This is a 2-part interview courtesy of Animatetimes. Suzaki Aya, a graduate of Japan Narration and Acting School (Nichinare) talks about her currently airing shows and her ideals for voice acting. I will translate part 2 when it is out.
Today, our guest will be the popular voice actor, Suzaki Aya-san who have ongoing roles in the currently airing “Himote House” and “RELEASE THE SPYCE”, as well as voicing the protagonist, Asuka in the upcoming January release, “Mahō Shōjo Tokushusen Asuka” (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka).
In the first half of the interview, Suzaki-san will share with us the charm of the 3 series, while we also take a close up look at her private life.
――Please give us a self introduction.
Suzaki Aya (Suzaki) : I’m Suzaki Aya from I’m Enterprise. I have some nicknames, but the more common ones are “Ayappe” and “Pecchan”. I have a positive personality and I feel that I’m an organized person. For fans following me, they may already know this, but I’m unexpectedly an interesting person. However, there are many people who would disagree with that (laughs).
――What are your strong points and weak points?
Suzaki: My strength would be not letting my past hold me back. What I mean by that is that all those moments I disliked and felt sad about….. I’m the type who forgets about them completely by eating and sleeping a lot. My shortfall is that I’m a forgetful person (laughs). I guess whether it’s on the surface or the inside, I’m the same person.
――Next, let’s hear about your hobbies and talents, and I saw that your profile on your agency website listed “Singing, soft tennis, scuba diving” as your hobbies.
Suzaki: That was written 7,8 years ago…..Why did I write singing as one of my hobbies back then…(laughs) I’m sure it was because my instructor advised me to put in a performance related craft (laughs). As for diving, I do it in my free time.
――By the way, what are your recent hobbies or interests?
Suzaki: I wasn’t interested in temples, shrines and pottery in the past, but recently I’ve got into traditional arts and crafts like Rakugo and cultures passed down from a long time ago.
I also like spending time at home now, and as I grew older, I became more interested in the way of living. I also developed a habit of arranging the interior so that it’s easy and comfortable for me, and now I’m living a life surrounded by my favourite things. Thus, I like checking my scripts at home now. In the past, I couldn’t concentrate, but home is the best place for me to let out my voice. I also like cleaning and keeping things tidy.
――Next, I would like to ask you about the series you are appearing in at the moment, “Himote House“. First off, the catch phrase for the show is “5 people and an animal, a lively cohabitation.” What exactly is the series about?
Suzaki: Firstly, it is an original series by the director Ishidate Kōtarō-san. The story tells the lives of 5 girls and a cat who live under the same roof, but the twist is that all of them have their own unique supernatural powers.
While the first half of each episode features a variety of scenarios, the second half is when everyone gathers and talk about different topics, something like the last act of a play with plenty of ad lib. There are several different depictions that give rise to the literal style of the anime, and we are given a lot of creative freedom.
I voice Hongou Tae-chan, and she feels like a girl who pulls the story along with her. She’s someone who doesn’t think too much, or simply put, gives off the impression that she’s an idiot. (laughs) The anime is full of cute girls and they are all characters you can love, I think it is a really lovely series.
――Beginning with Tae, all the characters have rich personalities.
Suzaki: I feel that the director is definitely conscious about how each and every cast member share similarities with their respective roles. Arai Minamo has a veil of mystery surrounding her and a calm demeanor which is exactly how Sumipe (Uesaka Sumire) is like (laughs). Akesaka Satomi-chan is also similar to her character, Himote Kokoro, like how she has all these smart retorts as well as her serious side. Enishi has an allergy to cats despite being a cat herself, and that cat allergy setting mirrored her voice actor, Nishi-san (Nishi Asuka). She even speaks in the same Kansai accent like her too.
――How about you? Were there any points you were conscious about when fleshing out her character?
Suzaki: To be honest, I didn’t really cast any particular attention to the role, I just acted out as it was. For example, although Tae-chan’s base voice and voice when she speaks to other people are different, the way she moves up a gear when she speaks to other people is about the same as me. It may be a little far fetched to say that I’m the same as Tae-chan though…… I mean I’m not as much of an idiot like her (laughs).
While ad-libbing, I try to keep her character as much as possible, delivering lines as if it was from the character herself, and I have the impression that this was how everyone went about for the creation of their characters.
――I heard that to keep the playscore setting (dubbing without any footage), there was no visuals at all during the recording.
