We had the privilege of interviewing Japan’s biggest idol group currently, Momoiro Clover Z! What kind of pets do they have? Which one of them has an “infinite sneezing technique”? And what anime crushes do they have? Find out in this exclusive video interview!
Tomoyo Kurosawa is a young voice actress who has already landed several prominent anime voice roles. She’s been acting in commercials, dramas, and stage plays since the age of 3, she also plays the voice of Sylphy in Amagi Brilliant Park, Itsuki in Yuki Yuna is a Hero, Miria in Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, and the lead role of Kumiko in Kyoto Animation’s Sound! Euphonium.
This interview was conducted by Raymond Hu and Michael Huang, and is edited for clarity.
How do you like US-style breakfasts?
I like it! My coordinator/interpreter took me here and I ate muffins and cupcakes, and I enjoy it.
I’m glad the food tastes good. But personally I think Japanese food tastes better.
I like them both!
What are the differences between voice acting and other types of acting?
When I was acting in person, it was more natural. But when I started voice acting, I had to train myself physically and pay attention to breathing and use of space.
Who is your favorite seiyuu, and why?
Miki Shinichiro, famous for Kojiro in Pokemon. He’s very passionate and I learned so much about voice acting from him.
How often do you watch anime and play games?
I don’t have much chance to watch anime, other than my own shows, but Katanagatari made a strong impression on me.
(SPOILERS FOR YUKI YUNA) When you were in Yuuki Yuna is a Hero, you voiced a character, Itsuki, who later lost her voice. How do you voice a character like that?
Up to episode 5, I did have lines, but after that my character couldn’t talk. In episode 9 there was a flashback scene, but there were three weeks total with no lines. Still, the character I played affected the other characters and encouraged them. I treated the role as I would with any other usually.
Sound Euphonium features good friendships between girls, but it’s not about romantic relationships. But it shows girls’ complicated emotions and frustrations that they can’t really express in middle school. It’s characteristic of puberty. It looks like romance, but it’s not really about that. It just symbolizes adolescent life.
Did you ever have any similar experiences like that in Euphonium?
I understand the feeling of being best friends, sympathizing and crying with them.
[Michael] How about with music? Did you ever play music and play in high school band?
I played the guitar in high school.
[Michael] Do you still play?
I practice euphonium now for the anime event!
[Michael] Did you ever have to go through an audition that is as hard as the ones shown in Sound: Euphonium?
For voice acting auditions, they listened to a recording to decide, but I’ve been to theater auditions where I had to be in a studio for four days and a workshop for one month.
What’s your earlier memory of acting? We know you started at three years old…what were you doing at the time?
I played a granddaughter of Tsugawa Masahiko on an NHK drama when I was three. I saw sugar candy and I started eating it!
*Note: In reference to some of the relationships depicted in Sound!: Euphonium; see this article on Gar Gar Stegosaurus for further analysis (SPOILER ALERT)
Itaru Hinoue is lead character designer and one of the founding members of Key Visual Arts, one of the most influential visual novel studios in Japan. Her moe character style has helped define entire genres of visual novels and anime, from titles starting with Kanon and continuing into Air and Clannad. Inoue also contributed to the scenario of Key’s latest visual novel, Rewrite, and has also done other artwork as collected in her art book White Clover.
This interview was conducted by Lily Huang and Michael Huang. It has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
[Michael] When you started designing characters for Key, did you imagine that it would inspire an entire approach to doing this “moe” style?
I didn’t expect it at all!
[Michael] What were you trying to capture in designing characters that way, especially girl characters?
My characters have to be cute–that’s what I was going for.
After you did Kanon and Air, which were very popular games, was there a lot of pressure to meet fans’ expectations between Kanon, Air, and Clannad?
I did feel pressure to make it a better creation, to draw it better, to make better illustrations for each project I had.
I ask because Kanon and Air were only one year apart, but there was a 4 year gap between Air and Clannad.
