Anime Expo 2013 Megumi Han Focus Panel
by Carlo Santos,
Voice actress Megumi Han spoke about her experiences in the industry at a Guest of Honor focus panel at Anime Expo 2013.
Han began her voice acting career in 2008 and is best known for playing the role of Gon, the main character in the 2011 reboot of Hunter x Hunter. Recent notable roles include Akko in Little Witch Academia, Sumire Hanano in Chihayafuru 2, and Ellie in the Japanese dub of video game The Last of Us.
After a brief preview video, Ms. Han took the stage, accompanied by plenty of cheers from the audience. She then answered a series of questions from a moderator.
In addition to Anime Expo, you've also previously been a guest at Animazement. What is your impression of anime conventions in the United States?
[in English] So fun. I was very surprised that in America, so many people are studying and trying to speak Japanese. I'm very impressed.
Your anime debut was in Hunter x Hunter. How did you feel about being selected to play Gon Freecss?
I grew up with Hunter x Hunter for 15 years, so when I got the main role I was very happy, but also felt a lot of pressure. Since I was selected, I'm been giving my best and enjoying [the role of] Gon. I'm pouring my life into this.
What did you like specifically about working on Hunter x Hunter?
I was very moved with Gon as a character, and I've fallen in love with everything about him. Although I play Gon, the hero, I understand the opponents' feelings as well, and I feel sympathy for them. So I see the characters from both sides—but I think that's a very attractive part of the story.
Can you explain the atmosphere in the Hunter x Hunter recording studio?
I'm very good friends with Killua's voice actor (Mariya Ise), and we enjoyed being in the studio a lot. Every voice actor becomes their character, and together we're almost like family, but when the time comes for work, we're very serious.
Have there been any incidents or "happenings" while recording Hunter x Hunter?
It was so moving that, even though we're just acting, when the character is crying I also end up crying behind the microphone. When the character gets mad, I get really mad. So it's very emotional, to the point that I've become one with the character.
What's more, my mother is also a voice actress (Keiko Han, who plays the role of Mito in the show). When I recorded the first episode with her, she was actually more nervous about it [than me].
Americans are sometimes surprised to see a voice actress playing a male character. What is the experience like to play the role of a boy?
I prefer boys over girls sometimes. Inside, maybe I'm actually a boy. The emotional, "girly-girls" like Sumire Hanano in Chihayafuru are actually more difficult for me.
You've played a variety of female characters as well, so which female characters are easy for you to play?
Well, I'm a tomboy myself, and not a "sweet" type of girl, so that's what I enjoy. It's a lot easier for me. For example, Akko in Little Witch Academia. However, I still enjoy other girl characters—I enjoy studying and trying to become that character. So it's educational in a way.
What kind of characters do you hope to play in the future?
After this, you'll be at a showing of Little Witch Academia. Can you describe your character Akko?
[in English] She is me. She's a tomboy, and for girls her age, usually they're shy and can't express they're feelings. But she's very straightforward and honest, and says exactly what's on her mind. I love her character.
You actually cosplayed as Akko for the premiere screening of Little Witch Academia in Japan. What was it like?
I see everyone at conventions and events doing cosplay, but now that I've done it myself, I respect all cosplayers [gestures toward audience]. For example, the wig I had was super heavy, and you could feel it, but when you become the character you forget about the pain—and that is a great feeling.
When did you decide to become an actress?
Since my mother was a voice actress, I've always been around anime and voice acting. But, the idea that I could "just become" a voice actress because of my mother was not acceptable for me. About 15 years ago, I got into the original Hunter x Hunter, and when I saw Gon and all the other characters I realized, "This is my calling." So by becoming Gon, I've fulfilled that dream.
What is the most interesting thing about becoming a voice actor?
I'm a girl, as you can see, but [as a voice actor] you can be young, old, male, female, human, non-human. There are no creative limits, and that's what I enjoy about the job so much. You can fly through the sky, you can be a genius, or anything you can dream of. The job itself is the dream.
Your mother has played major roles in anime such as Sailor Moon. How do you view your mother since you both work in the same industry?
She was my mother for 24 years of my life, but suddenly she'd also become my senpai (senior) in the industry, so everyday when I got home, we'd fight. It took a while, but after working in the industry for a while, so I began to understand how much of a legend she is. So I now look up to her both as a voice actress and as a mother.
You've worked on the Japanese dub of My Little Pony, which is an American property. What's different about acting in an adaptation of a foreign work?
The first time I do a foreign dub, I have to listen to the English first and trying to bring that out in Japanese. But the English language has a lot of words in a short period compared to Japanese, so I didn't realize that one second can mean so many words in English.
The moderator questions were followed by a brief question-and-answer session with the audience.
In one scene of Hunter x Hunter, where Kite's arm is cut off and you see his arm and scream, was it hard to maintain Gon's voice while screaming?
[in English] Very very difficult. Well, I felt [Kite's] pain, even though my own arm was still attached. But because of how strong Gon is, I felt that he was a hero who could recover from seeing that.
Did you ever play karuta with the cast of Chihayafuru?
[In real life] I was taught karuta in elementary school, so it had been many years. But when we worked on the show, we actually practiced, wearing the hakama [worn by the characters in the series]. I'm not that strong or tough, but I can play.
During the audience Q&A, an attendee also challenged Han to rock-paper-scissors, emulating a scene in Hunter x Hunter where Gon duels with Killua. Han lost the match but made a pouting face that won the audience's sympathy.
The panel ended with Han taking an enthusiastic group photo with the entire audience.
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