Suzaki: That’s right. However, I was tasked to host this radio show, “Suzaki Aya’s Himote House, going all out radio*” for one cour before the broadcast of the anime, where we invite various guest from the industry and present the charm of the original work. In the show, we had advance airing of the voices for part A. Because of that, the recording for the anime took place significantly earlier than usual, and the radio was used as a means to close the distance between the original material and the broadcast. Although I got to know about the character design at the time of recording, since it was animated, it was difficult to comprehend.
But after watching the anime, everyone is really cute! From the perspective of a male, it is akin to getting a peek at a group of girls in their late twenties chatting about life in a Cafe. Furthermore, the gags are independent from the story, so it is an anime you can enjoy with a clear mind. Even when 1 episode has passed and you miss out some of the talk from earlier, you don’t feel that you are being left behind, and I think it is one of the charms of the anime.
*The original title of the radio in Japanese is “ 洲崎綾の「ひもてはうす」ぐいぐいプレゼンラジオ”. I couldn’t find a more natural way to translate “ぐいぐい” here so I rephrased it “Going all out”. Let me know if you feel there is a better way to translate that, and I’ll edit it.
――By the way, did you have time to chat with the other cast members during your breaks?
Suzaki: We had many opportunities to talk about stuff like “The scenario this time round was really interesting eh.” The one that left the deepest impression on me episode 2’s “Otome no Policy” (A maiden’s policy), where there was a scene about Momoya’s battle. Everyone was using their own special ability to try to open the cap of a bottle, and I really liked that part (laughs). After the recording, we kept talking on how interesting it was.
Also, since the second half is more or less ad-libbed, we try not to talk too much about them since it will affect the content of the scenes. While we talk about our thoughts after that, the mood before the recording was like boxers in the waiting room (laughs).
――Everyone is just quietly focusing on the match (laughs).
Suzaki: Other than that, Mizuhara Kaoru’s (voice of Himote Tokyo) acting was really fun, everyone was shaking with laughter, and it got so bad that we had to pause the recording for a while (laughs). I really enjoyed the recording sessions and it felt like a girls party.
――Before the broadcast of the anime, there were various events such as theme song release, radio shows and events, what left a memorable impression on you?
Suzaki: The radio shows left the biggest impact on me. For the currently airing “Himote House Radio, we’re not sleeping tonight” which I host with Akesaka Satomi-chan as well as “Suzaki Aya’s Himote House, going all out radio”*, we had many different guests come onto the shows.
We had guests like Dan Mitsu-san (actress), Hyadain-san (Maeyamada Kenichi, musician) and Tenshin Mukai (entertainer), unexpected guests which would make you go “Eh!?”.
Suzaki: That said, because it was my first time meeting them, I was nervous almost all the time, and paid special attention not to appear disrespectful. Although I said it would be a good learning experience, I just really want to perform my role on the radio show (laughs). By the way, for Dan Mitsu-san, everyone was excited on what kind of radio show it would turn out to be. It was really fun since there were so many people who came.
――Since Suzaki-san has been involved in this series for a long time, how would you describe its appeal?
Suzaki: Since the broadcast timing is on a late timing slot on Sundays, it will surprise you on how the anime is refreshing and keeps out the Monday blues for all those working and studying. I think it is really an anime reserved for the last activity of the day (laughs).
The characters are cute, and I feel that it’s a perfect anime for times when you are tired, since you can go into it without thinking about anything. You will be able to sleep with ease after watching, and you will feel refreshed and have all your vigor restored the next day.
Especially when you have something on your mind or when you just don’t feel like doing anything, this is where the anime shines. Also, even though I said the ad-libs are the main part of the show, it still blew me away with the amount of ad-libs (laughs). And since they are all thought up on the spur of the moment by the cast, we will be delighted if you can enjoy them. There are also many scenes that got cut, but they will be included in the Blu-ray so please keep a look out for them too!
――Moving on, let’s hear about “RELEASE THE SPYCE”. What is it about?
Suzaki: “RELEASE THE SPYCE” is centered around a private intelligence agency called “Tsukikage” and its activities as a spice team. There are 6 high school girls in the team, where 3 members act as mentors to 3 apprentices and together, they battle a criminal group known as “Moryo”.
