Otakon 2012 Interview with Nonaka Ai

Introduction: This is my interview with Japanese voice actor Nonaka Ai, who was a guest at Otakon 2012. Nonaka is known for roles such as Kafuka in Sayonora Zetsubou Sensei and Fuuko in Clannad.

Nonaka: [in English] Pleased to meet you. My name is Ai Nonaka.

OM: You played a character in Saki: Episode of Side A. What did you think of the role, and have you played any mahjong yourself?

Nonaka: [in English] I never played mahjong.

OM: Personally speaking, I know you best as Fuura Kafuka from Sayonora Zetsubou Sensei, but you also play Ichijou in Pani Poni Dash, and those are both interesting, quirky, and even bizarre characters. How is it playing those roles, and how is it working with SHAFT in general?

Nonaka: So, I may act very strange roles, and though they are all quirky and weird, they all have a policy in the way that they act so I want to respect the policy that the character has and do the character to the best of my extent.

OM: Another quirky character is Ibuki Fuuko from Clannad, who you first played in a game and returned to a few years later. Returning to that role, what lessons had you learned in those years between playing the same role again?

Nonaka: I didn’t feel that much of a time lag when the game came out and when I started recording for the anime, so there wasn’t really that time in between.

So the first season of the anime had the same story as the game, but then the second season of the anime was illustrating a world where Fuuko was already gone and the child was already born. So, it was a very strange sort of experience for me, especially in the anime.

OM: I think that when it comes to voice acting, it seems that there are two traits that are sought after. One is having a unique, distinguishable voice, a voice that people can recognize, and the other is having versatility, the ability to play many different roles and change your voice. Which one do you think you’re stronger at, and how important do you think each individual one is in terms of being a voice actor?

Nonaka: I personally think I’m one with a unique voice, and the real strength of having a unique is having people remember you by that really unique voice, so I think I’m really benefitting from that unique voice. Although I have a unique voice, because I can’t change my voice too much I can’t do things like two roles in one anime.

OM: Do you have any favorite actors to work with, or actors you’d like to work with?

Nonaka: Although she’s not a voice actor, Kuze Seika. She used to be part of the Takaraza Kagekidan [Revue].

[in English] Do you know?

OM: I know.

Nonaka: Aahh!!

OM: Putting aside voice questions, what are your hobbies and what do you do when you’re not working?

Nonaka: [in English] I like… run!

So, I’m going to run at the Kobe Marathon after i get back.

OM: How long is it?

Nonaka: Since it’s a full marathon, it will be the full 42.195 kilometers.

OM: Is this your first marathon?

Nonaka: It’s my first full marathon. I’ve done other marathons in the past.

OM: Are you doing any sort of training or diet preparation for the marathon?

Nonaka: [in English] I run three a week.

OM: Three times a week?

Nonaka: [in English] Three TIMES! a week.

OM: Do you change your food? Because I know for instance that a lot of marathon runners will eat a lot of pasta or grains.

Nonaka: Keeping slim is my diet. Lighter is better.

OM: Do you have any favorite foods?

Nonaka: [in English] My favorite food is osushi!

OM: What’s your favorite sushi?

Nonaka: Egg, fatty tuna, and nattou-maki.

OM: Wow!

Nonaka: Have you eaten nattou before?

OM: I actually like nattou a lot.

Nonaka: [in Japanese] REALLY?!

OM: I lived in Japan briefly. Nattou-maki is something I can’t get anywhere else so I miss it a lot.

Nonaka: Ehh?! Wasn’t it a bit odorous?

OM: I realized that I like fermented foods, like nattou and stinky tofu.

Nonaka: [laughs]

OM: One last question. Going back to the role of Kafuka in Zetsubou Sensei, is there anything you really keep in mind while playing the role?

Nonaka: I try to make it positive. A bit off, and maybe crazy-sounding, but positive to that extent.

OM: Thank you very much!

Nonaka: [in English] You’re welcome!

Nickelodeon Turtles, Heroes in a Gak Shell

I will tell you that I know exactly zero people who found out about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being sold to Nickelodeon and didn’t have a strong reaction about it. Generally, the reaction from people, including myself, was surprise. Where did this come from? Isn’t TMNT celebrating its 25th anniversary? What’s going to become of our beloved childhood franchise? Reading comments on blogs and such, including Peter Laird’s, a lot of people think that there’s something wrong with the move. As someone who’s been around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for pretty much all of my life, I’d like to talk about it a little, and what the future might hold in store for fans of the series.

A lot of people around my age, when they think TMNT, remember the 80s series and its cowabungas and Krang and questionable pizzas. They’ll say the new 2003 and on series produced by 4Kids just isn’t the same as the original. Of course, the funny thing about this is that in the eyes of many fans of the ORIGINAL TMNT, that is, the Mirage Comics created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the 80s cartoon was a travesty. I think even Eastman and Laird regarded it in that manner for a long time, much like how Tomino Yoshiyuki saw the Gundam franchise. But just like Tomino, they came to terms with how, while the 80s series didn’t really live up to their image and intent for TMNT, it still possessed a lot of fine qualities which made it so memorable and enduring.

One of the franchise’s main strengths is that its core concept is hardy enough to be twisted and molded into thematically very different stories. The original comics started as a parody but eventually became their own gritty universe. The 80s cartoon was fun and light-hearted and encouraged kids to pick favorites and eat pizza, like what Naruto does with kids now and ramen. The 2003 cartoon was somewhere between the two, with an emphasis on both toys sales and character development, possibly best represented by the time the turtles all went into the future and stayed there for a really long time. The TMNT movies got progressively worse, and they had Vanilla Ice, but I know I am not the only one who thought Go Ninja Go was the greatest thing ever as a kid. So while I might cringe at the thought of Nickelodeon trying to replicate that 80s success today, an attempt which would require a LOT of changes seeing as the old cartoon is really a product of that era, I’m also confident that it’s not going to ruin the franchise any more than any of the other adaptations have sullied its name. And who knows? Maybe we’ll get another Avatar out of the deal.

On another note entirely, have you ever seen how the 80s cartoon portrays sushi? You’d think that it wasn’t animated by Japanese people at all! I get the feeling that when they were drawing it, no one told them it was supposed to be sushi. I wish I had a screenshot to show you guys what I mean.