Look, I’m gonna be honest here, I was reluctant to even translate the full headline and only include the Hachiman part it because it was really clickbait-y. No, I didn’t put that myself, the headline was literally clickbait. I’ll tell you know, if you’re here to learn about what Ayaneru’s ideal husband is like, I’m sorry but you’re gonna be disappointed (she says like one line), but I was like whatever I’ll include the whole thing, but I’ll tell you now, it’s a short interview. Hope you guys enjoys at least. Really looking forward to the adaptation Oregairu’s conclusion. All girls are the best and I mean EVERY girl in the show (and Totsuka). Thanks for reading again.
―Could you please tell us your impressions of Oregairu?
Ayaneru: You know, I was pretty amazed when I read the script during the scenes where Iroha would do those rapid fire monologue like retorts. When I think about it, that girl doesn’t hold back on anyone, even herself.
―Are there any places you would like to visit in Chiba (the place where Oregairu is set)?
Ayaneru: Because of this show’s influence, when you think about Chiba, you just can’t help but think about ‘Oregairu’. I’ve been to Makuhari Messe before for work purposes, so, I’d like to stroll around the Kaihin Makuhari Station area someday. Also, you know when Hachiman and Iroha went to that ramen shop? I’d love to try out Naritake too!
―What are the post-recording sessions like?
Ayaneru: 5 years have passed since the last one, but to be honest, it doesn’t really feel like it. Although, we’ve grown in the last 5 years. I thought that my lines were so fast because it’s been a while since I played this character. But, like all fast talking characters in this show, to be honest, Watari-sensei (Oregairu’s author) also talks fast like them. Everytime Watari-sensei comes to the studio to direct us, I find myself thinking “What would Watari-sensei do? What speed would he be at”?
―Could you briefly describe to us what Iroha is like?
Ayaneru: That’s going to be a challenge… Last time I checked, light novel characters were pretty easy to describe but this is different… Whenever a character is introduced in Oregairu, it seems like everyone wants to break down and perceive what that character is like as a person. Especially in Oregairu Kan, each and every character’s monologues are intricately depicted in accordance with that character’s personality and nature. Like, at the start of the story, Yukino-san was easily established as the ‘cool beauty’. But now, cool beauty alone can’t be words that can describe her, she’s not like that anymore. As for Iroha, she was seen as the cunning and clever girl when she was introduced, but with the kind of person she’s become in Oregairu Kan, I feel that those words wouldn’t do her any justice in the end.
―Supposedly, if Hachiman did exist, what kind of relationship do you think you’d have with him?
Ayaneru: If for some reason, I happen to meet him outside of school and I (for some reason) had no other choice but be forced to talk to him, I have a hunch that we’d develop some kind of special connection. I feel that his despair and dark past resonates within me (laughs).
―Is that what you like in a man?
-Ayaneru: Someone who is willing. As long as it’s not some hot blooded light novel protagonist (laughs). Someone who can become more of a husband material rather than being just an ‘ideal’ boyfriend.
―Lastly, a message to all your fans.
-Ayaneru: To the people who are looking forward to Oregairu Kan, from the mood that this work is trying to convey, to the tempo of the conversations and through each character’s choice of words, I feel that you’ll immediately fall in love with Oregairu. Even for just a bit, if you’d like, I’d be happy if you could watch it from the very start. For everyone who has been with us from the very start who have been eagerly waiting for the long awaited conclusion, I’d appreciate it if you would bear with us ‘till the very end.
With Bandori celebrating its 3rd year anniversary and Garuparty 2020 approaching fast in May (for now anyway), we have a Bandori interview with Ayaneru. Personally, before reading this interview I actually didn’t know how much Ayaneru knew about Bandori or how much she got involved in it. But after reading this, it’s pretty clear that Ayaneru really loves this franchise. I like Bandori, when I watched that livestream where they first announced all the lead vocalist/members of other Bandori bands, I knew I had to get into this franchise, not just because Ayaneru was in it, but because we might see things from Ayaneru we’ve never seen before. Fast forward to now, Bandori has made Ayaneru shine in a lot of areas we’ve never seen before, mainly singing. Not to mention, that 3rd anniversary livestream was pretty funny too. I really enjoyed seeing some insight from Ayaneru about Bandori. For me, what I found intriguing was when she talked about her experience performing for the first time as Ran in front of an audience. I feel that Ayaneru always feels so nervous performing in front of an audience. I just see a constant pattern where a 10 year veteran seiyuu still can’t get used to being in front of an audience, understandable I guess. Also this talk triggered me because I was supposed to go to that live but had to leave a day early. So, to this day I could never live it down (lol). Also, I’d like to highlight the part where Ayaneru briefly talks about her childhood friends. This is like the 2nd time she’s mentioned how she hangs with them & they come back to their old local area a lot. From what I gathered from Ayaneru’s photobook, this area is Musashino, Kichijoji? Also in the photobook: Ayaneru says that even though she’s been in this industry for a while, her childhood friends never treated her any differently & that’s why she loves them. Wonder if Kou-chan is also included here? Anyway, hope you guys enjoy.
―What was it like for you when it was decided that you would play as Ran?
Ayaneru: I’m… not really the most gifted when it comes to music and singing isn’t my strong point at all. Fate has never been on my side and so I thought, will someone like me even have a chance to get into this? I had such overwhelming insecurity and anxiety thinking about all of this. But when I read Ran’s profile, what Girls Band Party simply requested that you represent anything that the character loves however it pleases you. I specifically remember it saying “Most likely, we’re not asking you to have such extensive knowledge about music and whether or not you’re good at singing – well we’re not specifically demanding and looking for that kind of stuff.” I could finally take some weight off my shoulders after knowing that.
―Certainly, Afterglow’s qualities are just a different type compared to other bands.
Ayaneru: Yes that’s right. The other bands have aspirations like the desire to improve and the constant idea of stoically aiming to become a professional. Compared to Afterglow, where the loveable childhood friend band members emphasise the idea of doing activities together all the while refining the band’s musical ability and appeal. In saying that, Afterglow’s intimacy as childhood friends are one of their strong points compared to other bands.
―I think that the bonds between Afterglow members are stronger compared to other bands.
