Nikkei Entertainment interview with Takahashi Rie

Hisanori Yoshida, more commonly known by his nickname, Yoppi, sat down with Takahashi Rie for an in-depth interview earlier this year. It was published as an article in Nikkei Entertainment’s magazine, and compiled in 2019 edition of Seiyuu Bible. As such, the interview is less rigid than usual, but also offers an inside look in Takahashi Rie’s acting thoughts on being an otaku, voice actor and finding acting.

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Takahashi Rie

A new star with many lead & heroine roles under her belt, talks about “The way of a female voice actor”, and also about her “Thoughts” that was born through her love for anime.

 

It has been 5 years since her debut as a voice actor in 2013. Takahashi Rie possesses sweet and crystal clear voice as well as her impressive acting skills that has helped to elevate her performances for her roles. In 2015, she landed her first lead role in Sore ga Seiyuu, as well as being selected as part of the main cast for Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace and Gakkou Gurashi, and has since became the main lead in Mahou Tsukai Precure.  Through her wonderful acting as the main heroine, Takagi san, in the popular manga Karakai Jouzu no Takagi san, she brings to us a brilliant performance.

There are usually two polar opposites when it comes to an image of a voice actor, one whose love for anime and games became their reason to become one – or in other words, a voice actor who possesses otaku attributes, the other which is the opposite, and often taking a completely different route to become one. Despite being on board with Takahashi Rie for numerous events and radio programmes, we have not established which type of voice actor she is, so the purpose of this interview is to get a conclusive answer.


Yoshida: It wasn’t really the case in the past, but recently I feel that there has been a spurt of otaku-ish voice actor who joining the industry because of their overpowering love for anime, and to put it in all honesty, I feel that Takahashi-san exudes this otaku-ish characteristic, but on the other hand, that doesn’t feel like it too. So, which is the case here!? – that is the theme for this time round.

Takahashi: I see! That’s a really happy theme (laughs).

Yoshida: Really!? Why is that so?

Takahashi: That was something that weighed on my mind when I entered this industry. Liking voice acting as a job makes me treat it importantly, it can be put as someone who is passionate about his/her job, but because I really like voice actor, subconsciously I would have constant thoughts of  “It’ll be nice if there is a voice actor like this” or “I want to become a voice actor like her”.

For me, I also got to know about voice actor through anime, so there’s definitely an otaku inside of me that loves anime, but if I happened to meet them (the voice actor who appeared in the anime) on-set and tell them “I watched this anime~”, it gives off a feeling that I’m coming to work to play instead. So even if I meet a person I admire or a person involved in an anime I like a lot, I want to stay focused and keep these thoughts within myself, and properly carry out my responsibilities for the job that I have been entrusted to. I think that is the basic etiquette that I should observe as actors on the same set. I would like to keep ‘The voice actor, Takahashi Rie’ and ‘The otaku, Takahashi Rie’ as separate entities.

Yoshida: That’s great. It sounds like something that Downtown-san¹ would say.

¹ Downtown is a Japanese comedy duo from Amagasaki, Hyōgo consisting of Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada. Formed in 1982, they are one of the most influential and prolific comedy duos in Japan today. (Wikipedia)

Takahashi: Ah, is that so?

Yoshida: By that, I don’t mean that you are expressing yourself as an entertainer. But somewhere in the middle, it shifted to being able to be responsible for the work itself. I had a chance to hear from Nozawa Masako-san, who told me that there was no profession known as ‘Voice actor’ in the first place. That is why she said she doesn’t think of how and what a voice actor should be like. Times have since changed from back then, and I feel that is the reason for this way of thought now.

Takahashi: I feel that is a new mindset now.

Yoshida: In my era, there were many voice actors in their 40s who got entrusted with roles in anime, while it was a given that there would be thoughts on characters and voice acting as a job, but I feel that it is the ‘New generation’ that kick started the notion on how voice actors are seen as.

Takahashi: New generation eh… I wonder.(laughs).

 

Getting into anime through ‘Higurashi’


Yoshida
: Was your love for anime from an early age, so much that you discovered that ‘you only like anime’?

Takahashi: I was absorbed into the world of Hinamizawa² back in the 2nd year of middle school (laughs). I was really deep into Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.

² Hinamizawa is the fictitious village that the events of Higurashi is centered around.

Yoshida: This is already the generation that ‘Eva’ doesn’t get mentioned already (laughs). But anyway, you didn’t get into it when it was first released, right?

Takahashi: Yeah. I couldn’t follow it back then, so I started after it got adapted into a manga series and played the game after that, I also only found out about the anime afterwards. But I learnt a lot after entering the world of Higurashi. It spawned doujinshi, character songs, and I also learnt about the other shows that the cast appeared in. In a sense, this was my portal to the otaku world.

Dōjinshi (同人誌, often transliterated doujinshi) is the Japanese term for self-published works, usually magazines, manga or novels. Dōjinshi are often the work of amateurs, though some professional artists participate as a way to publish material outside the regular industry. (Wikipedia)

Yoshida: So that was your life back in middle school, how about back when you were a kid?

Takahashi: My mum gave me free rein to do the things I wanted to do, so my education policy was relatively based on my free-will. I liked singing as a kid, so I joined the neighbourhood theater troupe, as well as doing rhythmic gymnastics for around 8 years and playing the piano!

Yoshida: That’s quite the devotion you put into learning.

Takahashi: Surprisingly, I tried out many different  things. I even joined the soft tennis club in middle school.

Yoshida: And the number 1 question that everyone asks themselves after entering a club in middle school is “Why did I choose this club?” (laughs)

Takahashi: That’s true (laughs)! Furthermore, my seniors were really strict.

Yoshida: (laughs). That is why you got  into Hinamizawa.

Takahashi: Yes, under the influence of my friend (laughs). There was an otaku group in the class whom I got along well with, and thereafter was introduced to Higurashi. Since I like the horror genre, maybe that is why they introduced the manga to me. But, even though I was under the impression or reading a horror manga, I learnt of the moe subculture through some moments while reading.

Yoshida: I see. In the first place, getting into Higurashi is not the usual route (becoming an otaku) you would take. If you are used to moe stuff, getting into horror afterwards might be a little jarring.

Takahashi: That’s right. I went into this world via the other side (laughs). After that, I found out about Nico Nico Douga  and also fiddled with portals like Koebu (laughs). That’s really nostalgic.

⁵ Nico Nico Douga is a video sharing website that was launched on 12 December, 2006.
⁶ Koebu was a community portal where users can record lines, upload recordings as well as listen to recordings from other users. It was used by many middle and high schoolers who were aspiring to become voice actors. Koebu concluded its service on September 30, 2016.


Yoshida: When did you start having aspirations of becoming a voice actor?

Takahashi: It was during the 3rd year of middle school.

Yoshida: So you took the auditions back then?

Takahashi: No, that was during high school. To be honest, I already had all the materials for becoming a voice actor back then, so I was really determined to go down that path. However, my parents insisted on graduating first, so I set my sights on joining the broadcasting club and practicing singing in high school. After graduating from middle school, I joined the broadcasting club as well as the light music club.

Yoshida: Light music club!?

Takahashi: I felt that just being in the broadcasting club was insufficient, and since I wanted to practise more, and K-On! was very popular back then (laughs), buying a Les Paul was not out of the question too.

⁷ Les Paul is the guitar of choice for Hirasawa Yui in the anime, K-On!

Yoshida: So you bought it right (laughs).

Takahashi: Yes (laughs). However, I really liked being in the recording studio for the broadcasting club activities since I could talk about otaku-related topics, but at that time the general consensus of otakus was not too well received, and since the light music club was more on the fashionable side, I kept K-On! a secret from everyone inside there. Instead, I would give suggestions like “Hey, let’s play Stereopony’s Namida no Mukou⁸ ~”

⁸ Stereopony was a 3-member girl group who disbanded in 2012. Namida no Mukou was used as the 2nd opening theme for the 2nd season of Gundam 00.

Yoshida: That just about qualifies as an anison (anime song).

Takahashi: Ah, but I would usually bring tea and sweets to club (laughs). Everyone was wondering why, but in my heart I was like “Let’s have a girls’ talk and enjoy some after-school tea time⁹!” (laughs)

⁹ After-school tea time is the band name of the 5 main characters in K-On!.

Yoshida: You managed to adapt to the situation well enough instead of controlling it.

Takahashi: The first step starts from conforming to others (laughs).

Yoshida: So, how exactly did you get about becoming a voice actor in high school?

Takahashi: Back in high school (and the agency she belongs to now), I took on the auditions held by 81 Produce,  but I did not receive any notification (of passing) which left me shocked. After that, I knew I had to work harder and went on to represent the broadcasting club at the national meet, wrote that down on my records and took on their auditions 1 year later again, and this time, I managed to win the special prize. That said, it was more of earning the rights to begin training at their facilities. Although I had not formally entered the agency, it was a big step for me.

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‘Female voice actor’ as an occupation

 

Yoshida: You mentioned earlier about ‘Liking voice acting as an occupation’.

