Source | Aug 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM
“Going for recording felt like I was going to school.”
This time we will draw into the voice actors co-acting in the animation series “Ao Haru Ride,” Uchida Maaya and Kaji Yuki. They will reveal the charms of this series where “everyone involved feels the reality of creating something good,” and divulge some of their bittersweet memories of their first love.
The hit series whose original comic by Sakisaka Io sold more than 60 00 000 copies, is being adapted into a TV animation series. It is a story centred around Yoshioka Futaba, a high school first year who still holds feelings for her first love from her middle school days, Mabuchi Kou. It is a fresh portrayal of the romance, friendship, and “unforgettable days” experienced during youth.
The voice actress of Futaba, Uchida, said that “Since I was reading the original comic, seeing Futaba made me think that ‘Ah, this is just like myself’,” as she laughed. “This doesn’t apply solely to me, Futaba is someone that would remind people about how ‘When I was in high school, I used to feel that way too’, she’s the kind of girl that anyone can relate to. Having expressed those similarities I share with Futaba, made me think that I may need to change myself in some ways too.” On the other hand, while Kaji has also “read the original comic before taking the audition,” he reveals that he has always “wanted to challenge acting a role like Kou.”
The reason being, “Kou is the kind of human that does not exist within my range,” he said. “Although their lives may seem sparkly and dramatic, both Kou and Futaba are ultimately just normal high schoolers. When it comes to fantasies or action-themed series, I act from my imagination, however in Ao Haru Ride’s case, it has to be a daily life that anyone should be able to relate to. Rather than overplaying it, I believe that this is a series where everyday nonchalant reactions are being sought,” denoting that this is a challenge for him to break new ground.
While the two characters have a close relationship, Kaji described the atmosphere between them as “natural and fresh,” and that it is “a series that conveys an ambience very close to the reality in the story, in the sense where you would be able to feel the sound and even the scent of rain.” He points up that this series is packed with “the charm of empathy.” Being able to engross themselves with a series that anyone can relate to, is also another epitome of being a voice actor.
Uchida said, “After the recording session of Episode 1, the girls at the studio all let out a sigh of relief. Everyone could share Futaba’s moment of her heart tightening when she was talking to Kou. It’s not an everyday experience. It made me realize again that I found a good place to work,” as she felt nostalgic. Kaji also said, “Youth is short-lived, and the same can never be relived again. However, I was glad to be able to relive the moment through acting this time. If the viewers were also able to revive their bittersweet memories when watching this series, that’s the best thing I can ask for as a voice actor.” Furthermore, Uchida added on saying, “when we’re in the studio, it feels like we’ve been reverted to our high school days. Everyone starts to resemble their own characters, and the atmosphere is very pleasant. Even the director and staff members begin to look like teachers (laughs)”. Kaji agrees, saying, “It really does feel like a classroom! Even now, I’m always looking forward to heading to the studio. I would even go as far as to say that I’m working hard every other day so that I could get closer to that day.” Uchida then responded “That’s right! I can’t wait when I think about how I can finally meet everyone again.”
When asked about their first love, Kaji said, “Kou had a scene where he wrote ‘Yoshioka Futaba’ – Futaba’s name on his notebook… and it’s embarrassing when I think back upon it but, I also used to write the name of the girl I liked on my notebook (laughs). Isn’t it wonderful to have something visual to remind you of that person…?”. Hearing Kaji’s confession, Uchida got excited and squealed, but also shyly admitted that “I also drew Love Umbrellas (Ai-ai gasa)! But I was too conscious of my crush, that I couldn’t even look at him in the eyes, and often acted weirdly in front of him. I remember how I would watch him from a distance with sparkling eyes.” Kaji then carried on the conversation, telling that “I’m also the type that keeps it to myself. I hid my feelings from my friends too. Though I bet it was obvious enough for everyone to tell,” and laughed about it.
Although their conversations seemed to be perfectly in sync, Kaji tells us that “It was only recently that we started talking properly.” He then looked towards Uchida, “We first worked together regularly in “Noragami”, I got to hear about Maaya-chan’s various struggles there. That’s how I found out a little more about her as an actress and as a person, so I’m really glad to be able to co-act with her again as Futaba and Kou.” “She’s energetic, doesn’t seem to be shy, and also somewhat manly (laughs). But that’s precisely why she hardly lets her weaknesses show,” it appears that from Kaji’s perspective, Uchida is Futaba herself.
According to Uchida, “Kaji-san is like the sun. He’s always cheerful, and I often see him being involved in small skirmishes with the other guys in the studio,” however, she reveals that her impression has “changed.” “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him about various things, and I came to find out that he’s actually a very serious person, both as a senior and as an actor. Thanks to this series, I have come to learn about those sides of him, and he’s now more approachable.” The two’s bonds have deepened through Futaba and Kou. While enjoying this ‘best casting’, by all means, do engrave the sight of earnest youths that reminds you of the “back then” in your memories.
Original interview & photography by Narita Orie Translated by Raku 0925