

Shimabukuro: The girls get excited over all the sweets, don’t we?

Q: Those extra supplies seem like a necessity since the large number of hot-blooded developments in the series would require intense physical exertion.

Shimabukuro: Indeed.

Owada: You’re right, the matches make up the bulk of the show and there are quite a few tense scenes that make us huff and puff. Once recording is over we just wilt, feeling like we had a real good workout.

Okamoto: Recording for this series does feel like it goes on longer than for other anime. The animation is pretty detailed so decisions over whether or not to include breathing for a certain part have to be take carefully.

Q: Watching the rally shown in the PV, you can clearly hear the sounds of a shuttle being hit and of it flying through the air, as well as the screech of shoes moving across the surface every time someone moves – any badminton player would be surprised by how realistic the show is.

Okamoto: It made me shiver too.

Owada: A lot of work has gone into crafting the sound so I think experienced players will surely be satisfied with what they hear.

You’ll feel the passion that’s been put into the high-quality depiction of badminton, and the level of technical competence makes you feel like you’re out there on the court!

Q: Tell us what you’re looking forward to in the anime, or what scenes you’d like to see.

Owada: First of all, I believe that fans will be concerned over how convincingly the anime depicts the matches and action as drawn in the manga, so I’d like everyone to pay attention to those parts. The battles with players from other high schools will shake Ayano’s heart to its core; I’m looking forward to the chance to portray Ayano’s varying facial expressions and emotions – how she matures, or even how she turns to the dark side.

Shimabukuro: The animation incorporates movements based on camera footage captured during real badminton matches. The scene where Riko adjusts her centre of gravity – it’s amazing that you can tell where weight is being applied solely from the visuals.

I’m looking forward to seeing not just Nagisa’s, but all of the other characters’ matches as well – how they’re animated and with sound added, how realistic they’ll turn out. I’m sure that we’ll get to taste the feeling of standing out there on the gym court, and that excites me. From Nagisa’s point of view, the matchups with Ayano are always thrilling and I’m keen to experience up-close one of Ayano’s lines [to Nagisa] from the manga: ‘That’s a surprise – it seems that you can play some nasty badminton’. There are plenty of epic matches in the manga that all seem like highlights and I’m looking forward to getting to act them out in the anime.

Okamoto: If those 2 were to duke it out in a crucial match, how would I approach it as a coach? They’re players on the same team, and I know a great deal about both. Though in the manga, I feel like [Tachibana] actually leaves Ayano to her own devices and spends more time advising Nagisa (laughs).

From a badminton player’s point of view, I’m kind of worried – the singles matches should be fine, but what about the doubles? Badminton is a quick-paced sport with a lot of movement and with 4 people involved, I think the animators are going to cry.

Owada: I’m like, ‘Wow, you can hit [the shuttle] from that position in that kind of pose!?’

Okamoto: Especially true for someone like Ayano. She’s like an acrobat.

Q: It’s a challenge to capture the realism and that sense of speed in a TV series.

Okamoto: It’s uncharted territory not just for a sports series but for anime in general. Expectations have gone up and the bar’s been set high thanks to the PV that they made. Liden Films, please do your best!

Owada/Shimabukuro: Please do your best!!

A series that club members can relate to. Please spend a hot summer with these girls!

Q: Tell us about the appeal and highlights of Hanebado!

Owada: I think anyone who’s been involved with club activities, not just specifically badminton players, will be able to relate to the show. Against a backdrop of passionate sports battles, the series develops, through the joy and the pain. I hope that you can watch it while recalling your days as part of a club, working diligently and fervently.

The show starts at the dawn of summer; feel the heat of the girls and spend your hot summer with them! Ayano is a character who’s difficult to pin down with just one phrase but as the episodes pass by you’ll get to see increasingly different sides to her that will pique your interest more and more, deepening her attractiveness [as a character]. Please keep both eyes on, and keep watching over her as she matures through her interactions with her club members and other characters.

Feel the splendour of club activities and youth through Hanebado!, the staff & cast’s crystal of badminton love

Shimabukuro: I’ve never been part of a sports club before, having preferred more casual activities. Everybody’s gathered together at the same time for this series, watching Nagisa and the rest of the characters working hard towards achieving that one goal, and it makes me think, ‘This is what a club is. This is what youth is.’ – through this [series], I have learned what joy and pleasure truly means. I’ll be glad if everyone, both badminton players and newcomers to the sport, would come to think ‘youth is a great thing’, or gain an interest in the excitement and fun of badminton [from watching the show].

There are many characters in the series, from unique personalities like Ayano to direct girls like Ayano, as well as others who watch over the problem kids, like Riko and Elena (laughs). You’ll definitely find 1 character with whom you can identify and relate to; it’ll be fun to see the similarities you might share with any of them. Please give the series a try and accept the love that the staff and us cast members have for badminton.

A show that is easy to understand for beginners but also benefits skilled players – pay attention to the Japanese badminton scene that is active on the global badminton stage!

Okamoto: Hanebado!, depicting fiery battles between girls, even manages to get the palms of a guy like me all sweaty; I am very much impressed by a show where the magnificence of sporting relationships can be felt throughout. People who’ve tried badminton or players who are experienced should surely find that the play in the series is well-executed, while newcomers will also be able to see the action clearly.

From the Takamatsu [Takahashi Ayaka & Matsutomo Misaki] pair’s Rio Olympics (gold-medal) triumph to our World No.1 ranked female player Yamaguchi Akane, to male Asian Championships winner Momota Kento – Japan’s badminton players are now performing well on the global stage, and I hope people pay attention to just how exciting [the scene] is. It might also be interesting to imagine what it’d be like if Ayano and the rest of the girls were to take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Riding this wave, I do hope that Hanebado! can get even more exciting in the future!

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#184 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.9&10 – Nakajima Yoshiki, Kawanishi Kengo & Koyama Tsuyoshi


Finally we get an all-guys interview, featuring the yakuza trio of Nitta (Nakajima), useless Sabu (Kawanishi) and Baba Kiyoshi, the new young leader of Nitta’s yakuza group (Koyama).

Pt.1

Q: Tell us your impressions of Hinamatsuri?

Kawanishi: I’ve appeared on an NHK programme* where we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘yakuza’ and had to settle on ‘ninkyō mono’ [lit: chivalrous men] as a substitute. But here, I’m allowed to say ‘yakuza’ freely.

*that would be 3gatsu no Lion, where Kawanishi plays the lead role Kiriyama Rei

Nakajima: You do have to be careful. When I appeared on a show to promote Hinamatsuri, I was told ‘It’s risky to use [the word] yakuza’ so I ended up saying ‘that self-employed profession that starts with Ya’ (laughs). Well, from society’s point of view the 3 of us are outlaws.

Koyama: Er wait…Sabu is…an outlaw?

Nakajima: He’s an idiot.

All: (laughter)

Kawanishi: He’s a fine member!

Koyama: No no no, he’s not a fine member.

Q: What were your impressions, Koyama-san?

Koyama: The gags really hit the spot for me. They’re not clichéd jokes; I like the way they riff on things. Of course there’s stuff that’s already been written into the dialogue, but there are moments in the show where the nuances change slightly. There are parts that ask questions of the performers’ [comic] senses as well. What I see is that the Hinamatsuri studio is the a gathering of a group of interesting individuals.

Nakajima: Thanks a lot.

Koyama: I thought (Nakajima-san) would be fine after we did tests for the A part of episode 1, and he got to grips with the role right away. I recall saying something like ‘that was super!’ to him. Did you feel nervous at the beginning?

Nakajima: I was feeling my way around. It was my first time hearing Hina’s voice and the A part was more or less just Hina and Nitta, plus it was my first time working with (sound director) Motoyama (Satoshi)-san. At times it felt like I was just trying to make sure the ball was within the strike zone. I was quite cautious for episode 1 but starting from episode 2 where we had Murakawa Rie-san and Hikasa Yoko-san joining in, I just went ‘Ah, whatever~’ and I started becoming a bit bolder (laughs)

Koyama: I was able to listen [to your performance] in a relaxed mood after that. I know what it feels to find your groove.

