If anyone seems quite out of the loop, Minori Chihara, referred to as Minorin by fans, was the featured guest at New York Anime Festival 2010. Fans should know she is a Japanese pop singer as well as a voice actress. She is well known for her portrayal of Yuki Nagato in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Let me just say one thing. A speaker podium was in the way, so there was absolutely no view of her from where I was sitting with @starcreator. I couldn’t even see her facial expressions. Also there was a policy of no video recording, and no photograph taking until the last ten minutes of the panel.
So while this transcript is not quite like her voice, and based on typing down what her interpreter said, hopefully fans who missed out on this experience would not mind and love her more for it. I also took the liberty of editing, for cohesion.
Hello everyone! Nice to meet you!
Everyone may or may not know this, but this is the very first time Ms. Chihara is in New York, so we’re going to ask her what her impressions are of the city so far?
I arrived yesterday evening, and at first I didn’t feel like this was New York. Was I even in New York? But then I saw all the streets, and nice views, then I finally realized that I am in the city. The view is amazing, so I am really happy to be here.
Has she tried any of the foods or cuisines in the city?
Last night we went to an Italian Restaurant. There’s a really good olive oil there. I ate a lot of bread dipped in olive oil, so that’s what I ate last night. Great bread there too as well. The bread that they served in the airplane was also really good as well. This morning (Friday) I ate a lot of bread as well.
This is not Chihara’s first United States convention, but definitely her first East Coast one; she has previously appeared at Anime Expo. Still how do the cons compare, whether in America or Japan?
This is my second time in the United States, and that was three years ago. I have been to other non-Japan location for events: Los Angeles, Taiwan, and Malaysia and right now New York.
When I do a singing concert in Japan, I see the audience match in dancing, or same color penlights, and it seems so united. So that may be a difference.
When I sing outside of Japan, everyone has different reactions. Cheering styles are different, and it feels very free, so that makes me feel free as well.
[From this part, I am definitely noting how different Western and Asian society is, and Chihara was remarking on it. Japan is definitely a very united in terms of group activities.]
Since [NYAF] is screening The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and her character Yuki Nagato is quite central to the movie, what was Chihara’s impressions or experience with the character, and how the movie was different from the television series?
When I was acting as Yuki for an entire series, there were no expressions or emotions, so that is why I tried so hard to be monotone. This time in the movie, Yuki is a normal girl and this persona is maybe what Yuki wanted to be, so that’s why I tried to find out what Yuki feels like, if Yuki was a normal girl. There is a great heart that was born inside of her, and as a normal girl—that’s what I wanted to be.
Explain what she feels when she does the voice of Yuki. How does she achieve that monotone, or get into the character?
[There] was a lot of pressure on how I felt, while I was acting this character. So when I was playing Yuki, she is such a popular character, and an ultimate super girl. There are so many difficult Japanese words in my character’s dialogue, and I can’t stutter or slow down and I have to say them real fast. So fitting the pace of her mouth movement was really hard and challenging to work with. It was hard to breathe sometimes. [Probably to practice and memorize] So I have the script with me all the time, not just when I was home or on the train.
Does she then find herself not forgetting Yuki, that the character is always with her then?
You’re right, and I always found Yuki at my side.
Can Chihara talk about the song for the movie: her process of making the song, title, and impressions.
The theme for the movie is “Yasashii Boukyaku” [優しい忘却] and the producer for Suzumiya said that with the disappearance of Haruhi, Yuki will be the key/main person. So the producer gave us the initial idea or inspiration for this song. When I got the song, I felt overwhelmed and it made me cry. This song doesn’t even need to have lyrics, just the music already overwhelmed me and that’s what I felt.
Was this then a difficult song to perform because of your emotion?
You are right. So when I recorded this song, which was right after the movie shoot. I could actually hold onto the sentimental feelings of Yuki from the movie, and how I stayed in character even when I was recording the song. I was happy with how the song came out, and afterward I couldn’t even stand. I was so drained as I sat on the floor.
Then I can imagine that fans can’t hardly wait until Chihara performs the song at the concert then.