Ayaneru: For Ran, especially in Afterglow, getting along is necessary for this group to exist. It’s that important. The part where they pettily depend on each other, personally, is completely understandable. In the episodes where they have a bit of a disagreement, where everyone goes out on trips and like those various incidents at school, these are things and feelings that really hit close to home. I can say with confidence, that this genuine feeling and atmosphere that comes from Afterglow is the reason why they’re so fascinating.
―Ran and her band members are known for their intimate relationships. In saying that, do you talk to the other members when you are recording for your roles?
Ayaneru: Every member’s recordings, whether it’s for the game or for the show are done separately. So, even now, we haven’t had the chance to actually talk to each other at the recording studios. But, on certain occasions elsewhere, where everyone gets the chance to meet each other, we pretty much talk about anything Bandori related. Things like thoughts about episode recordings, talking about upcoming and past events, what happened at certain livestream talk shows – you name it. We tell each other everything.
―That’s interesting. When you’re reading the story, are there any moments that feel wholesome?
Ayaneru: Whenever I read the story… “I wanted to spend my youth like this” or “If you’re going to do something, do it with your friends”. Those are the kind of feelings and experiences that I’ve always aspired towards. Actually, I personally, have quite a few childhood friends too. To this day, whenever I get a chance to take a day off from work, we go out and have a meal together and we come back to our local home area. For that reason, I feel really envious of Ran’s daily life. I also think that, perhaps, if someone was observing my life, maybe they would also think about the same thing towards me, the way in which I get jealous of Ran’s life.
―Putting aside the things you resonate with Ran, are there any particular highlights in the story that stand out to you the most?
Ayaneru: I could never forget that story when Ran and Tomoe had a disagreement and had a fight. When I was in the studio with Hikasa Yoko-san (Udagawa Tomoe’s voice actress), just imagining the way she performed made me convey those crushing feelings when I was performing too. Looking back at it now, emotions really were high during that episode. Also, Moca’s monologue where she says: “You’re way ahead of us Ran, though we’re unsure if all of us can keep up with you, even then, we chose to be together” really left an impression on me. Of course that monologue was unknown to Ran, but when I saw the script I thought Moca handled the situation in such a mature way. Even though she was in pain, keeping that feeling of uneasiness all to herself is very much like an adult.
―Do you ever talk about these feelings with other members of the cast?
Ayaneru: During one of the Bandori events, on stage, we had a chance to talk about our most memorable episode from the story. Hikasa-san and I brought up the Tomoe and Ran drama and we both agreed on how it was a really thrilling memory. Misawa Sachika-san (Aoba Moca’s voice actress), also remembered the Moca episode well and talked about it. It’s good to know that we were all on the same page.
―When you came across that episode, did your impression of Ran change at all?
Ayaneru: At first, apart from the Afterglow members, Ran could not socialize at all. But, her circle of friends slowly got bigger and bigger and overtime, she started to socialize and go out more. Her growth as a person felt so natural. The impression I’m getting is that: as new Afterglow stories arise, yet again, their bonds would continue to grow deeper and become more meaningful.
―When you observe that growth in Ran, are there any things that you can take from this and learn about yourself?
Ayaneru: Ran can make a lot of insensitive remarks, but, in the end, she can show her appreciation and can be a very apologetic girl. I value that kind of attitude and I feel that I also want to become a person like that.
―Among the numerous songs you’ve recorded, what’s your favourite Afterglow song so far?
Ayaneru: I haven’t decided my favourite Afterglow song, but, if I have to pick, I’d pick Comic Panic and Hey-day Capriccio just because those are the songs that we, as a band have been able to share the stage together and gives off the feeling that we can finally spend time together. I feel so happy whenever I listen to them.
―Everyone’s duet certainly does create an impressive song.
Ayaneru: Yup that’s right. In a good sense, it’s kind of like a character song, or how should I say it… Being able to do a live duet makes me feel really happy. As expected, it really is lonely when I do solo recordings as Ran. Then, when I finally listen to the finished product, I feel like I’m finally free from that isolation. But when everyone does their recording first and I go last, I can do the recording without feeling lonely.
―I see. Whenever you’re recording songs or appearing as Ran, are there any particular things you keep in mind when you’re playing as Ran?
Ayaneru: Because I’m not trained to sing with such technicality, even now, with how far Bandori has gotten and how long it’s been going for, whenever I have to sing as Ran, to get a feel for the way she sings, in my head, I just imagine the way Ran would probably sound like when she sings.
―When you hear stories like this, I feel like you get to enjoy the song much more when you listen to it again. Sakura-san, you sang as Ran live for the first time in front of fans at Garupa Live & Garuparty in Tokyo during January of 2018. For you personally, would you please tell us your thoughts during that time?
Ayaneru: I rehearsed the day before, but actually, I only sang on the day of the performance. But I’m so inexperienced at performing at lives. So, three minutes before my performance, I noticed that I was completely speechless.
―3 minutes before?! (Laughs).
Ayaneru: I thought that these people standing on stage actually practiced their singing beforehand and well… I didn’t want to remind myself of that. Even more, when the first person performed on stage, it was like I was no match for them. I was an amateur compared to them (laughs). At that time, I remembered well enough that I felt like I was about to lose it and panic. But when it was my time to perform, as I was standing on that stage, seeing all those fans show their love for Bandori and the cheering that they did. From head to toe, I felt all their love and support.
―Does it feel different doing talk shows in front of a crowd compared to singing in front of a crowd?
Ayaneru: If you think about it, I’m the sole singer on the stage, it’s my first time having a live band perform with me and I’m performing a song genre I don’t usually do, surely I’d be a nervous wreck. Also, compared to everyone else, I’ve got little to no experience.
―Anyhow, gaining experience is valuable.
Ayaneru: Yes, when it comes to talk shows, when you’re forced to stand on stage, little by little, you overcome your stage fright and get better through experience. But when it comes to singing, to this day, you have to always be prepared.
―From what you just told us, do you mean that the same people who performed on stage with you have the same thoughts as you do?
Ayaneru: As soon as the live ended, Aiai (Aiba Aina-san who plays as Minato Yukina), quickly came up to me and the first thing she said was: “I’m Aiba Aina. I’m so glad that I performed at this live. I almost cried.” That was the first time I’ve ever met Aiai. I was so happy meeting her. That was the flag that started our friendship. Nowadays, we go out and have meals together and try to do all sorts of stuff. Also, after that, the band that performed with me, who was formerly known as THE THIRD, but now known as RAS, said to me: “We’d like to perform with you on stage again”. I was so happy hearing that too.
