Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Maaya Uchida Interview: "I Want to Graduate from Voicing Chuunibyous!"


Already in her twenties, she thinks that she should graduate from voicing chuunibyou (eighth-grade syndrome) characters.

One of the hottest seiyuus (voice actresses) in the anime industry right now, Maaya Uchida has lent her voice to many fan-favourite anime characters, most notably Takanashi Rikka in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! and Kanzaki Ranko in The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls.

In Singapore for her maiden overseas performance at Anime Festival Asia last weekend, she headlined the P's Live concert on Saturday night, together with fellow artists Mimori Suzuko and Ayana Taketatsu.

We sat down for a media interview with the voice actress where she shared about her voice-acting career and experiences, future roles she'd like to take on and her secret favourite Idolmaster girls.

You’ve had success in many media genres- gravure, TV, radio, anime, etc. Which do you think has contributed the most to your success?

I think that most people got to hear about me through anime. I heard that people in Singapore watch a lot anime too!  Being a seiyuu is probably what makes up who I am today and gives me the chances to work in gravure, radio and live performances.

Are you currently focusing more on your singing or seiyuu career?

I have no particular focus at the moment. Both are of the same importance. Generally, I think my job as a seiyuu is important though. Without it, I don’t think I would have the opportunity to be a singer. I want to voice lots of anime characters so I’ll try my best to pass as many auditions as I can. Please give me your support!

With the other Pony Canyon artistes for the P's Live concert on Saturday night (Source)

Last year, you won the Best New Actress award at the 8th Annual Seiyuu Awards. Which character that you’ve voiced are you most proud of?

Hmm… probably Takanashi Rikka in Chuunibyou demo koi ga Shitai!. It was an anime that I got to participate in quite an early part of my career as a seiyuu. With it, I gained many different experiences. I’ve had many pleasant and fun times, including when the anime received a movie and got a second season. It’s thanks to that anime that made the Maaya Uchida you see today.

You have voiced quite a few chuunibyou (eighth-grade syndrome) characters such as Ranko (The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls) and Rikka (Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!).
How do you feel when you have to voice a chuunibyou character? Do you also have a chuunibyou personality?

I would love to graduate from voicing chuunibyou characters. I’m already in my twenties! (laughs) I’m really glad that I got to play those characters though as I can relate pretty well to them.

I have a good friend, (fellow seiyuu) Uesaka Sumire, who is currently in the “chuunibyou phase". She voices characters such as Dekomori in Chuunibyou and Anastasia in The Idolmaster. I feel relieved everytime I do recordings with her.

She’d say, “Even though we are in our twenties, it’s fine to continue being the way we are, voicing these characters!” I receive a lot of support from her so it’d be great if I could continue taking on chunnibyou roles such as Ranko and Rikka.

Signing on stage in Singapore

Any characters which you have not voiced before that you would like to voice?

Hmm… youkai (a term used to describe supernatural beings such as Japanese folk creatures and ghosts)?  Frogs? Small living creatures like Totoro? I’d like to try some non-human roles!

What do you pay attention to when you voice-act? Do you take a lot of time to study the characters you voice?

When playing characters, I don’t actually study how they think but instead, how others view them.

For example, a chuunibyou character would be thinking, “Yes, I’m correct. There’s nothing wrong with me.” However, the people around her would be thinking “The way she acts, she’s such a chuunibyou”.

I will try to bring out the contrast in opinions between the characters to the viewers when getting into my roles.

"Hello, future contact!", the first track off Maaya Uchida's first album, "PENKI"

If you were to challenge yourself, what kind of personalities would you like to voice?

I think the trump point of being a seiyuu is getting to voice different characters from different genres.  It’s a rare thing but I’d like to voice a male character in the future.

Most of your voice-acting roles for video games from 2013-2015 were for RPGs. Are there any other games which you’d like to voice in?

Puzzle games! I like playing “Puyo Puyo” (Japanese puzzle game developed by Sega) very much! It would be pretty fun if I could play the voice which people hear when they score many combos. (laughs)

With Mimori Suzuko on stage in Singapore

Currently, Idolmaster has become very popular and you have voiced the character Ranko. Do you have any favourite idols besides Ranko? 

Aaahh… it’s so difficult to choose a favourite character! Kirari… and Sachiko (whose seiyuu, Ayana Taketatsu, was also present at AFA)!  I didn’t tell their seiyuus I liked them though. It’s a secret!

How do you feel when performing besides the other seiyuus?

The recording studio we were in felt like a girls’ school. There were many female voice actresses around. We could walk around freely bare-footed inside and the atmosphere was very relaxing. Often, there’s a lot of delicious food for us to eat and we’d just sit around, chat and munch on the food as we record our lines.

I recall that there was also a recording during the Christmas season last year when we had cakes and chicken (a Japanese tradition). We were just chatting about the anime, the recording and motivating each other to work hard for the upcoming episodes! It felt like we were having bukatsu (club activities).

At the Fountain of Wealth in Singapore (Source)

You have acted in the Hikonin Sentai Akihabaranger tokusatsu (Japanese live-action drama) as Hakase Hiroyo. How did it feel to be acting in front of the camera and not just using your voice?

Before I got the role in Akihabaranger, I wasn’t sure of how loud I should project my voice when acting.

However, I learnt during my time acting in Akihabaranger that if I were to be speaking to someone at the opposite end of the room, I’d have to speak in a very loud voice in order to project myself. (“ANO SAA!” Maaya demonstrates.)

Often, when I do recordings as a seiyuu, the microphone would be just right in front of me so I’d tend to speak directly into it.

Something I also took home from live-action acting was that I had to actually use my entire physical self to act and bring out the character in the show.

In the anime Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, the character you voiced, Ranko Kanzaki, was initially assigned a debut song that was about gothic and horror. However, it was discovered that she was actually bad with horror; therefore they changed the song to be about a fallen angel instead. As a recording artist, do you know of any of such incidents in the industry? Has it happened to you before?

For The Idolmaster, both the production committee (directors, producers, etc) and the voice actresses have very strong opinions. For instance, one party may think that if you change a certain line, it might make a certain character better.

In such cases, we would then discuss how to make the anime better and sometimes, the lines do actually get changed as a result. We do the same for the songs.

We have rather open discussions and I guess that’s how we were able to bring The Idolmaster up to the next level and make it an even better anime. Therefore, I believe this does happen for other animes in the industry too.

Chuunibyou collaboration with Uesaka Sumire at ANIMAX MUSIX 2015 (Source)

What are you looking forward to, with this being your first time performing overseas?

Souvenirs! I’d like to get something for my grandfather though so nothing sweet please! Any recommendations?

Bak kwa (Singapore barbecued pork jerky)! (A member of the media voices out)

Ehh!? I’d buy that but it’d be difficult to chew!

Maaya Uchida will be releasing her first album, PENKI today! The album stands as both a summation of her activities from 2014 till now and one which looks forwards to 2016 and beyond. You may get it from, CDJapan or HMV Online!

We hope you had fun at her concert in Singapore and got to meet her at the autograph session on Sunday! It was a blessing to see Maaya on our sunny little island and we'd definitely love to see her back again next year!

Interview photos by Nubhan Abdul Aziz