Miyu Irino at Anime Expo 2017 – Panel with transcript

By Keira Truong

Miyu Irino has had a prolific career as a voice actor and singer. From older roles like Sora (Kingdom Hearts) and Syaoran Li (Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle) to new ones like Yuuichirou Hyakuya (Seraph of the End), Todomatsu (Mr. Osomatsu), and Sugawara Koushi (Haikyuu!!), he has covered a wide spectrum of characters. It is very likely that you’ve seen or heard one of his works before.

For those who were unable to attend the guest panel during Anime Expo 2017, below is a summarized transcript of questions and translated answers for your reading pleasure.

Early Career: Haku (Spirited Away)

When I was 4 years old, I was in a theatre and that was where I started my career. When I first started, voice acting wasn’t my main focus, I did a lot of theatre, TV commercials, and all those jobs contributed to how I got to voice acting. In junior high, I did Haku from Spirited Away, and that was where my voice acting career started.

Do you have any recollections about recording for this film (Spirited Away) that you can share with us today?

When I was recording this, it wasn’t in a recording studio, but more of a movie-viewing theatre. Usually, you have a big piece of glass separating the actors and the producers and director, but we didn’t have that. So because we didn’t have that glass separating us, we could hear all the comments the director and producers were making about the actors. It’s a big film, and this was a starring role, so I was so nervous that I could hear my heart beating. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I had the opportunity to work with so many well-known people in the industry, and because of that, I am able to get to where I am today.

Sora (Kingdom Hearts)

You’ve voice acted for video games. Do you enjoy playing video games yourself?

Of course, in primary and junior high school, I’d play a lot of video games. In summer, I’d spend 8-12 hours a day playing video games, like Final Fantasy, Mario, action games, RPGs, lots of different types of games. I recently purchased a PS4, and I’m playing Kingdom Hearts 2.8 right now.

Saji Crossroad (Gundam 00)

This character is very different from Season 1 to Season 2. Can you tell us about how you handled the character development for this role?

In the 1st season, my character wasn’t really the main focus. So when I was working on this, I tried not to look ahead, and just look at what’s going on at the time of recording so that I could keep the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next. Near the end of the 1st season, I got a lot of comments of “do we even need this character?” But right near the end, there were major events that happened that really helped the development of this character. So it was really challenging, but this character has an emotional dilemma where he doesn’t want to fight, but then he needs to fight. So then what do you do? So that kind of challenge was interesting to play, and there are a lot of things that I could relate to, and that I think a lot of fans could relate to. The one thing I was sad about was that I didn’t get a chance to get into an actual Gundam.

Koushi Sugawara (Haikyuu!!)

You also played other roles, like sports-related ones.

Ah, yes. How many of you have watched Haikyuu? [Audience cheering]

Haikyuu is set in a Japanese high school atmosphere, so I was wondering how foreign viewers were looking at it, as it is a very different lifestyle compared to that of non-Japanese schools. What I like about this series is that there are lots of little things you can relate to. One of these dilemmas is the dynamic between this character and Kageyama. My character is the vice-captain of the team, but there’s this younger student who comes in that’s better at playing. So how do I manage that? What I think people enjoy about this character is that even though he doesn’t have any flashy moves or anything, there’s that human-relatable aspect that I think a lot of people connect to. The manga for this series is still continuing, so I hope to be further involved with future seasons if possible.

Jinta Yadomi (Anohana)

So this next one’s a bit emotional…

This was also kind of a big stepping stone for my career path. It’s a very different character compared to the previous ones and trying to show all the fragile, delicate emotions was a challenge. I tried to approach it as if I was that one person, rather than viewing it as an anime character. I think this is an anime that a lot of people who don’t usually watch anime would really enjoy.

Yuuichiro Hyakuya (Seraph of the End)

This character was also very different. He also has two different emotions pulling him in separate directions. This is a fantasy story, so I try to focus on that aspect and express the direct emotions of his character.

I’m surprised that a lot of foreign fans know this series. It’s not as popular as Kingdom Hearts and Haikyuu in Japan, so I’m glad to know that there are people out there who enjoy it.

Todomatsu (Osomatsu-san)

I’m very surprised that this title is so well received outside of Japan. This is really a straight up Japanese comedy; it’s a 2015 revival of a 1960s anime. I was concerned if people outside of Japan would really like or understand the humor, I’d be interested in knowing what you all think about it. Even for Japanese people, there are parts that they don’t really get either.

Takao Akizuki (Garden of Words)

Could you tell us a little about your thoughts on this one?

The way this movie was made was different from all other titles I’ve worked on before. The director Shinkai already has a big image for his movie and story. When I was auditioning for the role, I received the footage with Shinkai doing the voice-over. It was after that that I went for the audition.

Shouya Ishida (A Silent Voice)

There are a lot of emotional concepts in this movie. Did you have any challenges in preparing for this role?

The movie does revolve around the girl’s handicap, but I feel the main theme of this movie is that human connection that these two characters have. When I was recording, there were a lot of gut wrenching emotional scenes that I had to go through. It was very challenging, but I really wanted to direct that emotion out there to show the audience.

Akito Hyuga (Code Geass: Akito the Exiled)

This is a spinoff from the original series. Could you tell us a little about this role?

The difficulty of this role is that I usually play a lot of straightforward, positive characters, but this one was very different from that. I was really worried if I would be able to play this role, and I actually asked the director about that. The director responded that he could see the shadow of this character in me, and that was what really got me going in taking upon and overcoming this challenge.

We’ve talked about many roles today. Are there any types of roles you’d like to do? 

It’s a very difficult question; it’s not really a question of what role I like to play, but more about how I am able to develop the character. If I really had to choose, I’d say Sora from Kingdom Hearts, as it has been 15 years since I first started the role. Being involved with a project for that long is something special, and I’d like to continue being involved and see where it goes.

You’ve talked a lot about your voice-acting career today, but you’ve also released albums and performed on stage. Would you like to talk a little about that, and what you like about doing those as well?

For a lot of fans who aren’t in Japan, it might be a little difficult to see, but I also do a lot of theatre and other arts because all of that develops my skill sets and career in voice acting. Because I’d like my fans to see the whole side of it, if you are able to, I’d like you to listen to my CDs. And if you are able to come to Japan, I would like you to come see my theatre plays too.

Do you have any last message for the fans?  

[Speaking in English] Thanks for listening to interview, and thanks for all the support. I hope you will continue to enjoy my work. Thank you, thank you very much.

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  • Rob

    I guess Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal wasn’t popular enough to be asked. lol

    Thanks for this. Been a fan of Miyu since his role in Kingdom Hearts and then his roles in anime.