―How was your encounter with RAS on stage?
Ayaneru: Whenever our eyes met during the performance, I’d give them a cheery smile and after the live, we congratulated each other. Because I’ve never had any experiences being in a band, I felt that because it was so enjoyable being in a band, it felt like I was connected with Ran and the others when I was on stage. This left such a lasting impression on me.
―When you experienced this, did you have this burning desire to be on stage along with everyone from Afterglow?
Ayaneru: Actually, now that you say that, a long time after that, all 5 Afterglow members finally, were able to gather as one at the Afterglow Itsumodoori no Houkago Days Special Event on the 2nd February, 2020. It was really fun having the chance to sing even just for a little while. On the other hand, I also felt that nothing beats performing like a real band after all, so I felt all excited and I didn’t know what to do and all that (laughs).
―I want to see all the members on stage again as soon as possible! Sakura-san, have you had the chance to see the other bands perform?
Ayaneru: Well, there was that time I watched everyone perform backstage at GarupaLive. Those times on NHK and I also saw that time when Poppin Party appeared on Anisama’s digest.
―Do you have any bands you’d like to watch in particular?
Ayaneru: I have to see my bestest best friend Aiai transform into Yukina at a Roselia live at least once in my lifetime.
―In May, you’ll be performing at MetLife Dome for BanG Dream! Special☆LIVE Girls Band Party! 2020. What’s it going to be like there?
Ayaneru: Generally speaking, I want to stand on that stage and show everyone what Ran’s really made off. I want to convey her feelings and emotions through my singing. I’ll be channeling Ran on that stage, performing with everything I’ve got.
―So what you’re saying is, that your burning desire to perform as Ran remains unchanged? That you want to perform as you usually do?
Ayaneru: Absolutely. At any rate, I’ll make sure to never spoil her image. I’ll get my Ran T-shirt and red hair extensions ready for Garuparty. I look forward to that day. On the day of the event, everybody will see Ran in a different light. That, I guarantee.
―Looking forward to the event in May! From here on, what kind of challenges do you want to try and overcome through Bandori?
Ayaneru: The Bandori staff always work so earnestly creating new content for this project. Anyhow, I want to cling to this strong feeling with everything I’ve got. In saying that, rather than me trying to overcome my challenges, I feel that whatever challenges Ran encounters and overcomes, I too want to overcome them.
―Thank you very much! Lastly, could you please give us any thoughts for what’s to come?
Ayaneru: To the fans who already show so much love and support for Bandori; its activities and characters, but also, to the people who are yet to discover the wonders of Bandori, who someday, will also see the light, as always, I will continue to do my absolute best!
As it is, I intended to highlight Miyai Kaede’s character gap, so, I deliberately acted cool and played your typical mature character.
With the movie’s release on the 29th of February 2020, Ayaneru talks about her experiences and best moments during the recording stages of the Shirobako movie. Here we get some insight on how Ayaneru feels about Shirobako: an anime about making anime, (because as we know Ayaneru wanted to be an actress/seiyuu because she was more into the behind the scenes and technical stuff of this industry). We also get some insight about how Ayaneru views the characters in this show (especially her own character), how the director of Shirobako mapped out the movie and such. Even things like who the female cast were fangirling about and Ayaneru’s favourite character in the show. Anyway, I can’t really remember anything about Shirobako since the last time I watched was when it was airing (back then when I actually watched anime). The only thing I remember from Shirobako was don don donuts and Ema’s dance but you know, who doesn’t?
As always, I have to cap it off with something more serious, but, it’s always nice to see what’s going through Ayaneru’s mind with these interviews. Well actually, if this movie ever gets showed here in the middle of nowhere or when I eventually watch it, like when I watched the Shinkalion movie, I had a better understanding of the emotions and impressions Ayaneru was trying to convey during her interview. So, maybe, when I watch Shirobako, I’ll be like “oh so that’s what she meant”. Also, I hope the stage greeting for Shirobako gets rescheduled and everyone enjoys it when things clear up a bit more.
―What were your impressions of Shirobako before being casted in it?
Ayaneru: “An anime about the anime industry” or so to speak. When the anime was airing, the ins and outs of the anime industry became such a huge topic. Wherever you went, it seemed like cast and staff members were having fun discussing Shirobako. Although I was a bit curious, I wasn’t directly involved in these discussions and just remained on the side as a spectator.
―When you got involved in the movie, did everything turn out to be the way it seemed?
Ayaneru: Before recording started, I rewatched all the episodes again. Looking back at it now, everything really was well made. It really is an interesting show. Seeing it done in real time, I regret not being able to discuss it with everyone else.
―Do you have any memorable scenes from the anime that you want to talk about?
Ayaneru: You know Takanashi. As in Tarou. I’m pointing the finger at him. That recurring theme where people keep covering for him and taking the hit is really funny to me. He just keeps creating problems one after the other and even though he’s a troublemaker, the fact that everyone still gives him some love is so nice to see.
As for myself, I don’t have what it takes to keep my calm and composure when I can’t solve each and every one of my problems, yet; I admire and want to live my life the way Tarou does. Things like being pampered by everyone around you. ‘Being babied’ by the people around you. A feeling of innocence and being easy going… I get really jealous just by thinking about it.
―Miyai Kaede… What kind of character is she like?
Ayaneru: Playing as the part of an assistant producer… Hmm, I have to say, it’s a role that revolves around supporting the rest of the cast. I’m entrusted with important situations and more. Actually, there’s a scene in the movie where Kaede tests out her own competence.
―What about her personality? What are her characteristics like?
Ayaneru: If we were judging by looks: cool, calm and a perfectionist in her work are words I would use. In saying that, that’s like most of Shirobako’s lineup right? What I should say is that she’s a person that’s nothing like the rest.
―About Miyai Kaede’s name (宮井楓), it’s been bothering me a bit. But you know, both her and Miyamori Aoi (宮森あおい) have the same 宮 kanji in their surnames.
