Voice actress stresses deep grasp of character
A special interview with Mikako Komatsu
Mikako Komatsu is a voice actress whose roles include the good-looking boy in the anime “My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!” who is romantically attached to the protagonist, one of his classmates. She also plays Inko Amifumi, a girl in the TV anime series “ALDNOAH.ZERO” who seems to fall in love with the hero and teams up with him to fight “Martian Knights.” Her versatility is truly amazing.
Online voting has closed for the SUGOI JAPAN Award2016, an annual project to introduce to the rest of the world the latest works Japanese people like most in the fields of manga, anime, ranobe (light novel) and entame shosetsu (entertainment novel) .
The contest is the second of its kind organized by the SUGOI JAPAN Committee and The Yomiuri Shimbun. Online voting for the 2016 award has closed on Jan. 3, with the award-winning works to be announced in March. Voters are asked to choose their favorite titles that are so “sugoi” (amazing, great and wonderful) that they want to share them with the world.
As a prelude to the 2016 selection, writer Momo Tachibana recently interviewed Mikako Komatsu, a highly popular voice artist who gives not only voices but also personalities to main characters in anime titles such as “My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!” and “ALDNOAH.ZERO” — both of which have been nominated for the SUGOI JAPAN Award2016.
Komatsu, who debuted in 2010, is so popular that she regularly provided character voices to more than 10 anime titles in 2015. Concurrently, she acts in motion pictures and TV broadcasts and gives concerts as a singer.
hinted in lines
You are now involved in the production of a variety of popular anime. What special effort do you make to give different performances — voices and personalities — to the various characters you voice?
Komatsu As you know, the script of each anime series rarely bears detailed references to actual scenes to which we have to adapt. A typical script often has only a terse explanation about the concept concerning the relevant scenes, plus some lines. Even when you practice long and hard, it still remains unknown — until you actually enter the recording studio — what kind of performance you will be tasked to provide.
But I think sufficient preparations, such as your own interpretation of the title as a whole and the lines you will voice , are an important routine for successful voice-acting performances. Unless you are conscious of emotions, senses of distance and so on that are hidden in the lines, it may be difficult to express such feelings readily and naturally when you actually take direction from the director.
Therefore, I always go back to the basics — thorough planning — in order to perform readily and exactly as directed by the director.
I still adhere to what senior colleagues of mine advised me in my early days. For instance, when there was an interval between my turns to come to the microphone during a recording session, I as a newcomer expected that I would be able to spend such spare time as a sort of break. One senior colleague said I would have to remain seated on a chair in the rear even during such an interval.
Why? The senior colleague said intervals were a precious occasion to improve one’s voice acting. When I was away from the microphone, the character voiced by me was not on the screen. Yet, the senior colleague said, I should keep imaging where my character was now and what he or she was doing now and contemplate various hypothetical scenes in which the character might reappear all of a sudden and I would have to readily deliver lines even in such circumstances. This kind of continuous empathy with the character is really vital to give personalities in one way or another. I remember one of my senior colleagues telling me, “Whether or not the character you perform is not there in the actual scene, it continues to live its life in the story. So, you have to be with it at all times.”
“My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!” and “ALDNOAH.ZERO” are two of your anime programs that are in the SGUOI 20 list of works nominated for the SUGOI JAPAN Award2016 in the anime genre. Can you tell us a little about voice-acting sessions for those series?
Komatsu [My character] Saika Totsuka in the former title is a very cute boy. I kept doing my utmost to voice him in a way of creating a personality that truly reflects his boyishness while still having a tone that will set viewer’s hearts aflutter. In the production process, I was often asked to ad-lib. On one such occasion, I made the character sound not just cute but also surreal. That scene was adopted and I got excited, of course, when that particular scene was on air. Therefore, I think ad-libbing helps enrich the personality of each character as long as it is not overdone.
Meanwhile, it initially appeared to be easy for me to voice Inko Amifumi in “ALDNOAH.ZERO” as I had the impression that she was depicted as a character who might be me if I appeared in the anime story. But I soon came to realize that even a single, short sentence for her had a great variety of emotional expressions. So, I worked really hard to devise as many ways of voicing her as possible to reflect various nuances of her feelings equally.
This anime work, I think, enables us to enjoy not only a fantasy of action but also have different experiences, such as communicating with people in countries that have totally different cultures and witnessing conflicts between adults and children though they are supposed to support each other. I myself became quite empathetic and sympathetic toward the characters, especially female ones who I thought were close to me, as they were mobilized to war — ordinary children were mobilized to war.
Thoughts in anime transcend
You recently visited China to participate in the Shanghai ComiCup manga convention on Nov. 28-29. What was your impression of overseas manga and anime fans?
Komatsu Above all, I was impressed by the overwhelmingly heated atmosphere in the Shanghai event. I earlier had a similar experience in Hong Kong when I took part in the annual “C3 in Hong Kong” event for manga and anime audiences. I think the degree of adoration of manga and anime among foreign audiences at such events is comparable to that in Japan, but, as far as “energy” is concerned, foreign audiences may outstrip their Japanese counterparts.
I was impressed by some foreign fans during autograph sessions in Shanghai because, for example, they spent some time to learn the Japanese language to tell me in Japanese: “I have been a fan of yours for many years now. I always support you.” I thought anime fans abroad are interested in not only anime works but also our culture as a whole.
I occasionally receive messages in English, Chinese and Korean on Twitter. I am sure this is proof that the anime culture has reached out to so many people abroad regardless of the national boundaries.
What is the appeal of Japanese anime works?
Komatsu The anime universe has many compelling aspects that attract us. Anime works show us one fantastic world after another that can never be accessible to us as long as we live just in our own world. Moreover, each anime work conveys viewers a very strong message that can be food for thought and enlightenment.
Needless to say, we live in a world where there are various countries with different cultures and traditions and what anime works try to convey to the rest of the world may be Japanese values. Yet, the underlying appeal of anime works, I believe, is something like hope that can be commonly accepted by any foreign country.
I would be more than happy to keep contributing to the dissemination of such hope to as many people in the world as possible through my voice-acting performances.
Born in Mie Prefecture in 1988 , debuted as a voice actress in the TV anime series “HEROMAN.” She is concurrently active as film/TV drama actress, singer and radio personality.