A special Poco’s Udon World event took place on Sunday 21 May in Tokyo. The voice actors, Yuichi Nakamura (Souta Tawara), Shiho Kokido (Poco/Momo), Tomokazu Sugita (Shinobu Nakajima), Mai Nakahara (Rinko Oishi), Takaya Kuroda (Goro Hamada/Gaogao-chan), Shinnosuke Tachibana (Hiroshi Nagatusma), and Yui Makino (Mimi) appeared on stage along with GOODWARP, who sang the ending theme song. Fans went wild with excitement at the live concert and the live dubbing which made them re-experience some of the anime’s most emotional scenes.
Poco’s Udon World (Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari) is a charming anime series based on Shinomaru Nodoka’s popular manga of the same name. The story revolves around Souta, who returns from Tokyo to his hometown in Kagawa Prefecture, and Poco, who is actually a tanuki (a racoon dog that can transform into a human). It depicts their heartwarming relationship, as well as that with the local people surrounding them.
Nakamura, Kokido, and the other voice actors brought down the house when they appeared on stage. Kokido amused fans with Poco’s ears and a bag with a Gaogao-chan patch. Not only the fans but also the voice actors seemed to be moved to see each other, because although the anime was aired in Fall 2016, they haven’t met up for long time; especially Sugita, who had recorded his part on his own.
In response to the question as to what their most memorable scenes were, Nakahara picked the scenery in Kagawa prefecture which was present throughout the series, because she lived the neighboring prefecture of Ehime for 10 years. She seemed to feel nostalgic about the beautiful scenery in Shikoku, the smallest main island of Japan, ‘They bring back memories and I love the fact that you can go to either the seashore or the mountains in a short distance.’
Nakamura, who is from Kagawa prefecture, agreed with her remarks, ‘In general, you have a scenic spot either by the sea or close to the mountain in your local area, but in Kagawa you can have both as seashores and mountains are quite close to each other.’ The cast were surprised to hear there are many dedicated fans who came all the way from Kagawa.
Kokido chose the scene of Souta, who left his parents’ house because he didn’t want to take over their udon restaurant, making udon noodles in the house with Poco, ‘I felt happy when Poco was stamping on dough to knead and make udon noodles with Souta. I thought it was so sweet when he says ‘uron’ instead of ‘udon.’
When asked who is his most memorable character, Nakamura chose Poco. He pointed out that the sudden change in Kokido’s voice acting from Episode 5, which surprised him at the time. Kokido explained that it was because she was asked to express his change and development through the relationship with Souta, and confessed that it wasn’t an easy task. She said the sound director of the anime advised her to watch Rain Man, which depicts an emotional connection between an autistic elder brother (Dustin Hoffman) and a younger brother (Tom Cruise) after their reunion, and Awakenings, which depicts a patient who woke up after being in a coma for 30 years (Robert De Niro) and how he learns to appreciate his life for the first time. The other cast members seemed to be impressed with her revelation. Kokido said that her acting changed after she watched the movies, which was after she finished her recording of Episode 4. Nakamura praised her, ‘I felt that she had settled on how to focus on her role.’
Makino chose Hamada, voiced by Kuroda, for her most memorable character, ‘I like a character who has a dual personality and betrays first impressions. Hamada is a warm-hearted person underneath his scary exterior and I love him. Kuroda is so cool, too!’ Kuroda revealed that, apart from his character, Gaogao-chan, he also played his father in a short-anime called Gaogao-chan and the blue sky. He voice-acted Gaogao-chan’s low tone and his father’s unlikely hi-pitched tone in the same scene. The fans were totally impressed by his versatile acting ability.
When asked about his favorite udon topping, Nakahara answered that he likes it with just chopped spring onions, ‘Why do you eat udon? It’s because you want to enjoy the taste of wheat flour, don’t you? You eat udon noodles on their own first, then with dipping sauce, and then with chopped spring onion. That’s what it is!’ Kokido enthusiastically agreed with his theory, ‘I’m happy with just udon noodles even without dipping sauce.’ The other voice actors made fun of their remarks, ‘Come on! You professional udon experts!’ Makino, on the other hand, insists she likes eating udon with isobe-age, a deep-fried chikuwa (bamboo-shaped fishcake) in a batter with seaweed. She even declared, ‘the isobe-age plays a main role in a bowl.’ Nakamura fought back saying, ‘Why don’t you just eat chikuwa!’
In response for udon restaurant recommendations, Kagawa native Nakamura replied, ‘It’s difficult, as people in Kagawa, including me, eat udon at home.’ Tachibana revealed a story of when he went to an udon restaurant with Nakamura after a recording, ‘Nakamura ordered a bowl of udon with stewed meat topped with more stewed meat!’ Nakamura admitted the story was real and added, ‘The waitress trying to suppress her laughter at that time.’
In the quiz segment, Jun Kaname, who did the narration of the next episode preview as ‘the vice governor of Kagawa prefecture’ in the anime, appeared on screen and asked, ‘In Kagawa prefecture, when people move house, they eat udon in a particular place in the house. Where is it?’ The fans at the venue were excited about his appearance.
Sugita, who had been making jokes throughout the event, suddenly became serious and gave a correct answer: the bathroom! Upon the question of the meaning of ‘mattsukutsui’, a local word from Kagawa prefecture, Nakamura gave an instant correct answer, ’look-alike’, and saved face as a Kagawa native.
In the live dubbing segment, a series of emotional and funny scenes were recreated on stage, including Souta and Poco’s encounter, the parting scenes at the final phase, a chatting scene between Rinko and Shinobu beside a pond, and an exchange between Gaogao-chan, Momo, and Mimi. The scene of Souta and Poco moved fans deeply. Even Kuroda confessed that he was about to cry at the scene.
Kokido and Makino performed the ‘Gaogao-chan exercise’ dance to the music which they practiced for the event with the Gaogao-chan mascot. GOODWARP sang the ending theme song ‘Sweet Darwin’ and two more songs.
At the end of the event, Kokido and Nakamura gave comments on behalf of the cast members. Kokido said, ’Poco’s Udon World is one of my most precious works ever. There is a line, “we can become a family even though we aren’t related by blood” In the anime. I was working with the staff and cast members of the anime while feeling family bonds since the first recording. This anime makes you relaxed and happy, so please watch it when you are feeling drained or distressed!’
Nakamura said, ‘the original manga is still ongoing with new characters and new plots. As for us, we’re anticipating the next chapter and I hope we can live up to your expectations,’ suggesting his wish for a sequel to the anime. The event ended with a warm applause from the fans.