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Crunchyroll Expo 2022
Let's Talk Art with A Couple of Cuckoos

by Kalai Chik,

A Couple of Cuckoos creator Miki Yoshikawa and voice actress Akari Kitō spoke to attendees at the Hime Stage at Crunchyroll Expo. In their pre-recorded video, they both reflected on the story and shared their perspective on their work on the series, especially regarding the character Erika Amano. At the end of the video, they both showed their drawings of Erika, but unfortunately, the two illustrated shikishi were not the ones raffled at the end of the panel. Instead, four lucky attendees were able to receive a different shikishi signed by Kito and Yoshikawa.

Written in 2020, A Couple of Cuckoos is a switched-at-birth story that follows Nagi Umino and Erika Amano. Through a series of events, their parents decide to put them into an arranged marriage, and they end up living with each other. The anime began airing in April 2022 and will be reaching the end of its first season in the first week of August.

Starting off, the panel dove straight into a Q&A session with Yoshikawa. It's a rare opportunity for her to participate in events such as this one, so fans were in for a treat. When asked about the anime adaptation, Yoshikawa revealed she was approached about it while only the first volume was published. She mentioned she's the type of person who has a harder time developing a story if she thinks about its adaptations, so she kept the anime out of her mind in order to do things her way. In regards to her inspirations for Cuckoos, she reflected on how many boy-meets-girl stories she's written since Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Originally, she thought that people who were complete opposites of each other would make for a good pair, which is how she came to outline a story for a rich and poor person. Later, she decided on a swapped-at-birth premise after brainstorming how the characters would meet. Kito asked Yoshikawa how involved she was at the animation stage, and surprisingly, she was very ingrained. Yoshikawa had been part of the process at the start, but due to COVID-19, she had to share her plans for the plot and dialogue with the anime staff remotely. She would also look over the conversations and storyboards and provide feedback to the director and everyone else. Kito recalls how Yoshikawa would also attend the recording sessions as well.

In terms of what she wanted to highlight in the anime, Yoshikawa wanted the food to look delicious because she put a lot of effort into depictions of food in the manga. Hilariously, the anime airs at 1:30AM, which would mean the food would “terrorize” viewers' stomachs as they look hungrily at the screen. Kito was also curious about Yoshikawa's thoughts on Erika's voice since Kito is her voice actress. Yoshikawa admitted that she didn't have a voice in mind when she was writing Erika, but when she heard Kito's voice, she immediately thought it suited the character perfectly. Since then, she thinks of Kito's voice whenever she draws her, and even in this recording, she hears Erika whenever Kito speaks. Upon hearing all the character's voices, Yoshikawa personally believes that they are all the best choices for their characters. Kito promises to share that comment with the rest of the voice actors.

Switching gears, Kito is asked about her reaction after she was chosen to play Erika. Incidentally, Kito was a huge fan of Yamada-kun and read it during her high school years when it was serialized in a magazine. It was during that time that she decided to become a voice actor and auditioned for an open role on that show first, but failed to get the role because she was still new and hadn't done many auditions up to that point. Although she wasn't chosen for a role on Yamada-kun, she's here now as part of Cuckoos. Kito expresses her gratitude to be part of Yoshikawa's work and looks forward to her dubbing sessions every week. Although she's a big fan of the original work as well, Kito shared that Kaito Ishikawa (the voice of Nagi) outranks her in his “otaku” knowledge of the series.

In contrast to Yoshikawa, Kito heard the character's voices while she was reading the manga. She had ideas of how Erika would sound as well as her tone. Both she and Erika act according to gut instinct, so Kito was able to embody Erika as she's playing her. She added that the talent of the voice cast also helps to draw Erika out naturally. Yoshikawa asks Kito if there was anything difficult about playing Erika. Because Erika wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn't think too hard about things, Kito admits it wasn't very hard at all. However, Yoshikawa noticed that Nao Tōyama—the voice of Hiro Segawa—had a tough time playing her character. Hiro keeps her thoughts and emotions to herself, and Toyama seemed as if she was “battling with Hiro.”

