Although the panel title and description emphasized Kotono’s work in Sailor Moon as well as Evangelion, Kotono reminded panel attendees that they were not limited to only asking questions about those series. She was happy to answer questions about any of her work.
I missed the very beginning of this panel, since I had to retrieve the camera I was using just beforehand (it was accidentally packed too early!). I’m including details about the bulk of the panel here, but if there’s anything someone else recalls that I missed, feel free to add that in the comments.
Regarding her role as Excel, Kotono was asked how she was able to maintain her voice and what her methods were for playing that role, as the character mostly screams and screeches. Kotono began her answer by saying that maybe she was lucky, but her voice stayed with her the whole time. For that role, she developed a screaming voice that was uniquely her own. When she received the script, she was excited to see what dialogue she would have. In that series, Kotono said that there were many lines and lots of things to say while a character’s mouth was open. She said the technique to get through the lines appropriately was to speak fast and not breathe!
Next, Kotono was asked how it felt to have voiced the role model of Sailor Moon, who inspires confidence. Kotono said that this was her first role as a main character in a television series. Because of that, she focused on doing her best and working her hardest. She also received lots of help from more experienced cast members, such as Tohru Furuya (Tuxedo Mask). Once the show started airing and she heard good things from viewers, she became more confident. Before she’d heard the opinions of the viewers, she didn’t realize that Sailor Moon would be a role model.
When asked if the characters she’s voiced have become a part of her, Kotono confirmed that she has been influenced by the characters she’s played. She also said that she didn’t realize that she had certain qualities until voicing certain characters, that they brought out new parts of herself. She said it was like she had seeds inside her that grew once she experienced those roles.
At this point, a fan requested that Kotono give the audience a sampling of some of her voice roles. These included Misato, Ebichu, and Boa Hancock, among others. Since Kotono has voiced a wide range of characters, the fan who asked for the sample also asked about voicing the part of an old lady. Kotono said she hasn’t done that yet, but thinks she’ll eventually have to!
In Gundam SEED, Kotono played two very different characters: Murrue Ramius (the captain of the Archangel) and Haro. A fan was curious how it would work for scenes where two characters she was playing would be in the same scene. Kotono said that in Japan, when they record anime, everyone in the cast is in the studio at the same time. Each person steps up to the microphone when it’s time for their lines. If one person voices multiple characters in the same scene, they step up first as one character and then step up again as the next character.
Recording with an entire cast does allow for ad-libbing and unplanned lines to happen more naturally. Sometimes these lines may even make it to the final anime production. As actors, they try to fill holes in a role, which is what leads to unplanned lines.
Regarding the affect of technology on the job of a voice actor, Kotono said that there are both positives and negatives about advancements in technology. Microphones are better now and can even pick up a quiet voice. There are some drawbacks to this, as a quiet voice could potentially be used for a loud character. Kotono also thinks that actors used to be more careful about delivering their lines, but with computers things can be fixed more easily. This can mean less pressure on the actor. Kotono also said that voice actors are now expected to voice their roles more quickly.
As a side note, Kotono mentioned that there was a time when anime voice acting was done live, so if there were any embarrassing errors those would still be broadcast. Now the atmosphere is more relaxed. A story Kotono heard about a live recording was that one of the actors was absentmindedly playing with a microphone stand while he waited for his turn to speak. He got his finger stuck, so he couldn’t step up to the microphone when it was time for him to say his lines. Thus, his character said nothing for the entire episode!
When it came to revisiting the character of Misato, for the Evangelion relaunch, Kotono said that it does feel like there’s a bit of a difference in her approach to the character because there has been years between the the last time she had the role and the more recent voice acting. She was surprised and a little angry at first when she was asked to come back because she thought she was finished with the character because [spoiler alert!] Misato had died at the end of the series [/spoiler]. After calming down, she decided to take the role on again and keep the new performance as close to her old approach as possible. She did want to do well with the new performance, but she said she has made some unconscious changes in the way she delivered some lines – which the director pointed out. For example, he would say things like “Misato said this line more cute before. Why is she so dark/rude now?” Kotono joked that this seemed a little mean, but she was laughing about it so it’s pretty clear she didn’t think it was that bad!
As a student, Kotono recalled that even then she wanted to be in the spotlight and perform. She thinks this was part of her motivation to become an actor. She was in the Broadcast Club in elementary school, which was a group of students who made the announcements at school and acted out folk tales at lunch (the latter she found a lot of fun and it influenced her to become a seiyuu).
Visiting Sakura Con was Kotono’s first time in Seattle and she said it felt like she made lots of new friends! She said she will take that positive feeling back with her to Japan. At the end of the panel, Kotono asked the audience to squeeze together for a couple of photos which she has since shared on her blog. I’ve shared those in this post too, and you might be able to spot me in the pink shirt near the front, on the left side of the photo above this paragraph.
That’s all I have in my notes for Kotono’s panel, I hope you have enjoyed these recaps! If there was something else at the panel that I missed that you would like to add, please leave a comment.
If you want to read Kotono’s blog posts about Sakura Con they are here (arrival in Seattle), here (about autograph signing and the first panel), here (about the performance with the Dreamcatchers, where Kotono sang “Moonlight Densetsu”), here (the one with the photos), here (includes an English message about the charity auction), and here (includes the quiz questions).