Q: Nakajima-san, what sort of person did Koyama-san seem like to you?

Nakajima: I have worked with Tsuyoshi-san at events etc before and he’s always had my back, but this is the first time we’re working in the studio together as regular cast members. His very presence brightens up the studio, lightens up the mood…cos he does fool around a bit.

Koyama: Oi oi (laughs)

Nakajima: We tend to mention the shiritori incident wherever we go.

Koyama: Really? We play shiritori during sections where we have no lines. The shiritori always turns a bit…erotic. It’s interesting to see the kind of fetishes people have.

Nakajima: We can’t be doing that in the studio so we’d be playing around in the waiting area. Someone will kick things off with some random word and he’ll say (imitating Koyama’s voice) ‘Oh, that’s good’ or ‘so you could go with that’. ‘Ah, so you have such tastes’. Tsuyoshi-san has a very wide range of knowledge, don’t you?

Koyama: It’s OK as long as you can ‘catch my drift’.

Q: It’s said that your casting for this role was based on your looks. What was it like when you received the offer?

Koyama: I tend to get a lot of antagonist boss characters, bad guys, that kind of thing. But it might be my first true ‘yakuza’. I mean, it’s kinda rare for shows to openly mention ‘yakuza’. It’s a bit weird for me to say that this kind of role is in my wheelhouse, but I do like ninkyō works like The Yakuza Papers so I had fun with this.

Q: There are yakuza, but the series itself tends to have a lot of comical scenes. Acting-wise, how do you approach the comedy?

Koyama: That would entail interpreting the meaning (of the script), remaining faithful to the [overall] flow. It wouldn’t be interesting at all if you made up the jokes yourself, would it? There are places where you can fool around, but don’t go overboard and express the best parts as precisely as possible.

Q: Kawanishi-san, how’s playing Sabu going for you?

Kawanishi: It was hard for me to get to grips with the role at first. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing during the first episode and it took a bit of exploring before I eased into it.

Nakajima: I think everyone was just feeling their way around for episode 1. It may have been harder for Sabu since he had like, one line?

Q: How long did it take for you to get to grips with Sabu?

Kawanishi: I think probably the episode after that. In episode 1 all I said was ‘That’s a 100-yen shop’ so I think it was from episode 2 onwards.

Q: Do the first episodes of all shows feel like that; like you’re groping around in the dark?

Nakajima: Hinamatsuri was like that for us, but I think the director and staff members were fumbling around as well. They were all very familiar with the source material, but there was a sense that they were trying to explore the visions they each had for the show while at the same time, determining how much they should delegate to us [actors].

Q: Are there any points that you’re careful about when it comes to acting for this series?

Kawanishi: It depends on the series at hand – for some, you’d have to read into the true intentions where (a character who says) ‘yes’ may actually mean ‘no’, but for Hinamatsuri it’s much easier – a yes means yes, so I was able to handle the role without too much difficulty.

Q: So there weren’t too many specific instructions?

Kawanishi: Past episode 1 I was more or less allowed to do whatever I wanted.

Nakajima: Sometimes the stuff that people came up with during tests would be from the left-field – it was fun.

Koyama: There are many ways in which you can choose to handle a comedic work like this, and I’m always looking for the most interesting approach. There were instances when my own choice wasn’t the best one. I had this one line that went something like ‘you’re cut!*’, didn’t I?

Nakajima: ‘What you are now, is cut’’.

Koyama: During tests I tried out a couple of different patterns, ‘What you are now, is cut!’ or just ‘you’re cut!’. We went with ‘What you are now, is cut!’ in the end, done in a cheery tone.

*phrase used here is ズルムケ (zurumuke), slang for a circumcised penis. note: this phrase is used in relation to an earlier joke where Baba says to Nitta that he wants him to ‘grow up’, using the phrase 一皮剝け (hitokawa o muke, lit: peeling off a layer of skin. ‘kawa’ is also used as slang referring to foreskin), and he follows up by saying ‘you’re now zurumuke!’ (your skin’s now completely peeled off!). Incidentally, Crunchyroll’s choice of translation for this pair of lines was 1. ‘I want you to grow a pair’, 2. ‘now you’ve got a throbbing one!’

Pt.2

Q: Do you have any favourite characters in Hinamatsuri?

Kawanishi: Utako for me.

Nakajima: Oh, that’s unusual.

Kawanishi: Really? (laughs) She’s a mature lady, isn’t she? Nitta tried to hit on her as well. I did wonder how things would develop between them – when the charms of Hikasa (Yoko)-san are added to the mix, she becomes a character whose appeal is completely incomprehensible. Hikasa-san plays the role with so much power every time, to the point where she has to be told to ‘please tone it down’.

Nakajima: ‘Do it in a normal way!’

Kawanishi: They said that. And all for a character who has so little charm (laughs). She even disappears from the opening and ending sequences.

Nakajima: It’s ‘cos she messes around too much.

Koyama: If you look at things in a certain way, you can see that the sub characters have a lot of depth to them.

Nakajima: And the people voicing them are ‘deep’ as well.

Koyama: I thought Hondo (Kaede)-chan was interesting too. It’s my first time working with her in the studio, and I heard weird sounds coming from her – like that part where the classmates come in and she goes ‘kka—-’. I thought, ‘this girl does make good sounds’.

Q: The characters in the show frequent the Little Song bar – did you guys go to bars together?

Nakajima: I wanted to go drinking with everyone.

Q: But the show records during the daytime, doesn’t it?

Nakajima: After the Nico stream on the 3rd of March, I did go to a bar with Tanaka (Takako)-san and Hondo san. Hondo-san had a daiquiri.

Q: It seems Hondo-san is quite capable of holding her drink.

Nakajima: Yeah she seems strong. On the other hand we have Tanaka-san who’s totally unable to drink. The 3rd of March is Hinamatsuri, so she told the bartender ‘I want a Hinamatsuri-like cocktail’ and the bartender made a face like ??. People normally ask for a certain colour or taste; this must’ve been the first time anyone made a request based on a special event. You’d probably be able to imagine what a summery drink might be, or what something that reminds you of spring could resemble, but to be asked point-blank for [something that tastes like] ‘Hinamatsuri’… I had to hurriedly cut in and ask for ‘something pink and sweet! And non-alcoholic!’.

Q: Girls with psychic powers appear in Hinamatsuri. If you had superpowers what would you use them for?

Nakajima: Other than lewd stuff.

All: (laughter)

Koyama: I thought about it, but came up empty. I don’t think it’s such a good idea to be able to see certain things or to know what people are thinking. Ignorance is bliss. So I don’t need that.

Nakajima: How about teleportation?

Koyama: But hmm, I like being on the move. In a car or on a bike. If I had to pick something, I’d probably be a time-traveller. Since I really do like history.

Nakajima: To the past?

Koyama: Yeah, to the past. The future’s good, but I’d rather go to the past. I’d like to see what certain people were doing at certain times in that era.

Kawanishi: If a person who had the intention of harming me suddenly appeared in front of me, I’d like to have the ability to send them flying off to some remote island somewhere.

Koyama: That’s scary! You seem like you’d be good at the cursing game!

Nakajima: You normally wouldn’t [think of] doing things like that since you don’t have the power to, but if you did you’d definitely make use of it.

Koyama: That’s right, you’d probably do it.

Kawanishi: And you’d leave no evidence behind (laughs)

Koyama: Wooh, scary.

Q: Please tell us what we should look forward to in future episodes.

Kawanishi: Hinamatsuri may be the title of the series, but Hina’s not the only one it focuses on – there are plenty of other charming characters that appear. Enough to make you think, ‘Hmm? Where’s Hina?’, as there are episodes where she doesn’t even feature. Hina will probably appear in the last episode though, so please look forward to that.

Koyama: Whether it’s Utako, the Rock-sion members or even the homeless Yassan and the Hayashi couple from the Chinese restaurant – there are plenty of characters who are living such fulfilling lives, who I feel are more than just mere sub-characters. And smack in the middle of this rich cast of characters we have our leading duo Hina and Nitta. I think it’s great how this series weaves together the story of these 2 with tales featuring the other characters, even stuff about their private lives. It’s the first time for these 2 [seiyuu] to lead a production and they’re livening up the studio – that mood gets across to us over-50s as well. I hope that we have the opportunity to explore future developments with the same cast lineup. Our ‘chairman’ Yoshiki’s doing his best at a lot of things. It was like stepping onto a battlefield at first – was that the idea, Yoshiki?

Nakajima: That’s right.

Koyama: If you don’t have someone to take the lead then you normally wouldn’t bother. But he managed to bridge that gap between the director/staff [and the cast] right away. When you have a leader who’s proactive, it all becomes a lot easier to organize. From my point of view, it all came about since Yoshiki probably feels very strongly about Hinamatsuri.

Nakajima: Yes, it’s my first time leading [the cast of] a production.

Koyama: As expected. I could feel that spirit coming across and I knew from the start that ‘this will be a great cast to work with’.

Nakajima: Recording takes place from morning ‘til noontime, so it was quite hard to get everyone together. We started work on this in December last year which was great timing, with myself, Producer Yoshitake-san and Hikasa-san taking charge of the New Year’s party. We invited all the staff members to come as well, and the turnout was great. I was very happy to see the Director and other members of the anime production team turn up – that encouraged me to give my best. This is a recording studio where you do indeed, feel a lot of love.

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

…I guess I should apologize for my inability to adequately translate penis jokes. サーセン。
PS. only around 1% of adult males in Japan are circumcised.

#183 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.7&8 – Tanaka Takako, Nakajima Yoshiki & Murakawa Rie


Next up is an interview with Nitta (Nakajima), his de-facto daughter Hina (Tanaka) and the daughter he would rather have, Anzu (Murakawa).

Pt.1

Q: The anime has aired 6 episodes so far. Do let us know your thoughts on the show right now.

Tanaka: In the A part (of episode 6), Hina finds out that she’s going to visit Nitta’s family home and rather unusually, she tries to put in a bit more effort. It was so cute to see her insisting that she’s not Nitta’s daughter. But the most memorable scene definitely has to be the chilli shrimp bit. If you pay close attention you’ll see bullets flying around during the flashback scene – it gives you a very surreal feeling and it’s both amazing and amusing. It made me think, ‘Ah, so that’s how it goes!’. Also, the background art of Nitta’s family home were drawn so beautifully, it looked like a real home…and the necklace Nitta’s mom was wearing looked really expensive…

Nakajima: You look at the strangest places.

Tanaka: She’s wearing something so pricey, I wondered if it was a keepsake from his father (laughs). But in the B part showing the the Hayashi couple, Mrs Hayashi was wearing a similar necklace as well so I was thinking ‘Hmm? Could Nitta’s father actually be a son of the Hayashi household…’

Nakajima: No way in hell!

All: (laughter)

Tanaka: I was imagining all sorts of things.

Q: How about you, Nakajima-san?

Nakajima: The art is great! There’s a lot of movement! There are a great number of animated works these days and this one has top drawer art despite the fact that it’s a comedy anime – that feels like a joke by itself. The TV broadcast has already reached the halfway mark but the art remains as consistent as ever without being off by as much as a single millimetre – you can truly feel the passion and power of the staff. I’m very grateful as well, that it’s gotten such a good reception from both manga readers and anime viewers. But I’m actually shocked to find out that Hina’s more of a useless idiot than I’d thought…

Tanaka: Ehhh!

Nakajima: I mean, when you think about it rationally Hina’s just a really horrible person (laughs) It’s bizarre that people accept her for who she is, but that’s the kind of fascinating thing that’s unique to works of fiction like this.

Q: Tanaka-san, have you heard any impressions from the people around you?

Tanaka: I got told by lots of people that ‘The two of you are totally different~’. When I was in Tokushima for the Machi Asobi event, many people said things like ‘I watched Hinamatsuri!’ and ‘You’re the opposite of Hina!’ to me as well. Even though Hina speaks so impassively there were still many who’ll say that she’s cute, and accept her for she is. Citizens of Japan, your hearts are so wide open!

Q: And now for Murakawa-san, who plays angelic Anzu – how has it been for you?

Murakawa: Anzu is the very embodiment of purity. So pure, so honest, so gentle… ‘ah, there’s an angel amongst us’ is what you’d say of her. Manga readers will know that Anzu is an ‘angel’ and I think those who start off with the anime will come to learn that she ‘truly is an angel’. So, as the person who voices her, all I can think is ‘You guys are right!’ (laughs)

Q: Hinamatsuri is filled with such contradictory characters. If you were forced to take one of them in, who would you…

Nakajima: I would totally decline!

Tanaka: Please take Hina in!

Nakajima: No way. I don’t have anywhere near as much money as Nitta does. You wake up in the morning and you see a 2.5 million yen bill in front of you…what would you do? To be honest, I’d rather have Nitta-san take me in (laughs)

Q: What about Hitomi? She seems like someone you could take in.

Nakajima: Ah, but if I took Hitomi in, the chances are high that she would get hired out [to the yakuza].

Tanaka: The probability is high.

Nakajima: The president’s a big shot so her life would become unbearable.

Q: What about you, Tanaka-san?

Tanaka: I’d take the President [of Nitta’s yakuza group].

Nakajima: You’d take him in!? You’re just after the inheritance, aren’t you?

Tanaka: No, it’s not about his assets. When he shows his fondness for her by going ‘Ah~ Hina-chan, Hina-chan’…it doesn’t have to be from Hina’s point of view – personally, I’d feel safe if I lived with the President.

Murakawa: You’d…feel safe…would you?

Tanaka: Most people would normally pick Anzu. I love Hina but…I don’t think I could stand her. I hate ikura so our diets wouldn’t fit. If I was to get up in the morning to find out that we were eating ikura rice bowls, a massive fight would break out. I hear that couples with mismatching food preferences often split up – I guess it’s the same with friends.

Nakajima: Ok let’s stop there. I’ll take her in.

Q: You guys seem to be having a lot of fun – do you do a lot of ad-libbing during recordings?

Nakajima: Actually, there’s almost next to no ad-libbing. Both the script and the manga are already fun by themselves so there was a common understanding amongst the staff members that the goal would be to reproduce the [existing material] as best as they possibly can. So there weren’t a lot of people thinking about bringing something different to the table.

Murakawa: Basically, we were doing what was necessary. We’d produce very precise performances and it was only when the staff members requested for added flourishes that we’d do a bit more.

Nakajima: As an example, in episode 3 there’s a scene where Hina becomes homeless and begs for change on the streets while Nitta and Anzu are walking around laughing – the script called for ad-libs, but we ended up recording the lines from the manga as they were originally written.

Tanaka: I often got told to say throwaway bits of speech as clearly as possible. Like the word ‘Hyahha’ – I was told ‘Please say Hyahha twice, firmly’. Or something random like ‘Ukyakyakyakyakya’; I’d have to say ‘Ukyakyakyakyakya’ precisely without missing any syllables.

Nakajima: Yeah, in the scripts it’s not written ‘(make a strange sound)’ but it’s Ukyakyakyakyakya instead (laughs). They print it exactly as it is, so the script does make for hilarious reading. But I do think the person who does the most ad-libs is this one here [referring to Tanaka].

Tanaka: Eh, is that so?

Nakajima: Yeap.

Tanaka: Ah, during the chilli shrimp part in episode 6 the sound staff did say to, ‘Just say whatever ad-lib at this part’, so I went ‘chilli shrimp, chilly-chilly….’