Ayaneru: You know I was just thinking about that too! Bearing ‘Miya’ (laughs). This is purely a guess but I think both Miyai Kaede and Miyamori Aoi are born on the same day. Even both of them happen to have careers in the anime industry. While both have existing similarities, being different – as in choosing a path that others don’t usually take is what Miyamori strongly believes in. No other person could fill that role as partners like Miyai. Because both of them complement each other, they both bear ‘Miya’ in their names. I wonder what changes will occur when Miyai suddenly appears in Miyamori’s life – things like how she handles her workload and deals with problems during production. Keep an eye out for this development.
―How did you prepare for this role? Was there anything that you needed to take note of?
Ayaneru: Kaede’s character design really gives off mature vibes. The things I took note of were like, given her appearance, she’s roughly a similar age to Miyamori and the others, so the sense of trying to have a younger impression in spite of her character design were a bit troubling to express for me. But throughout the show, it seems like the gap between how Kaede tries to present herself on the outside and how she really is on the inside became more apparent. So, for the sake of highlighting that charm gap, I thought it’d be better to deliberately make her cool and play her as your usual mature character.
―During the production and recordings, were there any scenes that you felt like were ‘off’ or didn’t feel right?
Ayaneru: Wherever there were any doubts in how we acted during the scenes, we’d consult the sound directors and staff. They would set a guideline of ‘trends’ to look out for and when they notice a general trend of what felt off, they’d deal with it during editing. However, with Shirobako, I was impressed by how specific and clear the staff was in giving us feedback. It really stuck with me how clear they were in what they wanted out of us. For example, during one of the more intense scenes, they were thinking about how flustered the character should be during that scene. Upon asking that, a full on brainstorm on how to do the scene happened between everyone. Actually, up to now, all my personal experiences happened during recording, so, I was able to immediately share my sentiments towards all the members of the team there. In saying that, it was a very Shirobako-like scene in real life isn’t it?
―Seems like all members were being utilized to their fullest potential. During recording sessions, did Director Mizushima Tsutomu have any special instructions in how you guys performed certain scenes?
Ayaneru: Hmm, Director Mizushima didn’t really have any specific problems or requests of that kind. It was more like “Let’s do that one more time. If there’s anything different, I’ll point it out.” You know, things like that. He pretty much let us decide for ourselves and we did the scenes as it pleased us.
―The director certainly had confidence in his cast members, you know, with entrusting them to do whatever they want. I mean reliance is good and all, but like when you don’t have a definitive plan for this and that, didn’t you have moments of doubt where you thought “Is this gonna be alright? Is it actually going to fit the scene?” Did you have any uncertainties like that?
Ayaneru: This is Director Mizushima’s work. The more times I say this, the better I understand his reasoning as to why he barely stopped us during the recordings. We didn’t have any doubts and in Shirobako’s case, being the exceptional work that it is, pondering on uncertainties and mistakes will only further validate how special it is.
―Were there any noteworthy moments during the recording sessions?
Ayaneru: There really are a whole heap of characters in Shirobako. The studio was always crowded by the cast members. Thing is, people just went out of the room when it wasn’t their turn during the recording. Everyone’s chattering was a mess but at the same time, looking back at it now, those passing moments were one of my fondest memories during recording. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there were like 30 of us outside at one point.
―That’s like the size of one class!
Ayaneru: Pretty much like a big family! Among them were veteran senpais who would go around the room and talk to everyone. There were serious discussions, but also, in-jokes and banter happening all around. And if there were serious discussions it’d be things like talking about magazine articles, unexpected legendary stories and myths (about each other) or something like that, they’d come out one after the other. Even newcomers like me were easily assimilated in that environment. I was so happy being in an environment were I was able to connect with people so easily without any exclusion or discrimination or anything.
―It was as if a scene in Shirobako came to life!
Ayaneru: Yea you’re right (laughs)! Because we are deeply affected by the talks about the anime industry, I think there were many people who were projecting themselves while acting. Furthermore, there were bustling topics and talks among the girls and they were thinking who could be the no.1 male lead character in the show too.
―Really? I’m curious as to who was the most popular? I mean, if we’re talking about the most good looking, it has to be NabeP (Watanabe Shun) right?
Ayaneru: Ah, my secrets have been revealed. We couldn’t really narrow it down to just one person. In terms of NabeP, he’s the type of guy who would do nothing but party and drink after work and never come home after. His wife wouldn’t be impressed at all. But anyway, everyone was getting too excited and they started making stuff up about him (laughs). On the other hand, some people were saying stuff like “I love drinking too. I’d be ecstatic if we could drink together”. There was no controlling that talk at all. It was a mess.
Ayaneru: I mean Tarou too. Sometime ago, earlier on I thought that him as a character was definitely no good. But as time passed by, when he had those drinking scenes with Hiraoka, he got popular. I wouldn’t like it if I had to work with Tarou, but it would be adorable if he was my kouhai.
―The Tarou scenes were good weren’t they? What about you Ayaneru, who’s your favourite?
Ayaneru: My favourite would be the cinematographer with the same surname as me, Sakura Yoshiki (佐倉良樹).
―Bit of a serious choice I see.
Ayaneru: Yea it’s a bit naive of me, but the thing I like about Sakura is that he stoically solves whatever he has on his plate. Saying things like “Please wait. Anticipation is part of cinematography” and taking advice is a good thing.
―Every character in the show has a certain charm to them that will surely lure the viewers don’t they? Lastly, please tell us about the highlights of this film?
Ayaneru: This time around, the movie tells the story about the blood, sweat and tears that Miyamori and the gang will face in making yet another anime. It’s so weird yet wonderful how numerous real life anime producers, staff members and cast members are used to tell the story & journey about an anime’s production. Including me.
―So, like elements of parody and breaking the fourth wall right?
Ayaneru: I am very thankful for the personal experiences I’ve made and the influence which this show has had on me. This time around, Miyai Kaede, the character I play, like us; had the same desire of being able to express and present anything and everything as a woman who has established herself in the anime industry. I wonder what this girl, Miyamori, and the others will be able to present this time? I’d be happy if the viewers can take something out of this.