Overall we wanted to do better because Air sold so well. We ended up taking four years because we wanted to go above and beyond.
Between Clannad and Little Busters, you worked on BL games. Do you think boys can be moe?
(Laughs) You must be really into it! I like making very handsome people…because I had been drawing girls, I wanted to draw some guys. With my style of moe, I can draw them…I like the smaller boys so I can apply it the way I like.
When I came across your BL work in White Clover I was surprised. It’s so different from what you’ve done before.
After Clannad I was trying to figure out what to do next, and I wanted to draw boys. I gathered some girls and did some [focus] testing to see what kind of drawings worked, and ended up making it at the company. That’s how it started off.
[Michael] What does moe mean to you, personally?
It means kawaii (cute).
[Michael] What do you hope the audience feels when they see one of your characters?
That’s a hard question! I want them to think–“my wife.” I want them to love them that much. I want them cute enough to say “they ARE my wife.”
What are your favorite character types to create–tsundere, megane, eyepatch, cool, etc.?
With Shizuru [Nakatsu, from Rewrite], I stuffed in everything I like into that chracter. That could be your base line of what I like to draw.
Are you aware that there are a lot of fans overseas of Key, and we were able to raise $500,000 for an English translation of Clannad?
I didn’t know it was overseas as much, but at Comiket, I did see some overseas users that visited.
Will Key focus on the overseas market in the future?
[producer] We’ll try!
How did you develop your special style of creating characters, with the large eyes and high noses?
I’ve been drawing since I was little, and I’ve always liked large eyes–it’s a staple. Whenever I draw they just end up being big.
Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion is a pioneer in the visual novel scene. Best known as the original creator of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni, he has been plumbing the depths of suspense, horror, and mystery for many years. Recently, in a change of genre, he wrote Lucia’s route in Key Visual Arts’ most recent visual novel, Rewrite (whose head writer was Aura and Humanity Has Declined’s Romeo Tanaka).
This interview was conducted by Lily Huang, and comes courtesy of MangaGamer. It has been edited for clarity and concision.
Why do your stories revolve around the tension between natural or supernatural explanations for phenomenon? (For instance, the curse of Oyashiro-sama in Higurashi, the Red or Blue Truth in Umineko, and Lucia’s route in Rewrite.)
I like to leave it up to the audience to figure it out on their own.
Do what audiences come up with ever contradict what you imagined?
Yes, there are times when I present something, but readers take it a different way. It happens a lot. In the case of Higurashi, it took four years to make, and the readers had a lot of opinions and feedback, and I would take that and incorporate it into the next work. It’s like catching and passing a ball back and forth, an ongoing process.
You worked on Rewrite’s Lucia route, which was a collaboration with many other people. Was it harder to write it without any feedback from fans?
In the case of Higurashi and Umineko, it was my own work so I could do whatever I wanted. In Rewrite, it was Key Visual Arts’ work so I had to respect that, and it made me really nervous to write in a very different style and thought process.
When you did the Lucia route, did you have to write more “business” type than “passion” type than you usually do? How did it make your work with Key more or less difficult?
For me, when I could write anything I wanted, it was harder to come up with things. With Rewrite, there’s already a world and setting set up for me, as well as a character. It’s actually easier to write and expand that world. It was fun.
Did you write the route knowing the ending ahead of time, or not?
Rewrite itself is by Romeo Tanaka, and I couldn’t change that–there was already an initial setting for Lucia. But the direction of the story was up to me, as long as it was possible in that world. The ending was mine.
Overall what was your experience like as a collaborator? What did you like and what would you change?
Before Rewrite, I only wrote mystery, murders, suspense…it was the first time I wrote a love story. I found a lot of new things about my writing style. It was a good experience.
We know you as a creator who works very closely with fans–Umineko and Higurashi had changes after fan feedback. How has your interaction with fans changed since then?
