2005 6th Comic Exhibition @ Taipei, Taiwan
Event & Interview: Junko Minagawa and Yuki Kaida

by Chih-Chieh Chang,
One of the major events at the show was for two voice actresses of Tennis no Ouji-sama (The Prince of Tennis), Junko Minagawa (as Ryoma Echizen) and Yuki Kaida (as Shusuke Fuji), to meet their dedicated, if not overzealous, fans. Although the manga and its adapted anime are in the sports genre, traditionally the realm of shounen titles, the numerous handsome, athletic, and cool boys in this particular series have attracted way more female fans than male fans. And when I mean “way more,” it's more than ten to one, probably 20 to one.

This was the first time in my life I've witnessed and experienced the fanatic power of fangirls in person. The entire stage area was literally cramped with people, mostly girls! Minagawa-san and Kaida-san came out from backstage. The roar of fangirls was deafening.

There was a group of fans who not only dressed in the uniform of the tennis team in the series, they gathered together from various places in Taiwan several days before the exhibition just to practice singing and slogans. They started to present the result of their practice. Yuki was ecstatic and singed along with joy, while Junko got so moved and broke out her tears.

The following day, a press conference and interview was held, and the VAs expressed their thoughts on acting characters in Tennis no Ouji-sama.

Q: How do you feel about the autograph session, and meeting the fans?
Junko Minagawa (M): I never imagined that Tennis no Ouji-sama and myself were so popular, therefore I was quite nervous before coming to Taiwan. Many fans cried with me at “meet the fans” because we were all sentimentally moved. Now I'm very happy and grateful.
Yuki Kaida (K): Knowing that fans gathered from all over Taiwan just to practice songs and slogans to perform in front of us really surprised me and touched my heart.

Q: Which character you have performed has had the biggest impression on you?
M: Ryoma, of course.
K: It's difficult to answer, for I devoted myself to each and every role I've played. However, if we're just talking about Tennis no Ouji-sama, Shusuke Fuji is my favorite.
M: Ryoma is also my debut character, so it's natural that he's had the strongest impression on me.

Q: How did you become a voice actress? Do you have specific respected peers in voice acting? Which anime and manga do you enjoy besides those you have performed?
M: I didn't want to become a voice actress since childhood (laugh). Before becoming one, I was an ordinary OL (office lady) but also interested in show business, so I enrolled voice acting school and kept working. After gradually stepping in to the business, I found that not only the role suited me but I also loved my character, so I've settled down ever since. My favorite seiyuu "sempai" is Masaya Onosaka (note: the interpreter couldn't translate the name, and Minagawa's voice was too soft that I couldn't hear it clearly. However, another reporter who apparently speaks Japanese identified the name as Mr. Onosaka).
K: I was aiming for stage drama performance, but coincidentally I stepped into the world of voice acting. To me those were two entirely different worlds. After a few tries, however, I found voice acting very interesting and it suited me very well. My favorite voice actresses are (in Chinese)... Junko Takeuchi and Junko Minagawa (laugh).

Q: I don't know much about voice acting, so what are the highs and lows of voice acting, and why do male characters have to be voiced by females?
M: No matter what kind of role I get, I enjoy voice acting very much, so it's hard to say if there are any obstacles to mention. If I have to pick one... well... unlike live-action shows, which can be performed by facial and bodily expressions, our voice is the only medium to show the emotion of characters, so expressing a role solely with our voice would be the most difficult. As for females playing male characters, well, I'm not suited for small-figured, cute female characters!
K: As a former stage actress, transferring from a 3-D environment to a 2-D environment was tough, especially in my early days. After being instructed by directors and understanding the know-how, I can now handle voice acting, and the experience is rather fun and enjoyable!

Q: Is there any requirement to become a voice actress?
K: I think there are few requirements for voice acting, or even any kind of work. Some degree of training is still required, although I do consider voice acting might even be easier than most professions. Just stay confident and put more effort into it.
M: My voice is anything but special. Some voice actresses have particularly naturally good voices, but most of them have voices similar to ordinary people – just with additional training.

Q: Both of you have mentioned your favorite type of love interest in the press release we received. Ms. Minagawa said you prefer men with kind eyes, and Ms. Kaida prefers men with paces of their own. Could you tell us if there's any celebrities you can use as examples?
K: Matt Damon, and while I like many female celebrities, I prefer macho ones. I also like those who look knowledgeable.
M: Johnny Depp.

Q: Where in Taiwan do you want to visit the most?
K: There are many places. I love Taiwanese food and have drunk a lot of Shaoxing rice wine. Got my face all red (laugh).
M: Lung-Shan Temple.

Q: Now that Tennis no Ouji-sama has been adapted as stage drama, which role would you like to play?
(Together): Of course we'd like to reprise our roles in the anime, however there are very capable actors already playing those respective roles.

Q: Have you ever fantasized about characters in Tennis no Ouji-sama, especially since there are many fan fictions depicting relationships between male characters? (Note: the translator either misinterpreted the question or the two voice actors didn't understand it...)
M: Fans yelled “kyaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!” when I met them the first time (in Japan), and I was surprised and shocked. I'm more used to this reaction now.
K: Most fans are girls, and we enjoyed that natural kinship very much. It's like a pajama party!

(The reporter who asked the question asked again with a weird look on her face, and the interpreter started a busy conversation with the two. In the middle of the chaos, I managed to attract the attention of Ms. Kaida... )

K: What?

D: Shounen-ai desu.

K: Wow, wow, wow, wow (laughing in disbelief). There is only friendship between the male characters! FRIENDSHIP ONLY (laughing)!

Q: Final words, please.
M: Saikou! Kanpai! It's so good to visit Taiwan; what a passionate and friendly place. The experience of playing Ryoma is even more precious to me now.
K: (In Chinese) I love Taiwan!

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