Takahiro-san, the creator of “Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru” (Yuki Yuna is a Hero) is the screenwriter for the show, and although I cannot reveal too much, but I would say it is not a straightforward anime. It doesn’t stop at just the cute appeal of the characters, but there is a dark theme behind the story. There are scenes that make you weep as well as scenes that yuri-centric, and it is a show that gets you excited as you watch.
――As for Suzaki-san, you play the role of Yachiyo Mei in the anime.
Suzaki: Yachiyo Mei-chan is a free-spirited character who looks at the whole picture of the scenario. Although she may be seen as a cheerful person who jokes around, she is the one in the team who can pick up subtle changes in the environment. She is the only mentor who is of the same age as the apprentices, so she can be often be seen chatting with them, making her the closest to them, and that is an unique position for her character.
――What were the key points you had to consider when voicing her?
Suzaki: Since the tone of her voice is close to mine, I used my usual voice to act out the role. Because of that, I was more conscious of my co-actors voices since I didn’t really have to affix an image to my character. Also, I try not to look at the visuals too much while voicing her.
――Oh, so you don’t think about the visuals while recording?
Suzaki: Personally, I wanted to act out the role as if I was in the scene itself. So, I imagined the character’s position and status in my head while doing the recording. I think that is why there were many of her lines were natural.
――So you wanted act as if you were Mei herself, rather than fitting her with a voice?
Suzaki: That’s right. I wanted to dictate the portrayal of Mei, and not the other way round. It was also discussed during the recording for the first episode where I undertook the direction of “Portraying a natural elder sister”.
Also, in addition to her free-spirited nature, the staff requested me to “play around more”, I thought it wasn’t so much about creating the character’s composition in this case. So I thought of putting aside the visuals, and tried to breathe life into Mei while while putting my vision of her together.
Moreover, I was told “Suzaki-san, we will adjust the visuals to match with your acting, so go ahead and give your input.”, which made me think “Oh, we can do it like that?” (laughs). On the other hand, I felt that I was given too much freedom, and since I would trouble the animators if I overdid with my acting, I decided not to disrupt Mei’s expression as much as possible and played around with her lines.
――I see. By the way, how did you feel watching it when it aired?
Suzaki: Namori-sensei really did a great job in making the characters so cute, the action scenes were also done very well, the slick and smooth animations resonated with me. The balance between the regular and the fighting scenes was really superb!
――Although the series placed an emphasis on the mentor-apprentice relationship, please tell us more about the charm of the relationships during the production process.
Suzaki: I really love the dynamics between Mei and Fū. While Mei is cool and reliable when she is out there battling, she’s like a hopeless husband when it comes to her private life (laughs). Her genius comes with a block-headedness and she always makes Fū worry about her.
Since they are poor, they ended up living together. There are scenes where Fū gets angry at Mei for wasting funds even though she scrimps and saves for Mei’s sake by making meals for her (laughs).
Although their mentor-apprentice status is strong, the opposite can be said for their private lives. Relying on Fū for her daily routine, or rather, she has to let Fū take care of her. I think that relationship between them is really wonderful, it gives a sense of both relying on each other in different scenarios.
――They feel like the contrast between day and night.
Suzaki: Episode 4 places the focus on them where they got into a quarrel. The difference in their opinions caused them to butt heads with each other, and it makes you feel warm inside seeing how they reconcile with each other, it was an episode that left a deep impression.
The scene where Mei sings while strumming her guitar on the streets, and the insert song was her singing about Fū – that was a really wonderful scene. I’m sure that episode 4 would have ended by the time this gets published, please definitely re-watch this part.
――Also, the main cast did a live filming for the MV (music video) for the opening theme “Slash! Spy & spice”.
Suzaki: When the talks about this began, it caught me by surprise….. I was at a loss on what to do (laughs). I only had a singular experience of filming a MV which was for “Suzakinishi THE ANIMATION” which was spawned from the radio “Suzakinishi”, so I went into the filming this time round with the mindset of a newbie. By the way, Nu-nu (Numakura Manami) who voices Hanzōmon Yuki, is very good at winking, and she was really cute! The MV was first shown at the advancing screening, and it caused quite the commotion (laughs).
――(Laughs). Was there any memorable incident from the filming?
Suzaki: Actually, we couldn’t find time to match our schedules to practice, so we received the footage to practice at home. Despite that, when we first gathered at the studio to film the MV as well as practice together for the first time, it felt youthful, or should I say, it was the feelings as if we were students, and it was really enjoyable.
