Kayano Ai – Work and finding what I like (Part 1)

Seiyuu Kayano Ai interview [Finding “the things you like” from your job, challenging the possibilities beyond the role of a seiyuu.]

We spend a large part of our life at our
job, searching for the things we like, and revolving our actions around that, in that way, I think we are able to lead an abundant life.

To support the search for the things we like, FromA Sho!!, a magazine that aims to provide students with a more enjoyable school life, will shed light on many different “working people”, their storied past and present, future plans, the joy of working, as well as the significance of working.

For the 1st edition, let us hear from Kayano Ai who is the voice behind the heroine, Honma Meiko (Menma) of the anime ‘Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi ha Mada Shiranai)’, Ōe Kanade (Chihayafuru) as well as Anya Dostoyevskaya (ARIA The AVVENIRE).

The first half of the interview will focus on Kayano-san and her work, while the second half will center around her part-time work and journey from there to finally becoming a seiyuu.

You can read part 2 here.
■The true possibilities of a job that is mistaken as a backstage job

Q: Kayano-san, can you share with us on what your job entails?

Kayano Ai (Kayano)
: I work as a seiyuu (thereafter referred as ‘voice actor’) . That said, there are many different fields of work for a voice actor. To put that into perspective, there are some who work as singers, some who focus on the stage.

And in the midst of that, I work in the animation field with dubbing as my main job, as well as taking up narration roles and movie dubbing from time to time.

It is fun to work as a voice actor for an anime production, but other than that, there are various spin-offs stemming from them, such as radio shows, character songs, events and so on, where I have to appear in public to talk in different settings.

Q: I must say the job scope for a voice actor has become really diverse in recent times.

: I think so too. Before I started this job, I used to think that a voice actor’s job is more of a behind-the-scenes job.

I didn’t get to see their faces often, so I wasn’t sure on their job scope. When I entered the industry, I was surprised as the scenario was not what I had imagined. It’s a job that requires you to appear in public more often than the usual, and the spotlight is often cast on you.

Because I am required to take on multiple roles, even if it’s just one event, there could be different challenges such as games and closing performances, so I cannot be afraid of slipping up (laughs).

There are also times when the series ends up publishing a fan book. I find myself pondering over what kind of comments and illustrations I should draw on them…..

Q: The official job title is that of a voice actor, but it really is a multi-faceted job, isn’t it?

: For an individual with diverse interests, I think this is a job with extensive possibilities so it really is interesting.

“People who want to try out as a DJ on a radio show, as well as taking up challenges of being a singer and a model” – I would say that people like that would find this industry very enjoyable.

As a voice actor, there is often no right answer – How flexible are you in dealing with it?

Q: In order to work as a voice actor, what kind of process do you have to go through?

: First, you have to go through 1 year of training school before you formally enter the company, where you are allowed to take on auditions for different kinds of jobs.

Of course, at the start, you may have to get by days of having no work and just taking on auditions….. As auditions are voice actors’ form of job hunting , you hope to get chances everyday to job hunt. From that point, you have to wait and see if you are successful in finding employment, but when the series ends…..that’s about it (laughs).

Q: What happens during an audition?

Kayano: There are two types of auditions, one in which you send recordings of predetermined lines, and the other is having your audition in the studio.

As for the latter, the nominees for the audition are decided by the production team, and there are also cases where a role is appointed without an audition.

Q: Having participated in many different auditions now, have you figured out how to establish a winning pattern?

Kayano: Honestly, I don’t see a winning pattern. When you have the mindset of the job having a connection, even if you try your best not to think too much into it, your mind will still somehow steer to the thought “What if fate is at play here….” and end up moving the direction of your actions towards your misconception because you think that it is better that way.

There are times when lines are changed on the fly, and also times where the setting of the characters are decided on the spot, so I think it is better not to over-establish the character within yourself beforehand.

I think it is difficult to proceed when your preconceived notion do not match that of the settings, and you are told “That’s wrong, so please do it like this.”, so I try not to firm up any decisions at the start.

Q: You need flexibility and awareness in order to handle this job.

: Voice acting really is a job that does not have a clear-cut answer. The director and producer, along with other people in the production will come together and draw a common consensus to create the direction for the work, and I always think that it would be good if I can carry out their image.

I do think that is how a voice actor’s role is defined, but on the other hand, there are times when an ad-lib can bring out the charm of a character, so I think that is the best adaptive action when it comes to voice acting. There are also cases where they specifically instruct you not to ad-lib though (laughs).

Putting aside feelings of unease, and taking on various challenges through your job


Q: Talking to Kayano-san like this, I can really see you putting in effort in your job. What kind of enjoyment do you find with regards to your job?

I get to face challenges everyday; no matter what kind of work it is, I get a fresh feeling while facing the work head on. I am the type of person who prefers moving ahead while facing different challenges rather than repeating a mundane cycle daily, so being in this industry is really a godsend as it allows me to do different things every day.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the insecurity from not landing the roles you auditioned for. There are also times where the opportunities for the roles I really wanted to act in just would not fall onto me, and also a case of not crossing paths with fate.

But even if I say that, you can’t really change that, so I don’t let it linger on my mind.

Besides that, your roles change as you get older and I believe it is important to adopt a more carefree approach to avoid burning yourself out.

Q: It has been 5 years since you debuted, do you still harbour feelings of uneasiness?

