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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Interview with Suzaki Aya (Part 1)

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.

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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.

 

日本ナレーション演技研究所洲崎綾さんインタビュー前編2.jpg――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.

日本ナレーション演技研究所洲崎綾さんインタビュー前編3.jpg

――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!?”.

――(Laughs)

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).

日本ナレーション演技研究所洲崎綾さんイン――(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).

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――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.

――Thank you.

Interview, text: Toyabe Kouhei

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This interview was first published on 4 December 2018 in Animatetimes. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners.

Takahashi Rie (2012)

Voice acting is an industry that not everyone can make the cut. Competition for roles, jobs and juggling the time spent at working part-time while going for vocal training are some of the struggles that newbie seiyuu face.

Before her breakthrough role as Ichinose Futaba in Sore ga Seiyuu!, Takahashi Rie was part of a seiyuu unit called ‘Anisoni∀’ which she formed together with fellow trainees at that time, Ueda Reina, Tsumita Kayoko and Hayashida Chieri. Unfortunately it seems that only Takahashi Rie and Ueda Reina are still active today.

I found a gem while clearing out old magazines I bought, and I believe this is her first appearance on a printed media.

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Birthplace: Saitama
Birthday:
27 February
Favourite anime
: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, K-on (favourite member:Ricchan [Ritsu])
Skills: Cartwheel

1) What are your thoughts on appearing on this issue of the magazine?

It feels like I got to do some actual activities (as a seiyuu), so I’m really excited about it.

2) What is your first impression of the other members?

Hayashida (Chieri) san is the adult and the mood maker of the group, she brings lots of fun to us.

Ueda (Reina) san is dreamy and makes me feel calm and relaxed.

Tsumita (Kayoko) san is really well mannered black haired beauty. You’ll feel “She’s a nice person” when you see her for the first time.

3) What made you want to become a seiyuu?

I got to know of this (seiyuu) world from watching anime back in middle school and wanted to experience this world for myself.

4) What are your feelings on appearing on an event for the first time?

Is it really okay for me to perform on such a big stage for our first ever event? At the same time, I’m itching to do something so please let it come faster!

5) What challenges do you want to take up in the future?

A radio show with everyone in the group. And eventually a solo live (one man live with the group)

6) A message to the readers, please.

I’ve just started out as a newbie, I hope to inject my energy and cheerfulness into my activities and pass it on to everyone!

 

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This interview was first published on the August 2012 edition of Newtype. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners.

Ueda Reina’s “I like this colour” #50 (Second half)

You can read Part 1 here.

To commemorate the 50th edition, we invited Okuno Kaya-san as a guest. In the second half we walked around Yuigahama. While stuffing their cheeks with melon bread and taiyaki and enjoying their leisurely stroll, the beach appears in front of them…!

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I had a blast…!

The refreshing and invigorating air, the warm hues of Yuigahama.

For Kamakura which has been involved in both Hanayamata and Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club, even if it’s been a few years since then, this view will not fade away…

To be able to come here with Kaya was really enjoyable.

Ueda Reina
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◇After the shoot

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Q: Since the first half at Kamakura Museum of Literature, both of you have worn coordinated outfits, how did both of you decide on this?

Ueda: Kaya came to me and asked “I feel like wearing matching outfits, what do you think we should wear?”, to which I replied, “I haven’t thought of that yet, but how about the same type of outfits in different colours?” We agreed afterwards and that was how we ended up in matching outfits.

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Okuno: After that, we kept sending each other photos of outfits, until we started asking “Ah, do we have so many to choose from!?” (laughs) We were scratching our heads since all of them were cute, so we decided on the one that brought out the feeling of us being a unit the most.

Ueda: It brings out the feel that we are a unit or on a date, I really think it worked out well.

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Q: In fact, the underlying theme for this shoot is based on Hanayamata’s ‘Naru and Yaya 10 years later’, did you have any thoughts about this image before?

Ueda: I feel that Naru and Kaya will continue to be as they were. I think they will definitely still be squabbling with each others and maintain a close relationship (laughs). That is why I feel the atmosphere here is a perfect fit for them. A few years have passed since the filming of the PV (promotional video for the anime), and we have since matured a little, and just casually taking a stroll, having a meal, so it could be linked back to the PV too.

Okuno: The sea at Yuigahama gives off a feeling of “NaruYaya”. Because I have played Yaya as a role, having a shoot like this and standing before Rei-chan, I kept thinking “I want to be like Yaya. I want to become Yaya.” But when we are chatting outside of work, I would usually be the one initiating it, so in a sense I was unable to become Yaya(laughs). Because of that, when Rei-chan hugs me from the back, I feel very embarrassed since I couldn’t get into character. On the other hand, when it was my turn to hug Rei-chan from behind, I hugged her while thinking “I will never hand her over to anyone!” It was an emotion that came naturally from within me.

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Ueda
: When I got hugged from behind, I felt a tight squeeze. While I was acting as Naru, there were many times I felt my heart…or rather my body being tightly constrained…… Ah, so this is what it felt like (laughs).

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Q: At the time of publication for the second half, the plan for an original photo book featuring some of your favourite photos from this serialization has begun, what are your feelings regarding this?