Nakajima: In episode 1 Nitta turns the hair dryer on Hina and she goes ‘Ahhhhh’ but when you think about it rationally, you have to wonder what the point of that was. It would make sense if the hairdryer’s blowing in your face, but to say ‘Ahhhhh’ when it’s blowing at your back…they kept the scene for the anime, but I don’t get why there was any sound being made in the first place. In the 2nd episode when they’re doing Acchi Muite Hoi, Hina goes ‘Ahhhhhh’ again and Anzu had no choice but to reply ‘Uaaaaaaaah’ in kind. (The staff) were all like, ‘Is it fine to have Anzu doing that too?’ (laughs)

Tanaka: Eh? So it was based on what I did…??

Nakajima: This series revolves around you.

Tanaka: The world revolves around me…

Murakawa: Not to that extent. Not the world!

Tanaka: Hinamatsuri revolves around me….

Nakajima: There might be times where you move in a good direction. ‘Maybe’.

Tanaka: ‘Maybe’ huh. Maybe. I’m not so sure that I’m going in the right direction…

Nakajima: No…you are going the right away…

Tanaka: Thank you!

Nakajima: This is [Nakajima], reporting from the studio.

Q: Is this what it’s like in the recording studio?

Nakajima: Yes it is (laughs)

Pt. 2

Q: For episode 6, the ending theme isn’t Nitta’s song but one by Ishida Yoko – what were your impressions of it?

Nakajima: I thought, ‘Why aren’t you using Sake to Ikura to 893 [Yakuza] to Onna!’ (laughs). Ishida Yōko’s song is too good (laughs). When you’ve finished watching that, you won’t remember a single thing that happened in the A part.

Murakawa: It was amazing to have Yoko-san’s beautiful vocal coming in at that point. I’d heard that episode 6 would have a special ending but had no idea as to who would be singing or what kind of song it would be. So when Yoko-san’s beautiful voice comes in together with precious Anzu’s smile, and then we see Yassan with a smile on his face as well – the lyrics and the song were just too amazing. Watching all the way to the end made me realize how it truly was the best episode ever.

Nakajima: Every week we have to hear my own song as the ending theme – now that I’ve heard a real singer’s song being used for episode 6, I’m starting to feel embarrassed…I wish they’ll stop using it from next episode onwards! Ah, why did I sing in such a casual manner… why!

Tanaka: The ending sequence for episode 6 focused on just one illustration – Anzu and the homeless guys.

Nakajima: It seems like a family photo, but you’ve got the homeless guys in the background. So do not be fooled!

Murakawa: The art was just way too gorgeous as well.

Tanaka: It makes a difference when so much passion is put in.

Q: Let’s talk about the ending theme ‘Sake to Ikura to 893 to Onna’, which is on sale now. How did you find singing the song?

Nakajima: Why am I, Nitta, singing such a good song? (laughs)

Murakawa: That’s another very ‘Hinamatsuri-like’ way of making you laugh.

Nakajima: Plus the ending visuals have a pretty good vibe. There are 3 different illustrations being used – the last one shows the major characters having fun in Little Song, and it somehow stirs up strange emotions within me. It starts off with Nitta and Hina and gradually expands to show Atsushi and so on. And you make new discoveries [for that illustration] with each passing episode.

Murakawa: That’s right. Your impressions of the ending after seeing the 1st and 2nd episode will change as you progress through the series.

Q: The song sounds like it has enka or kayōkyoku influences – do you usually listen to such genres, Nakajima-san?

Nakajima: I don’t, but enka and kayōkyoku-inspired tunes are really easy to sing for me. Much easier than [contemporary] pop, I think.

Q: What were your thoughts when you learned that this song would serve as the ending theme?

Nakajima: In a harem anime, the MC is usually an ordinary guy who doesn’t stand out – it’s the girls who are the main characters. So who could’ve anticipated Nitta, a guy who’s in a similar position as a harem lead, to sing the ending theme so sonorously? (laughs)

Q: It’s a song that makes you feel good when you hear it.

Nakajima: I’d be happy to hear that people liked singing it at karaoke. So please give it a go.

Q: Murakawa-san, your opening theme Distance is also getting released soon. What was it like seeing the song go together with the opening visuals?

Murakawa: It was a perfect fit. After we’d finished recording the final episode, Director Oikawa said to me that ‘the opening visuals might be just a bunch of memes’. I was wondering what he meant, so when I saw it on TV I went ‘So that’s what he means!!’. It’s a refreshing song that might seem like the opposite of what Hinamatsuri is about – perhaps fans of the manga would think that it doesn’t match the image of the series but once you see the visuals and stumble across its ‘hidden meaning’, you’ll definitely get it.

Nakajima: There isn’t any other opening out there that tells you so little about the actual content of the anime as this one (laughs). It explains nothing. It’s just cut after cut of Hina holding a bowl of ikura.

Murakawa: Bowls me over too – just how much ikura has she got!?

Nakajima: “Bowl” huh.

Murakawa: I didn’t do that deliberately!

Tanaka: When she wakes up, there’s a bowl of ikura there.

Nakajima: Right next to her.

Murakawa: My first thought was ‘surely it’s gonna be all dried up?’

Nakajima: And then you see Nitta bringing another ikura bowl to the table.

Tanaka: Though he’s not even gonna eat it.

Nakajima: It feels like a parody of the typical anime opening. And Utako’s in pretty much every single cut.

Murakawa: Yeah I’ve had others mentioning that to me too. My radio show staff watched it and said to me ‘I saw your opening. I’m scared that we’ll get more and more Utakos’.

Nakajima: Of course we won’t! (laughs)

Murakawa: I think he was referring to the frequency of her appearances (laughs), that she’d appear in every single cut. It’d be an Utako festival. The opening.

Tanaka: In the final cut, Nitta and Utako look like a dad and mom (to Hina).

Murakawa: I wonder what that shot of the 3 of them was all about (laughs). I suppose Utako shoved her way into the final cut – it looks really nice if surreal, but still touching.

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

#182 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.5&6 –Hikasa Yoko & Hondo Kaede

The series continues with the I’m Enterprise senior-junior pairing Hikasa Yoko (Utako) and Hondo Kaede (Hitomi), who also host the anime’s radio show Hinamatsuri Welcome to Little Song! (the name of Utako’s bar).

Pt.1

Q: Tell us your thoughts upon learning that you had been cast as Utako.

Hikasa: I didn’t have any part to play in episode 1 so I wasn’t present (at the studio). It was around the timing of the recording of the first episode that I got an invite to join the anime’s SNS group – that was actually how I learned that I would be in the anime. I had to ask the others ‘so which role am I playing?’, and they told me that I was Utako.

Q: Hikasa-san – you read the manga and it seems that you’re quite a fan of the series. Do you put in extra effort when auditioning for a series that you love?

Hikasa: That’s right, I did give my all to this. I was even told to ‘please tone it down a bit’ during the auditions. During recordings from episode 2 all the way ‘til the finale, they had to keep reminding me. That ‘You’re overdoing it’ (laughs). I guess I was just hitting the anime with 120% of my love.

Q: Do tell us what you found appealing about the role once you actually got to play Utako.

Hikasa: Two things – the nice lady that she seems to be when she first appears, and her true nature that only shows up after she’s hired Hitomi. She makes Hitomi do a bunch of stuff while doing absolutely nothing herself, sitting there going ‘Yay, the money is rolling in ♪’ – that’s the kind of trashy personality, or pimp*-like nature, that she has (laughs). I think those 2 sides of her shows just how human she is. Though it’s quite tough to describe her as being feminine… People like Anzu and Hina are literally otherworldly since they have super powers and so on, but someone like Hitomi too, is otherworldly…in a different kind of way (laughs). I think human beings in general, if they’re told ‘it’s alright to be lazy’, then they would definitely take advantage of that and be as lazy as possible. I tried to keep in mind that gap between her lively side and her trashy side as I was playing the role.