When I wrote Higurashi and Umineko, I was still young and energetic, so I could go all the way. Now I’m getting kind of old and want to settle down, and find a new way of writing to fit my current stamina.
I’m always surprised because my games are so long, and there’s so much text, it’s surprising someone can translate all that work. They must have so much passion over the story.
What is like working with MangaGamer?
I’m very happy that we released new artwork for Higurashi and putting things on Steam. I’m happy to see new fans try things out that way.
What are your thoughts of the future of the doujin and visual novel market in Japan vs America? Do you see fan involvement being more important in the future?
Today’s visual novels are released by commercial companies; they are such high quality, they’re almost like [professional] anime. But people like fans that are making their own sound novels for the first time, they’re unable to get to that level at the start. I’m a little worried about them. But it’s OK that there can be two separate worlds of visual novels–very high quality commercial novels as well as old-fashioned pictures and music sound novels.
Video game designer Daisuke Ishiwatari is best known as the creator of the fighting game series Guilty Gear. A multi-talented artist, he not only serves as a video game designer but also as a score composer, having written the score for BlazBlue. He also provided voices for characters in Guilty Gear.
Jeremy Booth interviewed him at Anime Expo 2015. This interview was edited for clarity and concision. Question help provided by Dan Campisi.
You were born in South Africa, is that correct? What was your family doing there?
Yes, in Johannesburg. They were there for work.
How long did you and your family live there?
I’ve lived there twice: the first time when I was born, and right after that we immediately returned to Japan. Then I was there again from the fourth year of elementary school to the second year of middle school.
So are you technically South African-Japanese then?
At the time, I had dual South African/Japanese citizenship, but when I was taking my tests for college, I got a conscription notice from the South African army. I threw away my [South African] citizenship then.
How would you describe the culture in South Africa compared to Japan and here? Do you have a lot of memories?
First of all, when you hear “Africa” you don’t think “big city,” but [Johannesburg] is a very big city. We were Japanese, but since we were living mostly with Caucasian people, it felt kind of like England.
Moving on to your gaming work, you’ve done a lot of jobs from music creator, character designer, voice actor, director…what would you say your focus has been in the past few years? Which role is your favorite?
What I’m doing now hasn’t really changed much from the past, but one thing has changed: I used to do a lot of the graphics [myself], but now I hand that over to the lead artists. In terms of favorite–I like everything.
I also understand you’re a big fan of western RPGs like Diablo and Fallout. What is it that you like about them?
I love them. I haven’t been playing them too much recently, but when I first put my hands on them, one thing that really clicked with me was the sense of freedom you got from those games.
Kind of a sandbox environment where you can do a little of everything?
Your expertise is on focusing on being the best at fighting games. Where do you see the future of fighting games heading?
For me personally, if the genre were to change anymore, it would no longer be “fighting games.” For instance, there’s Super Smash Bros, and if you were to ask me if that was a fighting game, I would say it’s not–it’s different. But, that being said, I think that within the genre, there are things that haven’t been discovered or invented yet, and discovering those things is part of our mission.
In 2012 you said in a Gamasutra interview that you wanted to see that the genre kept evolving. How has your thinking changed since then?
It’s a really difficult question, but for a long time, I’ve really wanted to see a game where players used their own physical strength inside the game. But maybe if that kind of thing were to happen, it may no longer be the same thing.
In Guilty Gear, there is a character called Bridget. Bridget is considered one of the first transgender character in games. What was the process of creating Bridget, and what inspired you to make the character transgender?
I guess I couldn’t pin the inspiration for the character on any one thing. But when we are making new characters, we are always looking for some new element to add to the character to make it interesting and fun, and while we were making Bridget, that was the element.
Did you realize it was a milestone when you did it?
I wasn’t thinking about; I didn’t realize.
There’s a fan debate on how to pronounce “BlazBlue.” What is the correct way to pronounce it?
