With Nagaku Yuki (Gakkyu) finally getting interviewed for Seiyuu Zukan, I thought that it was time that I finally cleared my backlog for Kouno Marika (Marinka) to complete the Earphones trio. Marinka has always been a busy person, having her fair share of photo shoots, magazine spreads and events, but not that many anime roles. She recently joined Aoni Production to unite with Gakkyu, so I’m excited to see how her new career direction pans out.
This was one of the earliest entries in the seiyuu zukan series, so there are definitely thoughts that have changed since.
This is Seiyuu Zukan (Voice Actor Pictorial Book), where we interview up-and-coming voice actors, why they joined the industry, their first work, as well as their personal life and any other interesting things, together with a mini photo shoot.
For the 6th edition, we have Kouno Marika, who has an ongoing column here (Rookie Voice Actor Kouno Marika, Heading Out!) and various activities. In this issue, we will ask her about voicing Uta Utako in the anime, Chikasugi Idol Akae-chan and her participation in the drama CD for Chanoputekina Drama.
――What led you to become a voice actor?
Kouno: I have enjoyed reading books since young, and so for read-aloud sessions in grade school, I always read to my mum as practice. But, I didn’t just read them out, I found it fun to include the characters’ traits. For example, using a cunning voice for an villainy character. Until that point, there wasn’t really any stuff that I was interested in, so it made me happy when my mum told me, “You’re good at this, let me hear more.” I guess that was the starting point.
――How about the decisive moment?
Kouno: When I found out that Pokemon‘s Pikachu and One Piece‘s Chopper shared the same voice actor (Ōtani-san*), I thought that voice actors are amazing which made me want to become one myself.
*Ōtani Ikue, from Mausu Promotion. Kouno Marika has since left Mausu (2019) to join Aoni Production.
――When did you start commuting to a vocational school for voice acting?
Kouno: I went to a high school which specialized in voice acting training, so I could study under the general curriculum while having access to the necessary training materials. I spent 3 years there and joined a vocational school after graduation.
――How did you promote yourself during the auditions in vocation school?
Kouno: I did it normally like how I’m conversing now. However, back then, I didn’t have any special skills and wasn’t used to self promotion, so I just made a frantic attempt to showcase my appeal (laughs).
――So if we do it at this point of time, what kind of special skills would you reveal?
Kouno: Since I played basketball since young, I guess I’d go with that. Also, I love otome games. I’d combine these 2 points together and do stuff like “Air basketball” (laughs).
――What do you mean by “Air basketball”?
Kouno: Imagining that Ryukawa-kun (Slam Dunk) is standing beside and supporting me while I use my left arm to support the ball and practice shooting training (laughs). While doing that, I’d go “I wanna play ball…” (laughs) That’s what you do at auditions… right? (laughs)
――I can see that improvisation is your specialty.
Kouno: I often practiced that through etudes* back in high school. I often played around with my friends (laughs).
*Etude refers to improvisation theater which is often used by schools as acting training.
――What kind of training did you do in your training school? Did you get to practice dubbing too?
Kouno: Yeah, I did dubbing in school. Also, the training consisted of live reading for short stories and body movement. I learnt stuff like which part of the body helps in voice projection, like the type of posture.
――This time round, you are the one getting interviewed, but you have been interviewing others for a while now.
Kouno: Regardless of whether I’m the one doing the interview*, or getting interviewed, I still get nervous (laughs).
*She had a column on ddnavi where she interviews creators. Check out her interview of Kōhei Azano (Author, Tokyo Ravens) for ddnavi here.
――I believe it’s an entirely different ball game when you compare voice acting to interviewing, but how was it actually like?
Kouno: At first, I didn’t know how to conduct the interviews as a voice actor, the way to approach them. So I studied interviewers who appeared on TV and looked up methods of interviewing. It was definitely a new experience for me.
――What have you learnt from talking to creators like them?
Kouno: When talking about the decision for a character’s voice, the answer “To treat the original work importantly” comes across pretty often right? When I inquired about it, I learned things like the process of character building, and also felt their strong emotions for that process. It isn’t just about speaking to match the character, but the importance of understanding the essence of their words and the feelings of the creators. When I heard about that, I was able to comprehend the importance of not just the character, but also the value of their words.
――Other than the actual interview, you also had to gather materials for the interview. Was it a different scope of work?
Kouno: There is just so much happening at events, a world that is unknown to me. No matter how much I prepare for them, something unexpected will happen, so there’s nothing but stimulation for me. I’m still in the process of figuring it out… how to best translate them into words. Also, it’s awkward since I’m not used to having my photos taken, so I had a tough time figuring out a good pose (laughs).
――What’s interesting when gathering materials at events?
Kouno: It’s fun to go to events. Since I also love anime, I share the same excitement of the event-goers. I conduct the interview with that feeling and hope that I present an article through the eyes and ears of everyone.
――Are there any works that left a lasting impression with you?
Kouno: There’s this manga I love called Vagabond. Aside from my love for samurais, this work exudes a plethora of emotions from the heart. Emotions like regret, resentment of wanting to kill someone, it’s a work full of emotions on an extreme level. Witnessing the clash of emotions helps out my own acting as well, so it isn’t just a matter of reading out of enjoyment, but also serves as a medium to broaden my own acting chops. I love the realism that Vagabond presents and it truly is the epitome of manliness.
