Interview: Ayako Kawasumi

by Jacob Chapman,

Ayako Kawasumi is best known for the voice of Saber in the Fate/stay night franchise and has a staggering number of roles under her belt from Nodame in Nodame Cantabile to Mahoro in Mahoromatic. She is also an accomplished pianist, lending her musical talents to many anime along with her voice. We sat down to ask her about Saber's legacy and her own at Anime Expo this year.

ANN: What has changed for you the most since you started voice acting and how has your career evolved over time?

Ayako Kawasumi: It's been eighteen years since my very first role in You're Under Arrest, and of course there were certain difficulties at first, and the job just kept challenging me. Every time I was cast to a new role, I built experiences one by one, and that formed my sense of confidence over time. So I built confidence that way, part by part.

How do you feel about the evolution of Saber as a character? Do you feel differently about Saber in the 2006 version of Fate versus the new Unlimited Blade Works or Fate/Zero series?

Saber's other know, she remains the same, and she has certain strong things and pivotal things in her, so that core of herself didn't change. However, through one game version and two television versions of Fate Stay/Night, then one movie, and also Fate/Zero, you have four or five different stories from different points of view. So it's not that Saber changed so much, but it's more like her story is told from many different points of view.

How do you feel about Saber's relationship with Irisviel? Is it friendship for them or something more? Does she see her as another master or a closer kind of companion?

I think Saber may look at her like another master.

What do you think Saber finds so inspiring about Irisviel? It is interesting because she doesn't get along with Kiritsugu, even though he and Iri share so many values.

I think Saber is drawn to Iri because Saber always respects people who have strong beliefs that she can understand in some way. In the case of Irisviel, that could be her fight for love. Love for her daughter, for Kiritsugu, and for anyone else that she loves. Unfortunately, Saber didn't quite understand Kiritsugu's beliefs and his real inner kindness, so for me, as a person, I kind of feel regretful for her.

There's a great range in the roles you've played, from the more reserved characters like Aoi in Ai Yori Aoshi to something like Moffle from Amagi Brilliant Park. Do you see yourself more in one over the other or do you have a favorite type of role?

When I perform, I make myself neutral, so I don't really lean too much towards this personality or that personality. I never really think, "I'm more like her" or "I'm like this other character."

Do you find that your musical background helps you as an actor or vice versa? Do they connect in a way that makes each other stronger, or do you think of those talents as separate things?

Absolutely. My musical background really helps my performance because sometimes directors will ask you for very subtle changes in delivery, just a little higher or lower one way or another. So if you know music, you can tweak a little higher or lower, you can express subtlety more quickly.

That reminds me of Mahoromatic, specifically the "Mahoro no Mambo." The way Mahoro speaks is very musical. Is that a good connection to what you were describing?

Well, although I have a musical background, my specialty is piano and I don't think I'm good at singing so much. However, Mahoro is a very musical character, and I think she used singing songs as an exposure of her inner self, her emotional expression. So I wasn't really "singing," but more performing her character with music.

Of all the roles you've played, is there a character you feel you've learned something from that's become part of your life?

I think Saber really affected my life because Saber has a purity and a mental strength that I really admire. So through playing Saber, I was hoping that I could get some strength from her.

Thanks to Ayako Kawasumi and Anime Expo for the opportunity.

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