Interview: Madoka Magica's Ai Nonaka

by Sarah Nelkin,

Ai Nonaka is a veteran voice actress, having gotten her start in 2002 in shows like Kinnikuman and Platonic Chain; you likely know her as the feisty Kyoko Sakura from the smash hit Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but she's also well-known for her roles as Kafuka in Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, Konoka Konoe in Negima!, and as Fuuko in Clannad. ANN correspondent Sarah Nelkin spoke with Ms. Nonaka at FanimeCon 2015 earlier this summer.


Sarah Nelkin: First, please introduce yourself.

Ai Nonaka: OK. My name is Ai Nonaka. I work as a voice actress. I've acted in such works as Madoka Magica and the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei series.

What made you want to go into voice acting?

When I was an elementary school student, I watched Yu Yu Hakusho and I fell in love with a character called Kurama. I wanted to meet Kurama so bad, and when I thought about how I could meet him, I learned there was a profession called “voice acting,” and I decided to become a voice actress.

I heard a rumor that you joined Aoni Production because you wanted to be at the same agency as Megumi Ogata, the voice of Kurama.

Ah, yes! Megumi Ogata was at Aoni Production, so it was the only agency I knew. (laughs)

What do you try to do when preparing yourself for a role?

If there's an original work, I try to involve myself with that original work as much as possible to not betray the expectations of the fans of the original work. In the case that the role is in an original project with no original work, I try to envelop myself in imagination, and listen closely to what the staff and director have to say. I make the role along with all of the staff.

This year you were in the anime Kofuku Graffiti as Akira Machiko. Do you prefer cooking, or eating?

Since I live alone in Tokyo, I'm the kind of person who does the cooking. The dish I'm best at making is Gameni. I'm from Fukuoka, and that's Fukuoka's... What do you call it? (Staff member: Signature dish) Right! Signature dish! It's bamboo shoots, carrots, burdock, chicken, and shiitake mushrooms all simmered together with a bit of soy sauce on top for flavoring. That's the dish I'm best at making.

What kind of food specifically do you like? Japanese, American, Greek, etc. If you were to go to a restaurant, where would you want to go?

Yakiniku! (Japanese grilled meat)

So Japanese food, I assume?

Japanese food, yes!

How do you like spending your days off?

On my days off, I like to go out to play with my friends. Sometimes I go out to play with my junior at my agency, Ryoko Shiraishi... She played Hayate in Hayate no Gotoku.

Do you have any interesting stories about going abroad?

I was surprised that cosplayers were just naturally eating at restaurants in town. Also, I thought that everyone was so cool, since cosplay suited them so much.

If you could use a special skill from one of your characters, what would it be? For example, Kyoko (Maho Shojo Madoka Magica)'s magical girl powers, Kafuka (Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei)'s power of positivity, or Bao Sanniang (Dynasty Warriors series)'s yoyo skills?

Hm... What would I choose...? I have a lot of roles that have special skills... So no matter which I choose... If I could use magic- Wait, but then I'd have to give up my soul to Kyubey!

That's scary.

Yeah, it is! What should I choose? Hm... Ah! Let me say something good! I want to become a magical girl and wish for world peace.

That's wonderful. And the complete opposite of Kyoko.

(laughs) I know! I want to use magic for the sake of people.

Is there any kind of role you'd like to challenge in the future?

I want to do an evil role. Like Lady Doronjo. I've become kind of a senior in my field now, so I want to do a role where I bully the young ones. (laughs)

Is there a kind of genre of work that you'd like to participate in in the future?

I've never played a role of a boy who protects the world. I'd like to try being in a work with a story in which someone protects the world. Also, in Japan, America's animation is being brought over and dubbed. It's fun to dub American animation, so I'd like to do that.

What kind of American animation? Superhero cartoons? Or cartoons aimed at girls?

Oh, I've participated in [a dubbing of] Spiderman as a guest performer, and I thought, “Wow!”

Do you have a message for your English-speaking fans?

Please keep on enjoying and watching Japan's anime! And please, come attend an event that I participate in! Please come and see me! Thank you!

Thanks to Ai Nonaka and FanimeCon 2015 for the opportunity.

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