Seiyuu to look out for: Sakura Ayane looks back at her life’s greatest turning point; “Until then, I couldn’t think of others as human…”
After two and a half something years I finally finished this translation. Ever since it was published I’ve always wanted to translate and convey Ayaneru’s genuine feelings and answers about more personal things about her. Things regarding why she wanted to be a seiyuu, how she decided on it, what it was like for her debuting at a young age, her ‘mission’ as a seiyuu, her goals in life as a person and much more. What I love about Ayaneru is the “I want to do it my way” attitude. Seemingly, it appears that Ayaneru tends not to conform with the meta, but rather likes to do stuff in accordance with her beliefs (as much as she can anyway). Throughout these 9 or so years that I’ve been closely watching and supporting Ayaneru that has been the case. Much of her good personality remains unchanged, yet she matures more and keeps changing for the best. She really does stick to her guns. It’s her genuineness as a person that’s really endearing for me. Like that time at that Shinkalion event where she started crying after the Character Cheering Movie screening because she was moved to tears from everyone’s support. You guys need to see your favourite seiyuu cry tears of joy. It’s like the most heartwarming thing ever. Then you get waved at and recognised as the only kaigai in the theatre and then all you dreams come true. Anyway, please enjoy reading genuineness.
While being only 23 years of age, Sakura-san is a young woman whose career is already nearing its 7th year. To start off, we interviewed her about the turning point of her career.
■The road to being a seiyuu not wanting to know more about herself:
―Debuting as a 16 year old is quite early, but in reality you weren’t necessarily thinking of becoming a seiyuu from a young age, correct?
Sakura: The reason I started being a seiyuu was because when I was a middle school student, my voice trainer from the troupe I was a part of (Gekidan Touhai) told me I was better off doing voicework.
―Initially, were you aspiring to become an actress?
Sakura: It wasn’t a very serious dream for me. I’ve been physically weak from a young age, so I was thinking of doing work that would teach me how to comprehensively use my physical ability. In addition to acting, I am able to learn Japanese dance, stretching, sword fighting, voice training, etc. so I joined Touhai.
Also, I’ve always liked seeing the making of movies and anime, so I had an admiration for the world of behind-the-scenes work — make-up artists, costume designers and producers… Beyond becoming an actress, I was thinking that if I joined a troupe, I would be able to catch a glimpse of those people’s work, and that was also a big part of it.
―Why did you switch to voicework from there?
Sakura: From a middle schooler’s point of view, joining a troupe was a good idea. However, the moment I actually stood up on stage, I thought “Ah, I was wrong.”
―What do you mean by “wrong”?
Sakura: Since I was the type to not want to learn more about myself, I didn’t know what to express. In the troupe, we often did plays similar to études where they asked us to perform freely. But, I had zero desires to express myself so I couldn’t answer to that. That’s when I first realized that maybe I wasn’t fit for acting.
―However, you were at least recommended by your voice trainer, and that’s why they thought you were fit for voicework, correct?
Sakura: Nah, what I couldn’t do in my acting, I made up for by pointlessly delivering my lines louder. I think that’s the reason behind it! (laughs)
―No, that’s not it!
Sakura: I think I just had a quality of voice that was better fit for the microphone. Also, I’m really awful at memorizing the script, but I was relatively good at acting while reading. They probably also had that part in mind when they thought I was more fit for voicework.
■ 2013, her Initiation to Adulthood
―However, despite saying “I’m not fit for acting,” you switched to voicework and quickly got a debut, right?
Sakura: Yes. But that’s also exactly why I was very troubled. I don’t have a clear memory of those days. I still remember taking phone calls when I was starting to regularly work on anime, but my memories of the period before that was foggy.
―About how long was that period?
Sakura: If I remember correctly… about 3 years.
―Isn’t that a bit too long for a time you don’t remember much!?
Sakura: I’d say the year I budded into a proper seiyuu was 2013.
―It’s as if you’re talking about yourself like a newborn baby.
Sakura: (laughs) But really, that year was also a big turning point for my career. I clearly remember that an hour before the after-recording session for an anime called “Vividred Operation’s” second episode, my voice wouldn’t come out at all. After going to the hospital, I was diagnosed with this thing called a “vocal nodule.” I thought I might have had to quit being a seiyuu. After that, it took half a year for me to fully recover, and every time I writhed in pain as I did my job, I started thinking seriously about how I could connect voicework to my next job.
―In other words, 2013 was the year you confronted the risk of losing your seiyuu career and first developed a sense of responsibility as a professional?
Sakura: I started to see everything like how much I grew to love being a seiyuu, and just how much my manager worked hard for my sake. I didn’t really see my manager as a human being before that much.
―”As a human being”…?
Sakura: I debuted as a teenanger, so I didn’t really understand the concept of “adults” much back then. I wasn’t one to understand what everyone around me were thinking. However, at that time, by causing trouble for others, I really felt just how much those adults worked hard for my sake. After that, I started seeing my manager as a fellow human being too. That’s when I realized I didn’t have many opportunities in my life thus far to be deeply influenced by other people. I mean, I only made one friend in primary school due to not being in the same circle as those who had many friends, moving from one group to another, transferring schools halfway through my middle school life and having a job. I was unable to be deeply affected by another because I was always lived worrying about what others thought about me. Since my youth was of that nature, I think I couldn’t see others as fellow human beings.
―Following that train of thought, losing your voice was a kind of an “initiation” to become an adult, right?
Sakura: That might be the case. (laughs) That was when I was 19, just about to turn 20. My life truly changed in those 6 months.
■ I want to become 30 or 40 sooner
―Through that period of turning points when it came to your life and your job, how have you changed?
Sakura: Hmm… Unlike back then, I started cherishing others more than myself. (laughs)
―You’ve finally developed human feelings, huh. (laughs)
Sakura: Finally, for the first time after I debuted 4 years ago. (laughs) Also, I started to understand the workings of my company. I started thinking “the manager does this job, and the staff does these jobs, so I have to do this job.”
―So not only did you become a professional, above all you also became an adult, yes?
Sakura: Yes, that was also part of it. For instance, I got to broaden my horizons at once by being able to talk to my senpai.
―Also, with regards to entering this industry, the reason you did was because you were interested in the making of anime and movies, and the fact that you thought of the world of adults as a wall to overcome. Since you’ve now experienced it, can you say that you have achieved your dreams?
Sakura: It’s true that I’ve admired adults since a long time ago. I’ve always wanted to grow up quickly that even now, I feel like I want to become 30 or 40 sooner.
―Sakura-san, you have many opportunities to model in gravure, but aren’t you afraid of getting older?
Sakura: I’m quite excited about it. Besides, I have this habit of thinking about my job in long spans of time and that’s exactly why the younger workers are leaving from the bottom, right? I’m thinking about things like how long I’ll stay in this industry, and what my older self can do.
