Interview: Shinichiro Mikiby Chih-Chieh Chang,
Editor's Note: This is a group interview, transcribed by Chih-Chieh Chang for Anime News Network at the 2009 Comic Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan.
Gundam is considered by many to be the quintessential anime. How do you feel about being part of that franchise?
Miki: There are about 50 Gundam series since its creation 30 years ago, and I think its excellence lies in its own timeline, with stories written and discussed by many experts. Furthermore, Gundam 00 has taken many current news items and events of our real world into its fictional world, such as development of weaponry and terrorist attacks, making me wonder if our world 30 years from now would become like the one in Gundam 00.
Which among the roles you've played is the most representative of you personally?
Although I've played many roles with different personalities and careers, it would be very difficult to choose one favorite among them, for who I am today is established by those characters. Each role is like a part of my true self, and I treat them equally.
How did you become a seiyū?
My older sister loved anime and manga very much, thus growing up with her has had a great influence on my choice of career, and I would imagine myself voicing anime in my youth. Despite that I've never put much effort into choosing this career path specifically, however. One day a friend of mine told me that a voice acting agency was hiring so I just called and asked if they had a vacancy. Of course they declined on the phone, but later they sent me a letter informing me that they've got a voice acting training course; I enrolled and have been voice acting ever since.
What was your favorite anime before you became a seiyū?
Wow, that was quite a long time ago... (laugh). When I was about 10, I watched through the first Gundam series (0079), and I also loved Ganba no Boken and the movie edition of Galaxy Express 999.
We know that you love cars and auto racing; did you get in to this hobby before or after your role as Takumi Fujiwara in Initial D? Have you customized your car or raced on the road like in the anime?
I auditioned for the role in Initial D partly because I loved cars. Just like Takumi's AE86, I've upgraded my own car multiple times; three different engines, and the interior, seats and steering wheel were all customized. However, racing downhill on a mountain road is extremely dangerous; I would only race on designated tracks. In fact I've participated in a 7-hour endurance race for the past three years; I wanted to wear Lockon's helmet, but the sponsor was Pokemon so I could only wear a Pokemon one (laugh).
What do you think about Japanese animation being seen as a medium of international cultural exchange?
Every country has a different cultural background, plus most countries still think “anime is just for kids.” It would be difficult to further understand each other if we don't tear down this wall first. For example, there was a cartoon with turtles living in sewers (audience laughs); their master, a rat, has a scroll hanging on the wall behind him, with kanji that's supposed to be “Nippon” (日本) but was actually written in reverse as “honjitsu” (本日). This sort of simple error should not happen if one pays a bit more attention to the culture of other countries. I also wish voice actors from different countries could know more about each other. However, while events like this one we're having today are exciting, it is not a good thing if a seiyū reduces his or her working hours voicing characters in order to spend more time touring. Furthermore, the current state of Japanese animation is not at its best; there are many faults waiting to be fixed. Being just a little voice actor, I wouldn't say that I could answer the big question of anime being seen as a medium of “cultural exchange”; all I can do is give my best performance on every job thus anyone who hears my voice in an anime feels satisfied.
Have you ever had a role that was particularly difficult? How did you deal with that?
I'd say there are hard times in each and every role, even today, and I can only rely on my willpower to overcome then. After all, every profession has its difficulties that don't get easier with experience.
Would you like to visit Taiwan again? Do you have any plans to visit China?
Of course I'd like to visit again. Even if I just walk down the street, the different languages I see and hear, the exotic buildings, etcetera, are all fresh experiences to me. After seeing Morikawa-san's autograph session I even worried about whether or not mine would be far less crowded than his (audience laughter), yet fans were very passionate, and I was deeply moved. I'd be very happy to visit China or Hong Kong if I get an invitation. Thanks to Japanese anime, many people around the world know more about and fall in love with Japanese culture, and as part of the anime industry I feel proud of that. I hope everyone keeps supporting anime.
Do you have any specific personal requirements during your recording sessions?
A recording studio has high standards for sound quality; no extraneous noise is permitted, particularly when another character is being recorded. We couldn't sneeze or even clear our throats during the session; only after the session was over could we take a deep breath (Miki then mimicked “holding his breath trying not to cough”, which the audience applauded). Even if I only have a minor character I make sure I'm not affecting the other performances. And I'd like to thank recording technicians; without their hard work behind the curtains we wouldn't be who we are today.
How do you relieve the stress and pressure from your busy career?
Since every profession has its own type of pressure, I don't treat it as a burden and I face it in a positive way. Therefore I don't have any specific ways to relieve my pressure – which includes driving, as I have a different mindset while driving.
Do you gather with your friends and colleagues after work?
Seldom, as the Japanese stereotypical “have a drink after work” business culture is almost distinctly absent in the anime/manga industry. My friends from the auto racing world have their own careers so we can meet once a month at best.
Event Host: We're almost at the end of the session; please give us a few words to conclude the press conference today.
I'm really glad to see so many people attending this event today and I'd like to thank everyone. I tried to give satisfactory answers to each question; please excuse me if my answer wasn't good enough. Being a seiyū has many limitations and not everyone can become one; a simple sentence can affect the mood of the listener. With that in mind I feel a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders. I'll keep doing my best and make my roles more lively, like real people. Thanks again to you all!
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