TAF 2009: Teenage voice actress Rina Hidaka and singer Azumi Inoue promoting “Before Green Gables”
(This article was originally posted in Japanese at 19:00 Mar. 21, 2009)
World Masterpiece Theater is a TV anime staple produced by Nippon Animation that showcases each year an animated version of a different classical book or story.
The 26th title "Kon'nichiwa Anne: Before Green Gables", an anime adaption of Budge Wilson's "Before Green Gables", is to be aired from this April commemorating the centennial anniversary of the novel "Anne of Green Gables" last year and the 30th anniversary of the anime Anne of Green Gables, one of the most successful title in the staple which was also Hayao Miyazaki's last work for Nippon Animation before leaving the studio.
A talk-show featuring director Katsuyoshi Yatabe and leading voice actress Rina Hidaka was held at Tokyo International Anime Fair 2009, and singer Azumi Inoue - known for theme songs for My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky - performed the opening and ending theme songs for the new anime.
Rina Hidaka, merely fourteen, was just totally adorable and we're smitten, can't help it. So please forgive us for being a bit carried away here.
And of course, Azumi Inoue's concert was definitely worth it, and the video is worth watching even if you don't understand a fraction of the lyrics.
Enough said, here's our review of the talk show and concert, with pics and video!
Director Katsuyoshi Yatabe and Rina Hidaka.
Rina Hidaka, 14 (9th grade from this April) takes the big role of Anne.
"This is the prequel to Anne of Green Gables, about how she came to be the girl we know, depicting her childhood from age six to eleven, gradually growing up through 39 anime episodes", explains director Yatabe.
Trying not to disappoint the old fans and adding a touch of originality at the same time takes great effort, especially since the original "Anne of Green Gables" anime is such a masterpiece, still enthralling even after 30 years from its airing. "I'm under the biggest pressure I've ever felt in my 30 years in anime business"
"It could have been easier if the original Anne of Green Gables was just an average work, but that's not the case since it's an incredibly good watch even today. So we're facing an uphill battle, in some part challenging quite aggressively, but in some aspect holding on to the orthodox of 'World Masterpiece Theatre'".
Interviewer: I heard you've been to Canada for some inspirations?
Yatabe: I just wanted to feel the atmosphere there. "Anne of Green Gables" is set in Prince Edward Island, but "Before Green Gables" is the story of how she ended up there, so it's mostly staged on Nova Scotia. The scenery is different, with more wild and unforgiving nature, forest and rivers, rocks and hard soil, and we wanted to capture the difference.
Interviewer: I guess it's quite challenging to show the difference in illustrations.
Yatabe: Really, our art director did an incredible job, like, the kind of work one might say 'hey, you can't be doing this quality on TV anime' but he just went ahead and did it, truly extraordinary since background artworks in TV animes tend to be 'flat', to make it easier to reproduce, for tons of pictures are required in a TV series with frequent deadlines, but he, Mr. Morimoto, did the extraordinary thing, drawing each pictures with perspective and depth. Beautiful and astonishing.
Interviewer: Sounds like it's going to be a quite detailed, elaborate work of effort. I'm really looking forward to it. Thank you.
Interviewer: Now let's ask some questions to Rina Hidaka, who perform Anne. First of all, how did you feel when you get the part?
Rina: I couldn't believe it at first, but I became so ecstatic as it sunk in.
Interviewer: Are you feeling under pressure of the big role?
Rina: I'm obliged to try my best not to break the image of Anne, the determined and honest and emotional and lovable girl she was in the previous anime, always true to herself.
Interviewer: (To Mr. Yatabe) So how did Rina-chan fair?
Yatabe: She always sounds like Anne herself no matter what she does, so I'm not worried at all. And she's as fearless and self-assured as Anne, cueing and prompting her much elder co-stars at the recording, which is a perfect nature for Anne.
Inteviewer: Was there any decisive factor for casting Rina-chan as Anne?
Yatabe: Oh it was a gamble at first. She was speaking in voice and manner of an elementary school girl at the audition despite being in middle school, appropriate for Anne but there was the question of whether she'd be able to handle all the demands and orders at recording. Nevertheless I took the chance and when the recording started, she was actually so flexible and adaptable. Great, really.
Rina: Glad to hear that, thank you. I'll do my best.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about the fun part and the tough part, working as a voice actress?
Rina: The delightful part is, it's so rewarding, as you can imagine, to watch the scene I've performed combined with pictures and music, completed with sound effects and all. It's a really fascinating and satisfying work. On the other hand, it comes with quite a lot of difficulties, for example, unlike usual acting jobs you can't act with your eyes, movements of your hands or other body languages, so you have to express the characters feelings, joy and sorrow and all, solely by your voice.
Interviewer: A great work, it must be. And I'm impressed by this comment!
Yatabe: Can you believe she's only fourteen, in middle school?
Interviewer: Amazing, really. Surprisingly mature, even for a professional. How did you feel when you see the finished film?
Rina: I was so moved. The colours were beautiful, and the music! It really got to me. I'm really grateful.
Interviewer: To hear your own voice from the screen, as no other than Anne's voice! It should be an extraordinary experience.
Rina: The first time I've watched it I was so nervous, couldn't look at it from a third person point-of-view. My heart pounded so fast.
Interviewer: How about Mr. Yatabe? Were you pulsated as well when it first got watched by people?
Yatabe: At the screening event at the Canadian embassy, we got the chance to show it to general audiences, from children to seniors. I was so relieved to see those children going 'Whoa!' in astonishment or laughing in amusement.
Interviewer: Indeed. I also got the privilege to watch the first episode at the said screening. It was so captivating and moving, and I'm really looking forward to the airing. Speaking of which, aren't you excited with the airing date drawing near?
Rina: I'm thrilled! And anxious as well for how everyone will take it.
Interviewer: I'm sure it's going to get good reputation. How about you, Mr. Yatabe? Are you confident?
Yatabe: We've all devoted ourselves to "Anne"'s world, the writing staff, illustration staff, backdrop, special effect, sound, music and all, everyone's giving their best, their love, so yes, I am confident, have faith in it.
Interviewer: (To the audience) Don't miss it, everyone!
A little concert by Azumi Inoue came next.
Inoue: I'm used to singing for Studio Ghibli's works such as My Neighbor Totoro and Laputa: Castle in the Sky , but this is my first time singing for "World Masterpiece Theatre" and I'm thrilled, for of course I used to be one of those girls glued to the TV every Sunday evening. I'm delighted, and a little bit nervous for the big part. So, I suppose I shall sing to you now, the two wonderful songs.
The first number was the opening song for the anime, "Hikari no Tane (Seed of Light)"
Inoue: I've read the novel "Before Green Gables" and it was wonderful. Anne becomes orphaned as an infant, and faces so many hardships but nevertheless takes her life in a positive attitude, a really captivating story. The anime will pick up from when Anne is age six, and you can meet her as a very sweet girl. I've also read the original Anne Shirley series when I was young but I'm rereading it now after reading and watching "Before Green Gables". The anime is enjoyable for children and mothers and fathers as well, I hope many people will see it with their family.
Inoue: I was fortunate to be given some marvelous songs that became classics. It's been 23 years since "Laputa" came out and 21 years since "Totoro", but they're still popular for Karaoke and included to educational scores, sung at schools. So I hope these theme songs for the new "Anne" will also be loved and become ageless pieces.
Next came the end title song "Yattane March (Lucky Me! March)", an amusing song like "Sampo(Stroll)" from Totoro according to Inoue.
Inoue is a master of anime songs, and Anne hopping and stomping to the music (2'10"- 2'16") is sooooo cute! Enjoy!
Mr. Yatabe and Rina Hidaka joined again after the little concert.
Interviewer: Isn't it extraordinary for one singer to perform both the opening and ending theme songs for a TV anime?
Yatabe: Such a versatile woman she is, Ms. Azumi Inoue. Please enjoy the variety of music she can offer.
Inoue: Well admittedly, "Yattane March" is quite different from my usual style (smirking), kind of easy-going.
Yatabe: Yeah, like, I wanted it to be sung lively, but in a laid-back way.
Inoue: This is my second time working with Mr. Yatabe, the first being Hula Kapper, another laid-back work. So it's not my first time singing for TV anime series, but I'm delighted to have it aired every week on both Animax and BS Fuji, and of course, it's so great to see the adorable Anne voiced by Rina-chan. Truly adorable, isn't she?
Rina: It's really kind of you to say that.
Interviewer: Rina-chan, isn't it great to hear these songs as opening and ending theme?
Rina: It's really great! The musics cheer me up, especially "Yattane March", incredible song!
Yatabe: I suppose that's true. She was just dancing to it minutes ago.
Interviewer: Is that so?
Inoue: Rina-chan told me she can already sing "Yattane March" from memory.
The event concluded with messages to the audience.
Inoue: I would like to tell many people the appeal of "Before Green Gables", get them to watch it. It's an anime that can make people cry, laugh, rejoice, with all emotions and feelings depicted meticulously, all the episodes, one by one, produced with precise care. Don't miss it, and please pass the words to your friends.
Rina: I was anxious and nervous at first, but now I'm really enjoying my role as Anne. Though I'm inexperienced and unskilled, I'm prepared to give it all my might, so please give it a shot. Thank you.
Yatabe: We're producing this anime aiming at rejuvenating people, to keep their chins up, by watching Anne. Please enjoy it with your family, friends and neighbours.
Though there's no information yet, we expect an English dubbed version coming soon, it seems quite marketable. At least in Canada, or maybe Europe?
List of New Anime Series launching Spring 2009 - GIGAZINE
STUDIO GHIBLI’s new branch in TOYOTA’s Head Quarters - GIGAZINE
Tokyo Anime Award announced -"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” was chosen Animation of the Year - GIGAZINE
Photoshop Tutorial -How to make a realistic Totoro using only six free materials - GIGAZINE