Takahashi: While in high school, I watched tons of anime for the purpose of becoming a voice actor, and after entering the broadcasting club, I found the expression of voices to be interesting, and that was about how I became a voice actor otaku (laughs). It wasn’t the anime themselves that captivated me, but the narrative behind the acting, and I became interested in the past records of the voice actors and their lifestyles. After looking into them, I realised that there are already people of my age group in this industry, and since I like watching their singing and dancing expressions, I went to Sphere and StylipS’ concerts several times. I’m sure it was not so much on gaining more in-depth knowledge about the anime, but rather, it was the moment that I grew more invested in the world of voice acting, especially ‘female voice actors’.

Yoshida: In the present day, I hear that there is a code to live by for female voice actors, or simply put, their “Strategy”.

The best way to bring out my potential was to join EARPHONES and to distinguish myself from others.

 

Takahashi: I believe it exists. I thought of setting my sights on that, but I realized that even among all the seniors, everyone of them has their own strategy on how to stand out from the rest, so no one is doing the same thing. That is what gave me the resolve to join EARPHONES.

Yoshida: EARPHONES certainly feels like a project that is fresh off the bat.

Takahashi: When I started activities with EARPHONES, it was different from the image of female voice actor unit that I had in my mind (laughs). But I think it’s all good, since we got to head towards an interesting direction. I think EARPHONES is really great for me.

Yoshida: It’s rare enough to find someone who’s a female voice actor enthusiast, that’s why I find that Takahashi-san has looked at the overview of this subject, and that there are really few voice actors out there who understands the context as much as you.

Takahashi: Ah, I think I still got a long way to go from looking at the complete picture…

Yoshida: I think you are already doing well enough in that department!

Takahashi: Because I really like the world of female voice actors, I end up paying attention to them.

Yoshida: Let’s put aside the talk about acting for now. It’s a given that no one is neglecting that, what do you think about your own specialty and how do you act upon that?

Takahashi: I always think that it would be great if I can make the the series enjoyable through my acting, and to allow everyone to feel the earnestness that I put in the process. However, I don’t want it to be a case of the viewers just looking at the character being voiced by Takahashi Rie, it would be the best if everyone can think of that as just one character involved in the series and to enjoy the series as a whole.

From my own viewpoint, for example, if there’s an anime you like, and you like it so much that it becomes the reason for living. Once you reach that stage, you would be curious about what kind of feelings and mood the production team had when they created that series. And if their passion and feelings align with yours, you would definitely be over the moon. That’s why I feel that if I hope to properly convey these feelings of earnestness and importance of the work to me in the series, and for the viewers to enjoy watching without worrying about anything else.

Yoshida: That sounds almost like a shrine maiden, making sure not to neglect the deities (fans).

Takahashi: (Laughs). Because I like the work, I would like to convey my appreciation to the fans in the greatest way possible, which is by my acting and enjoyment in the series. For the purpose of achieving that, I’m in the midst of trying out things and ironing out the flaws.

Yoshida: For example?

Takahashi: For events and interviews like this, I’m still thinking on how should I present myself, or maybe how I should proceed on a whole. Using Twitter is also part of the bigger picture. I try to make my tweets relevant to the words that were conversed on-air, but to be frank, I’m still really bad at it. I’d take 20 minutes to draft out a tweet… (laughs). Since we are at the era where voice actors appear on the public stage, I would like to think of the broader picture and how to support the series moving forward.

 

4 hours for script checking!?

Yoshida: Takahashi-san left a very deep impression on me with your portrayal of Kobayashi in Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace.

Takahashi: Thank you for watching it!

Yoshida: It was a series that I really liked. Furthermore, I felt that since the role is played by a female voice actor, she must be really up to the job and that she should be specialized in playing the roles of a young boy for a long time.

Takahashi: Ah!

Yoshida: That is why when I saw Takahashi-san’s portrayal of Kobayashi, I felt that you were really good and also thought you brought out the essence of the character.

Takahashi: It makes be really happy to hear those words. I was a newbie at the time of Rampo and that made it possible for me to act out the role, or should I say, because I was empowered by my surroundings, I was able to find my inspiration and act out a difficult role like that. That was also the impetus that led me to be able to act out the role on the theater last year too.

Yoshida: You reprised your role as Kobayashi right?

Takahashi: That’s right. Uezu Makoto-san who was in charge of the series composition for the anime was also back in as the screenwriter and supervising director, but he told me this “What’s wrong? You aren’t able to act out Kobayashi anymore? (like how she was able to do because it was her first time)”. That stung me and made me frustrated. I wanted to prove that it was not a fluke the first time round so I gathered my thoughts and tried again, and this time I got the approval. Two years have passed by since the broadcast of the anime.

Yoshida: I had no idea that happened!

 

While chasing after the image of the voice actor, I discovered my number one love, acting.