*phrase used here is ヒモ (himo), used to describe a man who is financially dependent on a woman

Q: Do you think you’re similar to Utako in any way?

Hikasa: I’m not sure if I resemble her, but I did find her easy to play. I was allowed to do my part freely, so I had a lot of fun during recordings.

Q: Hondo-san, what were your thoughts when you found out that Hikasa-san would be playing Utako?

Hondo: Ah….. I think it was just whom I expected (laughs)

Hikasa: Eh—– (laughs)

Q: On the other hand, what were your thoughts when you learned that Hondo-san would be playing Hitomi?

Hikasa: The image I have of Hondo-chan is that of a ‘lively girl’ – that cheerfulness of hers does shine through, so I did think ‘That’s a surprise~’ when I found out she was doing Hitomi. But when I saw her performance in episode 2, I knew she was a perfect fit for the role. She’d throw in witty jokes during the parts where Hitomi sticks out her tongue and add intensity to the scenes where she turns pale – in a way, those areas were close to what I know of Hondo-chan. She’s also a very well-behaved girl who always does a great job when needed to.

Q: Do you have any other favourite characters asides from Utako?

Hikasa: The male staffers are mostly Anzu fanboys, though I’ve heard that the Director himself is a Mao fan. For me, I value the relationships between the characters above them as individuals. I also love the father & daughter-but-not-really relationship between Nitta and Hina, as well the Nitta who wants Anzu to call him ‘Dad’.

Hondo: I like Atsushi-san. Maybe ‘cos he has an overwhelming presence? He’s really funny in the manga as well. I love those scenes where he’s floating like an ‘Angel’ in the sky while singing. That part from episode 4 where Atsushi’s performing his song is really outrageous (laughs). He’s a guy who keeps moving forward, living his dream. I expect more from him in the future.

Q: Have there been any particularly memorable scenes for you thus far?

Hondo: In part A of the 4th episode, where Nitta’san’s subjected to the ‘Go home!’ abuse. Utako says to Hitomi, ‘Bring the salt!’ and hurls it on the floor outside her bar. Actually, that scene with Utako-san shouting is fully ad-libbed – I really loved it.

Hikasa: It was 100% ad-libbed.

Hondo: It’s so amazing, I want people who’ve recorded the episode to go back and watch that part.

Q: What’s your favourite scene, Hikasa-san?

Hikasa: I love how Hinamatsuri takes its entire cast, including the mob characters, and livens things up. The scene that was memorable for me was from episode 2, when they went to the cabaret club with the other customers. That was the scene where I first appear, and for it to have [Utako] join her bar regulars in their ‘Kya-ba-ku-ra’ call in such a nonplussed manner, with the mood gradually heightening, was just hilarious. After Hinamatsuri is over I just feel like screaming ‘WTF!’.

Pt 2

Q: The radio show Hinamatsuri – Welcome to Little Song! is now being distributed via online streaming. Please let us what your thoughts were on recording for the first show.

Hondo: I was told that I was too laid-back.

Hikasa: Are you feeling ill today?

Hondo: That’s just what they said to me (laughs). I thought I was just doing it like normal but it seems that my nerves were showing. When my manager informed me that I was going to be doing the radio show with Hikasa-san I was like, ‘Oh, crap. Crapppp’.

Hikasa: Eh…..?

Hondo: I’ve been feeling nervous for a long time.

Q: Hondo-san, perhaps you felt pressured by having to do a radio show with your [agency] senior?

Hondo: That’s right. Hikasa-san isn’t just any normal senior to me; she’s a senior whom I’ve always respected so I was super nervous in that sense.

Hikasa: But I’ve guested on other shows she’s been in etc, so it’s not like it’s our first time working together – personally, I didn’t feel any strain at all (laughs). Hondo-chan’s probably got other things on her mind as well.

Q: Hikasa-san, how did you feel when you found out you’d be doing the radio show with Hondo-san?

Hikasa: We were actually together when we first heard about it. I was like, ‘Yayyy. Let’s do our best!’

Q: The radio show’s premise is that it’s being delivered from a bar [Little Song] – have the two of you ever gone drinking with each other?

Hikasa: If we finish (recording) early then we could go. I keep thinking that she’s very young though. Were you a teenager when we first met?

Hondo: We first met when I was 19.

Hikasa: Oh yes, that’s right. Of course I do know that you’re over 20 now, but that youthful impression lingers in my mind so it’s kinda hard to casually say to you, ‘Yo let’s go for a beer’.

Hondo: But I can hold my drink quite well, surprisingly.

Hikasa: You can!?

Hondo: I’m not too good with beer yet, but I like stuff like red wine.

Hikasa: It’s amazing that you skipped the beer and moved straight onto wine. So you go for wine huh. And what’s more, red wine!

Hondo: In episode 2, [Hitomi] made a daiquiri. I’ve had one before and it was good.

Hikasa: Really? That’s surprising! Somehow, it feels like your tastes are a lot more mature than mine.

Q: How about you Hikasa-san, do you drink?

Hikasa: I do drink, but it depends on my physical condition. There are days when a single pint of beer makes me go ‘Ok! That’s my limit. Taxi, please!’, while there are other days where I’ll crack open a bottle of wine. I do need to consider [my schedule for] the next day so I have to be careful not to drink too much. But alcohol makes food taste better, and I do love going for meals and drinks with my favourite people.

Q: Are there any drinks that you’d recommend to Hondo-san?

Hikasa: Nope, I don’t get alcohol at all (laughs). Hondo-senpai, please teach me!

Hondo: Ehhhhhhhh!

Hikasa: Hondo-senpai, do you know of any drinks that would be suitable for Hikasa?

Hondo: Mio Sparkling is delicious.

Hikasa: It’s good! I know what you mean. Mio Sparkling sake is delicious!

Hondo: You can sip it slowly.

Hikasa: You’ll regret it later for sure. Like, ‘Ah, I’ve drunk too much~’/

Hondo: …I’ve been okay so far.

Hikasa: Too strong! This kid drinks like a fish*! I think I might start on shochu soon. I could probably go for that.

Hondo: Shochu! I’d like to try that too!

Hikasa: Maybe makgeolli too!

Hondo: Makgeolli does taste good!

Hikasa: Ah man. This kid already has a taste for that (laughs)

Hondo: I handled it pretty well, surprisingly.

*term used here is zaru, which is a draining basket similar to a sieve or colander (example: zarusoba is soba served on a zaru). A zaru has the ability to soak up liquids, which is why it’s used as slang to refer to a person who can drink a lot without getting drunk

Q: You don’t get any hangovers at all?

Hondo: At this point in time, I haven’t noticed any changes. Actually I think that that’s quite scary in itself. My ideal situation would be to have fun and get drunk but unfortunately, nothing seems to happen…

Hikasa: But you’d smell like alcohol.

Hondo: I do get told that quite often.

Hikasa: Let’s wrap up (the radio recording) as quickly as possible so that we can go drinking.

Hondo: I wanna go to a bar or something. It’s a good opportunity.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to do for the radio show in future?

Hikasa: During the first episode, that cocktail I had as a punishment was horrible… I never want to taste the hell that is citric acid* ever again. Therefore, I’d like to make this a radio show where we take things seriously, as if we’re walking on a tightrope.

Hondo: (laughs) It certainly was a terrible punishment, a sort of penalty game that I’d never experienced before. That citric acid was quite heavy-handed, really strong stuff.

Hikasa: Though it might be good for the body. But there has to be limits, surely.

Hondo: For me, it’s a radio show that I’m doing with a person I love so I want to observe [Hikasa] and learn. I am aiming to build a relationship between us that will someday, allow her to shout ‘Bring me yakisoba bread!’ at me (laughs)

*note: There’s a corner on the Hinamatsuri Welcome to Little Song! radio where they pick the name of the drink based on the given ingredients. Only the correct guess gets the nice drink, and the rest get a drink with something dreadful mixed in. And alas, Hikasa did not achieve her wish and tasted citric acid in her cocktail again a couple of episodes after that w

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

#181 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.3&4 –Tanaka Takako & Murakawa Rie


Continuing the series of Hinamatsuri interviews is Vols 3 & 4 featuring the voices behind the Hina-Anzu pairing, girls (?) from a similar background but with such contrasting fates in our world. Anzu is so precious…!

Pt 1

Q: Now that the show has started airing, please give us your impressions of it.

Tanaka: The art is too beautiful! The visuals were already done by the time we went for recordings and they looked good then, but they look even more amazing now. And they’re moving so smoothly There’s so much detail, to the point where I’m thinking, ‘Eh, they move that much!?’. And oh, Hina-chan’s cute!!

Murakawa: The anime’s cute, the manga’s cute too. Both are cute.

Tanaka: They’re both cute! All the heroines are cute!!

Q: You do keep track of viewer reactions on Twitter as well.

Tanaka: It’s my first lead role so I was curious about how people would react and I had a look. I do tweet in real-time as well. I enjoy sharing in the fun with everyone else.

Q: There was a viewing party held on the evening the first episode was broadcast, with Director Oikawa (Kei) and author Ōtake Masao-sensei, other staff members and some of the cast present.

Tanaka: That’s right. I was there too.

Q: What were your impressions of the screening seesion?

Tanaka: It starts. [The characters] appear. Huge laughter, along with cheers of ‘Yay-’. I laugh at the same places that I laughed at during recording. One of the lines at the start, ‘My smartphone…!’ was one that the Director had specifically emphasized – everyone loved it and laughed along.

Q: Murakawa-san, were you there too?

Murakawa: I would have loved to go but was unable to, as I had an event in Sendai the following day.

Q: Seems like the recording studio is as fun as the anime itself appears to be. Was there good teamwork from the beginning?

Tanaka: We still hadn’t found out who had been cast as Anzu when we were recording episode 1. I was wondering who it would be, and I found out later on through SNS (laughs)

Murakawa: Same for me. I didn’t know who else would be voicing what character until I saw it on SNS.

Tanaka: Done in such a laidback way, Hinamatsuri-style.

Murakawa: It feels that way for sure. But when I saw Hikasa-san’s name on SNS I guessed ‘…gotta be Utako-san, right?’ straight away (laughs)

Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the recording studio?

Tanaka: It’s very cheerful.

Murakawa: There are a lot of people there after all. I only came in from episode 2, but I’d already started communicating with the others before that in our SNS group so I was like ‘Ahh!’ when I arrived at the studio. It was a strange feeling.

Tanaka: It’s like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you!’ but ‘it doesn’t feel like my first time meeting you’.

Q: Is it a common thing to create SNS groups for a particular series?

Murakawa: It was quite unusual in that a group was created right from the start. Most of the time, it’s only after recording has begun that you see little circles or groups forming. For this particular show, there are many faces that are familiar individually and its those individual ties that have helped to form one big circle.

Tanaka: Groups started to form from episode 1. It was Nakajima-san who took the initiative to expand those little circles. Nakajima-san is a really nice guy, like a big brother to me.

Q: What were your impressions of each other?

Tanaka: ‘Kind, gentle, small-faced, slim’ – that’s like a 4-piece golden combo!

Murakawa: Thanks (laughs)

Tanaka: Also, you have a loud voice!

Murakawa: Is that meant to be a compliment??

Tanaka: It is. When I get nervous my voice gets quieter ‘til I get told, ‘Eh, what did you just say?’. I want to be like Rietion, whose laughter can be heard all the way from the waiting area next to the [recording] booth…

Murakawa: That sounds like a diss to me though? Are you being serious??

Tanaka: It’s a compliment!

Murakawa: Okay, if you say so (laughs)

Tanaka: You have such great presence – I get so excited that I’m at a loss for words when I’m talking to you.

Murakawa: I see, so I have the power to draw you in.

Tanaka: Yes, I am pulled in by Rietion’s laughter and it makes me laugh too.

Murakawa: Is that one of my charm points? (laughs)

Tanaka: It is! It’s a way of laughing that makes everyone happy.

Q: Murakawa-san, what’s your impression of Tanaka-san?

Murakawa: I didn’t think she had a small voice at all so I’m surprised to hear what she just said. I think she’s the complete opposite of Hina. Hina tends not to allow her facial expressions reflect her mood changes while (Tanaka-san) on the other hand, talks a lot and is cheerful. The two of them might share the same comical nature. It’s not intentional, but they do come up with the most amazing remarks.

Tanaka: I do?

Murakawa: Hmm, how should I put it? It’s like, there’s value in playing the straight man (to her fool). There are times when you do think ‘what the heck did she mean?’ or ‘I think she’s got the wrong idea?’ (laughs)

Tanaka: It is true that most of my friends and co-stars say that I’m the complete opposite of Hina. I didn’t actually think I was, so I’m surprised to hear people say to the contrary. It made me think, ‘Ah, so I’m the total opposite of Hina’.

Pt 2

Q: Are there any aspects that you’re particularly careful about when it comes to playing Anzu?

Murakawa: At first, I was emphasizing the ‘fun’ aspects of the show through my acting but over time, the instructions I received turned into things like ‘you don’t need to make it sound funny’ or ‘Anzu is cute. Don’t kill that cuteness’. By the second half of the show Anzu’s angelic aura has been awakened and I was banned from ‘making her sound funny’ – my only mission was to ‘make her an angel’.

Q: In episode 2 we see Hina and Anzu using their super powers to do battle – if the two of you could have a super power, what would it be?

Tanaka: Cleaning. I was just cleaning up yesterday and there was about 15 garbage bags’ worth of garbage. You can’t throw clothes away, can you… my apartment is in the state where you can’t even take a single step back or forth. That’s why I want a super power to help me clean my room. Do it like ‘fwip, fwip, sparkle!’

Murakawa: Mine is a standard choice – I really want to be able to fly.

Tanaka: Let’s fly! Let’s go!

Q: That battle scene in episode 2 really was something else.

Murakawa: It was funny enough in the manga already but once you see it in motion it becomes even more hilarious. The director and the other staff members have great respect for the manga, so it was a scene they wanted to get right.

Tanaka: When they were playing Acchi Muite Hoi and their faces go UEEEEEEEEEEEEE – there actually wasn’t any dialogue written into the script. When you see that part animated you do feel that there definitely should be voices to accompany the scene and I was given a free hand to do whatever I wanted.

Q: My impression was that you were shivering and talking at the same time.

Tanaka: That was my first time doing something like that. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be pulled by the force of gravity, and since it’s Hina I had to try to not do it in such a loud voice.

Q: Tanaka-san spoke about her audition in a previous interview. What about Murakawa-san, do you remember what your audition was like?

Murakawa: Actually, it had been decided earlier on that I would be doing the theme song. I love Hinamatsuri so I was like ‘Yay!’, and then I also found out that I’d be auditioning for the show. Never in my dreams did I think I would get chosen to play Anzu; I was insanely happy. People will probably think that I’m only in the show ‘cos I perform the theme song but it seems that my casting was because I fit Anzu really well, so that made me very happy.

Tanaka: From my conversations with the producers, the Director and the author Ōtake-san, they’ve all said that the person who fit the characters best was selected for each of the roles.

Murakawa: Ya hear that, guys? I’m glad!

Q: Now tell us what the highlights of your theme song Distance are.

Murakawa: The lyrics of the song are very much related to Hinamatsuri; they’re written for Nitta and Hina. It might not make much sense to those who don’t read the manga though… but there are parts that will be amazingly on-point for readers. Do go and read the manga again, and look for the corresponding sections in the song. For those who are watching the anime, do try looking out for these parts in the show as well.

Tanaka: I’m hearing that (story) for the first time. By the way, when I wake up in the morning I hear Distance playing in my head. DO~RE~DA~KE is stuck in my brain.

