Hello from Manga Planet! We are an online subscription service for officially licensed Japanese manga as well as a website for news on anime, manga, and fan culture in general. We had the honor of doing an exclusive interview with voice actress Rumi Okubo! Okubo-san is a HUGE fan of manga and has played several well-loved characters, such as Astolfo (from the Fate franchise), Chinatsu Kikkawa (from Yuru Yuri!) and Cure Muse (from Suite PreCure♪).
Without further ado, let’s have a look at what she had to say about her career as a voice actress and her favorite manga titles of all time!
I’m Rumi Okubo, a voice actress associated with 81 Produce! My debut itself was in 2009 so this is my 11th year in this industry, but I debuted while I was attending a training school, so I’ve only been with my agency for 9 of those years. I often play young, cute girls whose image colors are pinkish, and I’ve done a fair bit of radio work, as well as going overseas as part of my job.
I’ve previously visited places including Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York. There are quite a lot of countries that I’ve never visited before, but people from many countries have said they’d love to meet me, so I’ve been taking up on their kind offers to have me as a guest.
What made you want to become a voice actress?
I’ve loved anime and manga since I was a child, but I didn’t initially intend to make a career out of it. When I received career counseling back in high school, my teacher asked me what I wanted to study. My reply was “nothing in particular”, so he then asked me if there was anything I liked. After I said “I like anime”, he suggested that I study something that’d lead to me working in that kind of industry. I figured that’s a pretty good way to look at things, but it wasn’t like I was good at drawing or creating stories. Eventually, I thought “maybe I’ll give acting a go”, and enrolled in a trade school. I ended up really enjoying my acting classes there, so I thought to myself: “if acting is this much fun, I’d love to become a voice actress”. So basically, I gave this a go on a whim, then became serious about it after I realized how much I enjoyed it.
How do you prepare for your roles?
I’m the kind of actor who does a lot of thinking, so when I prepare for my roles, I tend to ask myself: “what kind of person is this character, and what are they thinking when they say this line?”. That being said, doing too much thinking does more harm than good if my interpretation of the character isn’t quite right, or if I’m recording dialogue with someone who uses a completely different approach. As such, I try to keep my thoughts organized while remaining as flexible as possible when I prepare for my roles.
What challenges have you faced in the past as a seiyuu?
If I get a role through an audition, I can safely assume that the producers liked what I did at the audition, but if I’m nominated for a role type that I don’t usually play (like mature characters or handsome characters), I always wonder what the directors or sound directors want to see from me. At the very least, they’re choosing to cast me because they think I can do it, so I never think that “it’s impossible for me to do it”. I always try to find and refine the specific qualities that the directors or staff saw in me. These kinds of challenges have always been present since I debuted.
Are there any roles that you’d like to try playing in the future?
It’s kind of difficult for me to pinpoint this since I’ve been given opportunities to play quite a wide variety of roles, but I’d like to try playing a villain or an evil character. I also want to get a role for someone with a sharp tongue! I once played a really foul-mouthed character in The Magnificent Kotobuki and got several harsh lines like “shut up!” or “I’m gonna kill you!”, but I had a lot of fun and found it to be good for stress relief. I usually play characters who are nice towards the audience, and characters who attack others with their sharp tongues are quite rare to begin with since they generally aren’t as well-liked. It’d be nice if I could play more spunky characters!
We heard that you’re a fan of manga. What kinds of manga do you like?
I read a really wide range of manga! That being said, reading manga is now a part of my job, so I’m more devoted to works I enjoyed as a teenager. In that sense, though, I literally read all kinds of manga! I read shounen manga, seinen manga magazines and shoujo manga; I even read manga that was targeted at little kids. Each genre is appealing in a different way, so I didn’t really lean towards any specific genre, but I think I was most likely to read shounen manga magazines. This applies to movies and other media too, but I’m not that interested in works that focus on romance; I preferred action-heavy and exhilarating manga over “cute girl falls in love with hot boy” stories, so I was more likely to read those kinds of things.
What’s the manga that has left the biggest impression on you?
It’s something I’m reading at the moment, but I’m really obsessed with Slam Dunk! This is probably like the 10th Slam Dunk phase in my life so far, though. Slam Dunk is a legendary masterpiece, and I think manga fans are more likely than not to know about it, both in Japan and across the world. It’s the kind of manga that leaves me in awe no wonder how many times I read it, so I usually have a Slam Dunk phase around once every 2-3 years. I rewatched the 101th episode of the anime the other day! (laughs)
I’ve read the Slam Dunk manga countless times, but I’ve only binged the entire anime once or twice. The anime only covers up to the preliminary rounds of the Inter-High tournament, so you can really notice all the subtle differences if you read the manga version after finishing the anime. I’m really grateful for some of the anime-only developments, but there were also scenes where I was like “why did they change this part in the anime?”. I plan on watching the rest of the anime when I go home today! (laughs)
What are your top 3 manga recommendations?
Could this question be any more difficult to answer?! (laughs)
My answer would differ depending on what I’m reading at the time, since I often think to myself like “this is a masterpiece!” and “this is interesting, and so is this other manga!”. There’s no doubt that Slam Dunk is a masterpiece, so I’m going to put that first in my list. My favorite shoujo manga would be Please Save My Earth; although it’s pretty old as well, it’s the kind of masterpiece that’d make you cry every time you read it regardless of which character you like.
The other one… really depends on when you ask me. This might sound kind of rude, but I feel like we didn’t have as many anime, manga or novels in the past; but nowadays, there are just so many interesting works, and it’s easier for them to get buried away. I also tend to get really infatuated with the characters in manga, so there are many cases where I can’t tell whether the manga is actually good or if I’m just in love with the characters. There’s definitely a lot of new, good manga, but it’s hard for me to pick a favorite off the top of my mind. My top 3 recommendations would consist of those 2 classics, plus whatever I happen to be into at the time.
Finally, what does manga mean to you?
For me, manga is like air; I can’t live without it, and I’ll never drift away from it. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it, either. Manga will always be by my side; if I’m feeling down or want to escape reality, and even when I’m in a good mood, manga will always make me feel happy. To me, manga is like nutrition… or rather, the sun. I’m constantly photosynthesizing by reading manga!
I’ve mentioned many great manga from the days gone by, but it’s always possible for there to be new masterpieces that completely outshine older works. I look forward to the day when I’ll come across something like that!
Thank you for your time today, Okubo-san!
Lastly, here is a message video from Rumi Okubo inviting everyone to read manga!
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