―But, you’re still 23 years old!
Sakura: I think it’s probably because life after I turned 20 was challenging. (laughs) I felt like many happenings in my life were condensed to a shorter time frame and I’ve experienced things many times more than I have in my life before.
A famous seiyuu that overthinks. Sakura Ayane isn’t endearing!? You can’t survive doing voice work for shows alone…
■Immediately after entering the seiyuu industry, I was baffled. It was completely different
―This year (2017), Seven Eleven presents ‘Sakura toshitai Oonishi’ won best radio in the newcomer category for the 3rd annual Aniraji Awards 「アニラジアワード」. Among other things, your radio is very popular and you yourself as a seiyuu know that. In regards to the status quo (of the seiyuu industry), besides solely ‘doing’ voice acting, what are your personal thoughts about this matter?
Sakura: Hmm, I noticed it when I was about 16-17 years old, that in this industry, it seems like you wouldn’t survive doing voice acting alone for shows.
―That was the first year you debuted wasn’t it? How mature of you!
Sakura: When I first entered this industry, I wanted to be someone who upheld the true image of a seiyuu. Someone like Ooyama Nobuyo – the original seiyuu. Fundamentally, I wanted to do things which a seiyuu does. Things like working in the studio and once in a while, being featured on T.V.
But, around the time of my seiyuu debut, I realized that the seiyuu industry warranted something more than just being in front of a microphone. In saying that, the current direction of the industry is starting to lose its course. At the place where I was being trained and developed, someone told me “Ayane-chan, good things come those who wait. You have great talent, which will bloom late. So, when you graduate University, that will be the perfect time in which you can be a full blown seiyuu.” Therefore, due to this, I didn’t look forward to suddenly appearing on stage and being in the spotlight.
Truly, the gap between what I thought was the reality and what was an ‘ image’ was way too different. In the beginning, I felt unworthy – I lost my way. “I don’t want to do this kind of work”, I said as I turned my manager down.
―Did those work opportunities involve modelling in gravure like works?
Sakura: From the very start, I’ve never been good at being photogenic for the camera and stage appearances aren’t my thing. So, there was a reason why I became a seiyuu. Nowadays, for the sake of my voice acting work, I understood that from a working perspective, that these are also jobs which I need to decide to complete. While I understood the fact that seiyuu can’t survive solely doing voice work for shows, during that time, this was a concept (i.e. extra work) which I couldn’t grasp, so my manager got angry at me. But also, during that time, I had an epiphany and my eyes were suddenly open to the concept of radios.
―Did the idea of not having to show your face appeal to you?
Sakura: No, but rather, due to the influence my parents had on me, I’ve loved radio shows ever since I was a kid. I grew up in a TBS and Bunka Housou Radio「文化放送」 kind of house environment and it’s been like that for as long as I can remember. From this, I realized that people on the radio were able to freely use their voice to reach listeners, comparatively, had such high similarities to what seiyuus do as a job.
―So what you’re saying is that you would do it with it if it was a radio show?
Sakura: Only because I was weak at expressing myself that I gave up on becoming an actress… I won’t be able to reach anyone just by being myself. But because of that, I was able to create my own radio – “Sakura Ayane’s radio” by consulting, learning and mimicking my favourite radio show.
Like a radio in which the tone of the chatter and tempo of the show was easy to listen to. A radio where I can easily convey my personality naturally, merely, by using a voice. But, above all, I didn’t want to lie. That’s how it usually goes from my experiences.
■I didn’t want to think of myself as a woman…
―But, isn’t that just the usual attitude of a professional?
Sakura: Yes that’s right. But you know, there are times where my plain & unfiltered personality comes out and I get called a weirdo. I really do think I’m not an interesting person at all, so I try to devise ways towards self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment and yet, for my plain old self to be branded as a weirdo really is shocking to me. But seriously, I still don’t think I’m a weirdo.
―By the way, what was the radio show you were referencing earlier? (Your favourite one you built around ‘Sakura Ayane’s radio’.)
Sakura:I was referencing J-Wave’s ‘Groove Line’.
―That’s… quite unexpected. What parts do you like about it?
Sakura: I really love how Fumika Hideshima-san is able to elude and counter Piston Nishizawa’s dirty jokes. In reference to this, it makes me think that I actually want to be a woman. As for seiyuu radios, Masumi Asano-san’s and Takeshi Washizaki-san’s A&G Chou Radio Show Anispa「A&G 超RADIO SHOW〜アニスパ!〜」also has the same mood and atmosphere which I love.
For the people who listen to me and to my fellow colleagues, I want you to know that I have a strong sense and desire not to be aware that I am a woman. Ever since I was young, I always wanted to be a boy. Maybe, that consciousness remains somewhere, but, I made use of boisterous language on purpose.
―Why did you want to be a boy?
Sakura: For what reason? Hmm, probably because it looked more fun being a boy. Especially from a work perspective, I thought that whether or not you’re male or female and such had no relevance when it comes to working. For this reason, I didn’t want to be aware that I was a woman. It’s a feeling I’ve had overtime.
■When I think less, I get anxious…
―It’s because you love your work so much don’t you?
Sakura: I love it so much.
―That means, you weren’t good at school were you?
Sakura: Bad… really, really, bad.
―Why is that when you hear stuff like, I want to be a man and I don’t want to think that I’m a woman, as an adult, don’t you think there are things you desire to see and want?
Sakura: I do have those thoughts. Things like, I want to be an adult soon and I want to live independently soon. Anyhow, when people decide the moment they have to do something, they’re not very good at carrying out what needs to be done. In other words, it’s easier said than done. So, that’s why I love the irregularity and unpredictability of my schedule. When my schedule is binded like the usual company employee’s schedule, the amount of things I think about start to lessen and I start to get really anxious.
―What do you mean when you start thinking less?
Sakura: That’s right. In this industry, there are heaps of things you need to think about and consider. Therefore, the more you distract yourself (through your job) the lesser the anxiety.
―That’s the complete opposite of the norm… Usually, you feel more at ease when you know your obligations. I think it’s really bothersome to decide everything on your own.
Sakura: What do you mean by this?
―In this job, people usually say that it’s absolutely challenging when your schedule is unpredictable. That’s what people normally consider.
