Chika Anzai’s career broke out in 2014 after playing the loveable Chaika Trabant from Chaika -The Coffin Princess-, and since then has starred as the heavily troubled and emotional Mary from Grimgar, and the stoic cool-beauty Reina Kousaka from Sound! Euphonium.
She is one of the anime industry’s most distinguished up-and-coming voice actresses. AniTAY had the opportunity to interview her at Anime North 2016. This is what she had to say.
Other notable roles include the following:
Suzu Shutou - Riddle Story of Devil
Nagisa Mikogami - Animal Detectives Kiruminzoo
Anett Hosenfeld - Schwarzesmarken
Mina Carolina - Attack on Titan
Kiseki Kusanagi - AntiMagic Academy 35th Test Platoon
Touko Ichinose - Taboo Tattoo (Airing Summer 2016)
Asuha Chigusa - Qualidea Code (Airing Summer 2016)
Chika’s entire roster of roles and appearances can be found here.
Most of the following questions were asked by AniTAY and The Buttonsmashers in a split interview with Chika, and the remaining were picked from Chika’s public Q&A at Anime North 2016. The questions were rearranged and reworded to heighten flow.
Here we go
This being your first overseas visit, what do you think of Canada so far?
It’s wonderful, it’s very nice. The plane ride was so long. I’ve never had such a long flight, so it was a very uncomfortable. Getting past that, the land I saw was very spacious, and it made me very happy to be born on this Earth, that’s how I felt. The people are so nice and I’m happy to be invited to Anime North as a guest of honour. My first experience on this continent is not for leisure; this trip is sort of business, so I’m very proud.
How do you practice before any voice acting session? Do you have any pre-recording rituals?
It depends on the series. For example, Mary from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, you guys probably know she’s a gloomy character, so when I wake up in the morning I try to keep my attitude feeling down and low-key. I keep saying to myself that I’m going to become Mary today. It might affect how I dress, or I’ll change the music I listen to on my way to work to songs that are slow-tempo, and not happy to make me feel more like Mary. However, once I get to the studio, a different feeling arises. I work with other people who have roles themselves, and it’s simply harmony and chemistry that we make together that creates the characters. From there I just go with the flow.
Grimgar, as you say, is a fairly despairing anime. In it you performed many heavily emotional scenes including one in particular that deepened Mary’s relationship with the male lead, Haruhiro. What feelings did you have when voicing this scene?
It had a very deep meaning. The scene you speak of, from episode 8, was very big for me. Mary had her dark past, but Haru tried to understand as much as he could within his power and Mary saw that. Like ice thawing, I wanted my voice to convey the distance between the two slowly melting away. It was important for me to measure the distance between hearts and the distance between us (voice actors) in real life.
Arguably one of your most famous roles to date was Reina Kousaka from the concert band-centric anime, Sound! Euphonium, made of course by Kyoto Animation. How was it like working with such a company and with their famous director, Ishihara Tatsuya?
He’s a very interesting person. Before, as an ordinary viewer I saw Ishihara’s work on the other side of the T.V., but even now he still feels very far from me; I never thought I’d ever be working together with him. It’s very odd, I would have never expected it. When I found out that I’d be working with him I thought it was just a dream, I thought someone was just joking around. So when I actually began I felt in awe. Knowing that I got to work with such a famous person in the industry made me realize that I was able to come this far myself. I was very happy. And Reina is a very popular character, so hopefully I’ll be able to work with KyoAni again.
After voicing Reina, have you decided to play any musical instruments, or perhaps perform in a concert band?
I played a little bit of piano when I was in elementary school. I also played the trumpet in an event for Sound! Euphonium.
Sound! Euphonium displays the dramatic story between Reina Kousaka and Kumiko Oumae. Their relationship is a bit odd per-se, the two make it seem like they’re lovers, but it’s hard to tell. What do think about this?
The friendships that we all take for granted are often viewed as true love, but I think that the relationship we see between these two girls is simply friendship. The way we see it, our eyes might be kind of dirty because they want it the other way.
Has anything interesting happened between you and Tomoyo Kurosawa (Kumiko voice actress) as well? Interesting, as in interesting stories?
We are in a very good relationship. It’s hard to tell who is older because she is always the one helping me. Just like Kumiko and Reina are tied together with music, Kurosawa-san and I are connected by our work as voice actresses. She asked me to bring her back some a maple syrup when I went to Canada, so I’ve already bought one for her.
Your first role was the very innocent girl, Nagisa Mikogami from Animal Detectives Kiruminzoo, and your most recent role was Anett Hosenfeld from Schwarzesmarken, a hardened soldier who’s used to seeing her friends getting eaten by aliens. What acting experience in the time between then and now prepared you to become Anett?
(laughs) I still don’t understand why such a different character came my way. I’ve always had difficulty with any character that I’ve performed, so this one was no different. I’m not naturally good at communicating, and some of my recent characters have tended to be the same way.
Going back to Sound! Euphonium, Reina is the ultimate cool-beauty; she’s calm no matter what happens to her. How do you think Reina would react if she and Kumiko were instead both mecha pilots in Schwarzesmarken… and Kumiko was the one that got eaten?
Ehhhhhhh!? I think she would go crazy (laughs casually)… probably. Sound! Euphonium tried to capture as much of reality as possible, so this alternate universe is very hard to imagine.
Reviewing these two most recent and biggest roles of yours, Reina from Sound! Euphonium, and Mary from Grimgar, they both had very similar manners of speaking. They were both low-toned and moody, yet spewed strong emotions in specific circumstances. Would you say that this character style fits your voice the best?