Ueda: It takes courage to make the leap from being on the net to a publication, there are also shots that have never been released so far, so I want to show them to everyone to let them experience “I like the feel of this colour” again, rather than creating a museum, I want to let the art pieces dictate themselves freely. This way, I’m sure I can experience the the relentless efforts we have put in thus far, and I’m looking forward to that.

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Q: Looking at the photos from the early days of this serialization, what are your thoughts?

Ueda: Looking at them, I think my expressions were different back then, and that I was really young…for example. (laughs)

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Q: It has only been 2 years though! (laughs)

Ueda: That’s right. (laughs) The variation of my smile has changed little by little along the way, and knowing that makes me excited, that I have left behind images like that. Usually when we talk about publishing a photo book, it would be something like a 1-week project, 1 day for the shoot, and whatever you showed on that day defines the shape and form of the photo book. However, this time round, I got to choose from more than 2 years of images and expressions, feeling the passing of time, and I think it is really enjoyable.

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Photography: Matsumoto Yuusuke
Hair styling & cosmetics: Sweets
Interview: Osugi Shigeaki

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This interview was first published on 8 December 2017 in Web Newtype. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners. Please view the rest of the gorgeous photos at their site!

Ueda Reina’s “I like this colour” #50 (First half)

“I like this colour” is a photo feature column featuring Ueda Reina, who likes drawing and strolling as hobbies. In this column, we follow Ueda-san to various places, finding interesting “objects” and “things”, and also search for a “colour” she likes.
This is the 50th edition for this serialization. To commemorate this occasion, we have invited Okuno Kaya-san to be part of this column.
The first place we visited is Kamakura, which is a place that holds memories for both of them, Kamakura Musuem of Literature, which comprises of a vast and magnificent garden surrounded by the mountains and sea, a beautiful appearance that has been preserved from the early Showa era.

First Half
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Just like a fairy tale, with a little old and rustic feel.

It is a place that is full of warmth.

Kamakura is a place that lets me take a breather, and a lovely place that gives me peace of mind.
It brings me happiness no matter how many times I visit.
Ueda Reina
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◇After the photo shoot

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Q: This time round being the 50th edition, so we have Okuno Kaya-san joining in for the photo shoot at Kamakura.

Ueda: I’m in heaven (laughs). Really, really thank you so much for this. On the previous edition, when I was asked on the place I wanted to go and the things I wanted to do for this edition, I answered “Kamakura, Kaya, ‘Hanayamata’……”. To have this wish granted, I’m really thankful and happy.

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Q: What about you, Okuno-san? How do you feel being on this feature as a guest?

Okuno: I’ve been reading this column from quite some time ago, and when Ōtsubo Yuka got featured as a guest, I got jealous and wanted to be in her shoes (laughs). For each time, the photos are beautifully taken, Rei-chan’s (Ueda) expression is also lovely, so I think that this is a splendid project. I do ponder on whether I can be invited as a guest someday, but to be invited for the 50th edition…… I can’t put into words how happy I am now.

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Q: What kind of impression do you have after entering the world of ‘I like this colour’?

Okuno: When both of us were getting photographed, it’s not as if we entered a world with just the 2 of us. “Okay, let’s have Ueda-san for some solo shots…” When I saw her getting photographed, I thought “Ah, this is the view I’ve always been looking at!” It was a personal feeling that came to me (laughs). Each and every angle, the attention paid to the details when taking the shots, to be part of this wonderful series, I think I’m really blessed.

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Q: On the other hand, Ueda-san, what kind of emotions was running through your mind, having someone else observe you getting photographed?

Ueda: I felt that it resonated closely with me when Matsumoto-san (Photographer) assembled an image that consisted of Kaya, me and the location itself. Because it felt excessively similar, even when both of us had our solo shots, or when we got photographed together, It always felt that we were being taken as ‘One entity’, so in that essence, it hasn’t differed much from the usual. I also got to participate in the process of the shoot itself, when Kaya was being photographed, I got to see which angles were good (laughs). I think it really felt like every other sessions, being part of the trials and process.

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Q: This time round, we have used Kamakura Museum of Literature as the representative for Kamakura. What kind of impression did you get?

Ueda: I thought it was a very pure place. It has elements of what I love Kamakura for, it’s beautiful no matter which spot we went to, and in this clear space, you can see the sunlight filtering through the canopy which gives you a bit of the otherworldly feel, and that makes this place wonderful. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

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Q: Moving around the exterior of the museum to the garden, was there any place that caught your attention?

Ueda: The tunnel (Shoukakudou) left behind a deep impression. Somehow, it has a magnetic force that draws you in tightly…… It’s a little scary, but I like how it sets up the imposing feeling that draws you in. The twilight-like rays that enters through the tunnel was really good as well.

Okuno: That tunnel was like a portal to another world. Even though there was sunlight piercing through the canopy from the surroundings, on the whole it felt dim…… The mysterious mood made it felt like it didn’t belong to this era, and added to the grandeur of the place.

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Q: What did you think of the interior?

Ueda: Rather than just an interior, it gave me a feeling of ‘Home’, and allowed me to relax and take a breather. It felt like my grandma’s house…… The stained glass was also gorgeous, it was really vibrant and vivid.

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Photography: Matsumoto Yuusuke
Hair styling & cosmetics: Sweets
Interview: Osugi Shigeaki
Participating partners: Kamakura Museum of Literature

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This interview was first published on 24 November 2017 in Web Newtype. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners. Please view the rest of the gorgeous photos at their site!