Murakawa: That’s good! Distance when you wake up is good, as is Distance when you’re commuting. It’s 100% refreshing!

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

#180 – Hinamatsuri Interview Vols.1&2 –Tanaka Takako, Nakajima Yoshiki, Hondo Kaede


One of my favourite shows of the season is the non-stop barrel of laughs that is Hinamatsuri. Turns out the ensemble cast is as interesting as the anime itself; and for the first joint interview we have the rather barmy Tanaka Takako aka TT, the voice behind Hina, the level-headed oniichan Nakajima Yoshiki (Nitta) and TT-makes-her-look-normal Hondo Kaede (Hitomi).

Pt.1

Q: Tell us your thoughts upon finding out that you’d been cast in your respective roles.

Tanaka: This was my first time (landing a major role) so I had to ask again to confirm. Like, ‘Eh?’. When I was told, ‘You’ve been cast in the role of Hina’, I had no idea whether it true or not, so I just replied ‘….thank you’ in a small voice while the others around me applauded. In a ‘Congrats!’ kind of way. It didn’t hit me right at that moment. It was only after I left the agency office that I suddenly screamed ‘Ah—-!!!’. And I knew I had to work hard. I wasn’t thinking about anything else.

Q: Since it’s your first leading role, did you reward yourself in any way?

Tanaka: I bought some strawberry flavoured Haagan Dazs.

Q: How about you, Nakajima-san?

Nakajima: After being told that I’d been cast, I went back to read the manga and realized that Nitta is what I’d call a ‘calorie-burning’ kind of role and it made me go ‘Now, things are gonna get real serious’. He has plenty of lines, he’s making all the witty responses and he’s the one who sets the ball rolling. I was also looking forward to seeing who my co-stars would be. I got really excited ahead of finding out the cast list.

Q: Hondo-san?

Hondo: Quite some time had passed since the audition until my manager informed me ‘you’ve been cast in the role of Hitomi-chan’. At the time, my impression had been that she was the only one with common sense [amongst the cast]. Then I read the manga and what I thought was, ‘Ah – she’s a pretty dangerous girl’ (laughs). She’s a junior high student who looks mature and acts like a guardian [to the other characters], but it all gradually starts to fall apart in her work etc – I was nervous about having to show that through my performance but at the same time, I felt happy. I’d been thinking of growing my hair out around that time, but I gave up and had it cut short…

Q: Do you try to resemble the characters you’re cast as when it comes to aspects such as hair etc?

Hondo: Personally I do like to try to look like them. Even the costume I’m wearing right now is based on Hitomi’s – I enjoy doing that. But I cut my hair, so I’ve had to wear one of the wigs that I keep for my other hobbies.

Q: Can you tell us what similarities you share with your respective characters? Let’s start with Tanaka-san.

Tanaka: I do really do things at my own pace. If I wasn’t working I’d be like Hina, living the slacker life, playing games while sprawled on the floor, eating potato chips…I’d be a dried fish woman (laughs) I’d probably be thinking things like ‘When was the last time I used the washing machine…? A century ago?’

Q: That means that you’re usually a lot more sloppy?

Tanaka: Yeah I’m quite sloppy. Slovenly, slow-paced. I might even be offending other people without knowing it.

Nakajima/Hondo: You haven’t yet.

Tanaka: Really? I’m glad.

Q: How about Nakajima-san?

Nakajima: I’m quite domesticated, surprisingly. I like looking after people.

Tanaka: Yes, yes (nods).

Nakajima: Do you have any self-awareness of the fact that you’re always being looked after? (laughs)

Tanaka: Yeah I do think you look after me.

Nakajima: I guess you could say in a way, the two of us are similar to how Nitta takes care of Hina. Also, I seem to have played a lot of delinquents, rascals and gangsters in the past. I’ve always wondered why though, since I’m such a gentle guy (laughs)

Q: Hondo-san, do you share any similarities [with Hitomi]?

Hondo: I wonder what we have in common. After all, I cut my hair (laughs)

Nakajima: Maybe you find it hard to say no (to other people’s requests)?

Hondo: I don’t think so (laughs). ‘cos I know if I don’t turn them down the regrets will keep on piling up… (laughs) I suppose that nature of Hitomi’s where she finds it hard to leave people alone is something that might apply to myself as well. Like when Hina first transfers into her school and she’s seated next to Hitomi, she helps her wipe her drool off. I’d probably do that too, helping others to wipe away their drool.

Pt2

Q: What do you think is the appeal of Hinamatsuri?

Tanaka: The series has a surreal kind of humour that anyone in the world would get addicted to if they gave it a chance. Plus, it has the ability to make you cry a little~. The manga does make you feel the warmth of family bonds and love etc. What’s interesting is how it takes an unconventional approach to the comedy – you’ll be left thinking, ‘ah, that’s where they’re coming from’ when the jokes fly in from unexpected directions. You’ll never get tired of re-watching the show, making new discoveries and laughing away.

Nakajima: Hinamatsuri isn’t about making you laugh out loud – it’s more about the little chuckles, making you go ‘heh’. You get that once every 2-3 panels. Before you know it, you’ll be rolling around laughing. Each joke is peculiar and surreal, and you’ll even laugh at panels that have no speech bubbles, where characters aren’t saying anything.

Q: I believe the way Tanaka-san normally speaks is different from the way Hina talks – is there anything you’re especially conscious about when you’re playing the character?

Tanaka: I try to imagine my own voice when I’ve just woken up. That’s what Hina’s voice sounded like in my head, when I was reading the manga ahead of the auditions. What you hear is close to what I sound like when I’m waking up. So I’m not really forcing a voice; it’s kind of natural to me.

Nakajima: On the other hand, when you put a bit more feeling into it you’re told, ‘please make it more emotionless’, aren’t you?

Tanaka: Yeah, I get told that even when I put just a tiny bit of emotion in. I have to make it as close to zero as possible. The other characters are super passionate so when I try to do it with a little more feeling I get told, ‘Ah, Tanaka-san. Please do it ‘blank’, like you normally do’ (laughs)

Q: Do you have any favourite episodes, taking into account the manga as well?

Tanaka: The part where Hina is disowned and in a sign of contrition, returns home and hands Nitta a 2900 yen vase, forlornly (?) saying ‘Nitta…’ Nitta somewhat forgives her, saying ‘let’s go home’ and Hina goes ‘Oh!’ – that’s the Hina part I loved the most. It made me think, ‘So this girl can make that kind of expression too!’. And that’s the moment I thought ‘they’re parent and child!’. Even if they’re not related, they can still have a loving relationship.

Hondo: Nitta hooks Hitomi-chan up with a nice place to stay and she’s forced to earn more in order to afford the rent. Knowing her plight, regular customers [at the bar] say to her ‘please help me out with this’ and she virtually ends up working full-time. Meanwhile, Hitomi hears one of her schoolmates remarking that they ‘want to grow up as soon as possible’ and she’s like ‘Working life…it ain’t a bed of roses’ and ‘It’s nice to be so carefree. I’m so tired from work’. That withered look filled with sorrow and exhaustion that she had – I loved it.

Nakajima: Due to a misunderstanding, Nitta ends up buried in cement up to his neck – the art had a lot of impact there.

Q: Hinamatsuri does have a lot of fun with the characters’ expressions and the art.

Nakajima: The characters’ expressions make them look insufferable. It really riles you up (laugh)

Q: Hinamatsuri is the title of this series – do any of you have good memories of the Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) festival?

Tanaka: My family lives in a very remote area in rural Fukui, where most houses have a tiered Hina doll stand (hinadan). We had one in our house that had been passed down the generations and it looks beautiful in the afternoons. At night too. My family home was built 150 years ago. It’s a Taisho-era building that’s pretty classy. And at nights…[the dolls] give off a certain aura. Y’know, that kind of feeling. Like they’re watching you. Looking right at you.

Nakajima: They probably aren’t looking at you.

Hondo: It’s just your imagination.

Tanaka: When I was in primary school I was convinced that they could move. I actually saw it in a dream. It was the middle of the night in my house, and I wanted to go to the toilet – I passed by the red carpet (where the Hina dolls are placed)…and I could hear a ‘ten-ten-ten-ten’ sound coming from behind me. When I turned my head around, I could see the 3 court musician dolls…

All: (laughter)

Nakajima: It’s 5 court musicians*. Don’t kill off 2 of them. It’s 3 court ladies & 5 court musicians.

Tanaka: (laughs)…. My vocabulary sucks…

Nakajima: This isn’t about vocabulary, it’s about general knowledge.

Tanaka: (laughs). Anyway, they attacked me. They were using bows & arrows and shot at me in my dream, and I woke up with a sudden ‘UWAA~!!’. It was just a dream.

Nakajima: Of course it’s a dream! I know that much.

Tanaka: It’s just so scary when you see them at night!

*note: read this for a breakdown of the individual Hina dolls 

Q: Please leave a message for viewers who are looking forward to the show.

Hondo: Readers of the manga should definitely look forward to this adaptation; it won’t disappoint you. Those who don’t know much about Hinamatsuri too, can dive into the anime and immediately find it addictive. As the person responsible for voicing Hitomi-chan, I’d love for you to support her amongst the many adults and children that appear in the show. I am curious as to which of these characters will win your hearts. I’d be glad if you could let us know your thoughts once the show starts airing.

Nakajima: I think fans of the manga might be awaiting the anime with a bit of apprehension but please be assured that you will be bursting out in laughter…oh wait, it’s not ‘laugh out loud’. It’s an endlessly chuckle-filled anime. Fun times are usually over in the blink of an eye, aren’t they? Where 30 minutes feels like a mere second. Hinamatsuri is fun, but it feels like it goes on for a super long time. It makes good use of tempo and intervals and the difference in pacing between the A and B parts can be pretty intense. This is the kind of anime that you could go on watching forever.

Tanaka: Just give the show 1 episode, and you’ll definitely want to keep watching. And it’s the humour that comes from unexpected places thanks to Ōtake-san’s original manga! Also, the staff members are all having great fun making this. The ‘fun’ of the series comes from the love that everyone has for it. Stretching out on your bed, chilling in the bathtub or just relaxing – and then you wake up the next day thinking, ‘Ah~~, time to give it my best today!’. That’s the kind of feeling that [watching] this show gives you. Everyone, look forward to Hinamatsuri!

[Interview/text: Satō Keiichi]

#179 – Golden Kamuy Cast Interview Part.5: Hosoya Yoshimasa


The series continues with Hosoya Yoshimasa, voice of nice guy Matagi Tanigaki Genjirō. Love his delightful relationship with Huci & Osoma in the show!

Q: Tell us your impressions upon reading the original manga.

A: It was very interesting. I think the premise itself is amazing: the map of the location of the gold has been tattooed across the bodies of a group of prisoners and to decipher the code, you’d have to carve the skin off each of them. It also tells the tales of soldiers who went through the Russo-Japanese War; the way historical facts are mixed in with the story is mesmerizing. The protagonist Sugimoto is a very human kind of guy. The series doesn’t only choose to take a positive approach, it also includes elements of savagery and craftiness – it’s the kind of story that guys would love.

Q: It’s fascinating to see how these different elements come together.

A: It’s not just serious developments all the time – there are plenty of gags thrown in as well. Furthermore, those gags aren’t flattering at all for women since they actually end up looking rather masculine. What’s great about author Noda (Satoru)-sensei is that he simply draws whatever he wants to. The characters’ faces are made to look deformed during the gag scenes – he could probably draw them prettier if he wished to, but that grotesqueness (excuse me for saying that) is what makes it so fun and amazing.

Q: What impressions did you have of Tanigaki as a character?

A: He reminded me of the actor Takakura Ken. Sugimoto has a little bit of crazy in him; an aura that shows through the stillness of his motions and speech, while Tanigaki is the opposite. He may have experience of killing people in the war, but he’s a very pure and clumsy guy at heart. That’s what made me think of Takakura Ken. I’m hoping that I can [make Tanigaki] live up to the image of Takakura Ken that I have in my head.

Q: Can you describe your feelings when you found out about being cast as Tanigaki?

A: I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be better if he wasn’t voiced by me?’. After all, Tanigaki’s not the talkative type. I feel that, when such people express themselves, there is a need for their words to possess the kind of power to persuade others, and I also think that they should sound deeper, lower, and rougher. My voice isn’t anything like that though, so I hoped to bring it closer to the character as I imagined him to be.

Q: Is there anything that you’re particularly conscious about when playing the role of Tanigaki?

A: From time to time and wherever possible, I try to channel Takakura Ken (laughs). Though it’s probably at a level where viewers wouldn’t actually be able to recognize it as so (laughs)

Q: Did you receive any specific directions from Director Nanba (Hitoshi) or Sound Director Aketagawa (Jin)?

A: In terms of the character’s image, what I had imagined was practically the same as the vision that the Director and Jin-san had. However, for the scene in episode 3 where Tanigaki discovers Asirpa up in the tree, there was a particular line of dialogue that serves as the crucial point – in order to maximize its impact, the preceding line needed to be ‘spoken gently’. The difference in impact between those 2 lines was much more apparent in the final take than what I had originally come up with, so I was very grateful [to the Director and Jin-san] for the improvements that were suggested.

Q: Do you think that your performance has changed, progressing further into the story?

A: Tanigaki is one of the soldiers of the 7th Division, a position that puts him under a lot of stress. Being a soldier, his commander’s word is law. As he spends time living with the Ainu people away from the 7th Division, you can feel his demeanour softening. Actually, the tempo of the dialogue on the guide videos that we received prior to recording was markedly different; I could tell that his lines had been modified to sound gentler. I do believe that he wouldn’t be able to get along so well with the Ainu people he cares so much about if he had approached them with the mindset of a Japanese soldier. Rather than changing as a person, I think it’s more a case of different aspects [of his character] emerging, depending on the situation he’s in.

Q: Along the way, he encounters Nihei Tetsuzō.

A: The scenes between [Tanigaki] and Nihei, played by Ōtsuka Akio, had great impact from start to finish. It was a priceless experience for me, spending time with him. I haven’t had many opportunities to work alongside Ōtsuka-san prior to his, so I was keenly observing the way he spoke and carried himself while we were in the waiting area. I recall that during breaks, Ōtsuka-san would insist that he wanted to do the voice for Nihei’s hunting dog Ryu (laughs). ‘cos he knew that Ryu would stay alive even after Nihei’s death (laughs). Seems that Ōtsuka-san really likes this series.

Q: Do you have any memorable stories to share from the recording sessions?

A: During the recording sessions, we have sections where we record background noises, things like the sound of people talking in a crowd etc. As a rule, we have to adopt voices that sound different from our own characters. For whatever reason, Tsuda (Kenjirō), Kobayashi (Chikahiro) and myself, oh and probably Sugita (Tomokazu) too, decided that we’d talk as if we had severe underbites (laughs). That was funny.

Q: Going through recording, are there any lines from the series that you feel are important in making the character’s charisma and presence felt?

A: Personally, the line that I thought most captures Tanigaki as a person was one from episode 9 – ‘So there are people who intend to betray Lieutenant Tsurumi? Who?’ [said to Corporal Tamai]. No reason behind that choice, I just really like that line.

Q: We look forward to seeing how Tanigaki develops moving forward. Finally, please leave a message for the fans.

A: It’s a series that has assembled a wonderful cast and is a very professional place to work – the more you chip away at the characters, the bigger their presence becomes. The actors and staff members will similarly work towards bringing this series to a higher level, so it would bring me much joy if you were to look forward to the developments as you watch the show.