I am looking forward to singing it for you all.
Before we move onto the fan questions, since New York is well known for music, I am curious if she has any American singers or rock bands that she listens to?
Britney Spears, Aerosmith.[I believe she also said Bon Jovi.]
The questions after this came from fans.
What was her favorite anime character role and why?
Ahhh the T-shirt is of Yuki… [said Chihara indicating the fan’s shirt] Every character I play, and of course I love every character, but if you insist for me to say who is my favorite – then I would have to say it is Yuki. The reason is because the Yuki character gave me a lot of great opportunities.
As a voice actress, it is hard to get spots, and I also love to sing, but opportunities are few, so this role gave me opportunities. Now I can release albums and expand on the music part of my career. It is a good turning point in my career, so that’s why it is so important in my life.
Already lots of Asian groups are touring the United States, so then are you going to tour the States, because you’re just so awesome. I will purchase your CD’s.
Wow, I am happy. Thank you! Yes that will be pretty awesome to have a concert and tour. That will be pretty great. I will try to keep it up with that. I will try to find an opportunity to come back.
What is it like to work with the cast of Haruhi?
Everyone had a great character, and it was quite exciting to work with this cast. It was great leaning, and opportunity. Especially with Tomokazu Sugita [Kyon]. He had a lot of talents, so I really looked up to him.
A fan then started to talk with Chihara in Japanese. Of course the moderator needed to ask for a question.Chihara complimented the fan on his Japanese. This question is in regards to a role Chihara did in Occult Academy, where it changed drastically from the beginning to the end. So how was her feeling in the transition?
This is the first time, that I did such a role. So it was a very cute and sweet character, yet evil. Is it even okay to talk about the ending of the show? [Fans called out no!] Okay to talk about the character without the ending, I was very surprised to get a villain character, so that’s not spoiling the character. I had a great time with the character.
What was your favorite line to read as Yuki?
The end of it, when the whole world changed…. some people never watched the movie, so are you guys going to watch the movie? I’ll tell you later then.
What other foods in New York do you like to eat, and how is your work as a voice actress?
New York seems to have a lot of great foods, different types of cuisines. Can you recommend anything?
Fans started to shout out foods to eat. “Pizza,” and “cheesecake” were suggestions that Chihara exclaimed about. So she said she definitely wouldn’t mind tasting cheesecake.
My voice acting job is not too busy. I can do it at my own pace, but acting is quite different and not so easy. I have to understand how a character acts and feels. I go on site, and ask questions to experience and understand or learn more. Once the director asks, when I am ready then I try to do it.
Your vocal version of “Haru Haru Yukai” is sung very different, than your normal voice, very pleasant and emotional. What was your inspiration to sing it like that?
I still remember the recording day, because all the other characters sang, we tried Yuki’s character a lot in tune (with recording). I have to say Yuki doesn’t match, but we talked a lot with the producer, and decided to keep the song. The song’s feeling is stronger. Let’s keep the song’s flow than focus on thethe character’s voice.
I want to ask about her fan club, its Japanese only right now, but is there a chance for it to be open to international fans?
It’s a management issue, so (interpreter) needs to talk with the management.
For Haruhi episode 6, she sang “Paradise Lost.” Was that her choice to sing in that particular episode?
Staff decision. The producer asked and I did it.
There are parts in the Haruhi series that were really funny. Was it hard for you to stay in the deadpan serious voice in those scenes?
Difficult, very difficult! Other cast members play around, and have fun in those parts. But to stay in character, I had keep my emotion in check. It was quite frustrating.
How do you practice or practice your voice training, is it difficult?
I have been voice training since my youth. So I still practice every week. Even now I am still taking lessons.
Are there any new anime, or characters that she is working on?
Now there is Yumeiro Pâtissière. My character’s name is Maize. So this week, my character is being aired in Japan. So I was recording at home. When I am in New York, that is when my character is being introduced.
This was the only Minori Chihara panel that I was able to attend. I found online that Chihara Minori has already placed on her blog that she is back in Japan already. This news is courtesy of hashihime’s blog.