Next, the two answered a question about what aspects they valued during the production of the anime. Since her switched-at-birth concept came first, Yoshikawa kept the character's fates carefully in mind. Her goal was to discuss “a heavy theme in a fun way,” which Kito sees reflected in the story. When Kito plays Erika, her goal is to make sure Erika is “the cutest and most radiant of them all,” which she feels lends her competitive edge compared to the other characters and actors in the show.

They then moved on to how Yoshikawa's past works influenced Cuckoos. She revealed that with Flunk Punk Rumble and Yamada-kun, she's written over fifty volumes of school life drama series, and she wanted to move away from that. At the same time, if the characters and plot change then the story changes as well, which is refreshing for a writer. But in the end, she ended up writing another story about school again even though she wanted to experiment with something new. Kito complimented her, saying she's now a professional in high school life. Even during the show's recording sessions, the cast would talk amongst themselves about what they loved about their school days as well as what they wished they could've experienced. Yoshikawa was happy to hear that because she took great care to make sure nothing came off as “fake.”

Despite the similarities in setting, Yoshikawa confessed she didn't want Cuckoos to end up the same as her previous works. Wanting to keep up with the times, she wanted her new story to be more modern and a reflection of the current trends. For example, social media and the use of cameras weren't as common in the time of her previous works compared to Cuckoos. Kito comments that she likes social media as well and it makes her happy to see that they are also in the same timeline as the story.

In the latter half of the panel, the two guests moved into a drawing corner. As a fan of the series, Kito is excited to be part of the rare opportunity to see the original author draw her characters in person. In the same vein, it's rare for a manga author to see other people drawing her characters. Unfortunately, as they are both drawing at the same time, they won't be able to see the other's drawing process. Also, they won't be able to speak as much as they draw. While drawing, Kito asks Yoshikawa if she has any tips for drawing Erika. From the neckline to the height of her twin tails, Yoshikawa went into detail as to what she keeps in mind when she draws Erika. To her, the easiest character to draw is Nagi because he's simple. Yet, that's what makes him difficult as well because his silhouette is different from the girls. The character that is surprisingly easy to draw is Nagi's mom, Namie Umino. But the first time Yoshikawa noticed a character taking on a life of their own was when she did the original one-shot with Sachi's appearance. Sachi's purpose was to show up and play her role as the younger sister who didn't want to lose her brother. She wasn't one of the heroines, but her sobbing after her brother is what brought her to life.

Depending on the manga, Yoshikawa hinted that she might or might not have an ending planned out. For Yamada-kun, she had a plan but said for Cuckoos it's a secret. Compared to Kito, Yoshikawa was drawing at breakneck speed. She comments that she wouldn't be able to keep up with weekly deadlines otherwise. When asked about a moment in the manga that makes her happy, Yoshikawa thinks back to the first chapter when Nagi and Erika meet for the first time on the bridge. Although the scene is in black and white, Kito shares she could see the pink in the cherry blossoms during that scene. Yoshikawa is always striving to create a scene that steals the show. Because the series was originally a one-shot, the first couple of pages in the first chapter contains a lot of information that Yoshikawa didn't want readers to notice. During the development of the manuscript after the one-shot, she didn't want them to notice that Erika and Nagi were switched at birth just yet. She had to make Nagi's parents look less like Erika for the purpose of hiding the fact that his parents are Erika's birth parents. As a last comment before they show their drawings, Kito asked Yoshikawa how she brings out the emotions of her characters. To help facilitate the creation of poses and expressions, Yoshikawa makes her characters hold props. These props, such as a thousand yen bill or Sobassyi, would help draw out their emotions. They can both easily imagine Sachi squishing the plush super hard.

In the last couple of minutes of the video, Yoshikawa and Kito reveal the Erikas they've been working hard on. Surprisingly, Kito drew Erika in an outfit that isn't her uniform. Yoshikawa joked that Kito will be taking over the serial publication and that she'll just be gaming from now on. Ending the video, Yoshikawa thanks fans for supporting her and Cuckoos since it's her third work. They remind the audience to continue watching it on Crunchyroll.

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