Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregoto Tsukai OVA Vol.1, the locked-room murder mystery based on the debut novel by Ishin Nishio, was released in October 26. The novel earned Nishio the 23rd Mephisto Prize, a Japanese literary award for unpublished mystery novels.
Dubbing was rhythmical and musical.
This interview is with Aoi Yuuki, the VA who acts as the blue-eyed and blue-haired Tomo Kunagisa, a specialist in information and mechanical engineering. Let’s hear what she has to say about acting in this anime, how she feels about the novel and the rest of Ishio’s characters.
[Interview: Ayaka Kawamata]
During dubbing there was no room for any mistakes, not even a single word
Did you read the original novel after you got the role of Kunagisa? How did you really feel about it?
When I was in high school, my friend lent me Kubikiri Cycle saying, ‘You’ll like it!’
However, the monologue led by ‘boku (I)’ was too shocking for me…it actually made me return the book to my friend. I was thinking, ‘If I keep reading, I will possibly feel lost in my life!’ (lol) Funny thing is that I was reunited with ‘Kubikiri Cycle’ in this way! (lol)
It was certainly strange to re-encounter this book, especially after hearing your story from high school (lol). What made you feel that ‘you’d lose your way in your life’?
In the monologue of ‘boku (I)’, he tells you that he is a man of ordinal talent and others around him are geniuses. Being a high school student in the middle of adolescence, I could really relate to that part. Who am I? How important am I in society? Am I valued as much as I think? It genuinely hit me pointing out all those questions. As I read Nishio’s rhythmical sentences, I started to feel empathetic towards ‘boku (I)’. It happened so naturally that I thought that I was brainwashed! To act as Kunagisa, I chose not to read the original yet. So, I am looking forward to reading it after dubbing.
So, you were reading it from ‘boku(I)’s perspective, and so you had to push it away because of the empathy.
I only knew him as ‘Ii-chan’, as Kunagisa calls him. I didn’t even know what he looked like. He was fuzzy and mysterious, and that actually made it easier to project myself into the main character. It even made me think, ‘Did someone who really knows me write this?’ On top of that, there was a time when I believed that I was becoming ‘boku (I)’ and that I was beginning to share his perspective.
When you read the original novel, you were there as ‘boku (I)’. However, you are playing Kunagisa this time. I suppose you experience a great shift in your perspective.
Yes, I read the monologue in a totally different way.
In your opinion, what kind of a girl is Kunagisa?
I mention this all the time, but girls in general must have seemed like an unknown and unexplainable creature to Mr. Nishio when he published the original novel…this is my impression after re-discovering Kubikiri Cycle as an adult. I can see it in Kunagisa.
Now that you say that, I see what you mean…like she precisely follows her own rules.
A pretty girl, who is obviously too good for you, comes up to you saying, ‘I love you.’ She lives in her own way, following her own rules, while you are getting pushed around and feeling emotionally confused because of her. This is something you wouldn’t understand, and she is like an unknown scary monster. Mr. Nishio may have created Kunagisa by exaggerating the monster-like girl I mentioned above. I haven’t asked Mr. Nishio what the truth is, so this is only my guess…
How did you prepare when building the character of Kunagisa?
Not to be bound by existing rules…that was the bottom line. I am an actress, so if there are obvious changes in facial expressions between the lines, I naturally think, ‘Did anything happen between these scenes?’ For example, if a grumpy girl becomes a smiley one, there has to be something that happened to change her. Someone might have given her a pat on her head and that made her smile. In this way, I can picture the character with a more specific idea in mind.
But, you are saying Kunagisa wasn’t one of those characters…
She didn’t need to be. Her world doesn’t seem to flow on surface, but it is actually continuously flowing inside and making sense to her. Her emotional expressions are rather short and blunt, but that’s because she doesn’t open up to anybody. She has a remarkable thinking ability, which processes at extraordinary speed. She has an indifferent manner but acts fair to everything and everyone. ‘Ii-chan’ is the only one she considers to be close with. We just need to accept the fact that ‘geniuses need their own rules’. So, Kunagisa didn’t turn out to be too difficult to act. I simply captured what I saw in her.
Is there anything in particular you were careful with when you were acting as Kunagisa?
The most important thing in Mr. Nishio’s work is the rhythm of words. We had a rule that we needed to stick to during dubbing for this anime…there was no room for any mistakes, not even a single word. It was certainly difficult, but once you caught the rhythm of Nishio’s writing, you were on your way. I think that the actors were acting while playing into the hands of Mr. Nishio. (lol)
No mistakes allowed, not even a single word…isn’t it rare in the dubbing process?
I think so. For other anime, I sometimes ask if it’s ok to swap a word with something more natural for me to act. However, the written words mean everything in this anime, and they need to be kept as they are. In fact, Kaji as ‘boku (I)’ performed as accurate as possible to the degree of small details, such as punctuation marks. ‘Boku (I)’ talks along rhythmically and swimmingly in his monologue as various instruments (voices) join in. I thought the dubbing there resembled a musical.
It sounds like some unique dialogues happened back and forth in there.
I don’t think there are many people who read Nishio’s novel out loud. However, when you do so, you’ll immediately understand how wonderful and amazing the book is. This is important to feel the power of anime, too.
As for Shaft and Mr. Akiyuki Shimbo, they are known for Puella Magi☆ Madoka Magica, in which you played the protagonist. How would you describe Mr. Shimbo?
Once, I had a chance to have a talk with Mr. Shimbo at an interview for Puella Magi☆ Madoka Magica. At that time, we talked about Madoka and why she was the one who became a savior. As an actress, I sometimes need to find an answer to my questions. I explained to Mr. Shimbo why she was the chosen one, ‘because she was surrounded with love of her family, friends and everybody, and so she knew how to save every single person. She was ordinary and never hurt others, and that made her a savior.’ However, Mr. Shimbo replied, ‘A hero is born to be a hero’, which was shocking to me. He implied that her destiny was waiting for her. I realized that I didn’t always have to rationalize… It just made total sense to me. This helped me a lot when I was acting as Kunagisa.
What is the relationship between ‘boku (I)’ and Kunagisa?
At a glance, it seems to be mysterious, but it’s actually not like that at all from Kunagisa’s point of view. The only thing that genius Kunagisa can’t do is to suffer and struggle just like ‘boku (I)’ does. So, he tries hard to overcome struggles as an ordinary person does, and that makes him adorable and curious to her.
Lastly, please give us a message for the readers.
Kubikiri Cycle was published in 2002, and it has become a classic that so many people have read and loved. I believe that you all have your own world in your head. I think this OVA is indicating the creators’ version of the Kubikiri Cycle world. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see my version of Kunagisa. This OVA is the result of an amazing effort by Chief Director Shimbo and our talented team, and I am so looking forward to your response!
Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Tawagoto Tsukai
Blue-ray & DVD Vol. 1 released on Wednesday, October 26