――That’s really different from the previously mentioned Pokemon and One Piece.
Kouno: Of course I like anime that are filled with dreams, but I think there are certain expressions that only a manga can present.
――In Chikasugi Idol Akae-chan, you acted as Uta Utako. What kind of character is she?
Kouno: On musicるTV (musicruTV), she appears as a cheerful and cute mascot, but her vibe changes completely in the animation, somewhat like an elder sister, or rather, she exudes an aura of a “capable girl”. I had plenty of acting freedom.
――Did you do the dubbing with everyone?
Kouno: Sometimes I did it alone, but through that, I was able to witness other people’s acting. Since the characters have rich personalities, it was a valuable lesson being able to witness everyone’s acting.
――Utako-chan is also releasing a character song right?
Kouno: Yeah, since it was my first time recording for a song, I was nervous. The staffers had to teach me from scratch.
――How did recording feel like?
Kouno: I was fired up for it since my favourite 40mP-san was in charge of composition and lyrics. I recorded the song under his guidance, and it turned out to be a good song with everyone’s efforts.
――Which of his songs do you like?
Kouno: My favourite is Karakuri Pierrot (Clockwork Clown)! It’s a fancy song and has a jazz feel. I also loved how the melody changes to match the lyrics, I always feel good when I listen to it.
――Do you go to karaoke often?
Kouno: Quite often. Actually, I don’t usually listen to vocaloid songs, but I specifically like 40mP-san’s creations. My usual genre is rock. For example, bands like Maximum the Hormone, ONE OK ROCK and One Direction.
――Do you sing their songs in karaoke?
Kouno: It isn’t at the level that I can display in public, but yes I do (laughs). I go all out with the head bangs…(laughs). I also enjoy death growls*. It’s fun to move my body to the beat of the music, although my sense of rhythm isn’t quite there (laughs).
*A death growl (or simply a growl) is a vocal style (an extended vocal technique) usually employed by death metal singers (Wikipedia).
――I believe that the recording for songs is quite different from your usual dubbing, was it enjoyable?
Kouno: Being able to work with my favourite artiste was fun (laughs).
――What kind of song it is?
Kouno: It has the mainstream idol-ish pop feel, and ultimately, it’s a cutesy song. Since I sing mostly rock songs, I recorded the song in a cutesy voice while trying to retain my own essence. It was my first time singing an idol-ish song, so it felt fresh.
――Other than idols, do you sing songs from other female artistes?
Kouno: I listen to MISIA and Superfly’s songs. I listen to songs that give off the cool and lively vibes.
――What was the challenge for you this time?
Kouno: My personal challenge was “Is it really okay for me to sing such a cute song?”, I hope everyone can listen to it.
――When will the CD be out on sale?
Kouno: It will be out on sale on 16th April (Wednesday).
――You also appeared in the drama CD for Chanoputekina Drama (ちゃんおぷ的ドラマ), what is it actually about?
Kouno: It is a work which also includes Igarashi Hiromi-san, my senior from the same agency. It is a drama CD for the channel titled “Channel is Open Source!”. There were a lot of fooling around and ad-libbing.
――Even though it is a drama CD?
Kouno: That’s right! Even though it is a drama CD (laughs). I mean, even on the script, there’s like a portion that says “Do a silly line here”! Whenever the studio bursts into laughter, it always feels like “Ah, this will go on for some time now.” (laughs) I used up everything in me for this work, so I hope everyone listens to it! (laughs)
――Did you record it with everyone?
Kouno: Yeah, and we did it without any reservations for each other (laughs). It was nerve wrecking for me since they are all my seniors (laughs).
――Tell us more about your character in the series.
Kouno: She’s a pretty cool type. The type that quietly makes sarcastic remarks. She gives off a strained smile while thinking “Damn, I have really done it this time”, which conflicts with the feelings she have on the inside. So there’s this cute side to her to add to her coolness.
――What kind of character do you wish to challenge yourself in the future?
Kouno: I want to try taking on a classic character type. I got to do mostly fantasy types so far, so a modern character or a high school girl would be nice too. On the opposite spectrum, I hope to act as mature adult-ish character. In the end, I just want to take on all sorts of challenges.
――I feel like an elder sis-type of character would suit you.
Kouno: I feel that I can deliver on the voice side if I tried hard enough, but if I don’t possess that essence, it’s not going to work. For that, research is necessary… (laughs)
――Are there any other types of characters you wish to act as?
Kouno: I would like to try my hands on a character that I can see myself as, like a character in a 7AM show that is catered for children.
――What’s your aim going forward as a voice actor?
Kouno: I want to get my name out there (laughs).
――Lastly, how about a message for everyone who is reading this?
Kouno: I’ve only just turned 20, so there are still many things I want to try. To those who have been with me to witness my growth all this while, and to those I haven’t yet met, please continue to look forward to my activities. I will try my best so as to appear in lots of work and pass all this energy to everyone. Thank you!
Please look forward to the next edition of Seiyuu Zukan!
Interview, text: ucz
Photography: Yamamoto Tetsuya
Casting assistance: Yoshimura Naoki (Object)
This interview was first published on 17 April 2014 in ddnavi.com. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners.