With its first animation clip Kimi no Hikari on YouTube and the new manga volume due on 25 July, the Kase-san and… series is getting more popular by the day. We interviewed a big fan of the manga, voice actor Fukushi Ochiai. He talks about what makes the manga so great and about his favorite scenes.
Spoiler Alert: Please be aware that this article contains the storyline of the first 3 volumes of the manga.
Born 20 August, Ochiai is represented by Aoni Production and works as a voice actor and narrator. His voice acting works including Koji Tamaki of Ace of Diamond, Moguzo of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Kai Shimada of Chiruran, Ujizane Imagawa of Nobunaga no Shinobi series, and Takeo Atsuta of All Out!!
First, what made you start reading the Kase-san and… series?
‘I’d already read Hiromi Takahashi’s manga before the Kase-san and… series. When I saw Haretara Ashita (Shinshokan) at a bookshop, I liked the illustrations and the sound of the title, so I just bought it on impulse. The story was my thing and I enjoyed reading it. I looked around at her manga afterwards, and had read many of her manga volumes including Houkago Owa-live and Miman Renai (both Futabasha) . Finally, I’ve reached the Kase-san and… series, though the first volume I read was the second volume of the series, Obento to Kase-san (Kase-san and Bento). [laugh]’
How did that happen? [laugh]
‘The covers of the Kase-san and… series paperbacks don’t have the volume numbers written on them, do they? When I found the Kase-san and… series in a bookshop, apparently Asagao to Kase-san (Kase-san and Morning Glories) was sold out, so I bought Obento to Kase-san thinking it must be the first volume of the series. When I read it for the first time, I thought the story starts quite differently from other manga, since the main characters were already an item and a new semester started immediately. [laugh]’
So, was Asagao to Kase-san your last volume to read in the series?
‘It was. I found Asagao to Kase-san when I was looking for the sequel of Short Cake to Kase-san (Kase-san and Short Cake). I was confused as Yamada and Kase-san hadn’t met yet in the volume. At that point, I realized that Asagao to Kase-san was in fact the first volume of the series. I read all the volumes of the series again in correct order. [laugh]
I often read the Kase-san and… series when I feel tired and want to relax, as each story is easy to read and refreshing. Obviously, there are scenes of its characters having troubles, though it’s a cheerful manga overall. I like the fact that it has a good balance between its comical and serious, mature parts. I think such a perfect balance make the series more attractive.’
Could you tell us your impressions on the characters in the Kase-san and… series?
‘Yamada has a very expressive personality. When she worries about something, she looks upset. When she is happy, her face lights up. I think she is like a puppy. I personally admire a girl who takes care of plants. Gardening is hard job since it demands daily chores. I know that because I do gardening myself as a hobby. Yamada does such tedious chores all by herself. If I had watched her gardening from the rooftop, I would have fallen love with her, like Kase-san did! [laugh]’
Do you empathize with Kase-san? [laugh]
‘I do. I really feel for her in the scenes of Kase-san’s heart beating fast when she saw Yamada’s white skin (Jitensha to Kase-san), and that she kept her distance from Yamada because she was convinced that Yamada didn’t like her anymore (Sunahama to Kase-san).’
What impression do you have of Kase-san?
‘People who read the Kase-san and… series around me evaluate her as an ikemen character, a good-looking cool guy. However, I feel she is more like a shy, pre-teen boy. [laugh] Kase-san often hesitates to make a move on Yamada, doesn’t she? She often wonders in her mind like, ‘is this fine by her?’ or ‘should I do that?’ before her actions. I wanted to praise her when she spoke to her for the first time, because I knew she must have gathered all her courage together to do that. In this regard, I often feel Kase-san is cute, rather than cool.’
You said that Yamada is like a puppy. What animal is Kase-san like?
‘I think she is like a large dog, a German shepherd or a golden retriever. They look cool and determined but their personality is cute and charming. I feel the similarity between them in not showing off their inner cuteness to others.’
How about Yamada’s friend Mikawa?
‘I think Mikawa is a character who controls the flow of the story at necessary points. In my opinion, Yamada and Kase-san wouldn’t have become this close if Mikawa weren’t with them. She is a really good friend to Yamada and that’s why Kase-san happily leaves Yamada with Mikawa. I thought she was cute when Mikawa complained during a PE class saying, ‘I don’t feel like doing that’, even though she’s a sporty type who used to be a member of the tennis club. Mikawa is little bit sadistic and a natural leader, so I personally think she has the image of a spot-billed duck which leads its young. [laugh]. I’d love to read a spin-off story about Mikawa one day.’
You have told us about your impressions on the characters so far. So, who is your favorite?
‘It has to be Kase-san. It’s a natural choice, isn’t it? If she were a boy, I would hate him. When cool guy says cool thing, I feel like, “you know you are cool, aren’t you?”. [laugh] However, when Kase-san says something cheesy or is jealous of someone, I admire her honesty and want to lean on her earnestness, rather than feel offended. I think it’s because her affection towards Yamada is based on a “girls’ friendship.”
This might sound like I’m a Kase-san and… series obsessive, but I also like a girl who is from the Okinawa varsity athlete club. She met Kase-san during Kase-san’s graduation school trip in Okinawa and told Kase-san where she could find a souvenir shop. She seems like a chill person like Kase-san. I think most friends of Kase-san’s are nice girls. Anyway, the scene of Kase-san and the girl looks like they are secretly dating to bystanders. [laugh]’
She only appeared briefly in the series, though I think she had a massive impact on Yamada.
‘Not only on Yamada, but she had a huge impact on me as well. I want her to come back to the story!’
There are more scenes in the Kase-san series. Which scene is especially memorable for you?
‘It has to be the episode of Jitensha to Kase-san which is in the Asagao to Kase-san volume. I love the chain of scenes where Yamada blusters, “Why don’t you let me ride on the back of your bicycle?”, to the last scene of the duo going back on the bicycle. I love Kase-san’s sullen expression when Yamada sits on the back of her bicycle, and the two become embarrassed when Yamada puts her arms around Kase-san’s waist. [laugh] It’s nothing special; Kase-san is simply giving a ride to Yamada on her bicycle. However, it depicts their feelings clearly. I love the scenes because I like the feeling of one-side love stage for its delicate distance between the two.
I also like the scene from Ichigo Drops and Kase-san in Obento to Kase-san. When Yamada and Kase-san look over the scenery from an airplane, Yamada says, ”there is always sunshine above the clouds.” The scene remained in my mind, because I had the same feeling when I was on a plane. I like the humor of the creator which is to draw all the male character’s faces like a stick-man’s face. [a ‘Henohenomoheji’ face] [laugh] If its anime adaptation is planned, I’d love to voice act in the anime. I don’t mind at all if my face is a stick-man’s. [laugh]
The newest volume of the series Apron to Kase-san will be released on 25 July. How do you feel about that?
‘I’m waiting the day to come. It has been a long wait, honestly! In the past volumes, the word in the title symbolizes the key point in the story, like ‘morning glories’ or ‘obento’. It’s ‘apron’ for this volume and I can’t wait to see how an apron will be involved in the story. I initially heard that this volume would be issued in two varieties; a normal version and a special design version. The illustrations on both covers looked superb, so I decided I would buy both. [laugh] Later, it turned out that the special design is for a box, and the normal version will be in the specially-designed box, so I’ll buy the specially-designed version!
The specially-designed version will come with a Blu-ray disk which contains a full HD animation clip Kimi no Hikari and the Leica reel (a video made from storyboards). The animation clip is on YouTube at the moment. Could you tell us your thoughts on the video?
‘I didn’t known about the animation clip until I read about it on my Twitter timeline. I was so surprised at the time because I thought it was a PV for an anime series. The one I watched first was the news flash version and I loved it for its beautiful images, especially the scene of the morning glory in the last part! I think anyone who read the original manga would became emotional when watching it. I watched Kimi no Hikari afterward, and was overwhelmed by how they preserve the original manga image in the video. The scenes looked like they simply came out from the manga. Although there are no voices in the video, the emotions of the characters are deeply expressed by their facial expressions and well composed scenes. I was impressed by the video. The image song for the animation clip is “Kimi no Egao” (album ver.) sang by Hanako Oku and I like that the song and the video synchronize perfectly. I love her song, so much so that I customary listen to her song in the morning in my car. I listened to her song this morning as well. I was pleased that the two my favorites, the Kase-san and.. series and Hanako Oku, collaborated in this. I watch the video once every day. [laugh]’
Last, could you tell the people who don’t know about Kase-san and… series the charms of it?
‘The Kase-san and… series is a manga series you can read at ease. It’s a love story without any sticky situations. It’s a great read when you want to refresh your mind. I recommend you start reading form Volume 1, Asagao to Kase-san. However, you can enjoy them in any order. I know very well as I read them in the wrong order… [laugh] If you like the animation clip, please read the original manga and watch the video again to enjoy the world of the Kase-san and… series. Please check out the original manga which is serializing every other month in Wings. Please support the Kase-san and… series!’
Interview/Article: Maho Omura (Studio Hard Delux)
Photography: Hajime Omata (Studio Hard Delux)
The Kase-San and… series by Hiromi Takashima
The series has been collected into 4 paperback volumes, published by Shinshokan
・Volume 1: Asagao to Kase-san
・Volume 2: Obento to Kase-san
・Volume 3: Shortcake to Kase-san
・Volume 4: Apron to Kase-san (on sale from 25 July 2017)
The Kase-san and… series is being published in English by Seven Seas Entertainment
・Volume 1: Kase-san and Morning Glories
・Volume 2: Kase-san and Bento
・Volume 3: Kase-san and Shortcake (on sale 12 September 2017)