INTERVIEW: Voice Actress Mai Nakahara

Anime Central invited many special guests from Japan including voice actress Mai Nakahara. Some of her notable works include Juvia from Fairy Tail, Dān Fěi from Thunderbolt Fantasy,  Staphylococcus aureus from Cells at Work! And more. We had the wonderful opportunity to interview her in Chicago at ACEN.

Anime Trending: First off, thank you so much for coming out to Anime Central. It’s a real pleasure to have you here. I’d like to ask how your time in Chicago has been so far.

Mai Nakahara: I got to do some shopping yesterday, and it’s impressive how things are big here and so different from Japan, it’s been fun.

Excellent, glad to hear that. I’d like to start with the question about your time working as a voice actor. You’ve done many roles, you’ve spent a lot of time in the industry. I was wondering how things have changed since you first started as a voice actress.

Back when I started, it was a time when female idols were the center stage rage, but today it feels like males idols are the rage, so it feels like the gender roles have flipped.

I see. That’s quite a change that has been a little evident. So, I’d like to ask a question about your role in the puppet show, Thunderbolt Fantasy. When you found out it was a puppet show, what was your first reaction?

When we talk about puppet plays in Japan, what I grew up with was, and what we think of would be shows like Hyokkori Hyoutanjima — I don’t know if you would be familiar with it, but I was very much impressed when I went to the recording for Thunderbolt Fantasy because of the high-quality of the puppets and also there was so much high-tech involved, such as 3D that it was so different and very much impressive.

So on a similar vein, in the same show, puppets have so many restrictions on how they’re able to express themselves, only eyes and not movements and gestures. Did you need to adjust the way that you performed in order to make up for this lack of expression? 

Thunderbolt Fantasy is based on a Taiwanese classic, so it starts off with the timing Taiwanese narrator going as the soundtrack, and for our Japanese voices, our job was not to just come up with the original characters, but to really play along to the narrative.

Excellent. So to transition to another show, the role of Juvia from Fairy Tail. That is a very long-running show, and I’m wondering, as you’ve spent time working as the character, how your approach to playing the character has changed?

Juvia as a character originally starts off as an enemy and later joins on as a friend, so there was a complete change in the way I played her. And she starts off as a character who doesn’t know love, but by meeting someone named Gray, she gets to know love and so there’s a lot of feminine side of her that gets to be put in as the range of her character later on.

Excellent. So after so many roles, is there a particular character or role that sticks out as one that was particularly memorable or maybe a little bit harder to play than all the others?

I love all my characters, but Juvia from Fairy Tail and also, we didn’t talk about her, but Estella from Tales of Vesperia. These are characters that I’ve played for a long time, and I do get lots of fun from a character I get to play for a long time.

Excellent, glad to hear that. One last question, have you ever had the opportunity to listen to the dubs of shows you’ve worked on in other languages?

Not yet so far, and I would be very interested in watching them.

Well, thank you very much for your time.

Thank you! 

Special thanks to Anime Central for the opportunity. 

A fan of shows with lots of talking. Non-anime hobbies include trains and trading card games.
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