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MANGA.TOKYO has conducted an interview with Chihiro Ikki, who portrays Denki Kaminarimon in the popular TV anime series Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. After consulting with you, the readers of MANGA.TOKYO, we asked her about her thoughts on voice acting as a career, on Denki Kaminarimon as a character, and on the things she likes!
Ikki: I have always liked manga and anime and often read and watched them from when I was a child. I was really into the manga Glass Mask when I was in my second year of junior high school. I was inspired by the main character Maya Kitajima and how dedicated she was to the theater, and I started to think that acting was really amazing! That’s how I became interested in acting. Later, I came to know about voice acting. I decided to seriously aim for the job because it allowed me to combine two things I like, acting and anime.
Ikki: My hometown is in Shizuoka prefecture which isn’t in the broadcasting area of TV Tokyo. Since it’s the TV network which airs most anime series, there was a limited number of anime to watch when I was a child. Sunday morning was the time slot for anime in my hometown, and I watched Ojamajo Doremi and Digimon Adventure every week. I also liked Sailor Moon. I probably watched more anime for girls than for boys. My younger sister preferred boy’s anime, so I watched them with her as well.
Ikki: Soon after I joined an agency, I had the chance to work with Masako Nozawa [most famous for playing Son Goku in the Dragon Ball franchise]. I still remember how I was stunned by her stance on work and her professionalism. She was way beyond my expectations and still is my inspiration. Although she is out of my league at this moment, I’d like to be a voice actress like her one day. It’s my big goal.
Ikki: The program on which I worked with her was about investigating the job of voice acting. I was on the same team as her and we performed the Japanese folktale ‘Urashima Taro’, together. She gave me advice, such as: ‘You should try playing it like this’ and ‘the setting is that.’ I was very nervous at the time, so she hugged me to calm me down.
Ikki: I think the only way to learn is to practice. I practice voicing high to low tones in order to understand what kinds of voices I have every single day. I constantly investigate people’s speech to learn how I should play the part. For instance, when I hear children talking in the park, I learn that young children speak with a nasal voice. I also read out long sentences to know how I can continue to speak with the same acting voice throughout.
Ikki: That’s exactly Denki’s voice for me! It’s easy for me to put on a boyish voice. Denki’s voice is almost my actual voice tone. If aspiring voice actors worry that they might only get a particular type of character because of their voice tones, don’t worry. How you voice the character is much more important than the pitch. It’s not only the tone that is taken into account during the casting. Rather, they think, ‘in what way does a male character speak?’ and ‘how can the actor speak like a female character?’
Ikki: After the audition for the role, I had been thinking about what I should have done better and felt very anxious. When my agency told me over the phone that I had got Denki’s role, I was literally jumping up and down from joy. [laugh] I was extremely happy as this was the first time for me to play a young boy in a long-running anime series.
Ikki: I’d already started reading it, but when I reached the scene of Asuma’s death, it was too painful to continue reading. I was a sensitive teenager at the time and stopped reading it. However, I have now started re-reading it from Volume 1, as I feel I must know the world of Naruto thoroughly to play Denki in Boruto. Naruto has lots of great scenes which make me cry my eyes out again when re-reading it. [laugh]
Ikki: Well, it’s quite difficult to narrow a favorite one down because there are so many fantastic scenes which inspire me. [laugh] I felt the strong teacher-student bonds during the scene depicting Jiraiya’s final moments because I could see his belief in Naruto, ‘Naruto will understand’, and his wish, ‘I want to be of help to Naruto.’
Ikki: Denki always tries his hardest to achieve his goal, becoming a ninja. I think he admires Boruto who saved him and wonders what sort of ninja he must become to stay with Boruto. As his voice actress, I’m glad that Denki, who was bullied at the beginning, gets more and more friends as the story progresses! I’m delighted to see him becoming a genin together with his friends and being happy surrounded by them.
Ikki: Exactly. I like his contemporary aspect. The character design of Denki is based on an illustration posted by a fan, therefore he is depicted as an aspiring ninja who came from a regular family, not a ninja family. I think he is the most accessible character.
Ikki: He was bullied and extorted by a bunch of bullies in the first episode, but I think he is more cynical rather than introverted. He is also quite stubborn.
I thought he lacked self-confidence at the beginning, so I portrayed him as someone who has low self-esteem at the audition. However, I was told by the director: ‘Denki doesn’t lack self-confidence but is in fact mentally strong, so please bear that in mind.’ I realized then that he is not just a timid character, and braced myself to play a ninja who is a part of the Boruto world.
Ikki: I feel exactly the same! He’s teamed up with Iwabee Yuino and Metal Lee, so I’m interested in how they’ll work together and how their bonds will develop. I’m so excited in anticipation of their bonds becoming like their fathers’ generation.
Ikki: Definitely! It’s exciting to think of him eventually arriving at the destroyed Konohagakure (Hidden Leaf Village) that we saw at the beginning of Episode 1. However, my wild imagination tells me that he will support Boruto and fight with him using his computer skills. [laugh]
Ikki: When I was a child, there was at least one character who I had a crush on while watching anime. However, I recently observe anime as a bystander, rather than getting emotionally attached. I think ‘If everyone is happy, I’m good.’ [laugh] I had a crush on Shinichi Kudo from Detective Conan: Case Closed when I was younger. I loved his cool and sophisticated attitude.
Ikki: I love Stand By Me. Before watching it I had just enjoyed simple happy-ending movies, so it was an overwhelming experience for me to watch the friendship of adolescent boys, their emotional yet silent connections, and their occasional conflicts. I was crying my eyes out while watching it. I like Home Alone, too!
Ikki: I don’t know if it’s available outside Japan, but the big cookies from 7-Eleven are my favorite sweet. I also like Buta-men, which is a tiny instant noodle from a ‘dagashi-ya’ [a shop which sells small, cheap sweets and snacks]. I bought it from the dagashi-ya quite often when I was a child.
Ikki: I did! I bought it when I wanted to indulge myself. Actually, I could have bought a regular instant noodle if I just added a few yen. But it’s not the same, so I chose to buy Buta-men. [laugh] Buta-men is good and very recommendable!
Ikki: I feel so lucky to have met people. One person called me back to an audition after I worked with him. When I had just started my career as a voice actress, a senior cast member pointed out my weak points, even though it must have been difficult. I appreciated her comment and was encouraged by it, thinking ‘I must try harder!’ I can carry on my career with the support from many people who care about me and who can sense my slight changes.
Ikki: It’s an exciting job and you never get bored with it. Our job is never-ending. It changes every year and gives many challenges. Once I’m relieved that I’ve overcome a challenge, there will be another one soon after. It’s truly a rewarding job.
Ikki: People might think voice acting is a glamorous job because we appear in public quite often. However, our job is not just that. I think it’s important to understand that it’s a serious job and requires hard work in order to assist in improving the quality of anime works. By doing so, I can meet good friends who have the same aspirations.
Ikki: As I’m playing Denki now, I’d like to play more boys’ roles in order to master the role.
Ikki: Thank you very much for sending a lot of questions for my interview! I really appreciate that. I’ll do my best to assist in delivering fantastic anime works to you. I can’t thank you enough for your continuous support. You’re the best!
Ikki warmed up the atmosphere with her lovely smile during the interview. She showed not only her cute and cool sides but also her humor. Her wonderful personality reflects the characters she portrays and brings us one of the elements of joy when it comes to watching anime. I’m sure that she will continue to shine as a voice actress in the future!