Otakon 2022 Interview: Voice Actor Ise Mariya

This interview was conducted at Otakon 2022 in Washington, DC.

My first question is about a role you had in the Precure series, Cure Lemonade. Precure is a very big and popular franchise in Japan, but at the time you played the character, it was still a young series. Was it like to play the character back then, and how does it feel to return to the character for crossover movies and other material?

Ise: I was in the third generation from the start of the series, and right around the time I was voicing the character, it was starting to pick up popularity in Japan.

So as you know, it’s about to approach its 20th anniversary, and I had no idea back when I first started that it would be this popular. Part of that is due to the fact that, yes, this is a children’s anime, but it also gives dreams and hopes to adults as well, and that’s probably what has led to it being so popular.

My next question has to do with the series Panty & Stocking. It’s quite popular with American fans—even more than I’d expected—and a lot of people are happy to see the series come back after 10 years. What was it like voicing Stocking, such an unusual and foulmouthed character?

Ise: I still don’t know if I’m in it, but if they reach out to me to play the character of Stocking again, I’d look forward to it.

I thought it was an interesting series. Panty and Stocking are angels in training, and they take off their panties and stocking and turn them into weapons to defeat demons.The vocabulary they use is rather…tricky?

Ise’s Manager (via webcam): Crazy!

Another character you’ve returned to in recent times is Dragon Kid in Tiger & Bunny, after a decade. Has your approach to playing her changed from how you first played her?

Ise: Tiger & Bunny 2 is 10 years after the original, but it actually hasn’t been 10 years since I’ve played Dragon Kid. Within that period, I’ve done drama CDs and movies, so it doesn’t feel like there was a 10-year gap. But even though Dragon Kid hasn’t aged after a decade, I have, and my voice has deepened and become more adult, so it adds another dimension to the role.

Watching Tiger & Bunny 2, she comes across as more of a senpai—which she is. I think the deeper voice lends itself to that role.

What was it like to play such a bizarrely inhuman character as Foo Fighters in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? How do you perform when the character is in no way, shape, or form a human?

Ise: Let’s see. When Jolyne and the others first meet her, Foo Fighters is a plankton-like lifeform. At the time, she’s like “Uju! Uju, uju!” in a low voice when she’s just a stand. She isn’t quite human, but she’s intelligent and clever, so I didn’t feel that much difficulty playing the character. After she borrows Atroe’s body, Foo Fighters has a childishness about her and a sense of growth she shows alongside Jolyne and Hermes, so I was conscious of conveying that innocence. 

I really enjoy your role as Ray in The Promised Neverland. It’s maybe a somewhat different character from what you normally play, as well as a heavy work. What was it like to voice Ray, especially because he does age over the course of the series?

Ise: In the first season, Ray is willing to sacrifice everything in order to save Emma and Norman—to help them escape. He lives for that, but there’s a darkness about him, and he hides his true thoughts and feelings. He planned things with all this in mind, but when he’s able to confide his secret to the other two and speak those true feelings, it lifts a weight off his shoulders. In the first season, he’s full of heavy and dark feelings. But his position changes in the second season, and he becomes more cheerful.

A less prominent character you’ve played is Akagi Sena the fujoshi from OreImo. Were you familiar with fujoshi and BL culture before the role?

Ise: In Japan, when girls who love anime and manga reach middle school, they’ll—well, I wouldn’t say it’s guaranteed—they’ll start to develop some interest in BL. So I can really understand the feelings of those we call fujoshi, and I myself read BL in middle school. It didn’t feel difficult to relate to Sena.

From what I’ve heard, you put a lot of thought into your roles—it’s very clear from your answers. My last question is, what are some lessons you’ve learned that you think would help new or aspiring voice actors?

Ise: In America or in Japan?

It’s a pretty open question.

Ise: Tough question. Being a voice actor involves using your unique voice, but it’s actually not a job that’s only about your voice. Just like a live-action actor, one of the best ways to inform your acting is to gain a lot of lived experience as the foundation for your performance, and it’s good to want as many experiences as possible. When you’re in your teens, you should do the things you can only do at that age—school, friends, falling in love, doing everything someone in their teens does. This will help to inform whatever it is you’re performing as a voice actor.

Thank you! This was a great interview.

Ise: Thank you very much!

The Mystery of Stocking’s Virginity (or Lack Thereof)

The idea that otaku over-value virginity is prevalent. This sexism is not limited to otaku or even just Japan of course, and there are equivalents around the world in different forms, but whether it’s people getting mad over their favorite anime characters having had past relationships, or scandals over Japanese idols secretly dating, it’s become a valid point of criticism for otaku subculture. At the same time, I wonder if that mindset isn’t so cut and dry. Just as girls do not fall under a simple virgin/slut dichotomy, I think it may be faulty to view otaku as liking only one or the other.

The main title that has me looking over the otaku preference thing is actually Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. It’s well-established, based on sales of merchandise both official and unofficial, that the sweets-loving goth Stocking is much more popular among Japanese fans than the sex-crazed Panty. This seems to fall in line with the general rhetoric that otaku hate non-virgins, as Panty as a character is defined by the sheer amount of sex she has. She has extremely shallow standards for men, possibly spends more time having sex than not, and will even have important conversations in the middle of sex with people other than the guy(s) she’s with. The image of otaku’s preferences would work out perfectly, if not for the fact that the show states that Stocking is also sexually active.

Stocking mentions during the series that she also has a love life. It’s not even that she’s only had long-term relationships, or is merely a non-virgin still hesitant about sex even after having it. Though she’s more selective than Panty in terms of men, she establishes that she’s been with multiple guys, and will candidly discuss with Panty that some were great in bed and others weren’t. In light of this, why do the fans prefer Stocking to the point that her figures will go out of stock while Panty’s will get discounted heavily due to lack of sales?

One possibility I’m considering is pretty much a matter of relativity. Within the context of individual shows, it becomes easy to categorize characters in comparison to each other. In a show where everyone is small and cute, the character with any sort of bust becomes the “big-breasted” one, whereas in a show where all the character designs are leggy supermodels there may be a different standard among fans. Because Panty’s head is filled with sex (as the opening shows us), and Stocking is not so preoccupied with the same subject, it becomes a matter of Stocking being preferable by contrast even though she probably has more sex than your typical female anime character?

Another possibility is that it just comes down to character design, that Stocking’s gothic lolita look and Panty’s blonde hair and cocktail dress are the main ways in which they’re judged regardless of what happens in the show. Or maybe it’s that, at a cursory glance, Panty’s sexual activeness is extremely visible (the first thing we see of her in Episode 1 is her crawling out of bed with a guy), whereas Stocking’s love life is not so prominent? Only by watching the show do you learn that Stocking is no stranger to the opposite sex either, but it’s possible to understand this about Panty from the anciliary material.

If you have any thoughts or opinions on this, feel free to leave a comment, as I don’t feel like I quite have the answers. I’m not really sure myself, but I get the impression that Stocking’s relative popularity shows that things aren’t as simple as otaku liking either only the “pure” or the “promiscuous.” There are other examples as well, like how Akihabara idol Momoi Halko married and had a child but is still beloved. I have to wonder then if there’s another factor at work, like an inside/outside-group dynamic (and I don’t mean strictly in the Japanese culture sense) which dictates that allows some girls, fictional or otherwise, to be okay no matter what while others are judged more harshly.