Yui Makino

by Evan Miller,
Yui Makino grew up primarily studying the piano – a passion that she would follow all the way through her undergraduate studies at Tokyo College of Music. Her ability with the piano earned the attention of a few famous figures in Japan's entertainment industry, such as live action director Shunji Iwai and composer Yoko Kanno. Makino would end up working with Kanno to produce her first single in 2005, the same year when she would also take up a career in voice acting by accepting the role of Sakura in Tsubasa Chronicle. Since then, she's contributed her talent to numerous anime series and has released two full-length solo albums. This fall, she'll be making her first US appearance at the New York Anime Festival. ANN recently sat down with Makino to discuss her history as a musician, her notable roles in anime, and her ambitions for future projects.

ANN: You've been playing the piano since you were very young. How has your experience with the piano influenced your current music career?

Yui Makino: I think the biggest influence it has had on me is the way that I can talk or sing while playing at live performances. That kind of performance style is one of my strong suits.

ANN: What was the most challenging moment for you while being a student of the Tokyo College of Music, and how did you overcome that challenge?

Yui Makino: The most challenging moment was when I was chosen to perform in the Graduation Ceremony concert after earning the top score in my senior year piano ensemble. I had a pretty overloaded schedule then, since I had new releases coming out every four months and was also working on the release of my second album. After work, I would practice long into the night to get ready for the concert, and thanks to the help of my friends, I was able to get through it.

ANN: You've worked with many famous music producers, film directors, and other professionals. How has your work with these people changed your approach to your music and work as a voice actress?

Yui Makino: I learned that you should try to do what you can't, not just the stuff you know you can do. I also learned how to approach every job and show seriously and with all of the enthusiasm I have.

ANN: Your first role as a voice actress was the part of Sakura for the series Tsubasa Chronicle. How did you prepare for this role, and have the methods by which you prepare for roles changed since then?

Yui Makino: As a voice actress, Tsubasa was my first job – and it was also the first time I performed with just my voice for an animated production, so there were a lot of things I had to adjust to. However, the experience inspired me to shift from a more scripted acting style to one where I'm comfortable attempting all kinds of roles, get into the background and feelings of the characters, and can convey things that might not be written in the script.

ANN: After you took on the role of Sakura, your next role was the part of Nakahara for Welcome to the NHK Was it tough to switch gears from a fantasy series like Tsubasa to the hikkikomori-themed NHK? Are there any similarities between these characters and your own personality?

Yui Makino: I think Sakura's gentle qualities are like my own. As for my similarities to Nakahara Misaki, we've both got a bit of a dark side in our character… The way these two characters act is completely different, so when the recording times for the two shows overlapped, it was tough to switch gears between acting for each character!

ANN: I've heard that you've done a lot of traveling overseas. Where would you like to visit next? If you had the chance, what kind of projects or volunteer work would you like to do overseas in the future?

Yui Makino: About two years ago, I was able to attend an event in China. After experiencing that moment, I knew that I wanted share my music with various nations outside Japan. I was so happy when I discovered that people were listening to my music and supporting me abroad – it gave me goosebumps a little bit! So, in the future, I'd like to keep bringing my voice and music to people in many different countries.

ANN: Until now you've finished two full-length albums. What kind of sounds would you like to try out or experiment with for your third album? What kind of messages would you like to convey through your music?

Yui Makino: The most important thing for me is to be able to express my thoughts and feelings just as they were when I felt them. No matter the topic, I want to express my feelings in a natural way.

ANN: To wrap up, do you have any messages for your fans overseas?

Yui Makino: Thank you for always supporting me! Even now, I'm so excited to meet all of you that it's hard to contain my excitement. I will work hard to prepare for the show so I can give you all the best possible performance I can offer. Let's enjoy our time together!

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