Winter 2020 Anime: Official Info, Airdates & Trailers
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On Sunday, November 17, Anime NYC proudly hosted anime voice acting legend Rie Kugimiya. She’s affectionately known as the “Queen of Tsundere” to fans worldwide and has voiced many iconic anime characters over the last two decades.
She is credited as many iconic tsundere characters, such as Louise from The Familiar of Zero, Nagi Sanzenin from Hayate the Combat Butler, and Aria from Aria the Scarlet Ammo (Hidan no Aria). She can also be heard as Alphonse Elric from Full Metal Alchemist and Kagura from Gintama.
This was Kugimiya’s first appearance at Anime NYC and her first time attending a convention in America. She managed to meet some of her fans directly at a special autograph session, where she handed guests a special signed shikishi board. In addition to attending a special panel, she also participated in a press conference open to the media.
The panel took place in the Special Events Hall room of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre. A packed room of her passionate fans gave her an immediate ovation as soon as she showed up. I think I counted six very loud and long ones at that.
Things kicked off with a casual conversation about how Kugimiya spent her time in New York City. She told the audience that she had a day of touring when she arrived and had an amazing experience overall. Among the city’s attractions, she visited Central Park, Grand Central Station, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Opera House. She also ate some delicious food like oysters and clam chowder. If she had more time, she mentioned wanting to see musicals like Wicked and was recommended Book of Mormon and Hamilton.
She remarked that Anime NYC had a similar energy to some other Japanese events she attended and was excited to be an honored guest. From there, she went into a bit of how she got into the voice acting industry.
Kugimiya’s career started in the broadcasting club of her freshman year in high school. She remembered practicing a lot in front of the mic to build her skills and confidence as a vocal performer. At first, she wanted to be a TV announcer because of how coveted and respected the job was.
Things changed for her when she received a call for an audition after flipping through a magazine one day. The process was similar to a competition like American Idol where she had to compete with many other up-and-coming talents. There was no guarantee Kugimiya would succeed and it was a risky move for her because she used most of her money and resources to get her foot in the door.
Growing up in Kumamoto prefecture, the move to Tokyo was a big transition for her. But, she didn’t want to give up. As a child, Kugimiya loved reading books and immersing herself in the world of fantasy. If she weren’t a voice actress, she would be working as a librarian. Nevertheless, her love of fantasy inspired her to pursue a career in voice acting. Thus, she researched books and magazines on vocational schools for voice acting and was determined to succeed.
Although Kugimiya grew up watching the magical girl series Creamy Mami, anime wasn’t necessarily the reason she got into the voice acting industry. She said that shows aired later where she grew up than the other regions nearby. Rather, her experience in the broadcasting club helped her refine the skills needed for her to be successful. And as they say, the rest is history.
Kugimiya’s daily routine begins with her barely waking up at 6:00 AM in the morning. After walking around and having a cup of coffee, she works by reading over her scripts and recording anime until the early afternoon. She then has lunch, records, and rests at the end of the day.
When she’s working on a character’s voice and development, she studies sketches or drawings of them and bases it on that. She takes into account the character’s age and height and puts everything into herself to finalize them.
Kugimiya stressed that, as a voice actor, you have to think about why a character acted the way they did and find the reason behind their words. She learned this lesson while working with a director one time and believes it’s important to developing and understanding the character. To her, the most fun and interesting thing about recording is when the character you play becomes one with you.
Of course, there were always challenging times for a professional like herself. When she was preparing for an unfamiliar role, Kugimiya admitted to having trouble adjusting to a character sometimes. To work through it, she rehearsed her lines repeatedly and read the source material if possible. If she was voicing adult female characters, she took inspiration from other seiyu or actresses by making her performance hers and finding the right voice.
When asked how she creates a voice for a non-human versus a human character, Kugimiya said that she approaches voicing them very similarly. For mascots or animals in particular, she focuses on a character’s body size because it determines the quickness of someone’s speech, specifically their tone and pacing or how high or low their voice tone is.
Kugimiya stressed that their feelings and emotions are especially important if they’re together with a partner. Looking at the relationship is extremely important and she puts a lot of effort into thinking about it. Her overall advice for voice actors: go through your emotions. Tuck your feelings away temporarily and use then them when you’re voicing your characters. The emotions will come out organically and it will be a pure directional process from there.
There weren’t many things Kugimiya carried over to her daily life from voice acting. Nonetheless, she learned that it was crucial for her to take care of herself and avoid colds using warm syrup, cough drops, and Chinese herbal medicine. Sometimes, in order to not be noticed, she tries disguising her voice in a low tone when ordering food in public.
In her free time, she likes taking hot baths and watching Sherlock and Chef’s Table. She also takes time to read books on the side and discovers new cooking shows on Netflix. She meets up with other voice actors every so often, usually after recording for lunch or dinner.
Reflecting on her career as a voice actress, Kugimiya said she is proud that her vocal range had diversified from when she was just starting out voicing young, small girls. She also said how much she appreciated meeting both her Japanese and international fans at events like Anime NYC. While it’s hard to have one-on-one meetings with all her fans, she loved hearing them talk about how she was their childhood hero. It felt like a special moment for the both of them.
What Kugimiya has learned over the span of her career is that it’s really important to be conscious of your interpersonal skills because it helps you deal with people in the industry. She said that at the end of the day, no matter how amazing you were at whatever you do, no one will want to keep working with you if you were difficult.
At the press conference, I asked her what she would tell her younger self. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, she would tell herself that she could go one day travel to New York City.
There were a few more surprises at Kugimiya’s panel. To the delight of her fans, she took to the stage and live dubbed a scene from the last episode of Toradora as Taiga Aisaka. It was a short, climactic moment between her and the main character Ryuji. Kugimiya put everything into her performance under a dim, blue light. She demonstrated her signature, loud tsundere voice with seemingly minimal effort. She admitted she was a bit nervous doing it because she hadn’t dubbed that scene in a while, but was so happy to perform it in front of a live audience.
The live dubbing didn’t end there as she also improvised some voices for original characters. She did the voice of a young boy offering an umbrella to a girl he likes on a rainy day. She also voiced a cool female boss giving a stern warning to her subordinate. Lastly, she portrayed a timid schoolgirl offering a bento to her beloved senpai.
Before the panel ended, audience members had a chance to participate in a quick Q&A with Kugimiya. On which anime character she wants to be for a day, she would be Happy from Fairy Tail because she always wanted to fly.
One person asked her a random question on her choice between pancakes or waffles. She took a while to answer and said that she liked the crunch of waffles and the fluffiness of pancakes. After some time, she said that she liked both and preferred butter to maple syrup over her pancakes.
Rie Kugimiya thanked the crowd for coming to her panel. She was touched by the warm response of all the attendees and received one last loud ovation from them. She was so happy she came to Anime NYC and was impressed by the reception from the fans. It was an overall overwhelming experience for her, but was so happy she came nonetheless.
Special thanks to Anime NYC for the special opportunity. All photos used in this article are credited to them.
Keep warm this winter season with the latest anime info at MANGA.TOKYO!