Sakura: Ah, I see. For my job, it’s true that the schedule would naturally be unpredictable. However, if I think about things like “What do I have in store for tomorrow”, it’s easier on me.
―Does that count for day offs as well?
Sakura: I have a bad habit of cramming everything in my schedule to the point where I’, barely scraping by. As for the things I need to do the next day, I decide on them precisely, minute by minute. Even when it comes to cooking, when I have to go grocery shopping, it’s essential for me to write everything down in a memo or a shopping list. Curse those damn memos!
―Do you usually do everything as you planned it?
Sakura: Pretty much yes. If I do everything according to plan, at the end of the day, I get a big sigh of relief. It’s the best feeling ever.
―Thinking about your thoughts earlier, if you can imagine anything to your liking, what would be your ideal happiness?
Sakura: My equivalent to happiness I’d say would definitely be cooking. I’m hopeless when it comes to taste and flavour, but I love cooking nonetheless.
―You received a rice cooker for your birthday didn’t you?
Sakura: Wow you know me really well don’t you (laughs). Well, when I’m cooking and I’m thinking about the amazing food I could be making, I am entranced and think about these things far and beyond. Honestly, when I master the dishes I want to cook it’s like the best feeling ever. I feel so euphoric.
―Wow. That’s not only just heart, but your body also searches for the answers don’t they?
Sakura: Totally right.
―When you say things like “Ah, I really want to eat that”. Don’t you think it’s more of a knee jerk reaction than anything?
Sakura: You know I don’t believe in stuff like intuition. Lately, I’ve been really doubtful about that kind of stuff. Stuff like intuition and such, for me, just doesn’t come out. (laughs)
■Just by being in front of the microphone, I fall into a trance.
―Speaking of, don’t you ever get tired of constantly thinking?
Sakura: That’s just how I’ve always been every since I was young. I’ve always been a kid who would always be staring at people and observing their faces and expressions. But, I didn’t want people to think of me as that girl who’s always butting in people’s businesses. So what I did is that I made it seem like I wasn’t staring at people. As for me, it appeared like I was a kid who was wild and free. For me personally, it was a very successful way of looking at me.
―Is there a personality that you can’t help but think about over and over again? If so, does it serve as an advantage for your activities at work?
Sakura: I don’t think there’s such an advantage for actresses. For me, if we’re talking about my mental image of an actress it would be someone that is able to make themself and others shine. How do I put it… I think it’s a person that can do whatever they wish to do, but like there’s no way you could hate them. I hope for a day when I can be that kind of character.
I think showing this kind of personality – a more individualistic Sakura Ayane, would be for the best. After all, I gave up on trying to sugarcoat things and lying to myself.
―But isn’t revealing your true humanity – the idea of what it is to be human, revealing your weaknesses and the like a good thing?
Sakura: Hmm, it’s not endearing at all isn’t it? It’s so not charming. My mind is constantly spinning and thinking about stuff. Things like thinking about projects, how I portray my characters for the viewers and all sorts of other stuff. But I also don’t want to be the type who drops roles and responsibilities.
―I wonder if it’s because of this personality of yours is the reason why you’re so clumsy and awkward, but really, the world has much to offer for young people. The world is your oyster. Think about this way, people could be introverts, but on the contrary, they can be talkative on the radio…
Sakura: Yea! Yea that’s right! Even I don’t know myself that well (laughs).
―Perhaps Sakura Ayane’s greatest appeal is that she tries to find meaning in too many things.
Sakura: Day in and day out I’ll always be thinking of something. But when it’s just the microphone and myself, in the blink of an eye I am one with my characters. I will continue my line of work, but lately I’ve been wondering if I really am okay with where I am right now.
‘As long as shinkansens exist, Shinkalion will continue to run. Sakura Ayane pours all her passion and energy ever since she’s played as Hayato.’
With the new Shinkalion movie’s release on the 27th of December, this interview focuses on Ayaneru’s experiences and her thoughts about the state of Shinkalion thus far. Things like her standpoint as the main character, the challenges she has faced playing Hayato, her thoughts about having both children and their families as fans, wondering if her feelings and messages can reach them the way she conveys them, even going as far as talking about her parents in relation to Shinkalion and so forth.
‘With an affectionate outlook, Ayaneru looks back at her experiences playing as Hayato from Shinkalion.’
Seeing all those children singing the theme song as loud as they can brought me to tears
– It’s been a year and a half since you’ve come face to face with Hayato for Shinkalion, what are your thoughts about Shinkalion so far?
For me, it really didn’t feel like it’s been that long. As for the viewers, they probably thought that it went by in a flash. Still, this year and a half has brought me many substantial blessings and opportunities. I’ve frantically dealt with a lot of troubles during the post-recordings, but, as we had a job to do, regardless of the time of day, many staff members continued to do their jobs. With that in mind, our work reached our fans and we were returned with a positive response. When things like this happen, you realize that you won’t regret anything if you put this much time and effort. That hard work does indeed bear fruits. That really is the reality of life. I feel a bit overwhelmed thinking about it.
– How did you come to terms knowing that Shinkalion was in its final stages?
During the day of the final recordings, well… I didn’t really succumb to my true feelings. I understood that the story would continue from the movie and from this, I thought to myself that as long as shinkansens continue to exist, then Shinkalion itself will continue. Actually, whenever I see a shinkansen speeding by, I am reminded of Shinkalion. I wonder if I am able to leave those same feelings and impressions into the fans and embed them in their hearts, with that thought, I feel no sadness, but rather tears of joy start to fall…
– Tears of joy?
You see, Shinkalion’s had a launch party during the 2019 International Tokyo Toy Show. There, the producer revealed the event’s designs, visuals and some clips. During that event, the sight of seeing all those children who came to the venue – that being Tokyo Big Sight, singing Shinkalion’s theme song as loud as they can, made me burst into tears. It was definitely a sight to see.
[Shinkalion opening theme song]
– Seemingly, seeing all those children enjoy that event from the bottom of their hearts left a deep impression in you, didn’t it?
The children really did have fun! Seeing children with such happy expressions is definitely a sight to see. That’s what I realized when I first got involved with Shinkalion. For that reason, whenever I see the sight of children singing, I get overwhelmed and I try to hold the tears in. I felt that in a society where people are expected to keep up appearances 「建前」 for once, I saw something so beautiful and lovely. From that moment, I’ve felt more reactive from my work than ever before.