 

Takahashi: That said, since acting is something you express with your entire body, I had interest in it. Ever since being told “A voice actor is an actor.” back in training school, I always wanted to appear on a stage someday, so I took part in this project. Not just the acting part, but being able to talk with the other actors about acting was enjoyable too. Everyday was stimulating, and it made me feel throughout my whole body, that I really love the expression (of acting).

Yoshida: At that point, you must have felt a love for acting that exceeded the love for a voice actor.

Takahashi: I think so too. While chasing after the image of a voice actor, I discovered that my number one love is acting, and that is something that made me want to give my best.

Yoshida: That is certainly putting the audience as the priority.

Takahashi: You really think so? There are times I’ve been told that I’m over thinking a little…

Yoshida: While that may be the case, I feel that that is something the voice actors of today have to consider.

Takahashi: Actually, while that was ongoing, I heard “Voice actors are really too good”, and that made me a little sad. At that period, I was thinking about Kobayashi the entire time. How would Kobayashi eat his meals, how would he walk home, to list a few examples. Although I’m happy with that, the fast switch from being a voice actor surprised me, or should I say, saddened me.

Yoshida: I see~!!

Takahashi: It was about playing one role in the morning and another role in the afternoon, and I felt apologetic on realizing the relative lack of time I had for each of the characters. However, I feel that voice actors who can do this switch between the characters and expressions are true professionals, and it is something that I’m lacking in.

Yoshida: Somebody once told me that voice actors are like divers. When you are ready to go, you submerge into the waters in that instant, and when it is time to withdraw, you come back swiftly.

Takahashi: That’s indeed relatable. But I’m the type who wants to make use of every possible minute to work on the role…

Yoshida: I took it that you were gaining experience by putting your 100% into the role through the stage play.

Takahashi: Although there are also people who finish their script checking in an hour, I took around 4 hours for mine at that time. I guess it’s like embracing my profession as a voice actor?

Yoshida: Are you talking about efficiency here? But that aside, efficiency comes later on. It’s the end result that matters after all. If we put it this way, it feels like you are thinking about many different things. I can only say it is like a mystery.

Takahashi: You are right, I think there is really a lot to think about (laughs).

Yoshida: I’m sure that is what makes the voice actor, Takahashi Rie. On one side, you are an otaku, and on the other, taking care of what the viewers see.

Takahashi: That will be nice if that is the case.

The places you put in effort as a voice actor

 

Yoshida: I think the currently airing (at the time of this interview) Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is a wonderful anime. The emotions of the characters are expressed in a delicate manner on a whole, and everyone performed their roles perfectly!

Takahashi: I agree. Even the movement of an eyebrow adds detail to the scene, it feels like every little thing consolidated to form Takagi-san as a complete product.

Yoshida: Takagi-san is certainly a role that required the input of many thoughts.

Takahashi: That’s right (laughs). I started from “The things that Takagi-san likes”, “The things that Takagi-san likes to do”, “Her favourite Nishikata’s reactions”, “The things that fans of the original work wish for” to list a few, so I gathered thoughts like these before the first recording session (As well as plenty of notes written down on A4 sheets, as well as hand-made character memos which Takahashi-san showed during this interview)

Yoshida: That’s amazing. Is it really okay for me to look at these!?

Takahashi: Yes! Maybe my notes are a little difficult to understand though… I thought that if I didn’t do this beforehand, I won’t be able to grasp the image (of the character). Even though the direction of the acting changes at the studio, I have to fix the fundamentals clearly in my mind, since there’s no luxury of time at the studios. Doing it like this makes me grasp the situation clearly and that is a hypothesis that I have come to form for myself.

Yoshida: (In the memo) “From the director, the pace of the middle schoolers on the island” is written. Was the setting based on an island!?

Takahashi: It wasn’t specified in the manga, but in the anime, you get to see the sea and experience the laid back feeling pretty often. The director specifically wanted me to portray the pace of middle schoolers living by the sea, and not of those from the city, so it’s something like dictating your own life by your own pace.

Yoshida: That’s really amazing, going out of your way to prepare these materials for the interview.

Takahashi: I feel uneasy if I don’t have them at hand (laughs).

Yoshida: I feel that Takahashi-san has done everything that was needed of the role. Things like controlling the situation fittingly and making a decisions on certain parameters. I think that is a role that a generic voice actor cannot carry out.

Takahashi: Thank you. Takagi-san was a really difficult role… Since there are many fans of the manga, there is considerable pressure and responsibility that fell on me on how to answer to their image of the ideal heroine through the anime. That is something a voice actor has to put in effort for!”.

Interview: Hisanori Yoshida

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This interview was published in Nikkei Entertainment’s Anime Special “Seiyuu Bible 2019”. You can buy the magazine at Amazon. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners.

Special thanks to Pyrite for proof reading!

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