Kayano: That’s a good point to bring up. I think everyone will still have their fair shares of worries no matter what. Whether you will have work the next day, what will happen the next year – I think these are all anxieties all of us carry. Furthermore, when you catch a cold, you can’t utilize your voice to the fullest, which is a strict reminder for you to pay attention to your health too.

I don’t think people who think “Everyday, I have absolutely no worries” exist.

Q: Is there anything you do to shake off that anxiety?

: I think everyone has a different approach to this, as for me, I try to avoid thinking too deeply into it.

Also, though I have been relying on my seniors thus far, there has been a steady stream of juniors entering the agency, so I hope to become a person who can make them feel at ease.

It will be good if I can use my position to help newcomers to say the things that they cannot say to a veteran.. Also, if the atmosphere for the series or in the studio is good, it allows me to work (without worrying).

The happiness of my family becomes an encouragement for my work

Q: Until this point, “Doing a job like this has become a (spiritual) nourishment” – have a thought like this surfaced before?

: If my family is happy, it makes me happy too. Although it’s embarrassing having my photos taken and singing songs, my family is more delighted over anyone else when they see that side of me, so I guess I feel like I’m being a good daughter when I make them feel that way.

I don’t think it’s common to be able to say your daughter appeared in a photo book (laughs).

Q: I see. Due to the nature of this job, I often hear stories of parents objecting to their children to join this industry because of the instability that comes with it. As for Kayano-san, was that the case?

It didn’t happen to me, although my mum always thought that I would end up in a job related to traditional performing arts. The only thing I felt was that I have to work hard and earn my keep on my own.

Being blessed with a good relationship with my parents, I thought I have to try my best so as not to let myself down.

Q: I feel a strong sense of responsibility from you, was that something that you built into yourself or is that a result of being influenced by others?

: My mum is a huge influence on my life. She is a very independent person even in her job, and our hobbies are pretty similar.

Q: What kind of hobbies are we talking about here?

: Drinking sake (laughs). We also love eating delicious food, so the two of us often go out drinking. When we see a shop that catches our eyes we share that information with each other immediately.

We also share the same hobby of Western-styled clothes, and our sizes are the same. We end up going shopping together, and when I’m too busy, she will buy clothes for me. I’m really grateful to her.

Q: You really follow your mum closely.

: That’s right. Since I got busier on my job, I’m really grateful for my mum’s support. Even though she holds a full-time job as a beautician, she still helps me out.

I need a fair amount of time to focus on my work, including taking care of my body. So even when I set aside time to reset, I still don’t have enough time, so my mum really helps me out a lot.

And that is why I really respect people who come out to the city alone and enter this industry. I think the emotional leeway you get when you have someone right beside you to talk to, a person to rely on when you need help, is really different.

How to express out ideas as reality, and conveying them to people

Q: Are there any people you are taking reference from recently to broaden your job horizon?

Kayano: Recently, I got into actor Asano Tadanobu’s drawings, I really like surreal pieces (laughs). As for artists, I like Michael Sowa’s work. He caught my attention with his work on a French movie, ‘Amelie’ and has completed many different art pieces.

Beside admiring at their artworks, I also make trips to the museums. Although I may not know who the artists are, I like looking at them absently and admiring them.

Q: Do you make use of that experience for your job?

Kayano: After all, voice acting is a bunch of ideas in your head, a job that requires imagination. In a sense, it’s a world where the impossible becomes possible and expressing that image realistically, so I think it’s useful to this field.

Q: It certainly is a job where it is difficult to relate to something unless you have experienced it before.

Kayano: Even the experience you get from a part-time job can be connected in that sense. So, I think it would be nice if you can find something you like from your job. Since I found enjoyment in my job, hardship will not trouble me and I will treasure this job that I have.

Q: Since we are on that, have you found any interesting things recently?

Kayano: Being able to encounter many different types of work is really enjoyable. Having an end to that also brings about loneliness though….. There are also some people you may only meet on that very set. Everyday, I won’t know what kind of work I will get to do, so I always look forward to reading the script. What kind of encounters will I face next time?

Q: Moving forward, what kind of encounters do you wish for?

: It has to be a collaboration with sake! I want to go around exploring the sake breweries in Japan! I think it’s a blessing to be able to have a job related to what you like (laughs).

Although voice actors do not really have the image of sake tied to them, I want to strongly push for it. Since I think there are already many voice actors who have picked up singing or stage plays, I want to dive into another side that has not been explored and try my hand at making sake (laughs).

Lastly, I want to top it off by publishing the adventures into a book, introduce many different types of sake, and even hold events! In the end, it’s up to my manager, but I want to try out everything that I’m interested in, since there are many things I have yet to do, and many things that I will develop interest in, going forward.

Q: Does that also mean that you want to open up the path for the next generation of voice actors?

: That is a bit of a stretch there, you put it across too nicely (laughs). I think there are people who work hard on singing with an aim: “I want to be like this!” and enter the industry, I think they would be able to find the paths that is meant for them.

In the second half of the interview, we take a look at Kayano-san’s work not just as voice actor, but other jobs such as being a radio personality, and what kind of experience she has gone through to arrive at today’s position. Also, we will be asking her on what kind of influence did her part-time jobs give to her.

Interview/Compilation: Hase Ken, Oda Kazusanosuke (Animate Lab)
Photography: Yamamoto Tetsuya

This interview was first published on 22 December 2015 in Animate Times. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners. Many thanks to Pyrite for the proof reading and QC!


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