Who would have ever that the Queen of Tsundere herself would come over to the West? Let alone come to New York. But here we are. This past Anime NYC 2019, Rie Kugimiya made her first United States appearance. If there was a way to sum up her appearance, it was simply amazing.
While sadly I was not lucky enough to snag an autograph ticket, I was able to make to the spotlight panel held at Anime NYC at the main stage. Unfortunately, even though I attended as a member of the press, I was not permitted to take any photos or recordings of the panel. So I will describe the panel with as much detail as best as I can.
So in regards to the energy before the panel. Needless to say, the audience was very excited. The prospect of Rie Kugimiya coming to states was crazy enough. To make New York her first location to visit is simply amazing and humbling. The moment she came out to the stage, everybody was on their feet for a standing ovation. Needless to say, New Yorkers and fans made Rie feel welcomed here in New York. While only one day, she did some sightseeing like Central Park and ate the local foods.
The panel began with her telling on her origins and how she came to be a seiyuu (voice actor). She said that during her time in high school, she always like books and reading. She also joined the Broadcasting club as well, giving here beginning experiences and confidence in front of a microphone. Since this was when the internet was still young, auditions for anime and media were printed on newspapers and magazines. This would prove to be her first challenge for her. All the auditions were in Tokyo, while she lived in Kumamoto. Far away and in a different timezone.
Naturally, the uncertainty is there. She wanted to go, but she had to work hard for travel fare and living expenses if she wanted to pursue this opportunity. The dread was present of what would happen if she didn’t get the role or spot. Would all this effort be for naught? Though it required many funds, she landed a gig and got an agent due to her stellar auditions. After that, the rest is history and what we see now is the Queen of Tsundere. This story is very similar to voice actors in the West or for anyone pursuing a dream. The uncertainty, the fear, the worry of whether the effort you put in was in vain. Also, the luck that also comes into play. We all wonder if what we are doing now is right. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and sometimes life gives you a break. All you can do is trust in yourself and hope for the best. Who knows? Sometimes life finds a way to make it all fall into place.
In regards to Rie’s interest in anime, it was always a funny thing. As Japan is separated into different time zones, whenever she watches anime in her hometown of Kumamoto, it is always at a different spot compared to different regions like Tokyo. Like she can watch Gintama and it is airing episode 300 in Kumamoto, while in Tokyo it would be airing the newest episode. This I can vouch as in Malaysia has the same occurrence when watching WWE Smackdown. It lags behind the US broadcast. Living in Tokyo for her would be quite the experience for her and shaping into the voice actress she is today. She said humorously that she had many alarm clocks to help her wake up for the day and to work.
For developing the voice for the role, the method she uses is that she studies the role and animation. She also keeps in mind the expressions and colors used in the show. She explained that colors give her a good indication of how to shape her voice. Be it gray colors and a sad sullen voice, or a colorful and happy/spirited type of voice. The most important factor is to understand the context and situations that surround the character. She then answered the question of what occupation she would’ve been if she were not a voice actor. Given her interest in books, she said that she would’ve been working in a library or librarian.
Now comes the exclusive part of the panel.
Rie Kugimiya did a live voice session of Tora Dora on stage! Specifically the bridge scene of episode 24. I always enjoyed watching on Youtube of how any actor voices there lines in a particular show. More interesting is how Japan even has sold out venues and matsuris dedicated to it, like with Gintama. For the first time hear a live voice session, was nothing but amazing and mesmerizing. How she became Taiga on stage was just splendid.
Then next came to impromptu voices to show her range. The first role is a young boy on a rainy day, giving an umbrella to you. The best similarity I can give is that its close to her Alphonse Elric of Full Metal Alchemist.
The next role is a cool, stern, and mature boss role. Needles to say, it was very moe~. Think of it as audio silk going through your ears.
Last is the role of a timid kouhai/underclassmen, giving a bento box to her senpai/senior. This voice is very Iori Minase of Idolm@aster. Naturally cute and moe~ as well.
After that, she then delved a bit more into her life, including how she also did work on doing the Japanese dub for Stranger Things. How she also had to attend an English language school to learn the terms, to which she admits ended with bad results. If there was a particular genre of shows she wanted to do, it would be romance dramas.
Naturally as an actor, when ordering food at a restaurant or drive-thru, she would like to make a voice when ordering. To see the reaction of the employee’s face just to mess with them, is always a fun experience. To make them wonder how such a voice came from her face.
She was then asked what tips she would give to someone just entering the industry. Here were some of her tips:
- Remember that you are playing a part in a story/a person’s life. Really put yourself to understanding the character, their mentality, feelings, experience. That will help in developing the voice for these characters.
- Experience Life! Travel, Read, Engage in Hobbies. Any experience is valuable and can play a factor in any role. She is a minimalist in her lifestyle and said that this gives her an understanding of characters who share the same lifestyle, like Taiga.
- Approach the role pure. Like its the first time in your life. While using the same voice type for multiple roles is useful, always been ready to tackle the role as it like the first.
The panel then wrapped up with a brief Q&A. When asked if there was any character she voiced that she can be for one day, it would be Happy of Fairy Tail. Cause she wants to fly in the sky. Last is the age-old question: Pancakes or Waffles? To which she replied it was a hard choice. Eventually, she said both, with butter no syrup.
This ended the panel and the audience once again gave a standing ovation. Rie stated that she hopes that everyone will continue to support her and that she would love to come back to New York again someday. For those who weren’t lucky enough to get an autograph from her, there may be hope in the future.
This was an amazing panel from start to finish. Anime NYC continues to improve each year and this year really brought it. Rie Kugimiya making her first appearance on US shores, at Anime NYC 2019 is just humbling and still mind-boggling to me. To do a live voice session and be a witness to it, it is just an experience you need to experience for yourself. It is always an experience to see or meet any figure in the Japanese Anime industry. Let alone a veteran, or someone as prolific as her. After all her performances, roles and being in this panel. I can understand a bit more as to why many call her “Queen”.