– And from that, you think that it truly reached the audience?
Yes, that’s the case. Shinkalion definitely does influence and reach the children who watch it and so, for the parents who watch it, that might be the case too. From this, surely we are able to reach a wide variety of audiences. Shinkalions aims to please audiences of different generations. The feeling of achieving this goal is very satisfying.
It can’t be helped, but maybe, it’ll be quite lonesome when the movie ends
– The new movie will be showing in theaters on the 27th of December. How did you feel when a new movie was announced?
Somehow, I had a feeling that Shinkalion would surely get a new movie. Seemingly, because Shinkalion is an anime aimed towards children, this occasion brings about festivity and celebration for them.
– In saying that, summer and winter anime movies certainly are a big deal for children aren’t they?
Because I fondly remember the days where I would go and watch anime movies with my family, the summer and winter holidays were definitely a big deal for me too. I hope that families will want to see Shinkalion in theatres and that the adult fans who support Shinkalion can have a fun time watching it on the big screen as well.
– From the time of the post-recording, up to now, has the cast managed to meet up again at all?
Hmm… That’s right. It hasn’t been that long since the last post-recordings so even now, it still feels like a game going into overtime.
It would be really sad to completely part from the show so I thought that after the movie is released, I would decide that I would take it all in and relish that feeling… Nevertheless, back and forth it went. As I thought, I miss travelling back and forth to the studio every week. The feeling of travelling to the studio every week, then suddenly, stopping this routine – it really is lonesome. For this reason, I would be so happy to be able to meetup with the cast members even just once. I really do wish that all of us could meet up again.
With Hayato’s pro-activeness, he helps anyone without hesitation
– In the movie, the story depicts the development of The East Japan Railway Company’s true to life prototype shinkansen ‘ALFA-X’ and used it as the story’s motif. From this, Hayato’s dad – Hokuto, goes missing (CV: Sugita Tomokazu). We see the young Hokuto (CV: Kugimiya Rie) cross space and time in the movie.
It really is a well thought out story. Not only does young Hokuto appear, but also, other new characters are introduced as well. Thinking about it now, a strong cast lineup does indeed yield good results.
– As you were performing as Hayato in the movie, were you aware of the changes and his growth in character?
Frankly speaking, my first impression of Hayato was that his personality was practically perfect from the very start. From the first episode, Hokuto, at that time, promised Hayato that they would ride the shinkansen together. Due to unfortunate circumstances, he had no choice but to return to his duties. Hayato, at that time, swallowed his pride and merely uttered “do your best”. And so, from that alone, I’ve always had the impression that Hayato was definitely a ‘ capable boy’.
But of course, as the T.V. series progressed, there are other things. His skill in battle and communication has improved greatly. His knowledge and passion in regards to shinkansen and shinkalion has grown. I also believe that his ability as a shinkalion operator has progressed. Much to say, his indiscriminate personality towards anyone he gets to know remains unchanged. From beginning to end, his kind motivation to do all things for others is untouched.
I believe that children actually understand this feeling and sensation better in their heads when they watch this show, so when a character becomes weaker it’s way too obvious.”Something seems off” they think. Therefore, Hayato is a good role model of someone who sticks to his guns when children decide to imitate him.
– He really does remain unchanged in the movie doesn’t he?
Oh definitely. Hayato’s positive energy and his willingness to never say no to others, so far, has always enabled him to rescue many others. I’m an example of one of those people he has rescued actually. I feel so relieved whenever I reunite with Hayato.
That boy is too good for this world. I really don’t deserve someone so lovely as him. I feel that I’m glad that I was able to meet him. I’m also glad that I was given the opportunity to give him a voice. I can’t help but wish him nothing but his own happiness.
There are times when my parents are very much like the Hayasugi couple
– I believe that a lot of parents from this generation who watch the show wish for their children to grow up like Hayato. Don’t you think?
I think so too! I also want a son like Hayato! (laughs)
I always think how does someone like Hayato grow up to be such a good boy? Thinking about it, a child’s family environment plays a vital role in someone’s upbringing doesn’t it? In saying that, I really, really love my mother – Sakura (Hayasugi Sakura – CV: Shimizu Risa). Even during the movie, she never fails to show her strength. It’s such a satisfying display of strength to see.
You know, when Hokuto went missing, Sakura told Hayato “Have faith in your father”. As a woman myself, from my standpoint, if that was me, I could never be so calm and collected at a moment like that. An important thing which I got out of this, is that for me, Sakura is someone I see as a symbol of life.
– Is there anyone around you who are similar to Hokuto and Sakura’s likenesses?
As a matter of fact, my parents do resemble the Hayasugi couple just a bit. The way my dad deals with me and his attitude towards me is kind of like how Hokuto treats Hayato. Things like how he pampers me and agrees with his own daughter all the time, even praising me and always talks highly of me. “You’re such a good girl” he says.
On the other hand, my mum always gives me a lot of good advice. She’s the positive type that always sends me good vibes. Whenever I lose the plot, or I feel troubled or unsure of anything, to this very day, whenever I talk to her, she supports me and gives me that extra edge and motivation to be able to do anything. Among other things, this just proves that my mum and Hayato’s mum are alike. Most likely, my mum wanted to raise a child like Hayato didn’t she? Well, thanks to Shinkalion, I actually realized this (laughs).
– How about you? Do you and Hayato have any common features and likenesses?
It’s a bit sad to say, but unfortunately, Hayato and I don’t have much similarities (laughs). There are times when I can’t keep up with Hayato’s growth at all. His existence and aspirations are way too flashy for me. For this reason, I thought that it could be good if I performed him in a more mature style, however, the sound director quickly tells me that I’m not in character anymore, I’m just my usual 25 year old self. “Wrap it up please” he tells me. Now that I think about it, the sound director (Mitsuma) was born to be like a dad (laughs).
And with that, it’s quite intriguing to see how much Ayaneru struggled and grew from her experiences in Shinkalion. It does tread the waters in how a seiyuu like Ayaneru thinks about her roles and how she carries them out. That’s always been my aim whenever I try to find content to translate. I’ve always been curious about what goes on in the mind of a seiyuu – big shot or not, it seems like that every role yields experience and growth. In saying that, I really need to watch more episodes of Shinkalion and try to support this show even more.