So in Japan, we pronounce it “Blay-Blue.” In other countries, the pronunciation is “Blaze Blue.” Mori [Toshimichi], the gentleman who worked on BlazBlue, he really liked the sound of “Blay-Blue”, but when it came time to localize to other countries, he was told there was no way that would work.
IA is a newer Vocaloid persona created by 1st PLACE, based on the voice of anisong singer Lia. Based on Vocaloid version 3, she has appeared in a few games, many Youtube videos, and other media, and recently got her own rhythm game, IA/VT Colorful.
At Anime Expo 2015, we spoke with Kumiko Murayama, the CEO of 1st PLACE and the lead producer of IA. She answered questions about IA’s origins and the future of music with Vocaloids in general.
This interview was conducted by Michael Huang and has been edited for concision and clarity.
How was Lia chosen to become the sampled voice of IA?
It was Lia and her management who came forward–she had gotten married and had kids, and was on maternity leave, so she didn’t have the time to continue promoting herself and continuing on as an artist. She wanted a way to keep her fans happy while also raising her family, and using the Vocaloid as a means to do that was something she proposed.
That’s really fascinating. Do you think that is something that singers who can’t perform as much as they like to might use to extend their artistic abilities in the future? Could it be a general trend?
One of the other goals Lia had was to become a worldwide artist, and at the time of her leave, she hadn’t met that goal yet. She wondered what could help achieve that goal. Since the Vocaloids are popular not just popular in Japan but all over the world, that was one way of pursuing that dream.
As for other artists using that approach and maybe making a trend, it sounds like it could be something that’s viable.
IA is based on Vocaloid 3, a newer version of the software than some other Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku. How has the company used the newer features of Vocaloid 3 to produce IA, and how is it different, even improved over previous Vocaloids?
As technology comes out, there’s always new features that get added on. As we were developing IA, Vocaloid 3 had just come out, and there was a feature called “TriHorn” as well as many other features specified in the manual. But we used other features not in the manual, without specific names.
Vocaloid 4 is already out, and we put a lot of time and effort into IA’s development, so even though it’s still on 3 we think the quality matches that of 4. TriHorn produces much better, much more natural voice quality. It sounds a lot less animatronic and a lot more human.
How long does it take to prepare for one of these live concert appearances, where she’s being projected onto the stage?
It depends on a case by case basis, but the one that you saw on the sample video, that took about half a year to produce. And the production that’s playing on July 4th for AX took about a year to produce.
IA has been used in different kinds of branding for different companies. Out of all the companies IA’s been involved in, which industry do you think has had the most impact in terms of attracting fans?
There was a game, Groove Coaster, that really helped internationally in getting people more familiar with IA overseas…people that played this game and went to Youtube to watch the videos. As a result we got 2 million views.
Do you think Vocaloid artists like IA or Hatsune Miku are the future of pop music?
The main mission or goal is to get a worldwide fanbase for Japanese music. For the most part in Japan, there aren’t a whole lot of new musical genres that are being created. [Instead] there’s a lot of refinement of the existing genres. This is taking a genre and giving it worldwide appeal and getting as many people outside of Japan interested in the music, and Vocaloids.
Do you see this beginning to spread outside the anime fan culture? Or do you see that as the primary audience?
We want to appeal not only to otaku and anime fans, but to make it mainstream, worldwide music. The way we feel we can do that is to create places where people can make that jump. For instance, “City Lights” was one of our big collaborations with a drum n’ bass group. So that was a way to get more people to become more interested. Similarly, Groove Coaster is not so much an anime, but it’s a music game, so again a bunch of people played that and become more interested in IA and watched all the videos on Youtube.
The grand plan is to bridge the gap between people who believe that Vocaloids are only for otakus and make it more widely acceptable. It’s not going to be like people are going to be turned off by looking at the image and thinking, “this is just another Vocaloid, this is just anime style and I don’t care about that.” The idea of this was to broaden the horizon for Japanese music in general, so that we have international customers who say that, “Oh I want to listen to Japanese music.”