Otakon 2007
Mamiko Noto Focus Panel

by Jonathan Mays,
Voice actress Mamiko Noto arrives in an elegant black dress and opens her panel in front of a sparse crowd of twenty: “Nice to meet you!”

The translator wastes no time with an introduction. “I guess the best way to do this is to launch into the Q&A.”

One person raises his hand. “Are there any characters whom you've played when you didn't like the character or the anime?” Wow, no softballs this time.

Noto: “I love all the characters I've played. But I do recall a few roles that I played and had a hard time portraying.”

The bold audience member pushes forward: “Do you have an example?” Noto cites Monster's Anna and Witchblade's Masane.

Two minutes later, the back doors burst open, and more than a hundred people file into the arena. Well, “file” is probably not the right word for this disruption. Chatter and flashing cameras bring a halt to the panel. Noto sits quietly at the front of the room. After a minute, she relents and chats up the translator.

"Are we all in now? Sorry, we didn't realize you were waiting out there." Noto once more: “Nice to meet you!”

“So we pretty much launched into Q&A.” The translator recaps the one and only question so far. Several fans raise their hands.

“How has it been doing different character styles lately?”
For [sola's] Matsuri, I wanted to portray a lot of sadness and loneliness in her voice. It was a different kind of challenge.”

“Is it difficult to play such a tragic character as Ai?”
Folding her hands over her heart, in English: “I love her.” Japanese: “Playing Ai [from Jigoku Shoujo], who dies so tragically, I felt so much sadness, and my heart was so heavy that I had a difficult time portraying her. English again: "I love her."

The translator suggests that Noto pick an audience member to answer a question. She picks, and the questioner welcomes Noto to Otakon and wishes her a pleasant stay. “Noto, your voice is beautiful,” she says in English, then in Japanese. The crowd cheers. “See, everybody agrees with me!”

Then the question: “Is your personality similar that of to Moto [in Boogiepop Phantom?]”
“I wouldn't say I'm like her, but she has a lot of characteristics that I admire.”

“What if you were to choose someone else in the same series?”

“What would you do if you had the power to read people's minds?”
Noto squints for a moment, then shakes her head and covers her ears. “I think reading other's thoughts would be a scary power. I'd be too afraid. I'd cover my ears and hide.”

“You usually play smart characters. Do you find yourself similar to them?”
Translator: “A lot of similar questions out there…”
Noto: "I don't think I'm a very smart person, really. [laughs] But smart girls are very fun to portray.”

“Can you say as Ai from Jigoku Shoujo: 'Ippen, shitemiru?'” She does, and the crowd applauds.

A fan starts to pose a question in Japanese. The translator interrupts: “I'm going to make you ask the same question in English if you ask it in Japanese." And the fan continues in Japanese, then English: “What's the best and worst thing about being an actress?”
“I've never had a moment that I didn't like doing what I'm doing. I think the happiest moments are the exchange that I have with other actors in the studio.”

“Will there be a second season of (Anime no Shinkai?)? Have you heard anything?
“Looks like it went away. Too bad.”

Noto is asked to perform a catchphrase from the show, and the seemingly shy actress stands up and shouts it into the microphone.

Another request: Yakumo [from School Rumble]. “Nee-san, sugoi hito!

Translator: “Let's start on the other side of the room."

“How did it feel playing Yukinari in Girls Bravo?”
“I really hadn't had many opportunities to play boys, so I had a lot of hesitation about portraying that role. I found myself wondering what boys must feel having such feelings toward other women.”

“Which role left the deepest impact on you?”
“I can't really narrow it down to one favorite that remains with me, but Masane from Witchblade, having to portray a mother for the first time, left an impression on me. When you ask an actor, 'What's your favorite character?' it's like asking, 'Who's your favorite child.'” The crowd laughs hysterically. What, nobody's heard that one before? “You probably have an answer, but you wouldn't tell them.”

“Why did you get into acting?”
“Originally I wanted to be part of stage productions. As luck had it, I ended up as a voice actress, and my debut role was on Boogiepop Phantom when I was twenty.”

“Can you comment on your work with Starship Operators?” The translator's cell phone rings. “Sanri has to confess her feelings to a boy, and she has a very hard time doing this. Being able to relate such feelings, I felt a deep connection with that character for that scene.”

Most interesting story with a fellow actor:
“Ahhh...something funny...” She illustrates with her hands. “Working with a room full of actors, you portray your lines by reading pages while watching a screen. Once when I was watching the screen, a bunch of pages flipped over, and I was in a completely different place from everybody else. They had to start over because of me.” The crowd extends its sympathies.

Impression of American fans:
“If I had to put it simply, the warmth in welcoming me makes me feel very happy. American fans have so accepted Japanese animation that warmth and happiness is all I can do to express myself.”

Someone screams, "Daisuki desu!" from the middle of room. Come on.

“Can you say your favorite line from (Estella?)”
She obliges: “'Ship-sama?!' I remember saying that line over and over again in many episodes.”

Working on Odin Sphere with Tomokazu Seki and other talented professionals:
“It was an honor. Just being able to work with a veteran actor is a great honor, and being able to learn from them is a wonderful thing.”

A line from Inu Yasha:
“Wow, it's been a while…”

“What usually determines which role or series you play?”
“Since I'm an actor, I audition for roles that become available, and occasionally they cast me for a particular role based on my previous work. But being an actor, there's hardly ever a time that I can say, 'I want to pay this role.'”

Experience with writing scripts:
“Ahhh! I never expected to write scripts for Tokugan, but having never doing something like that, it was a good experience. I'm surprised how much you all know!”

”Senpai seiyuu” that she admires:
“Just one? I'm going to have to think about that! Ah, I know! Seki-san! And Yumi Touma. There are so many more. I respect all of my seniors.”

“What are the characters that you get asked the most questions about?”
“Recently, Jigoku Shoujo for certain.”

“Do you have any current projects that you can talk about?”
“I don't think I can say! Maybe in a little bit.” In English: "Sorry!"
Translator: "Wouldn't want her to get in trouble, right?"

Plans to release an album of her songs:
“Unfortunately, there are no plans for one, so please enjoy my songs on the DVDs.”

When she thought she could be successful as voice actress:
“Naru's World and X were the moments that I thought I could be a leading role.”

“Is there a character from a series you've read that you've thought you wanted to perform the character?”
“Recently, I started reading a manga to a show for which I'd already been cast.”

Dream character:
“I'd like to play a character with a variety of emotions.”

Acting process:
“The first step would be to read the script through.” [Pause]
Translator: "And?"
Noto laughs. “When I run across a characteristic to which I can't relate, I have a hard time getting into the character. I just sort of work through it, think through it, and hopefully I get it right.”

"This may be a strange question, but since he's here, can you try to imitate Tomokazu Seki?”
Noto nods as the translator poses the question: “Hai, hai...hai…muri! [No way!] That's so terrifying to even contemplate. [Laughing] I can't imagine what he'd say to me.”

“Can you say that special line as Anna?”
"I like you"
"Ah, thank you! Oh, say it?"
"The special way"
"Ohhhh. 'My name is Anna! I like you!'"
The crowd loves it.

Playing the voice of Katsuyu in Inu Yasha:
Yeah, I played the slug. A big slug. I remember pondering for a long time, 'How do I portray a slug?'”
Translator: "How do you portray a slug?"
"The director said to me, 'Don't think of yourself as a slug. Imagine yourself as an angel.'"

Creating the voice for her Simoun character:
"First of all, she's very mysterious, very smart, not very childlike. I thought of what I had to do to make the character stand up against her rival."
“Did you work with her?”
"Well, in Japan, they--" The translator relents and translates the question.
“We didn't really sit down with Yukana-san in creating the role. We went right into the recording studio. We just threw the lines out there and saw what worked on the spot.”

“Since we're still touching the topic of minor characters, is there something you can say about your character form Shakugan no Shaka?”
Translator: “Huh?”
“Shakugan no Shaka.”
The guy next to him translates the question in Japanese.
Translator: "You want to come up here, guy?" To the original questioner: "Please pronounce the Japanese titles clearly."
"I'm Mexican. Sorry."

“When I first did her voice to match the way she looked, I was told the voice was too childlike and that I should do my natural voice. I didn't put too much into portraying the character, just with my normal voice.”

Another fan: "I'll translate this myself" The translator lounges with his hands behind his head. Noto urges him to sit up. The question is about a character that professes her love to Noto's character often.
“I love the character, and I highly respect the creator.”
Translator: “I was going to make you translate her reply, too. You're good. You should do this for a living.”
“I do. I'm a translator.”
"We could use many more staff in the green room. Sign up."

“Could you say, “Please be quiet!” in Yukino [from My-HiME]'s voice?” She does.

"I'll be quick."
Translator: “Make it a good question, too."
“With so many roles, do you ever mix up your characters?”
“I've never really mistaken a character I was supposed to be portraying, and I've never gone to the wrong studio by accident. But when I get tired, it starts getting very jumbled in my head.”

Voice actors she admires:
Most of the audience: "We already did that!"
“Okay, okay. How about your favorite anime character when you were growing up?”
“It would be terrifying to suggest that I could play her, but I loved Nausicaa by Hayao Miyazkai.”

Translator: “Let's please thank her for coming. Remember, she has a signing at 4:30 today! Run!”

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