They are both very different from myself. The character that would closest suit me is Chaika from Chaika -The Coffin Princess-, that’s what I believe. Chaika is a very active and very emotional girl. It’s easy for other people to tell what she feels, and I’d say this most closely reflects myself. On the other hand, both Mary and Reina do not think highly of communication, so in other words, they themselves are not very good at communicating. In terms of bad communication they might be best suited for me. However, I normally like to feel more adorable, and I’d like to love these characters more, but it’s so difficult because their personalities are so different from mine.
As you are familiar, Chaika (The Coffin Princess) speaks in broken Japanese, so most of her communication relies on her vocal emotion. Was there anything special or challenging about performing her voice?
Even though she does speak broken Japanese I didn’t really find it difficult to voice her. Chaika speaks the words that are most emotional or most important to herself, so I knew which ones to focus on and what to emphasize. She’s such an honest and straight-forward person, that’s why I found her so interesting and easy to play.
When you were voicing Chaika, what emotion was the most difficult for you to play?
It would be anger. And sadness. As a child I was not a cry baby, and even to this day I do not cry often. This being the case, it was easier for me to perform happy emotions rather than negative emotions because I’m not so used to it.
Many anime characters wield giant weapons. In Chaika’s case, she holds a large rifle. There are a few spots around Toronto that you can actually fire something that looks kind of similar. Would you ever consider trying it out?
Ohhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmm. If the opportunity arose, maybe, but I don’t want to aim it at people. I’d like to try, but it’s hard to say that Chaika was using a gun because she was actually using a gun-shaped tool to perform magic.
Other than Chaika, who was your favourite character from the show?
(In Chaika’s voice) Toru! I’m not sure why he’s my favourite character. Probably because Chaika loves Toru, so I love Toru.
In Riddle Story of Devil, you performed as Suzu Shutou, a girl that looks like a high school student, but suffers from the Highlander Syndrome and is actually more than 80 years old. How did you perform her accordingly?
I thought about how it would be like to live around high school students when your heart is over 80 years old. I thought the character should be more quiet and wise because of all the experience she’s had in her life, but at the same time I would try to make her appear like she’s young and wants to live.
You also performed Riddle Story of Devil’s 7th ending theme in the voice of Suzu. Over your career you’ve done some musical performances whilst acting as a character, such as this example. What are your thoughts on doing this? In what way does the process differ from your normal work?
From my personal point of view, my singing voice is not entirely stable and sometimes doesn’t consistently sound according to the character’s voice. If I stand in the shoes of the character, depending on the situation or the emotion that they actually feel, their voice might sound differently from regular speech. When I sing, it also sounds different from my voice when I speak, so I simply try to be honest to the character. Sometimes it sounds very different, so I try to fix it. The musical work is very different from normal recording, and personally I don’t like singing so much, but I think through doing music related work I can deepen the character much more easily.
For regular voice acting, when I get the script for the audition for a possible future role, it’s not that I fully have the image of the character’s voice. In other words, I don’t usually fix a character’s sound in place before I start. When I really feel what the character’s actual feeling, their voice comes out naturally. So whatever ends up being their voice, I believe that will be their true voice or true sound.
Across your career you’ve also voiced a handful of minor roles. For example, you voiced about ten roles between Chihayafuru and its sequel. Can you explain what it was like changing between so many? What are the differences between this and voicing one main role?
It’s hard to say what differs, there’s not much of a change for me. When I play these roles, although it’s multiple characters from the same series in different scenes, it doesn’t really matter to me because every character has their own life and career. I try to think about how they feel even if there’s very little information on them compared to main roles. In either case I attempt to understand each character I play, so in the end I don’t feel a difference.
What kind of characters would you say are the most difficult for you to play? Girls? Boys? Monsters? Singing role? Something lovey-dovey? Or perhaps something spiteful?
Any situation would be difficult. Especially something where I have to sound very sexy, that might not be for me.
What about a middle-aged, gruff man?
Ehhhhhh? I might be able to think like a middle-aged grumpy man, but it might be difficult to properly make their voice. If I could use a voice modulator then maybe someday.
What kind of character would you like to play in the future if you had the choice?
Hmmmm. I would like to act as a character that could show more emotions, or anything that I haven’t experienced yet. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman.
What if it’s a character that has too many emotions, like a yandere stalker?
No problem at all.
I look forward to it.
What’s your advice for any future voice actors or actresses that want to get into the animation industry?
I don’t think I’m in the position to give good advice to the young people who want to work in this industry, however, if I must answer, what I see now from them is that they try to create a specific voice for a specific character, but I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. It’s something you have to perform with your body, and play with other actors and actresses, so try not to make or generate a new voice out of yourself. It’s simply something you feel and play honestly. This goes for regular acting and performing arts too; it’s not specific for voice acting. I’d like them to become the character. On another note, I’ll continue to work hard so I can become a better role model for these young actors and actresses.
Unfortunately we have to close up here. Is there anything you’d like to say to everyone?
Thank you all for everything! When I go back to Japan I would like to have fun times with all of the viewers through the anime characters that I perform! Thank you!
Catch Chika in here new performances this Summer. She will be voicing Asuha Chigusa from Qualidea Code and Touko Ichinose from Taboo Tattoo. Chika Anzai can be seen in America next at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California from July 1st to 4th 2016.
Check out our other Anime North 2016 coverage!
Anime North’s Cosplay Onslaught, 2016:
An Interview with the Man in Charge of Anime North for 20 Years:
This article was brought to you by AniTAY in a collaboration event by Avex Pictures and Navito World.
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