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Otakon 2009
Kikuko Inoue Focus Panel

by Evan Miller,

As many Otakon attendees were still queuing outside for badges, the voice of Belldandy took the stage to thunderous applause from a mostly full room for her Friday morning focus panel. After introducing herself as a "17 year old girl," the voice actress said that she is really impressed with what a nice city Baltimore is and how everyone is so friendly. The floor was then opened to questions from the audience.

The first question concerned the characters that Inoue plays. When asked if she prefers playing evil characters like Grace from Macross Frontier or sweet characters like Belldandy (Oh My Goddess!), she said that she feels happy doing the nice roles since they are "quite relaxing." However, she does relish the evil roles like Grace. "Usually I hide the 'dark' parts of my personality," said Inoue, "but through those roles, I can explore that side of me - and that's fun."

The next question stepped into one of the less illustrious roles in Inoue's career: a part in the hentai anime Ogenki Clinic. When asked how the hentai voice acting experience compares to normal voice acting, Inoue admitted that she took the role since her agency told her the job would "be an experience that would give me breadth in roles." "I feel like I was tricked into it," says Inoue, who added that the hentai title isn't listed in the profile released by her agency.

As one might expect, a lot of the questions from the audience focused on Inoue's most recognized roles, such as Uraha from Air, Sanae from Clannad, and Mizuho from Onegai Teacher. While she admitted that she doesn't have a favorite role specifically when she was asked about Clannad and Air, she did state that she would like being part of a long-run anime. "I don't know if the Onegai series will continue or not," said Inoue, "but I would love it if I could be on a show that runs as long as Sazae-san."

The Q&A was attended by Inoue fans from as far away as South America, one of whom asked the voice actress about the roles where she plays a male character. She called the opportunity to play male roles a "stress killer" since she can scream lines of dialogue. As for roles she would like to play in the future, Inoue admitted that her childhood admiration of the Fujiko Mine character from the Lupin the Third series has her hoping that she can play a female spy/femme fatale role in the future.

The voice actress was asked about her other projects beyond anime voice acting. Besides playing characters in the Japanese dubs of western films, Inoue mentioned that she has a radio show called Kikuko Shaberi Mero. In the show, she introduces herself as being 17, at which point the audience says "oi oi" ("yeah right") in reference to her veteran status as a voice actress. Despite being in the business for so long, Inoue says that she hasn't grown tired of playing any of her characters, citing a recent reunion of the Ranma 1/2 cast as a positive, fun experience. Inoue also talked about playing one of her characters, Lobelia from Sakura Wars, in the live action Sakura Wars musical as a nice change of pace - even though mastering her character's trademark "walk" was tricky.

Near the end of the panel, the topic of music came up when one attendee asked about Inoue's view of the current voice acting industry in Japan. She advertised her participation in the singing trio Wild Strawberry, which does jazz-influenced cover versions and arrangements of anime songs. She mentioned that the group has performed songs like the Evangelion theme and other popular songs numerous times, and asked the audience for suggestions for songs that she and her group could hopefully perform for American fans in the future. In response, the panel attendees offered a ton of suggestions to Inoue, who busily jotted them down as the panel wound to a close.

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