The outfits provided by SPINNS also gave off the feel of students, youngsters. Everyone was rowdily busking in the high school girl-esque atmosphere while eating our take-out meals, it was so much fun.
Incidentally, our outfits at the screening were also provided by SPINNS, and they were different ones from the MV. Especially since Nu-nu, Ucchi (Uchida Aya, voice of Aoba Hatsume) and me are on the older side, we don’t get to wear cute outfits often, and the fans were really delighted for that.
――Please share with us once again, the appeal point of the show and points to watch out for.
Suzaki: “RELEASE THE SPYCE” is a show with cozy slice-of-life scenes, with a mixture of cool spy-like scenes, as well as an abundance of action scenes. While it is an anime that makes you admire the characters, the plot of the story gets clearer gradually, and every episode will have certain developments.
――Finally, we have “Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka”, which will air from January 2019, where you voice the protagonist Ōtorii Asuka. What impression did you have after reading the manga?
Suzaki: With a title like that, my first thought was that it is a Sunday morning anime targeted at girls (laughs). After peering past the surface, I found out that it is a serious anime with a strong dark fantasy theme by Fukami Makoto-san of “PSYCHO-PASS” fame.
While there are many harsh depictions, the birth of characters in that cruelty and the interaction and exchange between them are depicted with importance. The maid costumes that are being used as camouflage for the girls of the special operations team is a a cute factor, but there are also other factors that are the opposite, and this is a gap that makes the series enjoyable. Also, the female characters feels quite girly and good! The actions scenes are also cool. I’m sure that it will be received by the viewers as a very attractive series.
――For people who sees (the title) “Magical Girl”, they will surely be shocked by the key visuals (laughs).
Suzaki: It was a real eye opener! (The characters) are equipped with weapons (laughs). When you think about magical girls, you picture them flying and shooting out beams, and the enemies fall without blood being spilled. But this isn’t the case here, where you see blood flowing out (laughs).
――This was a role that was decided from an audition right?
Suzaki: Yeah, that happened. I was sure that I failed the auditions, so I was shocked to receive the call.
I’m sure everyone’s image of Asuka is a cool and composed girl. I haven’t had a role like this before, so I think fans can’t imagine what it would be like for me voicing her, I’m heading to the recording with excitement……! Also, although I worked with the sound director, Iwanami Yoshikazu-san on previous works such as “Kill La Kill” and “Knights of Sidonia” previously, it felt fresh for me this time in regards to my acting. When I recorded for the CM (commercial), he told me “That’s rare. It sounded really cool.”, I found my determination to put in my best. I was also elated when Fukami-sensei told me that the image was perfectly in line with what he had.
――How did you go about formulating a plan for the auditions?
Suzaki: For the typical auditions, the majority of the lines in the audition script would be based around human emotions (Joy, anger, sadness, humour). This time round, there wasn’t anything like that. The lines were describing a character who doesn’t express much emotions due to her past, or simply put, imprison herself in that state. That’s why I thought that the amplitude of her emotions isn’t wide, and thought that maybe I can pull it off.
Actually, I only got to know of the audition a day before (the actual audition), so I took on it without reading the manga. Of course, I sat down and properly went through it after I passed but, I also had thoughts that it was good that I didn’t over-create the character at the time of the audition.
I feel that if I read it beforehand, I would end up inputting my personal opinions on certain scenes. I think that is why it would be difficult for me to come up with the unexpected expressions that was required. I don’t know if it is just for this case only, but I’m really glad that I got chosen.
――As the voice actor of Asuka, what is your impression of her?
Suzaki: Although she is a magical girl, she is shouldering many burdens in the harsh reality she is in, and carrying a wounded body and heart. Because she is very different from me, I feel that the recording will be difficult, but as an actor, it is a role that is worth doing. Also, she has many exchanges with Kurumi-chan, and I’m looking forward to her voice since it’s my first time working with Sekine Akira-san.
――What do you think are the key elements to watch out for when it airs?
Suzaki: I still believe the appeal of the show lies in its action scenes. Perhaps there will also be people watching it because of its title (laughs). After getting betrayed by their impression of a magical girl show, I feel that they will fall into the cool vibes of the series. As for me, it is a new challenge for me, and I believe that the other cast members also feel the same way as me too. I think that everyone will unite in the creation of the series, so i’ll be delighted if you watch it.
Interview, text: Toyabe Kouhei
This interview was first published on 4 December 2018 in Animatetimes. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners.